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iv. 14: He cannot be at rest till they are dispossessed and gone.
4. A clean heart discovers itself by a cautious fear of the least degrees of impurity ; while obstinate sinners make no account even of open enormities, and others think all well if they do but abstain from them : a heart formed to real purity goes much deeper. He is careful to “ abstain from the apa pearance of evil,” i Thess. v. 22. He dares not allow himself to go to the utmost bounds of things lawful, because he reckons himself to be then upon a precipice. If he feel any of the poison working within, it gives him a sensible concern, though no human eye can discern it.
5. A clean heart necessarily implies a careful and habitual guard, against every thing which tends to pollute the mind. The pretence of a good heart in any kind is vain, unless it be “kept with all diligence,” Prov. iv. 23.
Where there is, therefore, a bent of heart to purity, it will engage a man to maintain a guard over his senses, which provide furniture for the imagination, and are the conveyances of external temptation. The case of David, to which this psalm refers, is a melancholy instance upon record, how dangerous it is to allow the senses an unrestrained liberty, no man, indeed, can fail to be sensible of this. Upon this account Solomon leaves the caution in relation to an ill woman, Prov. vi. 25. “ Lust not after her beauty in thy heart, neither let her take thee with her eye-lids.” And our Lord and Master forbids men to “ look upon a woman to lust after her,” Matt. v. 28.
. ; agreeable to the resolution which holy Job had made long before for the preservation of his own purity, Job xxx. 1. For the same reason, lascivious pictures and representations of any kind should be avoided, by all who would preserve their virtue inviolate, and the reading of all impure and licentious books. Nor can I see how it consists with a just concern to keep the mind unspotted, to resort to plays and masquerades, which I believe have been too successful corrupters of the present age. Most of the present plays, in their structure and scope, and thought, are wickedly adapted to vitiate the fancy, and recommend a dissolution of manners; and by the beauty of action, the arts used to strike the passions, and the loose morals of the generality of those who represent them, and of the company that attend upon them, they have such a tendency to instil vice, that it is hardly possible for persons to be often present at them, without weakening the guards of virtue ; and great numbers of young people, who were before untainted, have been introduced this way into the school of vice, and soon have made a dismal proficiency.
The practice of masquerades, which were of late revived among us, but which, thanks be to God, have been restrained by public authority, was still more dangerous than the other. In these, unnatural disguises, and an apprehension of the concealment of character, on the one hand, expose to such attacks upon virtue, as would scarce otherwise be attempted; and, on the other hand, abate those restraints of modesty and decorum, which Providence often makes use of to preserve people from notorious impurities, who have not the best principle of the fear and love of God for their security. Would to God that all who have taken Christ for their Master, would maintain such a sense of the infirmity of human nature, as to keep at the remotest distance from the known incentives to sensuality; and that they would take care, also, that young people under their charge may be fortified, by all the prudential methods they can use, against frequenting those nurseries of vice.
All loose and vicious company will be avoided as much as may be, by those who have a clean heart ; such company as, by their practice and converse, evidently shew the impurity of their own hearts. This we are cautioned against, 1 Cor. v. 11.; and the reason is evident, “Evil communication corrupts good manners." This danger seems to be intimated in the manner of expression used in Jude, 23. « Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." Be not wanting in your best endeavours for the recovery even of the profligate and accustomed sinners, as you have opportunity for it; but then let your attempts to reform them be attended with fear, lest you should receive any infection from them; and, therefore, the apostle adds, “ hating even the garment spotted with the flesh.' Set about their reformation with a lively apprehension of the danger of such society, that it is hard even to touch pitch and not be defiled ; and, therefore, be sure that you keep up a fixed abhorrence of their sin, while you apply yourselves to reclaim them.
Intemperance will be carefully avoided by those, who have an earnest concern to maintain their purity; not only because
of the sinfulness of it in itself, but because it lays a man open to many other sins, and particularly to impurities. Therefore the apostle joins a caution against both of these together : Rom. xiii. 13. “ Let us walk honestly as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, nor in chambering and wantonness.” Not only as each of these, separately considered, is opposite to a Christian conversation, but also as rioting and drunkenness is so often the introduction to chambering and wantonness.
And, to advance a step farther, a heart formed to the sincere love of purity, will not think much to restrain himself in some things, which may be lawful in themselves, and safe to many others, if he find, by experience, that they ordinarily prove occasions of sin to him. Though he will not censure others, where the law of God does not censure them, yet he will make it an ordinary rule to himself to forbear, as far as he can, that which seldom fails to be a temptation to him.
