Daily Devotional – The Beatitudes by Thomas Watson Part LXXX

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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

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.

2. Avoid those things which will hinder suffering.

[1] The love of the world. God allows us the use of the world (1 Timothy 6:7, 8). But take heed of the love of it. He who is in love with the world will be out of love with the cross. ‘Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world’ (2 Timothy 4:10). He not only forsook Paul’s company but his doctrine. The love of the world chokes our zeal. A man wedded to the world will for thirty pieces of silver betray Christ and his cause. Let the world be as a loose garment that you may throw off at pleasure. Before a man can die for Christ—he must be dead to the world. Paul was crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14). It will be an easy thing to die, when we are already dead in our affections.

[2] Carnal fear. There is a twofold fear:

A FILIAL fear, when a man fears to displease God. When he fears he should not hold out, this is a good fear. ‘Blessed is he who fears always’. If Peter had feared his own heart better, and said, ‘Lord Jesus, I fear I shall forsake you; Lord strengthen me’; doubtless Christ would have kept him from falling.

There is a COWARDLY fear, when a man fears danger more than sin, when he is afraid to be godly; this fear is an enemy to suffering. God proclaimed that those who were fearful should not go to the wars (Deuteronomy 20:8). The fearful are unfit to fight in Christ’s wars. A man possessed with fear does not consult what is best—but what is safest. If he may save his estate, he will snare his conscience. ‘In the fear of man, there is a snare’ (Proverbs 29:25). Fear made Peter deny Christ, Abraham equivocate, David pretend to be mad. Fear will put men upon sinful courses. Fear makes sin appear little, and suffering great. The fearful man sees double. He looks upon the cross through his microscope, and it appears twice as big as it is. Fear argues sordidness of spirit. It will put one upon things most ignoble and unworthy. A fearful man will vote against his conscience. Fear enfeebles. It is like the cutting off Samson’s locks. Fear melts away the courage. ‘Their hearts melt because of you’ (Joshua 2:9). And when a man’s strength is gone he is very unfit to carry Christ’s cross. Fear is the root of apostasy. Spira’s fear made him abjure and recant his religion.

Fear hurts one more than the adversary. It is not so much an enemy outside the castle, as a traitor within, which endangers it. It is not so much sufferings without, as traitorous fear within, which undoes a man. A fearful man is versed in no posture so much as in retreating. Oh take heed of this! Be afraid of this fear. ‘Fear not those who can kill the body’ (Luke 12:4). Persecutors can but kill the body, which must shortly die anyway. The fearful are set in the forefront of those who shall go to hell (Revelation 21:8). Let us get the fear of God into our hearts. As one wedge drives out another, so the fear of God will drive out all other base fear.

[3] Take heed of a vacillating spirit. A vacillating man will be turned any way with a word. He will be wrought as wax. He is so tame that you may lead him where you will. ‘With fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple’ (Romans 16:18). A vacillating man is malleable to anything. He is like wool that will take any dye. He is a weak reed that will be blown any way with the breath of men. One day you may persuade him to engage in a good cause, the next day to desert it. He is not made of oak—but of willow. He will bend every way. Oh take heed of a vacillating spirit! It is folly to allow one’s self to be abused. A good Christian is like Mount Zion that cannot be moved (Psalm 125:1). He is like Fabricius of whom it was said, a man might as well alter the course of the sun as turn him aside from doing justice. A good Christian must be firm to his resolution. If he be not a fixed star, he will be a falling star.

[4] Take heed of listening to the voice of the flesh. Paul ‘conferred not with flesh and blood’ (Galatians 1:16). The flesh will give bad counsel. First King Saul consulted with the flesh—and afterwards he consulted with the devil. He sends to the witch of Endor. ‘Oh,’ says the flesh, ‘the cross of Christ is heavy! There are nails in that cross which will lacerate, and fetch blood!’ Be as a deaf adder stopping your ears to the charmings of the flesh!

3. Promote those things which will help to suffer.

[1] Inure yourselves to suffering. ‘As a good soldier of Christ endure hardship’ (2 Timothy 2:3). Jacob made the stone his pillow (Genesis 28:18). ‘It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth’ (Lamentations 3:27). The bearing of a lighter cross, will fit for the bearing of a heavier cross. Learn to bear a reproach with patience, and then you will be fitter to bear an iron chain. Paul died daily. He began with lesser sufferings and so by degrees learned to be a martyr. As it is in sin—a wicked man learns to be expert in sin by degrees. First he commits a lesser sin, then a greater, then he arrives at a habit in sin, then he grows impudent in sin, then he glories in sin (Philippians 3:19); so it is in suffering. First a Christian takes up the chips of the cross—mockings and scornings—and then he carries the cross itself.
Alas how far are they from suffering, who indulge the flesh: ‘They lie upon beds of ivory and stretch themselves upon their couches’ (Amos 6:4); a very unfit posture for suffering. That soldier is likely to make but poor work of it, who is stretching himself upon his bed when he should be in the field exercising and drilling. ‘What shall I say,’ says Jerome, ‘to those professors who make it all their care to perfume their clothes, to crisp their hair, to sparkle their diamonds—but if sufferings come, and the way to heaven has any difficulty in it, they will not endure to set their feet upon it!’ Most people are too delicate. They pamper themselves too tenderly. Those ‘silken Christians’ (as Tertullian calls them) who pamper the flesh, are unfit for the school of the cross. The naked breast and bare shoulder, is too soft and tender to carry Christ’s cross. Inure yourselves to hardship. Do not make your pillow too easy.

