Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine




The Nature and Excellency of Purity Opened

[The Sixth Sermon on this Text]

“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Proverbs 30:2.


The judgment of God is according to truth; and it is by the judgment of God we stand or fall. It is not what this or that man judgeth us to be, or what we imagine we are ourselves, that will contribute to our safety, or bear us out; for we cannot judge right unless we judge of ourselves according to the word of God; and to judge of ourselves thus, is to judge according as God judgeth. What God takes us to be, that we are: but we are not always what we take ourselves to be. Some take themselves to be Christians, who are yet but Anti-Christians. Some take themselves to be friends to God, who yet are enemies: “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

A generation of sinners, that live in sin impenitently, do make room for a deluge of wrath. One Achan troubles the whole camp of Israel: and what wrath then may multitudes of sinners bring upon a church and people! The text speaks of a multitude; and, perhaps, multitudes of impure and unsanctified sinners were never greater than at this day wherein we live; and hence it is a day of wrath: for it could never be more truly said in any period, than of our day, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”

We have already improven this doctrine in an use of information, lamentation, reproof, and examination: we now proceed to another use of the point.

The fifth use that we make of the doctrine shall be for terror to all that are not washed from their filthiness; but are filthy still, impure still; were never renewed, never purified, never sanctified: but remain under the power of sin and corruption; and are utter strangers to all that purity that hitherto I have been speaking of. There is ground of terror to all the wicked of the world, that are al­together filthy, and to believers, who are partly so, and do not watch, but indulge themselves much in impurity.

1st, This doctrine affords ground of terror to the wicked, that never were washed from their filthiness, but are going on in a course of sin, drunkenness, whoredom, reveling, and all manner of im­moralities. Alas, sirs I consider how miserable you are, and are like to be. Look to your sad and dismal case in life, in death, and at the day of judgment. And O if the Lord would awaken your conscience, seriously to ponder your dangerous situation.

[l.] Look to and be persuaded of it, that you are truly miser­able in life. And,

1. While in that impure state, you are an utter stranger to God: “At that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of pro­mise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” (Eph. 2:12). You are without God, the author of hope; without Christ, the foundation of hope; without the covenant of promise, the ground of hope; without the grace of hope; you are in a hopeless case, while you refuse to fly for refuge to the hope set before you; to Christ, for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification.

2. You are contrary to God, and God is contrary to you; your nature is contrary to God, and God’s nature is opposite to you. Your principles, your practice, your nature, your aims, your mind, your affections, are all opposite to God, while you are altogether filthy.

3. You are out of case for communion and fellowship with God. What! communion between light and darkness! Nay, you have communion and familiarity with the devil: The strong man armed keeps the house. The whole world lieth in wickedness, in time, in the arms of the wicked one. You are, as it were, fast lulled asleep in the arms of the devil.

4. You are a slave and a drudge to every lust. And, alas! what base degeneracy, that now, your immortal soul is a drudge to the devil, a slave to lust, a servant of sin, and an associate with the wicked.

5. You are under the curse while in that situation. See what a number of dreadful curses you are under, mentioned “Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shall thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shall thou be when thou goest out,” (Deut. 28:15‑20). &c. Cursed in your name, it shall rot; cursed in your house, it is the habitation of the wicked; cursed in all your religious performances, for your prayer is an abomination to the Lord; and cursed in all your civil actions, for the very plowing of the wicked is sin.

6. You are under all the dismal evils that attend this impurity; such as, to be abhorred of God, a torment to yourself, useless in the world, an apostate from God, an object of wrath, and at last ex­cluded from heaven.

(1.) One evil attending this impure state, is, that the man is abhorred: he is an object of God’s abhorrence, if he be filthy still; for, “God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;” and he can­not behold it so as to take pleasure in the sinner. Do you think that God can take pleasure in a man who is wallowing in his sin? No! there must be a covering from the eyes of God’s holiness: and I know no covering and mantle but one of two, either the red scarlet covering of the Redeemer’s blood; or the dark and black mantle of avenging wrath to eternity, to veil it from the eyes of the omniscient and omnipotent God.

