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"poverty of spirit” were only freedom from covetousness, from the love of money, or the desire of riches, it would coincide with what he afterwards mentions, it would be only a branch of purity of heart.
4. Who then are “The poor in spirit?” Without question the humble; they who know themselves; who are convinced of sin; those to whom God hath given that first repentance, which is previous to faith in Christ.
One of these can no longer say, “I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing ;" as now knowing, that he is "wretched, and poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked.” He is convinced that he is spiritually poor indeed; having no spiritual good abiding in him. “ In me," saith he, “ dwelleth no good thing,” but whatsoever is evil and abominable. He has a deep sense of the loathsome leprosy of sin, which he brought with him from his mother's womb, which overspreads his whole soul, and totally corrupts every power and faculty thereof. He sees more and more of the evil tempers which spring from that evil root; the pride and haughtiness of spirit, the constant bias to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; the vanity, the thirst after the esteem or honour that cometh from men; the hatred or envy, the jealpusy or revenge, the anger, malice, or bitterness; the inbred enmity both against God and man, which appears in ten thousand shapes; the love of the world, the self will, the foolish and hurtful desires, which cleave to his inmost soul. He is conscious how deeply he has offended by his tongue; if not by profane, immodest, untrue, or unkind words, yet by discourse which was not" good to the use of edifying,” not“meet to minister grace to the hearers," which consequently was all corrupt in God's account, and grievous to his Holy Spirit. His evil works are now likewise ever in his sight : if he tells them,” they are more than he is able to express.” He may as well think to number the drops of rain, the sands of the sea, or the days of eternity.
5. His guilt is now also before his face: he knows the punishment he has deserved, were it only on account of his carnal mind, the entire, universal corruption of his nature; how much more, on account of all his evil desires and thoughts, of all his sinful words and actions! He cannot doubt for a moment, but the least of these deserves the damnation of hell,—“the worm that dieth not, and the fire that never shall be quenched.” Above all, the guilt of “not believing on the name of the only begotten Son of God,” lies heavy upon him. How, saith he, shall I escape, who " neglect so great salvation !" " He that believeth not is condemned already," and the wrath of God abideth on him.”
6. But what shall he give in exchange for his soul, which is forfeited to the just vengeance of God ? “Wherewithal shall he come before the Lord ?" How shall he pay him that he oweth? Were he from this moment to perform the most perfect obedience to every command of God, this would make no amends for a single sin, for any one act of past disobedience; seeing he owes God all the service he is able to perform, from this moment to all eternity: could he pay this, it would make no manner of amends for what he ought to have done before. He sees himself therefore utterly helpless with regard to atoning for his past sins; utterly unable to make any amends to God, to pay any ransom for his own soul.
But if God would forgive him all that is past, on this one condition, that he should sin no more; that for the time to come he should entirely and constantly obey all his commands; he well knows that this would profit him nothing, being a condition he could never perform. He knows and feels, that he is not able to obey, even the outward commands of God; seeing these cannot be obeyed while his heart remains in its natural sinfulness and corruption; inasmuch as an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. But he cannot cleanse a sinful heart: with men this is impossible: so that he is utterly at a loss even how' to begin walking in the path of God's commandments. He knows not how to get one step forward in the way. Encompassed with sin and sorrow, and fear, and finding no way to escape, he can only cry out, “Lord save, or I perish !"
7. Poverty of spirit then, as it implies the first step we take in running the race which is set before us, is a just sense of our inward and outward sins, and of our guilt and helplessness. This some have monstrously styled “the virtue of humility;" thus teaching us to be proud of knowing we deserve damnation! But our Lord's expression is quite of another kind; conveying no idea to the hearer, but that of mere want, of naked sin, of helpless guilt and misery.
8. The great apostle, where he endeavours to bring sinners to God, speaks in a manner just answerable to this. “ The wrath of God," saith he, “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men," Rom. i, 18, &c; a charge which he immediately fixes on the heathen world, and thereby proves they were under the wrath of God. He next shows, that the Jews were no better than they, and were therefore under the same condemnation; and all this, not in order to their attaining “ the noble virtue of humility,” but “that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.”
He proceeds to show, that they were helpless as well as guilty; which is the plain purport of all those expressions: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified:"-"But now the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, without the law, is manifested :"_“ We conclude that a man is justified by faith, without the deeds of the law:"_expressions all tending to the same point, even to " hide pride from man; to humble him to the dust, without teaching him to reflect upon his humility as a virtue; to inspire him with that full, piercing conviction of his utter sinfulness, guilt, and helplessness, which casts the sinner, stript of all, lost and undone, on his strong helper Jesus Christ the righteous.
