Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part I

New Years greetings to all. As you know I like to start the new year by taking a classic and making a daily devotion of it. Last year it was Mortification of Sin by John Owen, this year I have chosen The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson. I hope it both edifies you and glorifies God. – Mike

Image result for Beatitudes
Image Depicting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

by Thomas Watson, 1660

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven


Poverty of Spirit

“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.

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