Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

by Thomas Watson

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:3

Some are of opinion, that this was the first sermon which ever Christ gave, therefore it may challenge our best attention. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit'. Our Lord Christ, beginning to raise a high and stately fabric of blessedness, lays the foundation of it low—in poverty of spirit. But all poverty is not blessed. I shall use a fourfold distinction.

1. I distinguish between 'poor in estate', and 'poor in spirit'. There are the Devil's poor. They are both poor and wicked—whose clothes are not more torn than their conscience. There are some whose poverty is their sin, who through improvidence or excess have brought themselves to poverty. These may be poor in estate—but not poor in spirit.

2. I distinguish between 'spiritually poor' and 'poor in spirit'. He who is without grace is spiritually poor—but he is not poor in spirit; he does not know his own beggary. 'You know not, that you are poor' (Revelation 3:17). He is in the worst sense poor—who has no sense of his poverty.

3. I distinguish between 'poor-spirited' and 'poor in spirit'. They are said to be poor-spirited who have mean, base spirits, who act below themselves. Such are those misers, who having great estates—yet can hardly afford themselves bread; who live sneakingly, and are ready to wish their own throats cut, because they are forced to spend something in satisfying nature's demands. This Solomon calls an evil under the sun. 'There is an evil which I have seen under the sun—a man to whom God has given riches, so that he lacks nothing that he desires—yet God gives him not power to eat thereof' (Ecclesiastes 6:2). True religion makes no man a niggard. Though it teaches prudence—yet not sordidness.

Then there are those who act below themselves as they are Christians, while they sinfully comply and prostitute themselves to the desires of others; a base kind of metal that will take any stamp. They will for a piece of silver—part with the jewel of a good conscience. They will be of the popular religion. They will dance to the devil's pipe, if their superior commands them. These are poor-spirited but not poor in spirit.

4. I distinguish between poor in an evangelical sense—and poor in a popish sense. The papists give a wrong gloss upon the text. By 'poor in spirit', they understand those who, renouncing their estates, vow a voluntary poverty, living retiredly in their monasteries. But Christ never meant these. He does not pronounce them blessed—who make themselves poor, leaving their estates and callings—but such as are evangelically poor.

Well then, what are we to understand by 'poor in spirit'? The Greek word for 'poor' is not only taken in a strict sense for those who live upon charity—but in a more large sense, for those who are destitute as well of inward as outward comfort. Poor in spirit, then, signifies those who are brought to the sense of their sins, and seeing no goodness in themselves, despair in themselves and sue wholly to the mercy of God in Christ. Poverty of spirit is a kind of self-annihilation. 'The poor in spirit' (says Calvin) 'are those who see nothing in themselves—but fly to mercy for sanctuary.' Such an one was the publican: 'God be merciful to me a sinner' (Luke 18:13). Of this temper was Paul: 'That I may be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness' (Philippians 3:9). These are the poor, who are invited as guests to wisdom's banquet (Proverbs 7:3, 4).

Here several questions may be propounded.

[1] Why does Christ here begin with poverty of spirit? Why is this put in the forefront? I answer, Christ does it to show that poverty of spirit is the very basis and foundation of all the other graces which follow. You may as well expect fruit to grow without a root, as the other graces without poverty of spirit. Until a man is poor in spirit, he cannot mourn. Poverty of spirit is like the fire under the still, which makes the water drop from the eyes. When a man sees his own defects and deformities, and looks upon himself as undone—then he mourns after Christ. 'The springs run in the valleys' (Psalm 104:10). When the heart becomes a valley and lies low by poverty of spirit, now the springs of holy mourning run there. Until a man is poor in spirit, he cannot 'hunger and thirst after righteousness'. He must first be sensible of need, before he can hunger. Therefore Christ begins with poverty of spirit—because this ushers in all the rest.

[2] What is the difference between poverty of spirit, and humility? These are so alike that they have been taken one for the other. Chrysostom, by 'poverty of spirit', understands humility. Yet I think there is some difference. They differ as the cause and the effect. I think that poverty of spirit is the cause of humility, for when a man sees his need of Christ, and how he lives on the alms of free grace—this makes him humble. He who is sensible of his own vacuity and indigence, hangs his head in humility with the violet. Humility is the sweet spice which grows from poverty of spirit.

[3] What is the difference between poverty of spirit, and self-denial? I answer, in some things they agree, in some things they differ. In some things they agree; for the one who is poor in spirit is an absolute self-denier. He renounces all good opinion of himself. He acknowledges his dependence upon Christ and free grace.

But in some things they differ. The self-denier parts with the world for Christ; the poor in spirit parts with himself for Christ, that is—his own righteousness. The poor in spirit sees himself nothing without Christ; the self-denier will leave himself nothing for Christ. And thus I have shown what poverty of spirit is.

