Thomas Watson, 1660
An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6
We are now come to the fourth step of blessedness:
'Blessed are those who hunger'. The words fall into two parts: a duty
implied; a promise annexed.
A duty implied: 'Blessed are those who
hunger'. Spiritual hunger is a blessed hunger.
What is meant by hunger? Hunger is put for desire
(Isaiah 26:9). Spiritual hunger is the rational appetite whereby the soul
pants after that which it apprehends most suitable and proportional to
Whence is this hunger? Hunger is from the sense of lack.
He who spiritually hungers, has a real sense of his own indigence. He lacks
What is meant by righteousness? There is a twofold
righteousness: of imputation; of implantation.
A righteousness of IMPUTATION, namely,
Christ's righteousness. 'He shall be called the Lord our righteousness'
(Jeremiah 23:6). This is as truly ours to justify us, as it is Christ's to
bestow upon us. By virtue of this righteousness God looks upon us as if we
had never sinned (Numbers 23:21). This is a perfect righteousness.
'You are complete in him' (Colossians 2:10). This does not only
cover, but adorn. He who has this righteousness is equal to the most
illustrious saints. The weakest believer is justified as much as the
strongest. This is a Christian's triumph. When he is defiled in himself, he
is undefiled in his Head. In this blessed righteousness we shine brighter
than the angels. This righteousness is worth hungering after.
A righteousness of IMPLANTATION: that is,
inherent righteousness, namely, the graces of the Spirit, holiness of heart
and life, which Cajetan calls 'universal righteousness'. This a pious soul
hungers after. This is a blessed hunger. Bodily hunger cannot make a man so
miserable, as spiritual hunger makes him blessed. This evidences life. A
dead man cannot hunger. Hunger proceeds from life. The first thing the child
does when it is born, is to hunger after the breast. Spiritual hunger
follows upon the new birth (1 Peter 2:2). Bernard comforts himself with
this—that surely he had the truth of grace in him, because he had in his
heart a strong desire after God. It is happy when, though we have not
what we should, we desire what we have not. The appetite is as
well from God, as the food.
1. See here at what a low price God sets heavenly things.
It is but hungering and thirsting. 'Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the
waters, buy without money' (Isaiah 55:1). We are not bid to bring any merits
as the Papists would do, nor to bring a sum of money to purchase
righteousness. All that is required is to bring an appetite. Christ 'has
fulfilled all righteousness'. We are only to 'hunger and thirst after
righteousness'. This is equal and reasonable. God does not require rivers of
oil—but sighs and tears. The invitation of the gospel is free. If a friend
invites guests to his table, he does not expect they should bring money to
pay for their dinner—only come with an appetite. So, says God, It is not
penance, pilgrimage, self-righteousness which I require. Only bring an
appetite: 'hunger and thirst after righteousness'. God might have set Christ
and salvation at a higher price—but he has much beaten down the price. Now
as this shows the sweetness of God's nature—he is not a hard master;
so it shows us the inexcusableness of those who perish under the gospel.
What apology can any man make at the day of judgement, when God shall ask
that question, 'Friend, why did you not embrace Christ? I set Christ and
grace at a low rate. If you had but hungered after righteousness, you might
have had it—but you slighted Christ. You had such low thoughts of
righteousness that you would not hunger after it.' How do you think to
escape, who have neglected 'so great salvation'? The easier the terms of the
gospel are—the sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy of who unworthy
refuse such an offer!
2. It shows us a true character of a godly man.
He hungers and thirsts after spiritual things (Isaiah 26:9; Psalm 73:25). A
true saint is carried upon the wing of desire. It is the very temper
and constitution of a gracious soul to thirst after God (Psalm 42:2). In the
word preached, how he is big with desire! These are some of the pantings of
his soul: 'Lord, you have led me into your courts. O that I may have your
sweet presence, that your glory may fill the temple! Will you draw some
sacred lineaments of grace upon my soul that I may be more assimilated and
changed into the likeness of my dear Savior?' In prayer, how is the soul
filled with passionate longings after Christ! Prayer is expressed by
'unutterable groans' (Romans 8:26). The heart sends up whole volleys of
sighs to heaven, 'Lord, one beam of your love! Lord, one drop of your
It reproves such as have none of this spiritual hunger.
They have no winged desires. The edge of their affections is
blunted. Honey is not sweet to those who are sick with a fever and have
their tongues embittered with cholera.' So those who are soul-sick and 'in
the gall of bitterness', find no sweetness in God or religion. Sin tastes
sweeter to them; they have no spiritual hunger. That men do not have this
'hunger after righteousness' appears by these seven demonstrations:
1. Men do not hunger after righteousness, because they
never felt any emptiness. They are full of their own
righteousness (Romans 10:3). Now 'the full stomach loathes the honeycomb'.
