8 ways to attain a pure heart


I’ve blogged several abridged extracts from Thomas Watson’s Exposition of the Beatitudes. This section on how to attain a pure heart is so good I’ve quoted it without editing or cropping. If you long for a pure heart, here’s how to get it:

But how shall we attain to heart-purity?

1 Often look into the Word of God. ‘Now ye are clean through the word’ (John 15:3). ‘Thy word is very pure’ (Psalm 119:140). God’s Word is pure, not only for the matter of it, but the effect, because it makes us pure. ‘Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth’ (John 17: 17). By looking into this pure crystal we are changed into the image of it. The Word is both a glass to show us the spots of our souls and a laver to wash them away. The Word breathes nothing but purity; it irradiates the mind; it consecrates the heart.

2 Go to the bath. There are two baths Christians should wash in.

(i) The bath of tears. Go into this bath. Peter had sullied and defiled himself with sin and he washed himself with penitential tears. Mary Magdalene, who was an impure sinner, ‘stood at Jesus’ feet weeping’ (Luke 7: 38). Mary’s tears washed her heart as well as Christ’s feet. Oh sinners, let your eyes be a fountain of tears! Weep for those sins which are so many as have passed all arithmetic. This water of contrition is healing and purifying.

(ii) The bath of Christ’s blood. This is that ‘fountain opened for sin and uncleanness’ (Zechariah 13: 1). A soul steeped in the brinish tears of repentance and bathed in the blood of Christ is made pure. This is that ‘spiritual washing’. All the legal washings and purifications were but types and emblems representing Christ’s blood. This blood lays the soul a-whitening.

3 Get faith. It is a soul-cleansing grace. ‘Having purified their hearts by faith’ (Acts 15: 9). The woman in the gospel that but touched the hem of Christ’s garment was healed. A touch of faith heals. If I believe Christ and all his merits are mine, how can I sin against him? We do not willingly injure those friends who, we believe, love us. Nothing can have a greater force and efficacy upon the heart to make it pure than faith. Faith will remove mountains, the mountains of pride, lust, envy. Faith and the love of sin are inconsistent.

4 Breathe after the Spirit. He is called the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1: 13). It purgeth the heart as lightning purgeth the air. That we may see what a purifying virtue the Spirit has, it is compared:

(i) To fire (Acts 2: 3). Fire is of a purifying nature. It refines and cleans metals. It separates the dross from the gold. The Spirit of God in the heart refines and sanctifies it. It burns up the dross of sin.

(ii) The Spirit is compared to wind. ‘There came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 2: 24). The wind purifies the air. When the air by reason of foggy vapours is unwholesome, the wind is a fan to winnow and purify it. Thus when the vapours of sin arise in the heart, vapours of pride and covetousness, earthly vapours, the Spirit of God arises and blows upon the soul and so purges away these impure vapours. The spouse in the Canticles prays for a gale of the Spirit, that she might be made pure (4: 16).

(iii) The Spirit is compared to water. ‘He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water; but this spake he of the Spirit’ (John 7:38, 39). The Spirit is like water, not only to make the soul fruitful, for it causes the desert to blossom as the rose (Isaiah 32:15; 35: 1), but the Spirit is like water to purify. Whereas, before, the heart of a sinner was unclean and whatever he touched had a tincture of impurity (Numbers 19: 22), when once the Spirit comes into the heart, it does with its continual showers wash off the filthiness of it, making it pure and fit for the God of spirits to dwell in.

5 Take heed of familiar converse and intercourse with the wicked. One vain mind makes another. One hard heart makes another. The stone in the body is not infectious, but the stone in the heart is. One profane spirit poisons another. Beware of the society of the wicked.

Some may object: But what hurt is in this? Did not Jesus converse with sinners? (Luke 5: 29).

(i) There was a necessity for that. If Jesus had not come among sinners, how could any have been saved? He went among sinners, not to join with them in their sins. He was not a companion of sinners but a physician of sinners.

