ŇBlessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God   Matthew 5:8

 

These words contain the sixth rule of Christ touching true happiness; wherein, as in the former, observe two points: the person blessed, and wherein their blessedness consists.

 

 

I. The persons blessed are thus qualified: they are pure in heart. This is diversely expounded. By pure in heart, some understand those that are chaste, those that are simple hearted, void of guile and deceit. But the words will bear a more general sense, and betoken such as are holy in heart, having their hearts purged from the defilement of their sins, and be in part renewed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost; and that they are so to be taken may appear (Psa. 24:4), whence these words are borrowed; where also the prophet expoundeth the pure in heart to be such as have not lifted up their minds to vain things (Psa. 2:1). To which purpose the author to the Hebrews saith, Follow peace with all men, without which no man can see God (Heb. 12:14). Again, the intent of our Saviour Christ in this place, was no doubt to cross the Pharisaical conceit of those times, whereby men did content themselves with outward holiness, as sufficient to true happiness; and therefore He saith, blessed are the pure, not outwardly, but inwardly in heart. Further, by heart, we are to understand the soul, with the parts and faculties thereof; that is, the mind, the conscience, the will and the affections. And that we may yet conceive more clearly of this point, we are to search out two things: first, in what manner, then in what measure the heart is made pure.

 

1. For the first, the purifying of the heart is by a twofold action of the Holy Ghost:

 

(1) First, by creating in the mind a saving faith, which unites a man unto Christ, and as an hand applieth ChristŐs purity, that is, His obedience to the heart; so Peter speaketh of the Gentiles in the council at Jerusalem, that by faith the Lord purified their hearts (Acts 15:9).

 

(2) Secondly, when a man is in Christ, the Holy Ghost purgeth and sanctifieth the heart inwardly, by mortifying all the corruptions in the mind, will and affections, and by putting into it inward holiness, whereby the image of Christ is renewed therein. And this our Saviour Christ expresseth (John 15:2), when He saith that the Father purgeth everyone that bringeth forth fruit in him. Now unto these the Holy Ghost addeth an excellent grace of Christian resolution, whereby a man hath a constant purpose not to sin against God any way, either in thought, word or deed; but in all things to please God continually; so as if at any time he sin, it is against his holy resolution.

 

2. Now for the measure of this purification, it is only in part in this life; for the grace of sanctification is not perfect till death, as the apostle saith, We receive but the first-fruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:23); that is, not the tenths, but as an handful of corn to a whole field; the soul is freed from the punishment and guilt of sin, and in some sort purged from corruption, but not wholly. This we must observe the more diligently, because the papists teach otherwise; to wit, that after baptism and regeneration, sin is so taken away, that there is in man nothing that God can hate; but experience in every child of God shews this to be false. The chief ground of their opinion is this: that if sin properly called, should remain in the regenerate, then God should repute a man to be just, which is a sinner. But we answer that God never reputeth an impenitent sinner just, but only the repentant and regenerate, which are by faith in Christ, and so in effect are no sinners, because though corruption remain in them in part, yet it is not imputed to their persons. Besides, in the act of their conversion, corruption hath received that deadly wound whereof it shall never recover, but daily die till it be quite abolished, and therefore doth it not reign in them. And thus we see in what manner and measure the heart is purified, whereby the pure in heart may be thus described: They are such as believe the pardon of their sins in Christ, and be in part renewed in their souls by the Holy Ghost, having their natural corruptions mortified and abolished in some measure, and the graces of GodŐs image repaired in them, and a godly resolution wrought in their hearts, not to sin against God in anything.

 