This was Laodicea's disease. She was full and had no appetite either to
Christ's gold or eye-salve (Revelation 3:17). When men are filled with
pride, this swelling distemper hinders holy longings. As when the stomach is
bloated with air, it spoils the appetite. None so empty of grace as he who
thinks he is full. He has most need of righteousness, who least feels the
need of it.
2. Men do not hunger after righteousness, because they
think that they can do well enough to be without it. If they have
oil in the cruse, and the world coming in—they are well content. Grace is a
commodity that is least missed. You shall hear men complain they lack
health, they lack trading—but never complain they lack righteousness. If men
lose a meal or two they think themselves half undone—but they can stay away
from ordinances which are the conduits of grace. Do they hunger after
righteousness, who are satisfied without it? Nay, who desire to be excused
from feeding upon the gospel banquet (Luke 14:18). Sure he has no appetite,
who entreats to be excused from eating.
3. It is a sign they have none of this spiritual hunger,
who desire rather sleep than food. They are more drowsy than
hungry. Some there are, who come to the Word that they may get a nap, to
whom I may say as Christ did to Peter, 'Could you not watch one hour?' (Mark
14:37). It is strange to see a man asleep at his dining table. Others there
are who have a 'deep sleep' fallen upon them. They are asleep in security
and they hate a soul-awakening ministry. While they sleep, 'their damnation
slumbers not' (2 Peter 2:3).
4. It appears that men have no spiritual hunger because
they refuse their food. Christ and grace are offered, nay,
pressed upon them—but they put away salvation from them as the froward child
puts away the breast (Psalm 81:11; Acts 13:46). Such are your fanatics and
enthusiasts who put away the blessed ordinances and pretend to revelations.
That is a strange revelation that tells a man he may live without food.
These prefer husks before manna. They live upon airy notions, being fed by
the 'prince of the air'.
5. It is a sign they have none of this spiritual hunger
who delight more in the garnishing of the dish, than in food.
These are those who look more after elegance and notion in
preaching, than solid matter. It argues either a wanton palate or a
surfeited stomach—to feed on sweets, and neglecting wholesome food. 'If any
man consent not to wholesome words, he is proud, knowing nothing . . .' (1
Timothy 6:3, 4). The plainest truth has its beauty. They have no spiritual
hunger, who desire only to feast their fancy. Of such the prophet speaks:
'You are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice, and
can play well on an instrument' (Ezekiel 33:32). If a man were invited to a
feast, and there being music at the feast, he should so listen to the music
that he did not mind his food, you would say, 'Surely he is not hungry.' So
when men are for jingling words and gallantry of speech, rather than
spirituality of matter—it is a sign they have surfeited stomachs and
6. They evidence little hunger after righteousness who
prefer other things before it, namely, their profits and recreations.
If a boy when he should be at dinner is playing in the street, it is a sign
that he has no appetite for his food. Were he hungry—he would not prefer his
play before his food. So when men prefer 'vain things which cannot profit'
before the blood of Christ and the grace of the Spirit, it is a sign they
have no palate or stomach to heavenly things.
7. It is a sign men have no spiritual hunger when they
are more for religious disputes—than the practice of piety.
Some men feed only on difficult questions and controversies (1 Timothy 6:3,
4). These pick bones—and do not feed on the meat. They have
hot brains but cold hearts. Did men hunger and thirst after righteousness,
they would propound to themselves such questions as these, 'How shall we do
to be saved? How shall we make our calling and election sure? How shall we
mortify our corruptions?' But such as ravel out their time in frothy and
useless theological disputes, I call heaven to witness, they are strangers
to this text. They do not 'hunger and thirst after righteousness'.
The Word reproves those who, instead of hungering and
thirsting after righteousness, thirst after riches. This is the thirst of
covetous men. They desire mammon not manna. 'They pant after the dust of the
earth' (Amos 2:7). This is the disease most are afflicted with—an immoderate
appetite after the world. But these things will no more satisfy, than drink
will quench the thirst of a man with the dropsy. Covetousness is idolatry
(Colossians 3:5). Too many professors set up the idol of gold, in the
temple of their hearts. This sin of covetousness is the most hard to root
out. Commonly, when other sins leave men, this sin abides. Wantonness is the
sin of youth; worldliness the sin of mature age.
The Word reproves those who hunger and thirst after
UNrighteousness. Here I shall indict three sorts of people:
1. It reproves such as thirst after other men's lands and
possessions. This the Scripture calls a 'mighty sin' (Amos 5:12).
Thus Ahab thirsted after Naboth's vineyard. This is a hungry age wherein we
live. Men have fleeced others to feather themselves. What a
brave challenge did Samuel make; 'Behold, here I am, witness against me
before the Lord, and before his anointed: Whose ox have I taken? Or whose
donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Of whose hand have I received
any bribe?' (1 Samuel 12:3). Few who have been in power that can say thus,
'Whose ox have we taken? Whose house have we plundered? Whose estate have we
sequestered? Nay, whose ox have they not taken?' 'Goods unjustly gotten,
seldom go to the third heir'. Read the plunderer's curse: 'Woe to you who
plunder—when you shall cease to plunder, you shall be plundered' (Isaiah
33:1). Ahab paid dearly for the vineyard when the devil carried away his
soul—and the 'dogs licked his blood' (1 Kings 21:19). He who lives on
rapine, dies a fool. 'He who gets riches unjustly, at his end shall be a
fool' (Jeremiah 17:11).
2. It reproves such as hunger and thirst after revenge.
This is a devilish thirst. Though it were more Christian and safe to smother
an injury—yet our nature is prone to this disease of revenge. We have the
sting of the bee, not the honey. Malice having broken the bars of
reason, grows savage and carries its remedy in the scabbard. Heathens who
have stopped the vein of revengeful passion when it has begun to vent, will
rise up against Christians. I have read of Phocion who, being wrongfully
condemned to die, desired that his son might not remember the injuries which
the Athenians had done to him, nor revenge his blood.
3. It reproves such as hunger and thirst to satisfy their
impure lusts. Sinners are said to sin 'with greediness'
(Ephesians 4:19). So Amnon was sick until he had defiled Tamar's chastity (2
Samuel 13). Never does a hungry man come with more eagerness to his
food—than a wicked man does to his sin! And when Satan sees men have such an
appetite—he will provide a dish they love. He will set the 'forbidden tree'
before them. Those who thirst to commit sin—shall thirst as Dives did in
hell, and not have a drop of water to cool their tongue!
Let us put ourselves upon a trial—whether we hunger and
thirst after righteousness. I shall give you five signs by which you may
judge of this hunger.
1. Hunger is a painful thing. Esau, when he
was returning from hunting, was famished with hunger (Genesis 25:32).
'Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them' (Psalm 107:5). So a man who
hungers after righteousness, is in anguish of soul and ready to faint away
for it. He finds a lack of Christ and grace. He is distressed and in pain
until he has his spiritual hunger stilled and allayed.
2. Hunger is satisfied with nothing but food.
Bring a hungry man flowers or music; tell him pleasant stories—nothing will
content him but food. 'Shall I die for thirst!' says Samson (Judges 15:18).
So a man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness says, 'Give me Christ
or I die! Lord, what will you give me seeing I go Christless? What though I
have abilities, wealth, honor and esteem in the world? All is nothing
without Christ. Give me Jesus—and it will suffice me. Let me have Christ to
clothe me, Christ to feed me, Christ to intercede for me!' While the soul is
Christless, it is restless. Nothing but the water-springs of Christ's blood,
can quench its thirst.
3. Hunger wrestles with difficulties and hunts for food.
We say hunger breaks through stone walls (Genesis 42:1, 2). The soul that
spiritually hungers is resolved—Christ it must have; grace it must have. And
to use Basil's expression, the hungry soul is almost distracted until it
enjoys the thing it hungers after.
4. A hungry man goes to his food with a strong appetite.
You need not make an oration to a hungry man and persuade him to
eat. So he who hungers after righteousness feeds eagerly on an ordinance.
'Your words were found, and I did eat them' (Jeremiah 15:16). In the
sacrament he feeds with appetite upon the body and blood of the Lord. God
loves to see us feed hungrily on the bread of life.
5. A hungry man tastes sweetness in his food.
So he who hungers after righteousness relishes a sweetness in heavenly
things. Christ is to him all marrow, yes the quintessence of delights. 'You
have tasted that the Lord is gracious' (1 Peter 2:3). He who spiritually
hungers, tastes the promises sweet—nay tastes a reproof sweet. 'To
the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet' (Proverbs 27:7). A bitter
reproof is sweet. He can feed upon the myrrh of the gospel as well as
the honey. By these evidences, we may judge of ourselves whether we
hunger and thirst after righteousness.
The words may serve to comfort the hearts of those who
hunger and thirst after righteousness; I doubt not but it is the grief of
many a gracious heart—that he cannot be more holy, that he cannot serve God
better. 'Blessed are those who hunger'. Though you do not have as much
righteousness as you would—yet you are blessed because you hunger after it.
