Hebrews 12:14 — Follow … holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
My Dear Comrades,
I want again to take up the subject on which I wrote in my last Letter. It is, indeed, a precious topic. I have loved it and talked about it all the way through my religious life; and, today, I regard the enjoyment and publication of the Blessing of a Clean Heart as being as essential to my own peace, power, and usefulness, and as necessary to the progress and prosperity of The Army as ever it was. Let me proceed, then, with the work of explanation. A right understanding of the subject will help you to obtain this Blessing for yourselves, and enable you to explain it to others.
In my last Letter I talked about Purity in general: in this I want to say something on the subject in its practical application to yourselves. What did our dear Lord mean when He spoke of the "Pure in Heart," and pronounced them blessed? What is it to have a Pure Heart? To answer that question, I must begin by asking another:
What is meant by the Heart? To which question I answer, we do not mean that organ which you can feel beating in your breast, and which is the central force of the bodily system. That is a very important part of a man, and the keeping of it in good condition is most essential.
But it is not the heart in your body to which Jesus Christ referred in this passage, and about which I want to talk to you; but that power which, being the central force of your soul, may be said to answer to it. As the heart which palpitates in your bosom is the great driving-force of the Natural Man, so the heart we are talking about is the great driving force of the Spiritual Man.
(a) In this sense it is your Heart that feels joy or sorrow. When you say, "That poor woman died of a broken heart on account of the ill-treatment of her husband," you mean that it was the bitter anguish of her soul which killed her. (b) It is the Heart that chooses between right and wrong. When you say, "My brother's heart is on the side of God, and goodness, and truth," you mean that these things are the supreme choice of his soul.
(c) It is the Heart that decides on the particular line of conduct to be pursued. When you say, "This young man went to the Mercy-Seat and gave his heart to God," you mean that he decided, in his inmost soul, to accept Salvation and become a Soldier of Christ.
(d) It is the Heart that loves righteousness and hates iniquity. When God says, "My son, give Me thy heart, He means "Come along, young man or woman, and love Me and holiness, and Souls, and hate the Devil and Sin, with all the powers you possess."
(e) It is the Heart that molds the character, guides the choice, and masters all the course and conduct of a man's life. The heart is the captain of the ship. It determines whether a man shall accept mercy, serve God, follow righteousness, live for the Salvation of his fellows, and finally enter the Heavenly Harbor in triumph, or whether he shall live a life of rebellion, die in his sins, and finish up a wreck on the rocks of everlasting despair. How important it is to each one of us that we should have a good — a right — a Pure Heart.
Now, seeing that the Heart is so thoroughly the master of the man, nothing can be much plainer, can it, my Comrades, than the necessity for that Heart being pure? But what is a Pure Heart? What is it to have a Heart that has been cleansed by the Power of the Holy Spirit through the Blood of Jesus Christ? That is a very important inquiry. and I do hope that my dear Soldiers will give me their careful attention while I strive to answer it.
1. And first, a Pure Heart is not a Heart that is never Tempted to do evil Possibly there is no such thing in this world, nor ever has been, as a Non-Tempted Heart, that is, a man or a woman who has never been exposed to temptation to commit sin, of one kind or the other. Not only was our Blessed Lord tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, but He was beset with evil attractions all the way through His life. St. Paul expressly tells us that our Saviour was in all points tempted like as we are, but hallelujah! He effectually resisted the world, the flesh, and the devil, and came through the trying ordeal without a stain. He triumphed over all, for the Apostle exultingly assures us, that "He was without sin."
You will be tempted, my Comrades, all through your earthly journey, even to the very gates of Heaven; but, thank God, temptation is not sin, and Grace, abundant Grace, is provided to enable you to triumph over all the fascinations of earth and all the devices of hell. You can come off more than conqueror. But, remember, although you may have a Pure Heart you will have to fight temptation.
2. A Pure Heart is not a Heart that cannot suffer. Beyond question, Jesus Christ had a Pure Heart; He was Holy and undefiled, and yet He was "The Man of Sorrows." Paul tells us that although he exercised himself to have always a conscience void of offense towards God and towards man, yet was he not saved from being, at times, "in heaviness through manifold temptations."
All the Saints of old had hours of darkness and depression, many of them going through seas of anguish. And as with the Saints of old, so is it with the Saints of modern times. It is not sinful to weep and be cast down, if in our distress we do not give way to unbelief and despair and wrong-doing. Cheer up, brothers and sisters! "By floods and flames surrounded," you must "still your way pursue." If you keep believing you will not be confounded; God will deliver you.
3. By a Pure Heart we do not mean a Heart that cannot sin. The Devil was once a beautiful, sinless creature. But he yielded to temptation. The sinless crown fell from his beautiful brow, and from a pure archangel he was changed into a foul fiend, and hurled all the way from his bright and sinless Heaven to his dark and gloomy hell. Adam was pure when he came from the hands of his Maker. God pronounced him to be good; but, led away by Satan, he lost his Purity, and was cast out of Eden into a world of sin and sorrow and death.
Alas! alas! we have the unspeakable sorrow of too frequently seeing Saints and Soldiers fall from Holiness into sin. Some of the many miserable Backsliders around us once walked closely with God, kept their garments unspotted from the world, and were examples of all that is pure and good. But they have gone back to the beggarly elements of the world, and, like the sow that was washed, they are again wallowing in the mire.
So, my Comrades, you will see that no matter however pure you may become, it will be possible for you to sin. Though you wash your garments white, and for a season walk with God in holy communion, and have Faith so that you can remove mountains and save multitudes, you must remember that while you are in this life it is possible for you to fall from Grace. Nay, you must remember that unless you take heed to yourselves, and watch and pray, the probabilities are that you will be overtaken by some besetting sin, and, after having saved others, become yourself a castaway. Therefore, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
4. By a Pure Heart, we do not mean any experience of Purity, however blessed it may be, that cannot increase in enjoyment, usefulness, and power. Pull the weeds out of your garden, and the flowers and plants and trees will grow faster, flourish more abundantly, and become more fruitful.
Just so, this very moment, let Jesus Christ purge the garden of your souls of envy and pride, and remove the poisonous plants of malice and selfishness and every other evil thing, and Faith and peace, and hope and love, and humility and courage, and all the other beautiful flowers of Paradise will flourish in more charming beauty and more abundant fruitfulness.
Oh, will you not go down now before God, and give yourselves fully over into the hands of your precious Saviour'? He is waiting to sanctify you. Cast overboard all that hinders. It is God that purifies the Heart. Will you let Him do the work? Now cry out in Faith: "Anger and sloth, desire and pride, This moment be subdued; Be cast into the crimson tide Of my Redeemer's Blood."
But you must go a little further, my Comrades, and, boldly and believingly, sing that song of triumph:
'Tis done, Thou dost this moment save,
With full Salvation bless;
Redemption through Thy Blood I have,
And spotless love and peace."
"Come, Holy Ghost, all Sacred Fire,
Come, fill Thy earthly temples now;
Emptied of every base desire,
Reign Thou within, and only Thou.
"Thy sovereign right, Thy gracious claim
To every thought and every power;
Our lives to glorify Thy name,
We yield Thee in this sacred hour.
"Fill every chamber of the soul;
Fill all our thoughts, our passions fill,
Till under Thy supreme control
Submissive rests our cheerful will.
'Tis done! Thou dost this moment come,
My longing soul is all Thine own;
My heart is Thy abiding home.
Henceforth I live for Thee alone."