[2] Be well skilled in the knowledge of Christ. A man can never die for one he does not know. ‘For which cause I suffer those things; for I know whom I have believed’ (2 Timothy 1:12). Blind men are always fearful. A blind Christian will be fearful of the cross. Enrich yourselves with knowledge. Know Christ in his virtues, offices, privileges. See the preciousness in Christ. ‘To you who believe, he is precious’ (1 Peter 2:7). His name is precious; it is as ointment poured forth. His blood is precious; it is as balm poured forth. His love is precious; it is as wine poured forth. Jesus Christ is made up of all sweets and delights. He himself is all that is desirable. He is light to the eye, honey to the taste, joy to the heart. Get but the knowledge of Christ and you will part with all for him. You will embrace him though it be in the fire. An ignorant man can never be a martyr. He may set up an altar—but he will never die for an unknown God.

[3] Prize every truth of God. The filings of gold are precious. The least ray of truth is glorious. ‘Buy the truth—and sell it not’ (Proverbs 23:23). Truth is the object of faith (2 Thessalonians 2:13), the seed of regeneration (James 1:18), the spring of joy (1 Corinthians 13:6). Truth crowns us with salvation (1 Timothy 2:4). If ever you would suffer for the truth—prize it above all things. He who does not prize truth above life will never lay down his life for the truth. The blessed martyrs sealed the truth with their blood. There are two things God counts most dear to him, his glory and his truth.

[4] Keep a good conscience. If there is any sin allowed in the soul, it will unfit for suffering. A man who has a boil upon his shoulders cannot carry a heavy burden. Guilt of conscience is like a boil. He who has this can never carry the cross of Christ. If a ship is sound and well-rigged, it will sail upon the water—but if it is full of holes and leaks, it will sink in the water. If conscience be full of guilt (which is like a leak in the ship), it will not sail in the bloody waters of persecution. If the foundation is rotten, the house will not stand in a storm. If a man’s heart is rotten, he will never stand in a storm of tribulation. How can a guilty person suffer when for ought he knows, he is likely to go from the fire at the stake—to hell-fire! Let conscience be pure. ‘Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience’ (1 Timothy 3:9). A good conscience will abide the fiery trial. This made the martyrs’ flames, to be beds of roses. A good conscience is a wall of brass. With the Leviathan, ‘it laughs at the shaking of a spear’ (Job 41:29). Let one be in prison—a good conscience is a bird that can sing in this cage. Augustine calls it ‘the paradise of a good conscience’.

[5] Make the Scripture familiar to you (Psalm 119:50). The Scripture well digested by meditation, will fit for suffering. The Scripture is a Christian’s armory. It may be compared to the ‘tower of David on which there hang a thousand shields’ (Canticles 4:4). From these breasts of Scripture, divine strength flows into the soul. ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Colossians 3:16). Jerome speaks of one who by frequent studying the Scripture made his breast ‘the library of Christ’. The blessed Scripture as it is a honeycomb for comfort, so an armory for strength. First, the martyrs ‘hearts did burn within them’ (Luke 24:32) by reading the Scripture, and then their bodies were fit to burn. The Scripture arms a Christian both against temptation and persecution.

The Scripture arms a Christian both against TEMPTATION. Christ himself, when he was tempted by the devil ran to Scripture for armor: ‘It is written’. Three times he wounds the old serpent with his sword. Jerome says of Paul, he could never have gone through so many temptations, but for his Scripture-armor. Christians, are you tempted? Go to Scripture; gather a stone hence to fling in the face of a Goliath-temptation. Are you tempted to pride? Read that scripture, ‘God resists the proud’ (1 Peter 5:5). Are you tempted to lust? Read James 1:15, ‘When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and sin when it is finished, brings forth death’.

The Scripture arms a Christian both against PERSECUTION. When the flesh draws back the Scripture will recruit us. It will put armor upon us—and courage into us. ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life’ (Revelation 2:10). O, says the Christian, I am not afraid to suffer. ‘Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.’ But why should I suffer? I love God and is not this sufficient? Nay—but God will test your love. God’s gold is best tried in the furnace. But this persecution is so long! No! it is but for ‘ten days’. It may be lasting—but not everlasting. What are ten days put in balance with eternity? But what am I the better if I suffer? What comes of it? ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.’ Though your body is martyred, your soul shall be crowned. ‘But I shall faint when trials come.’ ‘My grace shall be sufficient’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Christian though weak, has omnipotence to underprop him

 

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