At the beginning [of the Sermon on the Mount] stand the Beatitudes, engraven in golden script upon its portal, reminding us that we are not received by Jesus into a school of ethics but into a kingdom of redemption. It is blessedness that is promised here, and the word does not so much signify a state of mind, as that great realm of consummation and satisfaction, which renders man’s existence, once he has entered into it, serene and secure for evermore. And again, foremost among the the Beatitudes stand those that emphasize the emptiness, the absolute dependence of man upon divine grace. At the dawn of the gospel Mary sang: “He has put down princes from their thrones, and has exalted them of low degree; the hungry He has filled with good things and the rich He has sent away,” so here those pronounced blessed are the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, and they that hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is in no wise to the self-satisfied mind that the Lord addresses Himself; His call is not a call to exertion, not even to exertion in holiness; it were too little to say that it is an invitation to receive; it goes farther than that; it amounts to the declaration that the consciousness of having nothing, absolutely nothing, is the certain pledge of untold enrichment. So much is salvation a matter of giving on God’s part that its best subjects are those in whom His grace of giving can have its perfect work. The poor in spirit, those that mourn, the meek and the hungry, these are made to pass before our eyes as so many typical forms of its embodiment. And because this is so, they are here also introduced as having the promise of the infinite. To be a child of God and a disciple of Jesus means to hold in one’s hand the treasures of eternity.

Advertisements