Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Proverbs 20:9

Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin"?
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ablution;   Cleanliness;   Depravity of Man;   Heart;   Purity;   Thompson Chain Reference - Error;   Human;   Man;   Self-Justification;   Self-Justification-Self-Condemnation;   Sin;   Sin-Saviour;   Transgression;   Universal;   The Topic Concordance - Sin;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Fall of Man, the;   Heart, the;   Sin;  
Dictionaries:
Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Pardon;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Sanctification;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, the Book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Proverbs, Book of;   Purity-Purification;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Sin;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Clean;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Prov'erbs, Book of;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for February 15;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Who can say, I have made any heart clean - No man. But thousands can testify that the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed them from all unrighteousness. And he is pure from his sin, who is justified freely through the redemption that is in Jesus.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/proverbs-20.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A warning voice against the spirit, which, ignorant of its own guilt, is forward to condemn others.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/proverbs-20.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 20:9

Who can say, I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?

Purity of heart

I. Who can say, i have made my heart clean? We read of some who have clean hands, which implies an abstinence from outward sins. A clean heart implies more than this; it relates to the inward temper and disposition, to the bias of the will, and the various operations of the affections, as being spiritual and acceptable in the sight of God.

1. Purity of heart is much to be desired.

2. It is the work of the Spirit alone to impart it.

3. There is so much self-righteous pride and vanity in man that many are apt to think they have made their hearts clean.

II. Who can say, i am pure from my sin? To be pure from sin is similar to our being in a state of sinless perfection. This no one ever enjoyed in the present life, except Him only who “knew no sin.”

1. Who can say that they were never defiled with original sin, or that they are now free from that defilement?

2. Who can say that they are pure from inward sins, the evils of the heart?

3. Who can say that they are wholly free from practical evil in life and conversation?

4. Who can say they are free from every besetting sin, or that they are not defiled with any of those evils to which they are more especially exposed by constitutional habits, or by their occupation or immediate connections. As no one can say with truth that he is pure from his sin, what reason have the best of men to be abased before God! (B. Beddome, M. A.)

The duty of mortification

The trial and examination of our hearts and ways in reference to God is a duty which, though hard and difficult, is exceedingly useful and beneficial to us.

I. The duty of mortification. The cleansing of our hearts, to be pure from sin.

1. The nature of the action. Cleansing. A word implying some change and alteration that is to be made in us. That which is purged was formerly impure. God is pure; the saints are purged and purified. This shows us the nature of sin: it is a matter of uncleanness. Uncleanness is a debasing quality; a loathsome quality; a thing odious in itself and for itself. Cleansing shows the sovereign virtue of grace and repentance. It is of a purging virtue. It hath a power of cleansing us from the pollutions of sin. It is compared to clean water, which washes away filth. To a wind, which, passing, cleanseth. To a fire, that consumes dross and corruption.

2. The property of the agent. The text makes us agents in this great work. Sin is cleansed in our justification, when it is pardoned and forgiven. The act of forgiveness is God’s alone. Sin is cleansed by mortification, and regeneration, and conversion. The progress of these acts God works in us, and by us. His Spirit enables us to carry forward this work which He graciously begins, and to cleanse ourselves.

3. The circumstance of time. “I have cleansed.” Mortification is a work of long continuance; it requires progress and perseverance.

II. The object that must be wrought upon. “The heart.” The whole man must be cleansed, but first and specially the heart. The heart is the fountain and original from whence all other uncleannesses do stream and flow. The heart is the lurking-hole, to which sin betakes itself. The heart is the proper seat and residence of sin.

III. The measure or degree of mortification. “I am pure from my sin.” This is the high aim that a Christian must set to himself, to press forward to perfection. The text lays our sin at our own doors, and so it concerns us to rid ourselves of it. Sin is the offspring of our will. There is the sin of inbred and natural inclination; the sin to which our particular age disposes us: childhood is idle, youth wanton, age covetous; the sins of our calling and vocation: every calling has its special temptations.

IV. The difficulty of mortification. This question, “Who?” is not meant for all sorts of sinners. It is not propounded to the profane man, to the grossly ignorant man, or to the negligent and careless man. The question reaches to the best sort of men, those that have made good progress in this work of cleansing and mortification, who, nevertheless, are condemned by their own consciences; who have still leaven to purge out; find some sins of surreption will steal in upon them. As to the question itself. It runs thus: “Who can say?” Not “Who doth say?” or “Who will say?” or “Who dare say?” We may safely resolve the question into a peremptory assertion, and conclude that no man is clear or free from sin. The earnest Christian can say, “Through grace I have broken the strength and dominion of sin.” (Bp. Brownrigg.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 20:9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/proverbs-20.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"