9. One cannot but observe here, that Christianity begins just where heathen morality ends; poverty of spirit, conviction of sin, the renouncing ourselves, the not having our own righteousness, (the very first point in the religion of Jesus Christ,) leaving all pagan religion behind. This was ever hid from the wise men of this world ; insomuch that the whole Roman language, even with all the improvements of the Augustan age, does not afford so much as a name for humility; (the word from whence we borrow this, as is well known, bearing in Latin a quite different meaning ;) no, nor was one found in all the copious language of Greece, till it was m:ide by the great apostle.
10 Oh that we may feel what they were not able to express! Sinner, awake! Know thyself! Know and feel, that thou wert "shapen in wickedness," and that “in sin did thy mother conceive thee;" and that thou thyself hast been heaping sin upon sin, ever since thou couldst
discern good froin evil! Sink under the mighty hand of God, as guilty of death eternal! And cast off, renounce, abhor, all imagination of ever being able to help thyself! Be it all thy hope to be washed in his blood, and renewed by his almighty Spirit, who himself “ bare all our sins in his own body on the tree !" So shalt thou witness, “ Happy are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
11. This is that kingdom of heaven, or of God, which is within us ; even "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” And what is righteousness,” but the life of God in the soul; the mind which was in Christ Jesus; the image of God stamped upon the heart, now renewed after the likeness of him that created it ? What is it but the love of God, because he first löved us, and the love of all mankind for his sake?
And what is this "peace,” the peace of God, but that calm serenity of soul, that sweet repose in the blood of Jesus, which leaves no doubt of our accentance in him ; which excludes all fear, but the loving, filial fear of offending our Father which is in heaven?
This inward kingdom implies also "joy in the Holy Ghost;" who seals upon our hearts “the redemption which is in Jesus," the righteousness of Christ imputed to us “ for the remission of the sins that are past;" who giveth us now “the earnest of our inheritance," of the crown which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give at that day. And
this be termed "the kingdom of heaven;" seeing it is heaven already opened in the soul; the first springing up of those rivers of pleasure, which flow at God's right hand for evermore.
12. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Whosoever thou art, to whom God hath given to be poor in spirit,” to feel thyself lost, thou hast a right thereto, through the gracious promise of him who cannot lie. It is purchased for thee by the blood of the Lamb. It is very nigh: thou art on the brink of heaven! Another step, and thou enterest into the kingdom of righteousness, and peace, and joy! Art thou all sin ? “ Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!"—All unholy? See thy“ Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous !"-Art thou unable to atone for the least of thy sins ? " He is the propitiation for all thy) sins.” Now believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and all thy sins are blotted out !--Art thou totally unclean in soul and body ? Here is the “ fountain for sin and uncleanness!".
Arise, and wash away ihy sins !" Stagger no more at the promise through unbelief! Give glory to God! Dare to believe! Now cry out from the ground of thy heart,
“Yes, I yield, I yield at last,
Listen to thy speaking blood;
On my atoning God!” 13. Then thou learnest of him to be " lowly of heart." And this is the true, genuine, Christian humility, which flows from a sense of the love of God, reconciled to us in Christ Jesus. Poverty of spirit, in this meaning of the word, begins where a sense of guilt and of the wrath of God ends; and is a continual sense of our total dependance on him, for every good thought, or word, or work,
of our utter inability to all good, unless he “ water us every moment," and an abhorrence of the praise of men, knowing that all praise is due unto God only. With this is joined a loving shame, a tender humiliation before God, even for the sins which we know he hath forgiven us, and for the sin which still remaineth in our hearts, although we know it is not imputed to our condemnation. Nevertheless, the conviction we feel of inbred sin, is deeper and deeper every day. The more we grow in grace, the more do we see of the desperate wickedness of our heart. The more we advance in the knowledge and love of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, (as great a mystery as this may appear to those who know not the power of God unto salvation,) the more do we discern of our alienation from God, -of the enmity that is in our carnal mind, and the necessity of our being entirely renewed in righteousness and true holiness.
