I have selected as the subject of our reading today the beatitudes found in the fifth chapter of Matthew. I desire especially to note the harmony of these beatitudes and their consecutive unfolding of Christian experience. Kindly read the first verse: — “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain; and when He was set, his disciples came unto Him.” Just one thought I would note in the reading of that verse, namely: That the attitude of the Saviour, though in the presence of the multitude, was most informal. He never sought to appear dignified. In this day much stress is laid on what is termed ‘pulpit dignity.’ The minister must stand very erect, place his right foot forward, throw his shoulders back and look dignified. Indeed, multitudes judge a minister entirely by his appearance in this regard. We have known ministers to look dignified until good people were mortified, no one seemed to be edified, God was not glorified and friends became horrified.
Although in the presence of the multitude, the Saviour was seated on the hill side and delivered the greatest discourse that ever fell on mortal ears. Kindly read the second verse: — “And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying,” You will note that although He is in the presence of a multitude, He addresses himself to the disciples. Indeed, all His sermons, as this entire book, were addressed to the Church and to the people of God. What is said to the sinner is rather incidental. The divine method of saving the world is through and by the Church.
Kindly read the third verse: — “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Has it ever occurred to you to ask why should Jesus address the poor in spirit first? Why did He not say first, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst,” or, “Blessed are they that mourn?” I think the answer lies in the fact that this poverty of spirit is the first step towards the kingdom. Being poor in spirit has no reference whatever to melancholia or being dispirited and dejected. Being poor in spirit is the opposite to that spirit which says, “I am good enough;” it is the opposite to that spirit which says, “I am just as good as you are.” It is a soul awakened to see its real inwardness, its lost condition, its utter helplessness and unworthiness. The greatest barrier to saving men today is their self-sufficiency. Most men, if not all of us have held too exalted opinions of ourselves, We had so many splendid traits of character, so many commendable qualities, so many good works that we scarcely realized any farther need until Jesus by the Holy Spirit awakened us to a sense of our true condition. When thus awakened, we realized that we were utterly poverty stricken, that there was not one thing which would commend us to God, and that we were entirely dependent upon his mercy.
This experience is commonly termed conviction, It is the soul awakened by the Spirit to the fact that it is lost and is depending entirely upon the mercy of God. As an illustration of this truth and in order to see how differently God sees us from what we see ourselves, please read Revelation 3-17: — “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: “These Laodiceans said, “‘We are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing,” but God said, “Thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: ” They supposed they were all right, but God says they are all wrong. The soul awakened to see itself in the light of God is most likely to lose its high estimate of itself, and must take its place as a spiritual pauper, conscious that it has no merit of its own. When men thus come to feel that they are lost and dependent wholly upon the mercy of God, there is hope, and not until then. Men who believe themselves to be in the enjoyment of perfect health, can see no need of calling a physician or taking remedies. Their answer to every appeal is, “I am all right, there is nothing ails me.” It is so with men who are self-sufficient and self-righteous. God gives the kingdom to the poor in spirit, such as are willing to acknowledge themselves spiritual paupers.
Conviction itself is a great blessing, though it is not calculated to make one feel very happy. We need to learn that at times we are blessed when we are not happy. My heart is always made to rejoice when I meet men who feel they are too great sinners to be saved. I know I can help such a one. I love to tell them that my Saviour is a specialist on hard cases, He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. I have had much experience in this regard. In going to certain communities, my friends have said, “You will find a splendid people and are certain to have a very successful meeting.” On my arrival I found the people were kind and sociable and hospitable, but were entirely self-sufficient. It required all my time to convince them that they had need of a Saviour, On the other hand I have labored among those who were down trodden and wicked outcasts, and found it easier to point them to the Saviour than the moralist, While they were wicked, they at once recognized and admitted the fact and soon were made to realize their need of a Saviour. The moralist is likely to depend upon his self-righteousness, his good works, his morality, to commend him to God. He must first be brought to see that nothing he has or nothing he can do will avail, whereas the outcast at once realizes that his only hope is in the mercy of God.
