The Righteous Glad in the Lord
by JOHN WARBURTON - Preached at Eden Street Chapel, London on Lord's day, April 21st, 1844
I. In what way is a man made righteous before God? I answer; he is not made so by any good works proceeding from himself, by his prayers, duties, and obedience, or by his faith and love to the Lord. God has made him righteous in His own way; and He has revealed it in the word of His grace. There we find that He has in sovereign mercy and discriminating grace, imputed to and laid upon the beloved Surety all the sin and transgression of His chosen inheritance, and transferred to them all the obedience, righteousness, and holiness of His beloved Son, placing it to their account as their justification; and here it is that they are exclusively righteous before God. "Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption," (1 Cor. 1:30). So nothing belonging to the poor soul can be his righteousness before God; it is not his humility and prayers, nor his love and faith, and communion with God that makes him so. Neither can his fretfulness, peevishness, unbelief, nor all the devilish workings of his heart ever shake or alter it.
What a blessing is this! If you and I are among the righteous, it is because we are made so in Christ. The Apostle says, (and it is such a comfort to our souls, because it admits of no contradiction, neither sin nor Satan can overthrow it), He was, "made sin for us, who knew no sin; that," it almost makes me afraid to utter the words, they are full of such grandeur and immortal glory, and shine like a diamond set with all manner of beauty, "we might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor. 5:21). Come, poor child of God, who are cast down by looking at your wanderings of heart, carnality, and daily failings, and who perhaps have come here full of confusion, feeling yourself a helpless and wretched creature, with your head hanging down like a bulrush, look up to Jesus, He is the blessed head for the righteous, the perfect center of all glory and beauty! Look at the perfect work of Christ, He is, "the Lord our Righteousness!" "Ye are complete in him!" Nowhere else you see; the church is, "accepted in the Beloved;' and here it is she stands righteous in the sight of God! Now do you want to know when this took place? I cannot tell you: there is no date but what God Himself has put to it, and that is from eternity. Past, present and to come are all present with Him; He knew from everlasting all that should ever come to pass. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world," (Eph. 1:3,4).
Again, those that are righteous before God are "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Rom. 3:24). They are justified, and completely acquitted in Him, so that no just charge can be brought against them. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us," (Rom. 8:33,34). So that those who are righteous before God are made so in Christ. They are a part of His mystical body, in union with the head; and all that Jesus is and has as the Head is imputed to and put upon them, the body, and here it is they stand everlastingly righteous before God. I know and am sure that when the soul is brought to know that he is righteous here, he does not want to be justified in any other way.
2. But what is it that proves a man righteous? A righteous man is one who is eternity united to and justified by Christ. Now a man may believe this sentiment, and stand up and contend for it with all the powers of his natural mind, and yet have no evidence that he is one of them. I tell you what I consider to be a real scriptural proof of belonging to the righteous: and what is the use of coming with any other than Bible evidence? To be one of the righteous is to have the indwellings of the Holy Ghost in the heart; to be the subject of His leadings, teachings, and meltings; to feel His humblings, correctings, and establishings; and to have His solemn truths revealed in the heart. If a man know nothing of these, whatever else he may know, he is an ungodly man, and an ungodly man has not Christ in his heart.
Let us come to the word of truth; it is that which decides the point. "So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Talk of natural men understanding spiritual things! Why, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned," (1 Cor. 2:14). It does not say, 'he will not,' 'he may if he will' but he cannot know them! Why? because God is not in his heart. Every cause produces its own effect. Therefore how can that which is not of God ascend up to Him again? What is good comes from God, and will return back to God; and what is evil comes from the flesh, and will return to the flesh; it can never rise above itself. But then, the Apostle adds, "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," (Rom. 8:9). And then he says, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God," (Rom. 8:14). So this exclusively cuts off every one from being a righteous person who has not the Spirit of God dwelling in his heart.
Methinks I hear some one present, who has a tender conscience, and made honest before God, saying, O that I know I were one! I believe there is no true religion, nor any proof of being a righteous man but from the blessed things produced by the life giving power of the Spirit of God! Well, I like that enquiry; and as far as God may be pleased to enlighten and help me, I will endeavour to show the proof of a righteous man, by noticing a few of the leadings, teachings, and guidings of the Spirit of God in the hearts of His people, and which thereby discover their true character.
