May 6, 2007 First Baptist Church, Comanche Series: Studies in Matthew
Text: Matthew 5:1-12, esp. v. 8
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
|BLESSED [ARE]||THE||PURE||-||IN HEART,|
“The Beauty of Purity”
Introduction: Genuine happiness, said Jesus, comes from
• recognizing your need for God (spiritual poverty) (5:3) leads to mercy
• mourning over your sin (5:4) leads to purity
• submitting to divine authority (5:5) leads to peacemaking
• desiring justice or righteousness (5:6) predicated upon both
• showing mercy (5:7) stems from poverty of spirit
• maintaining a pure heart (5:8) stems from mourning over sin
• working for peace (5:9) stems from submitting to authority
• rejoicing in the face of persecution (5:10–12) [cf. Luke 6:20–49]
|We can understand the Beatitudes by looking at them from their opposites. Some, Jesus implied, will not be blessed. Their condition could be described in this way:|
|Wretched are the spiritually self-sufficient, for theirs is the kingdom of hell.Wretched are those who deny the tragedy of their sinfulness, for they will be troubled.Wretched are the self-centered, for they will be empty.Wretched are those who ceaselessly justify themselves, for their efforts will be in vain.Wretched are the merciless, for no mercy will be shown to them.Wretched are those with impure hearts, for they will not see God.Wretched are those who reject peace, for they will earn the title “sons of Satan.”Wretched are the uncommitted for convenience's sake, for their destination is hell. |
Shall see God (τον θεον ὀψονται [ton theon opsontai]). Without holiness no man will see the Lord in heaven (Heb. 12:14). The Beatific Vision is only possible here on earth to those with pure hearts. No other can see the King now. Sin befogs and beclouds the heart so that one cannot see God. Purity has here its widest sense and includes everything. 
heilikrines: 1506 denotes freedom from falsehoods
katharos: 2513 denotes freedom from defilements, of the flesh and the world
makarizo: 3106 from a root mak---, meaning "large, lengthy," found also in makros, "long," mekos, "length," hence denotes "to pronounce happy, blessed," Luke 1:48; Jas. 5:11.
Kardia: the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours
καθαρὸς τῃ̂ καρδία, “the pure in heart” (cf. Psalms 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me; Psalms 73:1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart; linked here with “guiltless hands”), who will go up to the mountain of the Lord and stand in his holy place.
“Pure in heart” refers to the condition of the inner core of a person, that is, to thoughts and motivation, and hence anticipates the internalizing of the commandments by Jesus in the material that follows in the sermon. It takes for granted right actions but asks for integrity in the doing of those actions, i.e., a consistency between the inner springs of one’s conduct and the conduct itself. Another way of putting this is in terms of “single-mindedness” (cf.Jas 4:8, where it is the “double-minded” who are exhorted to “purify [their] hearts”).
Psalms 73:1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!
Matthew 5:8 [AMP] 8 Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!
Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
Hebrews 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [purity, holiness] without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled. [cf. 1 Peter 1:22-24; 2:24-25; 3:1-4]
(Titus 1:15, 16) The words, “Unto the pure all things are pure,” are to be understood in their context, which latter speaks of arbitrary ascetic prohibitions. Expositors says: “This is best understood as a maxim of the Judaic Gnostics, based on a perversion of Luke 11:41” where our Lord, speaking of the Pharisees and their man-made ceremonial washings says, “All things are clean to you.” The purity spoken of in our Titus reference speaks, not of purity which is the absence and opposite of immorality, etc., but of the ceremonial purity of man-made regulations.
Our Lord tells the Jewish leaders that there is nothing wrong in eating with ceremoniously unwashen hands. That is, the person who does not subscribe to the Pharasaical regulations is not impure or defiled, nor is the food he eats affected in that way. We must be careful in explaining our Titus passage to make clear that the purity here spoken of is not moral, but ceremonial purity, lest we by our interpretation open the flood gates to license. Expositors says: “Paul accepts the statement as a truth, but not in the intention of the speaker.” Commenting on the rest of the verse, the same authority says, referring to those who are defiled; “their moral obliquity [immorality or dishonesty; intellectual deviousness] is more characteristic of them than their intellectual perversion. The satisfaction of natural bodily desires (for it is these that are in question) is, when lawful, a pure thing, not merely innocent, in the case of the pure; it is an impure thing, even when lawful, in the case of ‘them that are defiled.’ And for this reason: their intellectual apprehension of these things is perverted by defiling associations; ‘the light that is in them is darkness,’ and their conscience has, from a similar cause, lost its sense of discrimination between what is innocent and what is criminal. That any action with which they themselves are familiar could be pure, is inconceivable.”
“Profess” is homologeomai (ὁμολογεομαι), “to agree” with someone as to some thing, thus, “to confess belief” in it. “Reprobate” is adokimos (ἀδοκιμος), “put to the test for the purpose of being approved, but failing to meet the requirements, being disapproved.”
Translation. All things are pure to those who are pure. But to those who are defiled and unbelieving, not even one thing is pure. But even their mind and conscience are defiled. God, they confess that they know, but in their works they deny, being abominable and disobedient and with reference to every good work, disapproved.
8. Matthew does not often use the word for pure (three times only); it signifies “clean” and thus pure. This is the one place in the New Testament where purity is predicated of the heart. With us heart is used of the physical organ and as a way of referring to the emotions, but we must not read that way of understanding the term back into Scripture. There it stands for the whole of our inner state, thought and will as well as emotions: “In a psychological sense, the seat of man’s collective energies, the focus of personal life, the seat of the rational as well as the emotional and volitional elements in human life, hence that wherein lies the moral and religious condition of the man” (AS).27 This beatitude thus leads us to purity at the very center of our being. This is no truism. Jesus later said, “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (15:19). The heart is not the place where we naturally expect purity,28 but Jesus demands purity right there. To be pure in heart is to be pure throughout (cf. Ps. 24:4). And the consequence of this kind of purity is that they will see God (cf. Ps. 73:1). There is a sense and a measure in which this is true of life here and now. The pure in heart see God in a way that the impure never know. But the main thought is surely eschatological; it points us to a vision too wonderful to be fully experienced in this life but that will come to its consummation in the world to come.
(L) 8. Blessed are the pure in heart: because they shall see God.]
καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ] Cf. Ps 23:4.—ὄψονται] Cf. Ps 10:7. For the vision of God as the aim of the religious life, cf. Philo, De Vit. Contempl. ii. 473: The Therapeutæ aim at vision τοῦ Ὄντος. They persevere μέχρις ἂν τὸ ποθούμενον ἴδωσιν. Leg. Alleg. i. 115: the wise man is θεωρίᾳ τῶν θείων τρεφόμενος. De Vit. Mos. ii. 106: Moses by his ascetic life entered into the darkness where God was, τὰ ἀθέατα φύσει θνητῇ κατανοῶν. Cf. Friedländer, Die Relig. Beweg. pp. 258 ff., from whom these references are taken. Cf. also Rev 22:4, 1 Jn 3:2 ὀφόμεθα αὐτὸν καθώς ἐστιν, and Philo, de Abr. ii. 10: ὅτῳ δὲ ἐξεγένετο μὴ μόνον τὰ ἄλλα ὅσα ἐν τῇ φύσει διʼ ἐπιστήμης καταλαμβάνειν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸν πατέρα καὶ ποιητὴν τῶν συμπάντων ὁρᾶν, ἐπʼ ἄκρον εὐδαιμονίας ἴστω προεληλυθώς.
8 The sixth beatitude bears strong similarity to the thought of Ps 24[LXX: 23]:3–4, where the LXX refers, as does the present text, to the καθαρὸς τῃ̂ καρδία, “the pure in heart” (cf. Psalms 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me; Psalms 73:1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart; linked here with “guiltless hands”), who will go up to the mountain of the Lord and stand in his holy place.
“Pure in heart” refers to the condition of the inner core of a person, that is, to thoughts and motivation, and hence anticipates the internalizing of the commandments by Jesus in the material that follows in the sermon. It takes for granted right actions but asks for integrity in the doing of those actions, i.e., a consistency between the inner springs of one’s conduct and the conduct itself. Another way of putting this is in terms of “single-mindedness” (cf.Jas 4:8, where it is the “double-minded” who are exhorted to “purify [their] hearts”).
Purity of heart and purity of conscience are closely related in the pastoral Epistles (cf.1 Tim 1:5; 3:9; 2 Tim 1:3; 2:22; cf. 1 Pet 1:22). The reference to seeing God in the present passage is again eschatological in tone. In contrast to the strong OT statement that no one can see the face of God and live (e.g., Exod 33:20), the righteous in the eschatological age will experience the beatific vision; they will see the face of God (cf. too Rev 22:4). Although one might have expected in the second clause something more in line with the first, such as “for they will be granted peace,” Matthew describes the greatest possible eschatological reward, one that by its nature includes all else. This beatitude is the most difficult to relate to the others. Perhaps it is meant to indicate that even for the downtrodden and oppressed, for those to whom the good news of the kingdom comes, an inner purity is also required and is not something that can be presupposed.
In His Glory
“We know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.”—1 John 3:2, 8.
“And I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father hath appointed unto me.”—Luke 22:29.
God’s glory is His holiness. To glorify God is to to yield ourselves that God in us may show forth His glory. It is only by yielding ourselves to be holy, to let His holiness fill our life, that His glory can shine forth from us. The one work of Christ was to glorify the Father, to reveal what a glorious Holy God He is. Our one work is, like Christ’s, so by our obedience, and testimony, and life, to make known our God as “glorious in holiness,” that He may be glorified in heaven and earth.
When the Lord Jesus had glorified the Father on earth, the Father glorified Him with Himself in heaven. This was rot only His just reward; it was a necessity in the very nature of things. There is no other place for a life given up to the glory of God, as Christ’s was, than in that glory,
The law holds good for us too: a heart that yearns and thirsts for the glory of God, that is ready to live and die for it, becomes prepared and fitted to live in it. Living to God’s glory on earth is the gate to living in Gods glory in heaven. If with Christ we glorify the Father, the Father will with Christ glorify us too. Yes, we shall be like Him in His glory.
We shall be like Him in His spiritual glory, the glory of His holiness. In the union of the two words in the name of the Holy Spirit, we see that what is HOLY and what is SPIRITUAL stand in the closest connection with each other. When Jesus as man had glorified God by revealing, and honouring, and giving Himself up to His holiness, he was as man taken up into and made partaker of the Divine glory.
And so it will be with us. If here on earth we have given ourselves to have God’s glory take possession of us, and God’s holiness, God’s Holy Spirit, dwell and shine in us, then our human nature with all our faculties, created in the likeness of God, shall have poured into and transfused through it, in a way that passes all conception, the purity and the holiness and the life, the very brightness of the glory of God.
We shall be like Him in His glorified body. It has been well said: Embodiment is the end of the ways of God. The creation of man was to be God’s masterpiece. There had previously been spirits without bodies, and animated bodies without spirits, but in man there was to be a spirit in a body lifting up and spiritualizing the body into its own heavenly purity and perfection. Man as a whole is God’s image, his body as much as his spirit. In Jesus a human body—O mystery of mysteries!—is set upon the throne of God, is found a worthy partner and container of the Divine glory. Our bodies are going to be the objects of the most astonishing miracle of Divine transforming power: “He will fashion our vile body like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” The glory of God as seen in our bodies, made like Christ’s glorious body, will be something almost more wonderful than in our spirits. We are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
We shall be like Him in His place of honour. Every object must have a fit place for its glory to be seen. Christ’s place is the central one in the universe: the throne of God. He spake to His disciples, “Where I am, there shall my servant be. If any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” “I appoint you a kingdom, EVEN AS my Father hath appointed me; that ye may eat and drink at my table, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” To the Church at Thyatira He says: “He that overcometh and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations, EVEN As I received of my Father.” And to the Church at Laodicca: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit on my throne, EVEN AS I overcame, and am set down with my Father on His throne.” Higher and closer it cannot be: I EVEN As we have borne the image of the earthly, we also of the heavenly: The likeness will be complete and perfect.
Such Divine God-given glimpses into the future reveal to us, more than all our thinking, what intense truth, what Divine meaning there is in God’s creative word: “Let us make man in Oar image, after Our likeness.” To show forth the likeness of the Invisible, to be partaker of the Divine Nature, to share with God His rule of the universe, is man’s destiny. His place is indeed one of unspeakable glory. Standing between two eternities, the eternal purpose in which we were predestinated to be conformed to the image of the first-born Son, and the eternal realization of that purpose when we shall be like Him in His glory, we hear the voice from every side: O ye image-bearers of God! on the way to share the glory of God and of Christ. live a God-like, live a Christ-like life!
“I shall be satisfied when I awake with THY LIKENESS,” so the Psalmist sung of old. Nothing can satisfy the soul but God’s image, because for that it was created. And this not as something external to it, only seen but not possessed; it is as partaker of that likeness that we shall be satisfied. Blessed they who here long for it with insatiable hunger; they shall be filled. This, the very likeness of God, this will be the glory, streaming down on them from God Himself, streaming through their whole being, streaming, out from them through the universe. “When Christ who is our life shall be manifested, we also shall be manifested with Him in glory.”
Beloved fellow-Christians! nothing can be made manifest in that day that has not a real existence here in this life. If the glory of God is not our life here, it cannot be hereafter. It is impossible; him alone who glorifies God here, can God glorify hereafter. “Man is the image and glory of God.” It is as you bear the image of God here, as you live in the likeness of Jesus, who is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, that you will be fitted for the glory to come. If we are to be as the image of the heavenly, the Christ in glory, we must first bear the image of the earthly, the Christ in humiliation.