The words thus opened present us with this truth—that Christians must be poor in spirit. Or thus—poverty of spirit is the jewel which Christians must wear. As the best creature was made out of nothing; so when a man sees himself to be nothing, out of this nothing God makes a most beautiful creature. It is God's usual method to make a man poor in spirit—and then fill him with the graces of the Spirit. As we deal with a watch, we take it first to pieces, and then set all the wheels and pins in order—so the Lord first takes a man all to pieces, shows him his undone condition—and then sets him in frame.

The reasons are:

1 Until we are poor in spirit—we are not capable of receiving grace. He who is swollen with self-excellency and self-sufficiency—is not fit for Christ. He is full already. If the hand is full of pebbles—it cannot receive gold. The glass is first emptied, before you pour in wine. God first empties a man of himself, before he pours in the precious wine of his grace. None but the poor in spirit are within Christ's commission. 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted' (Isaiah 61:1), that is, such as are broken in the sense of their unworthiness.

2. Until we are poor in spirit—Christ is never precious. Until we see our own wants, we never see Christ's worth. Poverty of spirit is salt and seasoning, which makes Christ relish sweet to the soul. Mercy is most welcome to the poor in spirit. He who sees himself clad in filthy rags (Zechariah 3:4,5), what will he give for change of raiment, the righteousness of Christ! What will he give to have the fair mitre of salvation set upon his head! When a man sees himself almost wounded to death—how precious will the balm of Christ's blood be to him! When he sees himself deep in arrears with God, and is so far from paying the debt that he cannot sum up the debt—how glad would he be for a surety! 'The pearl of great price' is only precious to the one who is poor in spirit. He who needs bread and is ready to starve, will have it whatever it cost. He will lay his garment to pledge; bread he must have—or he is undone! So to him who is poor in spirit, who sees his need of Christ—how precious is a Savior! Christ is Christ and grace is grace to him! He will do anything for the bread of life! Therefore will God have the soul thus qualified—to enhance the value and estimate of the Lord Jesus.

3. Until we are poor in spirit—we cannot go to heaven. 'Theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. Poverty of spirit tunes and prepares us for heaven. By nature a man is puffed up with self-esteem, and the gate of heaven is so narrow that he cannot enter. Now poverty of spirit lessens the soul; it pares off its superfluity, and now he is fit to enter in at the 'narrow gate'. The great rope cannot go through the eye of the needle—but let it be untwisted and made into small threads, and then it may. Poverty of spirit untwists the great rope. It makes a man little in his own eyes, and now an entrance shall be made unto him, 'richly into the everlasting Kingdom' (2 Peter 1:11). Through this temple of poverty, we must go into the temple of glory.

It shows wherein a Christian's riches consist, namely in poverty of spirit. Some think if they can fill their bags with gold—and then they are rich. But those who are poor in spirit, are the rich men. They are rich in poverty. This poverty entitles them to a kingdom! How poor are those who think themselves rich! How rich are those who see themselves poor! I call it the 'jewel of poverty'. There are some paradoxes in piety which the world cannot understand; for a man to become a fool that he may be wise (1 Corinthians 3:18); to save his life by losing it (Matthew 16:25); and by being poor to be rich. Carnal reason laughs at it—but 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom'. Then this poverty is to be striven for more than all riches. Under these rags, is hidden cloth of gold. Out of this carcass comes honey.

If blessed are the poor in spirit, then by the rule of contraries, cursed are the proud in spirit (Proverbs 16:5). There is a generation of men who commit idolatry with themselves; no such idol as self! They admire their own parts, moralities, self-righteousness; and upon this stock graft the hope of their salvation. There are many too good to go to heaven. They have commodities enough of their own growth, and they scorn to live upon the borrow, or to be indebted to Christ. These bladders the Devil has blown up with pride, and they are swelled in their own conceit; but it is like the swelling of a dropsy man whose bigness is his disease. Thus it was with that proud justiciary: 'The Pharisee stood and prayed, God, I thank you that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican; I fast twice in the week, I give tithes ...' (Luke 18:11). Here was a man setting up the topsail of pride; but the publican, who was poor in spirit, stood afar off and would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven—but smote upon his breast saying, 'God be merciful to me a sinner.' This man carried away the garland. 'I tell you' (says Christ) 'this man went down to his house justified rather than the other'. Paul, before his conversion, thought himself in a very good condition, 'touching the law, blameless' (Philippians 3:6). He thought to have built a tower of his own righteousness, the top whereof should have reached to heaven; but, at last, God showed him there was a crack in the foundation, and then he gets into the 'rock of ages'. 'That I may be found in him' (Philippians 3:9). There is not a more dangerous precipice than self-righteousness. This was Laodicea's temper: 'Because you say I am rich and I have need of nothing . . .' (Revelation 3:17). She thought she wanted nothing when indeed she had nothing. How many does this damn! We see some ships that have escaped the rocks—yet are cast away upon the sands; so some who have escaped the rocks of gross sins—yet are cast away upon the sands of self-righteousness; and how hard is it to convince such men of their danger! They will not believe but that they may be helped out of their dungeon with these rotten rags. They cannot be persuaded their case is so bad as others would make it. Christ tells them they are blind—but they are like Seneca's maid, who was born blind—but she would not believe it. The house, says she, is dark—but I am not blind. Christ tells them they are naked, and offers his white robe to cover them—but they are of a different persuasion; and because they are blind, they cannot see themselves naked. How many have perished by being their own saviors! O that this might drive the proud sinner out of himself! A man never comes to himself until he comes out of himself. And no man can come out, until first Christ comes in.

