"Then the Righteous will shine like the Sun in the Kingdom of their Father." (Matt. 13:43)
These words lead our thoughts to that awful and illustrious day when every person’s religious and moral character will be set in its true light, and made manifest to the world.
The eternal states of all the dead will be finally determined, and an open and visible distinction be made in favor of the righteous and the good, by the equitable and unerring sentence of that Supreme judge, Who knows the secrets of every breast, and will render to all according to how their Works have been.
The practice of righteousness is the only sure proof that we are born of God, as vice is an unquestionable proof of a person's belonging to evil. (1 John ii. 29.)
Righteousness in the heart is the Love of what is right, a love of Truth and virtue or of whatever appears to be right both in sentiment and practice.
The principles that are lodged and cherish in the heart, whether good or bad, will always produce different effects.
So it may be said of the doctrines of Christianity, or the principles of religion, when sowing them in the heart.
In some, they are wholly stilted and suppressed, and in others they produce the fruits of righteousness, more or less, according to the moral State and complection of the mind.
The righteous and the wicked, good and bad men, of every degree, now pass under the denomination of Christians.
Much depends on the discarding or banishing from our hearts whatever may prove a hindrance or obstruction, two are receiving and embracing the truth.
Of this kind are all groundless prejudices, all evil or artificial suggestions, all malice and wickedness, all pride, obstinacy, and self-conceit. All who indulge in passions and bad examples are instruments of evil.
These, and other such things, have a pernicious influence. They tend to deprave and harden the heart, and prevent the doctrines of True religion for making any deep and lasting impressions.
If we would receive the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, to profit by them, we must root out, and discard those irregular affections towards the world which always obstruct a holy life, or tend, at best, to make people hypocrites in religion.
And the concealed wickedness of some, and the secret piety and virtue of others, may be one principal reason of a future judgment that, however people may pass at present, Justice may be done to all at last.
Righteousness is a sincere and prevailing compliance of the whole soul with what we apprehend or perceive, upon an impartial enquiry, to be the mind and will of God, whether in things to be believed or done, abstracted from any undue regard to the opinions, sentiments, and practices of humanity.
Where these principles rule and govern the heart, they cannot fail to recommend us to God, and to all the wise, sober, and considerate part of humanity.
A sincere desire of righteousness is righteousness, as it argues a right state of mind and is always productive of suitable dispositions and endeavors.
By "righteous," we are not to understand it as an exact and sinless conformity to the law of God, or even such as made selling virtue, and are eminently good. But it is their upright and sincere, such as those who desire and endeavor to do the will of God, so far as they are acquainted with it, or can arrive to the knowledge and understanding of it.
As it is part of a man to think freely, so it always argues a nobleness and greatness of spirit to be true to the dictates of reason, and to all its wise and good resolutions.
Next to our seeking and receiving the truth in love, it should be our great care not to hold the truth in unrighteousness. If we are in the truth, we should walk in the truth, or live in act agreeably to it, and always remember that he that does righteousness is righteous, and that he does not do righteousness is not of God. ( 1 John 3:7-10.)
Religion is, in substance, our imitation of God in His moral perfections of goodness, Righteousness, and Truth.
And this is that in which our present and future happiness consists. We are happy the same way as God Himself is happy.
Righteousness always supposes a principle of true piety, and inward reverence and regard to the Deity, a thorough subjection of the soul to the Father of our spirits, and an unreserved obedience to those eternal laws of Truth and Righteousness which are founded in the unalterable Reason, fitness, and relation of things.
Our righteousness, as human beings, is our conformity to the law of Reason, or to the law of our creation, which is the law of God.
This constitute that religion which is the perfection of humanity, and it is what every person's reason tells them that they should aspire after.
Since Christianity is the perfection of all religion, tending more than any other to the refinement and perfection of the moral life, we all now enjoy the light and benefit of divine revelation.
Our righteousness as Christians is a hearty and unfeigned compliance with the declarations of the Gospel, or with that more pure and perfect institution of religion which God has given us - our Master, Jesus.
Since this is that unalterable and perfect rule which God has now given us whereby to regulate our hearts and lives, it will be, for us, the final test of eveyone's religious character and conduct.
(Abridged and adapted from “The Distinctive Character And Honour Of The Righteous Man Considered,” by Rev. Paul Cardale, 1761)