The Signs of the Times


May 9, 1892

The Beatitudes

[Sermon at N. Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia, December 13, 1892 [1891].]


I want to speak to you today from the words of the Saviour found in Matthew the fifth chapter. “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto him.” As far as possible we should try to bring before us the scene of our Saviour's labors, that we may fasten our attention upon the occasion of the lessons which our Lord addressed to the people. The words of our lesson are from the lips of no other than the Majesty of heaven. They are not the words of man, that may be criticised, but are the words of Him who was equal with the Father, one with God. In these words we recognize the voice of the highest authority that ever spake to man. ST May 9, 1892, par. 1

“And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are”—those who are filled with joyful emotion? who are highly elated? who feel that they are rich in spiritual attainment?—No; “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Do you ask what it means to be poor in spirit? The next verse is of a like character, and says, “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” To be poor in spirit means that we feel our deficiency and need because we have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is this that causes us to mourn. But because the Saviour says, “Blessed are they that mourn,” are we to come to the conclusion that he would have us always lamenting our poverty of spirit, our lack of spiritual grace? Is it necessary to make it manifest that you are mourning, in order to be counted among those whom the Saviour pronounces “blessed”?—No; for by beholding we become changed, and if we talk of our poverty and weakness, we shall only become more poverty-stricken, more feeble in spiritual things. If we talk darkness, we shall have darkness. To be poor in spirit is to be never satisfied with present attainments in the Christian life, but to be ever reaching up for more and more of the grace of Christ. The poor in spirit is one who looks upon the perfection of Jesus’ character, and sees his own unlikeness to him who is glorious in holiness. The poor in spirit is one who is ever responding to the drawing of Christ, and who is obtaining nearer and nearer views of the perfect righteousness of Christ, and in contrast sees his own unworthiness and unlikeness to his Lord. ST May 9, 1892, par. 2

He is poor in spirit, but he is not making a parade of his poverty; he shows that he is of this class by manifesting humility and meekness, by not depreciating others that he may exalt himself. He has no time for doing this; he sees many defects in his own character which demand his attention, and he knows that he cannot afford to be found criticising others. As he beholds the infinite love and mercy of God towards sinners, his heart is melted. He feels his poverty of spirit, but instead of calling attention to his weakness he seeks continually for the richness of the grace of Christ, for the robe of his righteousness. The language of the heart of him who is poor in spirit is, “Less of self and more of Thee.” He desires Jesus. He knows that there is nothing in him whereby he can procure the freedom which Christ has purchased for him at the infinite price of his precious blood. He sees that the good works which he has done are all mingled with self, and he can take no glory to himself because of his attainments in the Christian life. He realizes that there is merit in naught else but the blood of Christ. But it is because of this very realization that he is blessed; for if he did not feel his need, he would not obtain the heavenly treasure. ST May 9, 1892, par. 3

When Christ was upon earth, the Pharisees made bitter complaint against him because he was the friend of publicans and sinners. They said to his disciples: “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” The Pharisees felt that they were whole; they felt that they were rich and increased with goods and had need of nothing, and knew not that they were poor and miserable and blind and naked and wretched. They were satisfied with their moral condition, but Jesus said, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” It is the needy that Jesus is seeking. Brethren and sisters, do you feel that you are needy? Are you saying, as did the Greeks that came to Jerusalem, “We would see Jesus”? The Greeks came to seek Jesus at the time when the Pharisees were upon his track, trying by every possible way to find something whereby they could accuse and condemn him. How grateful to the Master was the sincere desire and confidence of the Greeks at this time of trial and sorrow. The Greeks wanted to see him because they had heard of his mighty works, they had heard of his wisdom and truth, and they believed on him; for they knew that he was the desire of their hearts. ST May 9, 1892, par. 4

The great danger with the people who profess to believe the truth for this time is that they shall feel as if they were entitled to the blessing of God because they have made this or that sacrifice, done this or that good work, for the Lord. Do you imagine that because you have decided to keep the Sabbath of the Lord, God is under obligation to you, and that you have merited his blessing? Does the sacrifice you have made look of sufficient merit to you to entitle you to the rich gifts of God? If you have an appreciation of the work that Christ has wrought out for you, you will see that there is no merit in yourself or in your work. You will see your lost condition and become poor in spirit. There is but one thing for the poor in spirit to do, and that is to look continually to Jesus, to believe in him whom the Father hath sent. ST May 9, 1892, par. 5

When the people came to Jesus, they asked him at one time: “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” Now the question is, Are we doing this? Do we feel our need? God has committed to us sacred trusts. The hereditary trusts of patriarchs and prophets have come down along the lines to us, and with them precious light has shone upon us. We have received divine enlightenment, and yet we have not made the advancement in the pathway of holiness that we should have made. Our obligation and responsibility have been faithfully pointed out, but we have not taken hold upon the strength of God, that we might fulfill our obligations to him. Throughout all the churches there is one subject of vital importance that has been neglected. We have failed to make the Holy Spirit the theme of our thought and instruction. Light has come to us concerning the offices of the Spirit of God, and with burdened heart some have presented to the church the great provision that God has made for the people in the gift of his Holy Spirit. ST May 9, 1892, par. 6

Jesus said to his disciples: “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The Comforter is to come as a reprover, as one who is to lay open before us our defects of character, and at the same time to reveal to us the merit of Him who was one with the Father. Jesus says, “He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.” In Christ dwelt all the fullness of the God-head bodily, and we are to be complete in him. With all our defects of character, we are to come to him in whom all fullness dwells. ST May 9, 1892, par. 7

But many of you say, “I have prayed, I have tried, I have struggled, and I do not see that I advance one step.” What is the trouble? Have you not thought you were earning something, that you were by your struggles and works paying the price of your redemption? This you never can do. Christ has paid the price of your redemption. There is only one thing that you can do, and that is to take the gift of God. If you feel that you are poverty-stricken in spirit, you can come in all your need, and plead the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. But you cannot come expecting that Christ will cover your wickedness, cover your indulgence in sin, with his robe of righteousness. He has come to save his people from their sins. The people of God are to be as branches grafted into the living Vine, to be partakers of the nature of the Vine. If you are a living branch of the True Vine, Jesus will prove you by affliction, that you may bring forth fruit more abundantly. ST May 9, 1892, par. 8

The reason why we have not more of the Spirit and power of God with us is that we feel too well satisfied with ourselves. There is a marked tendency among those who are converted to the truth, to make a certain measure of advancement, and then settle down into a state of solidity, where no further progress is attained. They stand right where they are, and cease to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But the religion of Christ is of a character that demands constant advancement. The Lord does not design that we shall ever feel that we have reached to the full measure of the stature of Christ. Through all eternity we are to grow in knowledge of him who is the head of all things in the church. If we would draw upon his grace, we must feel our poverty. Our souls must be filled with an intense longing after God, until we realize that we shall perish unless Christ shall put upon us his Spirit and grace, and do the work for us. ST May 9, 1892, par. 9

(To be Continued.)