Fourthly, Faith purging the conscience purifies the heart (Acts xv.9.), and hope also purifies the heart (1 John iii.3.), which is nothing else but faith in the perfection and vigour of it. This includes, I. That the heart was unclean before faith. II. That faith cleanses it, and makes it pure. But "who can say, I have made my heart pure (Prov. xx.9.), I am clean from my sin?" Is there any man's heart on this side of time, which lodges not many strange guests? In answer to this we may observe, that there is a legal purity, and a gospel purity. A legal purity is a sincere and full conformity to God's holy will and command, in thought, affections, inclinations, and actions, and, in this sense, who can say, I have made my hands clean? The old corruption sticks to the heart and cannot be thoroughly scraped out, there are many lurking holes for uncleanness to be hid in. Corruption is engrained in him, and it will not be the work of one day to change it. The whole head is sick, and the whole body full of sores. All the corners of the heart are full of filthiness and idols, and though the house be now sweeped and garnished, and all things look better in it, yet there are many hidden places of rottenness undiscovered, and it is the soul's continual exercise to purify itself as he is pure. But evangelical purity and cleanness is that which God reconciled in Christ takes to be so, and that which in Christ is accepted, and is a fount of his clean Spirit dwelling in the heart. The heart formerly was a troubled fountain, that sent out filthy streams, as a puddle. Corruption was the mud among the affections and thoughts, but now a pure heart is like a clear running water, clean and bright like crystal. Now this purity consists in the washing of regeneration, and sanctification by the Spirit of holiness. Jesus Christ came both by water and blood, 1 John v.6. He came by blood, to sprinkle and purge the conscience, that it might have no more conscience of sins, Heb. x.2, ix.14. And he also came by water, that is, the washing and cleansing virtue of the Spirit of grace, to purge and cleanse us from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. There are two things in sin that Jesus came to destroy, the guilt and offence of sin, whereby the sinner is bound over to condemnation, and lies under the Judge's curse, and the spot of sin, which also Christ came to destroy. He did both in his own person, and he is to perfect this in us personally, who were judicially reckoned one with him, Rom. vi.3-12, 1 John iii.5. Now Jesus Christ hath come with blood to sprinkle the conscience from dead works, and give it a good answer to the challenges of the law, and an ill conscience. And he hath come likewise with water, to wash and cleanse us from the spots, and filth, and power of sin. The first removes the guilt, the latter removes the filth of sin, and both are done by faith, which is our victory over the world, and this is the way how faith overcomes the world by the water and blood.1 John v.4-6. The blood of Jesus Christ is holden by faith with a twofold virtue of cleansing, from the guilt, and from the filth of sin, and thus cleanses us from all unrighteousness, 1 John i.7. According to the promise of the covenant (Ezek. xxxvi.25, 26.), the application of the blood of sprinkling hath two effects. One is for justification, "ye shall be clean," another is, "from all your filthiness and idols will I cleanse you," that is sanctification. I. Now this purity consists in this, that the pure heart regards not iniquity in the inward man, nor delights in sin, Psal. lxvi.18. He sets not up his idols in God's place, Ezek. xxxvi.25. The cleansing of the heart is from idols. Although he cannot get himself purified as Christ is pure, and though iniquity be in his heart, yet he regards it not. He looks not upon it as a guest approven and accepted. Sin may be an intruding guest, but sin is not welcomed with all his heart. He dare not take that pleasure in sin that another man would do. He hath a worm that eats up his pleasure when he departs from God, or his thoughts go a-whoring from him. The unbelieving man's heart is a house full of idols, but the entry of faith by God's Spirit makes their Dagon to fall. But, II. The pure heart hath much of the filthiness taken away that filled it before, and so it is denominated from the best part. It is washed and cleansed from a sea of corruption, and the body of sin that did reign within the heart was formerly like an impure fountain, that sent out nothing but rotten stinking waters. Unto him were all things unclean, for his heart and conscience was defiled, Tit. i.15. Nothing was pure to him, it ran continually in a stream of unclean thoughts and affections. But now he is purified, and to the believer "all things are pure:" the ordinary strain and current of his thoughts and affections run more clearly free of the earthly quality they had, more sublimated, more spiritualized, and he is named by that. Though, it may be, temptation may trouble the fountain, and make it run unclean and earthly, yet it will settle again, and come into its own posture, and the dreg fall to the bottom, and the clean water of the Spirit be the predominant. But a standing puddle will run foul as long as it runs, corruption goes through all. It is not a corner of the heart, but the whole heart.
III. A pure heart is like a running fountain, if it be defiled, it is always casting out the filth, and is about returning to a right state. But an impure heart is like a standing puddle that keeps all it gets. If by temptation the pure heart and affections be stirred, and the filth that is in the bottom come up to the brim, it hath no rest nor peace in that condition, but works it out again, and it hath this advantage, that it is purer and clearer after troubling nor(478) it was before. For much of the filth would run out that had been lying quiet before. But an impure heart keeps all, and vents none. If ye trouble it, ye will raise an ill smell, and when it settles, it falls but to the bottom again, and there is as much to work upon the next time. In a word, the believer when he sins, and his heart goes wrong, he weeps over his heart, and has no peace till it be cleansed. He washes in the fountain of Christ's blood. When a natural transgression gets up, he sets himself against it and the root of it both, and bears down the original corruption, which is the fountain of all sin (Psal. li.5), and at every descent he brings away something of that puddle. He is upon the growing hand by the exercise of faith and repentance. Look upon him after he has seen and been sensible of his sins, and ye would say it is not the man ye saw. He hates sin more than he did formerly. We also notice,
IV. That purity is sincerity and uprightness (James iv.8), "Purify your hearts, ye double minded." Hypocrisy is filthiness and abominable to God. He then is a sincere man, that hath any honesty of heart toward God. When his actions are not right, his heart doth not approve them, Rom. vii. When he cannot come up to his duty, his desire comes before performance. A sincere man hath a respect to all God's commandments.
