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If the relation of God to us is one gracious dealing because it includes all things, life is made blessed in the assurance that all things work for good.

Such a confidence in good is a challenge to live our life to the full, but, unfortunately for its appeal to the active and energetic, the usual associations of blessedness are with a heaven to be won by submissiveness to evil as God's mere inscrutable will, and not with fullness of life. For anyone who has ever loved to hear the cordage sing in a gale, or to pursue breathlessly an elusive secret of nature in a laboratory, or to fight in the arena for liberty and progress, a life of mere submissiveness, however great be its reward in a future life, has no attraction. The aureole of its anaemic calm is, for them, in the same class as the merriness of England which would wet-nurse them back into second infancy by the mechanical smoothness of its social machinery. And this passive state is made even less attractive, when it appears that we must keep ourselves in it by constant effort, like restless boys under the necessity of behaving as becomes their Sunday apparel.

This impression is constantly left on us, in particular, by the interpretation of the Beatitudes. As the supreme account of the blessed state, they have been 94 called the essence of the Gospel. But, when they are set forth purely as a series of moral precepts, which are heart-searching, but repressive, in respect of motive, and far-reaching, but passive, in respect of performance, they sadly lack the joyful witness to themselves which is the essence of good news. A higher moral demand, not content with conformity of act, but penetrating to the intents and thoughts of the heart, while remaining a mere imperative of conscience, would, in any case, be a ground of despair, and not of blessedness; but, if it be also mainly for repression and passive submission, it would not, like a positive struggle for victory, even rally our energies to steel our hearts to endure.

The Beatitudes deserve their name, precisely because they are not negative moral imperatives to be obeyed by resolution and effort, but are a religious programme of how we can have absolute moral independence in the world by discovering how utterly God is to be depended upon. They are not moral precepts distinguished from other morality by requiring motives still farther beyond the best resolution to provide, but are the inspiration of faith and hope and love through which morality becomes the liberty of God's children. In short they are the good news of victorious freedom and not a moral code to enslave by impossible rules of refraining from evil.

The less systematised form of the Beatitudes in Luke is usually taken to be nearer the original than the more complete and balanced form in Matthew. 95 But Luke is not usually the more careful and complete reporter of our Lord's sayings; the balanced, gnomic form has parallels in other sayings; repetition, even in our day when we can verify quotations, rubs down and does not add definition to the original; finally, the "poor" also in Luke may have the special spiritual meaning of its Hebrew equivalent, and the later tendency to exalt material poverty makes it unlikely that it was the original and spiritual poverty a meaning afterwards imposed on it. But, while the complete form is thus more probably the original, it would not be of less significance as an account of the way of blessedness, had it been perfected by the thoughts of many who had tried to follow in Christ's footsteps.

God's relation to us, we have seen, may not be determined by abstract argument from the operation of omnipotence, and is only to be known by our experience of His purpose. As His purpose is concerned with us as moral persons, we have also seen that the true nature of His grace must be determined by what moral personality really is. The impossibility that grace should be a direct and overwhelming power, we have further seen, at once appears when we discern that the essential quality which distinguishes a person from all else in the world is autonomy. Autonomy, we found to mean more than mere freedom of the will, a truly moral person being self-determined according to his own self-direction, or, in other words, by his own conscience of right, and in a world which, by 96 mastery in it, he has made his own self-conscious dominion.

This may seem a very technical scheme to apply to the Beatitudes: and it is not suggested that Jesus consciously constructed them after any such pattern. Their concrete simplicity of form is at once their beauty and their power. They are religious intuition, not abstract reasoning. But, being an intuition of life as a whole, they can be interpreted on principles which apply to life as a whole. Nor, in this case, is the application either difficult or forced, because inheriting the earth cannot mean in material possession, but only by finding it our true sphere; seeing God, being a present state, can only mean for our true guidance; the great reward in the heavenly kingdom is victory over evil without and within, And these sayings sum up the effect of each of the three groups of which the Beatitudes are composed.

Thus, the first group sets forth the nature of a blessed self-consciousness; the second, the nature of a blessed self-direction; the third, the nature of a blessed self-determination. To be poor in spirit is to live under God's rule and possess the world as ours because it is God's; to hunger and thirst after righteousness is to find God's guidance and be directed of our own insight; to be peacemakers is to determine our ways like God's children and have His victory over evil without and within.

