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16. A description of heart-purity
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The holy God, who is ‘of purer eyes than to behold iniquity’ calls here for heart-purity, and to such as are adorned with this jewel, he promises a glorious and beatifical vision of himself: ‘they shall see God’. Two things are to be explained the nature of purity; the subject of purity.
1 The nature of purity. Purity is a sacred refined thing. It stands diametrically opposed to whatsoever defiles. We must distinguish the various kinds of purity. First, there is a primitive purity which is in God originally and essentially as light is in the sun. Holiness is the glory of the Godhead: ‘Glorious in holiness’ (Exodus 15:11). God is the pattern and prototype of all holiness. Second, there is a created purity. Thus holiness is in the angels and was once in Adam. Adam’s heart did not have the least spot or tincture of impurity. We call that wine pure which has no sophistication; and that gold pure which has no dross mingled with it. Such was Adam’s holiness. It was like the wine which comes from the grape, having no mixture. But this is not to be found on earth. We must go to heaven for it.
Third, there is an evangelical purity; whence grace is mingled with some sin, like gold in the ore, like air in the twilight, like wine that has a dash in it, like fine cloth with a coarse list, like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, part of silver, and part of clay (Daniel 2:35). This mixture God calls purity in a gospel-sense; as a face may be said to be fair which has some freckles in it. Where there is a study of purity and a loathing ourselves for our impurity, this is to be ‘pure in heart’.
Some by pure in heart, understand chastity, others sincerity (Psalm 32:2). But I suppose purity here is to be taken in a larger sense for the several kinds and degrees of holiness. They are said to be pure who are consecrated persons, having the oil of graces poured upon them. This purity is much mistaken.
Civility is not purity. A man may be clothed with moral virtues justice, prudence, temperance yet go to hell.
Profession is not purity. A man may have a name to live and yet be dead (Revelation 3:1). He may be swept by civility and garnished by profession, yet the devil may dwell in the house. The blazing comet is no star. The hypocrite’s tongue may be silver, yet his heart stone. Purity consists in two things; rectitude of mind, a prizing holiness in the judgement (Psalm 119:30); conformity of will, an embracing of holiness in the affections (Psalm 119:97). A pure soul is cast into the mould of holiness. Holiness is a blood that runs in his veins.
2 The subject of purity: the heart: ‘pure in heart’. Purity of heart does not exclude purity of life, no more than the pureness of the fountain excludes the pureness of the stream. But it is called purity of heart, because this is the main thing in religion, and there can be no purity of life without it. A Christian’s great care should be to keep the heart pure, as one would especially preserve the spring from being poisoned. In a duel, a man will chiefly guard and fence his heart, so a wise Christian should above all things keep his heart pure. Take heed that the love of sin does not get in there, lest it prove mortal.
Christians should above all things breathe after heart purity: ‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience’ (1 Timothy 3:9). Justification causes our happiness, sanctification evidences it.
1 The reasons for purity are: (i) Purity is a thing called for in Scripture: ‘Be ye holy for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:16). It is not only the minister bids you be holy, but God himself calls for it. What should the Holy God do with unholy servants?
(ii) Because of that filthy and cursed condition we are in before purity be wrought in us. We are a lump of clay and sin mingled together. Sin not only blinds us, but defiles us. It is called filthiness (James 1:21). And to show how befilthying a thing it is, it is compared to a plague-sore (1 Kings 8:38), to spots (Deuteronomy 32:5), to a vomit (2 Peter 2:22), to the infants ‘tumbling in blood’ (Ezekiel 16:6), and to a ‘menstruous cloth’ (Isaiah 30:22), which (as Jerome says) was the most defiling thing under the law. All the legal warnings which God appointed were but to put men in mind of their loathsomeness before they were washed in the blood of Christ. If all the evils in the world were put together and their quintessence strained out, they could not make a thing so black and polluted as sin does. A sinner is a devil in man’s shape. When Moses’ rod was turned into a serpent, he fled from it. Would God open men’s eyes and show them their deformities and damnable spots, they would be afraid and fly from themselves as serpents! This shows what need we have of purity. When grace comes it washes off this hellish filth. Of Ethiopians it makes us Israelites. It turns ravens into swans. It makes them who are as black as hell to become white as snow.
(iii) Because none but the pure in heart are interested in the covenant of grace. Covenanted persons have ‘the sprinkling with clean water’ (Ezekiel 36:25). Now, till we are thus sprinkled, we have nothing to do with the new covenant and by consequence with the new Jerusalem. If a will be made only to such persons as are so qualified, none can come in for a part, but such as have those qualifications. So, God has made a will and covenant that he will be our God, and will settle heaven upon us by entail, but with this clause or proviso in the will, that we be purified persons, having the ‘clean water sprinkled, upon us. Now till then, we have nothing to do with God or mercy.
(iv) Purity is the end of our election. ‘He has chosen us that we should be holy’ (Ephesians 1:4). Not for holiness, but to holiness. ‘Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son’ (Romans 8:29). God predestinates us to Christ’s image, which image consists ‘in righteousness and true holiness’ (Ephesians 4:24). So that till you are holy, you cannot show any sign of election upon you, but rather the devil’s brand-mark.
(v) Purity is the end of our redemption. If we could have gone to heaven in our sins, Christ needed not have died. Why did he shed his blood but to redeem us from ‘a vain conversation’? (1 Peter:18, 19); and, ‘who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people’ (Titus 2:14). Christ shed his blood to wash off our filth. The cross was both an altar and a laver. Jesus died not only to save us from wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10), but to save us from sin (Matthew 1:21). Out of his side came water which signifies our cleansing, as well as blood which signifies our justifying (1 John 5:6). The truth is, it were to make the body of Christ monstrous, if the head should be pure and not the members.
2 Why purity must be chiefly in the heart.
(i) Because if the heart be not pure, we differ nothing from a Pharisaic purity. The Pharisees’ holiness consisted chiefly in externals. Theirs was an outside purity. They never minded the inside of the heart. ‘Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion’, and ‘Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones’ (Matthew 23:25, 27). The Pharisees were good only on the surface. They were whited over, not white. They were like a rotten post laid in vermilion colour, like a fair chimney-piece gilded without, but within nothing but soot. Of such hypocrites Salvian complains, who had Christ in their mouths but to no purpose. We must go further. Be ‘pure in heart’, like the king’s daughter ‘all glorious within’ (Psalm 45:13); else ours is but a Pharisaic purity; and Christ says, ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:20).