This is a plaintive note indeed. The implied response here is negative. Under the Old Dispensation, there was no such thing as the forgiveness of sins. "There was a remembrance of sins year by year" (Hebrews 10:3). Thus, there is an unspoken plea here for that Atonement that came only in the blood of Christ.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/proverbs-20.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Who can say, I have made my heart clean,.... The heart of than is naturally unclean, the mind, conscience, understanding, will, and affections; there is no part clean, all are defiled with sin; and though there is such a thing as a pure or clean heart, yet not as made so by men; it is God that has made the heart, that can only make it clean, or create a clean heart in men; it is not to be done by themselves, or by anything that they can do; it is done only by the grace of God, and blood of Christ: God has promised to do it, and he does it; and to him, and to him only, is it to be ascribed;

I am pure from my sin? the sin of nature or of action: such indeed who are washed from their sins in the blood of Christ; whose sins are all pardoned for his sake, and who are justified from all things by his righteousness; they are pure from sin, none is to be seen in them, or found upon them in a legal sense: they are all fair and comely, and without fault in the sight of God; their iniquities are caused to pass from them; and they are clothed with fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints: but then none are pure from indwelling sin, nor from the commission of sin; no man can say this, any more than the former; if he does, he is an ignorant man, and does not know the plague of his heart; and he is a vain pharisaical man; yea, a man that does not speak the truth, nor is the truth in him, 1 John 1:8.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-20.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

The interrogation in the affirmative strengthens the implied negation (compare Job 15:14; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

9 Who can say I have made my heart clean,

I am pure from my sins?

It is the same thought that Solomon expresses in his prayer at the consecration of the temple, 1 Kings 8:46 : there is no man who sinneth not. To cleanse his heart (as Psalms 73:13), is equivalent to to empty it, by self-examination and earnest effort after holiness, of all impure motives and inclinations; vid ., regarding זכה, to be piercing, shining brightly, cloudlessly pure, Fleischer in Levy's Chald. Wörterbuch, i. 424. The consequence of זכּות is, becoming pure; and the consequence of זכּות לב, i.e., of the purifying of the heart, the being pure from sinful conduct: I have become pure from my sins, i.e., from such as I might fall into by not resisting temptations; the suffix is not understood as actual, but as potential, like Psalms 18:24. No one can boast of this, for man's knowledge of himself and of his sins remains always limited (Jeremiah 17:9.; Psalms 19:13); and sin is so deeply rooted in his nature (Job 14:4; Job 15:14-16), that the remains of a sinful tendency always still conceal themselves in the folds of his heart, sinful thoughts still cross his soul, sinful inclinations still sometimes by their natural force overcome the moral resistance that opposes them, and stains of all kinds still defile even his best actions.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/proverbs-20.html. 1854-1889.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

This question is not only a challenge to any man in the world to prove himself sinless, whatever he pretends, but a lamentation of the corruption of mankind, even that which remains in the best. Alas! Who can say, “I am sinless?” Observe, 1. Who the persons are that are excluded from these pretensions - all, one as well as another. Here, in this imperfect state, no person whatsoever can pretend to be without sin. Adam could say so in innocency, and saints can say so in heaven, but none in this life. Those that think themselves as good as they should be cannot, nay, and those that are really good will not, dare not, say this. 2. What the pretension is that is excluded. We cannot say, We have made our hearts clean. Though we can say, through grace, “We are cleaner than we have been,” yet we cannot say, “We are clean and pure from all remainders of sin.” Or, though we are clean from the gross acts of sin, yet we cannot say, “Our hearts are clean.” Or, though we are washed and cleansed, yet we cannot say, “We ourselves made our own hearts clean;” it was the work of the Spirit. Or, though we are pure from the sins of many others, yet we cannot say, “We are pure from our sin, the sin that easily besets us, the body of death which Paul complained of,” Romans 7:24.

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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/proverbs-20.html. 1706.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 20:9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Ver. 9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean?] That can I, saith the proud Pharisee and the Popish justiciary. Non habeo, Domine, quod mihi ignoscas: I have nothing, Lord, for thee to pardon, saith Isidore the monk. When St Paul, that had been in the third, heaven, complains of his inward impurities, [Romans 7:15] and though he should have known no evil by himself, yet durst he not look to be thereby justified. [1 Corinthians 4:4] And holy Job could say, "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet God would plunge me in the ditch, so that my own clothes should abhor me." [Job 9:30-31] And "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities," saith David, "who should stand before thee?" [Psalms 130:3]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/proverbs-20.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

v. 9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean, purifying it to the point of moral perfection, I am pure from my sin? The answer is clearly given in the question and stated, Ecc_7:20.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/proverbs-20.html. 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Proverbs 20:9

This is a Gospel question before the time of the Gospel. All the great conditions of the human mind you find as distinctly in the Old Testament as in the New; all the questions that sharpen themselves into fierce agonies are in the nature of man, and part of his constitution. The inquiry comes to each of us; if any man can answer the question in the affirmative let him do so.

I. The pure man ought to be lifted above fear; the clean soul ought to have a peculiar, a shadowless joy. Have you that gladness? Then why those nightmares of the soul, why those sudden fears, why those peculiar distresses, why those doubts and scepticisms and questionings, why a thousand indications of unrest and tumult? This ought to suggest that you have not completed the task which you suppose yourself to have accomplished in the heart.

II. There is a tremendous responsibility in returning an affirmative answer to the inquiry of the text. If a man were to say, "Yes, I have made my heart clean and am pure from my sin," he would (1) contradict the whole testimony of Scripture; (2) supersede the work of Christ; (3) withdraw himself from all the cleansing, purifying agencies which constitute the redeeming ministry of the universe. There is no heaven along the line of self-hope; there is no pardon in the direction of self-trust.

Parker, Fountain, August 1st, 1878.

References: Proverbs 20:9.—H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 50. Proverbs 20:10-14.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 338.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/proverbs-20.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Proverbs 20:9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, says St. John. But here is our comfort, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us form all unrighteousness. Though I be nothing, says St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:11 yet I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/proverbs-20.html. 1801-1803.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 802

NO ABSOLUTE PERFECTION HERE BELOW

Proverbs 20:9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

THE great characteristic of the Proverbs is wisdom; as that of the Psalms is piety. They were the result of much thought and observation: and the instructions contained in them were such as a father might be supposed to give to his children. Occasionally, however, according as his mind had been occupied, the tenour of his observations was varied; and they assumed, what may be rather called, a vein of piety. We suppose, that, when he penned the passage before us, he had been led into some unexpected discovery of the corruptions of his own heart; and from thence had been drawn to contemplate in a more extended view the general depravity of human nature, not merely as evinced by the ungodly, but as manifested by the remains of sin in the most eminent saints. However this may be, his observation is deep, and of singular importance. It is a challenge to the whole world, to find, if they can, a perfect man. Let us consider,

I. The truth that is here intimated—

There have been, and yet are, persons in the Church of Christ who boast of sinless perfection. But they are awfully deluded. In order to maintain their favourite system, they reduce exceedingly the requirements of God’s law; they deny many things to be sin, which most assuredly are sin; and, after all, they shut their eyes against many things which they know to be sinful in their own hearts and lives, but which they will not acknowledge to be sinful, lest they should overturn the system which they are anxious to defend. But it is a certain truth, that no man is sinless in this world. And this appears,

1. From express declarations of Holy Writ—

[Both the Old Testament and the New concur to establish this truth. Solomon, at his dedication of the temple, expressly asserted, that “there was no man that lived and sinned not [Note: 1 Kings 8:46.]:” and more strongly does he elsewhere affirm, that “there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not [Note: Ecclesiastes 7:20.].” To this agree also the testimonies of the inspired Apostles: St. John says, that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us [Note: 1 John 1:8-10.];” and St. James says, that “in many things we offend all [Note: James 3:2.].” The whole Scripture uniformly attests this awful truth.]

2. From such instances as are undeniable—

[Among the most distinguished of God’s people, were Abraham, and Moses, and Hezekiah, and Paul: yet all of these, even when they had arrived at the summit of human excellence, fell into sin. Abraham, purely through fear, twice denied his own wife, and thereby subjected her and others to temptations, which might have issued in the everlasting destruction of their souls. Moses, the meekest man upon the face of the earth, gave way to wrath, whereby he provoked God to exclude him from the earthly Canaan. Hezekiah, than whom no man upon the whole ever more honoured God, yet yielded to pride and creature-confidence, when he shewed all his treasures to the ambassadors of the king of Babylon. And Paul, after he had preached for twenty years, and attained an eminence in the divine life, not inferior to that of any of the children of men, was so carried away by his own spirit under a sudden trial and temptation, that he reviled God’s High Priest, which he himself acknowledged to be a violation of an express command. Who then, after viewing these, will “say, that he is pure from sin?”]

3. From the confessions of God’s most eminent saints—

[Job, previous to his trials, was pronounced by God “a perfect man;” yet, after his trials, confessed, “Behold, I am vile!” Paul occupies a whole chapter in his epistle to the Romans in describing the internal conflicts of his mind; sin and grace mutually striving to overpower each other, and disabling him from fully vanquishing the one, or carrying into effect the dictates of the other. “In his flesh,” he says, “dwelt no good thing:” but there was, notwithstanding all the attainments of his renewed mind, “a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members.” Will any other then of the children of men say, “I am pure from all sin?” From the dominion of sin every saint may affirm that he is freed; yea, and from the wilful and allowed indulgence of any. David justly appeals to God respecting his perfect freedom from sin, as to any intention and purpose to commit it [Note: Psalms 17:3.]; as Job also does respecting the extinction of its reigning power: “Thou knowest, that I am not wicked [Note: Job 10:7.].” But, if any man should go farther, and say, that sin was not still living within him, and operating occasionally to the polluting of his soul, he must stand self-convicted, and self-condemned; just as Job has said, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse [Note: Job 9:20; Job 9:30-31.].”]