(ii) Though Christ did converse with sinners, he could not be polluted with their sin. His divine nature was a sufficient antidote to preserve him from infection. Christ could be no more defiled with their sin than the sun is defiled by shining on a dunghill. Sin could no more stick on Christ than a burr on a glass of crystal. The soil of his heart was so pure that no viper of sin could breed there. But the case is altered with us. We have a stock of corruption within and the least thing will increase this stock. Therefore it is dangerous mingling ourselves among the wicked. If we would be pure in heart let us shun their society. He that would preserve his garment clean avoids the dirt. The wicked are as the mire (Isaiah 57:20). The fresh waters running among the salt taste brackish.

6 If you would be pure, walk with them that are pure. As the communion of the saints is in our Creed, so it should be in our company. ‘He that walketh with the wise shall be wise’ (Proverbs 13: 20), and he that walketh with the pure shall be pure. The saints are like a bed of spices. By intermixing ourselves with them we shall partake of their savouriness. Association begets assimilation. Sometimes God blesses good society to the conversion of others.

7 Wait at the posts of wisdom’s doors. Reverence the word preached. The Word of God sucked in by faith (Hebrews 4: 2) transforms the heart into the likeness of it (Romans 6: 17). The word is an holy seed (James 1: 18), which being cast into the heart makes it partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1: 4).

8 Pray for heart purity. Job propounds the question, ‘Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?‘ (Job 14:4; 15:14). God can do it. Out of an impure heart he can produce grace. Pray that prayer of David, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’ (Psalm 51: 10). Most men pray more for full purses than pure hearts. We should pray for heart-purity fervently. It is a matter we are most nearly concerned in. ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12: 14). Our prayer must be with sighs and groans (Romans 8: 23-26). There must not only be elocution but affection. Jacob wrestled in prayer (Genesis 32: 24). Hannah poured out her soul (1 Samuel 1: 15). We often pray so coldly (our petitions even freezing between our lips), as if we would teach God to deny. We pray as if we cared not whether God heard us or no. Oh Christian, be earnest with God for a pure heart. Lay your heart before the Lord and say, Lord, Thou who hast given me a heart, give me a pure heart. My heart is good for nothing as it is. It defiles everything it touches. Lord, I am not fit to live with this heart, for I cannot honour thee; nor to die with it, for I cannot see thee. Oh purge me with hyssop. Let Christ’s blood be sprinkled upon me. Let the Holy Ghost descend upon me. ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God’. Thou who biddest me give thee my heart, Lord, make my heart pure and thou shalt have it.

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48 Responses to 8 ways to attain a pure heart

  1. Glennis says:

    Thank you

  2. Nicky says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing this. Blessings.

  3. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Nicky, welcome to TG. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I see from your blog that you’re not far up the road from us. I hope all is well in Staffordshire. Neil

  4. charlene says:

    I appreciate your words. I pray to god fervently for more grace. Thank You!

  5. nestor guerrero says:

    verry good topic for all people

  6. vivek says:

    thank you soooooomuch 4 this ………… god bless you …………….

  7. iyanu says:

    thank u so much…i needed that. Wild thoughts keep racing through my mind. God bless you.

    • Tom Plumb says:

      I have a whole website on the topic. You can have a pure heart. It costs all your heart-treasure, but in return you gain all HIS…..

      It is called by many names -”entering His Rest” (OT type) and “entire sanctification” (NT reality) are just the two most common ones. It is a work of grace by faith that completes your pardon with purity. Pardon for sin covers, while sanctification cleanses it away once and for all.
      The reason for my website is that I have been walking in this since 1988, but found quality information on it nearly impossible to find, so I have spent years digging out the best material on the subject and sharing it online. My website is now a free Holiness library.
      Yours In His Service;
      Tom Plumb
      enterhisrest.org

      • IVY AYETOR says:

        In Hebrews, the writer says anyone who enters HIS rest also rests from his or her work as God also rested. From this, entering God’s rest means resting from your work. That is, Sabbath. So i don’t really get the explanation you gave.

