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When we are emptied of sin and self, then there is room for the Almighty to "pour into us of his spirit. If we would fill any thing, it must first be empty; so must we be empty, if we hunger and thirst after righteousness : truly, then shall we pray to our heavenly Father for divine food, and it will be our meat and drink to do his will; and we shall delight to feed upon his word; as Christ says,
“ Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This is the holy food for the soul, which nourishes and keeps it alive unto God: and without which it is dead, notwithstanding it may have the form and fashion of a living body. And as this hunger and thirst, or desire, must be spiritual, so must the food be also; “ It being the spirit that quickens,” and gives life to the soul; wherefore let a spiritual hunger and thirst be in the soul after God, and his righteousness. A righteous soul being greatly athirst after the living Lord, cries out, “ As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so doth my soul after the living God.” And this holy thirst was greatly satisfied, so that his heart was many times sweetly opened to praise the Lord. It is true we have an adversary, that would be filling us with many things, fleshly, worldly, and satanical ; but we are to shut our hearts against him, and to keep out all those things, and to stand open to Christ, and empty before him. And if we find this our adversary too hard for us, we are to fly, and cry to the Lord for succour and help, who is a God not only afar off, but also near at hand, and a present help in the needful time, as many of his servants and children have experienced and witnessed him to be. Wherefore, to be hungry and thirsty after Christ and his righteousness, entitles us to his gracious promise, who says they shall be filled.
“ Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Verse 7.
It is highly necessary for mortals to shew mercy, in ll their words and actions one to another and also to the creatures which God hath made for the use of man. It is usually said, that a merciful man is merciful to his beast,
2 which generally is true, and if men are merciful to their
beasts, how much more ought they to be merciful one to another. Where mercy is to be extended, it ought not to be done sparingly, since thereby (according to Christ's blessed doctrine) we are to obtain mercy. That servant who shewed no mercy to his fellow, had no mercy showed unto him from his lord. It is also recorded, in the name of the Lord, “ He hath shewn unto thee, O, man! what is good, that thou should do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God.” By which it appears that we are not just in the sight of God, if we are cruel and unmerciful one to another. And we ought not only to be merciful, but to love it. Which, if we are truly humble, we shall certainly do. Mercy will lessen, and not magnify weakness, failings, or small and trivial things one in another : and sometimes, as the case may require, some larger things : and yet there is room for seasonable reproof and correction : but mercy must be mixed with justice, else the correction may end in tyranny. We ought to be gentle to all men, which is a true token of true gentility : so to be truly merciful, is to be blessed, and to obtain mercy.
*“ Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Verse 8.
By which we may understand, that we are to take care of our hearts; and to keep a strict watch over them ; and not admit unclean or unchaste thoughts, or sinful desires, to have an entrance therein. And if at unawares they should at any time enter, we must not entertain nor love them, but turn them out; for we, in this, should be like our Heavenly Father, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity with any allowance or approbation : otherwise it will hinder us from seeing God, and from the sweet enjoyment of his most precious presence, and beholding the only begotten of the Father, and the fulness of his grace and truth, which we cannot see if our hearts are impure : an instance of which we have in the scribes and pharisees, though they were outwardly righteous and clean, yet within were very impure, so that they could not see God, though he was in Christ reconciling the world to himself: notwithstanding their nice ; discerning eyes, yet they could not see him, for the impurity of their hearts; which was so great, that they murdered the Just One, their hearts being full of deceit and hyprocrisy. “Make clean the inside, that the outside may be clean also," says Christ: from whence it appears, that a true christian must be clean, both within and without also. The true beginning of the work of purity and sanctity, must be first within ; and being innocent and pure in heart, we shall then see the glory of the Father, the lovely beauty of the Son, and the power of the Holy Ghost, or Spirit.
“ Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.” Versc 9.
