Though He was a great healer, our Lord Jesus Christ had more concern for the souls of men than for the physical welfare of their earthly bodies.  He knew that even those whom He raised from the dead must finally die again, and dissolve back into the dust from whence they came.  But when God made man a living soul, he made him a being whose existence would be eternal.  That eternal existence must be spent either in the glorious and sublime presence of God, or in the horrible pit of hell under the avenging wrath of the Almighty.  Therefore, though He did much to heal the sicknesses and infirmities of the crowds that thronged about Him, His greater priority was to preach the gospel to them.  So, upon ascending into the mountain, and seeing both His disciples and the vast crowds of needy souls,  He began to preach,  describing to them what the true citizens of the kingdom of heaven are like.

Those who have the blessing of God, being regenerated by the Holy Ghost and made partakers of the divine nature, are poor in spirit.  They are not proud and haughty, but are of that contrite and humble spirit that Isaiah described.  The high and lofty One Who inhabits eternity never said that He dwells with those who are mighty, wealthy, powerful, or great in their own estimation, but with those who are of a humble spirit, and tremble at His word.  Those who are poor in spirit know something of their own wretchedness, they know they are an unclean thing, and their righteousnesses are as filthy rags.  They know they entered into this world as children of wrath, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have spent their unregenerate lives proving it.  Being taught by divine grace that, though they are wretched and condemned,  there is nevertheless grace in Christ, they willingly agree with God’s estimate of their natural state, and plead with Him for forgiveness on the basis of His mercy alone.  Those who are so poor in spirit, having a very low estimate of themselves, but a very high estimate of the worth of Christ, are the possessors of the kingdom of heaven.  Much the same can be said for those who mourn, but have the promise of heavenly comfort.  This refers not to those who mourn because a friend or relative died, but to those who mourn over their sins, out of a heartfelt contrition that they have sinned against a gracious and holy God.  They are not merely sorry that their sin brought upon them evil consequences, but they are sorry that they have been rebels against the God Who gave them life and showered them with so many benefits.  The spirit of the true believer is a spirit of humility, and mourning over sin.  He can never be content with himself and his own worth, because he sees too much of the indwelling plague of sin residing in his bosom.  But he who mourns his sin, then confesses and forsakes it, shall find mercy, according to the promise of Proverbs 28:13.

Since this individual is one who is small in his own eyes, due to the recognition of his native sinfulness, over which he constantly mourns, it necessarily follows that he will hunger and thirst after righteousness.  He desires to do, and to be, what God approves.  He desires to be obedient, humble, just, and holy.  His chief aim is to fulfill that command repeated in both testaments, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  This hungering and thirsting after righteousness may have a twofold application.  We hunger and thirst after saving righteousness, which can only come by imputation of the Saviour’s merit.  This is the gift given to those whom Christ reconciles to God.  He was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21).  Secondly, he hungers and thirsts after righteousness in heart and conduct.  This he is able to achieve in some measure, thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Who gives him power to resist temptation, and walk in the ways of God.

Such a man is merciful.  Because he has obtained mercy from God, it is natural for him to show mercy to others.  He is willing to forgive those who have wronged him. He is enabled by grace to keep from harboring grudges in his hearts even towards those against whom he may have a justifiable grievance.  He is also willing to help those who are destitute and in poverty.  Everything he has comes from God, and therefore he is willing to impart of his goods to those who have not received the same blessings.  In this he is being an imitator of God.  These words of Jesus should not be construed to say he receives mercy because he is merciful; rather, he is merciful because he has received mercy.  This virtue of mercy which he displays in his conduct is a testimony that he has, and will yet receive greater mercy from God.  This we know because salvation can never be by works of righteousness which we have done, but “according to His mercy He saved us.”

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