Comfort for Christians

by Arthur W. Pink, 1952


"Blessed are those who mourn." (Matthew 5:4)

Mourning is hateful and irksome to poor human nature. From suffering and sadness, our spirits instinctively shrink. By nature we seek the society of the cheerful and joyous. Our text presents an anomaly to the unregenerate, yet is it sweet music to the ears of God's elect. If "blessed" why do they "mourn"? If they "mourn" how can they be "blessed"? Only the child of God has the key to this paradox. The more we ponder our text the more we are constrained to exclaim, "never any man spoke like this Man!" "Blessed (happy) are those who mourn" is at complete variance with the world's logic. Men have in all places and in all ages, deemed the prosperous and the mirthful the happy ones, but Christ pronounces happy those who are poor in spirit and who mourn.

Now it is obvious that it is not every species of mourning that is here referred to. There is a "sorrow of the world which works death." The mourning to which Christ promises comfort, must be restricted to that which is spiritual. The mourning which is blessed is the result of a realization of God's holiness and goodness, which issues in a sense of our own wickedness葉he depravity of our natures, the enormity and guilt of our conduct and the sorrowing over our sins with a godly sorrow.

The eight Beatitudes are arranged in four pairs; proof of this will be furnished as we proceed. The first of the series is the blessing which Christ pronounced upon those who are poor in spirit, which we take to mean葉hose who have been awakened to a sense of their own nothingness and emptiness. Now the transition from such poverty to mourning is easy to follow, in fact, it follows so closely that it is rather its companion.

The mourning which is here referred to is manifestly more than that of bereavement, affliction or loss. It is mourning for sin. "It is mourning over the felt destitution of our spiritual state, and over the iniquities which have separated between us and God; mourning over the very morality in which we have boasted, and the self-righteousness in which we have trusted; sorrow for rebellion against God, and hostility to His will; and such mourning always goes side by side with conscious poverty of spirit."

A striking illustration and exemplification of the spirit upon which the Savior here pronounced His benediction is to be found in Luke 18. There a vivid contrast is presented to our view. First, we are shown a self-righteous Pharisee looking up toward God and saying, "God, I thank You that I am not as other men are容xtortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess." This may have been all true as he looked at it, yet this man went down to his house in a state of condemnation. His fine garments were rags, his white robes were filthy, though he knew it not. Then we are shown the publican, standing afar off, who, in the language of the Psalmist was so troubled by his iniquities that he was not able to look up (Psalm 40:12). He dared not so much as lift up his eyes to Heaven, but smote upon his bosom, conscious of the fountain of corruption within, and cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner!" That man went down to his house justified, because he was poor in spirit and mourned for sin.

Here then are the first birth-marks of the children of God, and he who has never come to be poor in spirit, and has never known what it is to really mourn for sin, though he belongs to a church and is an office-bearer in it, has neither entered nor seen the kingdom of God. How thankful the Christian reader ought to be that the great God condescends to dwell in the humble and contrite heart! Where can we find anything in all the Old Testament more precious than that?葉hat He, in whose sight the heavens are not clean, who cannot find in any temple that man ever built for Him, however magnificent, a proper dwelling place, has said, "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word." "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 66:2; 57:15)

"Blessed are those who mourn." Though the primary reference is to that initial mourning, usually termed 'conviction of sin,'' it is by no means to be limited to this. Mourning is ever a characteristic of the normal Christian state. There is much that the believer has to mourn over葉he plague of his own heart makes him cry, "Oh wretched man that I am!"; the unbelief which "does so easily beset us" and the sins which we commit that are more in number than the hairs of our head, are a continual grief; the barrenness and unprofitableness of our lives make us sigh and cry; our propensity to wander from Christ, our lack of communion with Him, the shallowness of our love for Him, cause us to hang our harps upon the willows. But this is not all. The hypocritical religion prevailing on every hand, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; the awful dishonor done to the truth of God by the false doctrines taught in countless pulpits; the divisions among the Lord's people, the strife between brethren, occasion continual sorrow of heart. The awful wickedness in the world, men despising Christ, the untold sufferings around, make us groan within ourselves. The closer the Christian lives to God, the more will he mourn over all that dishonors Him. With the Psalmist he will say: "Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law." With Jeremiah, "I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord's flock will be taken captive." "Night and day my eyes overflow with tears. I cannot stop weeping, for my virgin daughter洋y precious people揺as been run through with a sword and lies mortally wounded on the ground." With Ezekiel, "Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all those who weep and sigh because of the sins they see around them."

"They shall be comforted." This refers first of all to the removal of the conscious guilt which burdens the conscience. It finds its fulfillment in the Spirit's application of the Gospel of God's grace to the one whom He has convicted of his dire need of a Savior. It issues in a sense of free and full forgiveness through the merits of the atoning blood of Christ. This Divine comfort is the peace of God which passes all understanding filling the heart of the one who is now assured that he is "accepted in the Beloved." God wounds before healing, abases before He exalts. First there is a revelation of His justice and holiness, then the making known of His mercy and grace.

"They shall be comforted" also receives a constant fulfillment in the experience of the Christian. Though he mourns his excuseless failures and confesses them to God, yet he is comforted by the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses him from all sin. Though he groans over the dishonor done to God on every side, yet is he comforted by the knowledge that the day is rapidly approaching when Satan shall be removed from these scenes and when the Lord Jesus shall sit upon the throne of His glory and rule in righteousness and peace. Though the chastening hand of the Lord is often laid upon him and though "no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous," nevertheless, he is consoled by the realization that this is all working out for him "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." Like the Apostle, the believer who is in communion with his Lord can say, "As sorrowful yet always rejoicing." He may often be called upon to drink of the bitter waters of Marah, but God has planted nearby a tree to sweeten them. Yes "mourning" Christians are comforted even now by the Divine Comforter, by the ministrations of His servants, by encouraging words from fellow Christians; and when these are not to hand, by the precious promises of the Word being brought home in power to his memory and heart.

"They shall be comforted." The best wine is reserved for the last. Sorrow may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. During the long night of His absence, the saints of God have been called to fellowship with Him who was the Man of Sorrows. But, blessed be God, it is written, "If we suffer with Him we shall also be glorified together." What comfort and joy will be ours when shall dawn the morning without clouds! Then shall "sorrow and sighing flee away" (Isaiah 35:10). Then shall be fulfilled, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever!" Revelation 21:3-4.