(ii) The heart must especially be kept pure, because the heart is the chief seat or place of God’s residence. God dwells in the heart. He takes up the heart for his own lodging (Isaiah 57:15; Ephesians 3:17), therefore it must be pure and holy. A king’s palace must be kept from defilement, especially his presence-chamber. How holy ought that to be! If the body be the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19), the heart is the holy of holies! Oh take heed of defiling the room where God is to come. Let that room be washed with holy tears.
(iii) The heart must especially be pure, because it is the heart that sanctifies all we do. If the heart be holy, all is holy — our affections holy, our duties holy. ‘The altar sanctifieth the gift’ (Matthew 23:19). The heart is the altar that sanctifies the offering. The Romans kept their springs from being poisoned. The heart is the spring of all our actions; let us keep this spring from poison. Be ‘pure in heart’.
See here what is the beauty that sets off a soul in God’s eye, namely, purity of heart. You who are never so beautiful are but a spiritual leper till you are pure in heart. God is in love with the pure heart for he sees his own picture drawn there. Holiness is a beam of God; it is the angels’ glory. They are pure virgin-spirits. Take away purity from an angel and he is no more an angel but a devil. You who are pure in heart have the angels’ glory shining in you. You have the embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Ghost upon you. The pure heart is God’s paradise where he delights to walk. It is his lesser heaven. The dove delights in the purest air. The Holy Ghost who descended in the likeness of a dove delights in the purest soul. God says of the pure in heart as of Zion, ‘This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell’ (Psalm 132:14). God loves the fairest complexion. The pure in heart is Christ’s bride, decked and bespangled with the jewels of holiness. ‘Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes’ (Canticles 4:9). Thine eyes, that is, thy graces; these as a chain of pearl have drawn mine heart to thee. Of all hearts God loves the pure heart best. You who dress yourself by the glass of the Word and adorn ‘the hidden man of thy heart’ (1 Peter 3:4), are most precious in God’s eyes, though you may be blear-eyed as Leah, lame as Barzillai,’ yet being ‘pure in heart, you are the mirror of beauty and may say ‘Yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord’ (Isaiah 49:5). How may this raise the esteem of purity! This is a beauty that never fades and which makes God himself fall in love with us.
If we must be pure in heart then we must not rest in outward purity. Civility is not sufficient. A swine may be washed, yet a swine still. Civility does but wash a man, grace changes him. Civility, like a star may shine in the eyes of the world, but it differs as much from purity as the crystal from the diamond. Civility is but strewing flowers on a dead corpse. A man may be wonderfully moralised, yet but a tame devil. How many have made civility their saviour! Morality may damn as well as vice. A vessel may be sunk with gold, as well as with dung.
Observe two things:
1 The civil person, though he will not commit gross sins, yet he is not sensible of heart sins. He does not discern the ‘law in his members’ (Romans 7:23). He is not troubled for unbelief, hardness of heart, vanity of thoughts. He abhors gaol-sins, not gospel-sins.
2 The civil person has an aching tooth at religion. His heart rises against holiness. The snake is of a fine colour, but has a deadly sting. The civil man is fair to look to, but has a secret antipathy against the ways of God. He hates grace as much as vice. Zeal is as odious to him as uncleanness. So that civility is not to be rested in. The heart must be pure. God would have Aaron wash the inwards of the sacrifice (Leviticus 9:14). Civility does but wash the outside; the inwards must be washed. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart’.
Let us put ourselves on trial whether we are pure-hearted or no. Here I shall do two things to show the signs, first, of an impure heart; second, of a pure heart.
1 An ignorant heart is an impure heart. To be ignorant of sin or Christ argues impurity of heart. Nahash the Ammonite would enter into covenant with the men of Jabesh-Gilead so he might thrust out their right eyes (1 Samuel 11:2). Satan leaves men their left eye. In worldly knowledge they are quick-sighted enough but the right eye of spiritual knowledge is quite put out (2 Corinthians 4:4). Ignorance is Satan’s stronghold (Acts 26:18). The devils are bound in chains of darkness (Jude 6). So are all ignorant persons. Impossible it is that an ignorant heart should be good. It is knowledge makes the heart good. ‘That the soul be without knowledge is not good’ (Proverbs 19:2). For any to say that, though their mind be ignorant yet their heart is good, they may as well say that, though they are blind yet their eyes are good. In the law, when the plague of leprosy was in a man’s head the priest was to pronounce him unclean. This is the case of an ignorant man. The leprosy is in his head, ‘he is unclean’. That heart cannot be very pure which is a dungeon. Grace cannot reign where ignorance reigns. An ignorant man can have no love to God. ‘He cannot love that which he does not know’. He can have no faith. Knowledge must usher in faith (Psalm 9:10). He cannot worship God aright (John 4:22). Though he may worship the true God, yet in a wrong manner. Ignorance is the root of sin. Blindness leads to lasciviousness (Ephesians 4:18, 19; Proverbs 7:23). Ignorance is the mother of pride (Revelation 3:17). It is the cause of error (2 Timothy 3:7), and, which is worse, an affected ignorance. ‘It is one thing to be ignorant; it is another thing to be unwilling to know’. Many are in love with ignorance. They hug their disease (Job 21:14; 2 Peter 3:5). Ignorant minds are impure. There is no going to heaven in the dark.
2 That heart is impure which sees no need of purity. ‘I am rich and have need of nothing’ (Revelation 3:17). Not to be sensible of a disease is worse than the disease. You shall hear a sick man say, ‘I am well, I ail nothing’. There are some who ‘need no repentance’ (Luke 15:7). Some sinners are too well to be cured. Heart purity is as great a wonder to the natural man as the new birth was to Nicodemus (John 3:4). It is sad to think how many go on confidently and are ready to bless themselves, never suspecting their condition till it be too late.
3 He has an impure heart who regards iniquity in his heart. ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me’ (Psalm 66:18). In the original it is ‘If I look upon sin’, that is, with a lustful look. Sin-regarding is inconsistent with heart-purity.
What is it to ‘regard iniquity,?
(i) When we indulge in sin. When sin not only lives in us, but when we live in sin. Some will leave all their sins but one. Jacob would let all his sons go but Benjamin. Satan can hold a man by one sin. The fowler holds the bird fast enough by a wing or a claw. Others hide their sins like one that shuts up his shop-windows but follows his trade within doors. Many deal with their sins as Moses, mother dealt with her son. She hid him in the ark of bulrushes, as if she had left him quite, but her eye was still upon him and in conclusion she became his nurse (Exodus 2:9). So, many seem to leave their sins, but they only hide them from the eye of others. Their heart still goes after them and at last they nurse and give breast to their sins.