Desire is the best evidence of a Christian. Actions may be
counterfeit. A man may do a good action for a bad end. So did Jehu. Actions
may be compulsory. A man may be forced to do that which is good—but not to
will that which is good. Therefore we are to nourish good desires and to
bless God for them. Oftentimes a child of God has nothing to show for
himself, but desires. 'Your servants, who desire to fear your name'
(Nehemiah 1:11). These hungerings after righteousness proceed from love. A
man does not desire that which he does not love. If you did not love Christ,
you could not hunger after him.
But some may say, 'If my hunger were right then I could
take comfort in it—but I fear it is counterfeit. Hypocrites have their
In reply, that I may the better settle a doubting
Christian I shall show the difference between true
and false desires, spiritual hunger and carnal hunger.
1. The hypocrite does not desire grace for itself.
He desires grace only as a bridge to lead him over to heaven. He does
not so much search after grace—as glory. He does not so much
desire the way of righteousness—as the crown of righteousness.
His desire is not to be made like Christ—but to reign with
Christ. This was Balaam's desire. 'Let me die the death of the righteous'
(Numbers 23:10). Such desires as these are found among the damned. This is
the hypocrite's hunger. But a child of God desires grace for itself,
and Christ for himself. To a believer not only is heaven
precious, but Christ is precious, "Yes, He is very precious to you
who believe!" (1 Peter 2:7).
2. The hypocrite's desire is conditional. He
would have heaven and his sins too, heaven and his pride, heaven and his
covetousness. The young man in the gospel would have had heaven, provided he
might keep his earthly possessions. Many a man would have Christ—but there
is some sin he must gratify. This is the hypocrites' hunger; but true desire
is absolute. Give me, says the soul, Christ on any terms. Let God propound
whatever articles he will, I will subscribe to them. Would he have me deny
myself? Would he have me mortify sin? I am content to do anything—just so I
may have Christ. Hypocrites would have Christ—but they will not part with
their beloved lust for Him!
3. Hypocrites' desires are but desires. They
are lazy and sluggish. 'The desire of the slothful kills him, for his hands
refuse to labor' (Proverbs 21:25). Men would be saved but they will take no
pains. Does he desire water. Who will not let down the bucket into the well?
But true desire is quickened into endeavor. 'All night long I
search for you; earnestly I seek for God.' (Isaiah 26:9). The 'violent take
heaven by force (Matthew 11:12). The lovesick spouse, though she was
wounded, and her veil taken away—yet she seeks after Christ (Canticles 5:7).
Desire is the weight of the soul, which sets it a going; as the eagle which
desires her prey makes haste to it. 'Where the slain are, there is she' (Job
39:30). The eagle has sharpness of sight to discover her prey, and swiftness
of wing to fly to it. So the soul who hungers after righteousness, is
carried swiftly to it in the use of all holy ordinances.
4. The hypocrite's desires are cheap. He would
have spiritual things—but will be spend nothing for them. He cares not how
much money he parts with for his lusts; he has money to spend upon a drunken
companion; but he has no money to part with for the maintaining of God's
ordinances. Hypocrites cry up religion—but cry down supporting the church.
But true desires are costly. David would not offer burnt-offerings without
cost (1 Chronicles 21:24). A hungry man will give anything for food; as it
fell out in the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:25). That man never hungered
after Christ, who thinks much of parting with a little silver for 'the Pearl
of great price'.
5. Hypocrites' desires are flashy and transient.
They are quickly gone, like the wind which does not stay long in one
corner. Or like a hot fit which is soon over. While the hypocrite is under
terror of conscience, or in affliction, he has some good desires—but the hot
fit is soon over. His goodness, like a fiery comet, soon spends and
evaporates. But true desire is constant. It is observable that the word in
the text is: 'Blessed are those who are hungering.' Though they have
righteousness—yet they are still hungering after more. Hypocrites
desire it like the motion of a watch—which is quickly run down. The desire
of a godly man is like the beating of the pulse—which lasts as long as life.
'My soul breaks for the longing that it has to your judgments' (Psalm
119:20). And that we might not think this pang of desire would soon be over
he adds, 'at all times'. David's desire after God was not a high color in a
fit—but the constant complexion of his soul. In the temple the fire was not
to go out by night. 'The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar'
(Leviticus 6:13). There was, says Cyril, a mystery in it, to show that we
must be ever burning in holy affections and desires.
