Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Good Name: The Best Fruit

The master, Jesus, said that a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. So what is good fruit? A better question still might even be what is the best fruit? How do we measure success in life? Or can success in life even be measured? Are great riches and financial prosperity success? No, they are not success; but they are good success indicators. They indicate success, but may be had by means other than following God's commandments. Thus Ahab was able to get Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-29). But the vineyard was not an indicator of success for Ahab (or rather it was the indicator of a short-lived success that would end in defeat). For Naboth the vineyard was an indicator of success, but for Ahab the same vineyard was an indicator of eventual defeat. Thus we must understand that an abundance of worldly goods is only an approximate indicator in this life.

The Bible sets forth one indicator of success that stands above all others: a good name. "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches; and favor rather than silver or gold" (Prov. 22:1). The supreme example of a good name is that of Jesus. His good name was given to him by God as a reward for successful service throughout his life and finally on the cross. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9). Peter declared that it was not only by his name that men were healed, but also that it is the only name by which we must be saved (Acts 4:10-12).

Men know instinctively the value of a good name and will often attempt to get a good name even as covenant-breakers. So in Genesis 11:4 men said, "Go to, let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." Men seek a legacy; a name that will be known and remembered. This striving after a name may be nothing more than pride; but it is important to remember that God regards a good name as more than simply fame and that seeking a good name is more than mere pride.

Qoheleth regarded being forgotten as a curse or vanity; an affliction to be avoided. "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever" (Eccl. 1:4); "there is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after" (Eccl. 1:11); "for there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccl. 2:16-17).

Genuine success in this life is the same as success in the next life: it consists in conforming our lives to God's law by the power of his grace. Money is not success, but it is an indicator of success. Fame is not success, but it too is an indicator of success. A good reputation is not success, but it may well be the best indicator we have of success. There are typically sanctions (positive for obedience and negative for disobedience) regarding how successful we are in conforming our lives to the law of God. The more successful we are at covenant-keeping, the more success indicators we will have in our lives. The less successful we are at covenant-keeping, the fewer success indicators we will have and will likely have failure indicators instead.

There is an excellent passage in Scripture that speaks to this very issue: Deuteronomy 28. The blessings that God speaks of in the passage are really nothing other than indicators of how successful we have been at keeping God's covenant.

"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field," Deut. 28:1-3. The blessings are the indicators; the success lies in keeping God's covenant.

Biblically speaking, i.e. covenantally speaking, blessings are marks of success and curses are marks of failure. We must never confuse reward with duty. Covenant-keeping is the duty; one at which we are told to excel (Matthew 5:17-20). The blessings of this life and the next are the rewards of covenant-keeping.

So, what kind of a name do you have? That of a covenant-keeper or that of a covenant-breaker? What kind of name should you be seeking after?


Men Also Play


Here is one of my son's blogs. He is building a small trebuchet.


n. a machine used in medieval siege warfare for hurling large missiles.

– origin ME: from OFr., from trebucher ‘overthrow’.

Trebuchet Part 10


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Watson On Affliction

Puritan gems; or, Wise and holy sayings of ... Thomas Watson By Thomas Watson: "Christians mistake in supposing that when God afflicts he ceases to love. Affliction is his pruning knife; he would rather have the branches of his vine bleed than be unfruitful. He prunes us that we may bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness"

Paul Washer

Friday, June 20, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: Description of Uprightness

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

The nature or being of uprightness of life shines in simplicity. Proverbs 28:6, "better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich." And Proverbs 28:18, "whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved, but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once." The word for "ways" in both places is dual, and intimates two ways. A hypocrite is a man with two ways. One he goes in; the other he seems to go in. The poor, upright man has but one way, and that's better than them both. 2 Corinthians 1:12, "for our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world." When this apostle was traduced by men, yet this afforded him not only content[ment], but joy, to wit, the testimony of his conscience.

A hypocrite may have quiet in his conscience, but an upright man has a testimony in his conscience. He carries everywhere testimonial letters in his bosom. And why all this joy? "That we have had our conversation in simplicity. As our ends have been single in preaching the gospel, so our lives have not been double. The drift of our preaching and lives has been the same." Happy is the preacher who can here subscribe his hand.

The simplicity of an upright man sometimes makes him the subject of loss and sometimes the object of scorn. Job 12:4, "The just, upright man is laughed to scorn." Many times he is called a simpleton, yet he goes on and carries it to the end. His great consideration is, "What is my duty?" Proverbs 4:25, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee." That is, without squinting at events, or how it will please, or whom it will lose; he is resolved to live and die in his duty. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that prudence and integrity cannot dwell together; certainly they may and ought to. His simplicity only excludes the subtlety of the fox, which stands in being cunning to do mischief, not the wisdom of the serpent, which stands in carefully avoiding it.

Uprightness of life also stands in purity. Proverbs 16:17, "The highway of the upright is to depart from evil." His usual road is as far from the broad way as he can have it be; and his care herein sometimes carries him rather too far, upon which account his conscience breeds more scruples than other men's, who can swallow anything that comes to pass. But his integrity in other things apologizes for him to all wise men, and at least brings him off with peace and comfort. And this very thing has brought upon very many of these upright men the badge of a "Puritan," which is by too many applied to subvert sincere holiness and to cast an odium on downright Christianity, and the practice of that we all profess.

I am sure that the Scripture opens heaven's gates to none but those whose lives are pure and holy. Psalm 24:3-4, "who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." Hence the upright man dares not mingle with those vain fooleries, vicious excesses, or suspicious recreations that men of devastated consciences are drowned in; nor can all the good nature that's in him, nor importunity of neighbors or kindred, draw him to such company or courses that would sting his conscience when he should sleep -- unless God leaves him to himself sometimes to humble him.

This uprightness of life shines in the perfection of his life. I mean here a perfection of parts, in that each part of him is sincere. See Isaiah 33:14, "fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrite. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" That is, who shall stand before the holy, just, and upright Jehovah? Who can approach him when he executes judgments here or passes final sentence hereafter? When all hypocrites shall be in a fright, when their cobweb coverings shall fall off and they must stand naked (like so many cheats on a pillory) before God, angels, and men, who then shall stand with comfort and confidence?

Mark [Isaiah 33] verse 15, "he that walketh righteously [his feet walk uprightly] and speaketh uprightly [carries an upright tongue], he that despiseth the gain of oppressions [keeps an upright heart in him], that shaketh his hands from holding bribes [both his hands are upright too], that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood [his ears are tipped with integrity], and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil [he looks with an upright eye]."

