There is a provision of holiness for man (while yet in the body), variously described in the Scriptures as “heart purity,” the “body of sin destroyed,” “dead indeed unto sin,” “sanctified wholly,” “perfect love,” “perfect holiness,” “perfection,” “loving God with all the heart,” etc. This is to be cleansed from all actual sin and original depravity. Sin exists in the soul in two forms, -- actual and original, -- the sins we have committed, and the depraved or sinful nature inherited, which was ours before we were conscious of sinning. This latter is called, “the body of sin,” “our old man,”” the carnal mind,” etc., while the former is described as” transgression,” “committing sin,” “ my iniquity,” etc.
From the first – actual sin – comes our guilt, and conscious condemnation. We are guilty only for what we do – for what we are personally responsible. Our personal transgressions meet us like an armed man, and our cry is, “Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.” “God be merciful to me a sinner.” God hears that cry, and takes away all our sins, so that, “as far as the east is from the west, so far God removes all our transgressions from us.” This is the great work of conversion, the new birth, or the new creation. We are saved from all our transgressions.
The second form of sin, is called original. It is that state which we call sinful, but it is more properly depravity, or that perversity of our nature which comes of the fall. It was in us before we were responsible for our acts. This original sin cannot be reached by pardon, for pardon can only extend to actual transgressions, or what we are personally responsible for. We are not responsible for original depravity, for it was born with us, and is not removed at conversion. Let us illustrate the idea.
Mr. A. was converted – had a clear experience. He was full of joy.
“Jesus all the day long,
He felt no sin; therefore judged he had none. It did not stir within; therefore he imagined it did not exist.
He went on for weeks without a doubt, and without a cloud. He performed every duty, and was seeking only the Divine will. But in the midst of his duties and his joys, a man insulted him, and instantly a feeling of anger arose in his heart; for it is in the heart that anger has its seat. It did not come to the lips, for it was suppressed (by the Holy Spirit) at once. But he felt the fire of anger within, and wondered whence it came. He is humbled before God, and feels for the moment that possibly he has backslidden. But when he carefully examines the case, he is sure he has not backslidden, but has, to the best of his knowledge, been striving to do God's will. He does not feel condemned for the presence of anger, for it was not there at his bidding, and on its first appearance he sought to crush it, and did repress it. But from where came that feeling of anger? It belonged, no doubt, to that lower stratum of evil in his nature – that original depravity, which was not removed when his sins were all forgiven.
To get rid of this original depravity is the work of heart cleansing, of entire sanctification.
A pure heart, then, is one from which all sinful desires and tempers have been removed, such as pride, unbelief, envy, anger, impatience, and love of the world. These evils no longer exist to annoy the soul; it has been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Humility has taken the place of pride; faith has expelled unbelief; love quenches the fires of anger, and longsuffering puts an end to impatience. Hence a pure heart is one into which has come the unmixed graces of faith, humility, patience, resignation, meekness and charity.
So much as this would seem to be the radical, primary meaning of the term pure. “Entire separation from all heterogeneous, or extraneous matter; clear, free from mixture; as pure water, pure air, pure silver or gold.” -- Webster.
Its theological meaning, according to the same authority, is “freedom from moral defilement; without spot, not sullied or tarnished; incorrupt, undefiled by moral turpitude; holy.” The Greek term, means clean, pure, clear; and occurs in such texts as, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” “Charity out of a pure heart.” “Holding the mystery of faith in a good conscience.” “Them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” “Pure religion and undefiled.” “Clothed in pure white linen.” “The city was pure gold,” etc.
This state is
one in which the heart is simply freed from all that
is impure -a clean heart. It is a heart from which has
been removed everything which does not accord with the
Divine will. A fully-saved heart can look up into the
face of Jesus, and without mental reservation, say,
“Thy will be done,” while the whole nature responds,
“Amen.” This is entire holiness.
We need to be assured of two or three things if we would be successful in our efforts in seeking heart purity.
