There are three respects in which the promise of our text may be regarded as applying to those who answer to the description of the people of God. The believer has no cause to be ashamed: (1) When he searches into himself; (2) when he stands before the world; (3) when he stands before God.
I. It is proved by daily experience that, when his own heart is laid open to a man, he shrinks from the scene of foulness and deformity, and could not endure, for any consideration, that others should see him in the light in which he now sees himself. He cannot look into a single recess of his heart without finding fresh cause for confusion of face; inasmuch as the more he knows himself, the more he sees of his moral uncleanness, the more he ascertains that he is everything at which he should blush, and has nothing in which he should trust. The conscience of the believer may charge him with many offences, and bring him in guilty of much that is at variance with the law of God, but if he have respect unto all God’s commandments, conscience may produce the catalogue, and yet not put him to shame. Conscience can have nothing with which to rebuke him, and therefore he can have nothing to be ashamed of at the tribunal of conscience, if he have not sinned in contempt of its remonstrances, and if he has shown a heartfelt repentance for sins committed.
II. Nothing but a clear conscience will enable us to look the world calmly and fearlessly in the face.—The people of God must carry religion with them into every business of life, and see that all scenes are pervaded by its influence. They must have respect unto all the commandments; to make exceptions is to make a breach by which shame comes in. And if it be their endeavour to keep all the commandments, we know not why Christians should not bear themselves with that lofty dignity which no calumny can disturb.
III. The people of God need not be ashamed when brought into the presence of God.—They have respect unto all God’s commandments, and amongst these, from the first, have been reckoned the commandments which relate to faith. Here we have the groundwork of confidence before God, notwithstanding our own insufficiency. If there be respect to that commandment which enjoins that we take Christ as our surety, and depend on His merits, what cause remains for shame,—even though it be the High and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity in Whose presence we stand? ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?’
‘How does God heal the evil past? He cannot destroy every trace of it. He cannot obliterate it. How, then, does He restore it? For one thing, He pardons me. When I have wronged a friend, it lies with him to forgive; and not until he has forgiven can I be rid of the dread that he may exact some reprisals. The God Whom I have grieved, as I have grieved no earthly friend, forgives me. He does it in a Godlike way—fully, unconditionally, for ever and ever. He does it because His Son endures for me the uttermost sentence of His law, and makes my justification absolutely sure. This is not all. He remoulds me. He gives me a second nature, a clean heart, a purged and quickened life. He comes Himself, in the person of His Holy Spirit, and dwells within me: and thus I am turned by a supernatural strength from my old unprofitableness. Rooting out the evil, He plants the good in its room; He enables me to reach forth towards that which is before. The hill is hard to climb, but God is for me, and the sun-crowned peak can be attained. There is still something else. He will glorify me by and by. There remaineth a rest for His people. Even there my sin will not pass from my memory, But, because of the memory, my praises will be louder, and my thankfulness will be deeper, and my labours will be more abundant.’