(i) Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of a poor sinner, and takes possession of the affections of his soul, such a person is a righteous man; for the Spirit of God never works contrary to the Father and the Son. The church is the dwelling place, portion, and inheritance of Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, the three-one God. And whenever He enters the heart, there is one grand prominent feature of truth into which He leads the soul, and that is a deep sense of its own barrenness, weakness, nothingness, and wretchedness. If a man knows nothing of this, he has no more proof of God dwelling in his heart than a beast has. The moment spiritual light begins to shine on the word and into his heart, the man has such a discovery of what human nature is, and he sees so much of what there is in flesh and blood, that he stands astonished. Instead of seeing any evidence within of his being a righteous man, he says, 'Can ever God dwell here!' He sees himself from head to foot but one mass of sin; and in a knowledge of this he will be led all the days of his life, to find that in his flesh there dwelleth no good thing, and that God must work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure. 'Ah,' says the poor soul, 'but I cannot take any comfort from these feeling!' If you could, it would not be the means of putting you out of love with, and making you sick of yourself. It is into this very spot that the Lord brings His people, that He may appear for their help, and display His own glory. He says, "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, (Lk. 14;11):" and, "the Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the lowly," (James 4:6). Yes, bless His precious name, this is the very spirit, the soul that is cast down, that He raises up. Therefore, if you can take no comfort from your baseness and vileness, it is a good sign that the Spirit of God is in your heart.
(ii) Another proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the heart, and of having His blessed leadings and teachings, is, to see the justice and righteousness of God in His holy law. What an easy thing it is, for some men to tell us, that God in his righteous law is holy and just, and that no man can stand before him on the ground of works. This they will prove from the letter of the word: and then their next step is to tell you, it is your privilege to look away from the creature, and you have nothing to do but to act faith, and look to Jesus. Poor creatures, who is to act, poor fallen nature, or the Spirit of God? It must be one or the other, there can be no medium between them; but, "this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent," (John 6:29). These persons therefore are expecting man to do God's work, while, "it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast," (Eph. 2:8,9). The Holy Spirit dwelling in a righteous soul, will teach him the justice and holiness of God's law in his conscience. He will show him that all his prayers and tears, with all the desires he can create and muster up, can never produce one good thing to merit God's favour; and thus he will be brought to feel that, "the commandment which was ordained to life is unto death," (Rom. 7:10). Now have you found it so? I have to my sorrow; for, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life," (2 Cor. 3:6). Has it ever killed you? It has me. For many months, night and day, my soul was drinking in the wrath of God; I could not see how it were possible for the Lord to save me. I tried reading, praying, preaching, and everything else; but the commandment came, the debt-book appeared, and I heard the sentence ringing in my ears, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them (Gal. 3:10);" and, "God is great in power, and will not at all acquit the guilty," (Nahum 1:3). Here I fell prostate like a bullock at the slaughter; and feared to fall asleep lest I should sink to hell.
When a soul is brought here, the blessed Spirit brings him to cry for mercy from the bottom of the heart, and to see an end of all perfection; that God's commandment is exceeding broad: and while here he will envy beasts of the field, creeping things, and everything else that is destitute of a soul. Aye, my friends, when a man is here he will be completely cured from going about to establish his own righteousness. The blessed Spirit does this in order to cut him off from every false refuge, and to bring him to rest entirely on Christ, and His finished salvation, and to show him that it saves to the very uttermost. When this work is completely done, the Spirit of God leads the poor soul into further discoveries of the truth, by showing him that there is no righteousness or ability to save in any other but in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(iii) The Holy Spirit gives another proof of His indwellings and leading by influencing the soul to plead and supplicate for mercy according to the will of God. The Lord has said, "For all these things I will be enquired of by the house of Israel that I may do it for them." And, my friends, there is no such thing as praying to God with success but by the Spirit. The Spirit knows the mind of God; and nothing can be prayer but that which is under the influences, teachings, and anointings of the Holy Ghost. But when a soul is brought here, he will be opposed by reason, by flesh and blood, and by the Devil. The Devil will suggest to him, 'it is no use for you to look up to God; he is just, and will never hear such a wretch as you.' Though he may be brought into such painful feelings that he knows not how to describe his exercises, yet when the blessed Comforter turns this man from self to look to Jesus, and gives him earnest desires and pantings of heart after Him, his cries become so soft, so simple, and so heart-broken, that they bear evidence of being the genuine feelings of his heart, that he has not learnt from man, nor picked them up from the experience of others; such as, "Lord, save, or I perish!" "Jesus thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" And the soul that is thus led by the blessed Spirit after Jesus, will, like Mary Magdalene, bathe His feet with tears; and will follow Him wherever He leads for He knows there is no other name given under heaven, but the name of Jesus, whereby he can be saved. None can teach like the Holy Spirit; it is the office of the blessed Comforter to glorify Jesus: to take of the things of Christ, and reveal them with power to the heart. So the poor soul who has the Spirit dwelling in him will be led to supplicate and cry for mercy in the name of Jesus.