This peace-making is excellent work, and a blessed calling; what pity it is, that there is not such workmen in the world, who would set themselves heartily to it, which if they did, in a right spirit, God would certainly prosper the work in their hands, and plentifully reward them with his own peace, which passeth the common understanding of the natural man. If our ingenious men, our men and women of skill, and good natural parts, would take a little pains, nay, when the case requires it, a great deal, the Almighty would richly reward them. This work is not too mean even for princes and nobles; no, not even the greatest monarchs on earth, without it be too mean for them to be called the children of God. And if the children of God are peace-makers, what, and whose children are they, who break the peace of nations, communities and families ? wherefore, we should seek peace with all men, and ensue it, or sue for it, by our
continual seeking of it, being a precious jewel, when · found; and though this office may seem a little unthankful in the beginning, or at first, yet in the end it brings forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness, as many so labouring have witnessed. And Christ, to encourage the work, says, “ They shall be called the children of God;" which are words of the King of kings; and if the princes of this world would promote this work among themselves, it would save a vast expense of treasure, and of blood;
and as these peace-makers are to be called the children of God, they who are truly concerned herein, are not only so called, but are so indeed, and in truth.
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteous. ness sake ; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Verse 10.
Persecution may be considered in relation to calumny and reproach, and in imprisonments, confinements, or the like, or taking away life or goods on a religious account, for conscientious scruples, &c. What sad work hath there been on this account in the world, not among Turks and Jews only, but among professors of Christ and christianity, which is indeed a great reproach to that holy
Persecution for righteousness sake, is not fit for Turks or Jews, much less for the professors of our meek Lord; his dispensation and gospel being absolutely the reverse of it, which is a shameful sin to all men, in all nations : but however, the persecuted have this comfort in the midst of all their sufferings, they are blessed of Christ their Lord; who himself fuffered for ther, and are promised by him the kingdom of heaven. By which doctrine, it may be safely concluded, that the members of his true church never persecuted any, though they have been often persecuted by many, as the large and voluminous books and tracts (of persecuting for religion) now extant, do plainly make appear; by which the eyes of many are open to see the ugliness of it; and a spirit of moderation begins to grow and spring a little in the earth, in divers parts thereof.
It were to be desired, that all christians' moderation might more and more increase, and might appear unto all men ; because God is at hand, who will justify the innocent (whom he knows better than any man, because he sees their hearts) and he will condemn none but the guilty. How shall the Jews be converted, or the Turks be convinced to, and of the verity of the christian religion, while its professors are tearing and rending one another to pieces : had it not been for the immoderation and per. secution among professors of Christ in christendom, so called, it is probable christianity would have made a far
greater progress in the four quarters of the world long before this time, than it hath now done. Persecution hath been proposed by the immoderate, to allay heats and divisions, and cure breaches; but the ancient history of persecution, and the modern practice of it, fully convince us, that it hath always tended to make the hot, hotter, the divisions greater, and the breach wider, and so the contention to grow endless ; which nothing will end, but a calm and quiet temper of mind, the mind being cooled by the gentle influences of the Holy Spirit of Christ, the immaculate Lamb; who came not to destroy, nor devour, but to seek and to save that which was lost, and gone astray, that he might bring them home to his fold of rest, in his Father's kingdom.
“Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Verse 11.
Rejoice and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets, who were before you." Verse, 12.
There is a persecution as before hinted, by calumny, and reproach, or reviling, by evil speaking, and falsities, which, for the most part, it is better patiently and quietly to suffer for Christ's sake ; and if we are abused, to appeal to him, for many times words beget words, till at last it comes to prejudice, and breaks the unity and peace of brethren and families ; so that in a general way one had better suffer the calumnies and reproaches of evil men, with a tender concern for God's glory, resting in the blessing of Christ, and that thou wilt most surely feel if thou canst appeal to him on this wise, “Lord, thou knowest I suffer this wrong for thy sake.” In such sufferings there is an inward joy, a spiritual rejoicing; and the heart of the persecuted is abundantly more glad, through the blessing and goodness of Christ, than the persecutor, whose conscience accuseth him in secret. And as to personal persecution, it is no more than the prophets, and our Lord did suffer before us: and with that consideration Christ comforts his suffering seed: " Those who suffer with him and his seed, these have