Child of God! Christ is the uncreated image of God. Man is His created image. On the throne in the glory the two will be eternally one. You know what Christ did, how He drew near, how He sacrificed all, to restore us to the possession of that image. Oh, shall we not at length yield ourselves to this wonderful love, to this glory inconceivable, and give our life wholly to manifest the likeness and the glory of Christ Shall we not, like Him, make the Father’s glory our aim and hope, living to His glory here, as the way to live in His glory there.
The Father’s glory: it is in this that Christ’s glory and ours have their common origin. Let the Father be to us what He was to Him, and the Father’s glory will be ours as it is His. All the traits of the life of Christ converge to this as their centre. He was Son; He lived as Son; God was to Him FATHER. As Son He sought the Father’s glory; as Son He found it. Oh! let this be our conformity to the image of the Son, that THE FATHER is the all in all of our life; the Father’s glory must be our everlasting home.
Beloved brethren! who have accompanied me thus far in these meditations on the image of our Lord, and the Christ-like life in which it is to be reflected, the time is now come for us to part let us do so with the word, “WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM, for we shall see Him as He is. He who hath this hope in Him purifieth Himself, EVEN AS He is pure.” LIKE CHRIST! let us pray for each other, and for all God’s children, that in ever-growing measure this may be the one aim of our faith, the one desire of our heart, the one joy of our life. Oh, what will it be when we meet in the glory, when we see Him as He is, and see each other all like Him!
Ever blessed and most glorious God I what thanks shall we render Thee for the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, and for the light of Thy glory which shines upon us in Him! And what thanks shall we render Thee, that in Jesus we have seen the image not only of Thine, but of our glory, the pledge of what we are to be with Thee through eternity!
O God! forgive us, forgive us for Jesus’ blood’s sake, that we have so little believed this, that we have so little lived this And we beseech Thee that Thou wouldst reveal to all who have had fellowship with each other in these meditations, what THE GLORY is in which they are to live eternally, in which they can be living, even now, as they glorify Thee. O Father! awaken us and all Thy children to see and feel what Thy purpose with us is. We are indeed to spend eternity in Thy glory: Thy glory is to be around us, and on us, and in us; we are to be like Thy Son in His glory. Father! we beseech Thee, oh visit Thy Church! Let Thy Holy Spirit, the Spirit of glory, work mightily in her; and let this be her one desire, the one mark by which she is known: the glory of God resting upon her.
Our Father! grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
3.2. The Gospel of Matthew. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus does not do away with OT laws (see 5:17–19), though he does reinterpret them (5:21–48), declare that all the Law and the Prophets “depend on” the love commandments (22:37–40), and insist that God is more concerned with justice (see Justice, Righteousness), mercy and faith (the “weightier matters of the Law”) than with the meticulous observance of ritual demands (23:23; cf. 9:13; 12:7). Suitably, then, Matthew’s Gospel (15:1–20) contains a parallel to the handwashing dispute in Mark, with its maxim declaring that moral uncleanness rather than ritual truly matters. But the implication that all foods are clean (Mk 7:19) is not drawn, and only scribal regulations are explicitly set aside (15:20).
In the series of woes pronounced against the scribes and Pharisees, their purification of vessels is addressed (23:25–26). Several OT texts speak of the possibility of household vessels becoming unclean and prescribe procedures for their cleansing (Lev 11:32–38; 15:12; Num 19:15, 18). It is not surprising, then, that Pharisees were concerned with the cleanness of vessels. Indeed, rabbinic texts provide some evidence that, for assessments of ritual cleanness, a distinction was made between the outside and the inside of a vessel (perhaps based on the reference to a vessel’s “inside” in Lev 11:33) in the period before 70 (e.g., Sipra to Lev 11:33). According to the Jerusalem Talmud (y. Ber. 8:2), Shammaites believed that an uncleanness which affected the outside of a vessel could contaminate the inside, whereas Hillelites denied this.
The Shammaite position, which would require attention to be paid to the cleanness of the outside of a vessel, is perhaps assumed in the charge of Matthew 23:25–26: Pharisees cleanse the outside of vessels, the insides of which are full of extortion and greed. The latter claim could mean that the vessels contain what has been gained by extortion and greed. More likely, the “inside” of the vessel is used metaphorically for the scribes and Pharisees themselves, who are perceived as sinful in their hearts for all their concern for the cleanness of cups. On this understanding, the metaphor continues in verse 26, and the point is that if the Pharisees would see that their hearts were clean, they would not need to concern themselves with external (ritual) purity. The pointlessness of observing laws of ritual purity without practicing moral righteousness is thus a crucial theme in Matthew, though it is not suggested that regulations of purity are simply to be abandoned.
“HAPPY ARE THE HOLY …”
Some truths in the Bible you feel you can handle; some you feel you can get a grip on and transmit. Then there are those realities that seem like bottomless pits, wells whose depths are immeasurable, truths the breadths of which are impossible to encompass. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” is one of those.
To attempt to deal with such an incredible statement in one brief chapter is almost an insult to God and to the power and depth and insight of His Word. This is one of the greatest utterances in all the Bible. It stretches over everything else revealed in Scripture. Purity of heart being necessary to see God is a vast and infinite theme, and it draws in almost every biblical thread.
There’s no way to uncover all that’s available, but I’ve asked the Lord to help me at least to focus on a central lesson that will be rich and meaningful. I find that the best way to approach something like this is to ask questions of the verses.
The Background of Jesus’ Words
What is the context for these words historically and chronologically within the Beatitudes? To me, the statement about purity of heart is so crucial that it doesn’t seem right to see it as just sort of stuck in there indiscriminately, as it often appears at first glance. I wondered why it does not have a more strategic place, perhaps at the beginning or the end of the sermon. So we shall discuss the context, but first from a historical sense.
We have dealt with the political situation in Israel at the time of Christ in great detail, so I want to focus now on their spiritual condition. This, of course, is the issue with which He dealt predominantly in the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 8 has at its heart a spiritual reality.
Israel was burdened by the oppressive, authoritative character of the Pharisees. They were the dominant influence and force on Israel at that time. The Pharisees formed a relentless and imposingly rigid legalistic system on the people. (A legalistic system draws such absolute boundaries around what is spiritually acceptable that, by virtue of its definitive character, it tends to oppress and reign wherever it exists.)
The Pharisees had misinterpreted the Law of Moses. They had invented new laws so that, if they couldn’t keep God’s laws, they could pacify their consciences by keeping traditions. The people found it impossible to perform as required under this rigid legalistic system. In fact, the leaders themselves had decided that if one could keep just a few of the laws, God would understand. Then they couldn’t even do that, so they agreed that if one could just find one law and keep it, God would understand. (Hence the question of the lawyer in Matthew 22:36.)
So the mass of people in Israel were frustrated by a legal system they could not keep, and it produced in them tremendous guilt and anxiety. Yet, here was a people committed to the reality of God and to the fact that He had revealed Himself in laws. I believe this is one of the things that contributed so dramatically to the power of John the Baptist’s ministry.
He had a ready audience because people were looking for someplace to relieve their burden of sin. Multitudes flocked to hear John preach in the wilderness; even the Pharisees and Sadducees would show up. The people’s hearts were aching for a sense of forgiveness, the reality of salvation, a sense of tranquillity for their troubled souls.
They were crying for a savior, a redeemer—one who would not impose more rules on them, but one who would forgive them for the ones they had always broken. They knew that God, long before, had promised such a redeemer. And they knew the word of Isaiah well enough to know that there would come one who would forgive their sin, do away with their iniquity, right their wrongs. There would come one to find the remnant of honest and truly motivated people, the people who really worshiped God.
They knew the word of Ezekiel that someday God was going to come and sprinkle them with water, and they would be clean. God was going to take out the stony heart and put in a heart of flesh. God was going to wash them of their iniquities, purge them from their sins.
They knew the testimony of David, who knew what it was to have that sense of forgiveness, who knew what it was to cry, “How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity” (Psalm 32:2). They knew it, but so many had never experienced it.
So, here they were, under this tremendous burden of oppression. When John the Baptist announced a Messiah, a Redeemer, a Savior, no wonder they came out. When he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2), they couldn’t get there fast enough to unload the burden and seek the forgiveness. A further reason I believe that is so is because that seemed to be the longing in the hearts of the people as they met Jesus.
For example, think of Nicodemus in John 3. He was a Pharisee, but a pretty honest guy (I believe his integrity drew him to Christ). He knew he was in real trouble if what Jesus said was true. In the Greek of verse 1, an emphatic is used to describe him. This man was the teacher, the ruler of the Jews, top man in terms of recitation of divine principles.
But his heart was full of anxiety. He came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). That’s a tremendous insight into what was on Nicodemus’s mind. He had found somebody from God. In his heart was this huge question: “What do I have to do to be righteous, to get into Your kingdom, to be a child of God, to be redeemed?”
Nicodemus never even asked the question, of course. He didn’t get a chance. Jesus read his mind. Verse 3 says, “Jesus answered.” Isn’t that great? Sometimes you don’t even need to ask the question. He knows. He just gives the answer. Jesus answered the question in Nicodemus’s heart and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus had looked at his life and decided, “I know I’m a Pharisee, and I’m trying to keep the Law, and I’m a ruler in the land, a teacher of the Law, but I’m not sure this is enough.” He was honest enough to admit his sinfulness. As one who had tried to keep the Law, he had failed miserably.
What was on Nicodemus’s heart, I believe, was on the hearts of many of the Jews, though Nicodemus may have been in a minute minority among the leaders.
Jesus had miraculously fed five thousand people, and the next day the crowd “said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent’ ” (John 6:28–29).
What were they really saying? The same thing as Nicodemus. “We know the whole legal system. We know the whole ritualistic routine. We’ve got all the ceremonies down. What do we do to know the reality of the work of God?”
They wanted something real. They wanted to know how you really get into the kingdom, because if you got in by keeping the law, nobody would be in the kingdom, and they knew it.
Look at Luke 10:25: “And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ ” It’s the same question. That’s what the multitude wants to know. That’s what Nicodemus wants to know: What’s the standard? How do you get relief from guilt and anxiety and frustration that comes when you are faced with a legal system to please God, and you know you cannot keep it?
The Dilemma: A Holy God, a Sinful Man
This was the perfect time for Jesus to come, because He was the answer. You see, God is a holy God, absolutely righteous. In Him there is no sin. God offers salvation to sinful man, and sinful man says to himself, “How can a holy God give salvation to a sinful man?” An honest, devout Jew would say, “How can I ever enter God’s kingdom when I can’t keep God’s laws?”
That poses the question that Jesus answers in the Beatitudes. That was the question most in the minds of the people sitting on that Galilean hillside as our Lord spoke in Matthew 5. Remember that He had gone all around Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, healing all manner of diseases, and that His fame spread everywhere. The crowds had heard about Him. They had seen Him, heard His teaching, were aware of His miracles. And they had this one great question.
More than any other single beatitude, this one gives the answer. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they [autoi, they and they alone] shall see God.” It is not those who observe the external washings. It is not those who go through the ceremonies. It is not those who have the religion of human achievement.
Man tends to measure himself by his fellowman. Second Corinthians 11 talks about false apostles who measure themselves by themselves. The Pharisees were good at that. Whenever you desire to test your character or morality or ethics or goodness, you just find somebody worse, and you’re OK.
The Pharisee would pray like this, “God, I thank You that I am not like other people … even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). His standard was lower than himself. The fallacy of that, of course, is that if everybody keeps basing his own evaluation on one person lower, the whole thing spirals down until the ultimate standard is the most rotten person alive.
When God set a standard for acceptable behavior, He did not say you had to be better than a publican or an immoral man. He said, “If you want to see God, you have to be pure.” In the sermon itself, in Matthew 5:48, He said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s the standard of the absolute, holy, righteous, and only God of the universe.
Who will enter the kingdom? Who will go to heaven? Who is fit to enter God’s presence? Who is saved? Who will ever have a vision of God? Who will ever enter into bliss? Who will know blessedness? Who will know true happiness? Only those who are pure in their hearts.
The Pharisees used to get uptight if they did not have certain washings of the hands and pots and pans, and they were great for tithing their mint and cummin and dill. They were sure they gave 10 percent of some little, tiny herbal leaf, but they paid no attention to love and truth and mercy. Jesus told them, “For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27). The Lord shreds that whole cloak of hypocrisy in one statement.
The Sequence of the Beatitudes
Now, if this is such a high point, such a key Beatitude, why does it come here in the list? Well, every one of these Beatitudes is critical. You cannot remove any of them. They flow in a beautiful, magnificent sequence, in perfect order according to the mind of God. It is not that the first or the last or the middle is more important. They are equally important. They are all part of the same great reality.
A kingdom person is one who fulfills all of these descriptions. You cannot pick and choose. Once you have come to the beginning and are poor in spirit, the rest flows out in a wonderful working of the Spirit of God. The first seven Beatitudes fit a beautiful pattern. The first three lead up to the fourth, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, which seems to be a kind of apex. You begin with a beggarly spirit, and out of that comes a mourning over sin. When you see yourself as a total sinner, you become humble and meek before God. At that point you cry out for righteousness. Then God acts and you find His mercy, purity of heart, and the gift of peacemaking. So these last three Beatitudes flow out of the fourth, after the first three lead up to it.
But did you notice something even more intricate? The first and the fifth, the second and the sixth, and the third and the seventh seem to fit together. It is the poor in spirit (first), who realize that they are nothing but beggars, who are going to reach out in mercy to others (fifth). Those who mourn over their sin (second) are going to know the purity of heart (sixth). Finally, there are the meek (third) who are the peacemakers (seventh).
