The Happy Poor
James Smith, 1860
the parties interested in the blessing.
True religion is the friend of the poor. It softens the heart of the rich to sympathize with them, and it brings down the choicest blessings of God upon them. True religion never leaves a man as it finds him; it may find him in filth, rags, and idleness; but it will elevate him, and he will become clean, clothed, and industrious. The very countenances of the wicked become improved by godliness. It makes them contented and happy now — and it will make them wealthy and glorious forever. If the rich despise them, or the great oppress them, or professors deal unfairly by them — God's Word reproves them, and God will call them to account.
Some have manifested partiality, and preferred the rich in the court of justice, and the place of public concourse; and on their behalf the Apostle pleaded, "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Has not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him." James 2:5.
Here is a blessing promised — and what a blessing! Not merely a residence, an estate, or like Adam's, a garden — but a kingdom! The kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory — which in reality are but one. As the holy place and the holiest of all were but parts of the same Tabernacle or Temple, parted by a veil of linen; so grace and glory form part of the same inheritance, and are only separated by a veil. They constitute the spiritual and everlasting kingdom of God.
The kingdom promised to the poor is wealthy, for the wealth of the universe will be gathered into it. It is healthy, for no sickness, disease, or death will be there, neither shall there be any more pain. It will be peaceful, for tumult, contention, or war can never enter there. It will be immoveable. Other kingdoms have been removed; the Babylonian gave place to the Persian; the Persian to the Grecian; and the Grecian to the Roman, the mere shadow of which only remains: but this kingdom cannot be moved. It will be an unfading kingdom. Its glories will be always fresh. Its beauties will be always new. Its splendors can never decay. It will be an eternal kingdom, therefore it is called, "The everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." It will comprise and comprehend all that can . . .
delight the eye,
gratify the desires,
or feast the soul.
Happy are the poor, to whom this glorious kingdom is promised!
Look at their CONDITION; they are the poor of this world. God has not called or chosen many of the rich, or the great of this world; his choice fell on the poor. Therefore, if you wish to see real religion, you must go into the poor man's cottage, or the tradesman's dwelling. Here and there, one of the wealthy is called, just to show what grace can do — but the number is always small.
Not that there is any religion in poverty, nor is poverty peculiarly pleasant to God; but as it is best for his people — he has placed most of them in this condition.
Look at their QUALIFICATIONS, they are rich in faith. They believe in Christ. They have a fixed and steady confidence in God. Faith entitles them to all the promises; and the promises comprehend all that God has to communicate. As, therefore, God has promised to them as believers all he has to give; all the fullness that is in Christ — they may well be said to be rich. Rich, not in temporal things. Rich, not in mental endowments. But rich in faith, which claims the promises of a faithful God, and believes for their fulfillment. Their wealth is not from desert — but grace; not from works — but faith.
But they are not only rich in faith — but they love God. Faith always begets love, and love is always regulated by faith: so that if we have strong faith in God — we shall have great love to God. Believing the love that he has to us, we cannot but love him in return.
Look at their TITLE, it comes by heirship, and heirship comes by birth, and their birth is of God. Being born of God, they are the children of God; and being the children of God, they are the heirs of God, and are consequently entitled to the kingdom which God has promised to those who love him.
Here is also the SOURCE of their privilege. God's choice or election of them. "God has chosen the poor of this world." Is there any excellency in the nature, or disposition, or character, or conduct, or condition of the poor — why God should choose them? Nothing at all. All that is good, or excellent, or lovely about them — flows from God's choosing them. He chose them to believe, and therefore gave them faith. He chose them to love, and therefore shed abroad his own love in their hearts. He chose them to inherit the kingdom, and therefore of his own will he begat them by the Word of truth, that they should be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures. Or, as Paul states it, they were chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth, whereunto he called them by his gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
They were chosen of grace, and of grace alone. Their ELECTION was a pure act of favor, originating in the gracious sovereignty of God, unaffected by anything in them, or to be done by them. Their election was in Christ, so that they had a virtual connection, or union with Christ, long before they had a vital one. For their election in Christ was before the foundation of the world. Before the clock of time was set going, or before the sun was formed to throw a shade upon the dial — God chose Christ to be the head of the Church; and the Church to be the body of Christ. Every member was chosen individually and distinctly — but each and all in connection with Christ, to the praise of the glory of his grace. He chose them to inherit the kingdom, which kingdom he prepared for them from the foundation of the world; and all through time, he is preparing them for the kingdom.
Then let not the Lord's poor complain! They may have needs, and who has not? They may be tried, and who is not? But whatever privations they may be called to endure, whatever afflictions they may be called to suffer — they are God's chosen — they are rich in faith — they are heirs of a kingdom, and will soon be put in possession of it!
Let each one of us look to our faith. Do we sincerely believe? Does our faith grasp God's promises? Does it produce love to God? Genuine faith is simple, spiritual, and powerful. It is always deeply tried, has to struggle much with unbelief, and is greatly opposed by Satan. If we have faith — faith that centers in Christ — faith that obtains and holds fast the promises — faith that wrestles and prevails with God — we are rich, and have every reason to rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Therefore let every believer rejoice, for he is an heir of the kingdom, which God has promised to those who love him. We inherit in Christ, we shall inherit with Christ; for we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; now we are called to suffer with him — but soon shall we be glorified together.
Let the rich and prosperous beware how they despise the poor. The richest jewel may be hidden in a rough casket. God's poor are his jewels, his likenesses, his portion — and for them the finest and fairest portion of the creation is set apart.