      • Keith Legge says:

        Ivy, that passage in Hebrews you have quoted is absolutely marvelous, mind blowing! If you meant when you said “That is, Sabbath” the fulfillment of the OT Sabbath in the Salvation we receive by Grace through faith in the doing and dying of Jesus, you are spot on. This is the great Gospel good news! Just as God ceased from his works on the seventh day, so the believer enters a rest from his works when he puts his trust in Christ. That is it, period! The problem is that so many believers do not “rest” for exactly the same reason the Israelites of old did not enter the “rest” of Canaan: their unbelief. Somehow the message they get from pastors and teachers is that to be “saved”, one must trust Christ alone, but to go on into sanctification one must turn back to works. However my blessed Saviour is made my “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption”, I am saved totally because of Jesus. He is our rest, praise him!! God bless you, Keith

  8. Casimir Tait says:

    Thank you

  9. AKIN says:

    I JUST TYPE ON GOOGLE : how to get a pure heart AND I GOT UR SITE.UR MSG ARE A BLESSING TO ME.TKS &GOD BLS U

    • Dan says:

      I searched for the same thing.

      I wondered about number 6, but seeing the comments… maybe that won’t be as challenging as I thought it might.

      God Bless!

  10. Chrissi says:

    Beautiful sentiments, googled for a pure hearts as well, this has moved me so much, I shall always pray for a pure heart, I can feel a change aleady, thank you and to God be the glory.

  11. Ben says:

    Thanks. Continue to be a blessing :)

  12. tafae says:

    how can i know that god have given a pure heart?

  13. it’s good to go through this about pure heart.pray for me as i want to have peace in my heart.thank you.thomaspaul.ms.india

    • Tom Plumb says:

      I am afraid that obtaining a pure heart is much more challenging than getting either saved or being filled with the Spirit. The reason for this is that it must be done with your whole heart, and after living some years our hearts become entangled with the things of this world.
      Total peace is found in His Rest, but it involves being cleansed of those things which bring unrest. This takes the hand of God as described on my website.
      Yours in His Service; Tom Plumb

    • Keith Legge says:

      Thomaspaul, Christ is your peace. He has done it all in living and dying for you. If you respond to Christ by simply relying on who he is and what he has done for you, the Holy Spirit will whisper peace to your heart. If you rely on Christ, you are a new person in him, (2 Cor 5:17), you have died with him; and in dying with him, you have died to sin (impurity). It does not have dominion over you (Rom.6:14). It is true, that you will always tussle with the flesh, and you will do things you don’t want to do, and wont do things you want to. But realisation of this will bring you the same truth that the Apostle Paul came to:15 For I do not understand my own actions. For (T)I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with (U)the law, that it is good. 17 So now (V)it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells (W)in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 (X)For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, (Y)it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from (AC)this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
      Right now, you can know the joy of a pure heart in Christ. Hallelujah!

  14. Pingback: “Do you want to be gifted eternal life?” | elderchanges

  15. miho says:

    wow! That is really thought provoking. I’l meditate upon it. Thank you

  16. Keith Legge, Australia says:

    I cannot help but feel there is quite an amount of “works” here. Can you imagine having a list of the things here and reviewing it each day and then setting out to do each one making sure we dot all “i’s” and cross all “t’s”? Sounds terribly like bondage to me. But if i meditate on what Christ has done for me, if I become absorbed in his love, if the beauty of the Christ grips my soul, then the Word will be precious, repentance will flow with tears or otherwise, the crass worldliness of friends will repel me but draw me to them, and I will long to please God who has done so much for me. The Gospel preached to myself is the power unto (full) salvation as I believe. Let’s see the Gospel in the beatitudes, not a new “law”.

  17. Tom Plumb says:

    Yes, Keith, you discern well. Thomas Watson was a Puritan leader who went to his reward decades before Wesley was even born. Look him up in Wikipedia. Wesley took the subject on to a whole new level beyond the former medieval strategies to attain (not obtain) purity such as self-flagellation and monkish contemplation etc.
    Yours in His Service;
    Tom Plumb

  18. Evelyn Ofosu says:

    i really need your help to be pure in my heart.

