SELF‑CONCEIT INCIDENT TO A MULTITUDE OF PROFESSORS; OR, THE IMAGINARY PURE GENERATION FOUND NOT WASHED FROM THEIR POLLUTION.
The Nature and Excellency of Purity Opened
[The Second Sermon on this Text]
“There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.” Proverbs 30:12
It contributes much to set forth the excellency of the Scripture as being indeed the word of the infinitely wise God, that it points out the lively picture of people, in all times, and ages, and generations insomuch that the Scriptural account of people is never out of date. It were well if the world were mended, since the Spirit of God dictated this sentence, so many thousand years ago: nay, but I think it is as applicable to the present generation, as if it had never concerned any other. Try it when you will, sirs, either with respect to yourselves or the generality of people round about you, and you will find it to be the very image and picture of the day. As face answering face in a glass, so, in the looking‑glass of this text, you may see your own face, man, woman; and the face of a multitude in our day. Was there ever more filthiness and impurity of thought, word, and action: of heart, speech, and behavior; and yet in what a proud, self‑conceited, self‑justifying delusion and dream are many into; as if they were pure, good, civil, sober, honest, and righteous enough. Well may it be said, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”
Having, in the preceding discourse, opened up and applied the first doctrinal observation we laid down from the words, we shall now proceed to the second doctrine.
Observation II. That purity is an excellent thing, and of absolute necessity to denominate a true saint, a true Christian.
In the handling of this proposition, we propose, through divine aid, to observe the following method and order,
I. Touch a little at the nature of this purity.
II. Mention some of the qualities of it.
III. Inquire into the necessity thereof.
IV. Point out the excellency of this purity.
V. Make application of the subject.
I. We shall return to the First of these, viz. To touch a little at the nature of this purity. And what we intend to offer upon this head, may be comprised in these two things. 1. The removal of the filthiness. 2. The conferring of cleanness.
1st, This purity lies in the removal of the filthiness that the text speaks of. The man that is pure is washed from his filthiness in the blood of Christ. And there is a threefold filthiness that is washed away.
1. The filthiness of our nature. We are naturally unclean and defiled; for, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, (John 3:6). And, who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Now it is the purifying grace of God in Christ, that only can remove this defilement of our nature; “Such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God,” (1 Cor. 6:11). He saveth by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, (Titus 3:3‑5). Now, how far original pollution is removed, in those whom the Lord purifies, we need not dispute: it is certain, the soul is made fair and beautiful in the sight of God; though the sin that doth defile, remains, yet its habitual defilement is taken away, when the person is purified.
2. The filthiness of our person, in actual transgression, is taken away in this work of sanctification and purification. There is a defilement attending every actual sin: Now, it is the blood of Christ that cleanseth from all sin. Besides the defilement of the nature which he purges, (Titus 1:15), he takes away the defilement of our persons by actual follies; for, “By one offering he perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” (Heb. 10:14).
3. The filthiness and defilement of our duties is also taken away, in this work of purification. There is a defilement arises from our duties; unbelief and formality drop in into our best duties; we may be ashamed of our choicest performances. God hath promised, concerning the good works of the saints, that their works shall follow them, (Rev. 14:13). Truly, if they were to be measured by the rule, as they come from us, it might be well for the saints that they might be buried forever: but the Lord Jesus Christ, as their High‑priest, bears the iniquities, the guilt, and provocation which, in strict and severe justice, doth attend them, (Ex. 28:38). He bears the iniquities of our holy things; and not only so, but washes away all filth and defilement; and adds sweet incense that they may be accepted. Whatever is of the Spirit, of himself, of grace, that remains: but whatever is of flesh, self, and unbelief, that is hay and stubble, and that he consumes and takes away; insomuch, that the good works of the believer shall meet him one day with such changed countenance, that he shall not know them; that which seemed black, deformed, and defiled, shall appear beautiful and glorious; they shall not be afraid of them, but rejoice to see them follow them.
This cleansing of the man’s nature, person, and duties, from all defilement, is owing to the death of Christ meritoriously, to the power of the Holy Ghost efficiently: he is that pure water where with we are sprinkled from all our sins: that Spirit of judgment and burning, that takes away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purges the blood of Jerusalem from the midst of her, (Isa. 6:4). But then,
2dly, This purity lies not only in the removal of this filthiness and defilement; but in the conferring of cleanness. And this is also in a threefold gradation.
1. When God purifies a person, he gives the Spirit of purity and holiness to dwell in the man; our renewing is of the Holy Ghost, who is shed on us abundantly through Christ, (Titus 3:6). The principal thing in sanctification and purification, is the indwelling of the purifying Spirit; and our following after the guidance thereof. The Spirit is the well within, the fountain of purity: “I will put my Spirit within you; and cause you to walk in my statues,” (Ezek. 36:26). No pure and holy step, till once this pure and holy Spirit be put within men.
2. He gives habitual grace; the principal of grace opposite to the principal of sin that is in our nature; this is that incorruptible seed that dwells in the man whom the Lord purifies. This grace, according to the distinct faculties of the soul where it is, or the distinct object about what it is exercised, receives various names and appellations, though all be but one new principle of life: in the understanding it is light; in the will, it is obedience: in the affections, it is love; and in all it is faith: but still one and the same habit of grace.
3. He gives actual influences, for the performance of every spiritual duty; for, though a man be purified in both the former respects, by having the spirit dwelling in him, and a principal and habit of grace infused; yet, even to such as have both these, Christ saith, that without him they can do nothing; that is, without new influences of grace, new supplies, and motions, and operations of the Spirit. They cannot live and spend upon the old stock; for every new act they must have a new influence; and the spirit that dwells in the man, must work in him. And as he hath implanted grace, so he must draw forth grace into exercise; and work in us both to will and to do, (Phil. 2:13).—Thus you have somewhat of the nature of this purity; it consists in the removal of filthiness, and conferring of cleanness.
II. As to the qualities of this purity, I shall express them both negatively and positively at once. And,
1. It is not a natural, but a supernatural and spiritual purity. The power of natural conscience, may engage a man to do many, things, as Herod, while yet he is a stranger to gospel purity, which is supernatural; for it is from above; the man that is purified, is born of the Spirit, and born from above; he is God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. It is the Spirit of God that garnishes the soul with these spiritual embroideries; they are fruits of the Spirit. These that are no purer than when they, were born, or than they are by nature, have no purity at all; they, are not washed from their filthiness.
2. It is not an hypocritical, but a real unfeigned purity. Many hypocrites there are, that draw near to God with their mouth, and honour him with the lip; but their hearts are far removed from him. Their hearts are not right with God. The saint is said to have his heart sound in God’s statutes! and to have truth in the inward parts; and a spirit without guile, in opposition both to gross and close hypocrisy. The gross hypocrite is one that knows he is juggling with God and religion; surely there is no purity there. The close hypocrite is deceiving himself, and is not aware of it.
But here a question may arise, May one be a hypocrite and not know it?
To which we may reply, no doubt of it; for many are playing the hypocrite, when they think they are very devout persons; their hearts are divided; not upright, but complex: and they have a complex portion; God and the creature make up a portion to them. The hypocrite gives God a part of his heart, and the creature a part of his heart; he gives heaven and duties a part of his heart and time; and he gives hell and idols another part of his heart and time. The worship of God that gratifies his conscience; the way of sin, that gratifies his affections; and between the two he is pleased. God alone doth not satisfy him; the creature alone doth not satisfy him: but he runs between the two. But the cloven foot is a mark of the devil; the heart is divided. But the pure, the upright man, is one who dares not regard iniquity in his heart, and who takes a God in Christ alone for all his portion and happiness; that satisfies all the vast desires of his soul; and “To whom shall I go? saith he, Thou halt the words of eternal life.” God is the centre of the soul’s rest: Return to Thy rest, O my soul,” (Ps. 116:7).
3. It is not a speculative, but an operative purity. Some have all their religion in their head, but nothing in their heart and life; all the knowledge they are master of hath no influence upon the sanctification of either. Many people are like rickety children, their heads are swelled, but their backs are narrow and contracted: so they have heads full of light, but they are empty of piety and purity; “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him.” Indeed, if they had a true knowledge of God, it would lead to true sanctity; but they are the like the devil, who hath much knowledge, but no purity. People may be like the toad, who hath a precious stone in his head, but his belly is full of poison; they may have a head full of notional knowledge; but they have an heart full of unmortified enmity.
4. It is not a common, but a special purity. People may have common influences of the Spirit of God; not only may their understandings be much enlightened, like those, (Heb. 6:4): but their will may be renewed, toward many good purposes and resolutions, like Agrippa, almost persuaded to be saints: their affections may be several ways touched. There are common gifts and graces of the Spirit, that may both warm the affection, and smooth the conversation; while yet the heart is not washed from its filthiness, in the manner that I have described.
5. It is not a superstitious, but a scriptural and regular purity. Many worship God vainly, while they worship him superstitiously; in a manner not required in his word: such are all these forms of worship, and of divine service, in those churches that are over‑run with human inventions, and unscriptural ceremonies: “In vain do they worship me: teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The word of God is the standard of true piety and purity: “As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them,” saith the apostle, “and upon the Israel of God.” “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this it is because there is no light in them.” No man can do anything in faith, unless he can say, “So it is written;” or hath a “Thus saith the Lord,” to warrant it; and whatsoever is not thus of faith, is sin. This purity is scriptural, both with respect to the law and the gospel: the law is. the rule of purity, and the gospel is the instrument, even the word of grace: “Now are ye clean, through the word that I have spoken unto you. Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.”
6. It is not a partial, but an extensive, universal purity. It is not a part of the man, that is washed from filthiness, but the whole man; the whole man is renewed after the image of God. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are past away; behold, all things are become new.” There is anew state, a new disposition: there is a new light in the understanding: the light of the knowledge of the glory of God: a new liberty in the will; being made willing in the day of God’s power; a new order in the affections; they being set upon things above; a new peace in the conscience; a peace that passeth all natural understanding; a new luster in the whole conversation; it being a conversation becoming the gospel; a new trade of communion with God, and intercourse with heaven; a new war against the devil, the world, and the flesh; “All things are become new.” Think not you are holy enough, when free from the outward pollutions of the world. New desires and new delights must be inlaid and implanted in the soul: new faith, in opposition to the old dead faith; new hope, in opposition to the old natural hope; new repentance, in opposition to the old covenant repentance; a new obedience, in opposition to the old covenant obedience. And so,
7. It is not a legal, but an evangelical purity. Legal‑purity is built upon the ground of personal righteousness and inherent strength, like Adam’s in a state of innocency; but evangelical purity, is built upon the ground of Christ’s righteousness and strength, (Isa. 45:24). The man that is evangelically purified, with, “Surely in the Lord only have I righteousness and strength.” Gospel‑purity acts upon the divine strength of Christ, for being to itself, and for all its assistance; and it acts upon the divine righteousness of Christ, for acceptation to itself, and for all its acceptance.—Legal purity acts by compulsion and constraint, from fear of hell, and the like: but gospel purity acts freely, and from love. Legal‑purity levels at self, and the magnifying thereof: gospel‑purity levels at free‑grace, and the praise and glory thereof.—Legal‑purity is mercenary, expecting God will make out his part, because the pure creature thinks he has done his endeavor, to perform his condition on his part; and so imagines he has a right founded upon his purity and holiness; but gospel‑purity is humble, and takes all things freely; not in a conditional way, but in an absolute manner, with respect to him; and expecting all things promised in the covenant, only upon the condition performed by Christ, his obedience to the death.
8. It is not an evanishing, but a permanent purity. All the religion that many have is evanishing and superficial; it comes and goes like a flash of lightning. True purity is permanent and constant; it continues and grows; for, “He that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger.” The righteous holdeth on his way, like a vessel sailing towards such a port, though it meet with many blasts to drive it hither and thither, and sometimes very far back; yet it goes on again, and makes out the harbor designed: so, though the believer may meet with blasts of temptation and corruption, that may set him far back; yet he holds on his way. A God in Christ is the centre of rest, to which he moves; yea, he hath taken up his rest in him, and there he resolves to stay forever: he hath chosen a God in Christ for his portion, and he is determined to abide by his choice; “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none in all the earth that I desire beside thee,” (Ps. 73:25). As if he had said, I have been ranging and ransacking heaven, and looking to all the angels there; I have been traversing earth, and viewing all the children of men; but there is none worthy of my choice but thee alone; “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none in all the earth that I desire besides thee.” Here is a characteristic and distinguishing quality of a pure and upright man. A hypocrite can go to a preaching and prayer; but he can never say, Now, I could live and die in this work; no, no: the man must be back to the world again, back to his idols again: there is something in the earth that is more his portion than God; so his religion is vanishing. But,
III. It is proper now to speak a word of the necessity of this purity. Here I would essay two things: —1. Show that it is necessary. 2. Inquire for what it is necessary.
1st, We are to show that purity is necessary. This will appear clear, if you consider these things following.
1. That purity is necessary, will appear from all the typical works under the law; the legal washings and purifyings. What meant the great sea of brass that was appointed for the high priests to wash in, before they compassed the altar? What needed all the washings of the people and of the sacrifices? Certainly, if we look not to the spirituality of it, but only to the letter, they seem a piece of pageantry, unworthy of the divine Spirit to concern himself in these outward washings: but having a further view, they point at a gospel, spiritual washing and purification.
2. The necessity of it is evident from the sacramental washing in the New Testament. What means the sacrament of baptism? Doth it not speak forth the necessity of our washing? Who no sooner enter on the threshold of life, than there is the laver of regeneration presented for washing and purification.
3. The necessity of it is evident, from all the commands of the law. Every command hath a voice; and the general voice and cry of all is, “Wash ye, make ye clean,” (Isa. 1:16). “The end of, the commandment is love, out of a pure heart,” (1 Tim. 1:5).
4. The necessity of it is evident from the promises of the gospel. The great promise of the new covenant is, “I will sprinkle them with clean water, and they shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you,” (Ezek. 36:25). These promises were needless, if purity was not necessary: and we ought to make use of these promises, and plead them.
5. In a word, It was the end of Christ’s coming into the world, that he might redeem from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people.—It was the design of his abode in it, that he might leave us an example, set before us a pattern of holiness, that we might follow his steps, and be holy as he is holy.—It was the intention of his death, and the shedding of his blood; for he suffered without the gate, that he might sanctify the people, and that his blood might be a laver for washing away all their filthiness and impurity, and a fountain for washing away all sin and uncleanness, because his blood cleanses from all sin.—Christ prayed for this blessing to us; “Sanctify them through the truth.”—He sent the Spirit for this end, that he might convince of sin, cause us to walk in his statutes, and apply his blood for purifying our consciences from dead works.—Thus we see that purity is necessary.
2dly, We proceed now to consider, for what it is necessary. Amongst others it is necessary for these things following.
1. It is necessary to
evidence our justification and pardon. Why, if you be not purified, you are not
pardoned; for the pardoned man is a purified man. When God reveals the guilt of
sin, he destroys, in some measure, the strength of sin; (
2. It is necessary to clear up our evidences for heaven.—It is necessary to clear your adoption; “Touch not the unclean thing, saith the Lord; and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters,” (2 Cor. 6:17,18). The meaning is, in a word; this purity shall be an evidence of my paternal relation to you; and hereby your adoption into my family will be cleared up; for, if you be of God’s family, you will, through grace study purity.—It is necessary to your union with him; I do not mean that the soul must first be purified, before it be united to Christ; as if none were to come to Christ, till they first make themselves pure: nay, that is cross to the very scope of the gospel, which calls polluted sinners to come to him, that they may be washed by him. But I say, it is necessary to union, in regard that, in uniting a soul to himself, he purifies that soul; and there cannot be an union between Christ and the soul otherwise; “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made to us sanctification,” (1 Cor. 1:30). If Christ come into the soul, he comes in sanctifying and purifying the soul: for he cannot unite with impurity; light cannot unite with darkness, neither life match with death. Can heaven mingle with hell or flesh with spirit? No; there is no union, but in this purifying spirit to come in. It is necessary to our communion with God. As I said of union so I say of communion; when God vouchsafes to bring a person to communion with himself, he purifies that person; for, what communion hath light with darkness? And the more that a person is purified, the more communion with God; “If a man love me, and keep my words, my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and take up our abode with him,” (John 14:23). And? “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,” (John 14:21).
3. It is necessary to the acceptableness of our services unto God. As in justification the believer is made accepted; so in sanctification he is made acceptable. I distinguish between acceptance and acceptableness: We are accepted only in the beloved; but those that are loved of him, and accepted, they are also made lovely and acceptable. Justification and pardon makes a man loved and accepted; but sanctification and purity maketh him lovely and acceptable. The greatest performances, in obedience to the most express commands, are lost; they are unacceptable and abominable, in the sight of God, without purity,—“He that killeth an oz, as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol; yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations,” (Isa. 66:3). All duties, all actions: natural actions, civil actions, religious actions, they are all abominable to him, without this purity.
4. It is necessary to access to God: “I will wash mine hands in innocence, and so will compass thine altar,” (Ps. 26:6). “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart,” &c., (Ps. 24:3,4). It is necessary to access, not as the ground of access to God, but as the qualification of the person that shall have access. The legal dream of the natural bias of the heart makes it necessary still to distinguish matters well upon this subject. The only ground of access is the blood of Christ; “In whom we have boldness and access, with confidence, by the faith of him,” (Eph. 3:12). Purity itself, in whatever measure communicated to us, is not the foundation of our access to God, but it is the qualification of the subject, or person, that hath access; he is a person who, being privileged with access by the blood of Christ, is also washed and purified by that same blood; and this is the character of the man that shall ascend to the hill of the Lord, and stand in his holy place, being thus put in a capacity so to do. Indeed, the believer comes always in the sense of impurity, and to be cleansed; and this very thing is some purity.
IV. The Fourth general head we proposed, was, To touch at the excellency of this purity. We shall endeavor to point out the excellency thereof in the ten following particulars.
1. The excellency of it appears, in that it assimilates unto God: It is a resemblance of God, who is perfect purity; and purity is one of the most noble parts of his image. Every creature hath some resemblance of God; the very inanimate creatures resemble him, in respect of being: and living creatures resemble him, in something of life; nay, the very devils resemble him in something of knowledge. But for the resemblance of the moral perfection, his holiness and purity, this is what devils and men, by their sin and fall, are opposite and antipodes to: but it is the honour of all the saints, to have some resemblance of God, even in holiness,
2. It cannot but be excellent, for it retrieves our original innocence, partly here, and fully hereafter. When man dropt out of God’s creating hand, he was like the picture of God, in a cloud: O he was lovely! he was an absolute beauty, without any deformity! But, alas! he quickly was perverted, and his beauty defaced Now, this purity retrieves our original beauty.
3. The excellency of it cannot but appear in this, that it is the design of the whole Trinity, in all their great actions. It is the design of God, the Father, in electing a set of people, that they might be holy; “He hath chosen us in him, that we should be holy,” (Eph. 1:4). It was the design of Christ, in dying, that he might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, (Titus 2:14). It was not merely to pardon, but to purify; pardon only keeps us from hell; but purity makes us like God himself, and fit for heaven. It is the design of the Holy Ghost to purify; and why is he called the Holy Ghost? Not only because he is essentially holy; for, indeed, the Father and the Son are the same holy spirit with him; but because of his function and operation, by the divine economy; it being his work to make a holy world, a pure world.
4. It is excellent, in regard it is a distinguishing character of the Christian religion, from all others. What is Mahometanism, but a mixture of distracted fancies and erroneous pollutions? The Pagan religion is nothing but a pollution; their gods are brought in as murderers and liars. Piety and purity is the distinguishing character of the Christian religion, and the great design of it; “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” (2 Tim. 2:19). Their name should be, “Holiness to the Lord.”
5. It is excellent, in regard it is the beauty of the rational creature. We are called to worship him in the beauty of holiness, (Ps. 29:2). This is a beauty that makes a man outshine the sun in splendor. Impurity is the greatest deformity. I have read of an old woman, who, seeing her deformity in a glass, did run mad. O sirs! if God should show us our deformity, in a glass of the law, it were enough to make us run distracted, if there was no discovery of a fountain for purification and washing.
6. It is excellent, in
regard that it is the real glory and honour of a man that hath it; and it is sin
that is a man’s shame and dishonor. Naaman was general of the king’s army, a
man of great favor with his prince, a man of great honour and respect, a mighty
man of valor: but he was a leper; this, “But he was a leper,” was a cloud upon
all his glory, and a nail upon all his honour. So to say, There is a wise man,
but he is unholy; there is a great man, but he is unholy: there is a
good‑natured man, a learned man, but he is a stranger to gospel purity; this is
a cloud of darkness upon all his other excellencies. Whereas purity and piety,
in a gospel sense, is the real glory and honour of a man: “Righteousness exalts
a nation,” saith Solomon; “but sin is a reproach to any people,” (Prov. 14:14).
Purity exalts a man, exalts a people. God’s holiness is his glory, (Deut.
