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.


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