Considering that the pure in heart be blessed, we must search ourselves and see whether our hearts be qualified with this grace. As in former times, so at this day inward purity is much neglected. The ancient Jews stood upon their legal purity and righteousness, and the Pharisees after them, relied upon their outward holiness; and the Holy Ghost foretold (2 Tim. 3:1,5) that in the latter days shall come perilous times, by reason of sundry sins, whereof this is one, that men should content themselves with a shadow and shew of godliness, and in truth deny the power thereof. And doth not experience shew this to be true among us? For the pure heart is so little regarded, that the seeking after it is turned to a by-word and a matter of reproach. Who are so much branded with vile terms of Puritans and Precisionists as those that most endeavour to get and keep the purity of heart in a good conscience? Again, the general ignorance that everywhere abounds, doth plainly argue the want of this grace; for what can be in the heart but impurity and iniquity, where there is no knowledge of the will of God in the mind? And for such as have more knowledge than the rest, generally they are not answerable unto it in practice; for take a view of all the markets in the land, and you shall hardly find a man that is to sell his grain that will be brought to abate one jot of the highest price, no not to the poor that stand in extreme need; which as it argueth a bloody and cruel heart, so it sheweth our times to be evil days, wherein men profess much, and do nought; which sin will draw GodŐs judgment upon us, and cause the gospel to be removed and given to a nation that with profession will join the power of godliness in heart and life. What befell the fig tree (Matt. 21:19), whereon Christ sought fruit, and found nothing but leaves? Was it not accursed? And how shall we think to escape, if we be like unto it? For the earth that drinketh in the rain that falleth upon it, and yet bringeth forth briers and thorns, is very near unto cursing, whose end is to be burned (Heb. 6:7,8).

 

Secondly, if the pure in heart be blessed, then we must labour to practice the counsel of the prophet (Isa. 1:16), Wash you, make you clean, and (8:13) sanctify the Lord in your hearts; yea, as the apostle saith (2 Cor. 7:1) Let us purge ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Indeed, it is the work of God to purify the heart (Acts 15:9); man of himself can do no more than a blackamoor [negro] can change his skin; but yet everyone that would feel in himself this work of God, must use the means wherein the Spirit doth purge the heart. First, therefore, we must humble ourselves unfeignedly for all the sins and corruptions of our life already past, and for the time to come, grow to a resolute purpose not to sin against God in anything; which we must testify by a godly endeavour to obey Him in all things; for a pure heart, and a purpose to live in any one sin, cannot stand together; but this constant purpose not to sin, is a notable grace, and an infallible token of a renewed and sanctified heart.

 

 

II. The second point in this rule is, wherein this blessedness consists; namely in this: that they shall see God; for the understanding hereof, two points must be handled. First, how God may be seen; secondly, how the seeing of God is true happiness.

 

1. For the first, the apostle saith (1 John 4:12), No man can see God at any time; yea, farther, Paul calleth Him (1 Tim. 6:15,16) King of kings, whom never man saw, neither can see. We must therefore know that there is a twofold sight in man, the sight of the eye, and of the mind.

 

(1) By the sight of the eye no man can see God in His essence and substance, which is most spiritual and so invisible; for the eye seeth nothing but things corporal and visible; a man by his eye cannot see his own soul, and much less the substance of God.

 

Objection 1: But Abraham (Gen. 17:1) and Moses (Exod. 33:11) saw God, for He appeared unto them. Answer: They saw Him not in His nature and substance, but in certain created images and similitudes wherein God for that time did testify His presence unto them. Some indeed say that though a man cannot see God in this life, yet in the life to come, he shall see Him with his bodily eyes. But this opinion is not true; for though the body shall then be perfectly sanctified, and the eye sanctified, yea glorified, yet still it remains a true body and a true eye, and therefore cannot see the essence of God, which is invisible to the eye of flesh.

 

Objection 2. I shall see God in my flesh (saith Job) and mine eyes shall behold Him (Job 19:26,27). Answer: He speaketh there of God his Redeemer, who is not God simply, but God incarnate; for the word translated Redeemer, signifieth one allied to us in blood. Now no man doubteth but God in Christ may be seen (John 14:9), He that hath seen me, hath seen my Father.

 

Objection 3. (1 Cor. 13:12) We shall see Him face to face. Answer: God hath no face, and therefore that cannot be understood literally; but thereby is signified that we shall have plentiful knowledge of God, as we have of Him when we see face to face.

 

Objection 4. If we shall not see God with our eyes, then they serve to no use in heaven. Answer: God forbid; for besides the glorious company of all the saints, we shall therewith behold our Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed us by His blood, and made us kings and priests unto our God, to whom we shall sing praise, and honour, and glory for evermore (Rev. 5:12).