Thus you see he is upright all over. Let him deal with friends or enemies, with godly or ungodly, with wise or foolish; you may trust him, for he stands in awe of his God and of himself. He does not have one heart for his religion and another for his bargains and calling, but he studies the Scripture and drives his life into it as near as he can. This is to obey God's voice indeed. And from this perfection flows an excellent evenness of conversation, so that Queen Elizabeth's motto well becomes his life, "Always the same."

This uprightness shines in the plainness of his life. There are few criticisms in the life of an upright man. He's plain, and that's his prayer. Psalm 27:11, "Lord, lead me in a plain path" -- that's my desire. He has no quirks, tricks, or legerdemain. If he cannot stand by plain dealing, he'll fall by it; when he trades and bargains, though he is discreet and careful, yet he is plain. When he reproves a fault or advises, he is sober, wise, and affectionate -- but still he is plain. His discourse and sermons, though elaborate, yet still are plain. Among his very enemies, though he is cautious and considerate, yet there he is plain also. "Lead me in a plain path because of mine enemies." He is like him who wished his body were made of crystal so that his sincerity might be transparent.

Such was that martyr whom the persecutors required to reveal his companion whom they were prosecuting, promising to him his own life for the discovery; and so either by denying his knowledge of the place of his friends abode, or by betraying it, he might have saved his own life. After a little pause, he broke out into these words, "I cannot lie, and I will not betray him." So he laid down his life to save one of his brethren. Here was an upright man that would not tell a lie to save a life, who would rather die than lie. He will be plain, though he suffers for it. But how generally is this plainness banished out of this world? Most men walk in a vain show, disguising their intentions, looking one way and rowing another. The tropics are not more distant from England than most men's intentions are from their actions.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: An Upright Life

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

Uprightness of life must accompany regeneration, or else it is but like a candle in a dark lantern which burns away to no purpose. This is the very sinew of human society and makes men happy in one another. It is such an excellent thing that they who never practice it yet always pretend to it. The knaves abhor to be so called, and would be reputed and called honest and upright men. And that must be amiable which all men commend, and must be necessary which no society can subsist without. So that there abides a crown of honor for a downright heathen as well as a crown of glory for an upright Christian; and there will be an easier punishment for those "christian pagans" than for the abundance of our pagan Christians.

This uprightness of life is not sufficient without regeneration. It is good, but it is not good enough. To be a fast friend to men and a broken bow to God will yield you little comfort. Yet how many sit down here and think themselves well? They would not steal a shoe latchet from their neighbor for all the world, and yet they make no conscience of stealing from God his honor and his day. They would not wrong their brethren's name by any reproach for all the world, and yet they make no bones of wronging the name of the great God, and take it in vain day by day. The squareness of your actions may crown you with reputation; but the rottenness of your hearts will leave you in condemnation by that God who tries the hearts and reins. As in the law, without blood there is no remission of sin, so in the gospel, without oil there is no admission into the kingdom of heaven. Civility and sanctity are two separate things.

This uprightness of life cannot be without that uprightness of heart. It loses in truth its name and nature for want of a principle. For that which is truly good must have all its causes, which this lacks. It is a common experiment that water will not ascend above its spring without a violence upon nature; and it is as true that no man's actions can carry to a higher level than the fountain of them. So to make the life upright, you must begin at the heart; first make the tree good, and then the fruit will be good also.

Now this uprightness of life is the exact agreement of a man's words and actions with an honest and upright heart. Uprightness is when the life is the picture of the heart, and there is a blessed harmony between the frame of the soul within and the course of the life without; when a man does not frame his life to gratify the company or serve the times he lives in, or the corrupt humors of others, or any carnal ends of his own -- but his heart is sincere, and so are his words and deeds. Not that we expect an absolute exactness here; the most upright man on earth has enough to humble and afflict him. But for the most part, there is no known ordinary and willing swerving of his course from his frame within, or of that from the holy will of God.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: Necessity of Regeneration

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

And thus I have opened in some poor measure an upright heart. By all this, dearly beloved, you may see the absolute necessity of regeneration, I mean, the thorough change of heart from the state of nature to the state of grace. For certainly man's heart by nature is false, and is far from this uprightness described. How can the soul receive Christ Jesus as he is offered in the gospel, or resign itself to him, without regeneration? How can the heart of a sinful child of Adam be either single, sound, pure, perfect, or plain without regeneration?

What man will study or practice inward, universal, and constant religion till he is regenerated? Who will walk before God, with God, after God, and like God before his heart is changed? Alas these things are neither conceived by the mind nor received by the will of a natural man. He is ignorant in them and an enemy to them. Oh, you must be new creatures or else all our entreaties stand for nothing. We must still begin here, and can parley no further with you unless you yield in this.

Will you be renewed in the spirit of your mind? Would you give all the world for a new heart? Till then you are but rotten at the heart; you walk in a vain show. For all your talk against hypocrites, you are errand [errant?] hypocrites, and shall be condemned as such when those you have so reproached shall be your judges, and shall be openly honored before angels and men. Those poor Mordecais shall be royally arrayed, and you, like proud Haman, shall see it to the breaking of your hearts.

To prevent this, learn this one lesson, sound conversion, which is but restoring the image that you lost in Adam. Your bones were all put out of joint by the fall; this is the painful pluck that puts them in joint again. Would not any man abide a painful pluck to set one bone in joint? Oh, abide one pluck to bring all your soul into frame again. You must be new men or else you cannot be upright men; you must be in Christ before you can walk like him. Your religion is but skin deep till the Holy Ghost has made a holy change.

And therefore, for the Lord's sake, and for your soul's sake, study this point into practice. Give no sound sleep to your eyes while you are such near neighbors to hell; your temperate, just, and honest behavior may make you fall the softer, but without holiness you can never see the Lord -- and a carnal heart can never be holy and upright without regeneration.


Steele In Our Spines: Constant Religion

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

His sanctity is a second nature in him, and that which is natural is constant. There is a great difference between the natural heat of a healthy man and the preternatural heat of a fever; such is the difference between the true saint and the hypocrite. A hypocrite may have some fits of piety, but they are accidental; they flow from some outward cause, and accordingly they last but for a while. And when that cause ceases (suppose some sharp judgment feared or felt, some qualm of conscience or shallow sermon-sickness), then a cold fit follows as bad or worse than before. Alas, it is preternatural; it was no habit. But the upright man has a constant heat; he fears always and maintains constant duty, though he cannot keep equal heat therein.