(iv) Another blessed leading of the Holy Spirit in proof of a righteous man, is the sweet intimations of God's love by the dropping in of His word into the heart. God's word sometimes humbles the soul, and crumbles it down to the feet of Jesus; so that while brought low under a feeling of unworthiness, and a sight of his vileness and misery, he is brought to prove that one look from Jesus in His precious word, one sweet intimation of His love, will satisfy his heart and give him blessed encouragement. Sometimes when he is ready to give all up, such a word as this will drop in, "Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me," (Ps. 50:15). "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest," (Matt. 11:28). Sometimes when sunk in doubts and fears the blessed Spirit will apply these words. "Fear not, thou worm of Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel," (Isa. 41:14). And when the heart feels a little melting such a promise as this will come, "He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer," (Ps. 102:17). When the Spirit softens the heart, and crumbles it down, He so strengthens and encourages it, that it cannot help breaking out, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God," (Ps. 43:5). And when these meltings and humblings are felt, the soul will be brought to the feet of Jesus, and say, 'Lord, if indeed thou hast given me any manifestation that thou art my God, and that I am one of the righteous, it is all owing to thy sovereign grace and mercy to one of the most unworthy.' A little melting and drawing up of the soul will bring it away from everything else to Jesus.
(v) Another leading and teaching which proves a righteous man, is the application of the work of the Holy Ghost to the conscience. A righteous man can never be satisfied till the Holy Ghost bears witness to his heart that he is a child of God, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Jesus Christ. When the time, "the set time to favour Zion," comes, the Spirit of God reveals Jesus as the King is His beauty. Without this revelation and discovery the soul has no more power spiritually to look to, receive, live upon, and grasp Jesus, than a man naturally has power to stretch out his hand and pluck out the sun from the firmament, to count the sands upon the sea-shore, or number the stars of heaven. It is the peculiar work of the Spirit of God to reveal and make known Jesus; therefore it is said, "No man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost," (1 Cor. 12:3). And, "When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you," (John 16:13,14). And the Apostle says, "The Spirit itself, (and this cuts off every other source) beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," (Rom. 8:16,17).
II. But while the text declares, "the righteous shall be glad in the LORD," we are not therefore to understand that they are always glad, always rejoicing, and always happy in the Lord. No, no; for we are told by the Psalmist. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivereth him out of them all;" and, "the righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and saveth them out of their distresses." We know very well, whilst God gives peace there is none can give trouble: but all the time the righteous are in affliction of soul and crying out in their trouble, they find very little comfort, happiness, or gladness in the Lord. Let us, therefore, notice a few of the seasons when the soul is not glad or rejoicing in the Lord.
1. The Psalmist says, "The Lord trieth the righteous," (Ps. 11:5). Sometimes they are brought to prove this by very bitter and painful experience; they are made to know what it is to breathe out their sorrows before the Lord, and to mourn the absence of the light of God's countenance. David cries out on one occasion, "Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?" (Ps. 88:14). When the Lord hides Himself from His child as a covenant God and Father, then darkness and gloom come on; the sun not being in the firmament, it is a night season to his soul: and when a righteous man is here, it is his grief that he cannot be glad in the Lord. "Weeping may endure for a night;" but then, it is also said, "joy cometh in the morning," (Ps. 30:5). While God hides Himself, there is nothing but weeping and sorrow, and no gladness for the righteous.
