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ABOUT eighteen hundred years ago, the greatest Preacher, that ever appeared on this earth, went up into a Mountain, in the Holy Land, followed by vast crowds of hearers. There was something awful, and mysterious, and sublime, and affectionate, in the character of this Preacher. His age was about thirty years, and his raiment a garment without a seam. He was never known to laugh, but he sometimes wept. Instead of feasting, he once fasted for forty days. Instead of a palace, he had not where to lay his head. When he looked, a more than human glory spread over his face; and when he spake, he spake as never man spake. Although cruelly reviled, he went about doing good. And although he once called out of his grave a friend, who had been dead four days, he yielded up his own life as a martyr for the souls of his followers. This great Preacher, surrounded by his vast congregation, of saints and sinners, of believers and infidels, of critics and admirers, went up into a Mountain; and there, in a church not made with hands, with the heavens over his head those heavens, from which he came down, and to which he returned in a solemn, consolatory manner, he pronounced blessed eight virtues and trials, each of which his followers must possess, or be willing to endure.
FOUR FIRST BEATITUDES.
1. First, said this heavenly Preacher: Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Did the Preacher intend the natural, inborn temper ? No. Mere spontaneous affection can call for neither praise, nor dispraise. But can it be, that this divine Preacher pronounced blessed, a low, servile, abject, grovelling disposition in man? A spirit, too low for emulation, too servile for honour, too abject for enterprise, and too grovelling for virtue? Far from it. Emulation in a good cause is praiseworthy; honour among just men is desirable; enterprise in an honest vocation is a duty; and virtue is the seed of religion. Never does being poor in spirit, require one to be poor-spirited. Oh, no! The terms are not convertible. What then did this Preacher to the hearts mean, when he taught, Blessed are the poor in spirit? He meant, Blessed is that spirit, which lifteth not itself; that spirit which, when afflicted, feels that troubles do not spring from the ground, but are ministering angels sent to wean us from the world; that spirit, which is unrepining, and although our lot be cast in low estate, sends up the morning and evening sacrifice of contentment and thanks; that spirit which is stripped of all self-complacency; which feels the bitterness of its own heart, and that its own strength is weakness, and its own fulness is emptiness.
That such is the poorness of spirit, which is rich before God, we are assured in that Book, which is the record of truth. God saith, If my people shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins. Better is it to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. A man's pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. God saith, Because thine heart was tender, I have heard thee. And when the Spirit of God was upon Isaiah, it sent him, to bind up the broken hearted. But to be more particular.
The Rich Man, he who is clothed in purple, and fares sumptuously every day; who pulls down his warehouses to build larger, and whose ships bring home gold from Ophir; must come out from among his riches, with raiment for the naked, with food for the hungry, and with succour for the distressed; and clothe himself in depend..
ance, in gratitude, and in this poorness of spirit; before he can hope to be one of the kingdom of heaven.
The Man of Titles, he who is ranked among the excellent of the earth, and before whom boweth the knee of obeisance; who is an eloquent man in the council of his nation, and who sitteth upon the bench of justice; must himself bend down before the One, who is higher than he, and plead for mercy, in this poorness of spirit.
The Man of Wisdom, he who can speak all tongues, and can foretel the signs of the times; whose mind can walk down among the ruins of buried ages, or mount upward to track the marches of the planets; must be dumb in ignorance, and feel in this poorness of spirit, that without the teaching of the Spirit of Truth, he is but of yesterday, and knows nothing.
The Beauty of Fashion, she in whose cheek is the freshening tint of the morning, and in whose eye is the dewy softness of heaven; she whose presence is greeted by the rivalry of admirers, and whose heart is throbbing with the emotions of desire; she must feel that, as to her body, 'a heap of dust is all she is, and all the proud shall be;' and that virtue alone will give her that beauty of the soul, which will bloom beyond the grave.