  19. Keith Legge says:

    Evelyn, that is really the cry of every believer’s heart. I am an old bloke now, and a Christian for over 45 years and it is my heart cry every day. Paul saw the absolute corruption of his own heart. The things he wanted to do for the glory of God, he didn’t. He found he did the things that didn’t please God and this was quite natural to him. So he had this tussell: he so longed to please God, be obedient to his law, but found it impossible. His heart cry went something like this; “oh wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

    Most teachers will tell you that Paul was ultimately looking for release in death when he would be free from this “body of death”. But I can’t imagine Paul wanting to wait that long to be free. So it is a present freedom from this tussell. And it is found in Christ.

    Paul talks about our relationship to the Law of God in the early verses of Romans 7.4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.[c]

    So the believer is free from the condemning law, according to Paul. He sets this in concrete in Romans 8: 1ff: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh,

    So how to be free? Get a great big dose of what Jesus has done for you in his life, death and resurrection. Fill your heart with the reality that you are 100% righteous in Christ,(1Cor 5:21), you are 100% acceptable to the Father in Christ, (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV); 100% qualified to share the inheritance of God with all saints, (Colossians 1:12,13). Pray this into your system, keep your eyes on the reality that even when you fail, those truths stand for all eternity.

    But also follow this with practical steps to keep your mind pure. But don’t trust your efforts. That’s the path to repeated failure. Trust only Christ and who he is and what he has done. You will fall so in love with the Triune God, the Father Son and Holy Spirit that you will shun evil for the dear delight of not wanting to hurt the Father, not because yu are breaking God’s law.

    There’s a whole lot more for all of us. I recommend another blog as well as this one: The Gospel Coalition Blog and particularly the work of Tullian Tchividjian. You’ll be rapt.

    Email me if you want: graceabundant@rediffmail.com. Enjoy your Lord and Saviour. You are his delight!

  20. neilrobbie says:

    Hi Keith, thanks for your comments and for pointing us to Christ’s completed work and the benefits of being in union with him by the gift of faith. You first said in your first comment “I cannot help but feel there is quite an amount of “works” here” which I assume you directed at Watson as it was not a comment in reply to anyone on the post. Can I just clarify, for Tom Plum’s sake, at no point in his work on the Beatitudes does Watson preach salvation by works, but grace through faith. The purity of heart to which Watson attains is by use of means not works. You say in your second post “Fill your heart with the reality that you are 100% righteous in Christ” and “Pray this into your system” which is the same use of means, not works, is it not?

    Neil

  21. Keith Legge, Australia says:

    Thanks Neil for your insightful comments and I must say that you are correct in your assumtion. And again, I had to smile, for I also saw what you observed in my second post. But to me, re the latter, there is a subtle difference between what I am saying and what I see Watson has said. But let me first say, that I hold these great people of God in high esteem, but I also don’t esteem them to be more than what they are: men just like we who are coming to grips with what God has said to His people. And in that they are mere men, they are not infallible.

    I suppose rigorous debate as to what are “means” of grace, and what is the basis or cause or ground of grace, and the difference, has been going on for centuries. As I am not an academic, I come to such issues from the point: what are God’s people “hearing” when I am communicating with them? Are they hearing this is what I must do to be more acceptable to God, and to gain his favour so he will give me what I am asking for, or this is what I do because I am acceptable to the Father. Whether we speak of meritorious works or means of grace, what is the “feet on the ground” basic difference if I have to perform something to get “it”? This is where I see the subtle difference between what I said about prayer and the eight laws to “get” a pure mind. Note your intro: This section on how to attain a pure heart is so good I’ve quoted it without editing or cropping. If you long for a pure heart, here’s how to get it:

    As far as God is concerned, in Christ, I am pure. I have got it. And I have got it because it was imputed to me through faith. My “coming to feet on the ground” purity comes from the same source: who I am.
    (1Peter 1:18). Ezekiel 36: 25-27: 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.[a] (ESV)

    The action of prayer to “pray in” what my consciousness is so slow to realise is not a “means” in my view. It is the nature of one who “has been adopted as a son”. I operate naturally in a relationship with my Father who has given me (already) every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. If prayer is a means to get grace, I ask the question : Did Jesus have to “get” grace, and that’s why he spent hours with his Father? My view is a very firm “no”. He Had all the grace he needed, even to die on the cross. (John 3 34). Again, the emphasis in my second post is not on praying so much as on what is being prayed in.

