by Thomas Watson
“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
Theme: a duty implied; a promise annexed.
To persuade men to hunger after this righteousness, consider two things.
1. Unless we hunger after righteousness we cannot obtain it. God will never throw away his blessings upon those who do not desire them. A king may say to a rebel, ‘Do but desire a pardon and you shall have it.’ But if through pride and stubbornness he disdains to sue out his pardon, he deserves justly to die. God has set spiritual blessings at a low rate. Do but hunger and you shall have righteousness; but if we refuse to come up to these terms there is no righteousness to be had for us. God will stop the current of his mercy and set open the sluice of his indignation!
2. If we do not thirst here we shall thirst when it is too late. If we do not thirst as David did ‘My soul thirsts for God’ (Psalm 42:2) we shall thirst as Dives did for a drop of water (Luke 16:24). Those who do not thirst for righteousness shall be in perpetual hunger and thirst. They shall thirst for mercy—but no mercy will be received. Heat increases thirst. When men shall burn in hell and be scorched with the flames of God’s wrath, this heat will increase their thirst for mercy—but there will be nothing to allay their thirst. O is it not better to thirst for righteousness while it is to be had, than to thirst for mercy when there is none to be had? Sinners, the time is shortly coming when the drawbridge of mercy will be quite pulled up!
I shall next briefly describe some helps to spiritual hunger.
1. Avoid those things which will hinder your appetite. As ‘windy things’. When the stomach is full of wind a man has little appetite to his food. So when one is filled with a windy opinion of his own righteousness, he will not hunger after Christ’s righteousness. He who, being puffed up with pride, thinks he has grace enough already, will not hunger after more. These windy vapors spoil the appetite.
‘Sweet things’ spoil the appetite. So by feeding immoderately upon the sweet luscious delights of the world, we lose our appetite to Christ and grace. You never knew a man who glutted himself upon the world, and at the same time was greatly in love with Christ. While Israel fed with delight upon garlic and onions, they never hungered after manna. The soul cannot be carried to two extremes at once. As the eye cannot look intent on heaven and earth at once, so a man cannot at the same instant hunger excessively after the world, and after righteousness! The earth puts out the fire. The love of earthly things will quench the desire of spiritual things. ‘Love not the world’ (1 John 2:15). The sin is not in the having the world—but in the loving the world.
2. Do all that may nourish spiritual appetite. There are two things which nourish appetite.
Exercise: a man by walking and exercising gets an appetite for his food. So by the exercise of holy duties the spiritual appetite is increased. ‘Exercise yourself unto godliness’ (1 Timothy 4:7). Many have left off closet prayer. They hear the Word but seldom, and for lack of exercise they have lost their appetite to religion.
Sauce: sauce whets and sharpens the appetite. There is a twofold sauce which provokes holy appetite: first, the ‘bitter herbs’ of repentance. He who tastes gall and vinegar in sin, hungers after the body and blood of the Lord. Second, affliction. God often gives us this sauce to sharpen our hunger after grace. ‘Reuben found mandrakes in the field’ (Genesis 30:14). The mandrakes are a herb of a very strong savor, and among other virtues they have, they are chiefly medicinal for those who have weak and bad appetites. Afflictions may be compared to these mandrakes, which sharpen men’s desires after that spiritual food which in time of prosperity they began to loathe and nauseate. Poverty is the sauce which cures the gluttony of plenty. In sickness people hunger more after righteousness, than in health. ‘The full soul loathes the honeycomb’ (Proverbs 27:7).
Christians, when glutted on the world, despise the rich cordials of the gospel. I wish we did not slight those truths now, which would taste sweet in a prison. How precious was a leaf of the Bible in Queen Mary’s days! The wise God sees it good sometimes to give us the sharp sauce of affliction, to make us feed more hungrily upon the bread of life. And so much for the first part of the text, ‘Blessed are those who hunger.