Purity of Heart and Life

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” —Proverbs 4:23

OUR scripture text contains the true formula for purity of life, which is that of keeping the heart pure. The heart is symbolic of our affections—the things which we desire and plan to do, to say, and to be, plus the motives back of our desires. Because of inherent imperfections of the nerves and brain cells, one may at times think, say, and do things which do not represent his true desires. One might make a mistake in judgment with respect to the proper course to take in a time of crisis, yet his motives and desires in the matter would be of the best.

So we can see that to keep our hearts pure before the Lord is to be pure from within. It is not a mere outward purity, a veneer. Purity of heart will be bound to manifest itself outwardly, for it will govern one’s general habits of life. Purity of heart will not necessarily prevent an occasional ‘slip of the tongue’, but will be reflected in a pure conversation. One who is pure of heart will not habitually slander his fellows. His thoughts will be pure and holy, and right and just, and his words will be consistent with his thoughts.

Out of the heart are the issues of life, Solomon tells us. The pure in heart are in the way of life, but those whose hearts are filled with bitterness and hate are in the way of death. Even the atoning blood of Christ will not provide life for those who continue to be impure in heart. By divine grace one can cleanse his heart by a judicious use of the water of the Word, but it takes humility and determination. Every Christian should search his heart diligently to make sure he is harboring no malice or other impurities, that no roots of bitterness are growing there which sooner or later may defile his whole being.

“Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee,” Solomon continues. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” declares another scripture. (Matt. 12:34; Luke 6:45) This means that the best way to control that which issues from our lips is to keep our hearts pure.

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before.” (Prov. 4:25) This means a definiteness of purpose. Indecision is a bane to the Christian life. We should look straight ahead, turning neither to the right nor the left. We should, of course, as Solomon declares, ponder the path of our feet; that is, we should think matters over well and then make a decision, and once that decision is made, adhere to it, or as the text states, let our ways be established.

Proverbs 31:10-12 represents the writings of King Lemuel—“The prophecy which his mother taught him.” (Prov. 31:1) Rabbinical writers identify King Lemuel with Solomon. He expresses very high appreciation of a virtuous woman, and rightly so. “Her price,” he says, “is far above rubies.” The statement, “The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her,” apparently does not refer so much to trust in her purity as in the fact that he knows her to be a good provider. For this reason “he shall have no need of spoil.” The remainder of the chapter seems clearly to bring out this thought. It is rather a strange viewpoint in the world of today, but apparently quite the custom in that ancient time.

The final scripture passage is from James 1:13-15. Here the apostle reminds us that our temptations do not come from God, that if we are tempted it means we are drawn away by our own lusts, and enticed. God sets before us opportunities to do right. Thus we might say he tests us to do right. On the other hand, Satan, appealing to us through the lusts of our fallen flesh tempts us to do wrong.

“When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin,” says the apostle, “and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Death is the final result of continued sin. Sin, which is disobedience to divine law, brought death to Adam and the race; and those who, through faith in the Redeemer, are freed from that condemnation, face the possibility of the second death, a possibility that would become a tragic reality if sin is permitted to reign unchallenged in our mortal bodies.

David outlined a somewhat similar sequence of thought and warned against the development of sin in the Christian life, when he wrote, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.”—Ps. 19:12,13

The great transgression is evidently the sin unto death. But those which lead up to this final climax of sin are the secret faults. From these we should seek to be cleansed. Prayer will help us to do this. David suggests this in his own prayer, saying, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.”—Ps. 19:14

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