The beautiful weaving together of the Beatitudes shows how the mind of God works. This one is in the right place historically and chronologically.
A Kingdom Fit for the Pure in Heart
There are only two kinds of religion in the world. Only two. One is the religion of human achievement, which comes under every brand imaginable but is all from the same base; namely, you earn your own way. The other is the religion of divine accomplishment that says, “I can’t do it. God did it in Christ.”
Take your pick. Human achievement is Satan’s lie. In every crowd you have people who are going to try to earn their way to heaven—to get there on their own energy, power, and resources. They were in that crowd that day, and the Lord Jesus stripped them bare. “Sorry, folks. You don’t qualify to see God. You’ll never be in My kingdom. It is for the pure in heart.”
Those people had no excuse. They must have known the psalms. “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being” (Psalm 51:6). The psalmist taught the same reality in Psalm 24:1–5:
The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Who enters the kingdom? Jesus condenses Psalm 24 into this Beatitude. If the Jews had recalled the words of the beloved prophet Isaiah, whom they extolled so wonderfully, they would have known. It says in Isaiah 59:1, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save.” If you are not saved, it is not because God’s arm cannot reach you.
But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken falsehood, your tongue mutters wickedness. No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion, and speak lies; they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs and weave the spider’s web. … For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities. (Isaiah 59:2–5, 12)
The prophet Isaiah wrote of the Lord: “And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him; and His righteousness upheld Him. He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped Himself with zeal as a mantle” (59:16–17).
This is a picture of Christ. He saw a people lost in sin, and just like the Jews of Jesus’ time, they were crying out, “Is there no man? Is there no intercessor?” Christ would come and put on the garments of salvation and, Isaiah said in verse 20, “a Redeemer will come to Zion.”
If they had known Isaiah 59, they would have known the answer to their own question. If they had really believed Ezekiel 36, they would have known the Messiah was going to come and wash the inside of His people. First Samuel 16:7 reminded them that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
We can never be in God’s kingdom, never enter God’s presence, never have His forgiveness, never know the Redeemer, never know salvation, and die frustrated in our sins, unless our hearts are pure. The wonder of it is that this is exactly what Jesus Christ has come to do, to purify our hearts.
When He died on the cross, He took the sin that was accounted to us and paid all the penalty. The Bible says He then imputed His righteousness to us. It’s a fantastic exchange. He takes our sin and gives us His righteousness. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, and God looks at us, He sees us pure. Under no other condition does He see us that way.
Ephesians 1:6 puts it this way, “To the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” It is because Christ took our place, bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that His righteousness is given to us. By faith, God makes us pure.
To Be “Pure in Heart”
What does it mean to be pure in heart? In the Bible, the heart is always seen as the inside part of a person, the seat of his or her personality. Predominantly, it refers to the thinking process. The heart is not specifically the emotions. When the Bible speaks of the emotions, it often refers to the “bowels of compassion,” the “feeling in the stomach,” in the midsection. The Jew expressed his feelings in terms of what he felt in his stomach. When he really had some emotion, it turned his stomach.
The mind and the heart were really together. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 kjv). Sometimes the word heart does refer to the will and the emotion as they spin off from the intellect. For example, if my mind is really committed to something, it will affect my will, which will affect my emotion. The will is like a flywheel. The mind sets it going, and once the flywheel moves, it generates the emotions.
Proverbs 4:23 pulls this all together: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” In other words, whatever the heart is, it is the source of the springs of life. The issues of thinking and feeling and acting all spawn out of this heart. Ephesians 6:6 talks about doing the will of God from sincerity of heart. It is the point at which everything is generated.
When our Lord was speaking here of the pure in heart, He was thinking first of all of the mind, which controls the will, which controls the responses of emotion. This was a direct shot at the Pharisees and the legalists who were telling everyone that all they needed to take care of was the outside. Jesus was coming right at them.
God is after a changed heart. What did David say in Psalm 51:10? “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”
“Surely God is good to Israel,’ ” says Psalm 73:1. Ah, but who in Israel? “To those who are pure in heart!” the verse concludes.
If you go to church every day of the week, carry a Bible around and recite verses, but your heart is not clean, you have not met God’s standard. Let me illustrate this truth by David and Saul.
When God called Saul to be king, Saul was tall, dark, and handsome, but not much else. So it says in 1 Samuel 10:9 that God gave Saul another heart. He had to change him on the inside. But Saul began to disobey God, and it got to the place where Samuel came to him and said, in effect, “Saul, the Lord says you’re finished. You will have no kingly line.” (See 1 Samuel 15.) Why? “The Lord has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).
Why does God care about that? The answer comes again in 1 Samuel 16:7, “For man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Who was the man after God’s own heart? David. God selected him because his heart was right. David said in Psalm 9:1, “I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart.”
In Psalm 19:14 David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” In Psalm 26:2 David cried out, “Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart.” In Psalm 27:8 David says, “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.’ ”
Here was a man who was ruled from his heart. Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him.” David in his innermost being sought God. And do you know what the sum of it all is? Psalm 57:7 declares, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast.” That’s the kind of worship God wants, a heart that is fixed on Him. David may have failed on the outside often, but not when his heart was set toward God.
The second term in that phrase “pure in heart” is the word pure, katharos in the Greek. You don’t talk about purity in our world and become very popular. People think that purity is some flat, insipid, rather vague, unattractive commodity that belongs to strange people in long robes who live in monasteries.
Katharos is a noun form from katharidzo, which means to cleanse from filth and iniquity. It means to be free from sin. It is akin to the Latin word castus, root of the English word chaste. Medical people know that a cathartic is an agent used to cleanse a wound or infected area in order to make it pure. When somebody goes to a psychologist or a counselor, and they have a catharsis, they have a soul cleansing.
Interestingly, katharos has two shades of meaning. Some suggest that it also means unmixed or unalloyed or unadulterated or sifted or cleansed of chaff. In other words, to be pure means you have no added mixture of any foreign element. Thus, what our Lord was really saying here is, “I desire a heart that is unmixed in its devotion and motivation. Pure motives from a pure heart.”
Either way, it has to do with attitudes, integrity, and singleness of heart as opposed to duplicity and double mindedness. Jeremiah 32:39 says, “And I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always.” Psalm 78:72 says of David, “He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart.” That’s single devotion, single purpose, pure motive.
Our Lord really emphasizes that principle, as we see later in the Sermon on the Mount: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). He sums it up in verse 24: “No one can serve two masters.” James talked about it in his epistle: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).
Paul is saying in Romans 7, “I have pure motives, even when I can’t override my sinful flesh.” If you are truly a Christian, that motive for purity should be in your life. If one does not have it in his heart, I question whether he knows God. Do you have that desire in your heart? Do you have pure motives?
The great John Bunyan, who wrote the classics The Pilgrim’s Progress and The Holy War, was once said to have been told by someone how great a preacher he was and that he had no doubt preached a masterpiece that day. Supposedly he sadly replied, “Thank you, but the devil already told me that as I was coming down the pulpit steps.”
Pure motive does not stop short of pure deeds. The word katharos goes beyond motive. A lot of people with pure motives never come to God. In Mexico City I watched people at the Shrine of Guadalupe crawl on their knees for three hundred yards until they were bleeding. Very sincere, but wrong.
No doubt the worshipers of Baal in Elijah’s day had some sincerity when they got out there with knives and started hacking themselves up. I’d say that’s sincerity. You start cutting yourself up and you mean business. But there’s more than that in the word katharos. It is not just a pure motive; it is a holy deed (as defined by God). They both have to be there.
Purity of deed issues out of a pure motive. Thomas Watson said, “Morality can drown a man as fast as vice.” He said, “A vessel may sink with gold or with dung.”1 You can say, “I’m a very religious person and want to please God,” but if your deeds are not according to His Word and they do not reveal a real purity, it does not matter.
Five Kinds of Purity
There are five kinds of purity:
• Primitive purity. This is the kind of purity that exists only in God. It is as essential in God as light is to the sun, as wet is to water.
• Created purity. This is the creation of a pure being, before the Fall. God created angels in purity, and He created man in purity. They both fell.
• Ultimate purity. This is the category of glorification. Ultimately all the saints of God will be completely pure. We are going to have all our sins washed away, not just positionally but practically. First John 3:2 tells us, “We will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
• Positional purity. This is the purity we have now, imputed by the righteousness of Christ. When you believe in Jesus Christ, God imputes to you positional purity. When God looks at a Christian, He says, believe it or not, “You are right, absolutely pure, in Christ.” Romans 3 says the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us. Romans 5 says we have been justified because of what Christ has done. Galatians 2:16 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 say the same thing.
• Practical purity. This is the hard part. Only God knows primitive purity. Only God can bestow created purity. Someday God will give every saint ultimate purity. Right now, every saint has positional purity. But we have a lot of trouble trying to live out what we are in terms of our position, don’t we? That’s why the apostle Paul cried out in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
He’s talking about practical purity, living purity. At best it will be a white cloak with some black thread, but God wants us to be as practically pure as we can be before Him. It is those people who are positionally pure in Jesus Christ who will see God, and those kinds of people will manifest purity of life and purity of motive. If that is not true either the person is not a Christian, or he is living in disobedience.
Certainly in this fifth type of purity we fail, but the Bible tells us how to deal with failure. If we’re going to be tempted to be impure, we’re going to be tempted to have impure thoughts, say impure words, do impure things, and have impure motives. That will issue in words and deeds that are not right. But the Bible tells us how to deal with temptation. Read Ephesians 6 and get your armor on. That is preventative.
You say, “But what if I fail?” First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Every time you face sin and repent, God cleanses you. It’s tremendous to know that God makes us pure.
Developing a Pure Heart
How can your heart be made pure? Know you can’t do it on your own, that’s the first step. Proverbs 20:9 asks, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin’?” Nobody.
Acts 15:9 says that our hearts are cleansed by faith. You cannot do it by works, but you can by believing. In what? In the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from sin. The apostle John told us, “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Do you want to be pure in heart? Then accept the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Accept what He has already done. Zechariah 13:1 says, “A fountain will be opened … for sin and for impurity.”
If you are already a Christian, purify your heart through the words of Jesus and through prayer. John 15:3 says, “You are already clean because of the word.” Stay in the Word and pray. Hear the words of Job who said, “Who can make the clean out of the unclean?” (Job 14:4). Only one answer echoes down through eternity: “God can.”
The Promise to Those Who Are Pure
What happens if you’re pure? Jesus said at the end of the Beatitude: “They shall see God.” The verb is a future form in Greek, a future continuous tense. In other words: “They shall be continually seeing God for themselves.” Do you know what happens when your heart is purified at salvation? You live in the presence of God.
You comprehend Him, you realize that He is there, you see Him with the spiritual eye. Like Moses who cried, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (Exodus 33:18), the one whose heart is purified by Jesus Christ sees again and again the glory of God. To see God was the greatest thing a person in the Old Testament could dream of. Purity of heart cleanses the eyes of the soul so that God is visible.
Do you want to see God? Do you want to have God alive in your world, now and forever? Purify your heart. Someday you will see God with your physical eyes (1 John 3:2). Oh, what a day that will be, to see Christ face-to- face!
! The Pure in Heart Blessed
Dated January 1753
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I. Prop. That it is a thing truly happifying to the soul of man to see God.
II. Prop. That the having a pure heart is the certain and only way to come to the blessedness of seeing God.
God formerly delivered his law from Mount Sinai by an audible voice, with the sound of a trumpet, with the appearance of devouring fire, with thunders, and lightnings, and earthquakes. But the principal discoveries of God’s Word and will to mankind were reserved to be given by Jesus Christ, his own Son, and the Redeemer of men, who is the light of the world.
In this sermon of Christ, of which the text is a part, we hear him delivering the mind of God also from a mountain. Here is God speaking, as well as from mount Sinai, and as immediately, but after a very different manner. There God spake by a preternatural formation of sounds in the air. Here he becomes incarnate, takes on him our nature, and speaks, and converses with us, not in a preternatural, awful, and terrible manner, but familiarly as one of us. His face was beheld freely by all that were about him. His voice was human, without those terrors which made the children of Israel desire that God might speak to them immediately no more. And the revelation which he makes of God’s Word is more clear and perfect, and fuller of the discoveries of spiritual duties, of the spiritual nature of the command of God, of our spiritual and true happiness, and of mercy and grace to mankind. John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
This discourse of Christ on the mount seems principally leveled against the false notions, and carnal prejudices, that were at that day embraced by the nation of the Jews. And those benedictions, which we have in the beginning of his sermon, were sayings that were mere paradoxes to them, wholly contrary to the notions which they had received. That he, who was poor in spirit, was blessed, was a doctrine contrary to the received opinion of the world, and especially of that nation, who were exceedingly ambitious of the praise of men, and highly conceited of their own righteousness. And that he was a blessed and happy man, who mourned for sin, and lived mortified to the pleasures and vanities of the world, was contrary to their notions, who placed their highest happiness in worldly and carnal things. So also that they who were meek were blessed, was another doctrine very contrary to their notions, who were a very haughty, proud nation, and very revengeful, and maintained the lawfulness of private revenge, as may be seen in the 38th verse. Equally strange to them was the declaration that they who hungered and thirsted after righteousness were happy. For they placed their happiness, not in possessing a high degree of righteousness, but in having a great share of worldly good. They were wont to labor for the meat that perisheth. They had no notion of any such thing as spiritual riches, or of happiness in satisfying a spiritual appetite. The Jews were dreadfully in the dark at that day about spiritual things. The happiness which they expected by the Messiah was a temporal and carnal, and not a spiritual, happiness. Christ also tells them that they were blessed who were merciful and who were peacemakers, which was also a doctrine that the Jews especially stood in need of at that day, for they were generally of a cruel, unmerciful, persecuting spirit.