6. Hypocrites' desires are unseasonable. They
are not well-timed. They put off their hungering after righteousness until
it is too late. They are like the foolish virgins, who came knocking when
the door was shut (Matthew 25:11). In time of health and prosperity the
stream of their affections ran another way. It was sin the hypocrite
desired, not righteousness. When he is about to die and can keep his sins no
longer, now he would have grace as a passport to carry him to heaven (Luke
13:25). This is the hypocrite's fault. His desires are too late. He sends
forth his desires when his last breath is going forth; as if a man should
desire a pardon after the sentence is passed. These bedridden desires are
bogus! But true desires are timely and seasonable. A gracious heart 'seeks
first the Kingdom of God' (Matthew 6:33). David's thirst after God
was early (Psalm 63:1). The wise virgins got their oil early
before the bridegroom came. Thus we see the difference between a true
and false hunger. Those who can find this true hunger are blessed, and may
take comfort in it.
But some may object: 'My hunger after righteousness is
so weak, that I fear it is not true.'
I answer: Though the pulse beats but weak—it shows there
is life. And that weak desires should not be discouraged, there is a promise
made to them. 'A bruised reed he will not break' (Matthew 12:20). A reed is
a weak thing—but especially when it is bruised—yet this 'bruised reed' shall
not be broken—but like Aaron's dry rod, 'bud and blossom'. In case of
weakness—look to Christ your High Priest. He is merciful, therefore
will bear with your infirmities; he is mighty, therefore will help
Further, if your desires after righteousness seem to be
weak and languid—yet a Christian may sometimes take a measure of his
spiritual estate as well by the judgment as by the affections. What is that
you esteem most in your judgment? Is it Christ and grace? This is good
evidence for heaven. It was a sign that Paul bore entire love to Christ
because he esteemed this Pearl above all. He counted other things 'but dung,
that he might win Christ' (Philippians 3:8).
'But,' says a child of God, 'that which much eclipses my
comfort is, I have not that hunger which I once had. Time was when I
hungered after a Sabbath because then the manna fell. 'I called the Sabbath
a delight'. I remember the time when I hungered after the body and blood of
the Lord. I came to a sacrament as a hungry man to a feast—but now it is
otherwise with me. I do not have those hungerings as formerly.'
I answer: It is indeed an ill sign for a man to lose his
appetite—but, though it is a sign of the decay of grace to lose the
spiritual appetite—yet it is a sign of the truth of grace to bewail
the loss. It is sad to lose our first love—but it is happy when we mourn for
the loss of our first love.
If you do not have that appetite after heavenly things as
formerly—yet do not be discouraged, for in the use of means you may recover
your appetite. The ordinances are for the recovering of the appetite when it
is lost. In other cases feeding takes away the appetite—but here, feeding on
an ordinance begets an appetite.
The text exhorts us all to labor after this spiritual
hunger. Hunger less after the world—and more after righteousness.
Say concerning spiritual things, 'Lord, evermore give us this bread! Feed me
with this angels' food!' That manna is most to be hungered after, which will
not only preserve life, but prevent death (John 6:50). That is most
desirable which is most durable. Riches are not forever (Proverbs
27:24) but righteousness is forever (Proverbs 8:18). 'The beauty of
holiness' never fades (Psalm 110:3). 'The robe of righteousness' (Isaiah
61:10) never waxes old! Oh hunger after that righteousness which 'delivers
from death' (Proverbs 10:12). This is the righteousness which God himself is
in love with. 'He loves him who follows after righteousness' (Proverbs
15:9). All men are ambitious of the king's favor. Alas, what is a prince's
smile but a transient glance? This sunshine of his royal countenance soon
masks itself with a cloud of displeasure—but those who are endued with
righteousness are God's favorites, and how sweet is his smile! 'Your
loving-kindness is better than life' (Psalm 63:3).
To persuade men to hunger after this righteousness,
consider two things.
1. Unless we hunger after righteousness we cannot obtain
it. God will never throw away his blessings upon those who do not
desire them. A king may say to a rebel, 'Do but desire a pardon and you
shall have it.' But if through pride and stubbornness he disdains to sue out
his pardon, he deserves justly to die. God has set spiritual blessings at a
low rate. Do but hunger and you shall have righteousness; but if we
refuse to come up to these terms there is no righteousness to be had for us.
God will stop the current of his mercy and set open the sluice of his
2. If we do not thirst here we shall thirst when it is
too late. If we do not thirst as David did 'My soul thirsts for
God' (Psalm 42:2) we shall thirst as Dives did for a drop of water (Luke
16:24). Those who do not thirst for righteousness shall be in perpetual
hunger and thirst. They shall thirst for mercy—but no mercy will be
received. Heat increases thirst. When men shall burn in hell and be scorched
with the flames of God's wrath, this heat will increase their thirst for
mercy—but there will be nothing to allay their thirst. O is it not better to
thirst for righteousness while it is to be had, than to thirst for mercy
when there is none to be had? Sinners, the time is shortly coming when the
drawbridge of mercy will be quite pulled up!
