THE MAN OF GOD  Or "Spiritual Religion Explained and Enforced"
by Octavius Winslow

Integrity and Uprightness

"Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on You." Psalm 25:2I.

"May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in you." Psalm 25:21

A stronger characteristic of a true man of God than that which this prayer of David involves can scarcely exist. Its absence in many who bear this honored name must forcibly strike every careful observer of the age. It is impossible to survey attentively the world, without perceiving how much is transpiring that is utterly destitute of the holy, elevated principles prayed for and aimed after in this touching petition of the psalmist. Speak of the crime as mildly and as gently as you may- call it error of judgment, breach of confidence, the temptation of wealth, self-interest, an eye to the main chance, worldly policy- the Word of God classes all instances of defalcation, embezzlement, violated trust, dishonest dealing, simulation, and false returns under one denomination- THEFT; the reverse of that "integrity and uprightness " which should govern the minutest transaction, secular and religious, of the man of God.

The solemn law of the Decalogue, "you shall not steal" thunders its tones in the ears of every violator of the precept, whether he rob man or God. In endeavoring to meet this alarming and growing evil of the age- DISHONESTY- by an exposition and enforcement of the prayer of David, we shall, at the outset, take the higher ground of dishonesty towards God. To this the prophet Malachi refers in these remarkable words to the Jews, "You have robbed God." Startled by the charge, they inquire, "How have we robbed Him?" The prophet replies, "In tithes and offerings."

Let us proceed to examine and apply this subject, both in its  divine and human relationships. Wherein do we rob God? God has a claim upon our entire being: "All souls are mine." The surrender of affection to Him as the first and greatest Being in the universe, as our Creator, Benefactor, and Preserver, must be paramount and supreme. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." When this undivided and supreme love to God is withheld- when the creature's affection is alienated from Him, and surrendered to another and an inferior being- the creature loved, rather than the Creator- there is a robbing of God. My reader, do you so love God? Are you dealing honestly with Him in your affections? Is God the supreme Sovereign of your heart? No love less than this will He accept. We repeat, when we give our affections to the world, to the creature, to self, positively and supremely- stopping short of entire self-consecration, we withhold from God His just due, and are chargeable before Him with the crime of spiritual robbery.

Again, God has the prior claim to our talents; and when the varied faculties and powers with which He has endowed us, and which were furnished for His glory, are not renewed by His Spirit, and devoted to His service, but are employed in the promotion of our self-interest; sensual gratification, perchance, as weapons of direct hostility to His being, His government, and His truth, we stand in His presence chargeable with the crime of robbing God. Oh, how great the responsibility, how solemn the account, how tremendous the doom of those whose intellectual powers mold the thoughts and influence the passions of others, but mold and influence them only for evil.

If the productions of which we are the authors- and which, while we live, exerted a baneful influence upon the popular mind, and, when we are dead, survive to perpetuate that influence yet more extended and disastrous in generations to come- are such as to pervert the great end of their creation, then, as rational and intellectual beings, we dishonor God by withholding from Him the glory of our consecrated talents and endowments. While to be a benefactor of mind is the highest privilege God can confer, to be a perverter and destroyer of mind is the deepest of crimes, and involves the direst of punishments. Let Christians pray for those who mold the thoughts and opinions of the popular mind, that the power they exert may be healthful, ennobling, and saving.

And are there not many who rob God by withholding from Him the consecration of their temporal substance? There will never be a deep conviction of the criminality of this sin until men everywhere learn that they are not proprietors, but stewards only of what they possess. "You are not your own" is a precept equally applicable to property as to person. Our Lord's parable of the talents was designed, among other lessons, to teach this, its chief and practical one, that, whether it be the one talent or the ten, the Divine Lord is the Giver of both, and holds each individual responsible, as a steward, for the manner in which he has disposed of his talents.