If poverty of spirit be so necessary—how shall I know that I am poor in spirit? By the blessed effects of this poverty, which are:

1. He who is poor in spirit—is weaned from himself. 'My soul is even as a weaned child' (Psalm 131:2). It is hard for a man to be weaned from himself. The vine catches hold of everything that is near, to prop itself upon. Just so, there is some bough or other a man would be catching hold of to rest upon. How hard is it to be brought quite off himself! The poor in spirit are divorced from themselves; they see they must go to hell without Christ. 'My soul is even as a weaned child'.

2. He who is poor in spirit—is a Christ-admirer. He has high thoughts of Christ. He sees himself naked—and flies to Christ, to be clothed in the garments of His righteousness. He sees himself wounded—and as the wounded deer runs to the water, so he thirsts for Christ's blood, the water of life. "Lord!" says he, "give me Christ or I die!" Conscience is turned into a fiery serpent and has stung him; now he will give all the world—for a brazen serpent! He sees himself in a state of death; and how precious is one leaf of the tree of life, which is both for food and medicine! The poor in spirit sees all his riches lie in Christ, 'wisdom, righteousness, sanctification . . '. In every need, he flies to this storehouse! He adores the all-fullness in Christ.

They say of the oil in Rheims, though they are continually almost using it—yet it is never used up. And such is Christ's blood—it can never be emptied. He who is poor in spirit has recourse still to this fountain. He sets a high value and appreciation upon Christ. He hides himself in Christ's wounds. He bathes himself in his blood. He wraps himself in Christ's robe. He sees a spiritual dearth and famine at home—but he flees to Christ. 'Show me the Lord (says he) and it suffices!'

3. He who is poor in spirit—is ever complaining of his spiritual estate. He is much like a poor man who is ever telling you of his needs. He has nothing to help himself with—he is ready to starve! So it is with him that is poor in spirit. He is ever complaining of his needs, saying, "I want a broken heart—and a thankful heart." He makes himself the most indigent creature. Though he dares not deny the work of grace (which would be a bearing false witness again the Spirit)—yet he mourns he has no more grace. This is the difference between a hypocrite and a child of God. The hypocrite is ever telling what good he has. A child of God complains of what good he lacks. The one is glad he is so good; the other grieves he is so bad. The poor in spirit goes from ordinance to ordinance for a supply of his needs; he would gladly have his stock increased. Try by this if you are poor in spirit. While others complain they want children, or they want estates—do you complain you wany grace? This is a good sign. 'There is one who makes himself poor—yet has great riches' (Proverbs 13:7). Some beggars have died rich. The poor in spirit, who have lain all their lives at the gate of mercy and have lived upon the alms of free grace—have died rich in faith, heirs to an eternal kingdom!

4. He who is poor in spirit—is lowly in heart. Rich men are commonly proud and scornful—but the poor are submissive. The poor in spirit roll themselves in the dust in the sense of their unworthiness. 'I abhor myself in dust' (Job 42:6). He who is poor in spirit looks at another's excellencies—and his own infirmities. He denies not only his sins—but his duties. The more grace he has, the more humble he is—because he now sees himself a greater debtor to God. If he can do any duty, he acknowledges it is Christ's strength more than his own (Philippians 4:13). As the ship gets to the haven more by the benefit of the wind than the sail—so when a Christian makes any swift progress, it is more by the wind of God's Spirit than the sail of his own endeavor. The poor in spirit, when he acts most like a saint, confesses himself 'the chief of sinners'. He blushes more at the defect of his graces—than others do at the excess of their sins. He dares not say he has prayed or wept. He lives—yet not he—but Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20). He labors—yet not he—but the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

5. He who is poor in spirit—is much in prayer. He sees how short he is of the standard of holiness, therefore begs for more grace; Lord, more faith, more conformity to Christ. A poor man is ever begging. You may know by this—one who is poor in spirit. He is ever begging for a spiritual alms. He knocks at heaven-gate; he sends up sighs; he pours out tears; he will not leave the gate—until he has his alms. God loves a modest boldness in prayer; such shall not be turned away.

