Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
In contending against sensual sins, the main stress must be laid on the principle of exclusion, —the absolute keeping away of bad suggestions and imagery from the mind. Once in, the stain has struck on a substance so sensitive that, if not quite indelible, it is still terribly tenacious and terribly prolific of sorrow. It is here, with beginnings, that we all have chiefly to do, in ourselves and our children. Here, peculiarly, the battle is secret and invisible. Not much can be said, and so the more must be done by prayer and instantaneous self-command, expelling the first contamination, and crying: “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” In respect to many sins, self-examination may be safe and even necessary; but there are others where it is scarcely wholesome or profitable. Simple prevention, avoidance, the shutting of the eyes and ears, and pressing on to known duty, are the best security. It does not help much to go back and trace the ways of temptation. The wise man was right: “Avoid it; pass not by it; turn from it and pass away.” “Lead us not into temptation.”
One wrong companionship in childhood, one unprincipled servant or schoolmate, one Mephistophiles using the advantages of superior station or intellect, may spread a curse through the whole hidden history of fourscore years. Next to bad companionship is a bad literature. The degeneracy of the public modesty, in the reading allowed without stint to the young, is a direct contradiction to both the profession and the fact of a progressive civilization. Books that are the products of a thoroughly unchristian social life, in both Europe and America, not only furnish the continual reading matter of the reckless and abandoned, but they stock the circulating libraries, and lie on the tables of the best-bred families, within reach of young persons from whose bodies and physical health every breath of outward malaria is warded off with incessant
vigilance and at every cost. The harm falls jnst where the liability to harm is greatest,—on the springs of thought, imagination, emotion, where no direct effort can meet it or detect its inroads. Best of all the protections against these impurities, however, after the prayer that entreats, in all the varying utterances of an intense devotion— “Create in me a clean heart, O God “—is incessant Christian occupation, with abstinence from those personal luxuries, idlenesses, and pamperings of the body, which are the preparations and provocatives of temptation. To turn swiftly and vigorously to some generous and righteous errand for the Master with a temperate and well-governed body, under a healthful regimen, and sometimes, perhaps, to make the body bear voluntary penalties for its errors, so as thereby to remind and regulate the soul, but at any rate to keep the thoughts and energies preoccupied, is the true mode of preserving Christian purity, and even of restoring it after it has been lost. “We must not fail to lift up our eyes toward the Seat of Mercy. “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? These are they which have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God,” serving Him face to face and heart to heart with the glorious angels that never sinned, seeing God. There is Love, Redemption, Forgiveness, and at last, the Beatific vision, even for sinful hearts like ours. A poet of few poems has written these verses, embodying the encouraging thought that, though the unfallen spirits excel in power and might, there is yet a singular blessedness belonging to those children of the Redemption who have known, after the wretchedness of impurity, the relief of repentance, and the rest of reconciliation: Earth has one joy unknown in heaven,— The newborn peace of sin forgiven. Tears of such pure and deep delight, Ye angels! never dimmed your sight! Ye saw, of old, on Chaos rise The beauteous pillars of the skies: Ye know where morn exulting springs And evening folds her drooping wings. Bright heralds of the Eternal Will, Abroad His errands ye fulfil, Or, throned in floods of beaming day Symphonious in His presence play; While I amid your choirs Bhall shine, And all your knowledge will be mine, Ye on your harps must Jean to hear . One secret chord that mine will bear.
CLEANSE us, O Lord, from our secret faults, and mercifully absolve us from our presumptuous sins, that we may receive Thy holy things with a pure mind; through Christ our Lord. Amen.