The possession of property involves a fearful responsibility- a responsibility which must be measured by the amount of wealth possessed. It may, perhaps, be difficult accurately to determine, from the teaching of the New Testament scriptures, the exact amount of income each individual should devote to Christian and benevolent purposes; nor is this absolutely necessary. The Christ-loving disciple will be a law to himself in this matter. He will not grudgingly and carefully graduate his benevolence by any financial law, however clearly defined, which he may find in the Scriptures; he will rather consecrate his entire wealth, be it much or little, as not his own but the Lord's; and while he "honors the Lord with the first fruit of all his increase," he will not limit his charity to this, but will consider it his privilege, as an honest and prudential course would dictate, to give the utmost elasticity to a law which claims all we are, and all we have, for Christ. Oh, let us be careful that we do not rob God by withholding from Him our worldly substance.

Again, we may rob God of His own by a misuse of time. Time is a solemn and priceless gift, and involves a responsibility and an account of a most tremendous character. It is the preface to eternity- brief, it is true, yet, as the preface indicates the character of the volume, so the present is the foreshadowing in each one's history of the future. Time is a feather falling from the pinion of eternity, as it sweeps on in its boundless, endless course, hurrying us with rapid flight to that eternity from where it came. What sin, what madness, then, to abuse a privilege so solemn- to misuse a blessing so precious. To employ it in vain pleasures and frivolous pursuits- to use it in senseless puerilities, sinful engagements- to devote it too absorbingly even to literary and elegant pursuits- the studies of the antiquarian, the researches of the historian, the fascination of art, to discoveries of science- may verge upon the crime of robbing God of one of His most costly loans.

All these absorbing engagements are limited to the present, and have no essential relation to the soul's certain and solemn future. Oh, you killers of time! How will the ghost of your murdered hours haunt and upbraid you through the interminable centuries of eternity! Oh, what would you not then give for one hour of that precious period of your existence which now you waste and fritter and destroy in vain, useless, and sinful trifles, chimeras, and shadows. Remember, you rob God when your TIME is not consecrated to His glory. Ponder well the inspired precept, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Consider, the apostolic exhortation "Brethren, the time is short."

God is robbed by us when we attempt to supplant Him in the work and in the glory of our salvation. The salvation of man is pre-eminently the work of God. "Salvation is of God"- devised, achieved, and bestowed by Him. Redemption is a divine act, undertaken and accomplished by Incarnate Deity. Had not Christ our Savior been essentially and absolutely God, He could not have offered an atonement to the moral government of Jehovah, blending the honor and glory of God with the full, free salvation of the guiltiest of the human race.

Essentially connected with man's salvation is God's glory. To no work was the Divine honor solemnly committed, in no enterprise was it so fully embarked as in saving lost man. God, therefore, is jealous of His glory in man's salvation, not a particle of which will He gave to another. If, then, we attempt to uprear the Babel of our own righteousness in unbelief and scorn, rejecting the righteousness of Christ; if we seek the way of life other than that which God has opened to us through the crucified Savior, thus climbing up some other way into heaven, we then are found robbers of God! We rob Him of the glory which belongs alone to Him; we rob Him of the work which He only can achieve; we rob Him of the honor which only is His most righteous due; and we rob our own souls of their eternal glory.

And then there are others who commit robbery by stealing their religion: We have spoken, in a preceding chapter, of a borrowed religion, we refer now to a stolen one. God seems to refer to this species of religious theft in these remarkable words, addressed to the prophets of old, "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who STEAL my words every one from his neighbor," (Jer. xxiii. 30.) How easily, and yet how unsuspectingly may we be guilty of this sin. You have, perchance, a godly parent, a pious husband, wife, or child, and, imperceptibly to yourself, you become familiar with their Christian vocabulary, learn their tones, and acquire the habit of speaking their words. You become, in some measure, by association, molded into their habits, assimilated to their religious usages, and thus  are beguiled into a religious phraseology and demeanor not your own,
learned, if not secretively obtained, from those with whom we associate. In all this you have never felt yourself a lost sinner, guilty, condemned, and ready to perish. You have learned nothing of the plague of your own heart, nothing of the need, the worth, and the preciousness of the Savior; you are traveling to death and eternity in a false disguise, having a name to live while yet you are dead. "Do not be deceived, for God is not mocked."

