Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure: but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
This seems at first a strange and startling saying: but it is a true one; and the more we think over it, the more we shall find it true.
All things are pure in themselves; good in themselves; because God made them. Is it not written, 'God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good?' Therefore St. Paul says, that all things are ours; and that Christ gives us all things richly to enjoy. All we need is, to use things in the right way; that is, in the way in which God intended them to be used.
For God is a God of truth; a true, a faithful, and -- if I may so speak -- an honest and honourable, and fair God: not a deceiving or unfair God, who lays snares for his creatures, or leads them into temptation. That would be a bad God, a cruel God, very unlike the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has put us into a good world, and not a wilderness, as some people call it. If any part of this world be a wilderness, it is because men have made it so, or left it so, by their own wilfulness, ignorance, cowardice, laziness, violence. No: God, I say, has put us into a good world, and given us pure and harmless appetites, feelings, relations. Therefore all the relations of life are holy. To be a husband, a father, a brother, a son, is pure and good. To have property and to use it: to enjoy ourselves in this life as far as we can, without hurting ourselves or our neighbours; all this is pure, and good, and holy. God does not grudge or upbraid. He does not frown upon innocent pleasure. For God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. Therefore he rejoices in seeing his creatures healthy and happy. Therefore, as I believe, Christ smiles out of heaven upon the little children at their play; and the laugh of a babe is heavenly music in his ears.
All things are pure which God has given to man. And therefore, if a man be pure in heart, all which God has given him will not only do him no harm, but do him good. All the comforts and blessings of this life will help to make him a better man. They will teach him about his own character; about human nature, and the people with whom he has to do; ay -- about God himself, as it is written, 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'
All the blessings and comforts of this life, my friends (as well as the anxieties which must come to those who have a family, or property, even if he do not meet with losses and afflictions), ought to help to improve a man's temper, to call out in him right feelings, to teach him more and more of the likeness of God.
If he be a married man, marriage ought to teach him not to live for himself only, but to sacrifice his own fancies, his own ease, his own will, for the sake of the woman whom God has given him; as Christ sacrificed himself, and his own life, for mankind. And so, by the feelings of a husband, he may enter into the mystery of the love of Christ, and of the cross of Christ; and so, if only he be pure in heart, he will see God.
If he have parents, he may learn by being a son how blessed it is to obey, how useful to a man's character to submit: ay, he will find out more still. He will find out that not by being self-willed and independent does the finest and noblest parts of his character come out, but by copying his Father in everything; that going where his Father sends him; being jealous of his Father's honour; doing not his own will, but his Father's; that all this, I say, is its own reward; for instead of lowering a man, it raises him, and calls out in him all that is purest, tenderest, soberest, bravest. I tell you this day -- Just as far as you are good sons to your parents, so far will you be able to understand the mystery of the co-equal and co-eternal Son of God; who though he were in the form of God, did not snatch greedily at being on the same footing with his Father, but emptied himself, and took on him the form of a slave, that he might do his Father's will, and reveal his Father's glory. And so, if you be only pure in heart, you will see God.
If, again, a man have children -- how they ought to teach him, to train him; -- teach him to restrain his own temper, lest he provoke them to anger; to be calm and moderate with them, lest he frighten them into lying; to avoid bad language, gluttony, drunkenness, and every coarse sin, lest he tempt them to follow his example. I tell you, friends, that you will find, if you choose, all the noblest, most generous, most Godlike parts of your character called out to your children; and by having the feelings of a father to your children, learn what feelings our Father in heaven has toward us, his human offspring. And so, if only you be pure in heart, you will see God.
If again, a man has money, money can teach him (as it teaches hundreds of pure-hearted men) that charity and generosity are not only a duty, but an honour and a joy; that 'mercy is twice blest; it blesses him that gives, and him that takes;' that giving is the highest pleasure upon earth, because it is God's own pleasure; because the blessedness of God, and the glory of God is this, that he giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not. And so in his wealth -- if only he be pure in heart, a man will see God.
If, again, a man has health, and strength, and high spirits, they too will teach him, if his heart be pure. He will learn from them to look up to God as the Lord and Giver of life, health, strength; of the power to work, and the power to delight in working: because God himself is ever full of life, ever busy, ever rejoicing to put forth his almighty power for the good of the whole universe, as it is written, 'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.' And so -- in every relation of life -- if only a man's heart be pure, he will see God.
How, then, can we get the pure heart which will make all things pure to us? By asking for the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Pure Spirit, in whom is no selfishness.
For if our hearts be selfish, they cannot be pure. The pure in heart, is the same as the man whose eye is single, and that is the man who is not caring for himself, thinking of himself. If a man be thinking of himself, he will never enjoy life. The pure blessings which God has given him will be no blessings to him; as it is written, 'He that saveth his life shall lose it.'
Do you not know that that is true? Do not the miseries of life (I do not mean the afflictions, like loss of friends or kin), but the miseries of life which make a man dark, and fretful, and prevent his enjoying God's gifts -- do they not come, nineteen-twentieths of them, from thinking about oneself; from lusting and longing after this and that; from spite, vanity, bad temper, wounded pride, disappointed covetousness? 'I cannot get this or that; that money, that place; this or that fine thing or the other: and how can I be contented?' There is a man whose heart is not pure. 'That man has used me ill, and I cannot help thinking of it, brooding over it. I cannot forgive him. How can I be expected to forgive him?' There is a man whose heart is not pure; and more, there is a man who is making himself miserable.
See again, how a man may make marriage a curse to him instead of a blessing, without being unfaithful to his wife (which we all know to be simply abominable and unmanly, and far below anything of which I am talking now). And how? Simply by bad temper, vanity, greediness, and selfish love of his own dignity, his own pleasure, his own this, that, and the other. So, too, he may make his children a torment to him, instead of letting them be God's lesson-book to him, in which he may see the likeness of the angels in heaven.
He may make his wealth a continual anxiety to him: ay, he may make it, by ambition, covetousness, and wild speculation, the cause of his shame and ruin; if only his heart be not pure.
Ay, there is not a blessing on earth which a man may not turn into a curse. There is not a good gift of God out of which a man may not get harm, if only his heart be not pure; as it is written, 'To those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure: but even their mind and conscience are defiled.'
But defiled with what? Fouled with what? There is the question. Many answers have been invented by people who did not believe in that faithful and true God of whom I told you just now; people who fancied that this world was a bad world, and that God laid snares for his creatures and tempted his creatures. But the true answer is only to be got, like most true answers, by observing; by using our eyes and ears, and seeing what really makes people turn blessings into curses, and suck poison out of every flower.
And that is, simply, self.
If you want to spoil all that God gives you; if you want to be miserable yourself, and a maker of misery to others, the way is easy enough. Only be selfish, and it is done at once. Be defiled and unbelieving. Defile and foul God's good gifts by self, and by loving yourself more than what is right. Do not believe that the good God knows your needs before you ask, and will give you whatsoever is good for you. Think about yourself; about what YOU want, what YOU like, what respect people ought to pay YOU, what people think of YOU: and then to you nothing will be pure. You will spoil everything you touch; you will make sin and misery for yourself out of everything which God sends you; you will be as wretched as you choose on earth, or in heaven either.
In heaven either, I say. For that proud, greedy, selfish, self- seeking spirit would turn heaven into hell. It did turn heaven into hell, for the great devil himself. It was by pride, by seeking his own glory -- (so, at least, wise men say) -- that he fell from heaven to hell. He was not content to give up his own will and do God's will, like the other angels. He was not content to serve God, and rejoice in God's glory. He would be a master himself, and set up for himself, and rejoice in his own glory; and so, when he wanted to make a private heaven of his own, he found that he had made a hell. When he wanted to be a little God for himself, he lost the life of the true God, to lose which is eternal death. And why? Because his heart was not pure, clean, honest, simple, unselfish. Therefore he saw God no more, and learnt to hate him whose name is love.
May God keep our hearts pure from that selfishness which is the root of all sin; from selfishness, out of which alone spring adultery, foul living, drunkenness, evil speaking, lying, slandering, injustice, oppression, cruelty, and all which makes man worse than the beasts. May God give us those pure hearts of which it is written, that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long- suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, temperance. Against such, St. Paul says, there is no law. And why? Because no law is needed. For, as a wise father says -- 'Love, and do what thou wilt;' for then thou wilt be sure to will what is right; and, as St. Paul says, If your heart be pure, all things will be pure to you.