Such being the state of our fallen nature, it becomes us to consider,

II. The improvement we should make of it—

This truth should never be lost sight of for one moment: it should regulate every feeling of the heart: it should never cease to call forth and to augment,

1. Our humiliation—

[We are sinful creatures at the best; and are in the situation of wretched captives, who, having a dead body fastened to them, were compelled to drag it about, till they themselves were destroyed by its pestilential vapours [Note: See what is said of Mezentius in Virgil; ζ. lib. viii. l. 485–488.] — — — This, it must be acknowledged, is a most humiliating truth, and not unfitly expressed in the general Confession of our Liturgy, “There is no health in us.” Hence, when we are taught to “lothe ourselves for our iniquities and our abominations,” we must remember that it is not for the actions only that are long since past, but for the taint also which they have left behind them, that this self-abasement is necessary. So Job thought [Note: Job 42:6.], and so Isaiah [Note: Isaiah 6:5.], and so Paul [Note: Romans 7:24.]: and, if we know ourselves aright, we shall find no terms more suited to express our real state, than those in which the prophet Isaiah described the Jews of his day; “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint: from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in us, but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores [Note: Isaiah 1:5-6.].”]

2. Our watchfulness—

[A magazine wherein there was a large store of combustible matter that might produce extensive injury by an explosion, would be guarded with all possible care: and can any care be too great, when we consider how many thousand things there are on every side ready to kindle a destructive flame in our hearts, and how incessantly our great adversary is striving to make use of them for our destruction? We know not what a day or an hour may bring forth. We may be as far from thinking of evil as at any moment of our lives, and yet evil may arise from some unexpected quarter, and produce upon us the most painful consequences. We are never safe for one moment, but whilst we are upheld in the arms of our Almighty Friend. We should therefore be continually crying to him, “Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not!” at the same time that we should be striving continually to “put off the old man, and to put on the new.” This is the advice given us by our Lord himself; “Watch, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation:” for however “willing the spirit be” to approve itself to God, “the flesh is weak.”]

3. Our gratitude—

[What a miracle of mercy is it, that, with so much corruption about us, we are preserved in any measure from dishonouring our holy profession! The wonder is not that any fall, but that any are “kept from falling.” And to whom is it owing that any of us are enabled to maintain our steadfastness in the divine life? is it to ourselves? No: Peter shews us, what we should soon be, if left to ourselves: Satan would soon “sift us all as wheat,” if our blessed Saviour did not intercede for us, and give us fresh supplies of grace and strength [Note: Luke 22:31-32.]. Let us then be sensible of our great and unbounded obligations to Him, who has said, that “he keepeth the feet of his saints.” Let us bear in mind to whom it is owing, that, notwithstanding the bush is ever burning, it is yet unconsumed: and let us give all the glory of our stability to God, saying with David, “My foot standeth in an even place; in the congregations will I bless the Lord [Note: Psalms 26:12.].”]

4. Our love to Christ—

[Notwithstanding in ourselves we are so corrupt, in Christ we are accepted, and beloved of the Lord. Washed in his blood, and clothed in his righteousness, we are presented unto the Father “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; yea, holy, and without blemish.” O! how “precious” ought this Saviour to be to all our souls! How continually should we go to him, and plunge beneath “the fountain of his blood, which was opened for sin and for uncleanness,” and which is able to “cleanse us from all sin!” How should we delight ourselves in him, and “cleave to him,” and “glory in him,” and devote ourselves to him! Yes, Brethren, this is the tribute which we owe to our blessed Lord. We must “not continue in sin, that grace may abound,” but turn from sin because grace has abounded; and, “because He has bought us with the inestimable price of his own blood, we should strive to glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his. [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:20.]”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/proverbs-20.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Who can say? no man living upon earth can say this truly and sincerely. Compare 1 Kings 8:46 Job 14:4 15:14 Ecclesiastes 7:20 1 John 1:8. I am pure from my sin; I am perfectly free from all guilt and filth of sin in my heart and life.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/proverbs-20.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9.Made my heart clean — Morally pure. This is an expression of human consciousness in respect to the impurity and imperfection of man. No man can claim either that he has never sinned, (has no sin, 1 John 1:8; 1 John 1:10,) or that he has by any work or deed of his own purified his heart and made himself clean. There were modes, temporary and unsatisfactory, of purification and pardon under the old dispensation, (see Numbers xix, and Hebrews 9,) but it remained for the gospel dispensation to declare that only the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1, 7. A Christian may be assured, or conscious, not that he has made himself clean, but that, through the great atoning sacrifice, his sins are all washed away. By faith he is justified, sanctified. Comp. Job 14:14; Job 15:14; Psalms 51:5; Psalms 51:7; 1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:10; 1 John 3:20; James 3:2. In the Septuagint the verses of the chapter are somewhat transposed; after Proverbs 20:9 come in Proverbs 20:20-22; then Proverbs 20:10-13; then Proverbs 20:23, and so regularly on to Proverbs 20:30.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-20.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Proverbs 20:9. Who can say, I have made my heart clean? — No man can say that he hath made his own heart clean: but God can create in man a clean heart, as David expresses himself, Psalms 51:10, (on which see the note,) and can renew a right spirit within him; I am pure from my sin — No man can render himself pure, either from the guilt of his past sins, or from the power or pollution of his corrupt inclinations and passions; but God surely, according to his promise, if we confess our sins, past and present, with humiliation, contrition, and godly sorrow for them, and rely on him, who gave himself for his church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it, and render it a glorious church without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, can, and will freely and fully forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He can justify us from all things, communicate to us a divine nature, and stamp his whole image on our souls.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/proverbs-20.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Sin. Protestants, "my sin?" We know not when it is remitted. (Haydock) --- Without a special revelation, no one can be secure, 1 John i. 8., and Ecclesiastes ix. 1. (Bayn.) (St. Augustine in Psalm cxlix.)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/proverbs-20.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