6. He who is poor in spirit—is content to take Christ upon his own terms. The proud sinner will argue and bargain with Christ. He will have Christ—and his pleasures; Christ—and his covetousness. But he who is poor in spirit sees himself lost without Christ, and he is willing to have him upon his own terms, a Prince to rule him—as well as a Saviour to save him: 'Jesus my Lord' (Philippians 3:8). A castle which has long been besieged and is ready to be captured, will surrender on any terms to save their lives. He whose heart has been a garrison for the devil, and has held out long in opposition against Christ, when once God has brought him to poverty of spirit, and he sees himself damned without Christ, let God propound whatever articles he will—he will readily subscribe to them. 'Lord, what will you have me to do?' (Acts 9:6). He who is poor in spirit will do anything—that he may have Christ. He will behead his beloved sin! He will, with Peter, cast himself upon the water to come to Christ.

7. He who is poor in spirit—is an exalter of free grace. None so magnify God's mercy—as the poor in spirit. The poor are very thankful. When Paul had tasted mercy, how thankfully does he adore free grace! 'The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant' (1 Timothy 1:14). It was super-exuberant grace! He sets the crown of his salvation—upon the head of free grace! As a man who is condemned and has a pardon sent him—how greatly he proclaims the goodness and mercifulness of his prince! So Paul displays free grace in its magnificent colors. He interlines all his epistles with free grace. As a vessel which has been perfumed makes the water taste of it—so Paul, who was a vessel perfumed with mercy, makes all his epistles to taste of this perfume of free grace! Those who are poor in spirit, bless God for the least crumb which falls from the table of free grace! Labor for poverty of spirit. Christ begins with this, and we must begin here if ever we are saved. Poverty of spirit is the foundation stone, on which God lays the superstructure of eternal glory!

There are four things which may persuade Christians to be poor in spirit.

1. This poverty is your riches. You may have the world's riches, and yet be poor. You cannot have this poverty without being made rich. Poverty of spirit entitles you to all Christ's riches.

2. This poverty is your nobility. God looks upon you as people of honor. He who is vile in his own eyes—is precious in God's eyes. The way to rise—is to fall. God esteems the valley highest.

3. Poverty of spirit sweetly quiets the soul. When a man is brought off from himself to rest on Christ, what a blessed calm is in the heart! I am poor—but 'my God shall supply all my needs!' (Philippians 4:19). I am unworthy—but Christ is worthy! I am indigent—but Christ is infinite! 'Lead me to the rock that is higher than I' (Psalm 61:2). A man is safe upon a rock. When the soul goes out of itself and centers upon the rock, Christ—now it is firmly settled upon its basis. This is the way to comfort. You will be wounded in spirit—until you come to be poor in spirit.

4. Poverty of spirit paves the pathway for blessedness. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit.' Are you poor in spirit? You are blessed people! Happy for you that ever you were born! If you ask, "Wherein does this blessedness appear?" read the next words, 'Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven'.

5. The poor in spirit are enriched with a heavenly kingdom!

"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3

Here is high advancement for the saints. They shall be advanced to a heavenly kingdom! There are some who, aspiring after earthly greatness, talk of a temporal reign here—but then God's church on earth would not be militant, but triumphant. But sure it is—that the saints shall reign in a glorious manner: 'Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.' A kingdom is the pinnacle and top of all worldly felicity, and 'this honor have all the saints!' So says our Savior, 'Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' All Christ's subjects are kings! By the kingdom of heaven, is meant that state of glory which the saints shall enjoy when they shall reign with God and the angels forever; sin, hell and death being fully subdued.

A. For the illustration of this, I shall show first—wherein the saints in heaven are like kings. Kings have their insignia or regalia, their ensigns of royalty and majesty.

1. Kings have their CROWNS. So the saints after death have their royal crown. 'Be faithful unto death—and I will give you a crown of life' (Revelation 2:10). Believers are not only pardoned—but crowned! The crown is an ensign of honor. A crown is not for everyone. It will not fit every head. It is only for kings and people of renown to wear (Psalm 21:3). The crown which the poor in spirit shall wear in heaven, is an honorable crown. God himself installs them into their honor and sets the royal crown upon their head. And this crown that the saints shall wear, which is divinely glorious and illustrious, exceeds all other.

