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ΜATT. ν. 8.
Blessed are the pure in beart; for they shall
It will always be a sure guide to us for the understanding of our Lord's discourses to consider the character and temper of his hearers ; for if it be a dictate of ordinary prudence, he who spoke by a divine wisdom would always say what was proper and suitable to the case of those he addressed ; to instruct, and also to reform and correct what was amiss and sinful in them.
Being then now surrounded for the first time with a vast multitude of people, who, from the declarations of John the Baptist concerning him, and from his own miracles which he wrought and the authority which he assumed, concluded him to be their great promised prophet, the Messiah ; Christ, their king, VOL. II.
and under whom the greater part of them expected to enjoy riches and greatness, and the ease and indulgencies of this world :
That he might at once cast a total blank on these vain expectations and undeceive them, this divine teacher all at once, abruptly, as it were, but with but with great beauty and energy,
begins with pronouncing those only approved of God and fit to become his disciples, who were of a mind and disposition entirely opposite to such things ;--- Blessed,” (or rather happy) says he, "are the poor in spirit;-happy are they that mourn ;-happy are the meek;" and so on, thus requiring, in all that would come to him, humble dispositions, sobriety and seriousness of spirit, to be exempt from ungoverned passions, and, in the words before us, instead of their outward local purity and ceremonies, on which they were wont to lay great stress, recommending inward purity of heart, to be free from hypocrisy, and particularly from all impure and sensual desires. Happy are the pure in heart.
And as the scribes, the expounders of their divine law, and the Pharisees their leading men, placed almost the whole of their religion in the
punctual observance of outward rites and ceremonies, such as washing of themselves on certain occasions, and even of their utensils of their houses, and the like; in allusion to this, our Lord would here inculcate a purity of far greater importance, to have the heart within washed and clean, as that which would recommend them to God; “ Happy are the pure
in heart, for they shall see God.”
It will be our business then at present, to consider what this purity of heart is, and how we are to attain it; and also the happy conse
quences of it.
1. Every one, who has at all reflected and attended to his own nature and frame, must know that all his actions, every thing he says and does, are the fruits and effects of his inward thoughts and desires, and flow from them as their source, as water from a fountain.
“Out of the heart (says our Lord, Matt. xv.) proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these defile the man.”—Not out of the heart as God made it, but as men have E 2
made it by corrupting themselves and following that which is evil. And this defilement of the heart and actions will be the greatest where any from their youth have been kept under no restraint, but accustomed to gratify every appetite and passion, without
check from the fear of God or regard to his commands, or to what is due to their fellow-creatures. But where by early religious impressions, and the blessing of a better education, an inward sense and reverence of God and his laws, and love to truth and goodness, have been generated in the mind within, there the affections and desires will be towards that which is holy, just, and good, and will show themselves in the fruits of a virtuous life and conduct.
But as those who have thus “ escaped the pollutions that are in the world” (2 Pet. ii.) may turn away from what was thus at first happily instilled into them, and lose the benefit of former endeavours, and their attainments in holiness and the divine favour, by giving way to evil ; which is a supposeable case put by the Almighty Being himself, , where he says : (Ezek. xxxiii. 13.) 6 When
I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it ;"
And as by the remedies supplied by him who made us and is concerned for our true happiness, especially those which his compassionate goodness has provided for us in the example of his beloved Son, and the motives of the gospel, the most inveterate sinner may be healed and brought back to a love of purity and holiness, and be saved : though the longer their application of the remedy is delayed, the more difficult and uncertain will be the cure and recovery; we proceed to show how this purity of heart is to be acquired and preserved.
And for this end, it is of absolute necessity that we watch over and note the inward turns and workings of our thoughts, and immediately resist and check any corrupt risings or tendencies in them. Indeed, the first movements