Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Chronicles 29:17 - 29:17

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Chronicles 29:17 - 29:17


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DISCOURSE: 393

UPRIGHTNESS OF HEART REQUIRED

1Ch_29:17. I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness.

THE true way to form a correct estimate of our actions is, to consider the principles from which they flow: for it is very possible that an act, which may be highly esteemed amongst men, may be an utter “abomination in the sight of God [Note: Luk_16:15.],” on account of the motives by which we have been actuated in the performance of it. Jehu obeyed an express command of God in destroying the house of Ahab; and was even rewarded by God for it; whilst yet he was also punished for it, because, in what he did, he was impelled only by his own pride and vanity, instead of consulting, as he should have done, the glory of his God [Note: Compare 2Ki_10:30. with Hos_1:4.]. “Man looketh only on the outward appearance; but God looketh at the heart [Note: 1Sa_16:7.].” The efforts which David made in preparing for the erection of the Temple were amazing: yet, if they had proceeded from a desire of man’s applause, they would have been of no value before God. But David sought only to glorify his God: and for his integrity, in this respect, he could appeal, yea, and did appeal, to the heart-searching God: “I know, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness:” and I can affirm, as in thy presence, that “in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things [Note: The text, with the clause following it.].”

From this striking and confident declaration, I shall take occasion to shew,

I.       What is here affirmed of God—

Two things are here asserted respecting God:

1.       His knowledge of the human heart—

[“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good [Note: Pro_15:3.].” Nor is it a mere cursory view which he takes of the things that are passing in the world: he inspects them all: he marks the most hidden actions of mankind: he observes with accuracy the principles from which they flow. Not so much as a thought escapes his notice; no, nor the most fleeting “imagination of a thought [Note: Gen_6:5. 1Ch_28:9.].” “He searches the heart, and tries the reins [Note: Psa_7:9.],” in order that not the slightest motion of the soul may escape him. He so “ponders the ways of men [Note: Pro_21:2.],” that not a turn in them is unobserved; and so “weighs their spirits [Note: Pro_16:2.],” as infallibly to ascertain the precise measure of every principle contained in them. In natural productions, this is done with a considerable degree of accuracy by chemists: but no chemist can subject the heart of man to this process: that is the work of God alone [Note: Rev_2:23.]: but it is a work which he is executing every day, and every hour, over the face of the whole earth: and in his book of remembrance he records the result of his observations on every child of man [Note: Psa_56:8.]. In truth, if he did not thus search the heart, he would not be able to judge the world. But, seeing that “all things are naked and opened before him, and that he is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart [Note: Heb_4:12.],” and that the darkest recesses of it are to him as clear as the light of day [Note: Psa_139:11-12.], we may, without hesitation, say with Job, “I know that no thought can be withholden from thec [Note: Job_42:2.].”]

2.       His love of uprightness—

[He requireth truth in the inward parts [Note: Psa_51:6.]; and whatever is contrary to it, he utterly abhors. “He made man upright” in the first instance [Note: Ecc_7:29.], and pronounced his work to be “very good [Note: Gen_1:26; Gen_1:31.].” In his works of grace he seeks to restore to man that uprightness: and never will he look with complacency on any child of man, till that change is wrought. By uprightness, however, we are not to understand sinless perfection: for, if none but those who have attained that were objects of his love, there would not be found one upon the face of the whole earth; seeing that “there is no man that liveth, and sinneth not [Note: 1Ki_8:46.].” But, in desire and purpose, we must be perfect. There must be in us no allowed sin. “Our heart must be right with God [Note: Psa_78:37.].” He will not endure “a divided heart [Note: Hos_10:2.].” There must be in us a simplicity of aim and intention: no leaning to self; no corrupt bias; no undue mixture of carnal motives or principles: we must be “without guile in our spirit [Note: Psa_32:2.],” if we would approve ourselves to him. Where a person of this character is, God views him with pleasure [Note: Pro_15:8-9.], and listens to him with delight [Note: Pro_11:20.]. The testimony borne to Nathanael is a clear evidence of this. No human eye saw him “under the fig-tree;” nor could any person, who had seen him, have ventured to pronounce upon his character in such decided terms. But God had searched his heart, and “found it perfect before him [Note: 2Ki_20:3.].” That his delight in such characters might be fully known, he has recorded it in his word; and, for the encouragement of all future generations, has borne witness to Nathanael, saying, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile [Note: Joh_1:47.].”

Know, then, that “God has pleasure in uprightness.” He has pleasure in it as a conformity to his Law, a correspondence with his own image, the very end and consummation of all his works.]

Such being the mind of Almighty God, let us consider,

II.      What effect the knowledge of it should produce upon us—

No subject whatever has a wider scope, or needs more to be seen in all its diversified bearings, than that before us. The consideration of God’s omniscience, and of his exclusive approbation of what is holy, should operate forcibly on every child of man. It should operate to make us,

1.       Humble in our review of our past lives—

[Who amongst us could stand, if God were to enter into judgment with us? Who, if God should “lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet,” would be found to have been upright before him? Let us take even the best day of our whole lives, and try ourselves by the holy Law of God; or rather, not by the Law as it is in itself, but as it has been known and understood by us? Let us take even our own standard of duty to God and man, and say whether we have fulfilled—whether we have even striven to fulfil it? whether we have laboural, as men in earnest, to get our views of duty rectified and enlarged, in order that we might not, through ignorance, come short of it in any thing? Let us think whether we can appeal to the omniscient and heart-searching God, that we have studied his blessed word in order to learn his will, and cried to him for grace to enable us for the performance of it? In short, let us see, whether for one day or hour we have been truly upright before God, so as to have not a wish of our hearts comparable to that of pleasing, serving, glorifying him? If, then, we cannot stand this test even for the best day of our whole lives, what must have been our state taken in the aggregate, from the first moment of our existence to the present hour? Tell me whether it is possible for us to abase ourselves too much? Job, with all his perfection, “abhorred himself in dust and ashes [Note: Job_42:6.]:” tell me, then, what should be the posture of our souls before God? Verily, there should not be a day or an hour, throughout all our future lives, wherein we should not “put our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust, crying, Unclean, Unclean [Note: Lev_13:49. Lam_3:29.]!”]

2.       Earnest in our desires to be found in Christ—

[Whither should such guilty creatures flee, but to the Saviour? to Him who has expiated our guilt, and wrought out a righteousness wherein we may stand accepted before God? To think of procuring remission of our sins by any obedience of our own, were madness. Satan himself might attempt it as reasonably as we. O! with what joy should we hear of the provision made for us in the Gospel!—of an incarnate God! of a sacrifice for sin! of a sacrifice commensurate with the necessities of a ruined world! of a free access to the Father through that sacrifice! of acceptance with Him, simply through faith in it as a propitiation for our sins! of every thing being treasured up in Christ for us [Note: Col_1:19.], so that it may be secured against a possibility of being lost [Note: Col_3:3.], and may “be received at all times, out of his fulness,” through the exercise of faith and prayer [Note: Joh_1:16.]! Let us but see in what light we stand before God, as viewed in ourselves, and we shall most cordially unite with the Apostle Paul, in “desiring to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ [Note: Php_3:9.].”]

3.       Watchful against the assaults of our great adversary—

[Even in Paradise, whilst yet our first parents retained their integrity, did Satan prevail to beguile them, What, then, will he not do with us, if we be not constantly on our guard against him? He can assume “the appearance of an angel of light [Note: 2Co_11:14.]:” how, then, can we hope to stand against his wiles, if Almighty God do not interpose to preserve us? It is not necessary for his purpose, that he should draw us into gross sin: he effects our destruction no less certainly, if he only “beguile us from the simplicity that is in Christ [Note: 2Co_11:3.].” If he succeed only so far as to keep us from being upright before God, he needs no more to ruin us for ever. Beloved Brethren, reflect on this, and cry mightily to God to arm you against him on every side [Note: Eph_6:11.]; that, whether he assume the violence of a lion [Note: 1Pe_5:8.], or the subtlety of a serpent [Note: Rev_12:9.], he may never be able to prevail against you.]

4.       Faithful in examining every motion of our hearts—

[If Satan were less active, we should still be in continual danger, from the deceitfulness and depravity of our own hearts. We are ever ready to “put evil for good, and darkness for light [Note: Isa_5:20.].” Self-love is so predominant in the best of us, that we rarely can discern, and never without the most careful observation, the true motives by which we are actuated. We give ourselves credit for a purity, which we but rarely attain: and hence, in ten thousand instances, we deceive our own souls [Note: Jam_1:26.]. But we cannot deceive God. When he searches our heart and tries our reins, we cannot impose on him. The least obliquity of mind or principle is as obvious to him, as the greatest and most open enormity. We should therefore carefully examine ourselves as to the motives and principles from which we act; yea, and should beg of God, also, to “search and try us, and to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting [Note: Psa_139:23-24.].”]

5.       Constant in prayer for more abundant grace—

[It is by the grace of Christ alone that we can do any thing that is good [Note: Joh_15:5.]. Without that, we should be “carried captive by the devil at his will.” But it is not by grace once received, that we are to stand: we must have daily supplies of grace: and in seasons of temptation we must have a greater measure of grace imparted to us, according to the augmented measure of our necessities. But this can only be brought in by prayer. St. Paul, under the buffetings of Satan, cried earnestly to the Lord Jesus Christ for succour and support. Yet he did not at first succeed. Therefore he renewed his supplications again and again; till at last the Lord Jesus Christ answered him, “My grace is sufficient for thee;” and assured him, that “Jehovah’s strength should be made perfect in his weakness [Note: 2Co_12:9.].” This enabled the Apostle to “glory in his infirmities;” and to acquiesce cheerfully in the trial, from a confidence that “the power of Christ should rest upon him.” So should we also, under a sense of our constant liability to fall, commit ourselves entirely to God; crying with eager and constant importunity, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe [Note: Ps. 199:117.].”]

6.       Careful in our endeavours to approve ourselves to God—

[To God we should act, and not to man. Through a sweet consciousness that he was doing this, David could rejoice in his own uprightness: as Paul also did, when he said, “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 [Note: 2Co_1:12.].” Our wisdom is, to “set the Lord alway before us [Note: Psa_16:8.],” and to walk as in his immediate presence. We know what an influence the eye of a fellow-creature has over us, in things which are cognizable to him: and if we could realize the idea of God’s presence, and see inscribed on every place, “Thou, God, seest us [Note: Gen_16:13.],” we should walk far more circumspectly than we do, particularly in our private intercourse with God. Endeavour, then, to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Col_4:12.]:” rest in no attainment short of that. “Let all guile be put away from you.” Determine, through grace, that God himself shall discern no allowed evil within you: so shall you “walk holily and unblamably before God,” and be kept “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ [Note: Php_1:10.].”]