The upright man's HEART is for God. Hence that phrase "upright in heart," Psalm 64:10. It is the heart which God calls for, Proverbs 23:26, "My son give me your heart!" The heart is a virgin, which has many suitors, and, among the rest, God Himself becomes a suitor. The heart is like the primum mobile, which carries all the other orbs along with it. If the heart is for God, then our tears, our alms, all is for God. The heart is the fort-royal that commands all the rest. When he high-priest was to cut up the animal for sacrifice, the first thing he looked upon was the heart, and if that had any blemish, it was rejected. It is not the gift, but the heart which God respects. "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips—but their hearts are far from me!" Isaiah 29:13. They are like those statues which have their eyes and hands lifted up to heaven, but no heart to animate that devotion. In religion the heart is all, Eph. 5:9. "Making melody in your hearts to the Lord." It is the heart which makes the music. The upright man gives God his heart. It is reported of Cranmer, that after his flesh and bones were consumed in the flame, his heart was found whole. Just so, an upright man in the midst of his infirmities—his heart is kept whole for God—he does not have two hearts—a heart for God, and a heart for sin. God loves a broken heart, not a divided heart!
2. The upright man works by an upright RULE. There are many
Public Opinion. "It is the opinion of such as are pious and learned." This is a false rule, it is not the opinion of others, which can make a thing unlawful, or warrantable. If a synod of divines, or if an assembly of angels, should say we might worship God by an image, their opinion could not make this lawful. An upright Christian will not make another's opinion, his Bible.
The best guides may sometimes go wrong. Peter preaches circumcision, the very doctrine of the false apostles, Gal. 2:1. Peter himself was not infallible. The upright man is no adorer of public opinion. when the stream of Arianism swelled so high that it overflowed a great part of the world, Athanasius swam against the stream; he was invincible in the truth.
"It has been the custom of the place, or the religion of our ancestors." This is a false rule; "The customs of the people are vain," Jer. 10:3, and as for our ancestors, a son should better take his land from his father, than his religion. How many of our forefathers lived in times of popery—and stumbled to hell in the dark? Are we therefore bound to follow their blind zeal? A wise man will not set his watch by the clock, but by the sun!
"My conscience tells me so." This is no rule for an upright man; the conscience of a sinner is defiled, Titus 1:15. Conscience being defiled, will err; an erring conscience cannot be a rule, Acts 26:9. "I truly thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus"; he who is a heretic may plead his conscience. Once admit conscience to be a rule, and we open the door to all anarchy and massacres. If the devil gets into a man's conscience—where will he not carry him!
Providence sits at the helm, and disposes of all events and contingencies; but providence is not a rule for the upright man to walk by. We are indeed to observe God's providence, Psalm 107:43. "Whoever is wise will observe these things"; but we are not to be infallibly led by it. Providence is a Christian's diary—not his Bible!
The upright man will not go by these rules. But leaving such false guides, he makes the word of God his star to follow. This is the judge and umpire of all his actions; "To the law, to the testimony," Isaiah 8:20. The Old and New Testaments are the two lips by which God speaks to us! They are the pair of compasses by which the upright man draws the whole circumference of his life.
The Montanists and Enthusiasts talk of revelations, and some talk now-a-days of "a light within them." The Scripture is above any supposed revelation. "Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions." Colossians 2:18. The apostle speaks of a voice from heaven, 1 Pet. 1:18. "And this voice which came from heaven, we heard when we were with him in the holy mount"; yet, says he, "we have a more sure word," ver. 19. The word of God ought to be more sacred and infallible to us, than a voice from heaven!
An upright man works from an upright PRINCIPLE. And that is, "Faith working by love," Gal. 5:6.
An upright man acts from a principle of FAITH. Hab. 2:4, "The just shall live by his faith." The upright man hears in faith. It is called "the hearing of faith," Gal. 3:2. Faith receives the word. The upright man prays in faith. It is called the "prayer offered in faith," James 5:15. David sprinkles faith in his prayer, Psalm 51:7, "Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me," etc.; in the Hebrew it runs in the future, "You shall purge me, you shall wash me." It is the voice of one who believes as well as prays. Prayer is the arrow, and faith is the bow out of which we shoot to the throne of grace; a faithless prayer is a fruitless prayer. Prayer without faith is like a gun discharged without a bullet. The upright man prays in faith. The upright man weeps in faith. Mark 9:24, "The father of the child cried out with tears, Lord, I believe." When his tears dropped to the earth, his faith reached heaven.
An upright man acts from a principle of LOVE. Cant. 1:4, "The upright love you." Love is as the spring in the watch, it moves the wheels of obedience. The upright Christian is carried to heaven in a fiery chariot of love. Love amends and ripens every duty, and makes it come off with a better relish. Divine love is like musk among linen, which perfumes it. Love gives a fragrant redolency to all our services. A small token sent in love is accepted by God. "The upright love you."
Hypocrites serve God only for fear—as the slave works in the galley; or as the Parthians worship the devil—that he should do them no hurt. Hypocrites' obedience isforced like water out of a still—by the fire. The thoughts of hell-fire make the water of tears drop from their eyes! The upright Christian acts purely from love, 2 Cor. 5:14, "The love of Christ constrains me!" An upright soul loves Christ, more than he fears hell.
The upright man is PROGRESSIVE in holiness. He pursues after further degrees of sanctity, Job 17:9. "The righteous will move onward and forward, and those with pure hearts will become stronger and stronger." Uprightness is in the heart, as seed in the earth, which will increase, Col. 2:9. Unsound Christians rest in some faint desires and formalities; it is with hypocrites as with the body in an atrophy, which, though it receives food, yet thrives not. The upright Christian "follows on to know the Lord," Hos. 6:3. They say of the crocodile, that it never stops growing. Hierom writes of Paulinus, that in the first part of his life he excelled others, in the latter part he excelled himself. The upright man is not like Hezekiah's sun, which went backward; nor like Joshua's sun, which stood still; but like David's sun, which goes forward, and as a champion does run his race.
You may thrive in grace, though you do not perceive it. The plant grows, but not always in one place. Sometimes it grows in the branches, sometimes secretly in the root. Just so, an upright soul still grows, but not always in the same grace; sometimes higher in the branches, in knowledge; sometimes he thrives in the root, in humility; which is as needful as any other growth. If you are not more tall, yet if you are more lowly, here is a progress, and this progress evidences the vitals of sincerity.
Here is infinite COMFORT to the upright man. His end is peace. His life is interwoven with troubles, "We are troubled on every side," 2 Cor. 4:8, like a ship which has the waves beating on both sides. But the end is peace; and the smoothness of the end may make amends for the ruggedness of the way. The upright man, though he lives in a storm, he dies in a calm, Jer. 31:17. "There is hope in your end." The end crowns all; the upright man, though he drinks wormwood while he lives—yet he swims in honey when he dies! The upright man with Simeon, "Departs in peace," Luke 2:29, and his ending in peace is but his "entrance into peace," Isaiah 57:2. He shall enter into peace; his dying day is his marriage day. Grace gives both the flowers and the harvest—the sweet flowers of peace here, and the full harvest of glory hereafter.
Paula, that pious lady, when one had read to her that scripture, Cant. 2:11, "The singing of birds is come"— "Yes" says she, "the singing of birds is now come!" And so being full of peace mounted off from her death-bed, and went triumphing, and as it were, singing into heaven! Then, "shout for joy all you who are upright in heart!" Psalm 32:11. Peace is that never-fading garland, which shall be set upon the head of the upright, so says my text, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace."