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However exact any man may be in the external observance of moral, instituted duties, if he be careful to wrong no man, and can say, as the young Pharisee did, “ All these have I kept from my youth,” i. e. as to an external observance, if he be very strict in keeping the Sabbath and in coming to the house of God, in attending family and secret prayer, yet if he has not holiness of heart, he is never like to see God. It is no reformation of manners that is sufficient, but there must be a new heart, and a right spirit. It is the heart that God requires. Prov. xxiii. 26. “My son, give me thine heart.” It is the heart that God looks at. However fair and pure an outside there may be, that may be very pleasing to men, yet if there be not purity of heart, the man is not at all the more acceptable to God. 1 Sam. xvi. 7. “ But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have resused bim; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appear-, ance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” If men outwardly behave well and speak well, yet it is not accepted without trying and weighing the heart. Prov. xvi. 2. “All the ways of man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirits.” It is the spirit which is the subject of this blessedness of seeing God, and therefore the qualities of the spirit, and not so much those of the outward man, are regarded.
Now the heart is said to be pure in the sense of the text,
First. With respect to the spiritual defilement from which it is pure ;
Secondly. With respect to certain positive qualities that it is endowed with.
The word pure, in its common acceptation, merely signifies something negative, viz. the absence of all mixture or defilement; but in pureness of heart, as it is used in scripture, seems to be implied both something negative and positive, not only the absence or removal of defilement, but also positive qualities, that are called pure.
First. The heart is said to be pure with respect to the filthiness from which it is pure. Sin is the greatest filthiness. There is nothing that can so defile and render so abominable. It is that which has an infinite abominableness in it; and indeed it is the only spiritual defilement; there is nothing else that can defile the soul. Now there are none in this life who are pure from sin in such a sense that there is no remainder, no mixture of sin. Prov. XX. 9. “ Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin ?" So that if this were the requisite qualification, none of the children of men would ever come to see God.
But the purity of heart with respect to sin, that may be obtained in this life, consists in the following things :
1st. It implies that the soul sees the filthiness that there is in sin, and accordingly abhors it. Sin, that is so filthy in itself, is become so sensibly to the man whose heart is pure; he sees its odiousness and deformity, and it is become nauseous to him.
To those animals which are of a filthy and impure nature, as swine and dogs, ravens and vermin, those things that are filthy and nauseous to mankind, do not seem at all disgusting; but on the contrary they love them, it is food that suits their appetites. It is because they are of an impure and filthy nature; the nature of the animal is agreeable to such things. So it is with men of impure hearts. They see no filthiness in sin, they do not nauseate it, it is in no way uncomfortable to them to have it hanging about them, they can wallow in it without any reluctance; yea, they take pleasure in it, it is their meat and their drink, because they are of an impure nature. But he who has become pure in heart bates sin; he has an antipathy to it; he does not love to be near it; if he sees any of it hanging about him, he abhors himself for it; he seems filthy to himself, he is a burden to himself, he abhors the very sight of it, and shuns the appearance of it. If he sees sin in others, it is a very unpleasant sight to him; as sin, and as committed against God, it is grievous and uncomfortable to bim wherever he discovers it. It is because his heart is changed, and God has given him a pure nature. 2d. It implies godly sorrow for sin. The
heart has not only respect to that spiritual filthiness that is present to abhor it and shun it, but it has also respect to past sin. The consideration of that grieves it; it causes shame and sorrow to think that it ever rejoiced in such defilement, that it ever was so abominable as to love it and feed upon it. Every transgression leaves a filih behind it upon the soul, and this remaining filth occasions pain to the renewed and purified heart. By godly sorrow the heart exerts itself against the filthiness of past sins, and does, as it were, endeavour to cast it off, and purge itself from it.
3d. It implies that sin is mortified in the heart, so that it is free from the reigning power and dominion of it. Though the heart is not perfectly free from all sin, yet a freedom is begun. Before, spiritual filth had the possession of the heart, corruption had the entire government of the soul, every faculty was so wholly defiled by it, that all its acts were filthy, and only filthy, the heart was entirely enslaved to sin.
But now the power of sin is broken, the strong bands by which it was tied and fastened to the heart are in a great measure loosed, so that corruption has no longer the possession and government of the heart as before. The principal seat, the throne of the heart, that was formerly possessed by corruption, is now purged, and filthiness does now as it were only possess the inferior and
exterior parts of the soul. John xiii. 10. “He that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet.”
4th. The heart that is pure will be continually endeavouring to cleanse itself from all remaining filthiness. Though there be remains of impurity, yet the new nature is so contrary to it that it will never rest or be quiet, but will always be cleansing itself ; like a vessel of fermenting liquor, it will continue working, till it has worked itself clear, and cast off all the filth, and sediment. Or like a stream of good water, if the water be in itself sweet and good, however it may be defiled from the muddy banks, it will refine as it runs, and will run itself clear again, but the fountain that yields impure water will never cleanse itself. So he who is pure in heart will never suffer himself to live in any sin. If he be overtaken in a fault he will return and cleanse himself again by repentance, and reformation, and a more earnest care that he may avoid that sin for the future.