And here's the difference between the inconstancy of an upright man and of a hypocrite: the inconstancy of the hypocrite is in the substance of the duty itself; one while he prays, another while he restrains prayer; one while he is strict and cautious, and another shortly loose and careless. Whereas the upright man keeps on in the course of his duty, though he cannot do it always alike. He prays, and would not be taken from it, though the thread of his prayers is uneven. There may be remissness in it, but not an intermission of it; there's constant religion, though not equal religion.

The hypocrite makes a cloak of his religion, which he puts on and off as it serves his purpose; the upright man wears it as his everyday clothes, and does not put off his integrity till he dies. There may be some parentheses in his holy course wherein vanity and sin may be written (too many of these, God knows, in the best man's heart and life), but still the sentence runs current; the sense and scope of his heart runs heavenward. On the contrary, the full sense of a hypocrite's heart is to please or promote himself. Though there may be some parentheses of religion, they are no part of the scope of his soul.

You have their character in Psalm 78:36-37, "nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant." There is no greater sign of a rotten heart than a fundamental unsteadfastness in the covenant of God. When a man is ruled by times and companies to show good or evil, this man's heart is not right with God.

It's true, a tempest may bend the boughs of a living tree, or perhaps the tree itself if the storm is great, but they eventually return to their full uprightness. But the rotten sticks and branches are broken and overturned. Just so, some strong temptation may drive an upright man out of his honest way, but he soon returns and, by mending his pace, makes amends for his stumbling. Three Scriptures give the upright man his character concerning this matter.

Proverbs 28:14, happy is the man that feareth always. To be always afraid looks like a miserable life among men, but to have a waking eye and careful heart for fear of sin is no more a misery than to walk or ride with a vigilant regard to prevent a fall. This fear is not troublesome or vexatious at all; he is a happy man who uses it, and no wise man will account the other happy for going, running, riding without fear or wit in danger every moment to break his bones.

Hosea 12:6, keep mercy and judgment, and wait on God continually. The whole life of a sincere saint is a continual waiting upon God; whatever his work is, whoever his company might be, wherever he goes, whenever he eats or drinks, yet in all these he waits upon his God and serves the will of his heavenly father.

Proverbs 23:17, Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. This is most emphatic for both the duty commanded and for the term of the duty; both are most appropriate to set out an upright man. The fear of the Lord is universal religion, so be in this. This is more than if he had said, "let the fear of the Lord be in the; be surrounded with it and swallowed up in it." And be in this all the day long, not only a fit of religion at your prayers in the morning and another at night, but work and walk, eat and drink in it all the day long, yea, all your life long, which is but a long day.

The religion of a hypocrite is like a tiring horse, which may go apace in the morning and show much mettle for a while; but the upright man, though more soberly, yet goes more constantly. And in this sense Proverbs 10:9 is most true, "he that walketh uprightly walketh surely." You shall find this man with savory thoughts in his heart at noon and with ejaculations to God at his work; there is a coherence between his duties and his life. In a word, the upright man has four "walks" towards God which will set him fort to the life.

The upright man walks before God. Genesis 17:1, "walk before me, and be thou perfect," or upright. That is whereby the upright man habitually, always, and actually, as much as in him lies, sets the Lord always before him. The upright man thinks, speaks, and acts as if God looked on, weighing not only the matter, but the manner and the motives of his ways, acquitting himself still to his God. 2 Corinthians 2:17, "as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." Happy forever is that minister who can call God to record on his soul, that as no errors corrupt his doctrine so no base ends corrupt his heart; but that he preaches Christ's will sincerely, as if the Lord himself looked on.

The upright man walks with God, as did Enoch. Genesis 5:22, "and Enoch walked with God." That is so to live as if the Holy God were in person walking with you on earth, or as if you were walking with him in heaven. If God should visibly walk with you on earth, as he was a while with Abraham, oh, with what humility, sanctity, watchfulness, love, and fear would you continually live? What a humble and serious regard would you have towards him? Much more if you were to walk a while with him in heaven, what a frame would you be in? This sense of walking with God no man has skill in save the upright man; he is constantly religious.

The upright man walks after God. Deuteronomy 13:4, "ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice." Where he can see his God walk before him, like a dutiful child, he will walk after him as fast as he can. The praise of Caleb in Numbers 14:24 was that he followed God fully. That simple declaration, "I am the Lord thy God," makes every "thou shalt" of his, and every "thou shalt not," acceptable to an upright man. "Come," says God, "here is a work I must have done. Here you must give, and here you must forgive; here is a saint who must be loved for his own sake, and here is a sinner you must pity for my sake." And the upright man says, "Lord, by thy grace and it shall be done." This is to follow God fully; and this is to walk after God.

The upright man walks like God. 1 John 2:6, "he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Now how did our Lord Jesus walk when he was upon earth? Why, he was a mirror and pattern of humility, justice, charity, meekness, and self-denial. Think often when you are eating, "how did Christ order his meals? Do I give thanks like him, discourse at the table like him?"

Think often when you are hearing and praying, "Did he hear and pray in such a manner as I do? How would he carry himself among his neighbors? How would he instruct and guide this family? How would he bear and improve these reproaches, wants, and troubles? How would he appear for God in such company? How would he sanctify the Sabbath? How would he deal with parents, such children, if he were in my place? How quiet would he be when provoked? How chaste would he be in when tempted? How just and true would he be in his dealings, how cautious of others' names, and how content with his own estate?" Put him often into your case and remember that, if ever you will live with him, you must live like him. By this fruitful and good life you show that God is upright and that there is no unrighteousness in him.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: Universal Religion

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

The will of God is in an upright man's heart, and he agrees with Scriptures in everything.

1. He hates all sin with a hatred of abomination, of aversion, and of opposition. Dress it with what disguises you will, and press it with what motives, ends or advantages you can, the upright man hates it in his heart. Psalm 119:1, 3, "blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. They also [for their part] do no iniquity; they walk in his way." There is a part of him that would tamper with sin, but he does not like it. "Oh," saith God, "do not this abominable thing that I hate" (Jeremiah 44:4). "No, Lord," he says, "for I hate it as well as thou dost." His heart is on God's side against sin, and particularly against his own iniquity. Psalm 18:23, "I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity."

Every man has some sin of his own to which he is most inclined, least able to resist, and most loathe to leave. Thus he drags each prayer before God and cries, "Lord, if thou lovest me, strike here!" This sin he prosecutes with prayers and tears, and all good means beside, ambushes it in cold blood, and continual, preventing contrivances disappoints, crosses, intercepts, and by degrees starves it to death.

And as no sin is so dear as to ingratiate with him, so no sin is so small but his stomach rises at it; and hence it is that the upright man does not have so wide an inclination as other men of large and strained consciences, and so meets with many a hypocrite in his dish, because he hates the appearance of evil as he hates the appearance of the devil. But still he hates his own sins more than others, and those as much as any which nobody sees but himself.