V. The pure man is still purifying himself "even as God is pure." As he who hath called him is holy, so he is holy in all manner of conversation. He never thinks he is clean enough, and so he aspires after greater purity, and is named a saint, rather from his aim and endeavour, than from his attainment. He cries, unclean, unclean, am I, and holy, holy, Lord God, art thou. He hath taken up his lodging near the opened fountain, and dwells there, never to remove thence, till he have his robes clean and white in the blood of the Lamb. No unclean thing can enter into heaven, and he is trimming himself against that day, and setting apart all superfluity of naughtiness, and filthiness, and still all his righteousness is as menstruous rags. He is cleansing his house, every day casting out something, searching out all the corners of it, lest the unclean thing, and the Babylonish garment be hid. His pattern is to walk even as Christ walked, 1 John ii.6.
Now faith and a good conscience have influence on this purifying the heart. I. Because faith lays hold upon the cleansing virtue of Christ's blood. It applies Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, and his blood purges the conscience from dead works, to serve the living God. The blood that was offered up by the eternal Spirit, of how great virtue must it be when applied to the heart and conscience, Heb. ix.14. No wonder it makes that like wool which was formerly like scarlet. Now faith in Jesus Christ applies that blood. It is the very hand that sprinkles it. Faith takes up house beside the opened fountain, and dwells there. Faith takes Jesus for sanctification as well as justification, 1 Cor. i.30. Faith looks upon a judicial union with Christ crucified, and sees his perfect offering once offered to sanctify all, and therefore makes continual applications with David, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than the snow." II. Faith purifies the heart, because it lays hold on the promises, and makes use of the word, 2 Cor. vii.1. Faith having such promises, cleanses the man from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. The proper order of faith is the word, and the word is the truth by which we are sanctified and made clean, John xvii.17. There are many precious promises of sanctification and holiness, and faith draws the virtue of purifying the heart out of the promises, and applies the promise to his impure heart, and it is purged. III. Faith purifies the heart also by provocation and upstirring, in as far as it gives the answer of a good conscience. For the man who hath gotten a solid answer to all his objections in Christ's blood, and hath the continual feast of joy and peace in believing, O how will he abhor himself, and repent in dust and in ashes! Faith takes up God's holiness and purity, and loathes itself with Job, and cries, unclean. The believer will thus reason and conclude, -- shall I any more delight and live in sin, since I am dead unto it by Jesus Christ? Rom. vi.1, 2. He falls in with the beauties of holiness, and so cannot abide his own. Faith begets hope, and hope purifies the heart. Shall then the man who expects to see God, and be a citizen of the new Jerusalem, where no unclean thing can enter, shall he walk in his former lusts, like the wicked world, and not make himself ready for the continuing city he goes to, and adorn himself for the company of the blessed God and angels?
Let us now conclude, by applying all which hath been said in some uses. Use I. We may see from what hath been hinted, how little faith is among you. Faith purifies the heart, but if ye examine yourselves, your hearts will be found unclean, and such as the Holy Ghost cannot dwell in. The temple in which God's Holy Spirit resides must touch no unclean thing, 2 Cor. vi.16, 17. Are not many men's corruptions rank and lively? Unclean hands are an infallible demonstration of an unclean heart, James iv.8. These things which proceed out of the heart may teach you what is within the heart. The streams may let you know what is in the fountain Mark vii.15-22, James iii.11, 12. What need ye any more proof of yourselves? Sinners, look to your hands, and your outward man, and learn from them to know your hearts. These things proceed out of the heart and defile the whole man. The profanity of the most part of men's practices, cursing and swearing &c., is a bitter stream that cannot proceed from a good fountain. It is a wonder how the world satisfy themselves with a dream of faith. What influence hath your faith had upon your heart and conversation? Are ye not as earthly and worldly as ever, as unclean as ever? Ye think your hearts good, but if your conversation be not good, your hearts are not good. Will any person think his sins are pardoned, when he wallows in them? Do they believe they shall obtain the remission of these sins they are not purging themselves from? No, no, the blood and water must go together and the Spirit's sanctifying with Christ's justifying.
Use II. The children of God may hence gather the ground and reason of their little progress in sanctification. Why are your hearts so unclean, and why is there so much corruption yet living in your thoughts and affections, that it cannot keep within the heart, but, as a full fountain, must run out in streams of external actions? It is even this, ye do not believe much, and though this be told you, yet ye will not believe it; ye take ways of your own to purge out your corruptions, and it will not do. All your resolutions, prayers, sad experiences, &c., are of no more virtue than the blood of bulls and goats. Ye must then apply the blood of the Son of God, which was offered up by the eternal Spirit. It is but a poor fancy to suspend believing till ye see a pure heart. How shall ye get a pure heart? Is it not folly to forbear planting till ye see fruits, or to pluck up your tree because it bears not the first day? Abide in Christ, and ye shall bring forth much fruit. Believe, and believe, and believe again, till faith be answered by a good conscience, till that sweet echo be given unto the Lord's comforting voice, "Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven thee." Be much in laying hold upon the precious promises, and then your heart shall fall out of love with this present evil world, and shall relish spiritual things. But who will believe this report? Ye go away convinced that this is the only way to purify yourselves, and yet ye continue puddling in your old way. May God persuade your hearts to do better.