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The three chapters which begin with these verses deserve the special attention of all readers of the Bible. They contain what is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount.
Every word of the Lord Jesus ought to be most precious to professing Christians. It is the voice of the chief Shepherd; it is the charge of the great Bishop and head of the church; it is the Master speaking; it is the word of Him who spake as never man spake, and by whom we shall all be judged at the last day.
Would we know what kind of people Christians ought to be? Would we know the character at which Christians ought to aim? Would we know the outward walk and inward habit of mind which become a follower of Christ? Then let us often study the Sermon on the Mount. Let us often ponder each sentence, and prove ourselves by it. Not least, let us often consider who they that are called “blessed” at the beginning of the Sermon. Those whom the great High Priest blesses are blessed indeed!
The Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who are poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased; he means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight: these are they who are not “wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight.” They are not “rich” and increased with goods; they do not fancy they need nothing”; they regard themselves as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked.”Blessed are all such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity. We must begin low, if we would build high. (Isaiah 6:21; Revelation 3:17)
The Lord Jesus calls those blessed who mourn. He means those who sorrow for sin, and grieve daily over their own shortcomings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth: the remembrance of it is grievous to them; the burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” and a contrite heart. (Psalm 51:17) One day they will weep no more: “they shall be comforted.”
The Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who are meek. He means those who are of a patient and contented spirit. They are willing to put up with little honour here below; they can bear injuries without resentment; they are not ready to take offence. Like Lazarus in the parable, they are content to wait for their good things. Blessed are all such! They are never losers in the long run. One day they shall “reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10)
The Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He means those who desire above all things to be entirely conformed to the mind of God. They long not so much to be rich, or wealthy, or learned, as to be holy. Blessed are all such! They shall have enough one day. They shall awake up after God’s likeness and be satisfied. (Psalm
The Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who are merciful. He means those who are full of compassion towards others. They pity all who are suffering either from sin or sorrow, and are tenderly desirous to make their sufferings less; they are full of good works and endeavours to do good. (Acts 9:36) Blessed are all such! Both in this life and in that which is to come they shall reap a rich reward.
The Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who are pure in heart. He means those who do not aim merely at outward correctness, but at inward holiness. They are not satisfied with a mere external show of religion: they strive to have a always a conscience void of offence, and to serve God with the spirit and the inner man. Blessed are all such! The heart is the man. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) He that is most spiritually-minded will have most communion with God.
The Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who are peacemakers. He means those who use all their influence to promote peace and charity on earth, in private and in public, at home and abroad. He means those who strive to make all men love one another, by teaching that Gospel which says, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) Blessed are all such! They are doing the very work which the Son of God began when he came to earth the first time, and which he will finish when he returns the second time.
Lastly, the Lord Jesus calls those “blessed” who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. He means those who are laughed at, mocked, despised and ill used because they endeavour to live as true Christians. Blessed are all such! They drink of the same cup which their Master drank. They are now confessing him before men, and he will confess them before his Father and the angels at the last day. “Great is their reward.”
Such are the eight foundation stones which the Lord lays down at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Eight great testing truths are placed before us. May we mark well each one of them, and learn wisdom.
Let us learn how entirely contrary are the principles of Christ to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it: they are almost diametrically opposed. The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises the world despises; the very pride, and thoughtlessness, and high tempers, and worldliness, and selfishness, and formality, and unloving-ness, which abound everywhere, the Lord Jesus condemns.
Let us learn how unhappily different is the teaching of Christ from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? There is too much reason to fear that many baptized persons are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament commands.
Above all, let us learn how holy and spiritually minded all believers should be. They should never aim at any standard lower than that of the Sermon on the Mount. Christianity is eminently a practical religion: sound doctrine is its root and foundation, but holy living should always be its fruit; and if we would know what holy living is, let us often bethink ourselves who they are that Jesus calls “blessed.”
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