2. He loves all his duty; he is neither afraid to know nor ashamed to to own all his duty. By this the Lord measures integrity. 1 Kings 9:4, "And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee." Here's the just standard of sincerity. For can the holy, wise, and just God appoint anything unreasonable or uncomfortable for his own creature, his dear child to perform? Alas! All his ways are mercy and truth, and all his laws tend to his servants' good.

What harsher law in appearance can there be than that found in Matthew 5:29-30, "If thy right eye, if thy right hand offend thee, pluck it out, cut it off." And yet if any of you had an eye that was always leading you into pits and precipices, to drown and destroy you, would not you have it out? If you had a hand that was always running into fire, and you could not keep it out, would you not hack it off? Why, it is no other eye or hand the gospel has a quarrel with but those that would lead you into ruin or run you into hell -- and how reasonable and necessary is it to be rid of such?

The upright man is convinced of this, and so he knows nothing in religion but what he likes. Some things may grate upon his carnal appetite, yet he loves them dearly. Now a hypocrite is quite another man; like a poor scholar reading a hard chapter, he skips over the hard words and makes nothing of them; whereas the well-taught scholar will tarry and labor at them and rather venture a whipping than skip over them. So is it between the hypocrite and the upright man in the duties of Christianity.

A hypocrite runs smoothly on in diverse religious exercises till he meets with some costly, hard, or hidden duties, and there he stands stock-still; he considers that there is no credit or profit, but only pains or peril to be had, and so skips over these hard words and neither loves nor obeys. But the upright man finds his duty, abides by it, dwells upon it, and will deny himself before he will deny his duty. "If God will have me love my enemies, I will love them. If he will have me forsake this company or course that I am taken with, I will freely leave them. IF he will have me pray, yea, and fast too, no duty shall be so hard but I will do it, no sin so sweet but I will leave it with my whole heart, and my whole soul.

We see both of these in Psalm 119:128, "Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way." Each word is a sacred touchstone.

"Therefore." It is said in verse 126 that [wicked men] "make void the law." That's so far from carrying the upright man down the stream that therefore he loves it the more; he knows he cannot but be excellent that such men hate. Is the Sabbath generally broken? He is stricter in observing it then. Are oaths more frequent? He abhors them all the more. Is true piety hated and hissed out of the world? Then his heart and his house shall more thoroughly embrace it.

"I esteem." I cannot observe thy precepts as I would, but I do dearly value them. The least of thy laws is more unto me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

"I esteem thy precepts." I not only esteem the truths of the Bible, the histories in the Bible, and the promises of the Bible, but I esteem thy precepts, those that cut out my work as well as those that hold out my reward.

"And all these." This includes those that are against my nature and [seeming] interest and custom as well as those that are agreeable to my nature and custom, and subservient to my interest. They are all wise, holy, and good. "Thy word is very pure; therefore thy servant loves it. And I esteem all they precepts [concerning all things to be right]." Those precepts that give rules for my bargains as well as for my hearing, that control me at my table as well as those that direct me in my prayers--they are all right and good.

"And I hate every false way." I do not say that I escape and miss them all (happy I would be if I could); but I hate them, and he who hates sin, will avoid it as much as he can. And I hate every false way. I see that they are false ways, neither directed by my God nor leading to him, and therefore I hate them all. This is an upright man: he is universally religious.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: Invisible Religion

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

The great business of the upright heart is inward religion, universal religion, and constant religion.

He is a student and practitioner of inward religion. He is diligent in the outward acts of it also (that he has in common with the hypocrite), but his greatest  study is to be good within. Romans 2:28-29, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly [that is, he is no Jew as to the esteem and acceptance of God, or as to the spiritual covenant], neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh [to wit, that is not the circumcision which God chiefly looks at and which a man is chiefly advantaged by]; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly [that is, a saint in soul], and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit and not in the letter."

It is not water on the face, but blood on the heart which makes a saveable Christian. O sirs, what change has there been on your spirits? What fear, love, and sanctity is there in your hearts? Look to this, or else you will break your bubbles. And then it follows, "who praise is not of men, but of God," that is, whose aim and honor is not to be praised by men, but by God. The upright man trades in invisible things.

The upright man studies to obtain invisible graces. Psalm 45:13, "the king's daughter is glorious within." In the hidden man of the heart lies the beauty of an upright man: to be dressed with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, with a composed and serious spirit, with a penitent and believing spirit. Ah, beloved, how like many of us are to the river which Athenaeus mentions, whose upper waters are sweet, but brackish at the bottom; like fine clothes, silk without and canvas within; a smooth carriage and an unpolished, uncircumcised heart.

But the upright man would not be so. He does not look at things that are seen, but at things that are not seen. Grace and glory are the study and ambition of the inward Christian. The hypocrite may be forward for unsanctified gifts. Simon Magus would give money for such. Oh, the time, cost and strength that many men spend to attain the gifts of knowledge, prudence, language, elocution, memory, and such like, who never spend a serious thought, to attain the graces of repentance, faith, self-denial, sincere love to God, and godliness! But this is the great design in the upright heart: "Oh, that I may be stored with the saving knowledge of my God and of myself! Here's an ordinance. Oh, that I may have my faith increased, my love enflamed, and the back of my patience strengthened by this holy duty!" These are the pearls our merchant seeks.

The upright man studies to perform invisible duties. There is an outside and an inside part to religion. The bended knee is the outside part in prayer; the broken heart is the inside. To read two or three chapters in the Bible each day is the outside part; to feel the efficacy of it is the inside. To reprove another man is the outside part; but to watch over your own heart is the inside. To draw out your purse to a poor man is the outside part; but to draw out your heart in pity to him is the inside part of the duty.

The hypocrite may, and often does, excel in the former, but the upright man is diligent and careful in the latter. He can pray in secret, and is no stranger to self-examination, meditation, ejaculatory prayers, and soliloquies, those retired acts of religion; nay in these is his excellence. He is a saint in secret, the holiest when alone, a busy man in an ordinance. He wrestles as well as makes supplication, and sweats at that which others sleep at.

The Pharisee in Luke 18 had the larger oration, but the publican had the more penitent heart. The scribe might have more dealing with the Law, but the apostle delighted in it in the inward man (Romans 7:22), and so does every upright man. His best wares are within, out of sight. It is the tradesman's custom to have all his wares for sale, but in his warehouse and closet are his choicest things. Even so the upright man will be exact and diligent in all his ordinary and visible duties, but his masterpieces are within. He performs invisible duties.

