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wisdom; yet their reason was not sufficient to find out man's true happiness.
We can give reasons for it now that it is revealed, and it seems so rational, that one would think the light of nature sufficient to discover it; but we, having always lived in the enjoyment of gospel light, and being accusiomed to it, are hardly sensible how dependent we are upon it, and how much we should be in the dark about things that now seem plain to us, if we never had bad our reason assisted by revelation.
God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world by the gospel. 1 Cor. i. 20. “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world: hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ?" i. e. he liath shown the foolishness of their wisdom by this brighter light of his revelation. For all that philosophy and human wisdom could do, it was the gospel that first taught the world wherein mankind's true blessedness consisted, and that taught them the way to attain to it.
2. Hence we learn the great privilege we have, who possess such advantages to come to the blessedness of seeing God. We have the true God revealed to us in the word of God, who is the Being in the sight of whom this happiness is to be enjoyed. We have the glorious attributes and perfections of God declared to Us.
The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is discovered in the gospel which we enjoy, his beauties and glories are there as it were pointed forth by God's own hand to our view ; so that we have those means which God hath provided for our obtaining those beginnings of this sight of him which the saints have in this world, in that spiritual knowledge which they have of God, which is absolutely necessary in order to our having it perfecily in another world.
The knowledge which believers have of God and bis glory, as appearing in the face of Christ, is the impersect beginning of this heavenly sight, it is an earnest of it, it is the dawning of the heavenly light; and this beginning must evermore precede, or a perfect vision of God in heaven cannot be obtained; and all those that have this beginning, shall obtain that perfection also. Great therefore is our privilege, that we have the means of this spiritual knowledge. We may in this world see God as in a glass darkly, in order to our seeing bim hereafter face to face; and surely our privilege is very great, that he has given us that glass from whence God's glory is reflected. We have not only the discoveries of God's glory in the doctrines of his word, but we have abundant directions how to act, so that we may obtain a perfect and beatific sight of God; of one of which we have in our text, and of which I shall speak particularly hereafter.
3. This Doctrine may lead us to a sense of the blessedness of the heavenly state, and justly cause us to long after it. In heaven the saints do see God, they enjoy that vision of him of which we have been speaking in its perfection. All clouds and darkness are there removed, they there behold the glory and love of God more immediately, and with greater certainty, and a more strong and lively apprehension, than a man beholds his friend when he is with him and sees his face by the noon day sun, and with far greater advantages for conversation and enjoyment.
Well may this make the heavenly state appear a blessed state to us, and make us to breathe after it; well may the consideration of these things make the saints wait for and desire their happy change; well may it make them long for the appearing of Christ. This they know, that when he shall appear, they shall "see him as he is.” 1 John iii. 2. “ Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is.”
This may well be comforting to the saints under the apprehensions of death, and it is a consideration sufficient to take away the sting of it, and uphold them while walking through the midst of that valley. This also may well comfort and uphold them in all troubles and difficulties they meet with here, that aster a little while they shall see God; which will inmediately dry up all tears, and drive away all sorrow and sighing, and expel for ever every darksome thought from the heart.
4. Hence we learn that a life of holiness is the pleasantest life in this world, because in such a life we have the imperfect beginnings of a blessed and endless sight of God; and so they have somewhat of true happiness while here, they have the seeds of blessedness sown in their souls, and they begin to shoot forth.
As for all others, those who do not live a holy life, they have nothing at all of true happiness, because they have nothing of the knowledge of God.
If. To be pure in heart, is the certain and only way to attain to this blessedness.
We have shown what this seeing of God is, and have represented in some measure how great is the blessedness of so seeing him; and if what we have heard is believed and cordially received by us, it will be sufficient to awaken our attention to any instructions from the word of God that are to point out the way to us wherein we may attain to this blessedness.
If men should hear of some vast estate, or some rich hidden treasure, and at the same time should hear of some very feasible way in which they might make it all their own; how ready would they be to bear, with what eagerness would they listen to those who should
bring such news and give them such directions, provided they had reason to believe that what was told them was true! We are here told of a much truer and greater blessedness, than any treasure of silver, and gold, and pearls can yield; and we are also told of the way whereby we may assuredly become the possessors of it, by him who certainly knows. I shall show,
1. What it is to be pure in heart.
2. That to be pure in heart, is the sure way to gain this blessedness.
3. That it is the only way.
1. I shall inquire, what it is to be pure in heart. Purity of heart is bere to be understood in distinction from a mere external purity, or a purity of the outward actions and behaviour in those things that appear to men in an external morality, and an outward attendance on ordinances, and a profession of the true religion and pure doctrines, and a making an outward show and appearance of godliness.
Christ bad very probably in our text an eye to the formality and hypocrisy of the scribes, and Pharisees, and other great saints, as they accounted themselves, and were accounted among the Jews. These were exceedingly exact in their observance of the ordinances of the ceremonial law, they were careful not lo deviate from it in the least punctilio. For instance, how exact were they in observing the law of tithes; they were careful to bring the tenth of the herbs in their gardens as mint, anise, and cumin. They were very careful to keep themselves from all ceremonial uncleanness, and they even added to the law in this particular; they were for being stricter and purer than the law required, and therefore made conscience of washing their bands before every meal. They were very strict to avoid conversing with the Samaritans; they would not eat with them, nor have any dealings with them, lest they should be defiled. They used to say to other nations, “ Stand by thyself, come not nigh, for I am holier than thou.” They looked upon themselves only as pure, because they were the children of Abraham, and because they were circumcised, and attended the ceremonial law; because they made clean the outside of the cup and the platter, and because of their external purity, they looked upon themselves as the peculiar favourites of heaven, and expected to be admitted to see God when all the uncircumcised, and those that were not the children of Abraham, should be excluded.
But Christ corrects this their mistake, and teaches that such an eternal purity will never give a man a title to this blessedness, for it is purity of heart that is requisite in order to attain to it. Matt. v. 20. “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdon of heaven.”
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 holivess 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 refused him ; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, 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 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 hates 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 him wherever he discovers it. It is because his heart is changed, and God has given him a pure nature.
2d. It implies godly sorrow'sor sin. The pure 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 filth 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