Such is the poorness of spirit, which is pronounced blessed; and which any of you can have, and need to have, before you can hope for the happy benediction, that yours is the kingdom of heaven.
2. Again said this divine Preacher: Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.
The World says, Blessed are they, who do not mourn. We have seen a man at a feast, sitting jovial among his fellows, his palate pleased with viands of rich odours, and his heart mellowed with old wine; and have heard him cry aloud in his glee, Eat, drink, and be merry. Now he raises the full chorus of song, and now he joins in the giddy mazes of the dance. And was not that man happy? Jesus did not say, Blessed is the man at a feast. And the Wise Man knew, that boisterous joys but drown useful reflection; that the pleasures of this world work a snare; that they are indeed sweet in prospect, but bitter,
or at best heartless, in possession; that they leave an aching void in the breast. Therefore, he said, It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting.
And can it be better to go, where all is grief, and lamentation? Let us leave the sound of the viol, and listen to the slow, solemn tolling of the bell it tells of a passing soul. Let us go to the house of mourning, and see what is there. Death hath entered the house. There stands the father, like afflicted David of old, and cries, My son, my son, would to God I had died for thee, my son, my son! There sits the mother, like weeping Rachel, and sobs, as one that mourneth for her only child, refusing to be comforted, because she is not. And can it be good, to go to such a house? And can it be true, that blessed are they that mourn? The Preacher did not mean, that sorrow of man, which is without hope; nor that sorrow of the world, that worketh death. He did not mean, that grief because our joys are lessened; or that sorrow which follows on the cutting down of earthly ambition. He intended that mourning, which maketh the heart better. This lesson can be best learnt in the house of mourning. Here a voice speaks from the grave, saying, Mortals, the time is short. You have a great work to perform, and but a little time to do it in; and that little time daily growing less. It tells us, that death came by sin. It warns us, to take light thought for the body, which is to return to its original dust; but to be up and doing for the soul, which is to return to be judged by God, who gave it. That, though time is short, eternity is long; and that, as our deeds in time, so will be our award in eternity.
But when Jesus said, Blessed are they that mourn; he especially meant, they who mourn over their sins. That brokenness of heart for sin, that tenderness of conscience to the truth, that godly sorrow that worketh true repentance. Who is there among us can say, he hath no sin? And every sin is a defect in some duty, or a breach of some law; and every such defect, or breach, exposes the soul to the wrath of God, unless mourned for with tears. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep, says James; let your
laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. And says David, O Lord, I will praise thee, though thou art angry with me. For, day and night, thy hand was heavy upon me; I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquities of my sins. The burthened soul must look on Him, whom he hath pierced, and cry aloud, Lord, I am oppressed, undertake thou for me. They who sow in tears, shall reap in joy. Jesus shall cast all their sins behind their back. He will say, Ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again; and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. This mourning for sin should be early in life, and while in health; before the angel of sickness shall lay us on the bed of death. For the dead cannot praise God, says holy David; the dead cannot celebrate thee; the living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day. Then, when Jesus shall say to the Man at the Feast, Son, remember that thou, in thy life time, receivedst thy good things; he will say to the humble mourner over his sins, Come, thou blessed, where there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; enter into peace. If you thus mourn, because of your sins, Jesus hath said, Ye shall be comforted.
3. Again said this celestial Preacher: Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth.
The virtue of meekness is not that of the quietness of sloth, a supine love of ease, a defect in sensibility and firmness, and the predominancy of other passions. This meekness means not that timid and pliant temper, which is inactive to do good, and indifferent to do evil. Neither is it a mere constitutional virtue, not grounded upon principle. It must be that evangelical meekness, which with God is before honour. This meekness is opposed to a spirit of revenge, to a spirit of haughtiness, to a spirit of impatience. It is that meekness, which softens the heart to mercy; renders it gentle to all around us, and below us; forbearing towards those, who injure us; forgiving towards those, who are not willing to forgive us; and submissive to the trials of Providence. It is a virtue, which