The truth which Christ teaches them in the text, that they were blessed who were pure in heart, was a thing wholly beyond their conceptions. The Jews at this time placed almost the whole of religion in external things, in a conformity to the rites and ceremonies of the law of Moses. They laid great stress on tithing mint, and anise, and cumin, and on their traditions, as in washing hands before meat and the like. But they neglected the weightier matters of the law, and especially such as respected holiness of heart. They took much more care to have clean hands, and a clean outside, than a clean heart, as Christ tells them, Mat. 23:25, 27, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within ye are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
We may observe concerning the words of the text,
I. That Christ pronounces the pure in heart, blessed. Christ here accommodates his instructions to the human nature. He knew that all mankind were in the pursuit of happiness, he has directed them in the true way to it, and he tells them what they must become in order to be blessed and happy.
II. He gives the reason why such are blessed, or wherein the blessedness of such consists, that they shall see God. It is probable the Jews supposed that it was a great privilege to see God, from those passages in the law, where there is an account of Moses’s earnestly desiring to see God’s glory; and from the account that is given of the seventy elders. Exo. 24:9, 10, 11, “Then went up Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”
It is also probable that they had very imperfect notions of what the vision of God was, and of the happiness that consisted in it, and that their notion of this matter, agreeably to the rest of their carnal, childish notions, was of some outwardly splendid and glorious sight, to please the eye and to entertain the fancy.
From these words I shall derive two propositions.
First, it is a truly blessed thing to the soul of man to see God.
Second, to be pure in heart, is the certain and only way to attain to this blessedness.
First, it is a truly blessed thing to the soul of man to see God. Here I shall attempt to show,
1. What is meant by seeing God.
(1.) It is not any sight with the bodily eyes. The blessedness of the soul does not enter in at that door. This would make the blessedness of the soul dependent on the body, or the happiness of man’s superior part dependent on the inferior. And this would have confirmed the carnal and childish notions of the Jews.
God is a spirit, and is not to be seen with the bodily eyes. We find it attributed to God that he is invisible. Heb. 11:27, “As seeing him, who is invisible.” Col. 1:15, “Who is the image of the invisible God.” It is mentioned as a part of God’s glory. 1 Tim. 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” That it is not any sight with the bodily eyes is evident because the unembodied souls of the saints see God, and the angels also, who are spirits and were never united to bodies. Mat. 18:10, “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones: for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.”
It is not any form or visible representation, nor shape, nor color, nor shining light, that is seen, wherein this great happiness of the soul consists. Indeed God was wont to manifest himself of old in outward glorious appearances. There was a shining light that was called the glory of the Lord. Thus the glory of the Lord was said to descend on mount Sinai, and in the tabernacle of the congregation. There was an outward visible token of God’s presence, and the seventy elders, when they saw God in the mount, saw a visible shape. It seems also that when Moses desired to see God’s glory, and when God passed by and covered him with his hand in the cleft of the rock, that Moses saw some visible glory. Exo. 33:18-23, “And he said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness to pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live.” But it seems that God then condescended to the infant state of the church, and to the childish notions that were entertained in those days of lesser light; and Moses’s request seems to have been answered, by God making his goodness to pass before him, and proclaiming his name, and giving him a strong apprehension of the things contained in that name, rather than by showing him any outward glory.
The saints in heaven will behold an outward glory as they are in the human nature of Christ, which is united to the Godhead, as it is the body of that person who is God; and there will doubtless be appearances of a divine and inimitable glory and beauty in Christ’s glorified body, which it will indeed be a refreshing and blessed sight to see.
But the beauty of Christ’s body as seen by the bodily eyes, will be ravishing and delightful, chiefly as it will express his spiritual glory. The majesty that will appear in Christ’s body, will express and show forth the spiritual greatness and majesty of the divine nature. The pureness and beauty of that light and glory will express the perfection of the divine holiness. The sweetness and ravishing mildness of his countenance will express his divine and spiritual love and grace.
Thus it was when the three disciples beheld Christ at his transfiguration upon the mount. They beheld a wonderful outward glory in Christ’s body, an inexpressible beauty in his countenance. But that outward glory and beauty delighted them principally as an expression of the divine excellencies of his mind, as we may see from their manner of speaking of it. It was the sweet mixture of majesty and grace in his countenance, by which they were ravished. 2 Pet. 1:16, 17, 18, “We were eye-witnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” But especially from the account which John gives of it. John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth;” where John very probably had in his mind what he had seen in the mount at the transfiguration. Grace and truth are not outward, but spiritual, glories.
(2.) It is an intellectual view by which God is seen. God is a spiritual being, and he is beheld with the understanding. The soul has in itself those powers which are capable of apprehending objects, and especially spiritual objects, without looking through the windows of the outward senses. This is a more perfect way of perception than by the eyes of the body. We are so accustomed and habituated to depend upon our senses, and our intellectual powers are so neglected and disused, that we are ready to conceive that seeing things with the bodily eyes is the most perfect way of apprehending them. But it is not so. The eye of the soul is vastly more perfect than the eye of the body. Yet it is not every apprehension of God by the understanding that may be called the seeing of him. As,
1st. The having an apprehension of God merely by hearsay. If we hear of such a being as God, are educated in the belief that there is such a being, are told what sort of being he is, and what he has done, and are rightly told, and we give credit to what we hear, yet if we have no apprehension of God in any other way, we cannot be said to see God in the sense of the text. This is not the beatific sight of God.
2d. If we have an apprehension of God merely by speculative reasoning. If we come to some apprehension of God’s being, and of his being almighty, all-wise, and good, by ratiocination, that is not what the Scripture calls seeing God. It is some more immediate way of understanding and viewing that is called sight. Nor will such an apprehension as this merely ever make the soul truly blessed. Nor,
3d. Is every more immediate and sensible apprehension of God, that seeing of him mentioned in the text, and that which is truly beatific. The wicked spirits in the other world have doubtless more immediate apprehensions of the being of God, and of his power and wrath, than the wicked in this world. They stand before God to be judged, they receive the sentence from him, they have a dreadful apprehension of his wrath and displeasure. But yet they are exceedingly remote from seeing God, in the sense of the text.
But to see God is this. It is to have an immediate, sensible, and certain understanding of God’s glorious excellency and love.
1st. There must be a direct and immediate sense of God’s glory and excellency. I say direct and immediate, to distinguish it from a mere perception that God is glorious and excellent by means of speculative and distant argumentation, which is a more indirect way of apprehending things. A true sense of the glory of God is that which can never be obtained by speculative ratiocination. And if men convince themselves by argument that God is holy, that never will give a sense of his amiable and glorious holiness. If they argue that he is very merciful, that will not give a sense of his glorious grace and mercy. It must be a more immediate, sensible discovery that must give the mind a real sense of the excellency and beauty of God. He that sees God, has a direct and immediate view of God’s great and awful majesty, of his pure and beauteous holiness, of his wonderful and endearing grace and mercy.
2d. There is a certain understanding of his love, there is a certain apprehension of his presence. He that beholds God, does not merely see him as present by his essence, for so he is present with all, both godly and ungodly. But he is more especially present with those whom he loves, he is graciously present with them. And when they see him, they see him and know him to be so. They have an understanding of his love to them. They see him from love manifesting himself to them. He that has a blessed-making sight of God, not only has a view of God’s glory and excellency, but he views it as having a property in it. He sees God’s love to him. He receives the testimonies and manifestations of that love.
God’s favor is sometimes in Scripture called his face. Psa. 119:58, where it is translated, “I entreated thy favour with my whole heart;” it is in the original “thy face;” and God’s hiding his face, is a very common expression to signify his withholding the testimonies of his favor.
To see God, as in the text, implies the sight of him as glorious and as gracious, a vision of the light of his countenance, both as it is understood of the effulgence of his glory, and the manifestations of his favor and love.
The discoveries which the saints have in this world of the glory and love of God are often in Scripture called the sight of God. Thus it is said of Abraham, that he saw him who is invisible. Heb. 11:27. So the saints are said to see as in a glass the glory of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18, “But we all with open face, beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Christ speaks of the spiritual knowledge of God. John 14:7, “If ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” The saints in this world have an earnest of what is future, they have the dawnings of future light.
But the more perfect view which the saints have of God’s glory and love in another world, is what is especially called the seeing of God. Then they shall see him as he is. That light which now is but a glimmering will be brought to clear sunshine. That which is here but the dawning, will become perfect day.
Those intellectual views which will be granted in another world are called seeing God.
1st. Because the view will be very direct, as when we see things with the bodily eyes. God will, as it were, immediately discover himself to their minds, so that the understanding shall behold the glory and love of God, as a man beholds the countenance of his friend. The discoveries which the saints here have of God’s excellency and grace are immediate in a sense. That is, they do not mainly consist in ratiocination. But yet in another sense they are indirect. That is, they are by means of the gospel, as through a glass. But in heaven God will immediately excite apprehensions of himself, without the use of any such means.
2d. It is called seeing because it will be most certain. When persons see a thing with their own eyes, it gives them the greatest certainty they can have of it, greater than they can have by any information of others. So the sight that they will have in heaven will exclude all doubting. The knowledge of God which the saints have in this world, has certainty in it, but yet the certainty is liable to be interrupted with temptations, and some degree of doubtings, but there is no such thing in heaven. The looking at the sun does not give a greater nor fuller certainty that it shines.
3d. It is called seeing because the apprehension of God’s glory and love is as clear and lively as when anything is seen with bodily eyes. When we are actually beholding anything with our eyes in the meridian light of the sun, it does not give a more lively idea and apprehension of it than the saints in heaven have of the divine excellency and love of God. When we are looking upon things our idea is much more clear and perfect, and the impression stronger on the soul, than when we only think of a thing absent. But the intellectual views that the saints in heaven will have of God, will have far the advantage of bodily sight, it will be a much more perfect way of apprehending. The saints in heaven will see the glory of the body of Christ after the resurrection with bodily eyes, but they will have no more immediate and perfect way of seeing that visible glory than they will of beholding Christ’s divine and spiritual glory. They will not want eyes to see that which is spiritual, as well as we can see anything that is corporeal. They will behold God in an ineffable, and to us now inconceivable, manner.
4th. The intellectual sight which the saints will have of God will make them as sensible of his presence, and give them as great advantages for conversing with him, as the sight of the bodily eyes doth an earthly friend. Yea, and more too. For when we see our earthly friends with bodily eyes, we have not the most full and direct sight of their principal part, even their souls. We see the qualities, and dispositions, and acts of their minds, no otherwise than by outward signs of speech and behavior. Strictly speaking, we do not see the man, the soul, at all, but only its tabernacle or dwelling.
But their souls will have the most clear sight of the spiritual nature of God itself. They shall behold his attributes and disposition towards them more immediately, and therefore with greater certainty, than it is possible to see anything in the soul of an earthly friend by his speech and behavior. And therefore their spiritual sight will give them greater advantage for conversing with God, than the sight of earthly friends with bodily eyes, or hearing them with our ears, gives us for conversing with them.
2. I shall now give the reasons why the thus seeing God is that which will make the soul truly happy.
(1.) It yields a delight suitable to the nature of an intelligent creature. God hath made man, and man only, of all the creatures here below, an intelligent creature. And his reason and understanding are that by which he is distinguished from all inferior ranks of beings. Man’s reason is, as it were, a heavenly ray, or, in the language of the wise man, it is “the candle of the Lord.” It is that wherein mainly consists the natural image of God, it is the noblest faculty of man, it is that which ought to bear rule over the other powers. Being given for that end, that it might govern the soul.
Therefore those delights are most suitable to the nature of man, that are intellectual, which result from the exercises of this noblest, this distinguishing faculty. God, by giving man understanding, made him capable of such delights, and fitted him for them, and designed that such pleasures as those should be his happiness.
Intellectual pleasures consist in the beholding of spiritual excellencies and beauties, but the glorious excellency and beauty of God are far the greatest. God’s excellence is the supreme excellence. When the understanding of the reasonable creature dwells here, it dwells at the fountain, and swims in a boundless, bottomless ocean. The love of God is also the most suitable entertainment of the soul of man, which naturally desires the happiness of society, or of union with some other being. The love of so glorious a being is infinitely valuable, and the discoveries of it are capable of ravishing the soul above all other love. It is suitable to the nature of an intelligent being also, as it is that kind of delight that reason approves of. There are many other delights in which men indulge themselves, which, although they are pleasing to the senses and inferior powers, yet are contrary to reason. Reason opposes the enjoyment of them, so that unless reason be suppressed and stifled, they cannot be enjoyed without a war in the soul. Reason, the noblest faculty, resists the inferior rebellious powers. And the more reason is in exercise, the more will it resist, and the greater will be the inward war and opposition.
But this delight of seeing God the understanding approves of. It is a thing most agreeable to reason that the soul should delight itself in this, and the more reason is in exercise, the more it approves of it. So that when it is enjoyed, it is with inward peace, and a sweet tranquillity of soul. There is nothing in human nature that is opposite to it, but everything agrees and conforms to it.
