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.