 

(2) The second kind of sight is of the mind, which is nothing but the knowledge or understanding of the mind, and that is twofold; imperfect in this life, and perfect in the life to come. In this life the mind knows not GodŐs essence or substance, by only by the effects; as by His Word and sacraments; and by His creatures; and indeed the special sight we have of God in this life, is by these His affects to conceive in our minds how God is effected to us; as that God is our Father, and Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost our Sanctifier. The perfect vision of God is reserved to the life to come, where GodŐs elect shall see Him in regard of His substance; for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). Yet that we be not deceived herein, we must know that perfect sight is twofold: simple and comprehensive. Simple perfect sight is when man sees a thing wholly as it is in itself; and thus God is not seen by the mind of man. Comprehensive sight is when the creature seeth God, so far forth as it is capable of his knowledge; and thus shall men see God in the world to come perfectly, and be filled therewith, though they know Him not wholly, as He is in Himself; even as a vessel cast into the sea may be perfectly full of water, though it receive not all the water in the sea.

 

But some will ask, How shall the mind see God? Answer: The manner is such as neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither can any man tell, but they only that have fruition of it in heaven; yet certainly such it is as shall give full contentment to everyone that doth enjoy it. But it shall be far better for us to seek for a pure heart, whereby we may be assured of this blessed sight of God, than curiously to search out how we shall see Him; for to them that be of a pure heart, God will reveal Himself perfectly, to their joy unspeakable and glorious.

 

2. The second point is, how this seeing of God can be true happiness. Answer: A man that hath been blind will count himself happy when he receives his sight; and he that hath long lien in a dark dungeon will count it a blessed thing to be brought out to see the light of the sun. Now if this bodily light be so comfortable, how endless is the joy of that heavenly light which cometh from God Himself? The Queen of Sheba (1 Kin. 10:8) counted those servants blessed that stood before Solomon to hear his wisdom; then doubtless the sons of God must needs be happy, that stand before the Lord, hearing His wisdom and beholding His glory; for in His presence is fulness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures for evermore (Psa. 16:11). Moses is renowned with all posterity for this prerogative, that God vouchsafed to let him see His back parts (Exod. 33:23); and ChristŐs disciples were so ravished with a glimpse of GodŐs glory in His transfiguration, that they would needs abide there still (Matt. 17:4). Oh then, what glory is it to see Him as He is? Doubtless this sight of God is true happiness.

 

But then (will some man say) the devils shall be happy, for they shall see Him at the last day. Answer: Their sight shall be their sorrow, for they shall see Him as a terrible judge, not as a Saviour, with apprehension and approbation of His love and mercy, which is the sight here meant; as the apostle saith (1 Cor 13:12), We shall see face to face, and know as we are known. So then the meaning of these words is this: they shall see God by His effects in this life, and perfectly in the world to come, with approbation of His love and mercy.

 

This gracious promise must be observed as a ground of special comfort to all GodŐs children; for they that endeavour after purity of heart, shall suffer much contempt and reproach in the world; but they must not be dismayed, for God will look upon them, and shew Himself favourably unto them. He will appear to their joy, and their adversaries shall be ashamed (Isa. 66:5). Therefore they may say with David (Psa. 118:6), I will not fear what man can do unto me.

 

Secondly, is it true happiness to see God? Then in this world we must strive to come as near unto God as possible we can; for the nearer we come unto Him, the more we see Him, and the nearer we are to our perfect happiness. Now that we may come near unto God, we must set God always before our eyes; that is, wheresoever we are, and whatsoever we do, we must persuade our hearts that we are in His presence. This was DavidŐs practice (Psa. 16:8), I have set the Lord always before me. This persuasion will make us to walk with God, as Enoch did, who for this is said to please God (Heb. 11:5).

 

Thirdly, this must allure our hearts towards all those means wherein God shews Himself unto His children. The Lord revealed Himself in His sanctuary unto His people, and hereupon David was ravished with desire to GodŐs courts (Psa. 27:4; Psa. 48:1,2). And the like affection must we have to GodŐs Word and sacraments. Therein He shews His beauty, as in His sanctuary; and therefore we must labour therein to see the goodness and mercy of God toward us, using them as pledges of His grace and love in Christ; yea, we must endeavour to see Him in all His creatures, as His wisdom, power and goodness to usward; this is a notable step to our perfect bliss.