(2.) Another evil, beside what hath been mentioned, is, that this impurity is a torment to the man. So much defilement, so much vexation; and the more purity, the more peace and inward serenity; “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them; but no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”

(3.) There is this evil in it also; this impurity makes a man useless in the world. A man that is wallowing in wickedness, he is the most useless creature in the world; that which the Psalmist calls altogether filthy, the apostle quoting it, calls it altogether unprofitable, (Rom. 3:12); to let us see, that the man is altogether filthy or defiled, he is as useless as a vessel, the nastiness of which is so incorporated with it that it can never be used again.

(4.) This defilement makes way for apostasy. The man that is destitute of gospel purity, is in a state wherein he is capable of total apostasy. The true gold will abide the fire; but the furnace carries off the dross. The good wheat will abide the wind: but the wind carries away the chaff. “They altogether filthy are; they all aside are gone.” What makes so much defection and apostasy in our day? Why, men abandon their profession, abandon their principles, grow remiss in their practices, relinquish their first zeal, and leave their first love; why, they are defiled; they are not washed from their filthiness.

(5.) This defilement makes way for wrath and judgment to be poured forth “For these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience,” (Col. 3:6). Trouble and anguish to every soul of man that doth evil; for, “the wrath of God is re­vealed from heaven, against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man,” (Rom. 1:18). A day of wrath, a day of calamity is threatened, because of the impurity of the generation that are not washed from their filthiness.

(6.) This defilement excludes from heaven. No pollution can dwell in the higher house: when it began to enter, the authors of it were cast down into hell: There shall in nowise enter into it any thing that defileth, or that worketh abomination, or maketh a lie,” (Rev. 21:27). Is not all this most terrible!

[2.] As you are miserable in life, so you will be miserable at death; then conscience begins to roar; for its black book is opened, and the long roll, the black roll of sins appear; and then the devil who lulled you asleep in sin, and tempted you to sin, will present the heinousness thereof, and tempt you to despair. Then your friends, relations, comforts, and enjoyments of the world, will bid you an eternal adieu: and then no more offers of Christ, or grace, or salvation. Sin, the sting of death, not being taken away, death will be most terrible and dreadful. When the awful messenger approaches with his dismal appearance, armed with his mortal dart, ready in an instant to strike through the miserable creature, with what amazement will the poor soul be filled! How unwelcome will the near approach of this mighty conqueror be to the poor sinner!

[3.] The polluted soul will not only be miserable at death, but also at the day of judgment: for Christ will be revealed from hea­ven, taking vengeance on them who know not God, and obeyed not the gospel. Then the awful and final sentence will be pronounced, “Depart from me, ye cursed!” Ah! terrible sentence! “Depart from me!” Depart from the chief good and happiness, to be miser­able to eternity! In this sentence is wrapt up all misery; and what will frustrate all the vain expectations of the wicked at that day. If you should say, O! let us not go far away: Nay; depart from me, out of my sight and presence; and that is far enough to them; for ever banished from the presence of God, the presence of bliss. O! if we must depart, let us depart with a blessing: No, depart from me, ye cursed; depart with the curse of God, the wrath and vengeance of God! O! if we must thus depart, let us go to a good place: No, depart from me, ye cursed, into ever­lasting fire; the place of torment, the place of perdition, the place of burning. O! if it must be to fire, let it be but for a short time: No, no; depart to everlasting fire, to dwell there through an endless eternity; depart to everlasting fire, fire that cannot be quenched; “Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” O! if it must be so, let us depart with good company; let us have some heartsome company with us; No, by no means, depart with the devil and his angels. Oh! the miserable case of those who live and die in their sin! They must be sent to the de­vouring Tophet; to swim for ever in the river of fire and brimstone! Ah: dreadful state! You will appear before the judgment‑seat in the devil’s livery; and must share of his misery to eternity. In­conceivable and permanent misery.

2dly, This doctrine affords ground of terror also to believers, who, though they are washed habitually from their filthiness, yet lie under much actual pollution, without due application to the foun­tain; there is ground of terror from this doctrine to such. Though we cannot preach the same terror to them, as to the wicked; and cannot say they shall be condemned, or go to hell, or yet become liable to the curse of the law; yet the Lord hath a rod for the back of his children: If they break his law, though he pardon their sin, yet he may take vengeance on their inventions. And we are not to think light of the rod of correction and chastisement, which the Lord may use with his children, who are unwatchful; for there is something very terrible therein, whatever way we view it, either with respect to temporal, spiritual, and eternal matters.

