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I. The Beatitudes.

§ 149. Moral Requisites for Entering the Kingdom of God: (1.) Poverty of Spirit; (2.) Meekness; (3.) Hungering and Thirsting after Righteousness.


Glancing at the poor, who probably comprised most of his congregation, 225Christ says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Happy are they who feel the spiritual wretchedness of the Theocratic nation; who long after the true riches of the kingdom; who have not stifled the higher cravings of their souls by worldly delights, by confidence in their Jewish descent, by the pride of Pharisaic righteousness and wisdom; but are conscious of their spiritual poverty, of their lack of the true riches of the Spirit and the kingdom.”387387   “Poverty of spirit” includes all that we have here expressed. De Wette (in Heidelb. Studien, vol. iii., pt. 2, in his Comment. de morte Jesu Christi expiatoria, in his Christliche Littenlehre, pt. i., p. 246, and in his Commentary, in loc.) has done much to develope the idea genetically. He has rightly called attention to the derivation of the phrase from the Old Testament views. “The humble citizen of the fallen Theocracy, deeply feeling the misery of the Theocratic nation, bruised in spirit, and hoping only in God, is ‘poor in spirit,’ in contrast with the haughty blasphemer, who has no such feeling: אֶבְיוֹן ,עָנו, in contrast with רָשָׁע; Isa., lxi., 1.” Applying this spiritually, with reference to the inner life we naturally infer that the πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι are “those who feel their want of that which alone can satisfy and enrich the Spirit,” and so all the rest that we have intimated. The difference in these explanations—easily harmonized—consists only in the reference of the idea to its genetic historical developement in the one, and to the objective Christian meaning, which holds good for all ages. Conf. James (i., 9, 10), whose epistle accords in many points with the Sermon on the Mount, and follows its stand-point in the developement of Christianity. Such are they to whom the kingdom of God belongs; “theirs,” says Christ, “is the kingdom of heaven;” as, in certain respects, a present possession.


As the pride of the Pharisee is joined with sternness, so poverty of spirit is attended by meekness and humility. In the Sermon, “blessed are the poor in spirit” is followed by388388   In the order of the Beatitudes, I follow the text of Lachmann, which gives them in s connexion not only logical, but corresponding with their aim as instruction.blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” A remarkable contrast: Dominion is promised to that precise disposition of heart which is most averse to it. A contrast, too, which serves to point out the peculiar kind of world-dominion promised, as distinguished from the prevailing Jewish ideas on the subject. According to the latter, the sceptre of the Messianic reign over the heathen nations was to be a sceptre of iron; according to the former, the “gentle-spirited” are to obtain possession of the earth.

It is true, the expression, “shall inherit the earth,” is included (like the other beatitudes) in the more general one, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven*’ it is doubtless true, also, that the phrase was not uncommon among the Jews; but we are not, therefore, obliged to conclude that the thought involved in it is only the general one of” the blessedness of the kingdom of God.” The expression has a significance of its own. The “inheritance of the earth” is that world-dominion which Christians, as organs of the Spirit of Christ, are ever more and more to obtain, as the kingdom of God shall win increasing sway over 226mankind and the relations of society, until, in its final consummation, the whole earth shall own its dominion; and the Power which is to gain this world-dominion is Meekness; the quiet might of gentleness: it is with which God’s kingdom is to subjugate the world.


Christ, then, further developes the characteristics of poverty of spirit in the beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn (that are conscious of inward woe), for they shall be comforted.” That this mourning is not grief for mere outward afflictions, appears from the next: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (shall find their wants supplied in the communion of the kingdom of God).

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