(2.) The pleasure which the soul has in seeing God is not only its delight, but it is at the same time its highest perfection and excellency. Man’s true happiness is his perfection and true excellency. When any reasonable creature finds that his excellency and his joy are the same thing, then he is come to right and real happiness, and not before. If a man enjoys any kind of pleasure and lives in it, how much soever he may be taken with what he enjoys, yet if he be not the more excellent for his pleasures, it is a certain sign that he is not a truly happy man. There are many pleasures that men are wont violently to pursue, which are no part of their dignity or perfection, but which, on the contrary, debase the man and make him vile. Instead of rendering the mind beautiful and lovely, they only serve to pollute it. Instead of exalting its nature, they make it more akin to that of beasts.
But it is quite the contrary with the pleasure that is to be enjoyed in seeing God. To see God is the highest honor and dignity to which the human nature can attain. That intellectual beholding of him is itself the highest excellency of the understanding. The great part of the excellency of man is his knowledge and understanding. But the knowledge of God is the most excellent and noble kind of knowledge.
The delight and joy of the soul in that sight are the highest excellency of the other faculty, viz. the will. The heart of man cannot be brought to a higher excellency than to have delight in God, and complacency in the divine excellency and glory. The soul, while it remains under the power of corruption and depravity, cannot have any delight in God’s glory. And when its moral relish is so far changed that it is disposed to delight in it, it is most excellently disposed. And when it actually exercises delight in God, it is the most noble and exalted exercise of which it is capable. So that the soul’s seeing of God, and having pleasure and joy in the sight, is the greatest excellency of both the faculties.
(3.) The happiness of seeing God is a blessing without any mixture. That pleasure has the best claim to be called man’s true happiness, which comes unmixed, and without alloy. But so doth the joy of seeing God. It neither brings any bitterness, nor will it suffer any.
1st. This pleasure brings no bitterness with it. That is not the case with other delights, in which natural men are wont to place their happiness. They are bitter sweets, yielding a kind of momentary pleasure in gratifying an appetite, but wormwood and gall are mingled in the cup. He who plucks these roses, finds that they grow on thorns. He who tastes of this honey is sure to find in it a sting. If men place their happiness in them, reason and conscience will certainly give them inward disturbance in their enjoyment. There will be the sting of continual disappointments, for carnal delights are of such a nature that they keep the soul, that places its happiness in them, always big with expectation and in eager pursuit, while they are evermore like shadows, and never yield what is hoped for. They who give themselves up to them, unavoidably bring upon themselves many heavy inconveniences. If they promote their pleasure in one way, they destroy their comforts in many other ways. And this sting ever accompanies them, that they are but short-lived, they will soon vanish, and be no more.
And as to the pleasure found in the enjoyment of earthly friends, there is a bitterness goes also with that. An intense love to any earthly object, though it may afford high enjoyment, yet greatly multiplies our cares and anxieties through the defects and blemishes, the instability and changeableness, of the object, the calamities to which it is exposed, and the short duration of all such friendships, and of the pleasures thence arising.
Some men take a great deal of pleasure in study, in the increase of knowledge. But Solomon, who had great experience, long ago observed that this also is vanity, because he that increases knowledge increases sorrow. Ecc.. 1:17, 18, “And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.” But the delight which the sight of God affords to the soul, brings no bitterness with it, there is no disappointment accompanies it, it promises not more than it yields, but on the contrary the pleasure is greater than could be imagined before God was seen. It brings no sting of conscience along with it, it brings no vexing care nor anxiety, it leaves no loathing nor disrelish behind it.
There is nothing in God which gives uneasiness to him who beholds him. The view of one attribute adds to the joy that is raised by another. A sight of the holiness of God, gives unspeakable pleasure to the mind. The idea of it is a perception beyond measure the most delightful that can exist in a created mind. And then the beholding of God’s grace adds to this joy, for the soul then considers that the Being who is so amiable in himself, is so communicative, so disposed to love and benevolence. The view of the majesty of God greatly heightens this joy: to behold such grace and goodness, and such goodness and majesty, untied together. Especially will the sight of God’s love to himself, the person beholding, increase the pleasure, when he considers that so great and glorious a being loves him, and is his God and friend. Again, the beholding of God’s infinite power will still add to the pleasure, for he reflects that he, who is his friend, and loves him with so great a love, can do all things for him. So the beholding of his wisdom, because he thereby knows what is best for him, and knows how so to order things, as shall make him most blessed. So the consideration of his eternity and immutability, it will rejoice him to think that his friend and his portion is an eternal and unchangeable friend and portion. The beholding of God’s happiness will increase the joy, to consider that he is so happy, who is so much the object of his love. That love of God, in those who shall see God, will cause them exceedingly to rejoice in the happiness of God. Even the sight of God’s vindictive justice will add to their joy. This justice of God will appear glorious to them, and will make them prize his love.
2d. This joy is without mixture, not only as it brings not bitterness with it, but also as it will not suffer any. The sight of God excludes everything that is of a nature different from delight. This light is such, as wholly excludes darkness.
It is not in the power of any earthly enjoyment to drive and shut out all trouble from the heart. If a man has some things in which he takes comfort and pleasure, there are others that yield him uneasiness and sorrow; if he has some things in the world that are sweet, there are others that are bitter, against which it is not in the power of his pleasures to help him. We never can find anything here below that shall make us so happy, but that we shall have grief and pleasure mixed together. This world, let us make the best of it, will be spotted with black and white, varied with clouds and sunshine. And to them who yield their hearts to it, it will yield pain as well as pleasure. But this pleasure of seeing God can suffer no mixture. For this pleasure of seeing God is so great and strong that it takes the full possession of the heart. It fills it perfectly full, so that there shall be no room for any sorrow, no room in any corner for anything of an adverse nature from joy. There is no darkness that can bear such powerful light. It is impossible that they who see God face to face, who behold his glory and love so immediately as they do in heaven, should have any such thing as grief or pain in their hearts. When once the saints are come into God’s presence, tears shall be wiped from their eyes, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. The pleasure will be so great, as fully and perfectly to employ every faculty; the sight of God’s glory and love will be so wonderful, so engaging to the mind, and it shall keep all the powers of it in such strong attention, that the soul will be wholly possessed and taken up.
Again. There will be in what they shall see, a sufficient antidote against everything that would afford uneasiness, or that can have any tendency thereto. If there were sin in the heart before, that used by its exercise to disturb its peace and quiet, and was a seed and spring of trouble, the immediate and full sight of God’s glory will at once drive it all away. Sin cannot remain in the heart which thus beholds God, for sin is a principle of enmity against God. But there can no enmity remain in one, who after this manner sees God’s glory. It must and will wholly drive away any such principle, and change it into love. The imperfect sight that the saints have of God’s glory here, transforms them in part into the same image. But this perfect sight will transform them perfectly. If there be the hatred of enemies, the vision of the love and power of God will be a sufficient antidote against it, so that it can give no uneasiness. If the saint is removed by death from all his earthly friends, and earthly enjoyments, that will give no uneasiness to him, when he sees what a fullness there is in God. He will see that there is all in him, so that he possesses him can lose nothing. Whatever is taken from him he sustains no loss. And whatever else there may be, that would otherwise afford grief and uneasiness to the soul, it cannot affect him who is in the presence of God and sees his face.
(4.) This joy of seeing God is the true blessedness of man because the fountain that supplies it is equal to man’s desire and capacity.
When God gave man his capacity of happiness, he doubtless made provision for the filling of it. There was some good which God had in his eye, when he made the vessel, and made it of such dimensions, which he knew to be sufficient to fill it. And doubtless that, whatever it be, is man’s true blessedness, and that good which is found not to be commensurate to man’s capacity and natural desires, and never can equal it, is certainly not that wherein man’s happiness consists. Man’s desires and capacities are commensurate one with another. When once the capacity is filled, the soul desires no more.
Now in order to judge how great man’s capacity is, we must consider the capacity of his principal and leading faculty, viz. his understanding. So great as is the capacity of that faculty, so great is man’s capacity of enjoyment, so great a good as the soul is capable of understanding, so great a good it is capable of enjoying. As great a good as the soul is capable of comprehending in its perception and idea, so great a good is it capable of receiving with the other faculty, the will, which keeps pace with the understanding. And that good which the soul can receive with both faculties, of that is it capable of being made the possessor and enjoyer.
But it is easy to perceive that there is nothing here below that can give men such delight as shall be equal to this faculty. Let a man enjoy as great an affluence of earthly comforts as he will, still there is room. Man’s nature is capable of a great deal more. There are certain things wanting to which the understanding can extend itself, which he could wish were added.
But the fountain that supplies that joy and delight, which the soul has in seeing God, is sufficient to fill the vessel. Because it is infinite. He that sees the glory of God, in his measure beholds that of which there is no end. The understanding may extend itself as far as it will. It doth but take its flight into an endless expanse and dive into a bottomless ocean. It may discover more and more of the beauty and loveliness of God, but it never will exhaust the fountain. The body of man may as well swallow up the ocean, or his soul embrace immensity, as he can extend his faculties to the utmost of God’s excellency.
So in like manner it may be said of the love of God. We can never by soaring and ascending come to the height of it. We can never by descending come to the depth of it. Or by measuring, know the length and breadth of it. Eph. 3:18, 19, “That ye may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge; that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” So that let the thoughts and desires extend themselves as they will, here is space enough for them, in which they may expand forever. How blessed therefore are they that do see God, who are come to this exhaustless fountain! They have obtained that delight which gives full satisfaction. Having come to this pleasure, they neither do nor can desire any more. They can sit down fully contented, and take up with this enjoyment forever and ever, and desire no change. After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story. The relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever, there is enough still for the utmost employment of every faculty.
(5.) This delight in the vision of God hath an unfailing foundation. God made man to endure forever, and therefore that which is man’s true blessedness, we may conclude has a sure and lasting foundation. As to worldly enjoyments, their foundation is a sandy one, that is continually wearing away, and certainly will at last let the building fall. If we take pleasure in riches, riches in a little while will be gone. If we take pleasure in gratifying our senses, those objects whence we draw our gratifications will perish with the using, and our senses themselves also will be gone, the organs will be worn out, and our whole outward form will turn to dust. If we take pleasure in union with our earthly friends, that union must be broken. The bonds are not durable, but will soon wear asunder.
But he who has the immediate intellectual vision of God’s glory and love, and rejoices in that, has his happiness built upon an everlasting rock. Isa. 26:4, “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” In the Hebrew it is, “in the Lord Jehovah is the Rock of ages.”
The glory of God is subject to no changes nor vicissitudes, it will never cease to shine forth. History gives us an account of the sun’s light failing, and becoming more faint and dim for many months together. But the glory of God will never be subject to fade. Of the light of that Sun there never will be any eclipse or dimness, but it will shine eternally in its strength. Isa. 60:19, “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.” So the love of God, to those who see his face, will never fail, or be subject to any abatement. He loves his saints with an everlasting love. Jer. 31:3, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” Those streams of pleasure which are at God’s right hand, are never dry, but ever flowing and ever full.
How much doth the sense of the sureness of this foundation confirm and heighten the joy! The soul enjoys its delight in a sense of this, free from all fears and jealousies, and with an unspeakable quietness and assurance. Isa. 32:17, “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever.”
From this part of the subject we may derive several important and useful reflections.
1st. Here we may see one instance wherein the revelation of Jesus Christ excels all human wisdom. It was a thing that had been beyond the wisdom of the world, to tell wherein man’s true happiness consisted. There was a vast variety of opinions about it among the wise men and philosophers of the heathen. Indeed on no other subject was there so great difference among them. If I remember right, there were several hundred different opinions reckoned up respecting it, which shows that they were woefully in the dark. Though there were many very wise men among them, men famed through all succeeding ages for their knowledge and 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 accustomed 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 had our reason assisted by revelation.
God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world by the gospel. 1 Cor. 1:20, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the dispute of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” I.e. he hath 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.
2d. 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 perfectly in another world.
The knowledge which believers have of God and his glory, as appearing in the face of Christ, is the imperfect 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 him 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, one of which we have in our text, and of which I shall speak particularly hereafter.
3d. 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 3:2, “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 after a little while they shall see God, which will immediately dry up all tears, and drive away all sorrow and sighing, and expel forever every darksome thought from the heart.
4th. 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.
Second, 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 hear, 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 here to be understood in distinction from a mere external purity, or a purity of the outward actions and behavior 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 had 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 to 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 hands 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 the external purity, they looked upon themselves as the peculiar favorites 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 external 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. Mat. 5:20, “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 kingdom 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 holiness of heart, he is never [likely] 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. Pro. 23:26, “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. 16:7, “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. Pro. 16:2, “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,
(1.) With respect to the spiritual defilement from which it is pure;
(2.) 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.
(1.) 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. Pro. 20:9, “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 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 for 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, endeavor 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 seal, 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 13:10, “He that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet.”
4th. The heart that is pure will be continually endeavoring 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 endeavoring 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 to, the lust of uncleanness. This kind of wickedness we find to be more especially called uncleanness and filthiness in Scripture. It brings a peculiar turpitude upon the soul, and defiles the temple of God. 1 Cor. 3:17, “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, Phil. 4:8, “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 another, 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.
(2.) 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 chose. Rom 9:23, “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. 19:7, 8, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; 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 21st. chap. 2d 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 Psa. 24:3, 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 lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” And again, Isa. 33:15, 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.
(1.) 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 he is of purer eyes than to behold such pollution.
It becomes persons when they come into the presence of a king, so 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 filth 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 favor, and to see the love of God, and to receive the testimonies of that love. It would be most unsuitable for the glorious and most blessed God to embrace in the arms of his love, that that is infinitely more filthy than a reptile.