[1.] There is something very terrible in the chastisements of God with respect to temporal concerns. And,

1. The rod may be upon your body, in sore sickness, fevers, gouts, gravels, tormenting pains; such as these we read of, (Deut. 28:58,59; 28:22,27). The Lord may put you upon the rack day and night, with excruciating pains, and agonizing torments. Is not this a dreadful rod?

2. The rod may be heavy in respect of your families, heavy sickness and afflictions upon your husband, wife, and children. The Lord may make your children a cross to you, your relations a burden to you, and your most intimate friends and concerns a trouble to you. He may take away the desire of your eyes with a stroke, and leave you desolate and destitute. This is a sore trial.

3. The rod may be grievous in respect of your name. You may be trysted with great reproaches, and be made a by‑word among your neighbors; to the Psalmist it was a sword within his bones, when he was reproached. This sword may pierce you; you may be left to fall under infamy and disgrace. Yea, the Lord may so far leave you, as to let you fall into scandalous evils, and become a reproach to the Christian name. And is not this a heavy chastisement?

4. The rod of correction may be sore with respect to public calamities; such as these we read of, “For thus saith the Lord God, How much more when I send my four sore judgments upon Jerusalem, the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast?” (Ezek. 14:21). Sword, famine, pestilence, and captivity, are heavy judgments. What a terrible thing is the sword? It may be bathed in the blood, and sheathed in the bowels of your dearest friends; and, perhaps, in your own bowels. What a sad rod is the famine? Hereby tender mothers have been made to eat their own children; and men obliged to eat their own fingers, and the flesh off their own arm; one part of the body to maintain another. What a dreadful rod is the pestilence? (See it described, Ps. 91:3,6,10; See also Deut. 28:59‑61). What a sore chastisement is it to be led away into captivity? Thou mayest be carried away to a strange land; from father, mother, friends, and acquaintances; where thou knowest not a face, (Deut. 28:48), and to fears of still greater judgments,  (vv. 65‑67).

[2.] The rod of correction has something very terrible in it, when we view it with respect to spiritual matters.

1. The Lord may give loose reins to your lusts, and let you be overpowered with corruption, so as iniquity shall prevail. He may give you up to the lusts of your hearts; a most mischievous and pernicious enemy.

2. The Lord may let the devil loose upon you; that roaring lion to buffet you, and to do what he can to devour you. This was a correction which Job, Paul, Peter, and many others, were trysted with.

3. You may be tossed with doubts and fears about sin and duty; and neither know what way to go, nor which course to steer. You may be quite wrapt up in darkness and perplexity.

4. You may be deserted of God, and left to go mourning without the sun: and though you would give all the world for a sight of his face, yet not be favored with it. This was the case with Job; “I go forward, but he is not there; backward, but I cannot perceive him, &c. O that I knew where I might find him!” (Job 23:3,8).

5. You may be brought under terrors, as Job was: “The arrows of the Almighty are within me; the poison whereof drinketh up my very spirit, (Job. 6:4). Thine arrows stick fast in me,” (Ps. 38:2).

6. You may be left to despair and to distraction, through the terrors of God; “The terrors of God do set themselves in array against me, (Job 6:4). While I suffer thy tenors I am distracted,” said Heman, (Ps. 88:15).