Yet it is to be observed that Jesus reverses the order we have followed and commences with the 97 world. The reason is that He would start from faith and not from resolution, in short, that His order is religious and not moral. The good news is that we are in our own true world because it is God's, and the rest follows. Yet the moral victory is not merely added, because there is, in practice, no relation to God which is not realised through a relation to man. Therefore, in each case, the relation to man comes before the relation to God.

The first three beatitudes show how we are blessed in our whole conscious world.

The first is the key-note which determines the religious music of the whole. The blessedness of the Rule of Heaven is only for the poor in spirit, only for those who utterly accept God's will for them, only for those who have learned complete religious dependence.

Poverty of spirit is not a Stoic temper of endurance, or an Epicurean temper of making the best of it. Still less is it a Fatalist temper which despairs of all remedy. Because it must be won against pride and self-will, its form is negative; but it is poverty towards God not towards life. On the contrary, it is the positive discovery of the end for which the whole world of which we are conscious is of God's gracious appointment, making all of it ours, all within our power for our victory over it, if in no other way, by a victorious attitude of soul which trusts that God has a worthy end to serve through it, even when it is rather of man's evil devising than of God's appointing.


Poverty of spirit is no steeling of the heart which asks:

"What reinforcement we may gain from hope;

If not, what resolution from despair."

It is a present possession which delivers from all temptation to make the world plastic to our desire, or to select from it only what we approve according to our ideas of immediate pleasure or visible possession, and which lays us open to all life's lessons and all life's demands, in the whole breadth of God's appointment. Thus it may be summed up as acceptance of the duty God demands and acquiescence in the discipline He appoints, not as submission to the inevitable, but as the discovery that our blessedness is in God's purpose in the world and beyond it. So long as we can shun life's worst tasks and trials, we might be happy, but to be blessed is to know that there are none we ever need to shun, because, through our Father's unfailingly gracious relation to us in all things, there is nothing we may not face and turn to profit.

As our own world, under our own management, for the service only of our own desires, it is not a great exaggeration to describe life in it as "a tale told by an idiot." We can neither add God to it, in the hope that He will ultimately shape it more to our liking, nor find God in it by some process of selection and distillation. In one sense, we find God through the world. The world is there for that very purpose. Yet, without God's purpose in it and beyond it, the world has neither meaning nor good. To call it, by itself, 99 God's world is merely to live in a precarious optimism, which is sufficiently refuted by the way every heroic soul has been received in it, and especially by the poverty, the hatred, the criminal's execution it accorded to Him who uttered these sayings. Yet, in that very defeat in shame and agony and death, He displayed the use of the world, from which no evil in it was to be excepted, but the worst could be discerned as working for good.

The difference is not merely between a world made by God and a world made by cosmic process, but between a world God uses to serve a purpose beyond it, and a world with its purpose in itself and its good only in what we can immediately possess and enjoy.

This assurance of a world in which, if we have no rebellion when we hear God's call and follow His purpose, even sin and sorrow are no more our foes, is the foundation of the whole blessed state. The question is not whether this faith is edifying, but whether it is true, whether God has actually made the world so that it can be possessed by high consecration to His purpose, and is lost when we seek its purpose in itself, as though God had merely made it, and His rule were no continuous part of its reality.

This blessed possession of the world as God's Realm by the poor in spirit gives sympathy toward men and meekness toward God.

The way to happiness is often the comfort of ignoring suffering, but the way to a blessedness which would embrace all experience, must be the way of 100 sympathy, because from hardness or indifference the true purpose and value of life's conflicts and sorrows are hidden. To mourn, therefore, is to be comforted, because it is a response to life's deepest meaning, and not mere desire to be dismal, and to pass through the world as a vale of tears, our eyes red with weeping, our cheeks white with pining, our hearts resolute to accept no joy. A cherished grief is selfish, and selfishness is never blessed. Nor could a cultivated gloom be comforted any more in another world than in this, for a habit of sadness would only feel aggrieved by a change of scene which precluded its exercise. To mourn, on the contrary, is to be unselfish, with the large unselfishness which exposes our hearts to feel with others and confers on our hands the facility to help.