[1] It is more pure. Other crowns, though they are made of pure gold—yet they are mixed metal; they have their troubles. A crown of gold, cannot be made without thorns. It has so many vexations belonging to it, that it is apt to make the head ache. Which made Cyrus say, did men but know what cares he sustained under the imperial crown, he thought they would not stoop to take it up. But the saints' crown is made without crosses. It is not mingled with care of keeping—or fear of losing. What Solomon speaks in another sense, I may say of the crown of glory, 'It adds no sorrow with it' (Proverbs 10:22). This crown, like David's harp, drives away the evil spirit of sorrow and disquiet. As there can be joy in hell—so there can be no grief in heaven!

[2] This crown of glory does not draw envy to it. David's own son envied him and sought to take his crown from his head. A princely crown is oftentimes the mark for envy and ambition to shoot at! But the crown the saints shall wear is free from envy. One saint shall not envy another—because all are crowned! And though one crown may be larger than another—yet every one shall have as big a crown as he is able to carry!

[3] This is a never-fading crown. Other crowns quickly wear away and tumble into the dust: 'Does the crown endure to all generations?' (Proverbs 27:24). Henry VI was honored with the crowns of two kingdoms, France and England. The first was lost through the faction of his nobles; the other was twice plucked from his head. The crown has many heirs and successors. The crown is a withering thing. Death is a worm which feeds in it; but the crown of glory is imperishable, 'it fades not away' (1 Peter 5:4). It is not like the rose which loses its color and vernancy. This crown cannot be made to wither—but it keeps always fresh and resplendent. Eternity is a jewel of the saints' crown!

2. Kings have their ROBES. The robe is a garment with which Kings are arrayed. 'The King of Israel and the King of Judah sat clothed in their robes' (2 Chronicles 18:9). The robe was of scarlet or velvet lined with ermine, sometimes of a purple color; sometimes of an azure brightness. Thus the saints shall have their robes. 'I beheld a great multitude which no man could number of all nations and kindreds, clothed in white robes' (Revelation 7:9). The saints' robes signify their glory and splendor; white robes denote their sanctity. They have no sin to taint or defile their robes. In these robes they shall shine as the angels!

3. Kings have their SCEPTERS in token of rule and greatness. King Ahasuerus held out to Esther the golden scepter (Esther 5:2); and the saints in glory have their scepter, and 'palms in their hands' (Revelation 7). It was a custom of great conquerors to have palm branches in their hand, in token of victory. So the saints, those kings have 'palms', an emblem of victory and triumph. They are victors over sin and hell. 'They overcame by the blood of the Lamb' (Revelation 12:11).

4. Kings have their THRONES. When Caesar returned from conquering his enemies, there were granted to him four triumphs in token of honor, and there was set for him a chair of ivory in the senate, and a throne in the theater. Just so—the saints in heaven returning from their victories over sin, shall have a throne more rich than ivory or pearl—a throne of glory! (Revelation 3:21).

[1] This shall be a HIGH throne. It is seated high above all the kings and princes of the earth. Nay, it is far above all heavens (Ephesians 4). There is the airy heaven—which is that space from the earth to the sphere of the moon. There is the starry heaven—the place where the stars are. There is the empyrean heaven, which is called the 'third heaven' (2 Corinthians 12:2). In this glorious sublime place, shall the throne of the saints be erected.

[2] It is a SAFE throne. Other thrones are unsafe; they stand tottering. 'You have set them in slippery places' (Psalm 73:18); but the saints' throne is sure. 'He who overcomes shall sit with me upon my throne' (Revelation 3:21). The saints shall sit with Christ. He keeps them safe, that no hand of violence can pull them from their throne. O people of God, think of this—you shall shortly sit upon the heavenly throne with Jesus!

B. Having shown wherein the saints in glory are like kings—let us see wherein the kingdom of heaven excels other kingdoms.

1. It excels in the FOUNDER and MAKER. Other kingdoms have men for their builders—but this kingdom has God for its builder! (Hebrews 11:10). Heaven is said to be 'made without hands' (2 Corinthians 5:1), to show the excellency of it. Neither man nor angel could ever lay stone in this building. God erects this kingdom. Its 'builder and maker is God'.

2. This kingdom excels in the RICHES of it. Gold does not so much surpass iron—as this kingdom surpasses all other riches. 'The gates are of pearl' (Revelation 21:21). 'And the foundations of the wall of it are garnished with all precious stones' (verse 19). It is enough for cabinets to have pearl; but were 'gates of pearl' ever heard of before? It is said that 'Kings shall throw down their crowns and scepters before it (Revelation 4:10), as counting all their glory and riches but dust—in comparison of it. This kingdom has deity itself to enrich it, and these riches are such as cannot be weighed in the balance; neither the heart of man can conceive, nor the tongue of angel express the magnificence of the heavenly kingdom!

