Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part LXXIX

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Image Depicting Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

by Thomas Watson

An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12 

 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (v.10)

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”

Concerning Persecution

We are now come to the last beatitude: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted

Thus have I shown what that suffering is, which makes us blessed, and shall wear the crown of martyrdom.

1. It shows us what the nature of Christianity is, namely, sanctity joined with suffering. A true saint carries Christ in his heart—and the cross on his shoulders. ‘All who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Timothy 3:12). Christ and his cross are never parted. It is too much for a Christian to have two heavens, one here and another hereafter. Christ’s kingdom on earth is the kingdom of the cross. What is the meaning of the shield of faith, the helmet of hope, the breastplate of patience—but to imply that we must encounter sufferings? It is one of the titles given to the church, ‘afflicted’ (Isaiah 54:11). Persecution is the legacy bequeathed by Christ to his people. ‘In the world you shall have tribulation’ (John 16:33). Christ’s spouse is a lily among thorns. Christ’s sheep must expect to lose their golden fleece. This the flesh does not like to hear of. Therefore Christ calls persecution ‘the cross’ (Matthew 16:24). It is cross to flesh and blood. We are all for reigning. ‘When will you restore the kingdom again to Israel?’ (Acts 1:6). But the apostle tells of suffering before reigning. ‘If we suffer—we shall also reign with him’ (2 Timothy 2:12). How loath is corrupt flesh to put its neck under Christ’s yoke, or stretch itself upon the cross!

True religion gives no charter of exemption from suffering. To have two heavens is more than Christ had. Was Christ crowned with thorns—and do we think to be crowned with roses! ‘Don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you’ (1 Peter 4:12). If we are God’s gold, it is not strange to be cast into the fire. Some there are, who picture Erasmus as half in heaven and half out. Methinks it represents a Christian in this life. In regard of his inward consolation—he is half in heaven. In regard of his outward persecution—he is half in hell.

2. See hence that persecutions are not signs of God’s anger or fruits of the curse, for ‘blessed are those who are persecuted’. If they are blessed who die in the Lord, are they not blessed who die for the Lord? We are very apt to judge them hated and forsaken of God, who are in a suffering condition. ‘If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross’ (Matthew 27:40).The Jews made a question of it. They could hardly believe Christ was the Son of God when he hung upon the cross. Would God let him be reproached and forsaken—if he were the Son of God? When the barbarians saw the viper on Paul’s hand, they thought he was a great sinner. ‘No doubt this man is a murderer’ (Acts 28:4). So when we see the people of God afflicted and the viper of persecution fastens upon them, we are apt to say, ‘These are greater sinners than others, and God does not love them.’ This is for lack of judgment. ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted’. Persecutions are pledges of God’s love, badges of honor (Hebrews 12:7). In the sharpest trial, there is the sweetest comfort. God’s fanning his wheat, is but to make it purer.

1. It reproves such as would be thought good Christians, but will not suffer persecution for Christ’s sake. Their care is not to take up the cross—but to avoid the cross. ‘When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away’ (Matthew 13:21). There are many professors who will suffer nothing for him. These may be compared to the crystal which looks like diamond until it comes to the hammering, then it breaks. Many, when they see the palm-branches and garments spread, cry ‘Hosanna!’ to Christ—but if the swords and staves appear, then they slink away. It is to be feared there are some among us, who, if persecutions should come, would rather make Demas’ choice—than Moses’ choice, and would study rather to keep their skin whole—than their conscience pure. Erasmus highly extolled Luther’s doctrine—but when the Emperor threatened all who should favor Luther’s cause, he unworthily deserted it. Hypocrites will sooner renounce Christ, than take up the cross. If ever we should show ourselves Christians to purpose, we must with Peter throw ourselves upon the water to come to Christ. He who refuses to suffer, let him read over that sad scripture, ‘Whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven’ (Matthew 10:33).

2. It reproves them who are the opposers and persecutors of the saints. How great is their sin! They resist the Holy Spirit. ‘You always resist the Holy Spirit! Which of the prophets have your not fathers persecuted?’ (Acts 7:51, 52). Persecutors offer affront to Christ in heaven. They tread his jewels in the dust, touch the apple of his eye, and pierce his sides. ‘Saul, Saul, why persecute you me?’ (Acts 9:4). When the foot was trodden on, the head cried out. As the sin is great, so the punishment shall be proportionable. ‘Because they poured out the blood of the saints and the prophets, You also gave them blood to drink; they deserve it!’ (Revelation 16:6). Will not Christ avenge those who die in this quarrel?

