The Character of an Upright Man by Richard Steele PDF Print E-mail
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     character of an upright man

The Character of an Upright Man: A Plea for Personal Integrity by Richard Steele (1629-1692), available from Soli Deo Gloria Publications, www.SDGbooks.com, is an excellent book and a must for every family’s library! I have read it now for the second time, gleaning even more from it than the first. And now we are having the children read a chapter each day as part of their quiet study time with the Lord.

      Richard Steele was a Puritan pastor. He graduated from St. John’s College in Cambridge and then received his M.A. at Oxford. He was considered a devoted husband, a loving father, a diligent scholar, an excellent preacher, and a compassionate shepherd. Besides the book in review, he also authored A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in the Worship of God and The Religious Tradesman. Hopefully, his discourse Concerning Old Age will also be published soon. Also of interest to us was that he ordained Philip Henry in 1657 and then 30 years later ordained his son Matthew Henry who became the famous Bible commentator—and in our minds the very best Bible commentator. The ordination of Matthew Henry actually took place in Richard Steele’s own home.

      Since this is such a great book, I decided to give you a little taste of the treasure it contains. But before I do, let me reprint the book’s introduction from the back jacket: “There are few things harder to find in our day than personal integrity. Honor, nobility, dignity, and integrity seem more and more to be things from a bygone era. We find it harder and harder to trust a man’s word anymore. It would not be difficult to paraphrase Solomon’s proverb into this: ‘An honest man, who can find?’ The Puritan Richard Steele deals with that problem in this never-before reprinted book. He addresses believers and unbelievers alike in this work. The faithful Christian will find encouragement, strength, and a road map to godliness; the backsliding believer will be able to see where to set his or her mark, and the danger of delaying repentance; and finally, the unbeliever will notice the goodness, mercy, and compassion of the Christian life, and may, by divine grace, be stirred to jealousy, to seek those things which are above.”

      With pen in hand, I took notes as I went through the book for the second time. These are the notes I made in reflection to the wisdom Mr. Steele imparted: An upright man is resigned to God with a singleness of heart to honor and serve Him. He is wholehearted, sound, true, sincere, and obedient while walking in the integrity of his heart, for his heart and mind are conformed to the things of God. Truly, he is a man after God’s own heart, which seeks God’s praise and not that of man’s.

      A hypocrite, on the other hand, chooses only those things he wants from the Lord and then only when those things serve him best. He never chooses Him when his own happiness, comfort, or his reputation in the eyes of other men are at stake. A hypocrite serves God on his own terms because of the duplicity of his heart for the many gods whom he worships—money, friends, and all the pleasures of this world.

      An upright man—a true believer, constantly studies God’s Word and agrees with the whole and entirety of scripture because it is God’s Word. Grace is his ambition, so he labors hard for greater faith, greater love, and greater godliness. With bended knee and broken heart, he watches over his heart constantly repenting of unfaithfulness, pride, dullness, wandering thoughts during worship, envy and lust. These are the things that keep him up at night and on his knees while others slumber. He hates all sin and loves his duty. Psalm 119:128,129,131: “Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes them. I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments.”

      The hypocrite cares less about these things because they are issues of the heart, which no one else really sees. He only worries about the things that will cause his friends to think more poorly of him like cussing or drunkenness, for the hypocrite only worries about how he looks in the eyes of men. In essence, he would never steal from his neighbor, but steals from God’s honor all the time. Good deeds nay bring accolades from others, but a rotten heart is most certainly condemned by God.

      Quoted from Richard Steele: “An upright heart is pure without mixture. It is not absolutely pure, for that happy condition is reserved for heaven; but it is compared with the pollution and base mixture that constitutes a hypocrite. Though his hand cannot do all that God bids, yet his heart is sincere in all he does. His soul is bent for perfect purity, and so he has his name from that. Matthew 5:8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart.’ In his words he sometimes fails, and also in his thoughts and deeds; but open his heart and there is love, a desire, a design and an endeavor after real and absolute purity. He is not legally pure, that is, free from all sin, but he is evangelically pure, free from the reign of all sin, especially of hypocrisy, which is so flatly contrary to the covenant of grace. And in this sense the upright man is the Scripture Puritan, and so is further from hypocrisy than any other man. He is really glad that God is the Searcher of hearts, for then he knows that he will find His name and nature in his own.

