Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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."


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