What a mercy it is, then, to be a mourner! Whatever the mourners may think, whatever the mourners may say, whatever the mourners may believe or fear, God says they are "blessed." And He cannot mistake the matter, for He is God; and He can never speak anything but truth. And there never can be any uncertainty in its being accomplished; for what He says He does, and it stands for ever and ever. "Blessed are they that mourn." There are many times when mourners do not think so; there are many times when they do not believe it; but no matter for that. There are times and seasons when God will bring them to see it, believe it, yea and rejoice in their God.
By God's help, we shall endeavor to show some of the blessings that the mourners are blessed with.
I. These mourners are blessed with the light and life of God in their souls. What a great blessing is that! All talk without the light and life of God is but empty words, and tends only to puff up. Without the light and life of God, what is prayer? It is only the chattering of the lips. Without the light and life of God, what is preaching but an empty sound? The light and life of God are the very blessings that will secure all the mercies of God to the heart. We are certain that there must be the light and the life of God in the heart before ever a man can "mourn." For a dead man cannot mourn; a dead man cannot sigh; a dead man knows nothing about feeling. But when the light and life of God enter into the heart and dwell in the soul, it is a blessing that never can be drowned, that never can be conquered, that never can be overthrown. It abides,--abides for ever. God says it is "everlasting life,"--"everlasting light,"--"a well of water springing up into everlasting life." So here is a rich blessing.
Now the light and life of God give the mourner a discovery of what he is. The light of God gives him a discovery of himself, and a discovery of God, in the measure that God sees right and fit; and life to feel it--so that it is "the light of life." And when the mourner comes here, and has a sight of himself, of his baseness, of his ingratitude, of his wanderings, of his unthankfulness, of his pride, of his hardened, presumptuous feelings, of the dreadful workings that there are in his mind, O what a grief he has at times over these! What mourning he has over his baseness, against the goodness, the mercy, the kindness and the compassion of God! There are tens of thousands of professors of religion that know no more about this than a young colt; this they leave for a parcel of people, they say, that are away with nothing but fleshly wind. But mourners, they have this experience, and they had rather have a thousand times over a sense of their vileness, and even bewail it in the dust, than they would have mere sentiment in their heads, and not the life of God in their hearts. I believe God teaches them to feel such a value in the immortal blessings of His eternal truth that they had rather suffer anything than be deceived and carried away with empty doctrine, without the teaching or power of God's Spirit.
When the mourner comes to have a sight of himself, and the life of God in his soul to feel it, how it grieves him! How his soul is weighed down! What does he say? "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in me, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores." (Isa. 1:6) He cries, "O wretch that I am! beast that I am! O, what a miserable, ignorant, worthless, foolish, wandering, ungodly, hell-deserving wretch I am!" He mourns to feel it in his very heart. Where the light and life of God are in the soul, it is that blessing that will teach the soul to see and feel the heinousness of sin, and teach the heart to abhor it. A man having the blessed light and life of God in his heart, and following after sin with patience cannot drink it in with gratification!--why, that is giving the Word of Truth the lie. The mourner has got enough in him to see and feel the wretchedness of his heart, the slipping of his tongue, the ungratefulness of his feelings for God's mercy, the evil passions that sometimes rise up, the hastiness of his expressions, the wretched feelings that he durst not name to mortal, to clothe him with sackcloth; and he mourns before God, and confesses it.
Have you never had these feelings? Do you know anything now of what it is to mourn? If you do not, you have not God's blessing of light and life in your hearts, however you may talk about it, and whatever you may think about it, and whatever others may think of you or may say of you, and whatever use you may be to others. You may be useful to God's people, and God's cause; you may be of as much use even as a scaffolding it to a building; but when the building is complete, the scaffolding is taken down; it is no part of the building. If you know nothing about mourning, grieving, sighing, panting, confessing, and hating yourself for your sin against God, you have not the blessing of God's light and life in your soul.
II. "Blessed are they that mourn;" for they are blessed with an appetite,--a keeness, a longing, a panting, a desiring appetite for Christ, the Lord of life and glory, that they may feed upon Him, live upon Him, eat His flesh and drink His blood, and prove that He is their God and their Saviour. Every mourning soul has this blessing. I do not mean that he has this blessing every moment, that he has this blessing perpetually in exercise, of a keen appetite after Christ and for Christ, a begging for Him to enter in, to open the door and walk into his heart. No; sometimes the mourning soul is as dry, as dead in his feelings and as barren in his heart, as a barren heath; and sometimes he fears that he is just like a tree "plucked up by the roots," "twice dead;" and he is afraid that there is not the life of God in his heart. But there is. It is the light and the life of God that give him this feeling, that give him the confession and feeling of his state; and in God's own time he is brought again to have such an appetite. And how is he brought? Why, the soul is brought by the Spirit of the living God to see and to feel that there is no other object but Christ, that can satisfy his heart. He is cut off from men, cut off from himself, cut off from a covenant of works, cut off from every object under heaven, cut off from his own help, cut off from every hope; and his heart is brought to pant for Christ to come into his soul, and to have the sweet testimony that he is His, and that Christ is in him: his heart pants after Christ, "as the heart pants after the water brooks."
This is "blessing,"--the blessing of God. A natural man has not this blessing; a man dead in sin has not this blessing. "Ah!" say you, "but an appetite, a longing appetite--how can this be a blessing?" Why, the poor soul does not feel it a blessing; he does not enjoy a hungry appetite as a blessing; but it is a blessing. Have you not found it the case literally, with your body, that if you have had no appetite when the dinner has come upon the table, you have looked at it, and smelt it, and tasted it, but nothing was palatable, you did not enjoy any of it; it seemed to have no savor to your taste; it seemed as if the plentiful table that was spread was a mockery; your appetite was gone, and you could not give yourself an appetite. But when you have a good appetite, how sweet it is, is it not? Why, is it not a common saying in natural things,--what a good thing it is to have an appetite! I have been told, many a time, to go and walk out in the air before dinner, as the means of getting a good appetite. When there has been plenty to eat, it has been very nice to have a good appetite; but it is a most dismal thing to come with a good appetite and with great expectations, and find nothing but the cloth and knives and forks, and no provision.
The appetite itself is not the blessing, merely to have the appetite when there is nothing to meet it. But when the mourner has this appetite, God is preparing for him the feast. God is emptying him of the world, stripping him of self, bringing him out of every refuge of lies, to see and feel that he is damned without Christ, and nothing but Christ Jesus entering into his heart as his God and Saviour can satisfy his poor hungry soul. This is a blessing; for if there is a poor soul that has any such appetite for Christ, and has been panting for Christ, longing for Christ, thirsting after Christ, He will appear by-and-by. Ah! I was months, and months and thought I never should see Him, and He would never satisfy my heart; but He did. He says, "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." Nobody else can satisfy these hungry souls; no, not all the men in the world, nor all the ministers of God, nor all the sermons you may put into their hand, nor all the prayers of godly men, nor all the testimonies that men may bring out of the Word of God. It is God Himself alone who can do it.
It is the blessing of God that gives these mourners, cut off from every other object, this appetite for Christ, only Christ, to be set up in their hearts as their God and their Saviour. Natural men may have many natural convictions, and they may have many fears of hell, a great dread of hell; and they may cry for the mercy of God to save them from hell, and they may beg of God's people to pray for them, that God will save them; and they may be sincere in their prayers, for they really do not want to go to hell, and to be in that place that is pictured, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." But to have an appetite for Christ to enter into the heart, to long for His blood, His love, His righteousness, and to pant "as the hart panteth after the water-brook" for Him to speak it into the soul, they have nothing of this. This is an appetite that is given of God; a blessing that comes from God.
III. "Blessed are they that mourn," for God does not leave them with this blessing of an appetite; but He blesses them in His own time with the satisfying of that appetite, blessing the appetite with the provision He has prepared for it. For He has provided a rich feast, a blessed table, where there is abundance to satisfy the poor, thirsting, hungry, panting soul. What does He say? "I will abundantly bless the provisions" of My house. You see, we parsons have nothing to do with communicating the blessing; we are only as stewards to the family of God, to tell them what the Lord has provided, and the rich mercy prepared. It is the Lord who must speak it home to the heart. "I will abundantly bless," He says, "the provision" of My house; "I will satisfy her poor with bread." (Ps. 132:15) But when? He says there is "a set time to favour Zion." (Ps. 102:13) He says, "The vision is for an appointed time; though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry." (Hab. 2:3) When did God give a stone to a child that asked bread? "Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"--yea, "give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" He tells us He "filleth the hungry with good things, and the rich he doth send empty away;" yes, "he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness."