(2.) It is naturally impossible that the soul which is impure should see God. The sight of God’s glory, and impurity of heart, are not compatible in the same subject. Where spiritual defilement holds possession of the heart, it is impossible that the divine light which discovers God’s glory should enter. How can he, who is under the power of enmity against God, and who only hates God, see his beauty and loveliness at the same time? Sin, so long as it has the government and possession of the soul, will blind the mind and maintain darkness. As long as sin keeps possession, the heart will be blinded through its deceitfulness.
(3.) If it were possible for them to see God, they could not find any blessedness in it. What pleasure would it give to the soul that hates holiness, to see the holiness of God. What pleasure to them who are God’s enemies, to see his greatness and glory? Wicked men have no relish for such intellectual, pure, and holy delights and enjoyments. As we have observed already, to have a relish for spiritual enjoyments is one part of the purity of heart spoken of in the text.
(4.) It is impossible that such should be the objects of God’s favor and complacence, and therefore they cannot have this part of the blessed-making vision of God, viz. the seeing of his love. It is impossible that God should take pleasure in wickedness, or should have complacence in the wicked, and therefore they cannot have the blessed-making vision of God, for seeing the love of God is an essential part of it. If a man sees how glorious God is, and has not this consideration with it, that he has a property in this glory of God, if he cannot consider this glorious being as his friend, if he takes no pleasure in him, but, on the contrary, loathes and abhors him, the sight of God will be to him no blessedness.
I. Hence we learn how great a thing it is to be an upright and sincere Christian. For all such are pure in heart, and stand entitled to the blessedness of seeing the most high God. The time is coming when they shall assuredly see him. They shall see him who is infinitely greater than all the kings of the earth. They shall see him face to face, shall see as much of his glory and beauty as the eyes of their souls are capable of beholding. They shall not only see him for a few moments, or an hour, but they shall dwell in his presence, and shall sit down forever to drink in the rays of his glory. They shall see him invested in all this majesty, with smiles and love in his countenance. They shall see him, and converse with him, as their nearest and best friend.
Thus shall they see him soon. The intervening moments fly swiftly, the time is even at the door, when they shall be admitted to this blessedness.
II. Let the consideration of this subject put us all upon inquiring, whether we ourselves are pure in heart. Is our religion of that kind which has its seat chiefly in the heart, or doth it chiefly consist in what is outward in morality and formality? Have we ever experienced a change of heart? Have we a right spirit renewed within us? Have we ever seen the odiousness and filthiness that there is in sin? Is it what we hate, wherever we see it? And do we especially hate it in ourselves, and loathe ourselves for it? Is it the object of our hatred as sin, and as it is against God?
And are there any that now hear me, who think themselves to be Christians, who do yet, either in their imaginations and thoughts, or in any secret practice, allow and indulge the lust of uncleanness, and live in such a way? If it be so, they had great need to bethink themselves whether or no they are not of that generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet are not cleansed from their filthiness. If they imagine that they are pure in heart, and live in such wickedness, their confidence is vain presumption. Inquire whether holy exercises and holy employments are the delight of your soul, and what you take pleasure in above all other things in which you can be engaged. Are the enjoyments that you choose, and take the greatest delight in, spiritual and heavenly enjoyments? Is the seeing of God, and conversing with him, and dwelling in his presence forever, what you should of your own accord choose above all other things?
III. I would earnestly exhort those who hear me, to make to themselves a pure heart. Though it be God’s work to give it, yet it is as truly your work to obtain it. Though it be God’s work to purify the heart, yet the actual, or rather the active, procuring of it is your act. All pure and holy exercises are man’s acts, and they are his duty. Therefore we are commanded to make us a new heart, and a right spirit. Eze. 18:31, “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die?”
We must not think to excuse ourselves by saying that it is God’s work, that we cannot purify our own hearts. For though it be God’s work in one sense, yet it is equally our work in another. Jam. 4:8, “Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” If you do not engage in this work yourselves, and purify your own hearts, they never will be pure. If you do not get a pure heart, the blame of it will be laid to your own backwardness. The unclean soul hates to be purified. It is opposite to its nature. There is a great deal of self-denial in it. But be content to contradict the nature and bent of your own heart, that it may be purified. However grating it may be to you at first, yet consider how blessed the issue will be. Though the road be a little rough in the beginning, yet it will grow pleasanter and pleasanter, till at last it will infallibly lead to that lightsome and glorious country, the inhabitants of which do see and converse with God. Pro. 4:18, “But the path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” If you would be in the way to have a pure heart,
First, purify your hands. Cleanse yourself from every external impurity of speech and behavior. Take heed that you never defile your hands in known wickedness. Break off all your sins by righteousness. And take heed that you do not give way to impure lusts that would entice to sinful actions. If you set about the work of cleansing yourself, but when a temptation comes then plunge yourself into the mire again, you never will be likely to become pure. But you must be steady in your reformation and the amendment of your ways and doings.
Second, take heed you do not rest in external purity, but seek purity of heart in the ways of God’s appointment. Seek it in a constant and diligent attendance on all God’s ordinances.
Third, be often searching your own heart, and seek and pray that you may see the filthiness of it. If ever you are made pure you must be brought to see that you are filthy. You must see the plague and pollution of your own heart.
Fourth, beg of God that he would give you his Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that purifies the soul. Therefore the Spirit of God is often compared to fire, and is said to baptize with fire. He cleanses the heart, as fire cleanses the metals; and burns up the filth and pollution of the mind, and is therefore called the Spirit of burning. Isa. 4:4, “When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.”
THE SIXTH BEATITUDE
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
This is another of the Beatitudes that has been grossly perverted by the enemies of the Lord, enemies who have, like their predecessors the Pharisees, posed as the champions of the truth and boasted of a sanctity superior to that which the true people of God would dare to claim. All through this Christian era, also, there have been poor, deluded souls who have claimed an entire purification of the old man. Others have insisted that God has so completely renewed them that the carnal nature has been eradicated, so that they not only commit no sins but have no sinful desires or thoughts. But the Spirit-inspired Apostle John declares, “If we say that we have [present tense] no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
Of course, such people appeal to the Scriptures in support of their vain delusion, applying to experience verses that describe the legal benefits of the Atonement. The words “and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7) do not mean that our hearts have been washed from every trace of the corrupting defilements of evil, but primarily teach that the sacrifice of Christ has availed for the judicial blotting out of sins. When the Apostle Paul, describing the man who is a new creature in Christ, says that “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17), he is speaking of the new disposition of the Christian’s heart, which is wholly unlike his inner disposition prior to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration.
That purity of heart does not mean sinlessness of life is clear from the inspired record of the history of God’s saints. Noah got drunk; Abraham equivocated; Moses disobeyed God; Job cursed the day of his birth; Elijah fled in terror from Jezebel; Peter denied Christ. “Yes,” perhaps someone will exclaim, “but all these things transpired before Christianity was established!” True, but it has also been the same since then. Where shall we go to find a Christian of superior attainments to those of the Apostle Paul? And what was his experience? Read Romans 7 and see. When he would do good, evil was present with him (v. 21). There was a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin that was in his members (v. 23). He did, with the mind, serve the Law of God; nevertheless, with the flesh he served the law of sin (v. 25).
The truth is that one of the most conclusive evidences that we do possess a pure heart is the discovery and consciousness of the remaining impurity that continues to plague our hearts. But let us come closer to our text. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” In seeking an interpretation to any part of this Sermon on the Mount, the first thing to bear in mind is that those whom our Lord was addressing had been reared in Judaism. As one said who was deeply taught of the Spirit, I cannot help thinking that our Lord, in using the terms before us, had a tacit reference to that character of external sanctity or purity which belonged to the Jewish people, and to that privilege of intercourse with God which was connected with that character. They were a people separated from the nations polluted with idolatry; set apart as holy to Jehovah; and, as a holy people, they were permitted to draw near to their God, the only living and true God, in the ordinances of His worship.
On the possession of this character, and on the enjoyment of this privilege, the Jewish people plumed themselves. A higher character, however, and a higher privilege, belonged to those who should be the subjects of the Messiah’s reign. They should not only be externally holy, but “pure in heart”; and they should not merely be allowed to approach towards the holy place, where God’s honor dwelt, but they should “see God,” be introduced into the most intimate intercourse with Him.
Thus viewed, as a description of the spiritual character and privileges of the subjects of the Messiah in contrast with the external character and privileges of the Jewish people, the passage before us is full of the most important and interesting truth (Dr. John Brown).
“Blessed are the pure in heart.” Opinion is divided as to whether these words of Christ refer to the new heart received at regeneration or to that moral transformation of character that results from a Divine work of grace having been wrought in the soul. Probably both aspects of the truth are combined here. In view of the late place that this Beatitude occupies in the series, it would appear that the purity of heart upon which our Savior pronounced His blessing is that internal cleansing that both accompanies and follows the new birth. Thus, inasmuch as no inward purity exists in the natural man, that purity attributed by Christ to the godly man must be traced back, as to its beginnings, to the Spirit’s sovereign work of regeneration.
The Psalmist said, “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6). This spiritual purity that God demands penetrates far beyond the mere outward renovations and reformations that comprise such a large part of the efforts now being put forth in Christendom! Much that we see around us is a hand religion—seeking salvation by works—or a head religion that rests satisfied with an orthodox creed. But God “looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), that is, He looks upon the whole inner being, including the understanding, the affections, and the will. It is because God looks within that He must give a “new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26) to His own people and blessed indeed are they who have received such, for it is a pure heart that is acceptable to the Giver.
As intimated above, we believe that this sixth Beatitude contemplates both the new heart received at regeneration and the transformation of character that follows God’s work of grace in the soul. First, there is a “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5), by which we understand a cleansing of the affections, which are now subsequently set upon things above, instead of things below. This is closely linked with that change that follows upon the heels of regeneration, in which all believers undergo a “purifying [of] their hearts by faith [by the Holy Ghost]” (Acts 15:9). Accompanying this is the cleaning of the conscience (Hebrews 10:22), which refers to the removal of the burden of conscious guilt. This results in the inward realization that, “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
But the purity of heart commended here by Christ goes further than this. What is purity? It is freedom from defilement and divided affections; it is sincerity, genuineness, and singleness of heart. As a quality of Christian character, we would define it as godly simplicity. It is the opposite of subtlety and duplicity.
Genuine Christianity lays aside not only malice, but guile and hypocrisy also. It is not enough to be pure in words and in outward deportment. Purity of desires, motives, and intents is what should (and does in the main) characterize the child of God. Here, then, is a most important test for every professing Christian to apply to himself.
· Are my affections set upon things above?
· Are my motives pure?
· Why do I [or don’t I] assemble with the Lord’s people?
· Is it to be seen of men, or is it to meet with the Lord and to enjoy sweet communion with Him and His people?
“For they shall see God.” Once more we would point out that the promises attached to these Beatitudes have both a present and a future fulfillment. The pure in heart possess spiritual discernment, and with the eyes of their understanding they obtain clear views of the Divine character and perceive the excellency of His attributes. When the eye is single the whole body is full of light.
In the truth, the faith of which purifies the heart, they “see God”; for what is that truth, but a manifestation of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ [2 Corinthians 4:6]—an illustrious display of the combined radiance of Divine holiness and Divine benignity!... And he [who is pure in heart] not only obtains clear and satisfactory views of the Divine character, but he enjoys intimate and delightful communion with God. He is brought very near God: God’s mind becomes his mind; God’s will becomes his will; and his fellowship is truly with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
They who are pure in heart “see God” in this way, even in the present world; and in the future state their knowledge of God will become far more extensive and their fellowship with Him far more intimate; for though, when compared with the privileges of a former dispensation, even now as with open face we behold the glory of the Lord [2 Corinthians 3:18], yet, in reference to the privileges of a higher economy, we yet see but through a glass darkly—we know but in part, we enjoy but in part. But that which is in part shall be done away, and that which is perfect shall come.
We shall yet see face to face and know even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:9-12); or to borrow the words of the Psalmist, we shall behold His face in righteousness, and shall be satisfied when we awake in His likeness (Psalm 17:15). Then, and not till then, will the full meaning of these words be understood, that the pure in heart shall see God (Dr. John Brown).
The Sixth Beatitude (Matthew 5:8)
‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’—Matthew 5:8.
AT first hearing one scarcely knows whether the character described in this great saying, or the promise held out, is the more inaccessible to men. ‘The pure in heart’: who may they be? Is there one of us that can imagine himself possessed of a character fitting him for the vision of God, or such as to make him bear with delight that dazzling blaze? ‘They shall see God,’ whom ‘no man hath seen at any time, nor can see.’ Surely the requirement is impossible, and the promise not less so. But does Jesus Christ mock us with demands that cannot be satisfied, and dangle before us hopes that can never be realised? There have been many moralists and would-be teachers who have done that. What would be the use of saying to a man lying on a battlefield sore wounded, and with both legs shot off, ‘If you will only get up and run, you will be safe’? What would be the use of telling men how blessed they would be if they were the opposite of what they are? But that is not Christ’s way.
These words, lofty and remote as they seem, are in truth amongst the most hopeful and radiant that ever came from even His lips. For they offer the realisation of an apparently impossible character, they promise the possession of an apparently impossible vision; and they soothe fears, and tell us that the sight from which, were it possible, we should sometimes fain shrink, is the source of our purest gladness. So there are three things, it seems to me, worth our notice in these great words—How hearts can be made pure; how the pure heart can see God; and how the sight can be simple blessedness.