The upright man studies to conquer invisible sins. These are the sins that he might go to his grave with, and nobody was ever aware of them; yet these he labors to rout. A hypocrite, on the contrary, prunes off the sins that will shame him, but nourishes the sins that will damn him. Open drunkenness, uncleanness, oppression, and profaneness a hypocrite disdains; but meanwhile he lives perhaps in some of these secretly, or at least takes no pains to subdue proud, wanton, envious, and other inward motions that do as much war against the soul as other sins. The hypocrite shaves the hair, but the upright man plucks it up by the roots.

2 Corinthians 7:1, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." There is a filthiness of the spirit which he who would perfect holiness will be cleansing himself from, such as the habits of unbelief, impenitence, hardness of heart, pride of spirit, dullness in God's service, and such sins as atheistic, loose, impertinent thoughts, wandering thoughts in the worship of God, envy at his neighbor's riches or reputation, and carnal contrivances to satisfy the lusts of the flesh. These break his sleep and fill his prayers, which never cost the hypocrite one penitent thought. The upright man knows that as the filthiness of the flesh will make him a beast, so the filthiness of the spirit will make him a devil; and therefore he assaults his invisible sins.


Steele In Our Spines: Nature Of Uprightness

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

The nature of this uprightness of heart is best discerned by those expressions used by the Holy Ghost concerning it, which have been partly observed already, and shall be reduced to these following. Uprightness of heart is:

  1. Single without division
  2. Sound without rottenness
  3. Pure without mixture
  4. Perfect without reservation
  5. Plain without guile

An upright heart is single without division. To a hypocrite, there are many gods and many lords, and he must have a heart for each. But to the upright there is but one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ, and one heart will serve them both. He who fixes his heart upon the creature, for every creature he must have a heart, and the dividing of his heart destroys him (Hosea 10:2).

Worldly profits knock at the door, and he must have a heart for them; carnal pleasures present themselves, and he must have a heart for them also; sinful preferments appear, and they must have a heart too. Of necessary objects, the number is few; of needless vanities, the number is endless. The upright man made choice of God and has enough.

A single Christ is enough for a single heart; hence holy David prayed in Psalm 86:11, "Unite my heart to fear thy name." That is, "let me have but one heart and mind, and let that be thine."

As there are thousands of beams and rays, yet they all meet and center in the sun. So an upright man, though he has a thousand thoughts, yet they all (by his good will) meet in God. He has many subordinate ends--to procure a livelihood, to preserve his credit, to provide for his children--but he has no supreme end but God alone. Hence he has that steadiness in his resolutions, that undistractedness in his holy duties, that consistency in his actions, and that evenness in the frame of his heart, which miserable hypocrites cannot attain.

An upright heart is sound without rottenness. Psalm 119:80, "let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I may not be ashamed." The more sincerity, the less shame. Integrity is the great author of confidence. Every frost shakes an unsound body, and every trial shakes an unsound soul. An upright man does not always have so pure a color as a hypocrite may have, but his color is natural: it is his own; it is not painted; his constitution is firm. The hypocrite's beauty is borrowed; the fire of trial will melt it off.

An upright man has his infirmities, his diseases, but his new nature works them out for he is sound within. A leprosy overspreads the hypocrite, but he hides it. Psalm 36:2, "he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful." He endeavors to hide himself from God, more from men, but most from himself. He would fain be in with himself howsoever, and this trade he drives, "till his iniquity be found to be hateful." But an upright man is always sifting and trying himself: "Am I sound? Am I right? Are my services rightly done? Are my infirmities consistent with integrity?" An upright saint is like an apple with rotten specks, but a hypocrite is like the apple with a rotten core.

The sincere Christian has a speck of passion here, there one of worldliness, and there one of pride. But cut him up and anatomize him, and he is sound at heart; there Christ and Christianity live and reign. A hypocrite is like an apple that is smooth and lovely on the outside, but rotten within. His words may be exact, his duties devout, and his life blameless; but look within, and his heart is the sty of sin, the den of Satan.

An upright heart is pure without mixture. It is not absolutely pure, for that happy condition is reserved for heaven, but it is compared with the pollution and base mixture that constitutes a hypocrite. Though his hand cannot do all that God bids, yet his heart is sincere in all he does. His soul is bent for perfect purity, and so he has his name from that. Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart." In his words he sometimes fails, and also in his thoughts and deeds; but open his heart and thee is a love, a desire, a design and an endeavor after real and absolute purity.

He is not legally pure, that is, free from all sin, but he is evangelically pure, free from the reign of sin, especially of hypocrisy, which is so flatly contrary to the covenant of grace. And in this sense the upright man is the Scripture Puritan, and so is further from hypocrisy than any other man. He is really glad that God is the searcher of hearts, for then he knows that he will find his name and nature in his own.

And yet the most upright man in the world has some hypocrisy in him. Proverbs 20:9, "who can say, 'I have made my heart clean. I am pure from my sin'?" But he detects, resists, and hates this hypocrisy; and so it cannot dominate him as a hypocrite in this world, nor damn him as one in another. His ends are generally purely for the glory of God; his frame of heart and thoughts are pure, and generally better than his outside; the farther you trace him, the better he is. He is pure from dishonesty in his dealings, purer still in his closet, and most pure in his heart. Though there is sin there, yet there is also there an antipathy against it, so that it does not mingle with it.

The hypocrite chooses sin; the upright man would have no sin if he could choose. The traveler meets with dirt on his way, but he keeps it off as well as he can and does not mingle with it. And if he gets soiled, he rubs it off as soon as may be. But the swine delights in it and cannot be well without it. It is just so between the upright man and the hypocrite. The most upright saint on earth is mired with sin sometimes, but he did not design it in the morning, nor does he sleep with it at night. But a hypocrite designs it and delights in it; he is never so well contented as in sin. In a word, the hypocrite may avoid sin, but no man can abhor sin save the upright man.

An upright man is perfect and entire without reservation. Psalm 37:37, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright." You may see them both at once. His heart is entirely devoted to the will and ways of God. The hypocrite ever has some exceptions and reservations. "Such a sin I must not leave; such a grace I cannot love; such a duty I will not practice. Thus far will I yield but no farther; thus far will I go. It is consistent with my carnal ends, but all the world shall not persuade me farther." The judgment of the hypocrite will drive beyond his will, his conscience beyond his affections; he is not entire, his heart is parted, and so he is off and on.