This is the experience of all those whom the Lord makes righteous. Their feelings are in agreement with the written word; and if the experience of any man is not in accordance with truth, it is evident that he is not taught by the blessed Spirit; God's written word is a perfect line of truth, and it will stand when everything else gives way. Some persons say, 'Do you suppose, then, that when God hides His face, and all is darkness within, that there is any change in the purposes of God? Do you think His love is altered, His promises frustrated, or the power of His arm weakened?' No, nothing of the kind. It is the soul that is weakened. Dark nights have come on, and he cannot find a single promise applied to his case; he feels no access to God in prayer; he has not a single smile from his Father's loving countenance; and perhaps greatly tried in his providential circumstances; so that all is gloomy within and without. The man has no doubt of the safety and security of the Lord's people, the immutability of God, or of the unchangeableness of His purpose. What he begins to question, since everything seems so against him, is, whether he is a child of God, and so one of the righteous. Therefore, when the soul is here, instead of being glad, he takes up with some lamentation of the saints of old, (for all the flock tread in the same footsteps). "Bring my soul out of prison that I may praise thy name," (Ps. 142:7). "I am shut up, and I cannot come forth." When the presence of God is withdrawn, when the soul seeks Him and cannot find Him, there is no gladness for the righteous.
2. The Lord is pleased sometimes to try the righteous by leaving them to feel their own deadness, darkness, and carnality, and what they are without His life-giving power in their hearts. This is the very way in which they are made to know they have received their spiritual life from God; that it is He who first gave it them, and that it is He who must keep it alive. He does not teach them this because He hates them; no, no, it is all in kindness and tender mercy; it is the grace and favour of a covenant God. When the soul comes into this state of death and carnality; when he feels his heart as hard as a nether mill-stone; when his eye is not opened to see the mercy of God to him in providence, and how He is showering upon him abundant blessings on every side; when he cannot discern the goodness of God to him in giving him health, the use of his limbs and his reason, with all His beautiful favours that surround him; when he has no heart to praise the Lord for all these blessings, but, on the contrary, finds his soul full of barrenness, darkness, and carnality, then it is he begins to fear that he has not a spark of spiritual life in his soul. How can the righteous man be, "glad in the Lord," when this is the case? He cannot get out of himself, his soul is himself; he would give a thousand worlds if he could.
I am a living witness of this; I have been in this wretched, carnal, unthankful state of mind; I have struggled against thee miserable feelings, and tried to stir up my heart toward God by meditating upon death and eternity, that so I might not live at this poor dying rate. But alas, alas, with all my tugging and striving, I could only come to this one spot, to cry out, My leanness, my leanness! and, "My soul cleaveth unto the dust; quicken thou me, O LORD, according to thy word." Now this is not being, "glad in the LORD;" it is a time of sorrow; but at last it produces a spirit of wrestling and crying to God after that quickening and restoring life, which shall raise up gladness in the soul, that so it may bless and praise His glorious name, and crown Him Lord of all!
3. The Lord sometimes tries the righteous by allowing the Devil to sift, harass, and perplex them, and that for a long while, by allowing him to throw his fiery darts in their souls, and to bring them to their wit's end. What a sore trial this is! I do not believe the Devil so plagues hypocrites as he does, "the righteous." Perhaps there is some child of God here, who is ready to believe he can never be one of the righteous, but must be given up to a reprobate mind, because he feels such dreadful blasphemies rising up in his heart against God. Now, poor soul, there is no sin in being tempted; there is no sin in having these horrid suggestions cast into your mind; the sin is in falling into that to which you are tempted: and this you cannot do. These blasphemies that the Devil puts into you will never bring you to love him, or to feel anything else but horror against his insinuations. No; it is your grief and sorrow; you will loathe and bewail it; and under the pressure of the temptation cry out, 'Lord, keep me! Lord, uphold me! Lord, defend me! O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.' Can the righteous then, when in temptation, and troubled in heart, be, "glad in the LORD?" No; nothing of the kind. It is of no use, at such a time as this, to say it is your privilege and duty to believe; and, 'resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.' There is no doubt that he will flee away when the Spirit of God comes into your heart; but all mere human resistance he heeds not, and pays no attention to. It is only when the mighty power of God is felt in the soul that he is vanquished and overcome.