[3.] Chastisements are terrible, with respect to the fears concerning your eternal state. You may be brought to the very brink of despair, as was just now observed concerning Heman: to be in doubts and fears about your everlasting welfare: your hope may be perished, in a manner, from the Lord, (Lam. 3:18). The Lord may carry towards you like an enemy and a stranger: your spirit may be sunk, and your heart faint; yea, anything but hell, and the breaking of the covenant. Yea, the Lord may even take a child by the neck, as it were, and shake him over hell, as if he was designing to throw him into the flaming lake. He may drop in hot wrath into the conscience, and kindle a little hell within him. And though all be but fatherly chastisement, and in love, yet no views of love may the person have: but apprehend God as an enemy, being left to this unbelieving fear of his vindictive wrath. God may break him with breach upon breach; and run upon him like an enemy. Yea, the rod may be heavy in its nature; the sickness, e.g. may be a sore sickness; it may, be extraordinary in its kind, so that you may, be ready to say, No sorrow like your sorrow. It may be manifold in its number; one messenger of evil tidings after another; breach upon breach. It may be growing in its degrees still worse and worse. And it may be long in its continuance, per­haps; so long as that you may lie under it all your days. O what ground of holy fear then hath even the child of God, if he be not watchful and circumspect!

The sixth use that we make of this doctrine, shall be for con­solation to the godly, who are exercising themselves to godliness, and students, actual students of purity; growing and advancing in purity. Here I would lay before you, 1. Some marks and evidences of those that are growing in holiness and purity. 2. Point out some grounds of consolation for such.

1st, We propose to lay before you some marks and evidences of advances in holiness, and a man growing in purity.

1. Spirituality in the intervals of duty, as well as in the per­formance of duty, is a true mark of growth in holiness; spirituality between duty, as well as in duty. If a man should seem never so religious in duty, if he gives latitude to himself in the intervals, he looks not like one that is growing and advancing in purity. Moses’ face shined as much when he came off from the mount, as when he was on the mount.

2. Conflict with spiritual sins, and spiritual evils, is an evi­dence hereof. When a man is helped to conflict against heart‑sins, which lie most hid and remote from the eyes of the world; and ob­tains some spiritual victory and conquest over them, it is an evi­dence of purity. When the heart rises, with all its strength, against spiritual pride and self, and self‑ends, it evidences some advances in holiness.

3. When a man is exercised in spiritual duties, and in internal duties of religion: not only busied about external duties, but especially is exercised about those and the like internal ones, viz. meditation, mortification, self‑examination, self‑resignation, self-loathing, self‑judgment, self‑condemnation; praying in the spirit watching over the heart, applying the blood of Christ, the death of Christ; applying the promise and the word to his own soul: when it is thus with a person, it is an evidence of his making some pro­gress in purity and holiness.

4. When a man is carried on to religious duties by spiritual principles and internal motives: when a person is acting, from a sense of divine love, from a sense and desire after Christ’s spiritual presence, and from the sweetness and excellency of communion and fellowship with a God in Christ.—These are some evidences of a person’s growing in purity and holiness.

2dly, We proceed next to point out some grounds of consola­tion for such persons.

1. The more purity you have, the more like God. And, O what comfort accrues from this, to be like to God; to be conformed to the Son of God! The more likeness, the more love. The Lord cannot but delight in his own image: He himself is holy; and can­not but delight in the holiness and purity of his people.

2. The more purity, the more ripe for heaven: you are thus made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light; for no unclean thing can enter into the heavenly Jerusalem. And, O what comfort arises from this, that you are a candidate for the glory of the new Jerusalem!

3. The more purity, the more communion and fellowship with God; “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. If any man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” (John 14:21,23). The godly person, by his impurity, may greatly mar his fellowship with God; but by advancing in holiness, his communion is promoted.

4. The more purity, the more communication of good things from God: the more holiness you are possessed of, the more will God give you: “He will give grace and glory; and no good thing­ will he withhold from them that walk uprightly,” (Ps. 84:11). When he gives this grace to walk uprightly, he will be still adding more: And every new addition of grace, and communication of love, will make the babe of grace leap cheerfully in the soul; for they that walk in the fear of the Lord, will walk in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, (Acts 9:31).

5. The more purity, the more will the truth and reality of all your other graces be notified to you: particularly these three car­dinal graces, Faith, Love, and Hope, (1 Cor. 13:13).—Faith, in its sincerity is hereby notified; for, if it be true faith, it will purify the heart. The man that says he believes, and yet walks on in a course of sin, it shows his faith to be but a fancy. Love is, in its sin­cerity, notified hereby; for, true love proceeds from a pure heart: “The end of the commandment, is love out of a pure heart.”­ Hope also is notified and made known: “He that hath this hope, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

6. The more purity, the more sense of pardon and justification.—There is comfort, that your sanctification does not affect your justification: and that failures in purity, doth not diminish your justification. And as it is the property of sovereign grace, that it is neither moved by any good in the creature; nor hindered by any evil in the creature: so, it is the property of justification, that neither the believer’s sins makes him less justified; nor his holiness makes him more justified. This is indeed the privilege of all justi­fied believers: but the more pure that the believer is, the more comfortable sense has he thereof.

