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CHARACTER OF THOSE THAT SHALL BE SAVED
Psalms 15:1-5. Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned: but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury; nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved [Note: This psalm is one of those appointed to be read on Ascension Day; not because it relates to Christ’s ascension, but because it drawn the character of those who, like him, shall be admitted into heaven.].
IN the ministry of the Gospel, every subject must occupy that measure of attention which seems to have been paid to it in the Holy Scriptures. We must not be deterred from speaking of the principles of Christianity, because some despise them as evangelical; nor must we omit the practical parts of our religion, because others may discard them as legal. We should be equally ready to consider every part of God’s revealed will, neither rejecting any, nor magnifying any beyond its due importance. The psalm before us is altogether of a practical nature. On what occasion it was written, we are not informed: but we think it not improbable, that it was composed after David had carried up the ark to Mount Zion, and placed it in the tabernacle. From that event, he would be naturally led to reflect on the character of those who would be approved of God in ministering before it, and, consequently, to depict the character of those who should be counted worthy to serve God in his temple above.
Agreeably to this view of the psalm, we may consider it as containing,
An inquiry into the character of those who shall be saved—
We must remember, that the inquiry does not respect the way of salvation, but the character of those who shall be saved. Had it related to the way of salvation, the great doctrines of “repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” must of necessity have been set forth: however they might have been expressed in terms suited to that dispensation, they could not possibly have been omitted. But the inquiry is simply this; What is the character, and what the conduct, of those who shall be finally admitted into that true tabernacle which God himself has erected in heaven? And can there be any inquiry more important?
What is implied in the inquiry itself—
[Certainly it implies, that all will not be saved. And this is a truth which our blessed Lord has confirmed beyond a doubt [Note: Matthew 7:13-14.]. Some dream of annihilation; and some of heaven: but what a fearful disappointment will multitudes experience! Yes: “fearfulness will surprise them;” and, instead of dwelling in the bosom of their God, they will “dwell with devouring fire, even with everlasting burnings [Note: Isaiah 33:14.].”]
What is implied in it as addressed to Jehovah—
[It is of Jehovah himself that David makes the inquiry: for it is Jehovah alone that can answer it aright. Man is partial in his own favour: and, even when constrained to acknowledge that there must be a difference between the righteous and the wicked, he takes care so to draw the line, as to include himself among the number that shall be saved. But God has no respect of persons: his word is fixed: and according to that word shall be the doom of every child of man.]
That we may with certainty determine the point, let us see, in this psalm,
Their character described—
The children of God are here faithfully described: they are distinguished by,
A principle of integrity in their hearts—
[It is the very essence of the Christian character to have righteousness and truth residing in the soul: we must be “Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile.” Where a principle of integrity is wanting, nothing can be right. Services, of whatever kind, are of no account with God, if there be not a determination of heart to do whatsoever he commands. A single eye is that which he approves: and the want of it vitiates all that a man can do, yea, and renders it odious in his sight [Note: Isaiah 66:3.]. We are aware that these assertions are strong: but they do not in the least exceed the truth. St. John’s declarations leave us no room to doubt: “He that doeth righteousness, is righteous, even as he, that is, Christ himself, is righteous [Note: 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:6-10.].” The object of the Christian’s desires, yea, and of his endeavours too, is universal holiness: he would in all things, as far as possible, “be conformed to Christ,” “having the same mind as was in him,” and “walking in all things as he walked.” He would not willingly retain a right hand or a right eye that caused him to offend: his one labour and ambition is, to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” It is an this way that he “puts on the Lord Jesus Christ;” and it is in this way that “Christ becomes all in all [Note: See Rom 13:14 and Colossians 3:11.; which passages refer, the one to the graces of Christ, and the other to the image of Christ in the soul.]!”]
A corresponding conduct in their lives—
[The particular things enumerated by the Psalmist are for the most part overlooked, as though they were of minor importance: but, in truth, they enter deeply into the Christian character, and will serve as most decisive tests of the existence and measure of our integrity. In true Christians, then, the following marks are found:—
They abstain from uncharitable censures.—Amongst false professors, even as amongst the ungodly world, there is a lamentable want of tenderness to the characters of others: they will receive, and circulate, a false report, without ever considering how great an injury they do to him who is thus calumniated. They will suffer their minds to be prejudiced against a brother without any just occasion; and will even feel more alienation from him on account of some quality which they disapprove, than attachment to him for many qualities which render him worthy of their esteem. But the true Israelite will not deal out such measure to his neighbours: he will rather put n favourable construction on the things which admit of doubt, and cast a veil over the faults which are too plain to be denied. He will in this matter conform himself to the golden rule, of ‘Doing to others as he would have them do to him.’
