Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
(36.) The Difference Between the Upright in Heart and the Clean in Heart.
I suppose, too, that there is a difference between one who is upright in heart and one who is clean in heart. A man is upright in heart when he |reaches forward to those things which are before, forgetting those things which are behind| so as to arrive in a right course, that is, with right faith and purpose, at the perfection where he may dwell clean and pure in heart. Thus, in the psalm, the conditions ought to be severally bestowed on each separate character, where it is said, |Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that is innocent in his hands, and clean in his heart.| He shall ascend, innocent in his hands, and stand, clean in his heart, -- the one state in present operation, the other in its consummation. And of them should rather be understood that which is written: |Riches are good unto him that hath no sin on his conscience.| Then indeed shall accrue the good, or true riches, when all poverty shall have passed away; in other words, when all infirmity shall have been removed. A man may now indeed |leave off from sin,| when in his onward course he departs from it, and is renewed day by day; and he may |order his hands,| and direct them to works of mercy, and |cleanse his heart from all wickedness,| -- he may be so merciful that what remains may be forgiven him by free pardon. This indeed is the sound and suitable meaning, without any vain and empty boasting, of that which St. John said: |If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we shall receive of Him.| The warning which he clearly has addressed to us in this passage, is to beware lest our heart should reproach us in our very prayers and petitions; that is to say, lest, when we happen to resort to this prayer, and say, |Forgive us, even as we ourselves forgive, we should have to feel compunction for not doing what we say, or should even lose boldness to utter what we fail to do, and thereby forfeit the confidence of faithful and earnest prayer.