The upright man has but one happiness, and that is the enjoyment of God; he has but one rule, and that is his holy will; he has but one work, and that is to please his maker.Thereupon he is entire and certain in his choices, in his desires, in his ways and contrivances. And though there may be some demurs in his prosecution of his main business, yet there is no hesitancy and wavering between two objects; for he is entirely fixed and resolved therein, and so may be said to be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing."

There is in every hypocrite some one fort or stronghold that has never yielded to the sovereignty and empire of God's will. Some lust fortifies itself in the will; but where integrity enters, it brings every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. "Lord," he says, "I am wholly thine; do what thou wilt with me; say what thou wilt to me; write what thou wilt upon me. 'Other lords besides thee have had dominion over us, but by thee only we will make mention of thy name'" (Isaiah 26:13). Here is the upright man.

An upright heart is plain without guile. Psalm 32:2, "Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile." Here is a blessed word indeed. Alas! We have great and many iniquities; would it not be happy for us to be as if we had never sinned? Why, non-imputation will be as well for us as if there had been no transgression; sins remitted are as if they had not been committed; the debt-book crossed as good as if no entries had ever been made.

But who is this blessed man? "In whose spirit there is no guile," that is, no fundamental guile. He is the man who has not deceitfully covenanted with his God. He has no approved guile, to approve and yield to any way of wickedness; he does not juggle with God or men or with his own conscience; he does not hide his idols under him when God is searching his tent. Rather, as it follows in verse 5, he acknowledges, hates, and leaves his sin.

When the upright man confesses his sin, his heart aches and he is deeply troubled for it; he does not dissemble. The hypocrite proclaims open war, but maintains secret intelligence with his lusts. When the upright man prays for any grace, he earnestly desires it, and he takes pains to compass it too; for he is in good earnest and does not dissemble. The hypocrite is afraid in his prayers to be taken at his word, for he does not love the image or grace of God at all. And so in everything else, there is nothing but guile in him.

He who will dissemble with God will dissemble with any man in the world. See the wide difference between Saul and David. Saul is charged with a fault in 1 Samuel 15:14. He denies it, and the charge is renewed in verse 17. Still he minces the matter and looks for fig-leaves to cover all. But plain-hearted David is another man; he is charged and he yields; one prick opens a vein of sorrow in his heart. He tells all, he makes a psalm of it, and therein concludes this is Psalm 51:6, "behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts." The plain-hearted man says, "as for me, with the upright man I will show myself upright."


Monday, June 9, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: Ground of Uprightness

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

This uprightness respects God and respects man. The former may be called "uprightness of heart," the latter "uprightness of life." And both of these must be explained [the first will be explained in this and the subsequent five entries]; and, where they meet, there we find an upright man.

Concerning uprightness of heart, we must assert that it is not so much a distinct grace, a grace by itself, as it is all grace. It is that which stamps a reality on every other grace. Without it, we cannot believe our faith, nor love our love, nor hope well of our hope itself.

Uprightness and watchfulness are universal graces; they are of a general necessity. Uprightness is necessary to the being and truth of grace, and watchfulness is necessary to the preservation and exercise of grace. And on that account, sincerity is called a girdle in Ephesians 6:14, "having your loins girded about truth." Religion is to many as a cloak (though it will prove the dearest cloak that ever was worn) which they can put on when it serves their purposes, and put off when it troubles them in their lust. But sincerity is like a girdle that ties it close to us. This makes all our garments fit close to us, and to be ungirt here is to be unblessed.

Uprightness of heart is that grace or gracious temper whereby the soul is unreservedly resigned to God, and heartily bent to walk with him without guile. In short, it is when one is a man after God's own heart; for truth is nothing but an agreement of things with their first principles, so that the heart that agrees plainly with the heart and will of God is an upright heart.

The same thing is meant by an honest heart in Luke 8:15. That is a heart resolved to carry squarely towards God. Such a heart, in the hearing of God's word, is clearly carried with the stream of God's will, without exception or dissimulation. As an honest man is ruled and swayed by reason and equity in a business, without squinting at his own opinions and ends, even so an upright heart yields honestly his reason and and will captive to the will of God, though it crosses his own conceits and ends. And thus he is a man after God's own heart, is as like (human frailty considered) as ever he can be.

This blessed uprightness may be considered in its grounds, in its nature, and in its object.

The ground and root of uprightness of heart stands in the total receiving of Christ by the heart, and total resignation of the heart to him. When this is done, a good foundation is laid for sincerity of soul.

First, there must be a total receiving of Jesus Christ as offered in the gospel; this is when you take hold of the Lord Jesus and cleave to him with purpose of heart. Barnabas pressed them at Antioch to this in Acts 11:23. Many have a month's mind of Christ, some wishes and wounds, but will you have him and cleave to him, and that with purpose of heart?

Sincerity is to receive a whole Christ with a whole heart. It is not to receive Christ the savior or refuge only, or most would be willing, but Christ the prince and portion also in the land of the living. So David could say in Psalm 142:5, "O Lord, thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living." But how many would have the Lord Jesus Christ for the refuge when conscience pinches, affliction presses, or death stares them in the face; and how few will choose him for their portion and happiness in the midst of their outward comforts? The hypocrite dares not die without him, and the upright saint cannot live without him. Song of Solomon 1:4, "The upright love thee," and love cannot live contentedly without fruition.

To be content with Christ because of some present need of him is one thing, but it is nothing if that is all. But to choose him as the fairest of ten thousand, and that with an entire heart; to have mind, will, conscience, and affection all of one mind, and this mind to be set on Christ's yoke as well as his crown, his spirit as well as his merit, his rule as well as his righteousness -- there is the upright heart.

A hypocrite has some fancy for Jesus Christ, but will not have all of him. This part pleases him, but this part does not; and so he dodges endlessly and parleys with him through the window, but bolts the door and keeps him out forever. Oh, that ever a holy, just, and offended God should follow such miserable sinners with a bleeding Christ in his arms and that ever such wretches should refuse him!

Second, there must be a total resignation of the heart unto the Lord Jesus Christ, wherein you cordially, deliberately, and freely give up your souls and bodies to him and his service, which is called "engaging the heart to approach to the Lord." Jeremiah 30:21, "who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, Saith the Lord." And thereupon that happy covenant is drawn in the next verse, "Ye shall be my people, and I will be your God."

"Who is this?" God asks. "Who in the world? Who in this congregation? Who in this family? Who in this seat? Where is the man, the woman, the child?"