(ii) To regard iniquity is to delight in iniquity. A child of God, though he sins, yet he does not take a complacency in sin. ‘What I hate, that do I’ (Romans 7:15). But impure souls make a recreation of sin. ‘They had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thessalonians 2:12). Never did one feed with more delight on a dish he loves than a wicked man does upon the forbidden fruit. This delight shows that the will is in the sin. And ‘the will is the rule and measure of the deed’.
(iii) To regard iniquity is to lay in provision for sin. ‘Make not provision for the flesh’ (Romans 13:14). Sinners are caterers for their lusts. It is a metaphor taken from such as make provision for a family, or victual a garrison. The Greek word here signifies a projecting and forecasting in the mind how to bring a thing about. This is to make provision for the flesh when one studies to satisfy the flesh and lay in fuel for lust. Thus Amnon made provision for the flesh (2 Samuel 13:5). He fains himself sick, and his sister, Tamar, must be his nurse. She must cook and dress his meat for him. By which means he defiled the breasts of her virginity. It is sad when men’s care is not to discharge conscience, but to satisfy lust.
(iv) To regard iniquity is to give it respect and entertainment, as Lot showed respect to the angels. ‘He bowed himself with his face toward the ground and said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you . . .’ (Genesis 19:2). When the Spirit of God comes He is repulsed and grieved, but when temptation comes, the sinner bows to it, sets open the gates, and says ‘Turn in, my lord’. This is to regard iniquity.
(v) He is said to regard sin that does not regard the threatenings of God against sin. We read of ’seven thunders uttering their voices’ (Revelation 10:3). How many thunders in Scripture utter their voice against sin! ‘God shall wound the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses’ (Psalm 68:21). Here is a thundering scripture, but sinners fear not this thunder. Let a minister come as a Boanerges, clothed with the spirit of Elijah, and denounce all the curses of God against men’s sins, they regard it not. They can laugh at the shaking of a spear (Job 41:29). This is to regard iniquity, and argues an impure heart.
4 An unbelieving heart is an impure heart. The Scripture calls it expressly ‘an evil heart of unbelief’ (Hebrews 3:12). An unbelieving heart is evil in the highest degree. It is full of the poison of hell. Unbelief is the foul medley of all sins, the root and receptacle of sin.
(i) Unbelief is a God-affronting sin. It puts the lie upon God. It calls in question his power (Psalm 78:19), mercy and truth. ‘He that believeth not hath made God a liar’ (1 John 5:10). And can a greater affront be cast upon the God of glory? It makes us trust to second causes, which is setting the creature in the room of God. ‘Asa in his disease sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians’ (2 Chronicles 16:12). He relied more on the physician than upon God. Saul seeks to the witch of Endor. O high affront, to lean upon the reed and neglect the Rock of Ages!
(ii) Unbelief hardens the heart. These two sins are linked together. ‘He upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart’ (Mark 16:14). Unbelief breeds the stone of the heart. He that believes not God’s threatenings will never fear him. He that believes not God’s promises will never love him. What is said of the Leviathan is true of the unbeliever. ‘His heart is as firm as a stone’ (Job 41:24). Unbelief first pollutes the heart and then hardens it.
(iii) Unbelief breeds hypocrisy. Atheists do not believe that God is a jealous God and will call them to account. Therefore it is they put on a mask of religion and are saints in jest, that they may play the devil in earnest (2 Timothy 3:4, 5). They pretend God, but Self is the idol they worship. Like barge-men they look one way and row another. The unbeliever is the greatest hypocrite.
(iv) Unbelief causes the fear of men. ‘Fear is proof of a baseborn soul’. Fear is a debasing thing. It unmans a man. It makes him afraid to be good. The fearful man studies rather compliance than conscience. ‘The fear of man bringeth a snare’ (Proverbs 29:25). What made Abraham equivocate, David feign himself mad, Peter deny Christ? Was it not their fear? And whence does fear spring, but from unbelief? Therefore the Scripture joins them together. ‘The fearful and unbelieving’ (Revelation 21:8).
(v) Unbelief is the root of apostasy: ‘an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God’ (Hebrews 3:12). What is the reason those who seemed once zealous now despise prophesying and leave off prayer in their families? Is it not their unbelief? They believed not that God is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Infidelity is the cause of apostasy. In the Greek, ‘apistia’ (unbelief) leads to ‘apostasia’ (apostasy). And if infidelity be the breeder and fomenter of so much sin, then the unbelieving heart must needs be an impure heart.
5 A covetous heart is an impure heart. The earth is the most impure element. The purity of the heart lies in the spirituality of it, and what more opposite to spiritualness than earthiness? Covetousness is ‘the root of all evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10). ‘To what cost thou not drive mortal hearts, thou accursed lust for gold?’
(i) Covetousness is the root of discontent. Why do any repine at their condition, but because they think they do not have enough? The Greek word for covetousness signifies an immoderate desire of getting. Covetousness is a dry dropsy, and because the thirst is not satisfied, therefore the heart frets through discontent and impatience.
(ii) Covetousness is the root of theft. Achan’s covetous humour made him steal that wedge of gold which served to cleave asunder his soul from God (Joshua 7:21).
(iii) Covetousness is the root of treason. It made Judas betray Christ. ‘What will ye give me and I will deliver him unto you?’ (Matthew 26:15). Absalom’s covetousness made him attempt to pluck the crown from his father’s head. He that is a Demas will soon prove a Judas. ‘Men shall be covetous’ (2 Timothy 3:2), and it follows in the next verse, ‘traitors’. Where covetousness is in the premises, treason will be in the conclusion.
(iv) Covetousness is the root of murder. Why did Ahab stone Naboth to death but to possess his vineyard? (1 Kings 21:13). Covetousness has made many swim to the crown in blood. And can the heart be pure, when the ‘hands are full of blood’? (Isaiah 1:15).
(v) Covetousness is the root of perjury. ‘Men shall be covetous, and it follows, ‘trucebreakers’ (2 Timothy 3:2, 3). For love of money will take a false oath and break a just oath. He that lives a Midas, will die a perjurer.
(vi) Covetousness is the root of necromancy. Why do persons indent with the devil, but for money? They study the black art for yellow gold. Alexander the Sixth pawned his soul to the devil for a popedom.
(vii) It is the root of fraud and cezenage in dealings. Such as would be over-rich, will overreach. It is the covetous hand that holds false weights (Amos 8:5).
(viii) Covetousness is the root of bribery and injustice. It makes the courts of judicature, ‘great places of robbery’, as Augustine speaks. At Athens causes were bought and sold for money.
