Christian purity is the great, prominent thought and fact of human salvation in the Bible. There is none more so, or equally so, except, perhaps, pardon.
The heart, or soul, which is our spiritual being, is the fountain or foundation from which all conscious voluntary exercises proceed; and purity or impurity preceding these exercises or actions, determines their moral character. A pure heart is one “cleansed from all sin,” hence it is morally “clean,” unmixed, untarnished, — free from all pollution.
The heart is the soul, or that which thinks and feels, knows and loves, and wills and acts. A pure heart is a pure soul — a pure man — a pure Christian.
Hence, purity is a state or quality of being. It is the inversion of our sinful moral nature, — freedom “from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.” It does not consist so much in a repetition of good acts, as in a moral condition of the soul from which all good actions proceed; as depravity, or inbred sin, does not consist so much in vicious acts or habits, as in a state or quality which occasions those acts or habits.
Bishop Foster says, sin and depravity “are distinct the one from the other: since the depravity may exist without the act, and may be increased by the act, and the carnality may exist without the separate transgression to which it prompts, and is alleged to exist prior to the transgression.” — Christian Purity p. 121.
Holiness, like truth, is a simple, uncompounded element or quality, and continues unchangeably the same at all times, and under all circumstances. It can never be made anything else in its essential nature; being the absence of all moral iniquity, in whomsoever and whatever it is predicated of, in God, angels, or men.
It is a pure nature, giving character and sweetness to our affections and activities — purity in the heart flowing through the life. It is not holy actions, primarily, which make a man holy, but a holy heart which makes the actions holy; as a pure heart must be the source or foundation of all pure passions, appetites, and activities. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”
The treasure in a “good man” is holiness or the “divine nature.” The treasure of an “evil man” is the “carnal mind” which is enmity against God. The Apostle says that Christians are “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” “The end of the commandment is, CHARITY OUT OF A PURE HEART.”
Rev. Dr. Chalmers says, “It is not purity of action that we contend for, it is exalted purity of heart.”
“Habits (says Bishop Foster) merely express back-lying states and tempers. When these are corrected or removed, the habits have no cause for their existence.” — Christian Purity, p. 347
Purity or holiness significant of quality, implies entirety. It does not mean a mixture of purity and pollution, partly clean and partly defiled. He who is pardoned is fully pardoned for all guilt is forgiven; and he who is “cleansed is entirely pure, is “clean,” free from “all iniquity,” “all unrighteousness,” “all sin,” “holy and without blame.” Verily, “The blood of Jesus Christ his son, cleanseth us from all sin.”
Holiness is expressive, not of an advancing process of growth, but of moral quality; and has respect mainly to kind or quality, rather than to degree.
In degree, there is no absolute perfection in holiness, except in the infinite God. “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, IS THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!” With Him, holiness is underived, unchangeable, unlimited, and infinitely glorious — the model and source of all holiness — “BE YE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY.”
The sense in which the entirely sanctified soul is made perfect or complete, is in purity, which is the same in its essential nature in God, angels, and men.
A thing may be said to be perfect when it possesses all the properties or qualities which are essential to its nature. The fruits of the Spirit are perfect when they exist in the soul in exclusion of every opposing principle, every contrary temper — perfect in quality. Faith is perfect when it is free from unbelief; love is perfect when it is free from all its opposites; patience is perfect when it excludes all impatience.
CHRISTIAN PURITY, IN ITS PROPER AND EVANGELICAL SENSE, IS THAT STATE OF HEART IN WHICH ALL THE VIRTUES COMPOSING A REAL CHRISTIAN, EXIST IN THIS SIMPLE AND UNMIXED STATE.
When a soul is regenerated, (says Bishop Foster), all the elements of holiness are imparted to it, or all the graces are implanted in it, in complete number, and the perfection of these graces is entire sanctification.” — Christian Purity, p. 109.
The terms perfection and holiness, significant of completeness or entirety, are proper to this state; but are not, strictly speaking, when used in respect to growth and development, which are always incomplete and indefinite. Perfection in one respect, and imperfection in another, may consistently meet in the same person; as he may be perfect in one sense, while imperfect in another.
These terms are sometimes used in the Scriptures in an accommodated sense; as applied to an advanced religious life, or to a developed condition of spiritual manhood, having regard to growth and maturity. The use of terms in an accommodated sense is not uncommon in the Bible, being occasioned by the poverty of language.
The Christian graces, love, faith, peace, gentleness, meekness, and the like, existing without alloy in the purified heart, may become so established, enlarged, and matured by growth and development as to constitute us “fathers” or “mothers in Israel.”
There may be a high degree of advancement in love, knowledge, and power; but to think of becoming perfect in degree, except in a restricted sense, is forever out of the question.
The human soul saved of God, is capable of indefinite and unlimited development. There being no limits to the improvability of the soul, Christian Perfection can be asserted of it only relatively; and we teach only a relative CHRISTIAN Perfection, modified by the capacity and capabilities of the soul.
There is a sense in which merely justified believers — all Christians are denominated in the Scriptures, holy and sanctified, and these terms are occasionally applied to them. This is very reasonable. All Christians are legally holy, being set apart for the service and worship of God. All Christians are holy in a general sense as compared with their former condition, in their relation to God and his Church. All Christians are holy in a figurative acceptation, as one thing is put for another, or a part for the whole, which is often done in the Bible: also, because all Christians are regenerated, which is holiness begun — incipient sanctification.
The principal and great fact in Christian holiness is that of purity — freedom from the pollution of sin; and identifying and confounding Christian purity with maturity, so common with many writers, is the occasion of this volume.
When the “blood of Jesus Christ” “cleanseth from all sin,” all that corruption which the Church of England calls “original, or birth sin, which is the fault or corruption of the nature of every man, whereby he is very far gone from original righteousness,” is totally destroyed, the soul is pure. Then, where there is pure love, there is no anger or malice; where there is pure humility, pride is extinct; where there is pure patience, impatience and fretfulness are not found; and where there is pure meekness all wrath and bitterness are excluded.
This I understand to be the state of that Christian who is made “perfect in love,” (i. John iv. 17), who is “pure in heart,” (Matt. v. 8), who is “cleansed from all sin,” (I. John i. 9), who is “without spot,” (Eph. v. 27), who is “cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit,” (II. Cor. vii. 1), who has thus “perfected holiness in the fear of God,” (ibid.); according to the word of God, as interpreted by orthodox theologians generally, and by Methodist divines in particular.
He is a perfect Christian in whose heart grace has wrought the extirpation of all that is opposed to grace — he, who has a pure heart.
Purity as a state, is rather negative than positive, being freedom from all sin. The idea of purifying is that of the removal of something, i.e. impurity from the soul; rather than the introduction of anything into the soul. Holiness is the negation of depravity, the cleansed state — freedom from “all unrighteousness,” SPIRITUAL LIFE IN “A PURE HEART.”
Dr. Steele says in Love Enthroned, page 39: “Hence the coup de grace, the deathblow which ends the war of love against sin, is a negative and limited work, to be followed by a work positive and unlimited. The first is the removal of all impurity, whether inherent or acquired; the second is being ‘filled with all the fulness of God.’ ”
As purity is the negative part of full salvation, perfect love is the positive. These blessings, the negative and the positive, are concomitant, and enter into the experience of the same person at the same time. To be “free from sin,” is to be “perfect in love.”
Purity is the soul’s health. It is being morally well. But what is health? It is the absence of disease. Purity is the absence of sin. It is a negative state, just as health is a negative state. Physical health does not consist in the size, or weight, or strength, or the beauty of the body; but in its freedom from disease. The items named may be connected with health, but they do not constitute its identity.
Purity is not the capacity, or strength, or development of the soul, but its freedom from sin. These items may be associated with purity, but they do not constitute its identity.
“And, that of consequence (says Mr. Fletcher), it is a personal perfection, as much inherent in us, and yet as much derived from him (Christ), and dependent upon him, as the perfection of our bodily health. The chief difference consisting in this, that the perfection of our health comes to us from God in Christ, as the God of nature; whereas our Christian Perfection comes to us from God in Christ, as the God of grace.” — Last Check.
Personal purity, or spiritual health, may consist with comparatively small spiritual power, perfect in quality, but quite limited in quantity, though proportionate to capacity.
“Thousands of God’s moral vessels (says Mr. Fletcher), which are perfect in their place and in their degree, and as such adorn God’s universal temple, fall short of each other’s perfection; without being sinfully imperfect on that account. When differences are natural and not moral, if we call them sin, in many cases we charge God with the creation of sin.” — Last Check.
The idea of purity is not so much what is in the soul, as what is not in it, — “cleansed from all sin.” Of course, impurity is only removed from the soul by the positive presence and power of the Holy Ghost working in it. Rev. Richard Watson says, “The absence of all evil is necessarily the presence of all good.” When the soul is cleansed, it is not vacated. All the graces of the Spirit remain in it. These positive virtues, perfect in number, were all imparted to the soul in regeneration; and the cleansing — the negative implies the positive, for when remaining impurity is removed, these graces remain, existing in simplicity, perfect in quality.
It is thus, the positive is implied in the negative. When all impurity is removed, purity is inevitable, as the sequence. As when all unbelief is destroyed, then faith is exclusive. When all hatred is cast out, love must be perfect. Hence, there is a positive inseparable from the negative, and the negative involves the positive. In purification there is both a killing, and a quickening power. That which is holy, by necessity excludes that which is unholy.
We are saved from sin or depravity by the Holy Spirit of God, which in purification takes, and remains in full possession of the heart. Then, after the negative work, the cleansing has been performed, and the soul is clean, it will constantly need the positive part of the glorious work and energy of the Holy Spirit in a life of holiness.
We know that the term holiness is sometimes used metonymically, to signify a positive state, as loving God with all the heart, and possessing all the Christian virtues; and yet, holiness strictly speaking is but a negative state or blessing, consisting of the purification of our nature from “all uncleanness.”
It is written, — “Holiness without which (purity) no man shall see the Lord.” This passage declares that a certain moral quality (purity) is requisite to admission into heaven. It will not be claimed, that beyond being “cleansed from all unrighteousness,” which is purity, there must be growth, expansion, and development of the graces of the Spirit, or we cannot see God, or go to heaven.
It is important to keep the negative aspect, the simple idea of purity — cleanliness, before the mind, that being the Bible fact in purification: a work which is of the nature of deliverance and extermination — an interior cleansing from all unlikeness to God