Oh, let each answer quickly, "It is I." But you must engage, not only hanker, incline, desire, purpose, but engage. It is not bidding, but buying, that will make this pearl your own. Alas, it is the ordinary guise of people to stand off and look only. But, sirs, will you engage? It is a bargain; and will you stick to it, get or lose by it? Will you have Christ? Then there must be the engagement of the heart. You subscribed your hands in baptism; this very covenant was sealed in your name and on your behalf when you were little children, and your not revoking it asserts it.

But now we come for your hearts' engagement thereunto. Where is the mind, the conscience, the will? Oh, where is the will that submits, resolves, and engages to be the Lord's? Happy this day, happy you will be, if hereupon you shall say, "I am the Lord's"; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name Israel (Isaiah 44:5). You are the Lord's by your Christian names already. Oh, when will you be his by your surname also?

This is the gospel's great design; this is our errand here; we come for you and loathe to go without you. We beseech you by the mercies of God to present yourselves as a living sacrifice to God. Poor sinners are like besieged rebels whom Christ Jesus will either win or starve. His ordinance is mounted and it batters. A breach is made in the judgment, but the sinner will not yield; another in the conscience, yet is he loathe to yield. The white flag of mercy is set up, but for a long time the sturdy sinner will not look at it. The red flag is hung out, divine wrath is on the march, and a storm is preparing. The ordinance of God is planted again; and now if it hits right, and a breach is made upon the will, then Christ is victorious, the city is won, and the sinner yields. And then his note is changed. Psalm 116:16, "O Lord, truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant." Mark how the Psalmist doubles it, as if to say, "I am, I am, truly I am." Doubled refusals call for doubled submissions.

The sinner must say, "I will neither be my own master nor my own servant. I here make a deed of gift of my whole self to thee without reservation, and without power of revocation." It is not enough to say this in a pang of kindness, or in a compliment, as we do to men. What is more common with us than to say, "I am your servant, sir?" But it is a servant without service, and God has a great many such servants. They are his servants, but their own masters. But holy David was not such a man. "I am thy servant, truly I am thy servant. I am resigned to thee, I am resolved for thee. Thou hast bored my ears (Psalm 40:6) and obliged me to thee forever. I will be thine totally and finally."

When you give yourselves to the Lord in this way (2 Corinthians 8:5), this is the ground and root of uprightness.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: The Doctrine Stated

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

And now it is time to be gathering something for our instruction, and let this be the lesson hence to be learned.

DOCTRINE: Where God finds an upright man, he shows himself to be an upright God.

True, he finds none but whom he makes. He finds them of his own making; but wherever such a man is found, on the throne, in a prison, or on a dunghill, he shall find a God of his own who will deal uprightly with him. He is an upright God; let men be what they will; whatever contrary motions the lower spheres have, yet the primum mobile keeps its even and constant motion and is never diverted out of its course at all.

So it is with our God: let vain hypocrites walk never so crookedly, yet the holy God will be justified when he speaks and clear when he judges. He will be upright with you in executing his threatenings if you hinder the current of his uprightness in performing promises. The filthy dunghill cannot infect the glorious sun that shines all day upon it, nor can any man's evil cause him to cease from being good. But the meaning of the point is, to the upright man he shows himself to be a graciously upright God. A true-hearted man on earth shall find a true-hearted God in heaven.

The most proper and profitable way I can think of to handle this doctrine within the intended limits is, first, by showing wherein the uprightness of a man stands; second, by declaring how God shows himself to be an upright God; and, third, by drawing out some inferences and uses thereof.


Steele In Our Spines: Words Used In Scripture

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

There are four words especially whereby uprightness is expressed in Scripture which, being considered, will give us some view of this orient jewel.

  • It is called "truth." 1 Samuel 12:24, "serve him in truth." Moral truth is the conformity of the mind and heart to things said and done; when therefore the heart prays with the tongue, when the heart obeys with the hand, when we do the things of God heartily as to the Lord, this is to serve him in truth and uprightly.

This is surely the sense of Hebrews 10:22, "let us draw near with a true heart." It is our sin and folly to keep at distance from God, both in and out of his service, afraid or loathe to come near. It is God's will that we should draw near, and nearer yet, and that with a true heart. A true-hearted man at prayer does the work when many great appearances are but beating the air.

So it is when we come to men. 1 John 3:18, "let us not love in word neither in tongue [only], but it deed and in truth," having a principle of unfeigned love in our hearts to everybody, and thence producing words and deeds of charity. This is an upright man, whose heart within does not give the lie to his word and actions.

Survey his duties to God and men, they are pious, just, and charitable; open his heart, and piety, righteousness, and love are written there. One man professed that if he might have had the opportunity to make himself, light would have been his body and truth would have been his soul.

  • Another word for this is "sincerity," a word taken from pure honey. The Latin is sine cera, without wax or unmingled. The equivalent for us would be when the new man has as little as may be of the old man mingled with him.

This word is used in Philippians 1:10, "that ye may be sincere." The Greek word there signifies that which is sunproof (such as wares that can abide betried between you and the sun). Such is an upright man: bring him to the Scriptures and he is sound; bring him to any solid marks and he can stand before them; put him on the scales and he is the right weight.

He is pure gold, though he may lack some grains of allowance. He is of a right breed; though perhaps young or weak; yet he can look at the sun and not be daunted. A hypocrite can look men in the face, but an upright man can look God in the face. "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness." This none but a righteous upright man can do.

  • There is another word of this import, and that is "singleness of heart." Acts 2:46, "they did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart," that is, with a cordial cheerfulness and bounty. To this Luke 11:34 refers, "when thine eye is single [when your heart is singly bent to honor and serve God, then the whole life will relish of that principle], thy whole body also is full of light.

But if the heart doubles with God, the life will in no way be uniform with men. And this is taken to be the meaning of the oneness of heart promised in Ezekiel 11:19. The hypocrite has a heart, a heart, a heart, and a heart, for every lust a heart; a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. He is unresolved in the end he drives at, and so unfixed in his desires and actions that tend thereunto.

Now the upright man's heart is one: he goes all the way; he is what he seems; he has one intention, one delight, one face, and one tongue. In a word, he is a united man. Psalm 103:1, "bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name."

  • And to this purpose is the fourth word that signifies uprightness, and that is "integrity." 1 Kings 9:4, "and if thou wilt walk before me, as David, thy father, walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness." That is, when all the soul in every faculty is resolved and bent for God and his glory.

In a hypocrite, the judgment is against the will, the conscience against the affection, and the reason against the appetite. But in the upright, all the faculties agree and combine within themselves, and the opposition is only outward, against a common enemy. He is a whole man and is for the whole will of God.