The reason why such sympathy is blessed is not to be sought in the nature of human emotion, even though it be true that to be incapable of sorrow is also to be incapable of joy, but is due to the nature of things. Not because we are sensitive souls are we comforted, but because sympathy is the way to discover that the true meaning and value of life lie behind life's tasks and trials, and not behind its pleasures and possessions. The lust for pleasure and possession, which makes us hide our face from our brother's need, bars for us the road to reality; while fellowship with our brother's conflict and pain enables us to find God's end in the whole of life, and not merely in the part a selfish hardness would select. If we would have the comfort of God's blessed use 101 of all life, we must not allow the monotony of sin and suffering to act upon us like the drip from our eaves, which first wakes us to think of the belated traveller and then sends us to sleep in the comfortable sense that our own roof is weather-proof. Above all, repetition must be to us the opposite of a reason for dulling our sympathy with every fresh heart that suffers, or for being blind to the disaster of every fresh soul that is overcome. Faith in God is not the hypothesis of an easy indifference, but is the victory which overcomes the world by transmuting its failure and conflict and pain. The most selfish hardness might believe in special acts of grace, by attention to which we might be able to ignore the rest of experience, but only sympathy can discover the gracious relation of the Father to all His children, from the scope of which nothing is omitted.

Through this sympathy we gain the insight into God's patient purpose of good which enables us to be meek. But, in that case, meekness has little to do with the conventional, stained-glass window presentation of it as bloodless mildness. If meekness is mere pliancy, as of the willow before the storm, He who offered us peace because He was meek and lowly in heart, must have been far astray about Himself. Why, moreover, should the special blessing of it be to inherit the earth? To pious renunciation of earth it might help us; but what could it do to enable us to hold the earth in blessed possession?

True meekness is the relation to the Father of our 102 spirits which, by laying us open to His whole purpose, shows us all things in the earth working for it. It is opposed, not to energy or courage, but to the haughtiness of spirit which, measuring by its own end and estimating possession by its own private estate, can at most inherit in the earth -- and that only under the most favourable conditions -- the very small part which pampers appetite and provides the pomp and circumstance of place. And even this meagre portion it has only the illusion of possessing, because what feeds the lusts of the flesh and the lusts of the eye and the pride of life, comes to hold us as its thrall. Only as we discover in them a purpose worthy of us as children of God are all things ours, things secular as well as things sacred, sorrows as well as joys, the weakness of decay as well as the buoyancy of youth, failure as well as success, loneliness as well as friendship, death as well as life. Then, in the whole realm of our self-conscious world, we are in blessed possession of our true moral independence.

The next three beatitudes set forth the blessed direction of ourselves in this world which is ours.

Under God's Rule absolute righteousness alone can direct us: and hunger and thirst after it is the only satisfaction.

A conscience merely morally determined only lays down rules, and is too easily satisfied if they are not obviously broken. But the supreme test is not to be conscientious up to the measure of rules of universal application. It is to be continually in search of a more 103 penetrating discernment. As we for ever hunger and thirst after righteousness, and not as we obey a code of accepted moral imperatives, are we truly conscientious.

But, if the moral demand is thus without limits, a blessed state, in which we could enjoy a sense of moral independence, would seem to be placed beyond all hope of attainment. How, if it is of the essence of our morality never to be satisfied, can we ever be filled? We are never allowed to feel that we have done what is required of us. Our measure is the perfection of our Father in Heaven. After our best devotion, we are still unprofitable servants. That striving after the infinite, moreover, springs directly from the religious source of our moral judgments. Only those who love God are called according to His purpose. But if love is the fulfilling of the law, it is a law without definition or measure or finality. To love God with all our heart and to apply it by loving our neighbour as ourselves makes our best approximation a harassing futility by the immediate extension of the requirement.

Rather than be troubled by a conscience with this hunger after a limitless righteousness, men will accept the sternest imperative from without, for, when its measure is fulfilled, they can sit down in the sunshine of self-approval.

Yet there is a security on the ocean never to be won by hugging the shore. The righteousness which is no longer a rule, but the infinite requirement of love, changes from a code into an inspiration which 104 transforms the measurelessness of duty into the measurelessness of faith, the measurelessness of what God means and will accomplish. With escape from care about conforming to rule, anxiety about merit also departs; while, under the guidance of the perfect law of liberty, the humblest tasks assume the worth of serving in God's household. With the solemn splendour of the stars uplifting our hearts and their far travelling light upon our way, we can unite an ever increasing endeavour with an ever deepening peace, in a way foreign to every form of moral imperative and in an independence of human approval never to be won by a merely moral attitude.

A quiet sense of possession, with an ever increasing endeavour after an ever enlarging purpose, which gives freedom from every standard of anxious merit, every right moral judgment of life demands, but no rules of a merely moral judgment of life can supply. A measured moral imperative must be changed into the measurelessness of an infinite religious aspiration and assurance, into a hungering and thirsting after righteousness which has its only measure in the infinite love of God, before we can have both ceaseless aspiration and lasting peace.

