Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright…
That it should be the great bent, aim, desire, and. endeavour of a man to be upright (Genesis 17:1). I am the Almighty God, walk before Me and be thou upright.
I. WHAT IT IS TO BE UPRIGHT. The heart is upright when it is sincere, and then it is sincere when it is unmingled: there is a difference 'twixt adherence and commixture. To the purest lana there may adhere some thread or spot uncomely, but in commixture the qualities or substances are in a sort mutually confounded; sin adheres or cleaves to the nature of the most upright person, but yet it mingles not, it is a thing which the renewed heart is thrusting off; it would be rid of it, the new nature, like a spring, is working it off, so that a man may be said to be upright whose heart will not suffer any sin to incorporate or settle itself. Uprightness is a sound and heavenly frame or temper of a gracious heart or spirit given by God, by which graces are acted, sins are opposed. duties are performed affectionately, directly, and plainly, in reference to God, and not for by respects. It is a temper or frame of the heart, a composition, as it were, in which methinks two things may be observed. One, that uprightness is not a single or transparent act or motion: I think that even an hypocrite, whose heart is rotten, abominable, may yet, as step out into actions materially good, so feel motions within him both against what is evil, and unto what is good, he may (either through the force and power of evidence and conviction in his judgment, or through the unresistible actions of his inlighted and stirred conscience, or through the great desire of a glorious blessedness) have many fits and inward humours of being good and doing good. But all this is passion, and not temper: the philosopher in his rhetorics accurately distinguishes 'twixt the readiness which springs out of a natural complexion, and that which ariseth out of a violent anger and passion which soon fades off, being not rooted in nature, but in distemper: so is it with the hypocrite. But uprightness is a temper and frame, like an instrument well tuned, or if that hit not full, like a complexion, which is a uniform (if not principle yet) instrument of actions. It is like that leaven, of which Christ spake, which invades the whole lump, it sweetly seasons and disposes the whole man for God, as the bent of the stone is to the centre, and of the fire to ascend. Another, that unrighteousness is rather a general influence in the graces than any distinct grace: I will not make this point a controversy, only, so far as I yet apprehend, uprightness is rather the temper of a grace, than the grace itself; it is not fear, but fear rightly tempered and ordered; it is not love, but love rightly set; it is not desire, but this orderly carried. It is a sound and incorrupt and heavenly frame of heart. A thing may be termed sound or solid either when it is real, not light, slight, superficial, or when it can abide trial: as true gold is really so and not in colour only, and if you reduce it to the touchstone you shall find it so: if you cast it into the fire, etc. The last thing which I would observe in uprightness is its end and scope. I pray you to remember that uprightness causeth a threefold reference of our services: one is to God's precept, that's the square and rule and compass of upright motions. Another is to God's glory, that's the spring which turns the wheels, the wind which blows the sails: it is for Christ's sake, said Paul: and whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, said he again. A third is to God's acceptance and approbation, so that God will accept, and commend and approve (2 Corinthians 5:9); we labour that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him (2 Corinthians 10:18). Now I proceed to a second question, why we should strive and aim at (as David here did) and endeavour to be upright. There are abundant reasons thereof; I will deliver a few unto you. First, this uprightness is the great thing which God looks for (John 4:23). Nay, secondly, this is it which the Lord looks at (Jeremiah 5:3). Thirdly, this seems to be the only thing that God expects (1 Samuel 12:4); only, fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart (Deuteronomy 10:12). Fourth, uprightness doth bring the whole man unto God; it is that which commands all, and carries all with it. Fifth, God judgeth of a man by his uprightness. Would you be paid with counterfeit gold? doth the show please you without the substance? will the compliments of men satisfy you without a real friendship? will a gaudy rotten house content you, which hath no solidity and goodness? would you take the words of your servants, and their legs as sufficient? while their hearts are false in their callings. Nay, would you be content that God should make a show only, a pretence that he would pardon you, and help, and comfort, and save you; and yet deny you real love, real mercy, real comfort, real help and salvation, then think how God should take shows from you without uprightness of heart. Therefore I pray you take some pains with your hearts, bring them to the balance of the sanctuary, weigh them there, reduce them to the rule, try them there, whether