So, you see that an upright man is a true-hearted, a sincere-hearted, a single-hearted, and a whole-hearted man.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Steele In Our Spines: The Text Opened

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

So we arrive at the text itself, which is an entire proposition concerning a subject (an upright man), a predicate or what is spoken of him, to, or with him (God will show himself upright), and an explication (with, before, or unto him).

"Upright." The same word is often translated "perfect." An upright man is good throughout, though not thoroughly good; he is not one who personifies religion, but one who is a religious person. He is perfect because he wishes to be so. So Noah is termed in Genesis 6:9, "Noah was a just man, and perfect (i.e. upright) in his generations, and Noah walked with God."

He was a good man in a bad age. He was like a glowing spark of fire in a sea of water, which is perfect goodness; and therefore the Holy Ghost so hangs upon his name as if he could not stop saying it. Verse 10, "And Noah begat three sons." It is as if God were saying, "Noah, Noah, Noah. I love the sound of your name." And so all our names are precious to God, though hated by men, if the name of God is dear and sweet to us.

The word is also sometimes translated "plain." In Genesis 25:27, Jacob was a plain man, that is, an upright man, dwelling in tents. Esau was a cunning hunter, but Jacob was a plain man. You might know his heart by his tongue, save once when Rebekah put a cunning trick into his head; otherwise he was a most upright, downright man. And the plain meaning of it is a simple, cordial, unfeigned, and exact man -- this is the man we are looking for.

"Man." This substantive in the Hebrew is a choice word, signifying a strong and valiant man. The same word is used in Psalm 45:3, "O mighty [man]!" It is meant of the Lord Christ, who was a most strong and valiant man, who could meet the wrath of God, the malice of the devil, and the sin of man in the face and still come off with the triumph. The Dutch translate the parallel clause in 2 Samuel 22:26 this way, "With the right, valiant person, thou behavest thyself upright."

"Thou wilt shew thyself upright." or, "Thou wilt be upright with him." One word in the Hebrew makes all these six English words. "Thou wilt upright it with him." If men deal plainly with God, he will deal plainly with them. He who is upright in performing his duty shall find God upright in performing his promises.

It is God's way to carry with men as they carry with him. If you have a design to please him, he will have a design to please you; if you will echo to him when he calls, then he will echo to you when you call. On the other hand, if a man will wrestle with God, he will wrestle with him; if you will be fast and loose with him and walk frowardly towards him, you shall have it as good as you bring it. If you provoke him with never-ending sins, he will pursue you with never-ending torments. If you will sin for eternity, you must suffer for eternity. Every man shall find like for like.


Steele In Our Spines: The Upright Man

The meditations under this listing [Steele In Our Spines] are from Richard Steele's The Properties And Privileges Of An Upright Man, first published in 1670.

Considering the context of Psalm 18:25, Steele wrote, It is as if each of you who have grown into years should write a review of your lives and observe the wonderful goodness and providence of God toward you; and then sit down and write a modest memorial of his most remarkable mercies to comfort yourselves and your posterity, which would be an excellent practice.

What a comfort it would be for you to read how good your God was to your father or grandfather, who are now dead and gone! So would your children rejoice in the Lord upon reading of his goodness to you. And you cannot have a better pattern for this than holy David, who wrote this Psalm when he was sixty-seven years old. When he had outlived most of his troubles and was almost ready for his journey to his father in heaven, he resolved to leave this good report of him on earth.

Mark how he began: he does not set up trophies to himself, but triumphs in his God. "I will love thee, o Lord, my strength." As the love of God is the beginning of all our mercies, so love for God should be the end and effect of them all. As the stream leads us to the spring, so all the gifts of God must lead us to the giver of them.

"Lord thou hast saved me from sickness, so I will love thee; from death and hell, so I will love thee. On me thou hast bestowed grace and comfort, so I will love thee, O Lord my strength." And later he heaped on God all the sweet names he could devise (verse 2). A true saint thinks he can never speak too well of God or too ill of himself. And then he begins his narrative.

  • Of his dangers (vv. 4-5): snares of death, floods of ungodly men, and sorrows of hell. Hell and earth are combined against each holy man, and will trouble him sufficiently in this world if they cannot keep him out of a better one.
  • Of his retreat, and his earnest prayer to God (v. 6): "I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God." When our prayers are ardent and importunate, then they speed. "My cry came before him, even unto his ears." The mother trifles while the child whimpers, but when he raises his note, strains every nerve, and tries every vein, then she throws aside all and gives him his desire. While our prayers are only whispers, our God can take his rest; but when we fall to crying, "Now will I arise," says the Lord.
  • Of his rescue (vv. 7-20): by the powerful and terrible arm of the Lord, who is in a lofty strain, brought in to his servants help, as if he would mingle heaven and earth together rather than leave his child in the lion's paws.
  • Of the reason for this gracious dealing of God with him (vv 20ff.): he was a righteous person, and he had a righteous cause. And thereupon he turned to God, saying, "thou hast dealt with me just as thou art wont to do; for with the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; and with the upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright."


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

What Do You Mean By Love, Part One

The word "love" is used in so many ways, that it is difficult to come up with a single definition that does all of them justice. Of course a good part of the problem is either caused by or aggravated by the fact that people use the term incorrectly.

But I think I shall try to formulate a definition that works.

"Love is that loyalty that arises out of a social affection that sets itself upon another human being and unites with that being in a regulated social context." Many things that are actually quite selfish in nature may claim to be love, but it properly belongs to love to be both unselfish and happy while seeking the welfare of another.

There are many degrees of love, of course. So, also, there may be different phases and kinds in a relationship that is loving from beginning to end.

There is such a thing as philanthropy (love of mankind) that animates a good man to labor for the good of others. Thus we have our example in Jesus Christ, whose love for mankind led him to lay down his life. But there seems also to be a warmer love than this for those who are closer. Love for neighbors, friends, near kindred, husband or wife, and children all seem to come in some way or another properly under this idea of loyalty and unselfish concern

Spurious Love

Selfishness, as opposed to love, has its eye on the object of its affection in much the same way that a bird of prey may have an eye on its victim. When we proclaim our love for a beautiful spring day or for bratwurst, we speak of the approval we have of the day or the meat as a way of pleasing ourselves.

Dressed in the clothing of "true love," this selfishness may even seek out its object and practice some degree of benevolence toward the object of its affection. However, after winning the heart of another, this person will soon show by selfish exaction and unjust jealousies that it was not love at all that made him desire the company of another.

The same can be said of the recipient of such attention. If the recipient lacks the wisdom necessary to see that selfishness can wrapped in the name of love, perhaps she too longs more for attention than for returning the love of another. Gratified vanity may be another response that the responder wrongly thinks to be responsive love.