Monday, August 2, 2010

Matthew Mondays: The Beatitudes

Thanks to Matt for his impeccable job filling in as guest blogger today; having him cover on The Voice means that I was able to move the last of my things to a new apartment without also having to worry about trying to write and research a blog post. While things have been quite dead on here for the past week (and not just because one of the "bloggers" here passed away back in 1714), moving is done, and I can now resume my (mostly) daily blogging duties on this site. Right now, I'm drafting up some big projects and trying to finish up the 13-part review of Mark Driscoll's book Doctrine. I can't say what all of the upcoming projects will be, but for one of them, let's just say that I've got a JVC camcorder and unlimited access to a group of published Biblical scholars. -Sean Rice

Matthew Henry on the Beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit for the kingdom of heaven is theirs! Blessed are the mourners: for they shall be comforted! Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth! Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they shall be satiated! Blessed are the merciful: for on them shall be mercies! Blessed are the clean in heart: for they shall behold God! Blessed are the cultivators of peace: for they shall be called sons of God! Blessed are they that are persecuted on account of righteousness: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs! Blessed are ye, when they revile you and persecute you, and speak every evil thing against you, falsely, on my account. At that time, rejoice and be glad: for your reward in heaven is great. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.

Each of the blessings Christ here pronounces has a double intention: 1. To show who they are that are to be accounted truly happy, and what their characters are. 2. What that is wherein true happiness consists, in the promises made to persons of certain characters, the performance of which will make them happy. Now,

The American Dream Isn't Happiness
I. This is designed to rectify the ruinous mistakes of a blind and carnal world. Blessedness is the thing which men pretend to pursue; Who will make us to see good? (Psalm 4:6). But most mistake the end, and form a wrong notion of happiness; and then no wonder that they miss the way; they choose their own delusions, and court a shadow. The general opinion is, Blessed are they that are rich, and great, and honourable in the world; they spend their days in mirth, and their years in pleasure; they eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and carry all before them with a high hand, and have every sheaf bowing to their sheaf; happy the people that is in such a case; and their designs, aims, and purposes are accordingly; they bless the covetous (Psalm 10:3); they will be rich. Now our Lord Jesus comes to correct this fundamental error, to advance a new hypothesis, and to give us quite another notion of blessedness and blessed people, which, however paradoxical it may appear to those who are prejudiced, yet is in itself, and appears to be to all who are savingly enlightened, a rule and doctrine of eternal truth and certainty, by which we must shortly be judged. If this, therefore, be the beginning of Christ's doctrine, the beginning of a Christian's practice must be to take his measures of happiness from those maxims, and to direct his pursuits accordingly.

All Rich and Poor Are Welcome
II. It is designed to remove the discouragements of the weak and poor who receive the gospel, by assuring them that his gospel did not make those only happy that were eminent in gifts, graces, comforts, and usefulness; but that even the least in the kingdom of heaven, whose heart was upright with God, was happy in the honours and privileges of that kingdom.

Making Way for Christ In People's Hearts
III. It is designed to invite souls to Christ, and to make way for his law into their hearts. Christ's pronouncing these blessings, not at the end of his sermon, to dismiss the people, but at the beginning of it, to prepare them for what he had further to say to them, may remind us of mount Gerizim and mount Ebal, on which the blessings and cursings of the law were read, Deu_27:12, etc. There the curses are expressed, and the blessings only implied; here the blessings are expressed, and the curses implied: in both, life and death are set before us; but the law appeared more as a ministration of death, to deter us from sin; the gospel as a dispensation of life, to allure us to Christ, in whom alone all good is to be had. And those who had seen the gracious cures wrought by his hand (Matthew 4:23-24), and now heard the gracious words proceeding out of his mouth, would say that he was all of a piece, made up of love and sweetness.

The Agreement Between God and Man
IV. It is designed to settle and sum up the articles of agreement between God and man. The scope of the divine revelation is to let us know what God expects from us, and what we may then expect from him; and no where is this more fully set forth in a few words than here, nor with a more exact reference to each other; and this is that gospel which we are required to believe; for what is faith but a conformity to these characters, and a dependence upon these promises? The way to happiness is here opened, and made a highway (Isaiah 35:8); and this coming from the mouth of Jesus Christ, it is intimated that from him, and by him, we are to receive both the seed and the fruit, both the grace required, and the glory promised. Nothing passes between God and fallen man, but through his hand. Some of the wiser heathen had notions of blessedness different from the rest of mankind, and looking toward this of our Saviour. Seneca, undertaking to describe a blessed man, makes it out, that it is only an honest, good man that is to be so called: (De Vitâ Beatâ. cap. 4.) Cui nullum bonum malumque sit, nisi bonus malusque animus - Quem nec extollant fortuita, nec frangant - Cui vera voluptas erit voluptatum comtemplio - Cui unum bonum honestas, unum malum turpitudo. - 'In whose estimation nothing is good or evil, but a good or evil heart - Whom no occurrences elate or deject - Whose true pleasure consists in a contempt of pleasure - To whom the only good is virtue, and the only evil vice.'

-Matthew Henry

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