The practical effect is mercifulness in our judgment of others, whereby our eyes are purified for seeing God.

Hunger and thirst after righteousness approves itself as real and unrestricted, by mercifulness in our judgment of our fellows. By this mercifulness we also 105 obtain mercy. This blessing is not attached merely externally by a kind of equity which will treat us as we treat others, but it is a law organic in its nature and direct in its working, something which is a necessary moral result.

A conscience which has found in the infinite righteousness the perfect law of liberty, has abandoned the external and restricted standards which make swift condemnation easy and confident, and has seen the blessed hope which changes anger against iniquity into sorrow for those who have turned aside from God's gracious way. And this vision of God's infinite purpose, which silences legal judgment and estimates man's failure according to the Divine compassion, also sets our own failure in the light of God's mercy, and teaches us, by our own forgiving, how God forgives.

Thus we reach the purity which sees God. Without mercifulness purity might mean no more than refraining, after a negative fashion, from obvious breaches of an external code, such purity, for example, as is claimed by the Perfectionists, and is little more than respectability. Then seeing God would mean no more than believing in a Moral Legislator who always acts upon the strictest principles of retribution. As He manifestly does not so act in this world where the tabernacles of robbers prosper and those who fear God are despised, even that belief must be transferred to another life. But, if God is the same and man the same, why, only because we are unhappy in 106 our virtue, should we expect a radical change of method merely from change of scene?

The pure in heart need no new scene to manifest God's blessed rule, for they are purged by mercy from the crude and self-regarding association of rights and rewards which interprets His equal providence as universal indifference, and not as immeasurable patience and gracious pity. To be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect is no cloistered withdrawing from the contamination of an evil world, but to be like Him in kindness to the unthankful and evil, and, through our own heart of compassion, to see Him as a love which, without partiality, is concerned about the good of all His children, and not least the sinful and wayward, and which does not determine its action by mere household rules of good behaviour.

A spirit in judging which grows gentler as it grows more pure, and purer as it grows more gentle, which forgives more easily as it sees more clearly the sin to be forgiven, every right moral judgment requires, but no mere moral judgment can provide out of the hard approval and disapproval of its imperatives. On the contrary, it always ends in a condemnation, which, as we pass it upon others, is ever apt to return upon our own heads. To shield ourselves we are tempted to compromise with human nature, till our moral rules do little more than condemn obviously disastrous crimes and vices. But, as the demands of outward respectability do not grow less harsh as they become 107 more superficial, the mere moralist ends as a death's head at life's feast. He never can become its living and gracious president till he discovers the infinite value of man to God, without which morals are little more than rules of prudence, which it may be part of life's cheerful hazard to deny. We are morally independent, not as we see ourselves in isolation, and are, therefore, negative, legal and hard, but as we see God, in whose infinite holy purpose we find a love which is our true good, and become at once penetrating in our judgment of sin and pitiful to the sinful. And as such a God is wholly without arbitrariness, conscience cannot be too independent in judging of His righteousness.

The remaining beatitudes and, with them, all that follows set forth the blessed determination of ourselves which gives us victory in this world.

We are to approve ourselves children of God by setting our wills upon making peace.

Here we find the presupposition of the whole conception of blessedness. Reality alone can be the durable basis of peace; and righteousness is the same as reality, if we are made in God's image. With error and evil, even the semblance of peace cannot, by any dexterity, evasion or compromise, be long maintained. The more compromises are dressed out as principles, the more evil imaginations are gracefully suggested, the more oppressions are unassailed, the more self-indulgence is approved as a mark of superiority, and, in general, the more hypocrisies are held in esteem, 108 the more utterly, in the end, is peace undermined. Blessedness can rest on nothing less than peace, peace on nothing less than reality, reality on nothing less than righteousness: therefore, the blessed task is to work for truth and righteousness. Under God's rule there can be no peace by way of illusion, or what the prophet calls "agreement with hell to be at peace with it": therefore, there can be no peace by seeking to lead quiet and peaceable lives in convenient blindness and passing by on the other side, and keeping generally on the safe side of the hedge, but only by a resolutely veracious will, which is neither to be attracted by the pleasant ways of evil nor dismayed by its threats. As that is how God seeks peace, that is how we are His sons. But the secret is reconciliation, not resolution, a reconciliation which can enable us to bear any cross which is God's will, but which is of God's working and not of man's achieving.