3. This kingdom excels in the PERFECTION of it. Other kingdoms are defective. They have not all provisions within themselves, nor have they all commodities of their own growth—but are forced to trade abroad to supply their needs at home. King Solomon sent for gold to Ophir (2 Chronicles 8:18). But there is no defect in the kingdom of heaven! Here are all delights and rarities to be had! 'He who overcomes shall inherit all things!' (Revelation 21:7). Here is beauty, wisdom, glory and magnificence. Here is the Tree of Life in the midst of this paradise. All things are to be found here—but sin and sorrow—the absence whereof adds to the blessedness of this kingdom!

4. This kingdom excels in SECURITY. Other kingdoms fear either foreign invasions or internal divisions. Solomon's kingdom was peaceable a while—but at last he had an alarum given him by the enemy (1 Kings 11:11,14). But the kingdom of heaven is so impregnable, that it fears no hostile assaults or inroads. The devils are said to be locked up in chains (Jude 6). The saints in heaven shall no more need fear them than a man fears a thief who is hanged up in chains. The gates of this celestial kingdom 'are not shut' (Revelation 21:25). We shut the gates of the city in a time of danger—but the gates of that kingdom always stand open—to show that there is no fear of the approach of an enemy. The kingdom has gates for the magnificence of it—but the gates are not shut because of the security of it.

5. This kingdom excels in its STABILITY. Other kingdoms have vanity written upon them. They cease and are changed; though they may have a head of gold—yet feet of clay. 'I will cause the kingdom to cease' (Hosea 1:4). Where is the glory of Athens? the pomp of Troy? What is become of the Assyrian, Grecian, Persian monarchy? Those kingdoms are demolished and laid in the dust! But the kingdom of heaven has eternity written upon it! It is an 'everlasting kingdom' (2 Peter 1:11). Other kingdoms may be lasting—but not everlasting. The apostle calls it 'a kingdom which cannot be shaken' (Hebrews 12:28). It is fastened upon a strong foundation—the omnipotence of God. It runs parallel with eternity. 'They shall reign forever and ever!' (Revelation 22:5).

C. I shall next show the truth of this proposition—that this kingdom is infallibly entailed on the saints.

In regard of God's free grace. 'It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom' (Luke 12:32). It is not for any desert in us—but the free grace in God. The papists say we merit the kingdom—but we disclaim the title of merit. Heaven is a gift of God's grace.

There is a price paid. Jesus Christ has shed his blood for it. All saints come to the kingdom, through blood. Christ's hanging upon the cross was to bring us to the crown. As the kingdom of heaven is a gift in regard of the Father—so it is a purchase in regard of the Son.

1. This shows us that true religion is no unreasonable thing. God does not cut us out work—and give no reward. Godliness enthrones us in a kingdom! When we hear of the doctrine of repentance, steeping our souls in brinish tears for sin; the doctrine of mortification, pulling out the right eye, beheading the king-sin; and we are ready to think it is hard to swallow down this bitter pill. But here is something in the text which may sweeten it. There is a glorious kingdom reserved for us—and that will make amends for all. This glorious recompense as far exceeds our thoughts—as it surpasses our defects. No one can say without wrong to God, that he is a hard master. God gives double pay. He bestows a kingdom upon those who fear him. Satan may disparage the ways of God, like those spies who raised a bad report of the good land (Numbers 13:32). But will Satan mend your wages if you serve him? He gives damnable pay! Instead of a kingdom—he gives 'chains of darkness' (Jude 6).

2. See here the mercy and bounty of God, who has prepared a kingdom for his people. It is a favor that we poor 'worms and no men' (Psalm 22:6) should be allowed to live. But that worms should be made kings—this is divine bounty! It is mercy to pardon us—but it is rich mercy to crown us! 'Behold, what manner of love' is this! Earthly princes may bestow great gifts on their subjects—but they keep the kingdom to themselves. Though Pharaoh advanced Joseph to honor and gave him a ring from his finger—yet he kept the kingdom to himself. 'Only in the throne will I be greater than you' (Genesis 41:40). But God gives a kingdom to his people, he sets them upon the throne! How David admires the goodness of God in bestowing upon him a temporal kingdom! 'Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord and said, Who am I, O Lord God! and what is my house, that you have brought me hitherto?' (2 Samuel 7:18). He wondered that God should take him from the sheepfold and set him on the throne! that God should turn his shepherd's staff into a king's scepter! O then how may the saints admire the riches of grace, that God should give them a glorious kingdom above all the princes of the earth, nay, far above all heavens! God thinks nothing too good for his children. We many times think much of a tear, a prayer, or to sacrifice a sin for him—but He does not think a kingdom is too much to bestow upon us! How will the saints read over the lectures of free grace in heaven, and trumpet forth the praises of that God, who has crowned them with such astonishing loving-kindness! "Don't be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