II. 1. It is true, he has scarce any conception of this, who now begins to know the inward kingdom of heaven." In his prosperity he saith, I shall never be moved ; thou, Lord, hast made my hill so strong. Sin is so utterly bruised beneath his feet, that he can scarce believe it remaineth in him. Even temptation is silenced, and speaks not again : it cannot approach, but stands afar off. He is borne aloft in the chariots of joy and love: he soars as upon
the wings of an eagle.” But our Lord well knew, that this triumphant state does not often continue long: he therefore presently subjoins : “ Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
2. Not that we can imagine this promise belongs to those who mourn only on some worldly account; who are in sorrow and heaviness, merely on account of some worldly trouble or disappointment,-such as the loss of their reputation or friends, or the impairing of their fortune. As little title to it have they who are afflicting themselves, through fear of some temporal evil; or who pine away with anxious care, or that desire of earthly things, which “ maketh the heart sick.” Let us not think these “ shall receive any thing from the Lord :” he is not in all their thoughts. Therefore it is that they thus “walk in a vain shadow, and disquiet themselves in vain." “ And this shall ye have of mine hand,” saith the Lord, "ye shall lie down in sorrow.
3. The mourners of whom our Lord here speaks, are those that mourn on quite another account: they that mourn after God; after him in whom they did " rejoice with joy unspeakable,” when he gave
them to "taste the good,” the pardoning word, and the powers of the world to come.” But he now
hides his face, and they are troubled :" they cannot see him through the dark cloud. But they see temptation and sin, which they fondly supposed were gone never to return, arising again, following after them amain, and holding them in on every side. It is not strange if their soul is now disquieted within them, and trouble and heaviness take hold upon them. Nor will their great enemy fail to improve the occasion ; to ask, “Where is now thy God? Where is now the blessedness whereof thou spakest? The beginning of the kingdom of heaven? Yea, hath God said, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee ?' Surely God hath not said it. It was only a dream, a mere delusion, a creature of thy own imagination. If thy sins are forgiven, why art thou thus ? Can'a pardoned sinner be thus unholy ?”—And, if then, instead of immediately crying to God, they reason with him that is wiser than they, they will be in heaviness indeed, in sorrow of heart, in anguish not to be expressed. Nay, even when God shines again upon the soul, and takes away all doubt of his past mercy, still he that is weak in faith may be tempted and troubled on account of what is to come; especially when inward sin revives, and thrusts sore at him that he may fall. Then may he again cry out,
“ I have a sin of fear, that when I've spun
My last thread, I shall perish on the shore !"lest I should make shipwreck of the faith, and my last state be worse than the first:
“ Lest all my bread of life should fail,
And I sink down unchanged to hell." 4. Sure it is, that this “affliction,” for the present, “is not joyous but grievous : nevertheless, afterwards it bringeth forth peaceable fruit unto them that are exercised thereby.” Blessed therefore are they that thus mourn, if they“ tarry the Lord's leisure," and suffer not themselves to be turned out of the way, by the miserable comforters of the world ; if they resolutely reject all the comforts of sin, of folly, and vanity; ali the idle diversions and amusements of the world; all the pleasures which “perish in the using," and which only tend to benumb and stupify the soul, that it may neither be sensible of itself nor God. Blessed are they who“ follow on to know the Lord,” and steadily refuse all other comfort. They shall be comforted by the consolations of his Spirit; by a fresh manifestation of his love; by such a witness of his accepting them in the beloved, as shall never more be taken away from them. This “full assurance of faith" swallows up all doubt, as well as all tormenting fear; God now giving them a sure hope of an enduring substance, and "strong consolation through grace." Without disputing whether it be possible for any of those to fall away, who were once enlightened and made partakers of the Holy Ghost," it suffices them to say, by the power now resting upon them, " Who all separate us from the love of Christ ?-I ain persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come; nor height nor depth, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. viii, 35–39.
5. This whole process, both of mourning for an absent God, and recovering the joy of his countenance, seems to be shadowed out in what our Lord spoke to his apostles, the night before his passion : “Do ye inquire of that I said, a little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament;" namely, when ye do not see
“ but the world shall rejoice ;" shall triumph over you, as though your hope were now come to an end. “And ye sha:l be sorrowful,” through doubt, through fear, through temptation, through vehement desire ; " but your sorrow shall be turned into joy," by the return of him whom your soul loveth. “ A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow because her hour is come. But as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now have sorrow;" ye mourn and cannot be comforted; but I will see you again; and your heart shall rejoice (with calm, inward joy,) and your joy no man taketh from you,” John xvi, 19-22.
6. But although this mourning is at an end, is lost in holy joy by the return of the Comforter, yet is there another, and a blessed mourning it is, which abides in the children of God. They still mourn for the sins and miseries of mankind : they “weep with them that weep.” They