Blessed be the Lord, He has promised to, "deliver the godly out of temptations." And mark what a song of triumph is recorded for their encouragement; how it fits the cases of the Lord's people! "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." Until this is the case, there is no rejoicing for the righteous, no triumphing over the enemy. But when the blessed Spirit lifts up a standard, then the soul will rise up like a mighty giant refreshed with new wine; and say, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me," (Micah 7:8).
4. The righteous are sometimes sorely tried with the fears of death, and an opening eternity. It is generally the case, that the Devil, as a wise old serpent, is on the watch to attack the child of God with this fear when his evidences are most obscure, when he feels shut up, and all is darkness and gloom within. At such a time as this, perhaps, he is brought to fear some sudden stroke of death; that one minute he shall be in this world, and the following one in the next. then Satan comes in like a flood with this suggestion, 'How will it be with you in the article of death! It may be you will be taken away the next minute; and how can you meet death, when it shall stare you in the face, and you have to take a certain leap into a vast eternity! You know it is only the righteous that will stand at God's right hand: and are you one of the righteous?' O what a trial sometimes this is to the Lord's people! what searchings of heart it occasions, what seekings after evidences, what groans and wrestlings to God to know if all is right! So you see, the Devil gains nothing by his harassing temptations; the child of God gets all the benefit of it; the Lord overrules it all to bring him to wrestle at His feet, to tell Him who and what he is, and to cry out, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting," (Ps. 139:23,24).
III. Thirdly, while God's people have their seasons of sorrow, the text declares, "the righteous shall be glad in the Lord." What, then, is it that makes them glad?
1. Nothing more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, coming in the power of His loving-kindness, mercy, grace, and compassion into their hearts, can make them glad; and that exclusively of everything else, so that they may be able to rejoice in Him alone as their Lord and Saviour. Hear His own words, "Ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice." And O, blessed truth, "your joy no man taketh from you," (John 16:22). When the Lord comes and visits you again, He will bring joy and gladness with Him, and that as an earnest of future glory. What joy and gladness it is to the soul when it finds Jesus a solid rock to rest upon! What joy and gladness it is to the soul that is hungering after righteousness when by precious faith he can feed upon Jesus as the bread of life! And what joy and gladness it is to the thirsty soul, panting after the spiritual waterbrooks, and his tongue failing for thirst, when he can drink of the streams of that river, "which make glad the city of God."
All the streams of God's mercy flow into the soul through Christ. And when a righteous man is brought here, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as, "the bread of life," and as, "the water of life," to his soul, how can he be otherwise than glad? And so, in the battlefield, when the soul is ready to give up all for lost, and the blessed Captain comes and proclaims victory in his heart, how he can triumph, and say, "by thee I have run through a troop." I find I can be, "glad in the LORD," as the blessed Spirit is pleased to work it in me. I cannot retain this gladness in this old tabernacle of mine.
2. "The righteous shall be glad in the LORD," with the gladness of the Spouse to her Husband. How the Spouse in the Canticles speaks of the glory of her Beloved, when he comes in the fullness of his grace and love into her soul! How she extols him from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet! She says, "My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand," (Song 5:10). And then, after declaring the beauty of his person, and the glory of his countenance, she says, "His mouth is most sweet yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem," (Song 5:16). When Jesus comes and talks with the soul, revealing His beauty and grandeur, no one then can give sadness of heart; when He gives joy and peace, no one can give sorrow. When He drew near and talked with His disciples, as they journeyed to Emmaus, and were full of sadness, they said, "Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32).
O, the righteous are glad when the time comes for the visits of the lovingkindness and tender mercy of Jesus to their souls. And, bless His dear name, He will make them happy: for He says, "the righteous shall be glad in the LORD." Yes, you who feel your weakness, and are full of fears that He will never pay you a visit again; who are afraid that it will never be a time of love again, and are taking up the lamentation of the church of old, saying. "The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me," hear what He says in answer to it, and may it sink deep into your heart, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee," (Isa. 49:15). And O, what endearing terms the Lord applies to His church; He calls her, 'his love,' and, 'his dove,' "O my dove that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs," (Song 2:14). Bless His precious name; He cannot be long before He comes to the poor panting, hungering, and thirsting soul; and when He comes His visits will be sure to bring rejoicing and gladness.