I. How hearts can be made pure.
Now, the key which has unlocked for us, in previous sermons, the treasures of meaning in these Beatitudes, is especially necessary here. For, as I have said, if you take this to be a mere isolated saying, it becomes a mockery and a pain. But if you connect it, as our Lord would have us connect it, with all the preceding links of this wreathed chain describing the characteristics of a devout soul, then it assumes an altogether different appearance. ‘The pure in heart’ are they who have exercised and received the previous qualifications and bestowments from God. That is to say, there must precede all such purity as is capable of the divine vision, the poverty of spirit which recognises its true condition, the mourning which rightly feels the gravity and awfulness of that condition, the desire for its opposite, which will never be the ‘hunger and thirst’ of a soul, except it is preceded by a profound sense of sin and the penitence that ensues thereupon.
But when these things have gone before, and when they have been accompanied, as they surely will be, with the results that flow from them without an interval of time—viz. enrichment with possession of the kingdom, the comforting and drying of the tears of penitence, and the possession of a righteousness bestowed because it is desired, and not won because it is worked for—then, and only then, will the heart be purged and defecated from its evils and its self-regard, and its eyes opened and couched and strengthened to behold undazzled the eternal light of God. The word of my text, standing alone, ministers despair. Regarded where Christ set it, as one of the series of characteristics which He has been describing, it kindles the brightest and surest hope.
‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?’ No; but God can change them; and the implication of my text, regarded in its due relation to these other Beatitudes, is just that the requisite purity is not of man’s working, but is God’s gift. The same truth which here results from the study of the place of our text in this series is condensed into a briefer, but substantially equivalent, form in the saying of another part of the New Testament, about ‘purifying their hearts by faith.’
Dear brethren, we come back to the old truth—all a man’s hope of, and effort after, reformation and self-improvement must begin with the consciousness of sin, the lament over it, the longing for divine goodness, the opening of the heart for the reception thereof; and only then can we rise to these serene heights of purity of heart. This, and this alone, is the way by which ‘a clean thing’ can be brought ‘out of an unclean one.’ and men stained and foul with evil, and bound under the chains of that which is the mother of all evil, the undue making themselves the centres of their lives, can be washed and cleansed and emancipated, and God be made the end and the aim, the motive and the goal, the power and the reward, of all their work. Righteousness is a gift to begin with, and it is a gift bestowed on condition of ‘repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.’ We all have longings after purity, suppressed, dashed, contradicted a thousand times in our lives day by day, but there they are; and the only way by which they can be fully satisfied is when we go with our foul hands, empty as well as foul, and lift them up to God, and say, ‘Give what Thou commandest, even the clean heart, and we shall be clean.’
But then, do not let us forget, either, that this gift bestowed not once and for ever, but continuously if there be continuous desire, is to be utilised, appropriated, worked into our characters, and worked out in our lives, by our own efforts, as well as by our own faith. ‘Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiniess of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.’ ‘Every man that hath this’ gift bestowed, ‘purifieth himself even as He is pure.’ He that brings to us the gift of regeneration, by which we receive the new nature which is free from sin, calls to each of us as He presents to us the basin with the cleansing water, ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings; … cease to do evil, learn to do well.’ ‘What God hath joined together let not man put asunder,’ viz. the act of faith by which we receive, the act of diligence by which we use, the purifying power.
II. Note how the pure heart sees God.
One is tempted to plunge into mystical depths when speaking upon such a text as this, but I wish to resist the temptation now, and to deal with it in a plain, practical fashion. Of course I need not remind you, or do more than simply remind you, that the matter in question here is no perception by sense of Him who is invisible, nor is it, either, an adequate and direct knowledge and comprehension of Him who is infinite, and whom a man can no more comprehend than he can stretch his short arms round the flaming orb of the central sun. But still, there is a relation to God possible for sinful men when they have been purified through the faith that is in Jesus Christ, which is so direct, so immediate, that it deserves the name of vision; and which, as I believe, is the ground of a firmer certitude, and of a no less clear apprehension, than is the sense from which the name is borrowed. For the illusions of sense have no place in the sight which the pure heart has of its Father, God.
Only, remember that here, and in the interpretation of all such Scriptural words, we have ever to be guided and governed by the great principle which our Lord laid down, under very solemn circumstances, when He said: ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.’ Jesus Christ, whose name from eternity is the Word, is, from eternity to eternity, that which the name indicates—viz. the revealing activity of the eternal God. And, as I believe, wherever there have been kindled in men’s hearts, either by the contemplation of nature and providence, or by the intuitions of their own spirits, any glints or glimpses of a God, there has been the operation of ‘the Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ And far beyond the limits of historical Revelation within Israel, as recorded in Scripture, that Eternal Word has been unveiling, as men’s dim eyes were capable of perceiving it, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. But for us who stand in the full blaze of that historical manifestation in the character and work of Jesus Christ our Saviour, our vision of God is neither more nor less than the apprehension and the realisation of Christ as ‘God manifest in the flesh.’
Whether you call it the vision of God, or whether you call it communion with God in Jesus Christ, or whether you fall back upon the other metaphor of God dwelling in us and we dwelling in God, it all comes to the same thing, the consciousness of His presence, the realisation of His character, the blessed assurance of loving relations with Him, and the communion in mind, heart, will, and conduct, with God who has come near to us all in Jesus Christ.
Now, I need not remind you, I suppose, that for such a realisation and active, real communion, purity of heart is indispensable. That is no arbitrary requirement, but inherent, as we all know, in the very nature of the case. If we think of what He is, we shall feel that only the pure in heart can really pass into loving fellowship with Him. ‘How can two walk together except they be agreed?’ And if we reflect upon the history of our own feelings and realisation of God’s presence with us, we shall see that impurity always drew a membrane over the eye of our souls, or cast a mist of invisibility over the heavens. The smallest sin hides God from us. A very, very little grain of dye stuff will darken miles of a river, and make it incapable of reflecting the blue sky and the sparkling stars. The least evil done and loved blurs and blots, if it does not eclipse, for us the doers the very Sun of Righteousness Himself. No sinful men can walk in the midst of that fiery furnace and not be consumed. ‘The pure in heart’—and only they—‘shall see God.’
Nor need I remind you, I suppose, that in this, as in all these Beatitudes, the germinal fulfilment in the present life is not to be parted off by a great gap from the perfect fulfilment in the life which is to come. And so I do not dwell so much on the differences, great and wonderful as these must necessarily be, between the manner of apprehension and communion with God which it is reserved for heaven to bestow upon us, and the manner of those which we may enjoy here; but I rather would point to the blessed thought that in essence they are one, however in degree they may be different. No doubt, changed circumstances, new capacities, the withdrawal of time and sense, the dropping away of the veil of flesh, which is the barrier between us and the unseen order of things in which ‘we live and move and have our being,’ will induce changes and progresses in the manner and in the degree of that vision about which it would be folly for us to speak. If there were anything here with which we could compare the state of the blessed in heaven, in so far as it differs from their state on earth, we could form some conception of these differences; but if there were anything here with which we could compare it, it would be less glorious than it is. It is well that we should have to say, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared.’ So let us be thankful that ‘it doth not yet appear what we shall be’; and let us never allow our ignorance of the manner to make us doubt or neglect the fact, seeing that we know ‘that when He shall appear … we shall see Him as He is.’
III. Lastly, notice how this sight brings blessedness.
There is nothing else that will ‘satisfy the eye with seeing.’ The vision of God, even in that incipient and imperfect form which is possible upon earth, is the one thing that will calm our distractions, that will supply our needs, that will lift our lives to a level of serene power and blessedness, unattainable by any other way. Such a sight will dim all the dazzling illusions of earth, as, when the sun leaps into the heavens, the stars hide their faces and faint into invisibility. It will make us lords of ourselves, masters of the world, kings over time and sense and the universe. Everything will be different when ‘earth is crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.’ That is what is possible for a Christian holding fast by Jesus Christ, and in Him having communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, I venture to say no word about the blessedness of that future. Heaven’s golden gates keep their secret well. Even the purest joys of earth, about which poets have sung for untold centuries, after all singing need to be tasted before they are conceived of; and all our imaginings about the blessedness yonder is but like what a chrysalis might dream in its tomb as to the life of the radiant winged creature which it would one day become. Let us be content to be ignorant, and believe with confidence that we shall find that the vision of God is the heaven of heavens.
We shall owe that eternal vision to the eternal Revealer; for, as I believe, Scripture teaches us that it is only in Him that the glorified saints see the Father, as it is only in Him that here on earth we have the vision of God. That sight is not, like the bodily sense to which it is compared, a far-off perception of an ungrasped brightness, but it is the actual possession of what we behold. We see God when we have God. When we have God we have enough.
But I dare not close without one other word. There is a vision of God possible to an impure heart, in which there is no blessedness. There comes a day in which ‘they shall call upon the rocks to fall and cover them from the face of Him that sits upon the throne.’ The alternative is before each of us, dear friends—either ‘every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him’; or, ‘I shall behold Thy face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.’ If we cry, ‘Create a clean heart in me, O God!’ He will answer, ‘I will give you a new heart, and take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh, and I will pour clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean.’
To achieve holiness, believed the early monks, you must soak in the moral sense of the Word.
Patrick Henry Reardon
A little-known monk living in the Egyptian desert at the end of the fourth century provided one of the most durable interpretive keys in the history of Bible study. The monk, named Nesteros, proposed that all of Holy Scripture is to be understood in four ways or "senses."
He explained this paradigm by examining the various meanings of "Jerusalem" in the Bible.
Jerusalem in its literal and historical sense, said Nesteros, is simply a city in the Holy Land. That is the Bible's first sense, its literal and historical meaning.
Besides this, however, Jerusalem is also a symbol (typos) of the Church, God's redeemed and sanctified people. That is its second or allegorical sense (Gal. 4:24—allegoroumena).
Next, Jerusalem is an image of the redeemed but struggling Christian soul; this is its third or moral sense.
Finally, Jerusalem is that heavenly city on high (Gal. 4:26; Rev. 21:2), the final expectation of our hopes, and this is its fourth or anagogical sense.
Nesteros's "four senses" became the foundation of all monastic reading of the Bible. It shows up absolutely everywhere in medieval theology. In Dante's fourteenth-century masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, we find the same scheme in use.
The Book that reads us
The history of monasticism owes most to one of these four senses: the moral. When church fathers and medieval interpreters spoke of the Bible's "moral sense," they expressed a conviction that God's unfailing word, precisely because it is fulfilled in Christ the Lord, is intended by the Holy Spirit to address the practical moral lives of those who are "in Christ." It is especially the Christian believer, they argued, who can most truly tell his heavenly Father, "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path" (Ps. 119:105), because the Christian has been given, in the person and work of Christ, the Bible's true interpretive key.
Thus, whether in the pulpit or in other forms of pastoral teaching, teachers of the Bible continued for over a millennium to present the Bible, correctly understood in the light of Christ, as the ready and reliable source of moral guidance for those striving to live godly lives. Indeed, they discovered this interpretive principle explicit in the Bible itself, as when the apostle Paul taught that "whatever things were written before were written for our learning" (Rom. 15:4).
Certainly, this approach to Scripture was always understood to be valid for all Christians. But not surprisingly, we find a greater concentration of interest on this subject in the writings of monks, nuns, and other ascetics. These were Christians who felt called to a more intense life of prayer and virtuous striving, and their ancient monastic rules show how thoroughly biblical that quest was for them.
The preeminent example is the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia (d. 547), which became the dominant monastic code of the entire western half of Christendom. In Benedict's rule the monk's entire waking day, roughly seventeen hours, was divided among three activities: manual labor, the prayerful reading of Holy Scripture (lectio divina), and choral prayer, especially the praying of the Psalms. Even while the monk ate his sparse meals each day, he listened to one of his brothers reading Holy Scripture.
The monks and nuns pursued their goals—purity of heart and the gift of constant prayer—by ingesting massive daily dosages of Scripture. They gave themselves totally to God not only by denying themselves and serving others, but by allowing themselves to become saturated in and absorbed by the power of God's Word. Monks took seriously that principle of Jerome of Bethlehem (347-419), who said, "To be ignorant of the Scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ."
Consequently, those men and women who centered their entire existence on the study of Holy Scripture, prayer, and ascetic effort, were bound to reflect more closely, and in greater detail, on the internal theological relationship between the understanding of Holy Scripture and ascetical striving for purity of heart. From both East and West, the treatment of this theme in monastic literature, though daunting in its sheer mass, remains instructive for Christians today.
The soul's mirror
The Bible itself provided the framework of the discussion. For example, Augustine of Hippo (354-430), who lived as a monk after his conversion and prior to his becoming a bishop, was fond of the metaphor in the Epistle of James: "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was" (1:23). On many occasions throughout his voluminous writings, Augustine appealed to this verse in order to explain how the Bible functions as a spiritual mirror to reveal believers' true selves. His interpretation of this verse was taken up hundreds of times in medieval monastic and ascetic literature.
Studied as a "mirror of the soul," the Scriptures became immediately and directly applicable. To look into the Bible was to look at one's own inner biography, as it were. Indeed, the ascetics of old, when they read the Bible, perceived it to be a divine word directed to them in the concrete circumstances of their relationship to the Lord. They would have been shocked to hear Scripture described in modern terms as a "record of God's word." The monks believed its divine inspiration caused the Bible to be, rather, a living reality in the here and now. Biblical inspiration was not a one-time, over-and-done-with sort of thing; it adhered to the Bible as a permanent, living quality.
The written book was not active by itself, of course—no more than a sheet of printed music. In order to become alive, God's word had to take the living form of sound. In the patristic and middle ages, therefore, it was common and normal to read the Scriptures out loud, at least loud enough to be heard by the reader, even in private reading. "Faith," after all, "comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
All Bible reading was perceived to be, of its very nature, a true proclamation of God's word. The revered twelfth-century monk and teacher Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) reflected this ancient view when he said, "God spoke once, but His speech is continual and perpetual."
