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Holiness Texts: Matthew 5:8


This series of posts highlights the primary Scripture texts used by John Wesley and his earliest followers in defense and explanation of the doctrine of Christian Perfection. These are posted (as always) for information and possible discussion. It is not assumed that because Wesley or his followers said a certain thing, everyone else is somehow obligated to agree. The Scriptures are quoted below from the New American Standard Version of the Bible. They are followed by comments from Wesley himself, as well as some of his early followers: John Fletcher, Adam Clarke and Joseph Benson.

An introduction to this series is here:
The Holiness Texts of John Wesley. Links to the other posts in this series may be found on the Wesleyan Theology Page or on the Bible Studies page, listed as “The Holiness Texts of John Wesley.”

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Matthew 5:8, NASB.

John Wesley comments:

V. 8. The pure in heart — The sanctified: they who love God with all their hearts. "They shall see God — In all things here; hereafter in glory."

Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament

"'The pure in heart' are they whose hearts God hath 'purified even as He is pure;' who are purified, through faith in the blood of Jesus, from every unholy affection; who, being 'cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfect holiness in the' loving 'fear of God.' They are through the power of his grace, purified from pride, by the deepest poverty of spirit; from anger, from every unkind or turbulent passion, by meekness and gentleness; from every desire but to please and enjoy God, to know and love him more and more, by that hunger and thirst after righteousness which now engrosses their whole soul: So that now they love the Lord their God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and mind, and strength.

"But how little has this purity of heart been regarded by the false teachers of all ages! They have taught men barely to sustain from such outward impurities as God hath forbidden by name; but they did not strike at the heart; and by not guarding against, they in effect countenanced, inward corruptions."

— Sermon # 23 "Upon Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount: Discourse 3"

John Fletcher remarks:

"If it be objected that 'Solomon asks, ‘Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?' Proverbs 20:9:' we answer: —

"Does not Solomon’s father ask, 'Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?' Does a question of that nature always imply an absurdity, or an impossibility? Might not Solomon’s query be evangelically answered thus? 'The man in whom thy father David’s prayer is answered, Create in me a clean heart, O God: the man who has regarded St. James’ direction to the primitive Solifidians, Cleanse your hearts, ye double minded: the man who has obeyed God’s awful command, O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from iniquity,that thou mayest be saved: or the man who is interested in the sixth beatitude, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God: that man, I say, can testify to the honour of the blood which cleanseth from all sin, that he has made his heart clean.'"

— The Last Check to Antinomianism: A Polemical Essay on the Twin Doctrines of Christian Imperfection and a Death Purgatory, Section 11.

Adam Clarke comments:

"Verse 8.
Pure in heart] In opposition to the Pharisees, who affected outward purity, while their hearts were full of corruption and defilement. A principal part of the Jewish religion consisted in outward washings and cleansings: on this ground they expected to see God, to enjoy eternal glory: but Christ here shows that a purification of the heart, from all vile affections and desires, is essentially requisite in order to enter into the kingdom of God. He whose soul is not delivered from all sin, through the blood of the covenant, can have no Scriptural hope of ever being with God. There is a remarkable illustration of this passage, quoted by Mr. Wakefield from Origen, Contra Celsus lib. vi. 'God has no body, and therefore is invisible: but men of contemplation can discern him with the heart and understanding. But A DEFILED HEART CANNOT SEE GOD: but HE MUST BE PURE WHO WISHES TO ENJOY A PROPER VIEW OF A PURE BEING.'

"Shall see God.] This is a Hebraism, which signifies, possess God, enjoy his felicity: as seeing a thing, was used among the Hebrews for possessing it. See Ps 16:10. Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption, i.e. he shall not be corrupted. So John 3:3: Except a man be born again, he cannot SEE the kingdom of God, i.e. he cannot enjoy it. So John 3:16. He that believeth not the Son, shall not SEE life, i. e shall not be put in possession of eternal glory. The Hindoo idolaters vainly boast of what the genuine followers of Christ actually enjoy -- having the Divine favour witnessed to their souls by the Holy Spirit. The Hindoos pretend that some of their sages have been favoured with a sight of their guardian deity. -- See WARD'S Customs.

"Probably our Lord alludes to the advantages those had, who were legally pure, of entering into the sanctuary, into the presence of God, while those who had contracted any legal defilement were excluded from it. This also was obviously typical."

— Clarke's Commentary.


Joseph Benson comments:

"Verse 8.
The pure in heart — Those whose hearts are purified by faith; who are not only sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Jesus, but cleansed by the Spirit of God from vain thoughts, unprofitable reasonings, earthly and sensual desires, and corrupt passions; who are purified from pride, self-will, discontent, impatience, anger, malice, envy, covetousness, ambition; whose hearts are circumcised to love the Lord their God with all their hearts, and their neighbours as themselves, and who, therefore, are not only upright before him, but possess and maintain purity of intention and of affection in all their designs, works, and enjoyments; serving him continually with a single eye and an undivided heart. They shall see God — Namely, in the glass of his works, whether of creation, providence, or grace, here, and face to face hereafter: they shall have fellowship with him in his ordinances, and shall endure as seeing him that is invisible, while they walk by faith on earth, and shall be admitted to the most perfect vision and complete enjoyment of him in heaven."

— Benson's Commentary.

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