1. That we are freely justified.
If we are not clear in our justification, we are more than likely to make a mistake in our experience in entire sanctification. If we commence in a backslidden state to seek a clean heart, and are blessed with pardon alone, and mistake that for complete cleansing, we shall find ourselves in great perplexity. We very much doubt if a person, in seeking restoration to the Divine favor, ever advances, at first, beyond the point from which he fell away. Such know nothing, experimentally, beyond that first attainment, and it is not to be presumed that their faith extends beyond their intelligence.
We have no doubt but that a soul, who has once known and lost the grace of perfect love, and with it justification, may, by the grace of God, regain the whole by one act of faith. They have been over the ground and know what there is to possess. Let every one, then, who seeks heart purity, be sure that they are already in the Divine favor – already know their sins forgiven. This is a good and proper starting-point for the land of perfect love.
2. Do not commence with the understanding that you must know everything about the subject before you trust God, through Christ, to purify your heart. There are many things you will not know, and cannot know, until you have the experience. If I were desirous of visiting some, to me, unknown land, -- unknown, I mean, except from reports of those who had been there, -- it would be an unreasonable demand on my part to require perfect information with regard to all the various appearances of the way, and all the possible contingencies of the journey, before I would consent to set out. It would be quite enough have satisfactory evidence that the land was accessible, that the way was feasible, and that the proper exercise of my natural powers of body and mind would bring me there. If I were wise, with these evidences before me, I should no longer speculate upon matters which I could never fully understand until they came under my own personal observation.
3. Be sure you do not seek another's experience. Many persons are liable to fall into this error.
They have heard some wonderful experience related. It has the elements of the marvelous in it. There was the “rushing wind,” the “tongue of fire,” the angelic rapture, the prostration of the body, the third heaven vision, either in the body or out of the body. Or, there may have been the absence of these ecstasies, and the “still small voice,” “the speechless awe,” the “soul rest,” the hush of peace, the “heaven of love.” But if you would be successful, seek none of these. Do not seek any particular experience, for, generally, what you seek is not what God sees is best for you. Seek Christ, the Cleanser. He will give you what is suited to your temperament, and to the work to which He calls you.
4. Do not make the mistake, in seeking heart purity, of seeking it from selfish motives.
This may seem an unnecessary warning. But we are liable to fail at this point. We are not useful, we are not happy, we are not successful in Christian work. We see others more useful, more successful, more happy, and we are impressed that it is because they are more holy. If we were more holy, we, too, would be able to pray with more freedom, speak with greater power, and draw around us a more enthusiastic crowd. We would be more popular, more sought after, more influential, more useful. There may be more or less of selfishness mixed with all of this. There is one reason assigned by God why we should be holy, -- not that we may be happy, or useful, or popular, -- but, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” We are to be holy that we may be like our Father, and our elder Brother. We are to be holy because God has commanded it, and because it is right that we should be holy. We should be holy if we are not happy, if we are not popular, if we are not useful, -- provided God has commanded it. He can get along with this world if we are neither popular nor useful in it; and as for happiness, we can better afford to be without it here than to be without heaven hereafter. We do not mean to insinuate that happiness and usefulness do not come of holiness, but they should not be the motives which prompt us to seek it.
5. No great progress is made in seeking entire sanctification, until it becomes the all-absorbing subject of the soul's longings. There must be a deep conviction for holiness; a loathing of the evils of the heart, and a cry for God which will not be denied. Such conviction does not necessarily imply condemnation, but soul-need. Condemnation comes of actual transgression, while conviction for holiness comes of felt depravity. Until we desire purity of heart more than we desire any earthly good; until we are willing to make any sacrifice to obtain it; until we are willing to actually part with life itself rather than not secure it, it will elude our grasp.
It often occurs that such abhorrent views of one's impurity are presented, that the soul almost gives up in despair, and concludes they were never converted, or if ever converted, they have lost the blessing. Such views should not discourage us. God is showing us our heart as we have not seen it before, that we may press our way to the fountain of cleansing.