So this blessing to the mourner is fixed; and in God's time he is sure to have it. What a blessing is this, when God brings it into the heart,--when God the Holy Ghost reveals Jesus as the Bread of God, and blesses the soul with faith to enter into His sufferings, His death, His blood, His love, His righteousness, His glory. What an eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood! What life, what love, what feasting, what pleasure, what delight, what joy, what transport! He eats and drinks; his appetite is satisfied, and he says, "My cup runneth over." Yea, and the Lord smiles, and says, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." This is a blessing that "maketh rich; and he addeth no sorrow with it." When a man enjoys this blessing in his heart and in his soul, every crook is straight, every rough place plain, every mountain level, every valley raised up; every promise in the Bible hangs like grapes; every step that ever he has been led is all of God; and beauty and glory shine in all. Everything that ever took place is straight and right when God shows Himself, and the heart feels His glory. There is no disturbing the soul then; for when God gives peace, who can give trouble?
Have you ever had this, mourner? Have you ever been blessed with this in your heart,--to look upon Him whom thou hast pierced, and to mourn for your ungodliness, that ever you should have pierced the Lord of life and glory, and to feel your soul satisfied with His goodness? Whatever may take place, whatever ins and outs, whatever ups and downs, God will bring you safe home. He will; if you have many a dark night in the journey, God will bring you safe at last; for God's blessing is an eternal blessing.
There is some poor mourner, who has never had this blessing. You know what it is to have an appetite for Christ, and to pant to have an interest in His blood and righteousness, and to be stripped of every other resource; and whether damned or saved, you can hang nowhere else; but you have never been blessed with that precious faith that can say, "Abba, Father,"--My Lord and my God." I can tell you, you will have it. As sure as ever you have been blessed with an appetite, as sure as you can never be satisfied without it, you will have it. God has given you some intimations of it; He has given you a promise of it; and if He did not design it for you, you would never have had a promise brought into your heart, to break your heart, and bring you down to the feet of Jesus as a little child, to tell Him you are not worthy of His notice, but if He would only give you a lifting up of your soul, you would be so glad, and that you can say, "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee."
"But," says the soul, "I want Jesus to say, 'I have loved thee.' I know I have loved Him; I know I have felt my soul go out in love to Him; I know there is nothing to suit me but Christ; but I want Him to say, 'I have love thee.'" Can you find in all the books of the Bible that ever a soul loved Christ, but what He loved that soul? Love is of God; it is not in the creature to love Him, nor is it the work of nature; and God says, "I love them that love me." He has given you intimations of it at times in blessing you with hope. Have you not sometimes felt that text,--"Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God?" Has not your soul sometimes whispered, "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord?" These are drops out of the Fountain; these are intimations of His precious lovingkindness as your God and your Saviour; and having given you the testimonies, in His own time you shall be brought to the full enjoyment. If it is not now, it shall be in death; and if it is not then, it shall be in glory; it shall be in His own time.
"Ah! but," say you, "have you found it a blessing, when you have been hungry?" My friends, God has set forth His own truth better than any man in the world can. God marks it out in this way; the body hungering and thirsting, and the soul hungering and thirsting; and then feeding and enjoying. Now anybody of common sense, that has natural life, can tell what grief and pain it is to be hungry and have nothing to eat. A plough-boy can tell that; he does not need to go to school to learn what hunger is, nor to learn what provision will do. I have watched him many a time, and smiled to see him eat when he had come out of the field, quite worn out. "Well," say you, "and suppose there are but a few crumbs on the table; are crumbs a blessing to him?" I will tell you what those crumbs will do. They will give him just a little taste, and make him long the more, pant the more, hunger the more; for the appetite must have its fill to stop its craving. And I am never afraid of stopping a child of God short of Christ. Some people are afraid to preach that the poor hungry soul is a child of God. They say he has no business to be set down as one of God's children until he comes to the full assurance of faith that Christ has died for him; and I have been told sometimes that I make people content, and satisfy them in the hungerings. I never heard such ignorance in all my life;--satisfy a living man with hunger? Dead men are never troubled about hunger. You may put victuals into their lips, but they cannot chew; or to their nose, but they cannot smell; or into their hand, but they cannot move; but nothing except eating will satisfy a living man who has an appetite. Nothing will satisfy a living soul but what Jeremiah had: "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." Poor souls that have had but crumbs, and drops, and tastes! hunger on, cry one, pant on; for God has promised that you shall be satisfied, and His Word "has gone out of his mouth," and "shall not return unto him void."