can = is able to.

I am pure, &c. Illustrations: Job before he learned his lesson (Job 9:17; Job 10:7; Job 11:4; Job 16:17; Job 23:10, Job 23:11; Job 27:5; Job 29:14; Job 31:1; Compare Proverbs 33:9. But not after, See Proverbs 42:5, Proverbs 42:6). None of God"s own people say this. Not David. (2 Samuel 12:13. Compare Psalms 51:1-7); not Psalmist (Proverbs 119:176); not Ezra (Ezra 9:6); not Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:33, Nehemiah 9:34); not Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5, Isaiah 6:6); not Daniel (Daniel 9:8); not Peter (Luke 5:8); not John (1 John 1:8); not James (James 3:2); not Paul (Romans 7:18. 1 Timothy 1:15).

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/proverbs-20.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

Who can say (with truth), I have made my heart clean. Nay, we ought to say, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalms 51:10.)

I am pure from my sin? Contrast Job 15:14; Job 25:4. In a relative sense a man may say, by faith in the Redeemer, 'I am pure from the guilt of sin' (Psalms 73:13).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-20.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) Who can say, I have made my heart clean?—Though we may have done our best by self-examination and confession, and repentance and trust in the atoning blood of Christ to obtain remission of sin, still the heart is so deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), sins may so easily have escaped our notice (Psalms 19:12, 1 Corinthians 4:4), that satisfaction with ourselves ought never to be allowed (Romans 11:20).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/proverbs-20.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Job 14:4; 15:14; 25:4; Psalms 51:5; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 Corinthians 4:4; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8-10
Reciprocal: Genesis 8:21 - the imagination;  Leviticus 13:6 - wash;  Psalm 24:4 - pure;  Psalm 51:10 - clean;  2 Corinthians 7:1 - let

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/proverbs-20.html.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

A Gospel Question

Proverbs 20:9

This is a gospel question before the time of the gospel. Every indication of great human pain and unrest, fierce trouble and tumult that will not be calm, is of the greatest consequence as enabling us to form some opinion of the mysteriousness of human nature and the purpose of God in its constitution. It would be a false supposition that all this moral pain, fear, shame, distress, and sense of moral impotence came upon men in consequence of the birth of Christ into the world, who came with a new revelation of human nature, and consequently to suppose that if Christ had not come into the world no such self-humiliation and self-despair would have been experienced. All the great conditions of the human mind we find as distinctly in the Old Testament as in the New: all the questions that sharpen themselves into fierce agonies are in the nature of man and part of the mystery of his constitution. They are not learned from books or derived from external teaching; they rise up in the heart of man to assert a mysterious purpose and an incalculable and solemn destiny. It would be impossible for any man seated at the Lord"s table, or seated at the Cross itself, to put a more intensely evangelical question than is put in the text, which occurs actually in the Proverbs—"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?"

When the lawyer stood up and tempted Christ, saying: "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Jesus Christ did not make a new answer for the occasion: he threw the mocking inquirer back upon the first ages—upon the law, his favourite study, thus showing that all the great questions of the human heart were anticipated in the Old Testament, and that, properly read, the Old Testament is in its own degree as evangelical a book as is the New Covenant written with the precious blood of Christ. Does any man suppose that if we did not come to church we should not be troubled by great and solemn inquiries? Let us first of all do away with that mischievous sophism in our moral thinking. A man has only to look into his own heart, as the enlightened and foremost pagans did, to find in that heart questions that demand a Revelation, agonies that can find no healing balm away from God. The inquiry of the text is a purely personal one; it comes to each of us: if any man can answer the question in the affirmative let him do so. We do not find anything in the inquiry that forecloses any novel and peculiar experience on our part, so that if there be a man who can say, "Yes," to the inquiry of the text, he will entitle us to put to him some very searching cross-examination.