26:18,19), and must be much more so to man. Yea, it is not only an honor to the
man himself, that is endued with it; but it makes the man an honor to those
that are concerned in him. The purity and piety of the father, is an ornament
to the child: when it can be said, There is the child of a godly man; it is the
child’s honor: and the purity and piety of the child is also an ornament and
honor to the parent. So was Abraham to Isaac, and Isaac to Abraham. Solomon
calls a good and virtuous wife, a crown to her husband: and so is a godly
husband a crown of honor to the wife. Such persons are a crown and honor to the
families where they reside; yea, to the place where they are born and bred: “Of
7. It is excellent, in respect of its gainfulness, or the advantages accruing to it. True riches are to be had this way: “Godliness is great gain,” (1 Tim. 6:6). “It is profitable in all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” (1 Tim. 4:8). It hath the promise of all things annexed to it: not as a promise of life that was made to works and doing, in the covenant of works: beware of that thought: for now, in the covenant of grace, all the promises are thus annexed only to Christ, and his obedience to the death, his perfect righteousness, and to the believer only, in and through him, and through this obedience of his. The annexing of the promise to our works and obedience, as in themselves considered, as it is to turn the covenant of grace into a covenant of works; so, it is like to be the ruining error of many in our day, and even of tall cedars in our Lebanon, that are like to fall into the horrible pit of an old covenant religion, notwithstanding of a new‑covenant‑profession: but the promise is annexed to godliness thus, viz. as it is an evidence of union to Christ, and participation of his righteousness, in whom, and through which righteousness, “All the promises. are Yea and Amen.” And now, what gain what profit is here? It hath thus the promise of all things, temporal and eternal, (Prov. 22:4). Profit is a bait that all bite at; it is the great god of the world, that competes with the true God, for a place in the heart and affections of men, in opposition to the first and great command, “Thou shalt have no other god before me.” But here is profit, infinitely beyond the world: it is present gain; it is the best, the true gain.
8. It is excellent, in regard of its pleasantness: here is pleasure, as well as honor and profit: which three are usually called the world’s trinity. What pleasure is there to be had in the way of purity? Why, “Wisdom’s ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” (Prov. 3:17). This made David choose rather to be a door‑keeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness; and to value a day in his courts better than a thousand elsewhere, (Ps. 84:10). It is true, many never tasted the sweetness that is in God’s way; and hence they weary of means and ordinances; but they that taste the same, they find that the work of righteousness is peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever, (Isa. 32:17). And it is not only pleasant to all that know it, but hath such a perfume and savor, that it is most pleasant and delightful to all that come near it: We have a bright example of this in the primitive Christians, “And they continued daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people,” (Acts 2:46,47). What was it that recommended them to the favor of all the people? It was the exercise of their graces, by reason of the Lord’s presence with them. A pure conversation is a gaining thing; hence the apostle speaks of being won by holy conversation, (1 Pet. 3:1). We read of a pure virgin, Cecilia, by her holy deportment at her martyrdom, that she was the means of converting four hundred to Christ.
9. It is excellent, in regard of its antiquity. Purity was the first suit that ever was upon man’s back; he being created after the image of God. Sin is of a later edition than sanctity; it is but an upstart. Sanctity is the first‑born: “Ask for the old path,” (Jer. 6:16). Many boast of antiquity for the defense of their ceremonies and superstition: Where was your religion, say the Papists, before Luther and Calvin? Why, it was even in the Bible, as well as among the church visible. But, what though men should pretend to the greatest antiquity that it is possible for sinful and superstitious customs to pretend to, let us hold by Scripture antiquity. It will not justify sin, that it is as old as the devil; but purity and holiness is of an older date than the devil himself; he was a holy angel before he was an unholy angel.
10. It is excellent, in regard that it is the excellency of all other excellencies: it is the excellency of all the divine perfections, that they are holy. The angels that knew well what is the top of their excellency, discover this in their threefold repetition, “Holy, holy, holy,” (Isa. 6:3). It is the excellency of all accomplishments among men. Let a man have never so much excellency, birth, and breeding, wit and wealth, honor and grandeur, learning and literature, if this be wanting, there is no true excellency therein. In a word, “Without holiness no man shall see God,” (Heb. 12:14). “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God,” (Matt. 5:8). So much for a short hint at the excellency of this purity.