    So what did I hear when I read Watson, albeit wrongly, perhaps? And what did I imagine the young keen Christian who is bent on developing a pure mind, doing having read this article? I saw him feverishly writing down the list, placing it on his bedside table so it would be handy in the morning. And before he is game to get out of bed the next day, grabbing the list, and with deep intensity reading it and rereading it to make sure it was OK to get out of bed! That is not the Gospel, or a result of the Gospel. Here is what Paul says in Romans 7:6 (emphasis mine): 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.[c]

    If I am liable to hear, and imagine, wrongly as an aged and mature believer who has known release after release of grace in my life through the Gospel, how much more likely is it for the the new or young Christian struggling with purity issues? So my responsibllity as Pastor-teacher is not only to break open the Word “rightly”, but to communicate in such a way that what my people hear and see is the great work of Christ in his doing and dying for them. This I am told in Romans 1:16,17 is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe because in it there is revealed a righteousness obtained through faith apart from the law, be that Moses’s, Jesus’s or Thomas Watson’s law.

    Someone has said that a good yardstick for determining whether we as preachers have communicated the Gospel correctly is whether the hearers leave with the work of Christ paramount in their minds or “what I must do” paramount. Reading Watson’s eight steps, as practical as they are, I left with the latter. If the above yardstick is valid and correct, with all the esteem possible to the great man, in my view, he failed. Keith.

  22. Ruth lay says:

    Very encouraging for me.Thanks a lot.

  23. Nikholai Machaka says:

    I wil pray to God that he wil purify my heart .

  24. romelyn alaurin says:

    I’m blessed! Thanks for sharing..

  25. thanks graetly 4 the wonderful and building message on having a pure heart.i feel i hav received something God bless you

  26. john olanrewaju jacob says:

    pls pray with me i need a permanent pure heart, so that i may see the lord, pls i dont want to miss the rapture

    • Keith Legge says:

      Dear, dear John, are you trusting Christ as your Saviour and Lord? If you are you are PERMANENTLY as pure as the Lord Jesus is. When you trusted Christ, the Judge of all the earth declared you “not Guilty”, and that is irrevocable. The purity of Christ which he displayed on earth was imputed to you. That is, it was credited to you as if you had lived as purely as Christ did. The issue is not:am I permanently pure; but rather Am I trusting Christ as my Saviour and Lord? Please read 2 Corinthians 5:21, and be greatly encouraged in Jesus. God bless you.

  27. Jose says:

    Thankyou, I’ve always wanted to feel with both my heart and my soul. Is it okay if I tell you a story? When I was little, I was very happy and closed my eyes. I felt the lovely sun down on me, warming my skin. Gusts of wind blew threw my open arms, I thought that I was lifted because for a second, I could not feel the ground. Then I opened my eyes. I was only 11 when that happened, now I am 14. To this day I still wonder if the wind really did lift me for a second. Thankyou again, and thanks for listening

  28. erviii. says:

    yes god word is true

  29. erviii. says:

    in all the way he shall make us clean

  30. marcus says:

    The word obedience wasn’t used once in this post or comments. The word obey was cited once in a quote from Ezekiel, where he states that with a new heart we will be careful to obey His statutes. If you want to be pure, obey God’s word. He has given us the power through his Spirit to obey his will. Adam and Eve became impure because of disobedience, but we remain in Christ as we obey. “If a man love me, he will keep my words. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” Jn 14: 21-24. ” He that saith, I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 Jn 2:4

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