Bernard described the Bible as the liber experientiae, "the book of experience," because the Christian discerned in its pages the history of his own personal relationship to God. Adam's fall was the believer's own, but so too was David's repentance. God's choice of Isaac was the narrative of the Christian's own election. The Exodus was the account of his personal deliverance. The very sins of the Israelites in the desert were described in detail, so that Christ's striving servant would better avoid them. Indeed, "all of these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11).
Both Augustine and Bernard agreed with Jerome that "whatever was promised in a carnal manner to the people of Israel, we show that it is fulfilled in us in a spiritual manner and is fulfilled today." Did the Bible speak of a law, a manna, a holy city, a clean oblation, and a land flowing with milk and honey? These were but elements of the believer's daily life in Christ. Did it warn against the assault of Philistines, the invasion of Ammonites, and the siege of the Assyrians? These were the enemies Christ's struggling servant encountered each day, prowling through the recesses of his own heart. Did the Bible present a covenant to be ratified by the personal consent rendered in faith? That consent was required every time the believer opened its pages.
Origins in Origen
Although it was the monks and other ascetics who left us the greatest body of literature on this subject, there is nothing intrinsically "monastic" about this approach to Scripture. In fact, the monks themselves were aware of their debt, in this respect, to the non-monk Origen (185-254), teacher at the famed catechetical school at Alexandria.
The early monks, though they knew their debt to Origen, were often reluctant to admit it. Origen also dabbled excessively in certain philosophical questions and thereby got himself in trouble with the Church. For all that, however, he was recognized as an outstanding interpreter of the Scriptures, and even those monks who were careful never to mention his name were among his most ardent readers (Bernard of Clairvaux, for instance). For a long time, in fact, some of Origen's best works circulated from monastery to monastery under pseudonyms.
Origen never thought of himself as writing for monks, since monastic life in the third century was only beginning to take shape. He wrote, rather, for all Christians with a keen sense of their baptismal commitment to "put to death" those passions in their souls and bodies that would impede the new life of Christ within them. Such believers were determined to "seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God." Having died and hidden their lives with Christ in God, they set their "mind on things above, not on things on the earth." They were resolved to "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Col. 3:1-10). Where better to go for guidance, therefore, than to the Scriptures?
Over and over in his catechetical instructions, which were simply lessons based on biblical texts, Origen exhorted such Christians to go to the well of the Scriptures every day in order to draw the living water. His favorite metaphor for this daily discipline was found in those biblical stories where various women (Zipporah, for instance) met their bridegrooms at the well. If we go to draw from the biblical waters every day, said Origen, we will meet him. He will keep his appointment there with us.
Not an "easy read"
And how do we keep open and accessible the well of Holy Scripture, asked Origen, which is continually being stopped up and obstructed by the Philistines? We do it, he answered, by removing the vicious and selfish obstacles in our own souls. To dig into the Scriptures, he insisted, it is necessary to dig into our hearts, ridding them of darkness, purging them of vices, maintaining our minds in purity. Reading the Bible, therefore, involved a strenuous asceticism, because the understanding of God's word would certainly be distorted in a dark heart.
Without great ascetic effort, the Bible reader's understanding would remain at the level of the "letter," and we have it on good authority that "the letter kills" (Rom. 3:6). What was needed, then, was an ever deeper conversion of heart, a removal of the soul's veil, in order to disclose the inner Spirit of the Holy Scriptures (2 Cor. 3:12-4:6). Only the pure of heart could penetrate to this more profound level of biblical understanding, for only they can see God (Matt. 5:8).
The greatest advantage of that spiritual approach to Scripture was that it recognized no real distinction between praying and Bible reading. "When you pray," Jerome had written, "you talk to God. When you read the Bible, God talks to you." Prayer and Bible reading were to be done simultaneously, like a conversation between friends. For several hours each day, the monk was to read Scripture in a meditative way called lectio divina, literally "divine reading." Slowly, with loving repetition, he pondered the power of God's word, tasting it in the palate of the heart.
Some monks literally learned the entire Bible "by heart," not only in the simple sense of memorizing it, but also in the richer sense of putting the whole content of the Scriptures into the treasury of his heart.
Day by day, as he chanted the Psalms with his brothers in church, the monk's conversation with the Lord continued, employing God's own inspired expressions in order to speak to Him. Praying through the entire Book of Psalms in this way each week, as the Rule of St. Benedict required, the monk kneaded the leaven of the Psalter into his mind.
As he walked from place to place, he brought up from his heart a favorite psalm and recited it once again. The monks compared this exercise to the cow's serene chewing of the cud. There was simply no such thing as too much Bible.
In this way, concentrating all of the spiritual life on the Holy Scriptures, the monk of old avoided those dichotomies that have become such distractions in modern life, like the separation of worship from study (especially theological study!) and the alienation of prayer from moral striving. Such dichotomies are clearly neither necessary nor especially healthy. Perhaps the example of the ancient monk provides us a fine model of how to correct these more recent problems. Patrick Henry Reardon is a senior editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity (www.touchstonemag.com) and the author of Christ in the Psalms (Conciliar Press).
8 Commentators are divided on "pure in heart."
1. Some take it to mean inner moral purity as opposed to merely external piety or ceremonial cleanness. This is an important theme in Matthew and elsewhere in the Scriptures (e.g., Deut 10:16; 30:6; 1 Sam 15:22; Pss 24:3-4 [to which there is direct allusion here]; 51:6, 10; Isa 1:10-20; Jer 4:4; 7:3-7; Jer 9:25-26; Rom 2:9; 1Tim 1:5; 2Tim 2:22, cf. Matt 23:25-28).
2. Others take it to mean single-mindedness, a heart "free from the tyranny of a divided self" (Tasker; cf. Bonnard). Several of the passages just cited focus on freedom from deceit (Psalms 24:4; Psalms 51:4-17; cf. also Gen 50:5-6; Prov 22:11). This interpretation also prepares the way for Mt 6:22. The "pure in heart" are thus "the utterly sincere" (Ph).
The dichotomy between these two options is a false one; it is impossible to have one without the other. The one who is single minded in commitment to the kingdom and its righteousness (6:33) will also be inwardly pure. Inward sham, deceit, and moral filth cannot coexist with sincere devotion to Christ. Either way this beatitude excoriates hypocrisy (cf. on 6:1-18). The pure in heart will see God—now with the eyes of faith and finally in the dazzling brilliance of the beatific vision in whose light no deceit can exist (cf. Heb 12:14; 1 John 3:1-3; Rev 21:22-27).
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
· adjective, masculine, singular, nominative, no degree or a positive degree
· "blessed, happy"
μακάριος,-α,-ον+ A 2-4-4-33-30=73
Gn 30,13; Dt 33,29; 1 Kgs 10,8(bis); 2 Chr 9,7
blessed, happy (of men) Gn 30,13; blessed (of things) Eccl 10,17
*Is 31,9 μακάριος blessed-אשׁרי for MT אשׁר who or whose (rel. part.)
Cf. Lipiñski 1968, 321-367; Spicq 1982 436-449; Zimmerli 1978, 8-26; →TWNT
Lust, J., Eynikel, E., & Hauspie, K. (2003). A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint : Revised Edition. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart.
3. The Greek word rendered blessed is used in pagan literature to denote the highest stage of happiness and well-being, such as the gods enjoy. Here it stands for the Hebrew jashrê, "how happy!" as in Pss. 1:1; 32:1; 112:1. It is often used as a congratulatory salutation as in Luke 1:42; 11:27-28. The Beatitudes state who are happy in God's sight.
8. The pure in heart need not be thought of as the morally perfect; and there is no special reference to sexual purity. "Heart" in Semitic speech includes the mind as well as the emotions. The purehearted man of Ps. 24:4 "has had no desire for falsehood, and has not sworn to a lie" (Amer. Trans.). A rabbinical commentary interprets "such as are of a clean heart" (Ps. 73:1) as meaning those "whose heart is strong through fulfilling the law." The phrase almost means "those who are right with God," "those who with singleness of mind [Col. 3:22] try to do God's will" (cf. also Jas. 4:8).
Such people will see God, not merely in the metaphorical sense of worshiping in his house (Ps. 42:2), nor in a purely mystical sense, but rather in the sense that God will reward them by permitting them to see him face to face in the age to come (Rev. 22:4). This beatitude of Jesus is distinctive and we know of no rabbinical saying like it.
8. The Sixth Beatitude.
Blessed are the pure in heart. It would be ungrateful to pick and choose among the Beatitudes, but probably for most people this sixth beatitude is the "bright particular star" in the constellation. It seems also the most inaccessible. We hardly know which is more beyond us, the condition or the promise--purity of heart or seeing God. But Christ has not mocked our hopes. What is purity of heart? "Heart" in the Bible usually means the whole personality. It involves mind and will, not only the emotions. The word "pure" occurs twenty-eight times in the N.T., and ten times it is translated "clean." Used of linen, it means white linen; of gold, unalloyed gold; of glass, clear glass. Two meanings are perhaps dominant--rightness of mind and singleness of motive. As for the rightness of mind, whatever our revolt against a false "puritanism," impuritanism will not save us. Matthew Arnold said that chastity and charity were the marks of early Christianity, and that chastity was perhaps as winning a virtue as the charity because it gave a pagan world release from a more consuming bondage.2 As for singleness of motive, that meaning is more central: Jesus said that "harlots" given to lust would go into the kingdom before the Pharisees--who were double-minded (21:31). Yet how hard it is to have a "single eye"! How few swing like a compass to the will of God, and are thus without prejudice in their dealings with their neighbors! In politics or trade how few men are thus "clear" in their intention, and in inner desire how few are even reasonably free from duplicity!
What is meant by seeing God? The beatific vision has been the agelong goal both of philosopher and saint, but this beatitude promises more than mere vision. Perhaps our deepest wish, if we could analyze our longing, is to see God. Tennyson left instruction that his "Crossing the Bar" was always to be placed at the end of his published works. It closes:
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
In the Medo-Persian Empire there were seven intimate counselors and friends "which saw the king's face" (Esth. 1:14). Perhaps this custom of the time was in the mind of Christ when he gave this promise. More likely he meant that the pure in heart see God in the world about them when others are blind; that the pure in heart are aware of the movements of the Divine Will in their lives even in the midst of pain, when others are rebellious or despairing; that the pure in heart have by intuition the leading of God's spirit when others feel bereft; that the pure in heart have times of vision when earth and flesh fall away--"the flight of the Alone to the Alone"--and that at last they shall veritably see God in the consummation of the kingdom. Galahad saw the Holy Grail, though others failed, because his heart was pure. The promise is fulfilled. The poet Shelley insisted that this beatitude is only "a metaphorical repetition" of our commonly expressed conviction that "virtue is its own reward."3 But to Christ, God is not abstract virtue. He is Fact and Life. The saints have traced his ways and felt his presence. James Reid says that to the impure man life is like a stained-glass window seen from the outside, but that the pure man sees it from the inside--from a true and single motive.4 This beatitude does not mock us. God can cleanse the heart on the instant of penitent prayer. Then shall a man say with Saul Kane:
Out of the mist into the light,
O blessed gift of inner sight!5
The Interpreter's Reference Bible
May 6, 2007 First Baptist Church, Comanche Expositional Studies in Matthew
Text: Matthew 5:1-12, esp. v. 8
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“The Beauty of Purity”
Introduction: 2 Cor 5:17 speaks of the new disposition of the heart of a true Christian which is wholly unlike his inner disposition prior to the work of the Holy Spirit.
@ What is your reason “why” you want what you do?
@ What is your reason “when” you do what you do?
@ What is your reason “why” you do what you do?
Conclusion and Application:
1 John 3:1-3
1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
· Proclamation of Purity
· Position of Purity
· Practice of Purity
Willmington, H. L. (1997). Willmington's Bible handbook (527). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Life Application Bible
Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Mt 5:8). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
 Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G5840). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
 Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G2588). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
cf. confer, compare
i.e. id est, that is
 Word Biblical Commentary
 Wuest, K. S. (1997, c1984). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Tit 1:13-15). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
AS G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh, 1954)
27 According to BAGD, χαρδία is used “as center and source of the whole inner life, w. its thinking, feeling, and volition … in the case of the natural man as well as the redeemed man.” They note its use of thought, of the will, of moral decisions (“pure in heart”), of the emotions (esp. love; 22:37), and of the disposition.
28 “All agree that purity of heart is the mother of all virtues, but there is scarcely a man in a hundred who does not put smart dealing in the place of the highest virtue” (Calvin, I, p. 171).
Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (100). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
L the Matthæan Logia.
Allen, W. C. (1907). Vol. 26: A critical and exegetical commentary on the gospel according to S. Matthew. The International critical commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (41). New York: C. Scribner's sons.
LXX The Septuagint, Greek translation of the OT
cf. confer, compare
i.e. id est, that is
OT Old Testament
e.g. exempli gratia, for example
 Hagner, D. A. (1998). Vol. 33A: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Word Biblical Commentary (94). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
Murray, A. (1998). Like Christ : Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Conformity to the Son of God. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing.
y. Jerusalem Talmud
Green, J. B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I. H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (130). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
1 Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975), 175.
MacArthur, J. (1998). The Only Way to Happiness : The Beatitudes. Chicago: Moody Press.
MacArthur, J. (1998). The Only Way to Happiness : The Beatitudes. Chicago: Moody Press.
 Edwards, Jonathan, The Pure in Heart Blessed
 Pink, Arthur W., An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount
 MacLaren, Alexander, Expositions of Holy Scripture: Gospel and Acts
 Expositor’s Bible Commentary