IV. "They that mourn are blessed" with many useful, valuable, needful troubles, sorrows, and afflictions. Indeed, there is not a single thing that ever is sent from God as a Father to His dear children, but what has a blessing of God linked and coupled with it. They are blessed; and they never can be cursed.
God in infinite wisdom sends a variety of crosses, to cut up His people's fleshly schemes, to blast their fleshly plans, to chop up all their fleshly hardness, and to break down all their castles and their high towering views. Every child of God has a nature that is proud, a nature that is independent, a nature that likes prosperity, a nature that is very fond of proceeding with respectability and not being beholden to anybody. But it is God's will that His dear children shall be stripped of every object but Himself; and for wise ends and purposes He sends troubles. Sometimes trials in providence; losses on the right hand and on the left, that threaten nothing but to bring the poor man to the workhouse. The devil says, "Ah! where is your Christianity? Where is your God? Have you not prayed, hundreds of times, that God would open a way in providence? But where are your prayers, and where is the appearance of your God?" Then he turns the poor soul round, and tells him to look at some of his neighbors that are wicked and have no fear of God before their eyes, and see how everything they put their hand to prospers. "And," says the devil, "how can you prove that there is even a God, who inhabits the heavens?" And the poor soul "reels to and fro." Sometimes on the back of this God sends afflictions into the family, sometimes bereaves it of the dearest object upon earth, and sometimes comes with such tremendous darkness into the soul, and so hides His face, and everything appears so against the child of God, that he cries out, "My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life." "What!" say you, "do you call these 'blessings?'" I do; very valuable blessings, prizable blessings, needful blessings.
"Well," says some soul, "to God's people they will be, I believe, in the end; but I fear that I am nothing but a hypocrite, and God is sending these as judgments." Such a soul as this has something else to do than think about what they are to other folks. When he comes into such spots as these, he has enough to do with himself; he leaves everybody else, for his troubles, his sorrows, his griefs. And they cut him up in such a way that he fights, and he rages, and he is troubled and he sometimes says, "I will never call upon God again; I will have nothing to do with religion. It is all an empty farce." He says, "I wish I had never opened my mouth for God or religion at all." His wound is like a bear bereaved of her whelps; as the prophet says, "We roar all like bears." Then, instead of looking at these things as blessings, he looks at them as curses, fears them as curses, dreads them as curses; but it is no such thing, they are blessings. And I will tell you how they will work under the hand of God. They will never work anything but wrath and wretchedness in themselves; but when God's mercy comes in them (as the apostle says, "All things work together for good to them that love God"), He gives the soul to see the emptiness of every object but Himself, and to see that there is no rest in Himself. God strips him from every source but God; and brings him at last with all his burden, with all his weight and all his care, to cast himself and all that he has upon the Lord. And when He is brought by the good Spirit of God to cast himself and his all upon God's promises, what a blessing!
When God brings the soul here, He teaches him what to say. The Holy Spirit puts words into his heart, and into his mouth. And the poor thing comes like a little burdened child, wounded from head to foot, and he says, "O Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest notice me. I am a poor fool; nay, I deserve hell; but here I am, cut off from every source, and wilt thou turn a poor beggar away? Wilt thou turn back from thy promise? Thou didst look upon poor Bartimeus, who was by the wayside. Thou didst remember the poor woman, who was but 'a dog' in Thy sight, and wanted but to sit under the table, and have the crumbs. Thou didst remember the poor and needy of old; wilt Thou turn Thy back on such a wretch as I?" And then he comes a little further, and he pleads God's promise, and he says, "Hast Thou not said, 'Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee?' (Ps. 55:22) The poor soul comes with such freedom, and he says, "Lord, search me; am I not 'casting it on thee?' Am I looking to any arm of flesh? Am I looking to any other source? Here I am; wilt Thou deny me? Thou hast said, 'Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.'" (Ps. 50:15) So the soul comes with all its troubles to God; and God by-and-by sweetly opens up His mercy.
