“Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
The Saviour carefully describes the case and inward state of those gracious souls upon whom His blessings are pronounced. No random arrows are discharged from His bow, nor is any uncertain artillery taken from His quiver, nor discharged by His valiant men of Israel. For though they fight, they never beat the air. He first discovers the case, and then pours in the oil.
True spiritual poverty stands in a person’s being made sensible, under the convincing, convicting operations of the Holy Spirit of power, that he is destitute of all spiritual riches. He has no righteousness to appear in before God, but is miserable and entirely naked, exposed to wrath and shame and everlasting contempt, unless divine mercy intervene. He owes five hundred pence, and has nothing to pay with. He owes obedience to the law, but has neither heart to it nor ability for it. He feels the pinch of spiritual famine; he is in want, husks cannot satisfy him and the Bread of Life is not as yet broken to him; he feels the need of it, and hears of it, which sharpens his appetite after it. “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” (Luke 15:17). Nor has he got the hand of faith to feed himself with; therefore he cannot receive Christ, he cannot mix faith with the Word, he cannot apply a promise, and faith not being strong enough to attend his prayers, he can bring no comfort home. He faints, because he cannot believe.
Such a poor soul has no certain dwelling-place. He can place no confidence in the flesh, because of the plague of his heart; nor find any rest in his bones, because of his sin; nor can he see his soul sheltered in the cleft of the Rock; he is exposed to the tempest without a covert, and to the storm without a hiding-place.
No beggar ever so ragged, so miserable, so destitute, so deplorable at the brass knocker, as such a soul at mercy’s door. He is poor and wretched, miserable, blind and naked, and he knows it. And what is still worse, he feels himself liable to eternal imprisonment. This is the poor and needy man who waits at Wisdom’s gates and watches every motion at the posts of her doors. He hears that Wisdom hath killed her beasts and mingled her wine, and he pays all possible attention to her maidens to see if his case is touched, his character described, or his name included when they bid the guests (see Proverbs 9:2-6).
This is the poor man that useth entreaties; he is not too proud to beg, though he is unable to dig. Nor is he above prayer; many a heavy sigh, many a silent groan, many a longing wish, many a bitter cry, many a humble confession, is poured forth in the midst of all the unutterable shame and blushing.
These are the poor in spirit. And as it is with poor beggars, so it is with such. They are despised, kicked and cuffed by all; devils, sinners and hypocrites are always sure to smite such. Nevertheless, these are the elect that cry day and night, and put their mouth in the dust when they sue for a hope in God’s mercy.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” To be blessed is to have one’s neck delivered from the legal yoke, and one’s soul redeemed and delivered from the terrible sentence of the law. The blessing and the curse never were put upon one and the same mountain, nor upon one and the same soul at one and the same time. The sinner must come from Sinai before he can get the blessing at Zion.
It is by faith that he comes from the ministration of death to the promise of life, or passes, as Christ saith, from death unto life, so as to come no more into condemnation. Such a believing soul is blessed with faithful Abraham, who obtained his blessing by faith when he saw the Saviour’s day on Mount Moriah. Such an one receives the promise of the Spirit through faith; the Spirit of life and the Word of life come both together. The Word comes with power, in the Holy Ghost and much assurance, and immediately union with the living Vine and fellowship with the living God take place. Such have got the blessing in the best sense, and in every sense, which is life for evermore.
The whole cluster of blessings that attend the blessing of life now follow and flow in in all their sweetness. A divine power sensibly guards and keeps the soul; the light of a propitious Father shines in the face of Jesus without a cloud or a frown. This draws us nigh and encourages to a holy freedom and familiarity; while pardoning, humbling, comforting grace heals the wounds, closes the breaches, and polishes out all the scars and wrinkles made by the fiery law, sin and Satan; while the countenance of God shines upon the heart and way, when reconciliation, friendship and peace flow like a river, and drive infidelity, devil and misery all before them. This is Jehovah’s blessing: “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: the LORD make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Poverty of spirit goes before to empty us of self, to sap the empire of sin and Satan, to prepare the way and make room. The kingdom follows after, and is set up and established on the ruins of the former. The poor soul comes out of the stronghold of Satan before he is crowned with grace. For, as the wise man says: “Out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor” (Ecclesiastes 4:14). Even the crowned head must become poor in spirit if he be saved, or poor and wretched to all eternity if he be lost. Spiritual poverty humbles the sinner’s proud spirit, dissolves his stubbornness, and reduces him to a lowly mind and childlike disposition, which is needful, for Christ declares that, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein” (Mark 10:15).
The kingdom of heaven signifies, first, the gospel with all its blessings, promises and power. Hence it is called the gospel of the kingdom, and preaching it is called preaching the kingdom of God. So a person who is blessed with a savoury, unctuous experience of the power of the gospel, and who is enlightened into the mysteries of it, is called a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven (see Matthew 13:52).
The kingdom of heaven signifies the empire of grace in the saints of God, where Satan is dethroned and cast out, and a superior power put forth and displayed. This, Christ says, is the kingdom of heaven within us; that as sin has reigned unto death by Adam’s fall, so grace should reign unto life through the righteousness of Christ (see Romans 5:21).
The kingdom within stands not in word, which any fool may prate, nor in particular meats and drinks which any pharisee may use, nor in meat and drink which a papist may refuse, but in a divine power which none but God’s elect know. It stands, first, in justification; secondly, in reconciliation and friendship; thirdly, in regeneration; fourthly, in the unutterable happiness and holy triumphs of the soul under the Saviour’s sceptre; and fifthly, in the habitual and perpetual indwelling and abiding of the Holy Ghost. “The kingdom of God is … righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).
But sometimes the kingdom of heaven means ultimate glory, which was prepared for the elect from the foundation of the world, and which it is God’s good pleasure to give us, and into which the Saviour will one day introduce us. Whether, therefore, the kingdom of heaven means the gospel, the mysteries of the kingdom, or whether it means grace, or whether it means glory, the poor in spirit are heirs of it. To them it is given to know the mysteries, and to them God will give grace and glory. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”