Let us examine the ground that is laid down in the text. The solemn, personal, direct, urgent inquiry is this—Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? Can you? Then why those occasional doubts, and fears, and gloomy forecasts which trouble your conscience? The pure man ought to be lifted above fear, the clean soul ought to have a peculiar, a shadowless joy. Have you that gladness? Then why those nightmares of the soul, why those sudden fears, why those peculiar distresses, why those doubts and scepticisms and questionings—why so many indications of unrest and tumult? This ought to suggest that you have not completed the task which you supposed yourself to have accomplished in the heart Can you say yes to the inquiry? Then why those blemishes on your character which are so obvious to every observer? how comes it that you do not impress other people with having done this work, the purification and cleansing in your nature and conscience, and will and purpose—how account for this marvellous misconception of your character that prevails on every hand—so conceited, so peevish, so fretful, so truthless, so unreliable, so inconstant, so difficult of management, pleasant when you have your own way, disagreeable when you have to take some other course? Why so—where is the purity, where is the cleansing, where is the proof? Questions of this kind, in return for calm assertion of purity and cleansing, must considerably impair the integrity and wholeness of the claim. A man cannot have made his heart pure and clean without somebody knowing it. Where is the witness? Would your wife sign an affidavit to testify to your purity and cleansing—your husband—any two of your sons,—any two persons who have known you for the last ten years only—would they sign that this man A.B. has cleansed his heart and made his soul pure, so that there is now no flaw in all the integrity of his manhood: he is holy, complete, clean, and ineffably and superlatively true and right? The challenge is laid down, I await until it be taken up. But I cannot wait so long, for life is short—I must make more limited stipulations with you. And why with you? Because with myself. How do I know you so well? Because I know myself in and out How did you acquire all this knowledge of human nature? By studying my individuality and nothing else. He who knows himself knows everybody: humanity is one.

Have you made your heart clean and purified yourself from sin? How did you do it? You cannot hesitate to reveal the process if you have accomplished the result. We shall question the reality of the result if you hesitate one moment about revealing the process. Have we not seen little children, who have been set to do a puzzle, suddenly in the midst of the fierce buzz of conversation say, "There it is"? How did you do it? "I will not tell how I did it." But did you do it fairly and honestly? Just in proportion as you decline to say how it was done, we must think that it was done wrongfully, clandestinely, that some liberty was taken with the law of the case, and that there is a blemish in the process. How did you make your heart pure and clean from sin? how did you come to be able to do something which no other man in Biblical history has ever confessed that he did in any sense that God himself would accept and endorse? Where the nitre, the soap? Where the strange chemistry? Abana and Pharpar, and broad rivers and deep, in the east and in the west, have been useless for the removing of this deep ingrained stain of the devil,—how did you remove it? In the fifty-first Psalm, David, in the supreme agony of his self-abhorrence and contrition, desires God to be merciful to him, and to cleanse him, and to create in him a clean heart, and to renew within him a right spirit. Here we have David and David"s sin renouncing themselves, giving up the problem of self-purification and cleansing,—how then do you account for having done something which has been the supreme and impossible miracle of all antecedent human consciousness? We encounter an affirmative declaration with very stubborn doubt.

We must make a very broad distinction between crime and sin, between the overt act and the inner and spiritual motive, purpose, and inclination of the soul. Crime is the vulgarity of sin; crime is the blackguardism of evil nature. We must therefore leave that quarter altogether and go indoors, looking at the secret heart, looking into the mysterious constitution and operation of all the motive powers which impel us in our constant thinking and in our daily action. It is a question of the reins, of the heart, the desire of the soul, the motions of the will, the suggestions of the deep nature. This is not a matter of washing hands, but of washing hearts, and the rivers can supply no water that can get far enough in to touch the black blood of the rebel heart. This is the grand evangelical doctrine without which it would be impossible to understand the priesthood and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Suppose a man should say, "Yes, I have made my heart clean, and I am pure from sin." How would such a testimony affect the general judgment: of mankind—would it instantly secure implicit and grateful credence? Think a moment. I have heard a man say, "I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin," or words which seem to involve the precise meaning of that declaration—how did that testimony affect me? I do not want to take any pessimist view of human nature: I am so constituted that I always take the best view of every man until he has proved himself to be unworthy of confidence; I could not live under any other impulse or standard of judgment. When the declaration therefore was made, taking this optimist and brightest view of human nature, what impression did it make upon my mind? Did I at once invite the witness to my confidence, and offer him all the resources of every kind that were at my command? Instantly I encountered his testimony with incredulity, just as one would have done if he had said that by lifting up his shoulders he was preventing the planets from falling from their orbits. How is that testimony regarded in your place of business—would you allow the Prayer of Manasseh, upon that testimony, to become your debtor? Why then should you sentimentalise about a possibility which you would ignore in all the practical transactions of life? Why have a sentimental theory and a practical theory? Why be liberal and noble in all regions where you are not touched or implicated, and be thoroughly sceptical and stubborn in doubtfulness in all those lines where you are really summoned to a deep and solemn judgment upon appearances and realities?

Was the man then unanswered? Certainly not. Where then was the blemish? He did not know what he was talking about. He meant crime when he said sin; he meant outrage when he said wrong, evil. He thought of the magistrate, not of God; it was the constable he defied, not the Judge of the whole earth. Understand, therefore, that within a given region man may be honourable and upright and clean and pure. Relatively, socially, no one may be able to say one word against him. That proves nothing whatever as to his interior and spiritual condition before God. How can such a man be brought to a clear understanding of the realities of things? By talking? Never. By hearing profound and eloquent exposition of evangelical truth? You might as well speak to him in an unknown tongue. How will he be brought to a right standpoint? By scourging, by sorrow by bereavement, pain, loss, by earthquakes that shall make the fabric of his prosperity and his confidence tremble. Meet him coming back with slow and dragging step from his one child"s grave, and then he will have ears to hear what the Spirit saith to all mankind. Meet him sitting on the ruins of his prosperity, unable with palsied hands to put one stone on the top of another, and then with paralysed lips he may try to tell what a fool he was when he thought himself good and true and clean. Not the evangelical sermon but the evangelical Providence will take hold of that Prayer of Manasseh, and wring him till he cry out, "I abhor myself in dust and ashes." When such sorrow overtakes a man it is like morning falling upon a traveller: it is not darkness, it is light; it is not imprisonment, it is deliverance; it is not limitation, it is an expansion and enfranchisement in divine rulership and dominion and sacred, holy hope. So when the Providence darkens around us, it is a cloud full of bright stars and suns. Let the outer enclosure fall off, and the shining orb will beam and burn upon our eyes in ample, genial summer.

There is a tremendous responsibility in returning an affirmative answer to the inquiry of the text. The nature and extent of that responsibility throws immeasurable doubt upon an audacious and profane affirmative. If a man were to say, "Yes, I have made my heart clean, and am pure from my sin," the first thing he would do would be to contradict the whole testimony of Scripture. Nowhere in the Bible is it allowed that any man can purify his own nature. Everywhere in the Scriptures the exact contrary is explicitly and emphatically laid down. We ought not to forego the testimony of Scripture lightly upon the easy affirmation of a man who in all probability has not taken into consideration the full signification of the terms which he employs when he declares himself pure and clean.

The next thing he does is to supersede the work of Christ. The declaration of the gospel is that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin; without shedding of blood there is no remission. The gospel declaration is that "if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." The evangelical statement Isaiah, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." He therefore undertakes a very grave responsibility who testifies that without Christ he has solved the problem of purity and self-cleansing.

The next thing he does is to withdraw himself from all the cleansing, purifying agencies which constitute the redeeming ministry of the universe. He commits the sin against the Holy Ghost—the unpardonable sin. Why unpardonable? Because he comes out of the region within which the Holy Ghost operates. Were it possible for an owner of many fields to withdraw one of them from the influence of the sun, and the dew, and the living air, he would commit the unpardonable sin in that department of action. That is the unpardonable sin—getting away from, cutting the connection with, all spiritual agency, all redeeming power, all the mediatorial scheme of Christ, involving and including his life, his doctrine, his example, his atoning sacrificial death, his divine resurrection, his priestly intercession, and his great gift of the ever-pleading, ever-living, ever-renewing Holy Ghost.

Seeing then that so much responsibility would be incurred by returning an affirmative reply to the text, who will dare say Yes? Let God be true and every man a liar. Blessed are those who know the power and the painfulness of conviction of sin. Until we know what sin is we cannot understand the meaning of grace. Only he who has been plagued as with the torment of fire till his tongue, a blistered tongue, has been unable to ask for the one drop of water that would cool its fever and renew the sufferer"s hope—only those who have known the hopelessness of that agony—are prepared for the Cross, the Christ, the Blood, the Gospel.

Are we trifling with little external terms and neglecting inner and spiritual realities? Are we debating etymologies when sin is drinking our blood, and leaving us withered, desiccated, at the Creator"s feet? Begin to be wise by beginning to be self-renouncing. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. There is no heaven along the line of self-hope, there is no pardon in the direction of self-trust. Could we see a man with condemnation written upon his own brow with his own hand, and the same word written upon his heart, upon his will, upon his understanding, upon his imagination—could we see a man who has written himself unworthy of God"s light and God"s love, we should see a soul in the right direction for receiving and appreciating the infinite gospel of the eternal God. May he who can give the hell of conviction bless us with the heaven of reconciliation!

Prayer

Almighty God, every tone of hope in thy blessed word we praise thee, for our hearts are much cast down, and are in great pain and fear from time to time, so that we need some word from thy holy Book to touch our life in its shame, and to bring back the hope which we have sinned away. Thy word is full of light, the entrance of thy word giveth life to the heart. We have lost our first estate, and are no longer upright before God; we have sought out many inventions, every one of which has proved a deceit and a lie, so that we, who began in our own sagacity to give ourselves life, have utterly failed to do anything but aggravate our degradation and our shame. We come to the living for life, to the sun for light, to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for new creation, new manhood, new hope, for the purity which in itself is immortal, for the rest which is deep as the peace of God, and coming Song of Solomon, even along the line of thine own sweet welcome, thou wilt not say to our hearts one word to increase their discouragement or their distress. We live in thy Song of Solomon, who died for us; we live by faith on the Son of God; we live, yet not we, but Christ liveth in us, and the life which we now live in the flesh is a life of faith, a mystery that is full of light a wondrous enjoyment beyond the expression of words. For every hope of immortality we bless the Lord alone. He made us, and not we ourselves, and it hath pleased him to make us in his own image and likeness. We mourn our sin, for therein have we found the truth of thy word, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." The wages of sin is death; the soul that sinneth it shall die; we are all dead men; before the Lord we are as if we had never been, and thou, blessed Christ, Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, art come as the Resurrection and the Life to bring life and immortality to light, so that in thee we live again, and in thee we cannot die. This day we keep holy festival; we take the Bread and the Cup, which typify the body and the blood of Jesus Christ. We need such memories; we bless thee for such tokens of recollection and such simple helps on the wilderness way. These things remind us of Christ"s presence here and Christ"s great ministry. We would eat and drink after examination of our souls in the sight of God—not that we may find no sin there, but that we may find an earnest and simple desire that our sin may be washed away and our souls be thoroughly cleansed. We come before this table of memorial, not as perfect men, but as souls that trust in Christ, that renounce themselves and their sins, that look away from their own strength unto the omnipotence of the loving Saviour, as men who, having tried sin and found it wanting, come to Christ the living Lord, and cast themselves upon his finished work, as men who do not deserve to be pardoned, and who yet, by the grace of God, may be forgiven. Inasmuch as we come before thee in living God, may our fire be kindled from the fire of the altar. Bless us in business, where it is almost impossible to be blessed, where lies are profits, where falsehood is canonized. Deliver us from double speech, from double meaning, from all manner of duplicity; may we be sincere, transparent, knowing that it is more needful for us to be good than that we should live. The Lord be with those for whom we ought to pray in special tenderness: be with the bereaved in their loneliness—oh, so cold, so cold! Be with those who are in great sorrow because of imminent calamity; thou knowest the power of the imagination, thou knowest how our enemy can operate upon our fancy and make great calamities out of small appearances; remember our frame, remember we are dust. Be with all the little children; they know not upon what scene they have come, they think of flowers and play and music and dance and revel of innocence; they know not that they are already in the enemy"s land: to thy keeping we commend them; they will not be lost if thou canst save them, thou Shepherd of the universe. Come out from thy dwelling-place, O thou that inhabitest eternity, and seek us, and find us, and save us. We pray at the Cross, for there alone may men pray; we behold the dying Saviour; we pray at the open grave where the angels say concerning our loved One, He is not here, he is risen; yea, we come to his seat of intercession and there pray, knowing that he will take up our supplication into his own great pleading and make it prevalent before the throne. The Lord help us, the Lord carry our burdens himself awhile, the Lord lead us, through many a dark place, into the land of the morning. Amen.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/proverbs-20.html. 1885-95.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Этот вопрос не только высказывает сомнение в безгрешности любого человека в мире (кем бы он ни притворялся), но и оплакивает порочность человечества – даже тех, кого можно причислить к наилучшим. Увы! Кто может сказать: «Я безгрешен»? Обратите внимание:

(1) кто может назвать себя безгрешным? Никто, все люди грешны. Здесь, на земле, в этом несовершенном состоянии ни один человек, кем бы он ни был, не может сказать, что он без греха. Это мог сказать Адам в состоянии невинности и святые на небесах, но никто из людей в этой жизни. Этого не могут сказать те, кто считает себя таким хорошим, каким должен быть; более того, действительно хорошие люди не осмелятся сказать этого.

(2) На что мы не можем претендовать? Мы не можем сказать: «Я очистил сердце мое». Хотя благодаря благодати мы можем говорить: «Сейчас я чище, чем был раньше», в то же время не можем сказать: «Мы чисты и очищены от всех остатков греха». Или если мы и очищены от страшных греховных поступков, то все равно не можем говорить: «Наши сердца чисты». Хотя мы омыты и очищены, но не можем сказать: «Мы сами очистили свои сердца» - это была работа Духа. Хотя мы чисты от многих грехов, но не можем сказать: «Я чист от греха моего, от моего запинающего греха, от тела смерти, на которое жаловался Павел» (Рим.7:24).

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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
>
>on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-20.html. 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Some can say, Through grace, we are cleaner than we have been; but it was the work of the Holy Spirit.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Proverbs 20:9". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary
>
>on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-20.html. 1706.