I shall next briefly describe
some helps to spiritual hunger.
1. Avoid those things which will hinder your appetite.
As 'windy things'. When the stomach is full of wind a man
has little appetite to his food. So when one is filled with a windy opinion
of his own righteousness, he will not hunger after Christ's righteousness.
He who, being puffed up with pride, thinks he has grace enough already, will
not hunger after more. These windy vapors spoil the appetite.
'Sweet things' spoil the appetite. So by feeding
immoderately upon the sweet luscious delights of the world, we lose our
appetite to Christ and grace. You never knew a man who glutted himself upon
the world, and at the same time was greatly in love with Christ. While
Israel fed with delight upon garlic and onions, they never hungered after
manna. The soul cannot be carried to two extremes at once. As the eye cannot
look intent on heaven and earth at once, so a man cannot at the same instant
hunger excessively after the world, and after righteousness!
The earth puts out the fire. The love of earthly things will
quench the desire of spiritual things. 'Love not the world' (1 John 2:15).
The sin is not in the having the world—but in the loving the
2. Do all that may nourish spiritual appetite.
There are two things which nourish appetite.
Exercise: a man by walking and excercising gets an
appetite for his food. So by the exercise of holy duties the spiritual
appetite is increased. 'Exercise yourself unto godliness' (1 Timothy 4:7).
Many have left off closet prayer. They hear the Word but seldom, and for
lack of exercise they have lost their appetite to religion.
Sauce: sauce whets and sharpens the appetite. There
is a twofold sauce which provokes holy appetite: first, the 'bitter herbs'
of repentance. He who tastes gall and vinegar in sin, hungers after
the body and blood of the Lord. Second, affliction. God often gives
us this sauce to sharpen our hunger after grace. 'Reuben found mandrakes in
the field' (Genesis 30:14). The mandrakes are a herb of a very strong savor,
and among other virtues they have, they are chiefly medicinal for those who
have weak and bad appetites. Afflictions may be compared to these mandrakes,
which sharpen men's desires after that spiritual food which in time of
prosperity they began to loathe and nauseate. Poverty is the sauce
which cures the gluttony of plenty. In sickness people hunger more
after righteousness, than in health. 'The full soul loathes the honeycomb'
Christians, when glutted on the world, despise the rich
cordials of the gospel. I wish we did not slight those truths now, which
would taste sweet in a prison. How precious was a leaf of the Bible in Queen
Mary's days! The wise God sees it good sometimes to give us the sharp
sauce of affliction, to make us feed more hungrily upon the bread of
life. And so much for the first part of the text, 'Blessed are those who
Spiritual hunger shall be satisfied
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they will be filled." Matthew 5:6
I proceed now to the second part of the text. A
promise annexed. 'They shall be filled'. A Christian fighting with sin
is not like one who 'beats the air' (1 Corinthians 9:26), and his hungering
after righteousness is not like one who sucks in only air, 'Blessed are
those who hunger, for they shall be filled.'
Those who hunger after righteousness shall be filled. God
never bids us to seek him 'in vain' (Isaiah 45:19). Here is a honeycomb
dropping into the mouths of the hungry—'they shall be filled'. 'He has
filled the hungry with good things' (Luke 1:53). 'He satisfies the longing
soul' (Psalm 107:9). God will not let us lose our longing. Here is the
excellency of righteousness above all other things. A man may hunger after
the world and not be filled. The world is fading, not filling.
Cast three worlds into the heart—yet the heart is not full. But
righteousness is a filling thing; nay, it so fills that it satisfies. A man
may be filled and not satisfied. A sinner may take his fill of sin—but
that is a sad filling. It is far from satisfaction. 'The backslider in heart
shall be filled with his own ways' (Proverbs 14:14). He shall have his belly
full of sin; he shall have enough of it—but this is not a filling to
satisfaction. This is such a filling that the damned in hell have! They
shall be full of the fury of the Lord!
But he who hungers after righteousness shall be
satisfyingly filled. 'My people shall be satisfied with my goodness'
(Jeremiah 31:14). 'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow' (Psalm 63:5).
Joseph first opened the mouth of the sacks, and then filled them with grain
and put money in them (Genesis 42:25). So God first opens the mouth of the
soul with desire and then fills it with good things (Psalm 81:10). For the
illustration of this, consider these three things: that God can fill the
hungry soul; why he fills the hungry soul; how he fills the hungry soul.
