Observe carefully and you will see that each one rises above those which precede it. The first Beatitude is by no meansso elevated as the third, nor the third as the seventh. There is a great advance from the poor in spirit to the pure in heart and the peacemaker. I have said that they rise, but it would be quite as correct to say that they descend, for from the human point of view they do so–to mourn is a step below and yet above being poor in spirit. And the peacemaker, while the highest form of Christian, will find himself often called upon to take the lowest place for peace’s sake. “The seven Beatitudes mark deepening humiliation .” In proportion as men rise in the reception of the Divine Blessing, they sink in their own esteem–and count it their honor to do the humblest works.
Not only do the Beatitudes rise, one above another, but they spring out of each other as if each one depended uponall that went before. Each growth feeds a higher growth and the seventh is the product of all the other six! The two blessings which we shall have first to consider have this relation. “Blessed are they that mourn” grows out of, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Why do they mourn? They mourn because they are “poor in spirit.” “Blessed are the meek” is a benediction which no man reaches till he has felt his spiritual poverty, and mourned over it. “Blessed are the merciful” follows upon the blessing of the meek because men do not acquire the forgiving, sympathetic, merciful spirit until they have been made meek by the experience of the first two benedictions. This same rising and outgrowth may be seen in the whole seven. The stones are laid, one upon the other, in fair colors and polished after the similitude of a palace–they are the natural sequel and completion of each other–even as were the seven days of the world’s first week.
Mark, also, in this ladder of light, that though each step is above the other and each step springs out of the other, yet each one is perfect in itself and contains within itself a priceless and complete blessing. The very lowest of the blessed, namely, the poor in spirit, have their peculiar benediction and, indeed, it is one of such an order that it is used in the summing up of all the rest! “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” is both the first and the eighth benediction. The highest characters, namely, the peacemakers, who are called the children of God, are not said to be more than blessed–they doubtless enjoy more of the blessedness, but they do not, in the Covenant provision, possess more.
Note, also, with delight, that
the blessing is, in every case, in the present tense–a happiness to be enjoyed and de
lighted in now! It is not “Blessed
shall .“ There is not one step in the whole Divine experience of the
Believer–not one link in the wonderful chain of Divine Grace–in which there is a withdrawal of the Divine smile or an absence of real happiness! Blessed is the first moment of the Christian life on earth–and blessed is the last! Blessed is the spark which trembles in the flax and blessed is the flame which ascends to Heaven in a holy ecstasy! Blessed is the bruised reed and blessed is that tree of the Lord which is full of sap, the cedar of Lebanon, which the Lord has planted! Blessed is the babe in Grace and blessed is the perfect man in Christ Jesus! As the Lord’s mercy endures forever, even so shall our blessedness!
We must not fail to notice that in the seven Beatitudes, the blessing of each one is appropriate to the character.“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is appropriately connected with enrichment in the possession of a Kingdom more glorious than all the thrones of earth! It is also most appropriate that those who mourn should be comforted. That the meek, who renounce all self-aggrandizement, should enjoy most of life and so should inherit the earth. It is Divinely fit that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness should be filled–and that those who show mercy to others should obtain it themselves! Who but the pure in heart should see the Infinitely pure and holy God? And who but the peacemakers should be called the children of the God of Peace?
Yet the careful eye perceives that each benediction. Jeremy Taylorsays, “They are so many paradoxes and impossibilities reduced to reason.” This is clearly seen in the first Beatitude, for the poor in spirit are said to possess a Kingdom. And it is equally vivid in the collection as a whole, for it treats of happiness–and yet poverty leads the van and persecution brings up the rear! Poverty is the opposite of riches and yet how rich are those who possess a Kingdom! And persecution is supposed to destroy enjoyment and yet it is here made a subject of rejoicing! See the sacred art of Him who spoke as never man spoke! He can, at the same time, make His words both simple and paradoxical–and thereby win our attention and instruct our intellects. Such a Preacher deserves the most thoughtful of hearers.
The whole of the seven Beatitudes composing this celestial ascent to the House of the Lord conducts Believers to an elevated table-land upon which they dwell alone and are not reckoned among the people. Their holy separation from the world brings upon them persecution for righteousness’ sake, but in this they do not lose their happiness, but rather have it increased to them and confirmed by the double repetition of the benediction! The hatred of man does not deprive the saint of the love of God–even revilers contribute to his blessedness! Who among us will be ashamed of the Cross which must attend such a crown of loving kindness and tender mercies? Whatever the curses of man may involve, they are so small a drawback to the consciousness of being blessed in a sevenfold manner by the Lord, that they are not worthy to be compared with the Grace which is already revealed in us!