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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 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
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 consequences of it.
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
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 any 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.) "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
and desires within us, are not at all in our power, unless when we wilfully put ourselves in the way of such objects as may excite them. Nor, when this is not the case, are we blameable for them. We are then only faulty, when, such desires being wrong, we give way to, dwell upon, and cherish them, and do not instantly reject or control them, so as to prevent their being approved by us, or leading us into the commission of any thing that is sinful.
Very few of those who have been led into great vice and wickedness, and have been afterwards by the divine goodness to them brought to see the horror and misery of their state, and to be delivered from it; but who will readily recollect, that here was the fatal step that misled them; that they too easily fancied and imposed upon themselves, that their first deviation from known duty was but a slight matter, that would have no consequences but what they should soon be able to cure. But alas! their first seemingly small breach of fidelity, honesty, chastity, or whatever it was, smoothed the way for others more daring and enormous, till insensibly the moral