The remaining corruption that is in his heart will be his great and continual burden, and he will be endeavouring to cleanse himself more and more; he will not rest in any supposed degree of purity, so long as he sees any degree of impurity remaining, but he will be striving after progress in the mortification of sin and in the increase of holiness.
5th. The heart is said to be pure, especially with respect to its cleanness from, and opposition io, the lust of uncleanness. This kind of wickedness we find to be more especially called uncleanness and filehiness in scripture ; it brings a peculiar turpitude upon the soul, and defiles the temple of God. i Cor. iii. 17. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”
Pureness in scripture is sometimes used only in this restrained sense, with respect to freedom from fleshly impurities. So it seems to be, Philip. iv. 8. “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
Now this sort of purity of heart is absolutely necessary in order to our coming to see God. There must be a renunciation of all impure and lascivious practices and conversation. They who live in the indulgence of such a lust in one kind of practice or
or though it be only with their eyes or in their thoughts, are of impure hearts, and shall never come to see God unless they have new hearts given them.
They that have pure hearts, abhor and are afraid of such things. Jude 23. They take heed that they do not prostitute their souls to
so much as mental and imaginary, much less to practical, impurities, and works of darkness.
Secondly. The heart is said to be pure, in respect to its being endowed with positive qualities, that are of a contrary nature to spiritual filthiness.
Though purity in strictness be only a freedom from filth, yet there are positive qualities of mind that seem to be implied in purity of heart; which may be reckoned a part of it, because of their contrariety to filthiness. The heart by reason of them is still more remote from defilement, as a greater light may be said to be purer than a lesser; for although the lesser light has no mixture of darkness, yet the greater light is still more remote from darkness.
1st. He is pure in heart, who delights in holy exercises. Those exercises that are holy are natural and pleasant to him, he sees the beauty there is in holiness, and that beauty has such strong influence upon his heart that he is captivated thereby. He delights in the pure and holy exercise of love to God, in the fear of God, in praising and glorifying God, and in pure and holy love to men. He delights in holy thoughts and meditations. Those exercises of the understanding that are holy, are most agreeable to him, and those exercises of the will. Such inclinations, desires, and affections, are most delightful, which are spiritual and holy.
2d. He is pure in heart, who chooses and takes the greatest delight in spiritual enjoyment. A spiritual appetite is that which governs in his soul, and carries him above the mean lust and defiled enjoyments of this world, towards spiritual and heavenly objects. The enjoyments which he chooses and chiefly desires, such as seeing God and enjoying communion with him, are enjoyments of the most refined and pure nature. He hungers and thirsts after the pure light of the New Jerusalem.
2. To be pure in heart is the sure way to obtain the blessedness of seeing God. This is the divine road to the blissful and glorious presence of God, which, if we take it, will infallibly lead us thither,
God is the giver of the pure heart, and he gives it for this very end; that it may be prepared for the blessedness of seeing him. Thus we are taught in the scriptures. The people of God are sanctified, and their hearts are made pure, that they may be prepared for glory, as vessels are prepared by the potter for the use he designs. They are elected from all eternity to eternal life, and have purity of heart given them, on purpose to fit them for that to which they are chosen. Rom. ix. 23." And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared to glory.”
We read of the church being arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, by which is signified the church's purity; and it was to fit it for the enjoyment of Christ. Rev. xix. 7, 8. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to bim; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready; and to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen clean and white : for the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints." And in the xxi. chap. 2 verse, the church thus purified, is said to be as a bride adorned for her husband. " And I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” Therefore if God gives the pure heart to fit and prepare us for the vision of himself, he will obtain his own end; for who can prevent him from doing what he purposes ?
God also hath promised it. He hath given his faithful word for it in our text; and to the same purpose is Ps. xxiv. 3, 4. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? and who shall stand in his holy place ? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not listed up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully." And again, Isaiah xxxiii. 15, 16, 17. “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly: he that despiseth the gain of oppression, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; he shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munition of rocks: bread shall be given him; his water shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off.”
3. This is the only way to come to this blessedness.
First. It is no way fit or suitable that those who have not pure hearts, should be admitted to this privilege. It would be most unsuitable for those who are all over defiled with the most loathsome filth, to be admitted into the glorious presence of the King of heaven and earth. It would not become the majesty of God, to allow those who are so abominable to come into his blessed presence; nor is it at all becoming his holiness, whereby be is of purer eyes than to behold such pollution.
It becomes persons when they come into the presence of a king, 50 to attire themselves, that they may not appear in a sordid habit, and it would be much more unsuitable still, for any to come all defiled with filth ; but sin is that which renders the soul much more loathsome in the sight of God. This spiritual Glth is of a nature most disagreeable to that pure, heavenly light; it would be most unsuitable to have the pollution of sin and wickedness, and the light of glory, mixed together; and it is what God never will suffer. It would be a most unbecoming thing for such to be the objects of God's favour, and to see the love of God, and to receive VOL. VIII.