We will now read the fourth verse: — “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” A soul awakened to its true inwardness and that has come to see itself as God sees it, — a guilty, lost, undone sinner, — will naturally mourn . This beatitude comprehends repentance and pardon. Repentance is indispensable to Bible salvation. This institution (the mourner’s bench) has been rechristened and men speak of it now as ‘the anxious seat.’ I am glad to confess that I was an old fashioned mourner, and I have a conviction that before men are saved on Bible lines, they will find a mourner’s bench, or a mourner’s chair, or a mourner’s bedside, or a mourner’s stump somewhere. There will be a mourner with a broken heart crying for mercy. A soul fully and truly awakened to the sense of its peril soon loses sight of its objections to the mourner’s bench.
When I became thus awakened to the sense of my need, I was glad for an opportunity to hurry to the mourner’s bench, and could scarcely wait until the invitation was given, although previous to this time I had been exceedingly averse to the mourner’s bench. I now ceased to be particular and was only too glad for the opportunity to present myself at the mourner’s bench, I was more than anxious and needed no seat. All I wanted was a place to fall and mourn because of my sins and for three days and three nights the mourner’s bench became my most favorite resort. I find this experience is common to all who have been truly awakened. A soul thus mourning because of sin is certain to find comfort. Jesus comforts such by saying, “Neither do I condemn thee, go in peace and sin no more.” What joy and assurance and divine comfort this word brings. Of course, this promise has more than one application, There is a sense in which we need comfort all through life, It is a blessed lesson for us to learn to go to headquarters for comfort.
I wish to give a few references touching this thought of divine comfort. Kindly read 2nd Corinthians, 1-3-4: — “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Note that He is the God of all comfort and comforts us in all our tribulation, and the beauty is that when thus divinely comforted, we are enabled to comfort others by the same comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. I am quite certain that God has permitted men to pass through certain trials simply to prepare them to help others who meet with like difficulties. Hereafter when you meet with trouble or sorrow, instead of calling on the pastors or telling your neighbor, apply at once to headquarters for comfort. We find a beautiful reference to Christ in Isaiah, 61-1-3. You see that it is His particular mission to “bind up the broken hearted” and to “comfort all that mourn,” to give unto them “beauty for ashes,” “the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness What a beautiful exchange. The life reduced to ashes burned out by sin may yet be made beautiful. Have you ever had any of this “oil of joy” poured out upon your head and heart? Praise God for the oil of joy.
Please turn to Psalms, 103-13: — “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.” He pitieth as a father, and read in that connection Isaiah 66:13: — “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” “He comforts as a mother.” You note that He pities as a father and comforts as a mother. He can take the place of father and mother. Who can comfort as a mother? Oh, the tenderness and gentleness and compassion suggested by this word ‘mother!’ Others may sympathize, but the mother can comfort. I have discovered in my own home that while I may pity my children when they stomp their toe, and cut their finger, and have their little trials, it takes their mamma to comfort them. She seems to know how. One thing is certain, when the mother can not comfort the children, there is not much use of any one else trying to do so.
Jesus comforts as a mother. So tell Him all your sorrows and trouble. I wonder have you ever known of such an experience as is mentioned in Proverbs, 25:19: — “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.” I have found, as a rule, that men are your friends while you have good health and prosperity, but when you meet with reverses and trials and difficulties, how often they forsake you. The “broken tooth” and the “foot out of joint” fails you just at the time when you need them most. So it is likely to be with “unfaithful men.” I have learned this by sad and bitter experience.
I have had those in whom I have confided, in whom I have trusted most intensely, and whom I have believed to be my friends, and such they were until the hour of my adversity, when they utterly failed me and said, “I told you so. I knew that would be the ending,” and said it was my own fault. Perhaps this was true, but it does not help one to be told of it when he is in trouble and adversity. You doubtless have had, this experience just when you needed help and sympathy. They said, “It is his own mismanagement.” “She would marry that man, now let her put up with him,” etc. Jesus never speaks thus to the broken hearted disciples, though it was our own mismanagement. He nevertheless sympathizes and comforts all that mourn.
We will now read the fifth verse in the lesson “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” You see that this beatitude denotes a change in our relationship. A moment ago we were spiritual paupers, bankrupt, poverty stricken, but now we have become heirs and shall inherit the earth. This beatitude comprehends adoption. Meekness is freedom from pride or the attitude of the newly born soul.