(ix) It is the cause of uncleanness. The Scripture mentions ‘the hire of a whore’ (Deuteronomy 23:18). For money both conscience and chastity are set to sale.
(x) Covetousness is the root of idolatry: ‘Covetousness which is idolatry’ (Colossians 3:5). The covetous person bows down to the image of gold. His money is his god, for he puts his trust in it. Money is his creator. When he has abundance of wealth, then he thinks he is made. It is his redeemer. If he be in any strait or trouble, he flies to his money and that must redeem him. It is his comforter. When he is sad he counts over his money and with this golden harp he drives away the evil spirit. When you see a covetous man, you may say, There goes an idolater.
(xi) Covetousness is the cause of unprofitableness under the means. In the parable the thorns choked the seed (Matthew 13:7). This is the reason the Word preached does no more good. The seed often falls among thorns. Thousands of sermons lie buried in earthly hearts.
(xii) Covetousness is the root of penuriousness and baseness. It hinders hospitality. A covetous man has a withered hand. He cannot reach it out to clothe or feed such as are in want. The covetous person is so sordid that if his estate may flourish he is content to let his name lie dead and buried. What a cursed sin is avarice! And can he be pure in heart that has such a ‘root of bitterness’ growing in him? We may as well say the wine is pure which runs dregs or the body is pure which is full of plague-spots.
6 Those hearts are impure which are ‘haters of purity’ (Micah 3:2), which ‘hate knowledge’ (Proverbs 1:29). Some things in nature have an antipathy; the serpent will not come near the boughs of the wild ash. There is an antipathy in a carnal heart against holiness; and when hatred is boiled up to malice, it is dangerous. Thus Julian maliciously opposed holiness. Making war against the Persians, and receiving a mortal wound through his armour, he threw up an handful of his blood into the air in indignation saying, ‘Thou Galilean, hast thou overcome me?’
7 He that decries purity has an impure heart. ‘There shall come in the last days scoffers’ (Luke 16:14; 2 Peter 3:3). There are some that make a jeer of religion. These are (say they) ‘your holy brethren!’ It is a sign of an Ishmael spirit to scoff at holiness. Are we not commanded to be perfect as God is? (Matthew 5:48). One would wonder that those who dare open their mouths in derision against holiness, the earth does not open her mouth to swallow them up as it did Korah and Dathan. These are devils covered over with flesh. They have damnation written on their foreheads. Lucian who in the time of the Emperor Trajan had professed religion, afterwards became so profane as to make a mock at the Christians and by his jeers and taunts went about to rend religion. At last he himself was rent asunder and devoured by dogs. When the scab of the leper appeared, he was to be shut out of the camp (Leviticus 13:8, 46). Those who flout at religion, if God give them not repentance, are sure to be shut out of the camp of heaven.
I shall next show you the signs of a pure heart.
1 A sincere heart is a pure heart: ‘In whose spirit there is no guile’ (Psalm 32:2). There are four characters of a sincere-hearted Christian.
(i) A sincere heart serves God with the whole heart.
First, he serves God with the heart. The hypocrite does but make a show of obedience. ‘Thou art near in their mouth and far from their reins’ (Jeremiah 12:2). There may be a fair complexion when the lungs and vitals are rotten. The hypocrite is fair to look on. He has a devout eye but a hollow heart. But he who is sincere, his inside is his best side. In the law God would have ‘the inwards’ offered up (Leviticus 4:11). A good Christian gives God ‘the inwards’. When he prays his heart prays. ‘Hannah prayed in her heart’ (1 Samuel 1:13). In his thanksgiving the heart is the chief instrument of praise (Psalm 111:1). Then is the sweetest music when we ‘make melody in our hearts to the Lord’ (Ephesians 5:19).
Secondly, the sincere Christian serves God with the ‘whole heart’ (Psalm 119:2). Hypocrites have a double heart (Psalm 12:2). An heart for God and an heart for sin. ‘Their heart is divided’ (Hosea 10:2). God loves a broken heart, but not a divided heart. An upright heart is a whole heart. The full stream and torrent of the affections runs out after God. A sincere heart ‘follows God fully’ (Numbers 14:24).
(ii) A sincere heart is willing to come under a trial. ‘Search me, O God, and try me’ (Psalm 139:23). That metal is to be suspected which men are afraid to bring to the touchstone. A sound heart likes the touchstone of the Word. It is for a searching ministry. Hypocrites fly from the light of truth; they fly from that light which would discover sin. They hate that physic of the Word which, meeting with their ill humours, begins to make them sick and trouble their conscience. A gracious soul loves that preaching best which makes an heart-anatomy.
Thirdly, a man of sincere heart dares not act in the least against his conscience. He is the most magnanimous, yet the most pusillanimous. He is bold in suffering (Proverbs 28:1) but fearful of sin (Genesis 39:9). He dares not get an estate by sinful shifts, or rise upon the ruins of another. Jacob got his father’s blessing by fraud, but that is not the way to get God’s blessing.
Fourthly, a sincere heart is a suspicious heart. The hypocrite suspects others and has charitable thoughts of himself. The sincere Christian has charitable thoughts of others and suspects himself. He calls himself often to account: O my soul, have you any evidences for heaven? Are they not to seek when they should be to show? Is there no flaw in your evidences? You may mistake common for saving grace. Weeds in the cornfields look like flowers. The foolish virgins’ lamps looked as if they had oil in them. O my soul, is it not so with you? The man of sincere soul, being ever jealous, plays the critic upon himself and so traverses things in the court of conscience as if he were presently to be cited to God’s bar. This is to be pure in heart.
2 A pure heart breathes after purity. If God should stretch out the golden sceptre and say to him, ‘Ask, and it shall be given thee, to half the kingdom’, he would say, ‘Lord, a pure heart!’ Let my heart have this inscription, ‘Holiness to the Lord’. Let my heart be thy temple and do thou dwell in it. Lord, what should I do in heaven with this unholy heart? What converse could I have with God or angels? A gracious soul is so in love with purity that he prizes a pure heart above all blessings.
(i) Above riches; he knows he may be clothed in purple and fine linen, and yet go to hell. He is content to be poor, so long as he may be pure. He knows heart-purity is a special certificate of God’s love. ‘The pure in heart’ shall see God.
(ii) Above gifts: gifts do not at all set us off in God’s eye. A pure heart is the jewel. ‘O woman, great is thy faith!’ (Matthew 15:28). It was not her rhetorical language Christ was taken with, but her faith. Hypocrites have had rare gifts. Saul had the spirit of prophecy. Judas no doubt could make an elegant oration. Hypocrites have come into God’s church loaded with the Egyptian gold of human learning. There may be illumination without sanctification. A small diamond is better than a great deal of brass. A little grace excels the most flourishing parts. Now if the out-goings of your soul are after holiness, you desire rather a pure heart than an eloquent tongue. You have the oil of the Spirit poured on you and you shall be crowned with a sight of God.