Here, too, we are first concerned with our relation to men. The work of making peace, however much it may give us peace within, does not give us outward peace, but exposes us to being persecuted for righteousness' sake and having all manner of evil said against us falsely, for the sake of Him who is the Prince of Peace because He, alone among men, never accepted any terms nor agreed to any truce in the warfare for truth and righteousness.

By this certainty of being brought sooner or later into conflict with falsehood and unrighteousness, the 109 peacemaker is shown to be a very different person from the peaceable. They are, indeed, as wide apart as eternal right and immediate expediency, as the way of victory and the path of least resistance.

The peaceable are so far from being peacemakers that they are peace's most deadly and deceiving foes. From the days of the false prophets who, by saying, "Peace, Peace," when there was no peace, brought their country to irretrievable ruin, all down the ages, it has been the same story. Their principle of letting sleeping dogs lie has provided the indulgence upon which every villainy can rely till it is ripe for disturbance. The true peacemaker, on the contrary, must be an active and resolute guardian of the peace, who so bears himself in the world that all the powers of evil are sure to try to bear him down both by violence and by misrepresentation.

Thus every peacemaker is a fighter; yet he is not a peacemaker merely by fighting even in the cause of truth and righteousness. To make peace we must ourselves possess it; and there is no mark of possessing it like freedom from anger or impatience at persecution and misrepresentation. But freedom from resentment does not mean merely control of our tempers. It means a quietness of heart the world cannot give nor take away, because the Kingdom of God is truly ours, and, under this rule, evil is weak and we need not rage when it wastes its strength, and righteousness is secure and we need not be depressed when it is left to grow strong in the shade, the peace of Him, whose 110 Cross, though the triumph of wickedness, was the exposure of its weakness and the healing of a great pity for its folly.

In spite of all the opposition of evil, our relations with men are made blessed by the quiet confidence which has too large a security to envy the prosperity of the wicked, and the quiet veracity which is quite simple because its eye is single and its whole body full of light. But this full blessedness appears only when, in courageous conflict with evil, we discern our true relation to God in the Kingdom of Heaven. Being a prophet's victory, it brings a prophet's reward, in a clear vision of God's purpose in the world, which shall abide when all else passes away, and be our perfect reward when we have become its perfect subjects.

This promise of a reward might seem to lead us back to the idea of religion as an external bribe, and to corrupt the moral will at the moment of seeming to sustain it only by the blessing of goodness, and to burden all our endeavour by anxious care for our merit. But the blessedness of living in the perfect rule of God ceases to be mere future and external reward, and becomes the native air of our spirits in which alone we can maintain an unconquerable will, when, through seeking peace with our fellow-men only in sincerity, we enter into fellowship with the Father of our spirits in His Kingdom. As our serenity in conflict and our assurance of triumph, however great be its blessing in this life or its promise for another, God's Rule is never for us a mere external reward and our service of it is 111 never to acquire merit to gain its reward. Its heavenly reward is to be salt and light amid the corruption and darkness of this present world.

But its final victory is in dealing with God, in being able to meet the judgment of Heaven, which is concerned with the heart and not with the outward appearance, before which hatred is murder, lust adultery, and all unveracity of soul as a broken oath. This is the crowning victory of our self-determination, without which all our effort after good is a vain attempt to make a corrupt tree produce good fruit.

Only as we are thus masters in our own souls, have we any true moral independence. Yet this independence, which is so necessary for the moral will, is utterly beyond mere moral effort, working in our own world for our own purpose. Only by finding ourselves in God's world as a new creation, which, for His purpose is gracious in all its dealing with us, is a new creation in our souls a possibility. Unless we serve under a rule of goodness we cannot be blessed: and no morality can be strong which is not blessed. But the strength of breathing our native air no morality can, from its own resources, supply; and, when it makes the attempt, it only offers a reward which forces upon us a consideration of our merit which is too external to be moral and too much a cause of anxiety to be blessed.

Blessedness concerns a gospel and not merely a morality; and yet it manifests itself as a gospel only as 112 it calls forth a profounder morality. Its concern is with the Kingdom of God, but we only find that rule as we discover that it is our own. We have to do with God, but with a God who has to do with man. A true theology is merely an exposition of all that this involves, and it is a gospel only in virtue of its theology; yet, as Christ's life and death were its only perfect incarnation, its essential concern is with right living and right dying.

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