Believers, by justification, stand in the favor of God, upon the same ground on which Christ, as Mediator, stands in his favor; for you are accepted in the Beloved. Christ, as Mediator, is beloved for his righteousness sake: “The Lord is well‑pleased for his righte­ousness’ sake.” He is highly exalted of God, and honored of him, because he gave himself to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Christ is beloved and accepted of God, upon this ground; and you are accepted in him upon the same ground. Why then, if Christ and you stand upon the same bottom, upon the same ground, consider how sure that ground is; surely, there is no con­demnation to them that are in Christ Jesus; no liableness to con­demnation. If any will assert that the believer, after all, may become liable to condemnation, while he remains in mystical union with the Son of God, which is forever, and remains favored of God, or accepted upon the same ground that Christ is, let them answer for the dishonorable thought that this imports concerning the Son of God himself. Can the ground upon which Christ stands in the favor of God ever fail? Nay; it were blasphemy so to imagine: Neither can the ground upon which the believer stands in the favor of God ever fail; for they stand upon the same ground, namely, the mediatory, righteousness, which is as much imputed to the believer, as if he himself had, in his own person, fulfilled it: It is reckoned to the believer, as if he himself had, in his own per­son, satisfied divine justice, and fulfilled the divine law: And hence, whatever can be said of the happiness of the saints now in heaven, in point of security from vindictive wrath; I say not his holiness, but his happiness: in this respect, the same may be asserted of the believer on earth, in point of justification.

Why, then, say you, the believer may do as he pleaseth, and sin as he listeth; for there is no fear of him. The world, truly, mistakes matters, with respect to the true believer. A carnal heart, never renewed by grace, may indeed deliberately argue thus; “If I was secure as to that event, viz. that I would never go to hell, but shall infallibly be brought to heaven, then I would drink, and debauch, and sin as I please.” Such a disposition, and such a way of talking, is very agreeable to a man that is in a carnal, natural state; but it is cross to the very nature of a believer. And, if any say they are believers, and yet would use that doctrine of grace at this rate: why, their very speech bewrays [betrays] them, and says they are not believers; because no believer, as a believer, can say so.

But it may possibly be urged, May not the corrupt part of the believer say so? Yea: and if it do, it shall be destroyed for so saying: for that which defileth the temple of God, that will God destroy. If the old man of corruption thus defile God’s temple, God will destroy that old man: he will destroy it with the fire of his vindictive wrath and vengeance: for the old man of sin in the believer may indeed be said to be under the law, and shall be con­demned. Though the believer, as he is a believer, is ever freed from condemnation! yet his sin and corruption is, and shall be con­demned; and God takes many ways to do that: yet so as vindic­tive wrath shall never touch the person of the believer in Christ.

But let us take the believer at himself, and see if this be con­sistent with the grain of the child of God. Your sin is pardoned: therefore, go and take your fill of sin. God hath delivered you from hell; therefore, go and walk in the way of hell. God hath loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, vent your enmity against God to the uttermost. He acts like a God of love to you; there­fore act you like a devil against him. God will honour you with the enjoyment of himself for ever in heaven; therefore, go your way and dishonor him as you can. Oh! no, no. Such expressions would offend the generation of the righteous, and of true believers: it would make the hairs of their head to stand, if we may be allowed the expression, and their bowels to tremble: for the quite contrary is ingrained in their new nature: Shall we thus requite the Lord? Shall we render hatred for love.

The more sense of justification, the more purity; and the more purity, the more sense of justification; and yet neither your purity or sanctification, nor failing therein, doth influence your justification, or affect it; for it remains still perfect, and invariably the same. So much for an use of consolation to the godly.


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