3 A pure heart abhors all sin. A man may forbear and forsake sin, yet not have a pure heart.
(i) He may forbear sin as one may hold his breath while he dives under water, and then take breath again. And a man may forbear sin for want of occasion. The gunpowder makes no noise till the fire be put to it. The clock stands still till the weights are put on. Let a temptation come, which is like the hanging on of the weights, and the heart goes as fast in sin as ever.
(ii) He may forbear sin for fear of the penalty. A man forbears a dish he loves for fear it should bring his disease upon him of the stone or gout. There is conflict in a sinner between the passions of desire and fear. Desire spurs him on to sin, but fear as a curb and bit checks him. Nor is it the crookedness of the serpent he fears, but the sting of the serpent.
(iii) He may forbear sin out of a design. He has a plot in hand and his sin might spoil his plot. Some rich heir would fly out in excess, but he carries it fair to prevent a cutting off the entail. How good was Joash while Jehoiada the priest lived! Prudence as well as conscience may restrain from sin.
Again, a man may forsake sin yet not have a pure heart. It is a great matter, I confess, to forsake sin. So dear is sin to men that they will part with the fruit of their body for the sin of their souls. Sin is the Delilah that bewitches, and it is much to see men divorced from it. This is some fruit of the ministry to civilise, but there may be a forsaking of sin, yet no heart purity. Sin may be forsaken upon wrong principles.
From morality: moral arguments may suppress sin. I have read of a debauched heathen who, hearing Socrates ’ read an ethical lecture of virtue and vice (though he came with a purpose to deride Socrates, yet) he went away changed and no more followed his former exorbitancies. Cato, Seneca, Aristides, seeing beauty in virtue, led unblameable lives.
From policy: a man may forsake sin, not out of respect to God’s glory, but his own credit. Vice will waste his estate, eclipse the honour of his family, therefore out of policy he will divorce his sin.
From necessity. Perhaps he can now follow the trade of sin no longer. The adulterer is grown old, the drunkard poor. His heart is toward sin, but either his purse fails him or his strength; as a man that loves hunting, but his prison-fetters will not suffer him to follow the sport. This man, who is necessitated to put a stop to sin, does not so much forsake sin as sin forsakes him.
But he is pure in God’s eye who abhors sin. ‘I hate every false way’ (Psalm 119:104). This is excellent indeed, because now the love of sin is crucified. A hypocrite may leave sin, yet love it; as the serpent casts her coat, yet keeps her sting. But when a man can say he abhors sin, now is sin killed in the root. A pure heart abstains from sin, as a man does from a dish that he has an antipathy against. This is a sign of a new nature, when a man hates what he once loved; and because he hates sin therefore he fights against it with the ’sword of the Spirit’, as a man that hates a serpent seeks the destruction of it.
4 A pure heart avoids the appearance of evil. ‘Abstain from all show of evil’ (1 Thessalonians 5:22). A pure heart avoids that which may be interpreted as evil. He that is loyal to his prince not only forbears to have his hand in treason, but he takes heed of that which has a show of treason. A gracious heart is shy of that which looks like sin. When Joseph’s mistress took hold of him and said, ‘Lie with me’, he left his garment in her hand and fled from her (Genesis 39:12). He avoided the appearance of evil. He would not be seen in her company. Thus a pure heart avoids whatever may have the suspicion of sin:
(i) In regard of himself, and that two ways. First, because the appearance of evil is oftentimes an occasion of evil. Effeminate dalliance is an appearance of evil, and many times occasions evil. Had Joseph been familiar with his mistress in a wanton sporting manner, he might in time have been drawn to commit folly with her. Some out of novelty and curiosity have gone to hear mass, and afterwards have lent the idol not only their ear but their knee. In our times are there not many who have gone with itching ears into sectarian company and have come home with the plague in their head? When Dinah would be gadding, she lost her chastity (Genesis 34:2). A pure heart foreseeing the danger avoids the appearance of evil. It is dangerous to go near a hornets’ nest. The men who went near the furnace were burned (Daniel 3:22). Second, because the appearance of evil may eclipse his good name. A good name is a precious ointment. It is better than ‘fine gold’ (Proverbs 22:1). It commends us to God and angels, which riches cannot do. Now a godly man avoids the appearance of evil, lest he wound his good name. What comfort can there be of life, when the name lies buried?
(ii) A pure heart avoids the suspicion of sin out of reverence and respect to the holiness of God. God hates the very appearance of evil. God abhors hypocrites because they have no more than the appearance of good, and he is angry with his children if they have so much as the appearance of evil. A gracious heart knows God is a jealous God and cannot endure that his people should border upon sin. Therefore he keeps aloof off and will not come near the smell of infection.
(iii) A pure heart avoids the show of sin in regard of the godly. The appearance of evil may scandalise a weak brother. A gracious heart is not only fearful lest he should defile his own conscience, but lest he should offend his brother’s conscience. Were it only a thing indifferent, yet if it be an appearance of evil and may grieve another, we are to forbear (1 Corinthians 10:25-28). For ‘when we sin against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, we sin against Christ’ (1 Corinthians 8:12). The weak Christian is a member of Christ. Therefore the sinning against a member is a sinning against Christ.
(iv) A pure heart avoids the very appearance of evil in regard of the wicked. The apostle would have us walk wisely ‘towards them that are without’ (1 Thessalonians 4:12). The wicked watch for our halting. How glad would they be of anything to reproach religion? Professors are placed as stars in the highest orb of the church, and if there be but the appearance of any eccentric, or irregular motion, the wicked would presently open their mouths with a fresh cry against religion. Now to a godly heart the fame and honour of the gospel is so dear that he had rather die than impeach or eclipse it. By this then let us try ourselves whether we are pure in heart. Do we avoid the least apparition of sin? Alas, how many run themselves into the occasions of sin! They tempt the devil to tempt them. Some go to masques and comedies, the very fuel and temptation to lust. Others frequent erroneous meetings, and truly God often in just judgement leaves them to the acts of sin, that do not avoid the appearance of sin. ‘They were mingled among the heathen and learned their works’ (Psalm 106:35). Pure hearts fly the occasion. John would not endure the company of Cerinthus in the bath, as Nicephorus notes. Polycarp would have no conference with Marcion the heretic, but called him ‘the devil’s firstborn’. Basil says that the Christians in his time avoided the meetings of sectaries as the ‘very schools of error’. Oh, avoid the appearance of evil. The apostle bids us to follow those things which are ‘of good report’ (Philippians 4:8).
