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or fail; an offer confirmed by the gracious assurance that “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all;" 8 an offer grounded upon that “full, and perfect, and sufficient sacrifice” made for the sins of all men: 9 and thus his desire is filled, his need is satisfied; and he experiences a "joy and peace” which nothing else can give to sinful man, when conscious of his sinfulness.
It is easy to suppose the case of another, hungering after that “
righteousness and true holiness” which he knows must belong to all God's children, yet finding “a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, so that when he would do good, evil is present with him.”1 Suppose him to exclaim in the spirit of the apostle Paul, “ Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?” The same invitation meets and comforts him : “ Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden, and ye shall find rest unto your souls :" rest, not merely from the guilt and condemnation, but from the power and dominion of sin. For “ for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil :”? and that they who are contending against the malice of that adversary, may have one through whom they may be “ more than conquerors : ” made able to all things” through his Spirit which dwelleth in them.
Therefore the Lord declares, Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness. The king
8 Is. liii. 6.
· Rom. vii. 21-25.
9 See Heb. xv. 12-14.
2 John iii. 8,
dom of heaven is at hand :" and they shall be filled with all that they desire.
But it is not for the present world that the desire of righteousness is excited; neither is it in the present world that it can be completely satisfied. Here there is much to disturb it both within and without the man. The corruption that is in the world, makes our life on earth a warfare, even to the end : a warfare, indeed, of which the success is secure, as long as the exertion is sincere and earnest : but warfare is not rest, nor can imperfection satisfy one who is striving after perfection. Therefore our Lord pronounces the lovers of righteousness blessed, because their affections are directed towards a state in which their desire shall have its perfect consummation: are preparing them for a world in which “ dwelleth righteousness :"} not, as here, for a season, or in a few favoured spots, but where there shall be no more sin. Then shall the lovers of righteousness “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father ;" and the day-spring which enlightens them shall be never overspread with clouds, never overcome by night, but know no going down.
3 2 Pet. iii. 13.
4 Ch. xiii. 43.
7. Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy. 8. Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.
When the mother of two of the apostles asked of our Lord in their behalf that they might sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on his left, in his kingdom; he replied, that such a place could only belong to those “for whom it was prepared of the Father.”1
The lowest place in his kingdom, much less the highest, could not be given even to an apostle, if he had not the proper features of the Christian character; if, for instance, he had not mercy, and if he had not purity. If he lrad not purity, he could be little fitted for the presence of Him whose name is Holy, who cannot look upon evil. If he had not mercy, he could not rightly understand his own condition, his undeservings, or the goodness which had spared him.
i See ch. xx. 23, &c.
To be merciful, is, first, to be kind, tender-hearted, ready to feel for the wants and distresses of others, and, if possible, to relieve them. And this must be the disposition of every man who has a proper sense of the mercy shown towards himself. Without it, he can be no disciple of the Lord Jesus; who, “when he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.” 2 Therefore the merciful shall obtain mercy,
because they have this same spirit: “ the spirit of Christ.” As he himself said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another.” 3 “ This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
The mercy however required by the Gospel, proceeds farther. It is to be forgiving, “ if a man have a quarrel against any:" to cultivate sentiments the most opposite to those then prevailing in Judea : and instead of hating an enemy, wbilst a friend was to be loved, to do good to them that hate us; to pray for the persecutor and the slanderer: as expressed by St. Paul, and enforced by the proper sanction; " Let all bitterness, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
? 2 Cor. viii. 9.
3 John xii. 35. 4 Ib. xv. 13, 14. 5 See v. 43.
* Eph. iv. 31.
It is this thought, that he hopes through Christ to be forgiven, which makes the Christian ready to forgive. If a man be severe towards a fellow-creature on account of the small account which he has against him, how can be expect his heavenly Father to excuse him the “ ten thousand talents” which he would be found to owe, if God were to reckon with him, and enter into judgment with himn? As our Lord himself explained his precept, “ Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?"7
So that the unmerciful are disqualified for the favour of God: and the merciful obtain mercy, not merely as a reward for self-denial, and restraint of evil passions, but because they have been brought, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to that state of mind which indicates a right reception of the gospel. “ Even as Christ forgave them, so also do they.” 8
And if the quality of mercy is essential to show that a man has drunk of the waters of life, so is purity of heart essential to his admission into the kingdom of heaven. The pure in heart shall see God. It follows, the impure shall not see him; shall be “shut out for ever from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power. “For this is the will of God, even our sanctification.” This is his will in our redemption, in our calling, our baptism, our profession, that his peculiar people should be cleared from all
7 Ch. xviii, 23–33.
8 Col. üi. 13.