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time," and puts down his name as “less than the least of all saints.” So true are the lines we sometimes sing in our religious exercises
“ The more thy glories strike mine eyes, ,
The humbler I shall lie;
And what reason we have, my brethren, to be humble before God! Ah! what are the best of men, but foolish and sinful creatures, ever ready to fall, if not upheld by the divine arm! And what have any of us, which we did not receive? What has kept us from the just reward of our transgressions, but the long suffering of God? What has saved us from “ everlasting burnings,” but his mercy? And what secures our standing now, and ensures our final presentation before his throne with joy, but the power of his grace? Is there, then, any room for pride, in such helpless creatures ? Surely there is none. Rather, is there not ample reason for humility, where there are such strong obligations for mercies received, and where there is such absolute necessity for entire dependence with respect to the future? Verily there is. Salvation, from its origin to its consummation, is all of grace. Wherefore, let glorieth, glory in the Lord.” Thirdly, I will only add in few words, that to be “
“poor in spirit,” includes contentment with the allotments of providence. It is opposed, both to the restlessness of ambition, and the haughtiness of pride. It turns away with disgust from that “covetousness which is idolatry.” It does not eagerly and improperly desire the honours or the riches of this world, but “having food and raiment, it has learned therewith to be content.” It pants not for the pleasures of the gay, or the favour of the powerful, but is
chiefly concerned to “keep a conscience void of offence, and to provide things honest in the sight of all men." This is an eminence of attainment, too seldom achieved in the Christian world. Few there are, it is to be feared, who, under blighting providences, can cordially say, “ It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good.' with Job, when bereaved of his children and reduced to want, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” But such an elevation of soul should be acquired, and such a spirit of cheerful contentment should be cultivated, by all who have taken on them the Christian name. If we are envious of the
prosperity of others, fretful under the corrections of providence, and unsubmissive to the righteous will of our father who is in heaven, there is but little of this temper dwelling within us; and we have, in such a case, too much reason to suspect the existence of our personal religion altogether. “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.”* I will now proceed to call your attention,
II. TO THE BLESSEDNESS WHICH OUR LORD PRONOUNCES ON PERSONS OF THIS TEMPER.
They are blessed, or happy, as the word imports; for the blessing of the Lord will make us happy indeed. Here we may notice two things,
, First. That their happiness, in a great measure, is derivable from their experience: “A man's life," that is, his well-being, " consisteth not in the abundance of his possessions.” Prosperity in the world, and a sorrowful spirit, frequently meet together in the same person. But if the heart be at rest in God, external afflictions can trouble it but little. And hence it is easy to perceive the pleasing effects which the Christian disposition, that has been con
* Lam. iii. 40.
sidered, will invariably produce where it prevails. It will make its possessor teachable, cautious, unoffending, and discreet. It will enable him to be patient in affliction, joyful in tribulation, and unrevengeful of deliberate affronts. It will instruct him to “ bear and forbear,” and to forgive his enemies, “ even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven bim.” It will lead him to a grateful admiration of the riches of redeeming love, and to a thankful reception of the glad tidings of mercy. Indeed, such an one will exemplify the apostolic admonition, “ Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” He may, therefore, expect the fulfilment of the promise given by the prophet, “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." He will also realize the truth of this scripture, “Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Yes, such a soul is happy. He withers under no wounded pride, is stung by no blighted ambition, and is not depressed by any painful anticipation of future
Moreover, he possesses all the materials of essential felicity in himself. By the principles that ennoble and enrich his mind, he rises above other men and above his former self. The devotion that fills his soul; the supreme regard to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which actuates his heart; the possession of a faith that brings “invisible realities” to view, and the spirit of adoption whereby he cries, “ Abba, Father,” are principles whose operations tend to assimilate the creature to the creator, and to fill the breast of the humble with the fulness of God. This, my brethren, is blessedness indeed. It is of the same nature, only of inferior degree in its measure, as the felicity of heaven—.“ the pleasures which are for evermore.” This is a state of heart “ more desirable than gold, yea, than fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb." All the wealth, power,
honours, and crowns of the universe are lighter than nothing, and vanity, when put into the scale with “ the peace of God which passeth all understanding,” and which dwells with “ the poor in spirit.”
Secondly. There is also the promise of the kingdom of heaven, which concurs with such a sanctified spirit to make the humble blessed. “ Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This phrase is more commonly used than any other, to denote the mediatorial dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is sometimes to be understood of the church on earth, and sometimes of the church in heaven; while it not unfrequently combines both. There is, indeed, a most intimate connection between the two states. The one is but a maturity and consummation of the incipient felicities of the other. The spirits of the just, who have attained to the latter, were once the subjects of the former, and except the first state be entered upon below, the second cannot be enjoyed above ; for grace is both the principle and the pledge of glory. All, therefore, who belong to this spiritual kingdom are virtually of the same character—they are poor in spirit, they possess humbleness of mind, they have learnt of him “who is meek and lowly of heart,” and they are “the redeemed from among men.” Now the government of this moral empire in all its lengths, and breadths, is on His shoulder, to whom prophecy has assigned the divine and royal titles, of “the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.”* His promise and his power fully secure all its privileges and immunities to every member of his extensive dominion. These privileges include the pardon of sin; the justification of their persons; the sanctification of their nature; the presence of the angel of the covenant; the life-giving streams of the sanctuary; and finally, an everlasting tide of pleasure in his own blissful presence above, where there is “fulness of joy.” The present, indeed, is not the place so much for rapturous delight as for active service. But still there is real satisfaction in the path of virtue and the service of God, even in this “ strange land.” It must not be conceded, that the prospect of an eternal weight of glory above, is the only happiness that distinguishes the condition of the saint from the sinner, in this world. To be holy and humble, is to be happy. And the promise is, “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.”* To the pious mind, both public and private devotion has often been “ like a little heaven below," and in its performance, it has often found "great reward.” But when it is considered, that all this is only the introduction to the ineffable and unwithering glories which await him in the bright abodes of the blessed, we see how perfectly and obviously true is the sentiment of this beatitude, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
* Isaiah ix. 6.
III. AND NOW LET US CONCLUDE THIS SUBJECT WITH TWO REFLECTIONS.
First. How mistaken is the judgment of the world. Whom do men account happy? And where do they suppose that that treasure is to be found? Certainly not in the service of God. Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord; yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work
• Isaiah xl. 31.