« ForrigeFortsæt »
II. HAVING thus described who are the poor in spirit, let us next enquire into the kingdom of beaven, which is the blessing entaild upon them. And this enquiry will divide it self into two branches.
1. What we are to understand by the kingdom of heaven.
2. Why that portion is assign'd to the poor in Spirit.
1. What we are to understand by the kingdom of heaven. And for satisfaction to this point we are to consider,
(1.) That in the writings of the Evangelists it is plainly and frequently us'd for the coming of Chriji into the world, for the state of grace, and the preaching of the Gospel; as you may observe from that of the Baptist, * Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And in the 13th chapter of St. Matthew; our Saviour delivers many parables, which must of necessity refer to this sense of the kingdom of heaven; as that of the t grain of mustard-feed thrown into the earth, which, thó? it be a small seed of itself, does yield a very surprising and plentiful encrease;' of # leaven, which was put into three measures of meal, and it leaven'd the whole lump; of a * net cast into the fea, which brought up in it every kind of fish, &c. All which do properly relate to the great progress of the Gospel from poor and mean beginnings, and serv'd then to' animate his disciples in the pursuit of their duty, in that preaching of the christian faith which should be crowned with such wonderful success. But then,
(2.) By the kingdom of heaven is also underfood the state of glory and happiness in the world
to come, the rewards and manfions prepared by Chrift for such as believe in him and obey him. And thus it is usually expounded in that saying of his, *Except your righteousness fall exceed the
righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. And more plainly in this other, † Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, jall enter into the kingdom of beaven; but be that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
HAVING thus briefly stated the question, what we are to understand by the kingdom of heaven; we must enquire in the next place, 2. Why this belongs fo properly
, and peculiarly to the poor in spirit. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Theirs it is in both senses, both the state of grace, and the state of glory, to them belongs the preaching of the Gospel, and the rewards of it.
That they have a special interest and property in the state and revelation of the Gospel, will appear upon these two accounts.
(1.) BECAUSE the disposition of their minds is such, that they are immediately capable of receiving and entertaining all the precepts of the christian doctrine; their hearts are as it were plow'd up, and ready for the seed, the greatest obstacle, viz. the world and their affe&tions to it, being already conquered. The rule and riches of the world did, at our Saviour's coming, and do Nill produce in men, a backwardness to the selfdenying principles and discipline of his religion; and therefore says he, t'Tis easier for å camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. By the kingdom of God is understood there the Itate of the
* Matth. v. 20.
Matth. vii. 21.
Matth. xix. 24.
Gospel, according to the former fense; and by a ricb man, one with all the usual pride and appetites, the prejudices and corrupt affections of rich men, who in such a state are by no means capable of being members of this kingdom. But the
But the poor in spirit, who are come to a better temper, have broke through these impediments; abundance to them is in a manner the same thing as want, they use the world as if they used it not; and therefore the passions and interests of this world have lost their force upon them, can neither blind their minds, nor bend their wills against the law of Chrift, by setting up themselves in competition with it. The poor in spirit, let his condition and fubftance be what it will, has no uncomplying prejudices to byafs him, but receives the Gospel heartily and freely, without design or hypocrisy, and is prepared to embrace all the commands of his Saviour, and to run through all the methods of a spiritual life. Consider him in the first great line of this description, as an humble and lowly man, setting little value upon himself: does not this particularly qualify him for a christian modesty in all his conversation, a christian obedience to his
governors, a christian meekness towards all men, a christian condefcension to the infirmities of his neighbours, and to any charitable and friendly offices for their good, a christian pity towards the afflicted, justice and equity in all his dealings, patience under all reproaches, averseness to all faction and tumult, and readiness to forgive all injuries ; to love his enemies, and return good for evil, which are the distinguishing characters of the religion of Chrift? Conlider him under the second head, as one who is neither covetous in the defire of more, nor penurious in the use of what he has; and does not this peculiarly dispose him to that absolute contentment with his condition, whatever it is,
which Christianity requires of him? and make him peculiarly averse to all the vile arts of violence and oppression, fraud and cheating, dissimulation, flattery and lying for advantage, which the fame Christianity forbids him; does it not prepare. him for that generous open-handed liberality to the poor, and that good-natur'd hospitality to his neighbours, enjoin'd him by the christian Gospel? And if we consider him in the third branch of his character, as thankfully owning his dependance upon God, for all he enjoys, does it not prepare his mind for those exalted acts of piety and devotion, love and gratitude to the great God who made him, the blessed Saviour who redeem'd him, and the holy Spirit who fanctifies him, which our holy religion calls, upon him for? and is not such á gratitude the best, the strongest and most natural principle of that sincere and universal obedience which is requir'd of every Christian? Look upon him under the fourth qualification, as one who is ready to part with all he enjoys whenever God. thall call for it by his providence; and particularly to suffer the loss of all things to promote the glory of God, and to preserve the integrity of a good conscience: and does not all this answer to that trust and faith in God, that firm reliance upon him, that dutiful and meek submission to him, that heavenly-mindedness and indifference to the things of this world, that fervent zeal for God's honour, and close adherence to the religion of Christ, which our Christianity so much infilts upon? And does it not especially fortify us for that self-denial which is the life and spirit of a Christian, and for all those hardships and sufferings from a wicked world, which Christ and his Apostles testify to be the lot of all who will in earnest cleave to him? And thus I think it is evident, that such a poverty of spirit as has been described, directly and necessarily qua
lifies men for embracing the christian religion, and therefore the kingdom of heaven may be properly said to be theirs in the first sense. But,
(2.) It is so again in the same sense of the phrase, as this poverty in spirit not only disposes for all other parts of our religion, but is it self one of the special and peculiar virtues of the Gospel. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven, because they are gone a great way in it, and possess one of the brightest ornaments and beauties of it. Upon which account it is that our Saviour so frequently and importunately recommends this virtue to his followers; and therefore at one time setting a child before them, affirms, * that if ever they enter into the kingdom of God, they must be like such a one;
which is as much as to say, that the kingdom of God consists chiefly in the exercise of this grace; for the main lines and features of it are very lively represented in infants, who are so happy in their ignorance of, and little interests in the world, that they may be truly faid to be poor in spirit. And at another time he presses them to it by his own example, t I am among you, says he, as one that serveth. And again, + Take my joke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and je mall find rest to your souls. By these and several other passages he discovers the high esteem and importance of this virtue, and the great ornament and beauty of it. Of such, says he, is the kingdom of heaven : the state of the Gospel is made up chiefly of the poor in spirit, they are more eminently his disciples, they bear his own badge and cognizance, the very spirit with which he came into the world, and all along
+ Luke xxii. 27.
* Matth. xviii. 3, 4. #Matth. xix. 14.
# Matth. xi. 29.