When Jesus comes in the glory of His Person, love, blood, and righteousness, as the Sun of Righteousness, darkness flees away; He will arise with healing in His wings, bringing joy and gladness, so that the soul will break out in the language of David, "I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications; because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live."
IV. The next thing in the text is, "they shall trust in him." I do love God's, 'wills,' and, 'shalls.' The Lord is determined that the righteous shall not have anything but Himself to glory in; but this is very trying to flesh and blood. The flesh of the righteous is always seeking after some human props to rest upon and trust to; and O, how it will fight and rage when God cuts off its fleshly confidence! How the enmity in the carnal nature loves to have its own way, and kicks and struggles against being led in God's way! All earthly props must be snapped asunder, and all carnal contrivances must give way; for no one will trust in the Lord till every creature dependence is cut off.
Some people would make it appear that they always trust in God, and not in self. 'O,' says the man, who is well off in providential things, 'it is very easy to trust in God!' And so it is, when a man has a full cupboard, with plenty of money or friends, that he can feel as a prop to lean on. But would these same persons. If God in His providence were completely to strip them of all these things, bring them into great straits, with no eye to pity and no arm to help, with everything cut off behind and before, would they find it an easy thing then to trust in God? There is no trusting in the Lord till the Holy Spirit works faith in a man's soul; and when He puts that precious grace there, the man will fall upon his knees before the Lord, and plead His gracious promises; so that, whether he sinks or swims, he knows that he has no other prop to trust to; his feelings are like David's when he said, "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me, no man cared for my soul."
There is no trusting in God, till all creature refuge fails; and to this spot all must come who are brought to trust in Him. Now, such persons as these are rare to be found; there are not many to be seen thus trusting in God; they are very scarce, only one here and there, like a few berries on the top of a tree: for while there is a great deal of talk about trusting in God, it is only a few, when brought like Job to be stripped of everything, can say, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!" (Job 13:15). 'If He slay me, He does it righteously; and if He save me, it is all of grace!' None but the Lord can do this. But when a righteous soul is brought here, he is made to know there is no other refuge but Jesus, and he casts himself alone upon Him, whether he sinks or swims.
Now, have you any other rock but Christ? I do not ask you, whether you have a feeling enjoyment of it? I know you will rejoice in Jesus when the Holy Spirit enables you. But have you any other refuge? Can you go into eternity, resting upon any other rock but the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you any other righteousness but His? Can you lean upon, desire, or want any other than Christ's righteousness? 'No,' says the soul, 'None but Christ! none but Christ? Bless your poor heart, then, you shall have it as sure as God has wrought the desire in your conscience, and brought you to trust alone in Jesus for refuge, righteousness, and salvation, by stripping you of all false props and dependences. Such a soul as this will trust in the Lord, overcome all opposition, and be more than a conqueror through Him that hath loved him.
The Lord says, "I will leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD." Look then, afflicted with doubts and fears, tempest tossed and not comforted, harassed with the buffetings of the enemy, feeling your base ingratitude and backslidings, and full of darkness within and without, you shall be brought, to trust in the LORD." Blessings on His name, there is not another name under heaven that the soul can cling to or trust in but the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, how kind He speaks to such; He says, "Trust ye in the LORD for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." What a beautiful description is this! There is no strength out of Jesus; but in Him there is everlasting strength, everlasting strength in His love, everlasting strength in His faithfulness, everlasting strength in His promises, and everlasting strength in His kindness. He will never despise a poor afflicted soul, but He will manifest Himself to the joy and rejoicing of his heart. What a blessed thing it is to be privileged to go again and again to Him! He says, "Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee; he will never suffer the righteous to be moved:" (Ps. 55:22) and, "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you," (1 Pet. 5:7). When God blesses the soul with a precious faith in Jesus, enabling him to cast all his burdens and cares upon Him, leaving them all in His blessed hands, what a comfort it is to his heart, what a rest he feels, what a sweetness and glory it is to his soul! "They that trust in the LORD shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever."