And may not even the Lord's own people verge closely upon this sin of robbing God? If there is any withholding from God His just return of praise, thanksgiving, and devotion; if, beguiled by self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-trust, we give Him not all the honor and glory which is His most righteous due; if we retain the property, the talents, the service, which belong not to ourselves but to Christ- then are we guilty of withholding from God a part of His purchased possession. And in what other light must we view the unsteady, even unholy walk of any child of God, but this?

In every act of unbelief, in every wilful departure, in every instance of self-pleasing, we take from the Lord the glory belonging to His great and holy name. If we refuse to bring into His house our tithes and offerings of faith, and love, and prayer, and service- if we only make Him to serve with our sins, departures, and backslidings- then may our God justly and indignantly say to us, "YOU HAVE ROBBED ME." Dear Lord! deliver us from this sin!

We now turn to the particular sin which David deprecates, and against which he prays: "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me." It is a many-headed monster sin. It exhibits itself unmistakably in the crime of the public defaulter- in the fraudulent trustee- in the dishonest seller- in the shrewd purchaser- in the artful borrower- in the usurious lender- in the deceptive quality of the manufacturer- in the false measurement and weight of the retailer. But why enumerate?

It is a sin of so Protean a form, that it often rears its hideous head where the most skillful eye would least expect to behold it. So subtle and insinuating, so disguised and plausible a sin is it, that the best of men need the most wakeful vigilance and prayer lest they become ensnared into its commission! "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." Let all who are entrusted with public or indivdual confidence, to whose hands the funds of charity, or the property of the widow and the orphan, are confided, be doubly watchful against the sinful promptings of their own hearts, the snares of irresponsible power and of possessed wealth.

"Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right." Of such a one- the defaulter, the defrauder, the man of ill-gotten wealth- inspiration says "He has swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again God shall cast them out of his belly." Around the widow and the orphan God has thrown an especial shield. Woe to those who oppress the one or defraud the other! "A Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widow, is God in His holy habitation."

In conclusion- study the prayer of the true man of God, anxious to keep his garments unsullied amid a thousand snares, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me." Let all beware of the sin of covetousness- it has drowned many souls in perdition. Whether it be Achan's wedge of gold, Naboth's vineyard, Ananias and Sapphira's withheld possession, the sin is essentially the same- the sin of COVETOUSNESS- which ranks in the catalogue with sin's darkest crimes.

If that giant in grace, David, the king of Israel; needed to pray for integrity and uprightness in all his transactions, how much deeper is our need! He prayed like a man of God, conscious of his weakness, who trembled lest he should fall, and who felt that nothing short of a Divine hand could hold him up. "Covetousness and truce-breaking "- one of the signs of the last days- is a fretting sore, not only in the body politic, but in the professing Church of God.

The sin of dishonesty derives not its character, its turpitude, or measurement from the object defrauded, or the amount of the fraud- the principle is the same whether the party robbed be a parent or a bank, the amount of the fraud large or small. Human jurisprudence may, and perhaps justly, allow of shades of guilt, and award degrees of punishment in acts of peculation, deception, and fraud; but in the sight of God every violation of His commandment of the Decalogue, "You shall not steal," involves a guilt and a punishment; if penitence is not felt, and forgiveness is not awarded, alike the same.

But there is forgiveness for the penitent. The only instance recorded in Scripture of forgiveness at the last and latest hour is that of a penitent thief. See him contrite, confessing, praying See him turn his dying eye to the crucified Savior! Listen to his acknowledgment and his petition. Behold him washing in the Fountain that flowed warm and cleansing at his side. Reader! have you been guilty of a like crime? Has the Holy Spirit wrought in you contrition and self-abasement, ingenuous confession and desire of restitution? Behold the Lamb of God! Bathe in the purple stream; and thus washed, thus cleansed, thus forgiven, go, and sin no more!

Lord! "give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full, and deny You, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal; and take the name of my God in vain."