3. This shows us that Christianity is no disgraceful thing. Wise men measure things by the final end. What is the end of godliness? It brings a glorious kingdom! A man's sin brings him to shame (Proverbs 13:5). What fruit had you in those things, whereof you are now ashamed? (Romans 6:21). But religion brings to honor (Proverbs 4:8). It brings a man to a throne, a crown, it ends in eternal glory! It is the sinner's folly to reproach a saint. It is just as if Shimei had reproached David when he was going to be made king. It is a saint's wisdom to despise a reproach. Say as David when he danced before the ark, 'I will yet be more vile' (2 Samuel 6:22). If to pray and hear and serve my God, is be to be vile—'I will yet be more vile'. This is my excellency, my glory. I am doing now, that which will bring me to a kingdom. O think it no disgrace to be a Christian! I speak it chiefly to you who are entering upon the ways of God. Perhaps you may meet with such as will reproach and censure you. Bind their reproaches as a crown about your head. Despise their censure as much as their praise. Remember there is a kingdom entailed upon godliness. Sin draws hell after it; grace draws a crown after it!

4. See here that which may make the people of God long for death. Then they shall enter upon their glorious kingdom! Indeed the wicked may fear death. It will not lead them to a kingdom—but a horrid dungeon. Hell is the jail where they must lie rotting forever

with the devil and his demons! To every Christless person—death is the king of terror; but the godly may long for death. It will raise them to a kingdom. When Scipio's father had told him of that glory the soul should be invested with in a state of immortality, "why then," says Scipio, "do I tarry thus long upon the earth? Why do I not hasten to die?" Believers are not perfectly happy until death. When Croesus asked Solon whom he thought happy, he told him one Tellus, a man who was dead. A Christian at death shall be completely installed into his honor. The anointing oil shall be poured on him, and the royal crown set upon his head. The Thracians, in their funerals, used festive music. The heathens (as Theocritus' observes) had their funeral banquet, because of that felicity which they supposed the deceased were entered into. The saints are now 'heirs of the kingdom' (James 2:5). Does not the heir desire to be crowned?

Truly there is enough to wean us and make us willing to be gone from hence. The saints 'eat ashes like bread'. They are here in a suffering condition. 'Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cuts wood' (Psalm 141:7). When a man hews and cuts a tree the chips fly up and down; here and there a chip. So here a saint wounded, there a saint massacred; our bones fly like chips up and down. 'For your sake we are killed all the day long' (Romans 8:36). But there is a kingdom a-coming; when the body is buried the soul is crowned. Who would not be willing to sail in a storm—if he were sure to be crowned as soon as he came at the shore? Why is it that the godly look so ghastly at thoughts of death, as if they were rather going to their execution, than their coronation? Though we should be willing to stay here awhile to do service—yet we should with Paul, 'desire to depart—and be with Christ'. The day of a believer's dissolution—is the day of his inauguration.

But how shall we know that this glorious kingdom shall be settled upon us at death?

1. God has set up his kingdom of grace within each of his children. 'The kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:21). By the kingdom of God here—is meant the kingdom of grace in the heart. Grace may be compared to a kingdom. It sways the scepter; it gives out laws. There is the law of love. Grace beats down the devil's garrisons. It brings the heart into a sweet subjection to Christ. Is this kingdom of grace set up in your heart? Do you rule over your sins? Can you bind those kings in chains? (Psalm 149:8). Are you a king over your pride, passion and unbelief? Is the kingdom of God within you? While others aspire after earthly greatness—do you labor for a kingdom within you? Certainly if the kingdom of grace is in your heart, you shall have the kingdom of glory. If God's kingdom of grace enters into you, you shall enter into his kingdom of glory. But let not that man ever think to reign in glory—who now lives a slave to his lusts!

2. If you are a believer—you will go to this blessed kingdom. 'Rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom' (James 2:5). Faith is a heroic act of the soul. It makes a holy adventure on God, by a promise. Faith is the crowning grace. Faith puts us into Christ, and our title to the crown comes in by Christ. By faith we are born of God, and so we become children of the royal blood. By faith our hearts are purified (Acts 15:9, 10), and we are made fit for a kingdom; 'rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom'. Faith paves a highway to heaven. Believers die heirs to the crown.