V. The last thing we notice in the text, is, "all the upright in heart shall glory." Those that are brought to trust in God are, "upright in heart." But what are we to understand by this? To be, "upright in heart," is to be made so by God's grace; to have the good seed of the kingdom sown in the heart, and this makes it honest. I do not mean by this it will make the old man honest. I do not mean by this it will make the old man honest. The blessed incorruptible seed, which God puts into the heart at regeneration, never sanctifies the old man; that remains the same, it is not a whit better: but God makes the soul honest and upright before Him, so that he cannot come in deception to His feet. The soul will come to be searched and tried; he will plead with the Lord to lead, instruct, and guide him in the way in which he should go; that He would protect him from evil, and never leave him to the pride and hypocrisy of his heart. This is the desire of his soul; and this uprightness comes from God, and leads back to God.
Now wherever this feeling is wrought in a man's conscience, even if for a time he is left to backslide, and bring a reproach on the dear name of Jesus, yet how that upright soul will be brought to grieve over his departures and wanderings, and will go to the grave with broken bones; for uprightness is that which his soul loves. Nor can those that are upright in heart go moaning about with their tale of misery, to excite the pity of God's people, and get money out of their pockets; they cannot go about in this hypocritical way, as thousands do in the present day in the churches. No, no; the child of God, made upright in heart, will rather go to his closet, and plead with the Lord to appear for him, and provide for his wants: and if anyone enquire of him how he is going on, he will put the best face on it, and say. 'The Lord is very kind and gracious; He gives me a thousand times more than I deserve;' while in secret he will be wrestling with the Lord, pleading His promises; asking Him whether He has forgotten to be gracious? telling Him that the silver and the gold and the cattle upon a thousand hills are His; and that He has promised to provide. Therefore, "the upright in heart," will not go about in a hypocritical way to get bread of God's people; for they know they are partakers of soft and tender hearts, that their feelings are easily moved, and quickly touched with sympathy for the sufferings of others. Those then, whom God has made upright will be much engaged with the Lord that He would keep them so. Bless His dear name, it is as much His work to preserve and keep them upright, as it is to effect the salvation of their souls. The upright are never satisfied unless they feel the approbation of God in their conscience; and they will have many tears and supplications ascend from their hearts to the Lord to enable them to walk uprightly in His ordinances while travelling through the wilderness.
The Lord says, "the upright in heart shall glory." But what shall they glory in? It is very certain, they shall not glory in the flesh! If ever an upright soul comes to glory in man, or in anything belonging to the creature, it is very clear, God will fill him with it and give him enough to make him heartily sick of it. He has told us where he shall glory, "in the Lord!" Therefore, while, "no flesh shall glory in his presence," yet it is said, "he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." The glory is due unto God alone for all the mercies the righteous ever receive; and He says, "My glory will I not give to another." Wherever God bestows His mercies, it will be returned back to Him in praise; so that the earnest desire of the righteous is to give God all the glory; as the Psalmist says, "Not unto us, not unto us, O LORD, but unto thy name give all the glory," (Ps. 115:1).
How do the upright in heart give glory to God? Paul tells us, "We all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord," (2 Cor. 3:18). And then he shows us how it is accomplished; "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," (2 Cor. 4:6). And when is this? When God's glory comes into the heart. Can we give to the Lord what He has never given to us? It is presumption to suppose it. Is it possible to give to God what He has never bestowed? No; but when the appointed mercy comes, we can speak under the same influence as the Prophet did; "Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon thee," (Isa. 60:1). And O, when the glory of God's mercy is revealed to the soul, as shining in the Person, character, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of a precious Jesus, and when the glory of His faithfulness, power, love, and wisdom is made known to our hearts, and we are brought to feel that we are interested in it, O what a glory it is to our souls! How we are lost and swallowed up in it! And how we are constrained to give the glory and honour of it to the Lord! So that when He puts this glory into our hearts, we feel the beauty of it, are enabled to glorify Him in body, soul, and spirit, which are His, and to give all the glory of salvation to a precious Jesus, by crowning Him Lord of all!