Read Romans 8-17: — “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.” You will note that we must first become children before we become heirs. When thus adopted into the family of God as children of God, we shall inherit all things. Read Romans 8-32: — “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
Some have supposed that this beatitude concerning inheriting of the earth had reference to another age. This may be true. I believe it to have a present tense application as well. This word ‘earth’ would suggest temporal things. We use it as a figure of speech. We see a man who is exceedingly greedy and avaricious, we say that he wants the earth, By this we simply mean that he wants everything. I think this is the sense in which it is used in this beatitude; that God has created all things for His children, and that “all things are yours.”
Read 1st Corinthians 3:21-23: — “Therefore let no man glory in men, For all things are yours. Whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, of the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours: And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” We need to remember that he is interested in our temporal affairs as well as our spiritual interests, I regard this as the same promise we have in Matt, 6:33: — “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” As though He had said, “You go to the store and buy a pound of sugar and pay for the same, the paper sack and the wrapping twine are gratis.” So you get the kingdom of God and His righteousness; the sugar of full salvation and God proposes to furnish the wrapping twine.
Read Philippians 4:19: — “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” What a colossal promise. It is difficult to know which word should have the greater emphasis. Note God does not say He will supply all your wants, but He does say that
He will supply all your needs. At times there is quite a margin between our wants and our actual needs. It is astonishing how much we do want at times, and just as astonishing how little we really need. One of the most difficult lessons I have ever had to learn was to be willing to live from hand to mouth, as it is termed. I was exceedingly ambitious and would rest content only when there was something laid in store against a rainy day. On entering the ministry, I was obliged to give up that ambition, but I have found a very great secret. There is a great advantage in living from hand to mouth, and it is this: In living from hand to mouth, you get everything fresh, God has never allowed me to go to bed hungry, though on several occasions he has allowed me to retire with a most excellent appetite. I have lived on crackers and water for the sake of preaching holiness, but the crackers were fresh and the water was wet and I had the glory in my soul.
Everything God has made, He made for His children. Satan is a thief and although he lays claim to some things now, they will eventually all come back to us heirs. God made every bird to sing, every star to twinkle, every flower to bloom, not for Satan and his followers, but for us, who are the children of God. Hallelujah! To get the harmony of this beatitude I want you to remember that the first comprehends conviction for sin, the second, repentance and pardon, and the third, adoption whereby we become heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.
If all things are yours, why should you be distressed about the future and he alarmed about the poor house just over the hill. Believe God and rest in His promise, and God will surely supply your every need. Think of the transformation. He found us paupers, forgave our sins, comforted our broken hearts, adopted us into His family and has now made us the legitimate heirs to all things.
We will now read verse six in our lesson: — “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” This passage is often misapplied. I have known ministers to quote this to the penitent, but hunger and thirst implies spiritual birth. The child can never hunger nor thirst before it is born. Hunger and thirst are the concomitants of life. Live folks become hungry; dead folks do not, Not only is hunger and thirst an evidence of life, but usually it is an evidence of good health, I have discovered that when my children were sick and in ill health, they have no appetite, but when in robust health, they want to keep their heads in the pantry all the while. Whenever I meet people who claim a religious experience and yet seem to have no spiritual appetite, no keen relish for spiritual food, no love for the service of the sanctuary, no particular relish for the word of God, no desire for the better experience, I always feel somewhat suspicious, some sense of alarm; I fear they are spiritually dead. I insist that live folks get hungry. Take that babe not two days old and see it cling to its mother’s breast for that that is essential to the maintenance of its life. What physician, what nurse has taught the babe that it is hungry and must have food?
You answer, “No physician, no nurse has taught the child.” It is simply the expression of its life, If that babe were dead it would not experience any hunger. In like manner the soul that has spiritual life will experience spiritual hunger. So we see that this is the promise to such as have been spiritually quickened and are alive unto God. There is here the promise of a filling subsequent to this expression or manifestation of spiritual life. Thank God I was born alive and am enjoying good health, hence, have a splendid appetite for spiritual things.