3. He who has a noble, kingly spirit—shall go to the heavenly kingdom. 'Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.' (Colossians 3:2). He who has a heavenly spirit—shall go to the heavenly kingdom. Do you live above the world? The eagle does not catch flies—she soars aloft in the air. Do you pant after glory and immortality? Do you abhor that which is sordid and carnal? Can you trample upon all sublunary things? Is heaven in your eye—and Christ in your heart—and the world under your feet? He who has such a kingly spirit, who looks no lower than a crown—'he shall dwell on high', and have his throne mounted far above all heavens!

The exhortation has a double aspect.

1. The exhortation looks toward the WICKED. Is there a kingdom to be had, a kingdom so enameled and bespangled with glory? Oh then, do not by your folly make yourselves incapable of this glorious blessing! Do not for the satisfying of a base lust, forfeit a kingdom. Do not drink away a kingdom. Do not for the lap of pleasure—lose the crown of life! If men, before they committed a sin, would but sit down and rationally consider whether the present gain and sweetness in sin, would countervail the loss of the heavenly kingdom—it would put them into a cold sweat, and give some check to their unbridled lusts. Jacob took Esau by the heel. Look not upon the smiling face of sin—but 'take it by the heel'. Look at the end of it. It will deprive you of a kingdom, and can anything make amends for that loss? O, is it not madness, for the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11), to lose a kingdom? How will the devil at the last day reproach and laugh at men, that they should be so stupidly sottish for a rattle—to forgo a crown! They are like those Indians who for glass beads, will part with their gold. Surely it will much contribute to the vexation of the damned—to think how foolishly they missed of a kingdom.

2. The exhortation looks toward the GODLY, and it exhorts to two things.

[1] Is there a kingdom in reserved for us? Then let this be a motive to duty. Do all the service you can for God while you live. 'Spend and be spent.' The reward is honorable. The thoughts of a kingdom, should add wings to prayer, and fire to zeal. Inquire what you have done for God. What love have you shown to his name? What zeal for his glory? Where is the head of that Goliath lust which you have slain for his sake? Methinks we should sometimes go aside into our closets and weep, to consider how little work we have done for God. What a vast disproportion is there between our service—and our reward! What is all our weeping and fasting—compared to a kingdom! Oh improve all your talents for God. Make seasons of grace, opportunities for service.

And that you may act more vigorously for God, know and be assured—that the more work you do, the more glory you shall have. Every saint shall have a kingdom—but the more service any man does for God, the greater will be his kingdom. There are degrees of glory which I will prove thus:

First, because there are degrees of torment in hell. 'They shall receive greater damnation' (Luke 20:47). Those who make religion a cloak for their sin, shall have a hotter place in hell. Now if there are degrees of torment in hell, then by the rule of contraries, there are degrees of glory in the kingdom of heaven.

Again, seeing God in his free grace rewards men according to their works, therefore, the more service they do the greater shall their reward be. 'Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be' (Revelation 22:12). He who has done more—shall receive more. He who gained ten times what was entrusted to him, was made ruler over ten cities (Luke 19:16, 17). This may very much excite to eminency in religion. The more the lamp of your grace shines, the more you shall shine in the heavenly orb. Would you have your crown brighter, your kingdom larger, your palm-branches more flourishing? Be eminent Christians. Do much work, in a little time. While you are laying out, God is laying up. The more glory you bring to God, the more glory you shall have from God.

[2] Walk worthy of this kingdom. 'You should walk worthy of God, who has called you to his kingdom' (1 Thessalonians 2:12). Live as kings! Let the majesty of holiness appear in your faces. Those who looked on Stephen, 'saw his face, as it had been the face of an angel (Acts 6:15). A kind of angelic brightness was seen in his visage. When we shine in zeal, humility, and holinesss—this beautifies and honors us in the eyes of others, and makes us look as those who are heirs to a heavenly crown.

Here is comfort to the people of God in case of poverty. God has provided them a kingdom: 'Theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. A child of God is often so low in the world, that he has not a foot of land to inherit. He is poor in purse—as well as in spirit. But here is a fountain of consolation opened. The poorest saint who has lost all his golden fleece, is heir to a kingdom—a kingdom which excels all the kingdoms and principalities of the world, more than diamond excels dirt! This kingdom is peerless and endless. "The hope of a kingdom," says Basil, "should carry a Christian with courage and cheerfulness through all his afflictions!" And it is a saying of Luther, "The sea of God's mercy, overflowing in spiritual blessings, should drown all the sufferings of this life!" What though you go now in rags? You shall have your white robes! What though you have only bread and water? You shall feast when you come into the kingdom! Here you drink the brinish water of tears—but shortly you shall drink the wine of paradise. Be comforted with the thoughts of your glorious kingdom!


From The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson

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