They observe equity in estimating the characters of men.—They will not be lenient towards offences in the rich, which they condemn with severity in the poor; nor will they suffer their regards to be influenced by the pride of life or the prejudice of party. Magistrates, indeed, they will reverence as bearing an authority vested in them by God himself; but it is the office that they will reverence; just as Paul reverenced the high priest, notwithstanding the injustice with which he executed his high office; but the contemners of God will, as such, be pitied and contemned by every true Christian; and those who fear God will on that account be loved and honoured by him, whatever station they may fill, or to whatever party they may belong. He will from his inmost soul unite in the Apostle’s benediction, “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”
They adhere strictly to all their engagements.—No Believer will think lightly of his word, and still less of his oath. If he have promised any thing, he will on no account go back, even though the performance of the promise should involve him in considerable difficulty. In all pecuniary or commercial transactions, his word will be his bond: no subterfuges will be resorted to, no equivocations, no falsehoods invented, to invalidate his engagement: if he have “sworn to his own hurt,” he will submit to the consequences, and discharge his conscience with fidelity. With respect to engagements of a yet more sacred nature, he will exercise the utmost scrupulosity; and not because of any change in his own mind, think himself at liberty to repudiate a betrothed object. If a great moral or religious change have taken place in the one party so as to change the character of that person, and to render him in fact a different person from the one that was betrothed, then the other party may justify a renunciation of the alliance (a man may justly rescind his engagements with a woman who shall depart from the paths of honour and virtue); but it is in the party who remains the same, and not in the party that is changed, that this right resides. Where there are no circumstances of this kind to absolve the Christian, “his yea must be yea, and his nay, nay.”
They abhor every thing that is sordid and unjust.—Usury was forbidden under the Mosaic Law; and that prohibition, as to the spirit of it, obtains equally under the Gospel. There is a legal interest of money which may fitly and properly be made: but every kind of extortion is worthy of the utmost abhorrence. To take advantage of the ignorance or the necessities of our fellow-creatures, to deceive them in relation to the quality or quantity of the commodities sold to them, to lean unduly to our own interests, and thereby to injure in any respect the interests of others; all this is contrary to the law of love, the law of honesty: and the man who for filthy lucre sake will condescend to such meanness, is unworthy of the Christian name. It matters not what profession of religion he may make, nor how high he may stand in the estimation of those who are unacquainted with his character; he has “the mark of the beast upon him,” and will assuredly take his “portion amongst the hypocrites.”
We are aware that many religionists will call this statement legal: but let them remember that Paul himself has given this very description of the Christian’s conduct, and has declared, that “those who are children of the light will walk in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth [Note: Ephesians 5:8-10.].” By these fruits must they be judged of, and “by these fruits must they be known.”]
In relation to persons of this character, we behold with pleasure,
Their salvation assured—
Our blessed Lord represents them as persons whose habitation is founded on a rock [Note: Matthew 7:24-27.], and their stability is assured to them,
By the very graces which they exercise—
[We do not mean to say, that any man, however eminent, has in himself such a measure of grace, as shall be a safeguard to him under all temptations: for even Paul himself had not in himself “a sufficiency even to think a good thought:” nor can any child of man stand one moment longer than God shall be pleased to uphold him in his everlasting arms: but still God himself has represented “righteousness as a breast-plate,” which will resist the darts of our great adversary: and it must be obvious, that they, in whom there is a principle of universal holiness, and whose conduct is so strictly regulated by the commands of God, must be comparatively out of the reach of the tempter. In matters of daily occurrence, the Believer will still have within himself an evidence that he is a fallen creature: he will still be subject to mistakes, and infirmities, and falls; but he will not so fall as to return to the wilful practice of iniquity [Note: 1 John 3:9.], nor so be moved as to “turn back unto perdition.”]
By the express promises of God—
[Were the Christian’s stability to depend solely on the strength of the gracious principle within him, he would have but little hope of enduring to the end: but God has encouraged us to exert ourselves, and to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling;” in the full persuasion, that “he will give us both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” In the Scriptures, both Prophets and Apostles concur in giving us this assurance. Isaiah speaks almost the very language of our text: he draws the very same character almost in the very same terms; and then declares, that this person “shall dwell on high,” (even “in God’s holy hill,”) that “his place of defence shall be the munition of rocks: that bread shall be given him, and his waters shall be sure [Note: Isaiah 33:15-16.].” To the same effect St. Peter speaks: he bids us add to our faith the practice of all social virtues; and then he tells us that “they who do such things shall never fall, (‘never be moved,’) but shall have an entrance ministered unto them abundantly into the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: 2 Peter 1:5-11.].” How “exceeding great and precious are such promises” as these! How delightful is it to hear God himself engaging to “keep the feet of his saints,” and that “the righteous shall hold on his way, and that he who hath clean hands (the very persons described in our text) shall wax stronger and stronger [Note: Job 17:9.]!” Let this then stir us up to walk worthy of our high calling; and let us “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 15". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany