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THE BLESSINGS OF THE HUMBLE, THE PENITENT, AND
MATT. v. 1-5.
1. “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain ; and when
He was set, his disciples came unto Him."
The discourse which our Lord delivered on this occasion requires our most serious attention. He unfolds in it the character which is acceptable to God. And He exposes the false opinions which prevailed generally amongst the Jews, and the corruptions of their religion through the erroneous teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. He spoke from a mountain 'or elevated spot, that as many as possible might surround him and listen. But there is a higher elevation from which He speaks to all : He speaks from heaven: though once, that the inhabitants of the earth might better hear, He descended from his heavenly abode to instruct the ignorance of the world, to reclaim its wickedness, and guide it into righteousness and truth.
Let us then turn a deaf ear to the opinions of the world, which have not yet been brought into conformity with the opinions of Christ. Let us consider that “ are all here present before God,” to hear the truths which He has sanctioned ; to hear, upon the most important of all concerns, the declarations of a judgment which can neither deceive nor be deceived. 2. “And He opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5. “Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth.”
These three characters are quite distinct. But the spirit that belongs to them all is so similar that they
may be considered together. The man poor in spirit is the man who sees his need of divine mercy : who trembles at the distance between himself and the law of God; whose language is that of David, “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” The mourner is the man who sees and laments his wickedness; and says with the same David, “I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. The meek spirit is shown towards our fellow creatures; but it springs out of a humble spirit towards God. He who feels his own wants, his own short-comings, his own offences, will have too low an opinion of himself to be haughty and overbearing in his deportment towards others. And these are the characters of which our Lord declares that they are blessed ; those are happy who possess them, even though perhaps little understood, little approved, even wondered at by the world around them.
The poor in spirit are blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They are willing to seek it on the terms in which it is offered, “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.' They thankfully receive the atonement which He has made, feeling in themselves that they are burthened with a weight of debt, and have nothing wherewith to pay. The gospel is glad tidings to them. If its words were, “ He that is without sin amongst you,” let him enter into the kingdom of heaven ; it would be no glad tidings, for they “ have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” But it brings a message of great joy to them, when it declares, “that if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous ; and He is the propitiation for our sins.” And to this frame of mind is the promise given: “Whosoever shall exalt himself, shall be abased; but he that shall humble himself, shall be exalted." These humble themselves,
i Matt. xxiii, 12.
for they are poor in spirit; and they are exalted : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
So likewise they are blessed who mourn : mourn over the transgressions which have separated between them and their God; mourn over the sinful nature from which their transgressions sprung: whose thoughts are those of the Prodigal, “ Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” They are blessed with that consolation which David desired and enjoyed, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered.” For the Father against whom he has offended, has sent* a message of reconciliation : 6 God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses” to those who repent and turn to Him. Those, therefore, who mourn with that “ godly sorrow which leadeth unto repentance, are comforted in the assurance, that “ Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring unto God" those who were otherwise “ alienated from Him by wicked works : " they are cheered when they learn that “God is faithful to forgive their sins, and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness." This is the comfort which the penitent need, and this is the comfort which the gospel brings, and therefore the Lord says, Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Justly, however, did our Lord say to his disciples concerning the blessings of the gospel, “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” It would seem strange to the lovers of this world, to speak of the poor in spirit or the mourner as blessed. It would seem no less strange to speak of the meek as inheriting the earth : for in a world of which the general character is, that “all seek their own,” it might be thought that meekness is more likely to lose than to gain : to miss its share rather
2 Ps. xxxii, 1.
4 1 Pet. iii. 18.
3 2 Cor. v. 19.
5 1 John i. 9.