5 A pure heart performs holy duties in an holy manner. This holy manner, or due order, consists in three things:
(i) Preparing the heart before a duty. An unholy heart does not care how it rushes upon an ordinance. It comes without preparation and goes away without profit. The pure heart is a prepared heart. It dresses itself, before it comes to a duty, by examination and ejaculation. When the earth is prepared, then it is fit to receive the seed. When the instrument is prepared and tuned it is fit for music.
(ii) Watching the heart in a duty. An holy heart labours to be affected and wrought upon. His heart burns within him. There was no sacrifice without fire. A pure saint labours to have his heart broken in a duty (Psalm 51:17). The incense, when it was broken, cast the sweetest savour. Impure souls care not in what a dead or perfunctory manner they serve God (Ezekiel 33:31). They pray more out of fashion than out of faith. They are no more affected with an ordinance than the tombs of the church. God complains of offering up the blind (Malachi 1:8). And is it not as bad to offer up the dead? O Christian, say to yourself, How can this deadness of heart stand with pureness of heart? Do not dead things putrefy?
(iii) Outward reverence. Purity of heart will express itself by the reverend gesture of the body, the lifting up of the eye and hand, the uncovering the head, the bending the knee. Constantine the Emperor bore great reverence to the Word. When God gave the law, ‘the mount was on fire and trembled’ (Exodus 19:18). The reason was that the people might prostrate themselves more reverently before the Lord. The ark wherein the law was put was carried upon bars that the Levites might not touch it (Exodus 25:11, 14). To show what reverence God would have about holy things: sitting in prayer (unless in case of weakness) and having the hat half on in prayer, is a very indecent, irreverent practice. Let such as are guilty reform it. We must not only offer up our souls, but our bodies (Romans 12:1). The Lord takes notice what posture and gesture we use in his worship. If a man were to deliver a petition to the king, would he deliver it with his hat half on? The careless irreverence of some would make us think they did not much regard whether God heard them or no. We are run from one extreme to another, from superstition to unmannerliness. Let Christians think of the dreadful majesty of God who is present. ‘How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven’ (Genesis 28:17). The blessed angels ‘cover their faces crying, Holy, holy holy’ (Isaiah 6:3). An holy heart will have an holy gesture.
6 A pure heart will have a pure life. ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God’. (2 Corinthians 7:1). Where there is a good conscience there will be a good conversation. Some bless God they have good hearts, but their lives are evil. ‘There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes and yet is not washed from their filthiness’ (Proverbs 30:12). If the stream be corrupt we may suspect the spring-head to be impure. Aaron was called the saint of the Lord (Psalm 106:16). He had not only an holy heart, but there was a golden plate on his forehead on which was written ‘Holiness to the Lord’. Purity must not only be woven into the heart but engraver upon the life. Grace is most beautiful when it shines abroad with its golden beams. The clock has not only its motion within, but the finger moves without upon the dial. Pureness of heart shows itself upon the dial of the conversation.
(i) A pure soul talks of God (Psalm 37:30). His heart is seen in his tongue. The Latins call the roof of the mouth Caelum (heaven). He that is pure in heart, his mouth is full of heaven.
(ii) He walks with God (Genesis 6:9). He is still doing angel’s work, praising God, serving God. He lives as Christ did upon earth. Holy duties are the Jacob’s ladder by which he is still ascending to heaven. Purity of heart and life are in Scripture made twins. ‘I will put my Spirit within you’ (Ezekiel 36:27); there is purity of heart. ‘And cause you to walk in my statutes’; there is purity of life. Shall we account them pure whose conversation is not in heaven (Philippians 3:20), but rather in hell? ‘Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances and with the bag of deceitful weights?’ (Micah 6:11). How justly may others reproach religion when they see it kicked down with our unholy feet! A pure heart has a golden frontispiece. Grace like new wine will have vent; it can be no more concealed than lost. The saints are called ‘jewels’ (Malachi 3:17), because of that shining lustre they cast in the eyes of others.
7 A pure heart is so in love with purity that nothing can draw him off from it.
(i) Let others reproach purity, he loves it. As David, when he danced before the ark, and Michal scoffed, if (says he) this be to be vile, ‘I will yet be more vile’ (2 Samuel 6:22). So says a pure heart: If to follow after holiness be to be vile, I will yet be more vile. Let water be sprinkled upon the fire, it burns the more. The more others deride holiness, the more a gracious soul burns in love and zeal to it. If a man had an inheritance befallen him, would he be laughed out of it? What is a Christian the worse for another’s reproach? A blind man’s disparaging a diamond does not make it sparkle the less.
(ii) Let others persecute holiness, a pure heart will pursue it. Holiness is the queen every gracious soul is espoused to and he will rather die than be divorced. Paul would be holy, ‘though bonds and persecutions did abide him’ (Acts 20:23). The way of religion is often thorny and bloody, but a gracious heart prefers inward purity before outward peace. I have heard of one who, having a jewel he much prized, the king sent for his jewel. Tell the king (says he) I honour his Majesty, but I will rather lose my life than part with my jewel. He who is enriched with the jewel of holiness will rather die than part with this jewel. When his honour and riches will do him no good, his holiness will stand him instead. ‘Ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life’.
Let me persuade Christians to heart purity. The harlot ‘wipes her mouth’ (Proverbs 30:20). But that is not enough. ‘Wash thine heart, O Jerusalem’ (Jeremiah 4:14). And here I shall lay down some arguments or motives to persuade to heart purity.
1 The necessity of heart-purity. It is necessary:
(i) In respect of ourselves. Till the heart be pure, all our holy things are polluted. They are ’splendid sins’. To the unclean all things are unclean (Titus 1:15). Their offering is unclean. Under the law, if a man who was unclean by a dead body, carried a piece of holy flesh in his skirt, the holy flesh could not cleanse him, but he polluted that. (Haggai 2:12,13). He who had the leprosy, whatever he touched was unclean. If he had touched the altar or sacrifice, the altar had not cleansed him, but he had defiled the altar. A foul hand defiles the purest water. An impure heart defiles prayers, sacraments. He drops poison upon all. A pure stream running through muddy ground is polluted. The holiest ordinances are stained, running through an impure heart. A sinner’s works are called ‘dead works’ (Hebrews 6:1). And those works which are dead cannot please God. A dead wife cannot please her husband.
(ii) Heart purity is necessary in respect of God. God is holy. Purity is the chief robe wherewith God himself is clothed. ‘Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil’ (Habakkuk 1:13). And will this holy God endure to have an impure heart come near him? Will a man lay a viper in his bosom? The holy God and the sinner cannot dwell together. None can dwell together but friends, but there is no friendship between God and the sinner, both of them being of a contrary judgement and disposition. An impure heart is more odious to God than a serpent. God gave the serpent its venom, but Satan fills the heart with sin. ‘Why hath Satan filled thine heart?’ (Acts 5:3). The Lord abhors a sinner. He will not come near him, having his plague-sores running. ‘My soul loathed them’ (Zechariah 11:8).
(iii) Heart purity is necessary in regard of angels. They are pure creatures. The Cherubims, which typified the angels, were made of fine gold to denote the purity of their essence. No unholy thought enters into the angels, therefore there must be purity of heart that there may be some resemblance between us and them. What should unholy hearts do among those pure angelic spirits?
(iv) In regard of the saints glorified. They are pure, being refined from all lees and dregs of sin. Their title is ’spirits of just men made perfect’ (Hebrews 12:23). Now what should profane spirits do among ’spirits made perfect’? I tell you, if you who wallow in your sins could come near God and angels and spirits of men made perfect, and have a sight of their lustre, you would soon wish yourselves out of their company. As a man that is dirty and in his rags, if he should stand before the king and his nobles and see them glistering in their cloth of gold and sparkling with their jewels, he would be ashamed of himself, and wish himself out of their presence.
(v) There must be heart purity in regard of heaven. Heaven is a pure place. It is an ‘inheritance undefiled’ (1 Peter 1:4). No unclean beasts come into the heavenly ark. There shall not enter into it ‘anything that defileth’ (Revelation 21:27). The Lord will not put the new wine of glory into a musty impure heart, all which considered shows the necessity of heart purity.
2 It is the will of God that we should be pure in heart. ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Are you low in the world? Perhaps it is not the will of God that you should be rich, but it is the will of God that you should be holy. ‘This is the will of God, your sanctification’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Let God have his will by being holy, and you shall have your will by being happy. God’s will must either be fulfilled by us or upon us.
3 Purity of heart is the characteristic note of God’s people. ‘God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart’ (Psalm 73:1). Heart-purity denominates us the ‘Israel of God’. It is not profession which makes us the Israel of God. It makes us of Israel indeed, but ‘all are not Israel, which are of Israel’ (Romans 9:6). Purity of heart is the jewel which is hung only upon the elect. As chastity distinguishes a virtuous woman from an harlot, so the true saint is distinguished from the hypocrite by his heart-purity. This is like the nobleman’s star or garter, which is a peculiar ensign of honour, differing him from the vulgar. When the bright star of purity shines in a Christian’s heart, it distinguishes him from a formal professor.
4 Purity of heart makes us like God. It was Adam’s unhappiness once, that he aspired to be like God in omniscience; but we must endeavour to be like God in sanctity. God’s image consists in holiness. To those who do not have this image and superscription upon them, he will say ‘I know you not’. God delights in no heart but where he may see his own face and likeness. You cannot see your face in a glass when it is dusty. God’s face cannot be seen in a dusty impure soul. A pure heart (like a clean glass) gives forth some idea and representation of God. There is little comfort in being like God in other things besides purity. Are we like God in that we have a being? So have stones. Are we like him in that we have motion? So have stars. Are we like him in that we have life? So have trees and birds. Are we like him in that we have knowledge? So have devils. There is no likeness to God will prove comfortable and blissful, but our being like him in purity. God loves the pure in heart. Love is founded upon likeness.
5 The excellency of the heart lies in the purity of it. Purity was the glory of the soul in innocence. The purer a thing is, the better. The purer the air is, and the more free from noxious vapours, the better it is. The spirits of water distilled are most precious. The purer the gold is, the more valuable. The purer the wine is when it is taken off from the lees and dregs, the more excellent it is. The more the soul is clarified by grace and taken off from the lees and dregs of sin, the more precious account God makes of it. The purer the heart is, the more spiritual it is, and the more spiritual the more fit to entertain him who is a Spirit.
6 God is good to the pure in heart. ‘God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart’ (Psalm 73:1). We all desire that God should be good to us. It is the sick man’s prayer, ‘The Lord be good to me’. God is good to such as are of a clean heart.
But how is God good to them? Two ways —
(i) To them that are pure, all things are sanctified. ‘To the pure all things are pure’ (Titus 1:15). Estate is sanctified, relations are sanctified, as the temple sanctified the gold and the altar sanctified the offering. To the unclean nothing is clean. Their table is a snare; their temple-devotion is sin. There is a curse entailed upon a wicked man (Deuteronomy 28:15-20), but holiness removes the curse and cuts off the entail. ‘To the pure all things are pure’.
(ii) The pure-hearted have all things work for their good (Romans 8:28). Mercies and afflictions shall turn to their good. The most poisonful drug shall be medicinable. The most cross providence shall carry on the design of their salvation. Who then would not be pure in heart? ‘God is good to such as are of a clean heart’.
7 Heart purity makes way for heaven. The pure in heart ’shall see God’. Happiness is nothing but the quintessence of holiness. Purity of heart is heaven begun in a man. Holiness is called in Scripture ‘the anointing of God’ (1 John 2:27). Solomon was first anointed with the holy oil, and then he was made king (1 Kings 1:39). The people of God are first anointed with the oil of the Spirit and made pure in heart, and then the crown of glory is set upon their head. And is not purity to be highly valued? It lays a train for glory. ‘Purity of heart’ and ’seeing of God’ are linked together.
8 Note the examples of those who have been eminent for heart-purity. The Lord Jesus was a pattern of purity. ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’ (John 8:46). In this we are to imitate Christ. We are not to imitate him in raising the dead or in working miracles, but in being holy (1 Peter 1:16). Besides this golden pattern of Christ, we are to write after the fair copy of those saints who have been of a dove-like purity. David was so pure in heart, that he was a man ‘after God’s heart’. Abraham was so purified by faith that he was one of God’s cabinet-counsel (Genesis 18:17). Moses was so holy that God spake with him face to face. What were the rest of the patriarchs but so many plants of renown flourishing in holiness? The fathers in the primitive church were exemplary for purity. Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Augustine, they were so inlaid and adorned with purity that envy itself could not tax them. Therefore, as Caesar wished he had such soldiers as were in the time of Alexander the Great, so we may wish we had such saints as were in the primitive times, so just were they in their dealings, so decent in their attire, so true in their promises, so devout in their religion, so unblameable in their lives that they were living sermons, walking Bibles, real pictures of Christ, and helped to keep up the credit of godliness in the world.