they be upright or no. Let me premise a few particulars which may prepare and quicken you to this trial for uprightness of heart. First, there is no deceit or error in the world of more dangerous consequence than for a man to deceive himself, and to err about the right temper of his soul. A man may mistake himself in the depth of his riches, or the altitude of worldly friendship, or latitude of his intellectual qualifications and abilities; he may think himself rich, and favoured, and learned when perhaps he is not so; but these mistakes are about nostra, not about nos; ours, but not ourselves, and the danger may be only a tempest, but not a shipwreck. But for a man to deceive himself about his heart, about his soul; why, what hath he more? what hath he like them? They are fundamental errors; if a man lays a rotten foundation instead of a sound, all his building at length sinks to the ground. If a man sets forth in a fair ship, whose bottom is unsound and leaking, he loseth himself in the voyage. What a fearful day will judgment be! how will it make the soul to tremble, when it hath no more time now but to see, and eternally bewail its own errors and deceits w O Lord, saith that oppressed man, I have deceived my own soul, I thought myself thus and thus; but my heart hath deceived and beguiled me. Thirdly, an hypocrite may go very far, and therefore the more reason have we to see that our hearts be upright. Again consider, that it is a very difficult thing to be upright: though it be that acceptable frame of spirit so pleasing to God and so comfortable (as we may hear) to us, yet it is not so easy to be upright, whether you consider —
1. That deceitfulness which is in man's heart (Jeremiah 17:9), q.d. there is not such a cunning thing as it, not a thing in all the world which can delude us so easily. Oh, how difficult! many by aims and indirect ends do often present themselves, that it is with us as with boys in writing, we draw many crooked lines, or as with them in archery, we shoot by hither or beyond or beside the mark; it is not easy to do good because God commands it, or only because He may be glorified.
2. That spiritualness which is required in upright motions; I tell you that the very soul must act itself, if the heart or way be upright: not only his lips, but his spirit must pray; not only his ear, but his heart must hear; he must not only profess against sin, but his soul must hate and abhor it. Lastly, to be upright is a possible thing, a man may attain unto it. But, you will say, if the case be so, how may one know that he is indeed upright? There are many discoveries of it; I pray you to observe them, and try yourselves by them.
(1) If a man be upright, he will mostly strive for an inward reformation of his heart.
(2) If a man be upright, then a little holiness will not serve his turn.
(3) If a man be upright, then a man will walk by a right rule.
(4) A person may know whether he be upright or no, by the conscionable disposition of his heart about all sins. David, speaking of such who were undefiled (Psalm 119:1), and sought the Lord with their whole heart (ver. 2), he added (ver. 3), They also do no iniquity. If you be upright you will make conscience of secret as well as open sins.You will make conscience of the least sins. I conceive there are five things about our duties and services which may manifest the uprightness of our hearts, namely —
(1) Universality. David did take this for a special testimony of his uprightness; that he had respect unto all God's commands (Psalm 119:6), and Paul thought it so, who did exercise himself to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and man (Acts 24:16; Hebrews 13:18). An hypocrite's obedience cannot be universal.
(2) Constancy of obedience.
(3) Simplicity of obedience. The unsound heart will square out his work according to the pay; his eye is much upon this, how will this make for my profit? how will it advance my pleasure, my credit? these things fire and inflame an unsound heart. For it is God's express will, and it will make for His glory: these (alone) are cold motives, and weak inducements to a false-hearted person. But come and say, God will have you to do it, and if you do it you shall be highly thought on, you will be esteemed for it, you shall have much applause, you may hap to get well by it: why, now the unsound heart stirs as the ship, which hath got a right wind to drive it, and carry it on.
(4) Spirituality of obedience. An hypocrite, he may do so much about duties as may manifest the excellency of his gifts, but he doth not that about duties which argues the efficacy of grace. But an upright person, there is fire and incense in his sacrifices; he must present living and reasonable services (1 Peter 4:11; 1 Corinthians 9:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:4). If he prays, and his mind be drawn aside by distractions, and his affections work not with sorrow, hope, with earnest desire, and some confidence, he accounts that the work is not done, he hath said something, but he thinks he hath not prayed.
(5) Humility of obedience; why, this doth argue the uprightness of a person. There is no person more proud of his work than an hypocrite.
(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.