1. God can fill the hungry soul. He is called
a fountain. 'With you is the fountain of life' (Psalm 36:9). The cistern
may be empty and cannot fill us. Creatures are often 'broken cisterns'
(Jeremiah 2:13). But the fountain is filling. God is a fountain. If
we bring the vessels of our desires to this fountain, he is able to fill
them. The fullness in God is an infinite fullness. Though he fills us, and
the angels which have larger capacities to receive—yet he has never the less
himself. As the sun, though it shines, has never the less light. 'I perceive
that virtue is gone out of me' (Luke 8:46). Though God lets virtue go out of
him—yet he has never the less. The fullness of the creature is limited. It
arises just to such a degree and proportion; but God's fullness is infinite;
as it has its resplendence, so its abundance.' It has neither bounds nor
It is a constant fullness. The fullness of the
creature is a mutable fullness; it ebbs and changes. 'I would like to have
helped you—but now my estate is low', says one. The blossoms of the fig-tree
are soon blown off. But God is a constant fullness. 'You are the same'
(Psalm 102:27). God and his bounty, can never be exhausted. His fullness is
overflowing and ever-flowing. Then surely 'it is good to draw near to God'
(Psalm 73:28). It is good bringing our vessels to this spring-head. It is a
2. WHY God fills the hungry soul. The reasons
 God will fill the hungry soul out of his tender
compassion. He knows that otherwise, 'the spirit would fail
before him and the soul which he has made' (Isaiah 57:16). If the hungry man
is not satisfied with food, he dies. God has more affections than to allow a
hungry soul to be famished. When the multitude had nothing to eat, Christ
was moved with compassion and he wrought a miracle for their supply (Matthew
15:32). Much more will he compassionate such as hunger and thirst after
righteousness. When a poor sinner sees himself almost starved in his sins
(as the prodigal among his husks) and begins to hunger after Christ, saying,
'there is bread enough and to spare in my Father's house', God will then out
of his infinite compassion, bring forth the fatted calf and refresh his soul
with the delicacies and provisions of the gospel. Oh the melting of God's
affections to a hungry sinner! 'My heart is torn within me, and my
compassion overflows' (Hosea 11:8) We cannot see a poor creature at the door
ready to perish with hunger—but our affections begin to be stirred, and we
afford him some relief. And will the Father of mercies let a poor soul that
hungers after the blessings of the gospel go away without an alms of free
grace? No! he will not; he cannot! Let the hungry sinner think thus, 'Though
I am full of needs—yet my God is full of affection!'
 God will fill the hungry that he may fulfill his
Word. 'Blessed are you who hunger now: for you shall be filled'
(Psalm 107:9; Jeremiah 31:14; Luke 6:21). 'I will pour water upon him who is
thirsty, I will pour my Spirit upon your seed . . .' (Isaiah 44:3). Has the
Lord spoken and shall it not come to pass? Promises are obligatory. If God
has passed a promise—he cannot go back on his word. You who hunger after
righteousness have God engaged for you. He has (to speak with reverence)
pawned his truth for you. As 'his compassions fail not' (Lamentations 3:22),
so 'he will not allow his faithfulness to fail' (Psalm 89:33). If the hungry
soul should not be filled—the promise would not be fulfilled.
 God will fill the hungry soul because he himself has
excited and stirred up this hunger. He plants holy desires in us,
and will not he satisfy those desires which he himself has wrought in us? As
in the case of prayer, when God prepares the heart to pray, he prepares his
ear to hear (Psalm 10:17); so in the case of spiritual hunger, when God
prepares the heart to hunger, he will prepare his hand to fill. It is not
rational to imagine that God should deny to satisfy that hunger which he
himself has caused. God does nothing in vain. Should the Lord inflame the
desire after righteousness and not fill it, he might seem to do something in
 God will fill the hungry because of those sweet
relations he stands unto them—they are his children. We cannot
deny our children when they are hungry. We will rather spare it from our own
selves (Luke 11:13). When he who is born of God shall come and say, 'Father,
I hunger, give me Christ! Father, I thirst, refresh me with the living
streams of your Spirit!' can God deny him? Does God hear the raven
when it cries, and will he not hear the righteous when they cry? When
the earth opens its mouth and thirsts, God satisfies it (Psalm 65:9, 10).
Does the Lord satisfy the thirsty earth with showers and will he not
satisfy the thirsty soul with grace?
 God will satisfy the hungry because the hungry soul
is most thankful for mercy. When the restless desire has been
drawn out after God, and God fills it, how thankful is a Christian! The Lord
loves to bestow his mercy where he may have most praise. We delight to give
to those who are thankful. Musicians love to play where there is the best
praise. God loves to bestow his mercies where he may hear of them again. The
hungry soul sets the crown of praise upon the head of free grace! 'Whoever
offers praise glorifies me' (Psalm 50:23).