9 Heart-purity is the only jewel you can carry out of the world. Have you a child you delight in, or an estate? You can ‘carry nothing out of the world’ (1 Timothy 6:7). Purity of heart is the only commodity that can be with comfort transported. This is that will stay longest with you. Usually we love those things which last longest. We prize a diamond or piece of gold above the most beautiful flower, because fading. Heart-purity has perpetuity. It will go with us beyond the grave.
But how shall we attain to heart-purity?
1 Often look into the Word of God. ‘Now ye are clean through the word’ (John 15:3). ‘Thy word is very pure’ (Psalm 119:140). God’s Word is pure, not only for the matter of it, but the effect, because it makes us pure. ‘Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth’ (John 17:17). By looking into this pure crystal we are changed into the image of it. The Word is both a glass to show us the spots of our souls and a laver to wash them away. The Word breathes nothing but purity; it irradiates the mind; it consecrates the heart.
2 Go to the bath. There are two baths Christians should wash in.
(i) The bath of tears. Go into this bath. Peter had sullied and defiled himself with sin and he washed himself with penitential tears. Mary Magdalene, who was an impure sinner, ’stood at Jesus’ feet weeping’ (Luke 7:38). Mary’s tears washed her heart as well as Christ’s feet. Oh sinners, let your eyes be a fountain of tears! Weep for those sins which are so many as have passed all arithmetic. This water of contrition is healing and purifying.
(ii) The bath of Christ’s blood. This is that ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’ (Zechariah 13:1). A soul steeped in the brinish tears of repentance and bathed in the blood of Christ is made pure. This is that ’spiritual washing’. All the legal washings and purifications were but types and emblems representing Christ’s blood. This blood lays the soul a-whitening.
3 Get faith. It is a soul-cleansing grace. ‘Having purified their hearts by faith’ (Acts 15:9). The woman in the gospel that but touched the hem of Christ’s garment was healed. A touch of faith heals. If I believe Christ and all his merits are mine, how can I sin against him? We do not willingly injure those friends who, we believe, love us. Nothing can have a greater force and efficacy upon the heart to make it pure than faith. Faith will remove mountains, the mountains of pride, lust, envy. Faith and the love of sin are inconsistent.
4 Breathe after the Spirit. He is called the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). It purgeth the heart as lightning purgeth the air. That we may see what a purifying virtue the Spirit has, it is compared:
(i) To fire (Acts 2:3). Fire is of a purifying nature. It refines and cleans metals. It separates the dross from the gold. The Spirit of God in the heart refines and sanctifies it. It burns up the dross of sin.
(ii) The Spirit is compared to wind. ‘There came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 2:24). The wind purifies the air. When the air by reason of foggy vapours is unwholesome, the wind is a fan to winnow and purify it. Thus when the vapours of sin arise in the heart, vapours of pride and covetousness, earthly vapours, the Spirit of God arises and blows upon the soul and so purges away these impure vapours. The spouse in the Canticles prays for a gale of the Spirit, that she might be made pure (4:16).
(iii) The Spirit is compared to water. ‘He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; but this spake he of the Spirit’ (John 7:38, 39). The Spirit is like water, not only to make the soul fruitful, for it causes the desert to blossom as the rose (Isaiah 32:15; 35:1), but the Spirit is like water to purify. Whereas, before, the heart of a sinner was unclean and whatever he touched had a tincture of impurity (Numbers 19:22), when once the Spirit comes into the heart, it does with its continual showers wash off the filthiness of it, making it pure and fit for the God of spirits to dwell in.
5 Take heed of familiar converse and intercourse with the wicked. One vain mind makes another. One hard heart makes another. The stone in the body is not infectious, but the stone in the heart is. One profane spirit poisons another. Beware of the society of the wicked.
Some may object: But what hurt is in this? Did not Jesus converse with sinners? (Luke 5:29).
(i) There was a necessity for that. If Jesus had not come among sinners, how could any have been saved? He went among sinners, not to join with them in their sins. He was not a companion of sinners but a physician of sinners.
(ii) Though Christ did converse with sinners, he could not be polluted with their sin. His divine nature was a sufficient antidote to preserve him from infection. Christ could be no more defiled with their sin than the sun is defiled by shining on a dunghill. Sin could no more stick on Christ than a burr on a glass of crystal. The soil of his heart was so pure that no viper of sin could breed there. But the case is altered with us. We have a stock of corruption within and the least thing will increase this stock. Therefore it is dangerous mingling ourselves among the wicked. If we would be pure in heart let us shun their society. He that would preserve his garment clean avoids the dirt. The wicked are as the mire (Isaiah 57:20). The fresh waters running among the salt taste brackish.
6 If you would be pure, walk with them that are pure. As the communion of the saints is in our Creed, so it should be in our company. ‘He that walketh with the wise shall be wise’ (Proverbs 13:20), and he that walketh with the pure shall be pure. The saints are like a bed of spices. By intermixing ourselves with them we shall partake of their savouriness. Association begets assimilation. Sometimes God blesses good society to the conversion of others.
7 Wait at the posts of wisdom’s doors. Reverence the word preached. The Word of God sucked in by faith (Hebrews 4:2) transforms the heart into the likeness of it (Romans 6:17). The word is an holy seed (James 1:18), which being cast into the heart makes it partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
8 Pray for heart purity. Job propounds the question, ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?’ (Job 14:4; 15:14). God can do it. Out of an impure heart he can produce grace. Pray that prayer of David, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psalm 51:10). Most men pray more for full purses than pure hearts. We should pray for heart-purity fervently. It is a matter we are most nearly concerned in. ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14). Our prayer must be with sighs and groans (Romans 8:23-26). There must not only be elocution but affection. Jacob wrestled in prayer (Genesis 32:24). Hannah poured out her soul (1 Samuel 1:15). We often pray so coldly (our petitions even freezing between our lips), as if we would teach God to deny. We pray as if we cared not whether God heard us or no. Oh Christian, be earnest with God for a pure heart. Lay your heart before the Lord and say, Lord, Thou who hast given me a heart, give me a pure heart. My heart is good for nothing as it is. It defiles everything it touches. Lord, I am not fit to live with this heart, for I cannot honour thee; nor to die with it, for I cannot see thee. Oh purge me with hyssop. Let Christ’s blood be sprinkled upon me. Let the Holy Ghost descend upon me. ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’. Thou who biddest me give thee my heart, Lord, make my heart pure and thou shalt have it.
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