1. Let it exhort Christians to think beforehand and make account of sufferings. This reckoning beforehand can do us no hurt; it may do us much good.

[1] The fore-thoughts of suffering will make a Christian very serious. The heart is apt to be feathery and frothy. The thoughts of suffering persecution would solidify it. Why am I thus light? Is this a posture fit for persecution? Christians grow serious in the casting up their spiritual accounts. They reckon what religion must cost them, and may cost them. It must cost them the blood of their sins. It may cost them the blood of their lives.

[2] The fore-thoughts of persecution will be as sauce to season our delights, that we do not surfeit upon them. How soon may there be an alarum sounded? How soon may the clouds drop blood? The thoughts of this would take off the heart from the immoderate love of the creature. Our Savior at a great feast breaks out into mention of his death. ‘She has prepared this against my burial’ (Mark 14:8). So the fore-thoughts of persecution would be an excellent antidote against a surfeit.

[3] The fore-thoughts of sufferings would make them lighter when they come. The suddenness of an evil adds to the sadness. This was ill news to the fool in the gospel, ‘This night shall your soul be required of you’ (Luke 12:20). This will be an aggravation of Babylon’s miseries: ‘Her plagues shall come in one day’ (Revelation 18:8). Not that antichrist shall be destroyed in a day—but (‘in a day’) that is, suddenly. The blow shall come unawares, when he does not think of it. The reckoning beforehand of suffering, alleviates and shakes off the edge of it when it comes. Therefore Christ, to lighten the cross, still forewarns his disciples of sufferings that they might not come unlooked for (John 16:33; Acts 1:7).

[4] Fore-thoughts of persecution would put us in mind of getting our armor ready. It is dangerous as well as imprudent, to have all to seek when the trial comes—as if a soldier should have no weapons when the enemy is in the field. He who reckons upon persecution will be in a ready posture for it. He will have the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit ready, that he may not be surprised unawares.
Let us prepare for persecution. A wise pilot in a calm, will prepare for a storm. God knows how soon persecution may come. There seems to be a cloud of blood hanging over the nation.

Let us prepare for persecution. A wise pilot in a calm, will prepare for a storm. God knows how soon persecution may come. There seems to be a cloud of blood hanging over the nation.

How shall we prepare for sufferings? Do three things.

1. Be people rightly qualified for suffering. 

2. Avoid those things which will hinder suffering.

3. Promote all helps to suffering.

1. Labor to be people rightly qualified for suffering. Be righteous people. That man who would suffer ‘for righteousness sake’ must himself be righteous. I mean evangelically righteous. In particular I call him righteous:

[1] A righteous person breathes after holiness (Psalm 119:5). Though sin cleaves to his heart—yet his heart does not cleave to sin. Though sin has an alliance—yet no allowance. ‘I do the very thing I hate!’ (Romans 7:15). A godly man hates the sin to which Satan most tempts and his heart most inclines (Psalm 119:128).

[2] A righteous person is one who makes God’s grace his center. The glory of God is more worth than the salvation of all men’s souls. He who is divinely qualified, is so zealously ambitious for God’s glory, that he does not care what he loses, so long God may be a gainer. He prefers the glory of God before credit, estate, relations. It was the speech of Kiliaz, that blessed martyr, ‘Had I all the gold in the world to dispose of, I would give it to live with my family (though in prison)—yet Jesus Christ is dearer to me than all.’

[3] A righteous person is one who values the jewel of a good conscience at a high rate. Good conscience is a saint’s festival, his music, his paradise, and he will rather hazard anything than violate his conscience. They say of the Irish, if they have a good scimitar, a warlike weapon—that they had rather take a blow on their arm than their scimitar should be hurt. To this I may compare a good conscience. A good man had rather sustain hurt in his body or estate than his conscience should be hurt. He had rather die than violate the virginity of his conscience. Such a man as this is evangelically righteous, and if God calls him to it—he is fit to suffer

 

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