What a sweet way God has of working! When He has loaded the soul with troubles, and griefs, and sorrows, and overruled them to cut him off from every source but Himself, God puts the promises in his heart, brings him to God, and teaches him what to say. He says, "Hast Thou not said, 'Put me in remembrance?' (Isa. 43:26) and wilt Thou turn a deaf ear to my complaints?" And by-and-by God opens His mouth, and speaks; and says, "It is done as thou hast requested. It is done according unto thy petition;" and the mourner's burden drops, and his cares drop; the goodness, and the mercy and the kindness, of his God in his deliverance sanctify his crosses, and his losses, and his afflictions to bring honor to God; and he is purified here seven times to the honor and glory of God.
Some people's religion comes to nothing at all in affliction; nothing but rebellion, nothing but wretchedness. Afflictions in themselves work nothing but rebellion; the flesh cannot bear afflictions, cannot bear crosses; pride will fight against them. But with God's children, when God overrules it, turns the captivity, and blesses the soul with a deliverance, what a blessing then are afflictions! When this is the case, the soul can join with David, and say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes." (Ps. 119:71) He can enter into what the apostle says, "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby." (Heb. 12:11) And how sweet it is for such souls, when they can enter into that precious blessing, to say with the apostle Paul, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4:17)
Crosses, afflictions, and griefs, with God's overruling hand, are blessings to the mourner; and he is brought to see his need of them. I am so foolish that I never can walk straight for long together without a pack. Now that God has taken away the pack of old debts, and I have neither over nor under, neither riches nor poverty, I am burdened internally with a load of sin, and sometimes burdened at home; and when I have no crosses or afflictions I sometimes get so carnal, there never was such a bungling fool at prayer. I have hard work to conduct what is called family prayer sometimes then, stammering and fumbling to find words for about six minutes; and I dare not neglect it, for conscience condemns that. Really, it is hard work. But when God hides His face, and the pack is upon the back, and the heart begins to feel it, and some keen affliction threatens, then there is a little life again; then there is a coming to God with the heart, and wrestling with God with the soul. About three weeks or a fortnight before I came from home, I felt myself as dead as a stone. I could not pray, nor come to God with a single breath, and I seemed to think it was all over; and then tidings were brought to me that one of my daughters was taken suddenly ill, and was just at the point of death, and not likely to live an hour. Then, what matter for prayer! Prayer stirred up its mighty arm, and thrust the rubbish out of every corner, brushed all the carnality on one side, and my soul was brought to wrestle with God till my body was in an agony, and God told me (and I could not leave Him till He told me) that sickness was "not unto death, but for the glory of God." Ah! these are good things, these are blessings,--to be brought to a throne of grace, and to prove our God a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God.
Such blessings are trials to the mourners. They are "blessed," and they shall be blessed. Whether it is in prosperity or affliction, life or death, wherever God sends them, His blessing will be round about them; and every cross they have is God's blessing, and it shall be overruled for good. Mourners, lift up your heads; things are not half so bad as you imagine. Your God has all power in His hands. Angels, men, and devils are at His beck. The earth is His, and "the cattle upon a thousand hills." He carries "the keys of death and of hell;" nothing can move without Him. What a God you have! What a Head you have! What a Husband you have!
V. "Blessed are they that mourn." They are blessed with an everlasting kingdom given to them, to enter in, and to be with their God for ever, and never have another mourning day or moment. All their afflictions ended, "their day as a hireling accomplished," and all the trials God has appointed them passed through, death only remains to separate body and soul, that the body should turn to corruption, to be raised again an incorruptible body, like unto Christ's, and the happy spirit of the mourner takes its flight into the realms of eternal day to its Father's house. There is no mourning there. The Lord "leads them to living fountains of water, and wipes away all tears from their eyes." They will "see him as he is," and be with Him, and be like Him; and their song will be, "unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever." (Rev. 1:5,6)
So that the "mourner" is "blessed;" blessed in all the applications of God's truth, blessed in his troubles, blessed when he is stripped, blessed in dying, blessed to all eternity. "Blessed are they that mourn." They are blessed, and none can curse them.
What a mercy, then, to be one of these! O may God bless you and me, that are mourners, that know these things, with much of the presence and blessing and smiles of God in our hearts; and He shall have the glory.