II. I proceed to represent the obligations that lie upon us to seek after such a purity of heart.
1. A ruling inclination to sensuality is directly contrary to the purity and holiness of the 'divine nature : “God is a Spirit :" he has made us, indeed, to consist of flesh and spirit ; but if we give an unbridled loose to fleshly appetite, instead of keeping the body under the dominion of the higher faculties, we shall abandon all that wherein we are capable of bearing the image of God, and “ become like the beasts that perish. And this cannot be done by us without the guilt of debasing our natures, when God has made us capable of nobler pursuits and better relishes. It is observable, that in three several places where sin is spoken of as against God, reference is had to the sin of uncleanness. So it was in Joseph's case, when he overcame the temptation with the thought, “ How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?" Gen. xxxix. 9. David's confession in this psalm had the same special evil in view, verse 4. “ Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” And the prodigal son is represented to have wasted his substance with riotous living, Luke xy. 13.; and in another verse, to have “devoured his living with harlots,” ver. 30. And, without doubt, he had Nothing
that as much as any other sin in his eye, when he resolved to return to his father with this penitent acknowledgment, “I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son,” ver. 18, 19. Thus the scripture leads us to consider this sin as eminently against God. How much are we obliged, therefore, to cultivate purity ! and especi- | ally purity of heart, since properly we can bear the image of God only in our spirits.
2. Sensuality has a special tendency to extinguish the light of reason, and to unfit for any thing spiritual and sacred : “Whoredom, and wine, and new wine, take away the heart," Hos. iv. 11. Such criminal indulgences are both the effects of great blindness, and the means of increasing it, Eph. iv. 18, 19. No sort of sin commonly hardens the heart to a greater degree ; of which David was a melancholy instance : he seems not to have been recovered to a penitent sense of his fall, till he received a message from God by Nathan the prophet, and that was not till after the birth of the child. makes the mind more averse to sacred exercises, or indisposes it more for the serious and spiritual performance of them. Hence the deluded youth, who gives himself up to sensualities, is described, when he comes to mourn at last, as reviewing this among other pernicious effects of his evil practices, Prov. v. 14. “ I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.” His vices had so leavened his mind, that his thoughts were full of them, even when he appeared in worshipping assemblies.
3. Sensuality is most contrary to the design and engagements of Christianity. Our blessed Lord and Master inculcated the strictest purity upon all his disciples ; not only an abstinence from the gross outward acts of uncleanness, but from polluting thoughts and desires. To this purpose he vindicates the spiritual intention of the seventh commandment, in Matt. v. 27-30. ; and in his practice, kept at the remotest distance from every thing that had an impure aspect. His intention in giving himself for us is declared to be, “to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify to himself a peculiar people, Tit. ü. 14. We are to consider “our old man as crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin,” Rom. vi. 6. “ Sin should not, therefore, reign in our mortal body, that we should obey it
in the lusts thereof,” ver. 12. that is, a sinful inclination of mind to the indulgence of bodily lusts, should not be suffered to prevail in us. So, when the apostle puts the Thessalonians in mind what commandments he and his fellow-servants in the gospel had “ given them by the Lord Jesus,” that is, by his authority, and under the direction of his Spirit, he presses this as a matter of special obligation on Christians, 1 Thess. iv. 23. “ This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication ; that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” When Christ was ascended into heaven, he puts a most particular mark of his abhorrence upon the deeds and doctrines of the Nicolaitans, and, at the same time, of his approbation on those Christians who abhorred them, Rev. ii. 6-15. Those Nicolaitans were a set of vile and filthy heretics at the beginning of Christianity, who taught doctrines of the utmost licentiousness, while they disgraced the Christian name by wearing it; and their practices were as lewd as their principles. The holy Jesus, by a message from heaven, takes care to stigmatise these filthy dreamers, and to animate his disciples to a rooted hatred of every impure principle and practice.
The apostle, in several places, urges this purity upon Christians from another argument, their participation of the Holy Spirit of God :: “ They are the temple of God, by the Spirit of God dwelling in them;" and therefore they might be assured, that if any man “defile the temple of God, him will God destroy,” 1 Cor. iii. 16, 17. And, elsewhere, that
they are the members of Christ, and the temples of the Holy Ghost : shall I then (says he) take the members of Christ, and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid,” chap. vi. 15—19. Whatever others do, a Christian, who professes to be united to Christ by his Holy Spirit, should abhor the thought of foolishness.
4. The blessed hope with which Christianity inspires us, lays us under a forcible engagement to present purity,
Those of the contrary temper are absolutely excluded, by the express declarations of the gospel, from the kingdom of God. “Be not deceived ; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,