This term ‘righteous’ is used interchangeably in the scripture at times denoting the initial grace and then again denoting the more mature grace, which ‘we term holiness, I have consulted a number of commentaries and all agree substantially with that of Clark in saying that righteousness here means holiness, or the full salvation of God, a strong desire to be holy. The logic of this may be seen in everyday life. What is the first aspiration or desire of the child? Is it not to be like its parents. You ask the child who is the best man in town, or who is the best woman in town and the answer will be invariably, “My papa,” or “My mamma,” and who do you want to be like? and the answer is “My papa” or “My mamma.” To the child the parent is the ideal of perfection. I remember my baby boy was scarcely two years old and was yet unable to speak plain, when he would step up to a stand in the room which contained a drawer and pulling out the drawer and placing it upside down on the floor would make a pulpit out of it, and step upon it saying that he was going to ‘peach de dospel.’
Because his papa was a preacher, he wanted to be a preacher. This is invariably true of the child. It aspires to be and do like the parent. How men can believe that their heavenly father is holy and not desire to be like Him is, indeed, a mystery. Or, how any man can make an honest pretense to love God who is the essence and embodiment of holiness, and yet be antagonistic and averse to holiness seems utterly irreconcilable. When I found that my heavenly father was holy, I wanted to be like Him, and it was this heart hunger that lead me and has lead multitudes to seek the fullness of the blessing. Of course, before there can be the infilling, there must be the emptying, the cleansing process. God can not fill a heart with His spirit that is filled with prejudice and worldliness and self-seeking. In order to be filled there must first of necessity be an emptying. Multitudes have sung “fill me now, fill me now,” who might hope for an answer more speedily would they change the prayer to “empty me now, empty me now.” They are full to begin with.
Whoever will submit to the cleansing and purging of the heart will surely receive the infilling. Mark you, it says, “They were filled.” Not remaining hungry, not being half filled, but ‘filled,’ and in order to have this promise fulfilled in you is for you to be filled full; but we would insist that this filling is the second experience, that it takes place after the soul has been quickened into newness of life and has experienced this sense of need, this hunger and thirst after righteousness. This infilling, which is none other than the blessing of holiness, is essential to entire satisfaction. It is impossible for a man to be entirely satisfied short of holiness. God never intended that he should be. We have lost holiness. Until we regain holiness we are like the man who lost something. There is something wanting, something missing. This sense of want is the common cry among churches today, and yet multitudes antagonize and reject the only truth that could bring them the satisfaction and soul rest they so much crave. I would emphasize the ‘shall be’ of this passage, not ‘maybe,’ not ‘will be,’ but in the present tense ‘shall be.’ And wherever you find God’s ‘shall be’s’ flying, you can always find honey if you linger long enough in that neighborhood. God proposes to fill and satisfy every craving of your heart here.
You ask, “Do not sanctified people hunger and thirst?” I answer, “Yes.” Then wherein do these sanctified persons differ from such as have not been sanctified, I may illustrate in order to make clear this distinction. Did you ever have a craving, a longing for some favorite dish, some particular relish? I am particularly fond of apple dumplings. You may have set down to the table laden with good things three times a day, but the particular dish that you were craving was not there. While you ate all that you wished, you pushed back from the table still craving that something not contained in the meal. This was my experience in the justified life, I would attend the prayer service and be greatly blessed and become exceedingly happy and yet go home hungry for something not contained in that blessing. I was still craving the apple dumplings. But when God sanctified me, He not only gave me all I wanted, but the very thing my soul especially craved. He gave me the apple dumplings, and since then I have not wanted anything not contained in that blessing. While at proper intervals I may want some more apple dumplings, my soul does not desire anything aside from this blessing. After you become sanctified you are not wanting something different than what you find on the usual bill of fare. The ‘fullness of the blessing’ will satisfy every longing of your heart.
People having the fullness of the blessing are the greatest feeders in the world. They will attend three preaching services a day and listen to sermons an hour or more long and take as a side dish three social services each day and keep it up for ten days right through and then holler for more. While they are fully satisfied with the quality, they are not satisfied with the quantity, and knowing that the supplies are inexhaustible, they are not backward in making their wants known, This being filled is none other than the Pentecostal experience, the second blessing and is the privilege of every believer as pardon is the privilege of every penitent.
The following beatitudes are simply the result of this infilling.