      “And yet the most upright man in the world has some hypocrisy in him. Proverbs 20:9 ‘Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?’ but he detects, resists, and hates this hypocrisy; and so it cannot dominate him as a hypocrite in this world, nor damn him as one in another. His ends are generally purely for the glory of God; his frame of heart and thoughts are pure, and generally better than his outside; the farther you trace him, the better he is. He is pure from dishonesty in his dealing, purer yet in his family from all appearance of evil, purer still in his closet, and most pure in his heart. Though there is sin there, yet there is also there an antipathy against it, so that it does not mingle with it.

      “The upright man has but one happiness, and that is the enjoyment of God; he has but one rule, and that is His holy will; he has but one work, and that is to please his Maker. Thereupon he is entire and certain in his choices, in his desires, in his ways and contrivances. And though there may be some demurs in his prosecution of his main business, yet there is no hesitancy and wavering between two objects; for he is entirely fixed and resolved therein, and so may be said to be ‘perfect and entire, wanting nothing.’

      “There is in every hypocrite some one fort or stronghold that has never yielded to the sovereignty and empire of God’s will. Some lust fortifies itself in the will; but where integrity enters, it brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. ‘Lord,’ he says, ‘I am wholly Thine; do what Thou wilt with me; say what Thou wilt to me; write what Thou wilt upon me.’ ‘Other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name’ (Isaiah 26:13). Here is the upright man.

      “A hypocrite makes a cloak of religion which he puts on and off as it serves his purposes; the upright man wears it as his everyday clothes and does not put it off till…he dies.” Whereas a hypocrite is ruled by the culture, companions, and the moment, the upright man is ruled by God’s Word, so therefore he constantly and steadfastly walks with God and lives like Him. He chooses to confront and rebuke rather than to flatter and comfort others in their sins, concerned not that he loses many by the truth that he could have kept with flattery, because he desires to honor God rather than himself. Job 32:21,22 “Let me now be partial to no one, nor flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, else my Maker would soon take me away.” Proverbs 26:23 “Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are burning lips and a wicked heart.” Mark these words and burn them deep in your hearts: Those who want to be loved and approved by all are far from God!!!

      The hypocrite “can set his sail to every wind and please everybody to profit or preserve himself…The upright man is deliberate in choosing and settling his principles, but a thousand words shall not alter him without clear evidence in his conscience. He is not a twining willow, but a sturdy oak; and whether the point he differs in is small or great, if it is a matter of conscience… yet all the rhetoric or rigor on earth will not remove an upright man from his course till God makes the business clear to his conscience.”

      The hypocrite’s desire is to please and promote self; the upright man’s desire is to please and promote God. For his eyes are on the mark, not on those around him. So “without squinting at events, or how it will please, or whom it will lose; he is resolved to live and die in his duty.” Proverbs 4:25 “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.”

      Although the hypocrite may appear to some to be good, the upright man knows that only God is good. A hypocrite’s religion is only skin deep, while the Holy Spirit reigns in the upright man’s heart because without regeneration no one can be truly holy and upright. For without the cleansing of Christ’s blood, there can be no remission of sins. “Civility and sanctity are two separate things.” 2 Corinthians 1:12 “For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”

      God defends and upholds the upright man. 2 Samuel 22:31 “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the LORD is tested; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” Ephesians 6:24 “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” Psalm 37:37 “Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; for the man of peace will have a posterity.”

      God is a very present help to the upright in trouble and comforts them with a peace that surpasses all understanding. Jeremiah 32:40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.” Proverbs 28:10 “He who leads the upright astray in an evil way will himself fall into his own pit, but the blameless will inherit good.” Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Proverbs 21:21 “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.”

      Psalm 112 “Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright…For he will never be shaken; the righteous will be remembered forever. He will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is upheld, he will not fear, until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries…His horn will be exalted in honor. The wicked will see it and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish.”

      Proverbs 15:8,9 “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is His delight. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but He loves one who pursues righteousness.” Psalm 7:8-12 “The LORD judges the peoples; vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready.”

      Isaiah 33:14-16 “Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. ‘Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?’ He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe…he will dwell on the heights, his refuge will be the impregnable rock; his bread will be given him, his water will be sure.”

      Consider carefully how close Saul, Judas, and the Virgins came to the target but missed the mark. Matthew 25:1-13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish…For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them…But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”

      Oh, what a terrible fate to think oneself a Christian only to be damned at the gates of heaven! Come let us sift ourselves to determine where our heart really lies. Psalm 139:23,24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.”

      Buy the book! Everyone needs to read it. This is one of those books that we will purchase for each of our children.