And God, which knows the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did to us;…
I. ITS NATURE.
1. By the "heart" we must understand the inner, as opposed to the outer, man — the spirit and not the flesh. Circumcision — indeed any external ceremony, even Christian baptism can only affect the outer man. The text, therefore, in opposition to mere ceremonial purity speaks of purity of heart.
2. It is implied that the heart of man is by nature impure (Romans 1:28-32). Perish then the delusion that the human heart is good!
3. It is to the purification of the heart that the text calls attention. Things are commonly said to be pure when they are simple and unmixed; and purity of heart implies sincerity and simplicity, as opposed to the base mixtures of hypocrisy and deceit The work of Christian purity is commenced in regeneration There is "a new creation: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." There are new views, principles, feelings. But these things are at first immature (1 John 2:13). The law of progress is stamped on the whole economy of Christianity. Perfect purity is the goal at which it aims. This implies —
(1) A complete deliverance from sin — its pollution and power. This is obviously implied in the word "pure." And here arises the difficulty, whether a perfectly pure state of heart is possible in the present life. Many contend only for the subjugation of sin, and not for its destruction, affirming that whilst the spirit remains in the flesh sin must remain in the spirit. But this is to ascribe some moral power to the flesh which it does not possess; sin is spiritual (Mark 7:21, 22). Now Divine grace either can or cannot counteract this fearful state of things. If it cannot, then the work of human redemption, professedly effected by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, was inadequate. But if the grace of God can counteract the influence of sin, the question is settled. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." "Christ loved the Church...that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." But, say some, the work cannot be completed till death. Now, if this mean by death, it destroys itself, for death is an enemy whose office is simply to separate the soul from the body; if it mean at death, it may soon be exposed — for if Divine grace can purify the heart a moment before death, why not an hour? why not a month? why not a year? why not twenty, or even fifty years? why not now?
(2) And because all sin is destroyed, love fills the heart. Hence obedience results from purity; "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." Every spring of feeling, and all the arcana of thought are sanctified by its magic touch. The wandering eye, the listening ear, the loquacious tongue, the busy hands, the willing feet are all actuated by the ruling principle of love to God.
II. ITS AUTHOR. "The Holy Ghost," as Peter elsewhere says. "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit." The Holy Spirit first convinces of the necessity of purity; for it is by His inward illumination that we discover the corrupt state of the heart. If we welcome this discovery we shall sorrow for and hate this indwelling sin. The same Spirit will create a strong desire for deliverance, which if cherished will express itself in earnest, wrestling prayer. This will be followed by the encouraging excitement of humble hope, and the filial confidence that the desire shall be granted. Whoever thus cooperates with the Holy Spirit, the Divine Author of purity of heart, will eventually be brought to the exercise of that faith which casts out sin and purifies the heart. The reason that so few Christians obtain this great salvation will now be manifest. They do not obey the truth, whereas the law of the Spirit is that we are sanctified through the truth. "Ye have purified your souls, in obeying the truth through the Spirit."
III. ITS MEANS. "By faith." All salvation is obtained by faith.
1. Its warrant is the promises, (see Ezekiel 36:25-29; Deuteronomy 30:6; 2 Corinthians 6:16). These are the believer's fulcrum. They do actually supply to him what Archimedes once boasted as his only deficiency to rival Omnipotence. "Give me a place on which to stand and I will move the world." But the promises of God supply the believer with a fulcrum by which he may move both earth and heaven.
2. The object of faith is the "precious blood" of Christ (Acts 26:17, 18).
IV. ITS SCOPE. It is offered to all. Whatever differences or distinctions men may make, God makes none. There is no difference with respect to —
1. Our need of this great change. Throughout the world human nature is the same. "There is none righteous, no, not one."
2. The mode of purification. In every case it is by faith.
(H. J. Booth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;