3. HOW God fills the hungry soul. There is
threefold filling: with grace; with peace; with bliss.
 God fills the hungry soul with GRACE.
Grace is filling, because it is suitable to the soul. Stephen was 'full of
the Holy Spirit' (Acts 7:55). This fullness of grace is in respect of parts,
not of degrees. There is something of every grace given, though not
perfection in any grace.
 God fills the hungry soul with PEACE. 'The
God of hope fill you with all joy and peace' (Romans 15:13). This flows from
Christ. Israel had honey out of the rock. This honey of peace comes out of
the rock, Christ. 'That in me you might have peace' (John 16:33). So filling
is this peace that it sets the soul a-longing after heaven. This cluster of
grapes quickens the appetite and pursuit after the full crop.
 God fills the hungry soul with BLISS.
Glory is a filling thing. 'When I awake I shall be satisfied with your
image' (Psalm 17:15). When a Christian awakes out of the sleep of death—then
he shall be satisfied, having the glorious beams of God's image shining upon
him. Then shall the soul be filled to the brim! The glory of heaven is so
sweet, that the soul shall still thirst—yet so infinite that it shall be
filled. 'Those who drink of you, O Christ, being refreshed with sweet
torrents, shall continue to thirst—yet they shall continue to be filled'.
What an encouragement is this to hunger after
righteousness! Such shall be filled. God charges us to fill the hungry
(Isaiah 58:10). He blames those who do not fill the hungry (Isaiah 32:6).
And do we think he will be slack in that which he blames us for not doing?
Oh come with hungerings after Christ and be assured of satisfaction! God
keeps open house for hungry sinners. He invites his guests and bids them
come without money (Isaiah 55:1, 2). God's nature inclines him, and
his promise obliges him—to fill the hungry. Consider, why did Christ
receive 'the Spirit without measure'? (John 3:34). It was not for himself.
He was infinitely full before. But he was filled with the holy unction for
this end—that he might distill his grace upon the hungry soul. Are you
ignorant? Christ was filled with wisdom that he might teach you. Are you
polluted? Christ was filled with grace that he might cleanse you. Shall not
the soul then come to Christ who was filled on purpose to fill the hungry?
We love to knock at a rich man's door. In our Father's house there is bread
enough. Come with desire—and you shall go away with comfort!
You shall have the virtues of Christ's blood, the influences of his Spirit,
the communications of his love!
There are two objections made against this.
The carnal man's objection. 'I have' (says he)
'hungered after righteousness—yet am not filled.'
You say you hunger and are not satisfied? Perhaps God is
not satisfied with your hunger. You have 'opened your mouth wide'
(Psalm 81:10)—but have not 'opened your ear' (Psalm 49:4). When God
has called you to family prayer and mortification of sin, you have, like the
'deaf adder', stopped your ear against God (Zechariah 7:11). No wonder then
that you have not that comfortable filling as you desire. Though you have
opened your mouth—you have stopped your ear. The child that
will not hear his parent, is made to do penance by fasting.
Perhaps you thirst as much after a temptation, as after
righteousness. At a sacrament you seem to be inflamed with desire after
Christ—but the next temptation that comes either to drunkenness or lust—you
imbibe the temptation. Satan but beckons to you—and you come. You open
faster to the tempter—than to Christ! And do you wonder you are not filled
with the fat things of God's house?
Perhaps you hunger more after the world than after
righteousness. The young man in the gospel would have Christ—but the world
lay nearer to his heart, than Christ. Hypocrites pant more after the dust of
the earth (Amos 2:7) than the 'water of life'. Israel had no manna
while their dough lasted. Such as feed immoderately upon the dough of
earthly things, must not think to be filled with manna from heaven. If your
money is your God—never think to receive another God in the sacrament.
The godly man's objection. I have had sincere
desires after God—but am not filled.
You may have a filling of grace—though not of
comfort. If God does not fill you with gladness—yet with
goodness (Psalm 107:9). Look into your heart and see the distillations
of the Spirit. The dew may fall—though the honeycomb does not
Wait a while, and you shall be filled. The gospel is a
spiritual banquet. It feasts the soul with grace and comfort. None eat of
this banquet, but such as wait at the table. 'In this mountain shall the
Lord Almighty make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines
on the lees well refined. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our
God, we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation'
(Isaiah 25:6,9). Spiritual mercies are not only worth desiring—but worth
If God should not fill his people to satisfaction here on
earth—yet they shall be filled in heaven. The vessels of their desires shall
be filled as those water pots--'up to the brim!' (John 2:7)