Page images
PDF
EPUB

self-commendatory prayers, their pompous deeds of charity, their broad phylacteries, in His all-seeing eye, were but so many splendid embellishments of concealed corruption. Therefore, said he to the audience now assembled ; “Ye suppose these persons happy who wear the mask of purity, and whom the world accounts holy men. But in this supposition, ye are mistaken; blessed are they, whose religion is undefiled by selfish and carnal purposes, whose hearts are purified by faith, whose tempers are chastened and obedient, and whose spirit is cleansed from hypocrisy and deceit. Such shall see the hand, and enjoy the presence, of God in this life, and realize the beatific vision of his face in the life to come." “ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” In the further illustration of this passage, I shall request your attention to the two leading divisions of the subject.

I. THE PURITY INTENDED; AND
II. THE BLESSING TO WHICH IT SHALL LEAD.

I. LET US CONSIDER THE PURITY OF HEART WHICH IS HERE INTENDED.

We often find in the sacred volume purity and impurity, applied to the hearts and works of men ; the former term signifying moral goodness, the other sin. The figure is very expressive and perfectly intelligible. As external cleanliness is naturally pleasing to men, and the opposite disgusting, so that which is virtuous and holy is approved by Him, “who is of purer eyes than that he can behold iniquity,” while that which is evil is odious and abominable in his sight.—The Jews would very readily understand the comparison. Purity was much inculcated in their law, which contained so many ordinances concerning ceremonial uncleanness and its purification ; on account, it is not improbable, to put them in mind of the malignity of sin, and

[ocr errors]

the necessity of the divine sacrifice of “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

By the “ heart,” we are to understand, the inward part of man, comprehending the mind and soul with all their faculties and affections ; purposes and inclinations; the secret recesses into which mortal eyes cannot penetrate. In this figurative sense, our Lord uses the word in several instances, particularly in his address to the people on the proper test of character.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”* That is, the streams are always of the same quality with the fountain, whether sweet or bitter. The foliage and branches are of the same kind with the stock that bears them. Before we can bring forth good fruit we must be renovated. This is implied in the question, “ do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?”of There may, indeed, be the semblance of purity in the life when there is no real principle of holiness in the heart. Of this species of dissimulation, our Lord speaks in the strongest terms of reprehension : 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 excess.”# And of the same persons the prophet Esaias did prophecy, saying, “This people draweth nigb unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips ; but their heart is far from me. S"

It has, indeed, been well observed, “ that the vanity of a mere outside appearance of religion and virtue, is so easily proved and so clearly seen, that it is an amazing circumstance that the multitude in all ages should rest

“ Woe

Luke vi. 45.

+ Matt. vii. 16.

Matt. xxiii. 25.

Matt. xv. 8.

satisfied with it, and die in the delusion." Let us, therefore, seriously inquire into the nature of that quality of the heart and of the mind, which is exhibited in such an important light in the word of truth, and to which the greatest of all privileges is appended. The word “ pure” signifies freedom from alloy. It may be defined by a reference to water, clear and transparent, without a particle of dust or any other substance to defile it. Or, in allusion to wine, genuine and real, without any other liquid whatever. And also to a garment, perfectly clean from every spot, and free from the slightest stain of pollution. Hence the purity of heart expressed in the text, is by David called a clean heart and a right spirit. Not that we can för a moment suppose it to consist in having the heart emptied of all sin, and without any improper affection or inclination, for in this case who could be saved ? Tell me, ye who believe that perfect holiness is attainable in the present life, whether men have not sinful desires and evil dispositions which will sometimes show themselves, in defiance of all professions of purity? Have not the best of saints ever lamented the mortifying fact, that, although sin does not reign in their mortal body, yet it remains within them, and will sometimes powerfully rebel? And is the Christian warrior authorized to lay down his moral weapons, till he crosses over Jordan and arrives at the land of heavenly promise? We know that all the true followers of Christ are called saints, and a holy nation ; but this must be considered rather in reference to the purity of the principle from which they act, than the real and positive state of the heart itself. Purity, in a word, is the mind renewed -- the disordered spirit restored, and conformed to the “ image of God” in righteousness and true holiness.” And it may be explained by the representation which the apostle gives of his own experience. “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our

con

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

science, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” *

From this definition of the principle, there are three things which it includes, and which require particular consideration. The first is a frank and genuine sincerity in opposition to dissimulation and deceit. An individual who speaks the truth in his heart, whose love to his brethren is unfeigned, and who seeks the promotion of no sordid interests by his professions of friendship, may be justly compared to the clear and refreshing stream which flows with crystal purity, for the good of mankind. Such a man is an invaluable treasure wherever you find him. But the flattering appearances assumed by the world; the adulation and servility of the gay and the great, the ceremonial and pompous professions of friendship often made by the fashionable part of society, even when an incurable and unmitigated antipathy lurks in the breast, are but so many proofs of the truth of Scripture, which declares “ the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked : who can know it?”+ And such insincerity and hypocrisy are the bane of all virtue and confidence.

The second thing included in this purity, is spiritual worship, in opposition to that which is formal. “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” The duty of calling on his name, of serving him in his ordinances, and of worshiping him in public and private, all allow, who think rightly on the subject. If, however, these duties and privileges are attended to without faith, love, penitence, and seriousness of spirit, to be seen of men, or to merit divine favour, we have no reason to suppose that our prayers are heard, or our praises accepted by him. He who is “a discerner of the thoughts

2 Cor. i. 12.

+ Jer. xvii. ix.

John iv, 24.

and intents of the heart,” will not be put off with bodily exercises instead of spiritual devotion, nor can he look with complacency on an unclean and unsanctified soul. hold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts : and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom,” is the confession of the royal penitent. Then let us pray, as it follows in the Psalm,—“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."* If we have this purity, we shall feel the evil thoughts and sinful imaginations which painfully and often arise in our minds, as a grievous and heavy burden. The cold and wandering heart with which we sometimes, and but too frequently, approach the sanctuary of God, and perform its required service, will be bitterly lamented, and the sins of our most holy duties will be frankly confessed and deplored. We shall view everything as a distraction and an evil, which interrupts our communion with God, or in the least diverts the attention of the soul from its “chief joy.” All these feelings will, therefore, awaken the strong desire to have the promise fulfilled. “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your

idols will I cleanse you.”+

But the third, and principle thing intended in the text, is a holy and heavenly mind, in opposition to one that is polluted and sensual. The Jewish law punished idolatry, perjury, profanation of the Sabbath, disobedience to parents, murder, adultery, theft, and all the dark brood of actual abominations which the vicious heart could produce; but the impure and carnal desire it could not punish. It is the prerogative of Omniscience alone to search and know the heart of the children of men. The Jews, therefore, taking

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »