Thomas Watson, 1660
An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12
Poverty of Spirit
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Some are of opinion, that this was the first sermon which
ever Christ gave, therefore it may challenge our best attention. 'Blessed
are the poor in spirit'. Our Lord Christ, beginning to raise a high and
stately fabric of blessedness, lays the foundation of it low—in poverty of
spirit. But all poverty is not blessed. I shall use a fourfold distinction.
1. I distinguish between 'poor in estate', and 'poor in
spirit'. There are the Devil's poor. They are both poor
and wicked—whose clothes are not more torn than their conscience. There are
some whose poverty is their sin, who through improvidence or
excess have brought themselves to poverty. These may be poor in
estate—but not poor in spirit.
2. I distinguish between 'spiritually poor' and 'poor in
spirit'. He who is without grace is spiritually poor—but he is
not poor in spirit; he does not know his own beggary. 'You know not, that
you are poor' (Revelation 3:17). He is in the worst sense poor—who
has no sense of his poverty.
3. I distinguish between 'poor-spirited' and 'poor in
spirit'. They are said to be poor-spirited who have mean, base
spirits, who act below themselves. Such are those misers, who having great
estates—yet can hardly afford themselves bread; who live sneakingly, and are
ready to wish their own throats cut, because they are forced to spend
something in satisfying nature's demands. This Solomon calls an evil under
the sun. 'There is an evil which I have seen under the sun—a man to whom God
has given riches, so that he lacks nothing that he desires—yet God gives him
not power to eat thereof' (Ecclesiastes 6:2). True religion makes no man a
niggard. Though it teaches prudence—yet not sordidness.
Then there are those who act below themselves as they are
Christians, while they sinfully comply and prostitute themselves to the
desires of others; a base kind of metal that will take any stamp. They will
for a piece of silver—part with the jewel of a good conscience. They will be
of the popular religion. They will dance to the devil's pipe, if
their superior commands them. These are poor-spirited but not poor in
4. I distinguish between poor in an evangelical
sense—and poor in a popish sense. The papists give a wrong
gloss upon the text. By 'poor in spirit', they understand those who,
renouncing their estates, vow a voluntary poverty, living retiredly in their
monasteries. But Christ never meant these. He does not pronounce them
blessed—who make themselves poor, leaving their estates and callings—but
such as are evangelically poor.
Well then, what are we to understand by 'poor in spirit'?
The Greek word for 'poor' is not only taken in a strict sense for those who
live upon charity—but in a more large sense, for those who are destitute as
well of inward as outward comfort. Poor in spirit, then,
signifies those who are brought to the sense of their sins, and seeing no
goodness in themselves, despair in themselves and sue wholly to the mercy of
God in Christ. Poverty of spirit is a kind of self-annihilation. 'The
poor in spirit' (says Calvin) 'are those who see nothing in themselves—but
fly to mercy for sanctuary.' Such an one was the publican: 'God be
merciful to me a sinner' (Luke 18:13). Of this temper was Paul: 'That I may
be found in Christ, not having my own righteousness' (Philippians 3:9).
These are the poor, who are invited as guests to wisdom's banquet (Proverbs
Here several questions may be propounded.
 Why does Christ here begin with poverty of spirit?
Why is this put in the forefront? I answer, Christ does it to show that
poverty of spirit is the very basis and foundation of all the other graces
which follow. You may as well expect fruit to grow without a root, as the
other graces without poverty of spirit. Until a man is poor in spirit, he
cannot mourn. Poverty of spirit is like the fire under the still, which
makes the water drop from the eyes. When a man sees his own defects and
deformities, and looks upon himself as undone—then he mourns after Christ.
'The springs run in the valleys' (Psalm 104:10). When the heart becomes a
valley and lies low by poverty of spirit, now the springs of holy mourning
run there. Until a man is poor in spirit, he cannot 'hunger and thirst after
righteousness'. He must first be sensible of need, before he can hunger.
Therefore Christ begins with poverty of spirit—because this ushers in all
 What is the difference between poverty of spirit,
and humility? These are so alike that they have been
taken one for the other. Chrysostom, by 'poverty of spirit', understands
humility. Yet I think there is some difference. They differ as the
cause and the effect. I think that poverty of spirit is the cause
of humility, for when a man sees his need of Christ, and how he lives on the
alms of free grace—this makes him humble. He who is sensible of his own
vacuity and indigence, hangs his head in humility with the violet. Humility
is the sweet spice which grows from poverty of spirit.
 What is the difference between poverty of spirit, and
self-denial? I answer, in some things they agree, in some things
they differ. In some things they agree; for the one who is poor in
spirit is an absolute self-denier. He renounces all good opinion of himself.
He acknowledges his dependence upon Christ and free grace.
But in some things they differ. The self-denier
parts with the world for Christ; the poor in spirit parts with himself for
Christ, that is—his own righteousness. The poor in spirit sees himself
nothing without Christ; the self-denier will leave himself nothing for
Christ. And thus I have shown what poverty of spirit is.
The words thus opened present us with this truth—that
Christians must be poor in spirit. Or thus—poverty of spirit is the jewel
which Christians must wear. As the best creature was made out of nothing; so
when a man sees himself to be nothing, out of this nothing God makes a most
beautiful creature. It is God's usual method to make a man poor in
spirit—and then fill him with the graces of the Spirit. As we deal with a
watch, we take it first to pieces, and then set all the wheels and pins in
order—so the Lord first takes a man all to pieces, shows him his undone
condition—and then sets him in frame.
The reasons are:
1 Until we are poor in spirit—we are not capable of
receiving grace. He who is swollen with self-excellency and
self-sufficiency—is not fit for Christ. He is full already. If the hand is
full of pebbles—it cannot receive gold. The glass is first emptied, before
you pour in wine. God first empties a man of himself, before he pours in the
precious wine of his grace. None but the poor in spirit are within Christ's
commission. 'The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; he has sent me to bind
up the broken-hearted' (Isaiah 61:1), that is, such as are broken in the
sense of their unworthiness.
2. Until we are poor in spirit—Christ is never precious.
Until we see our own wants, we never see Christ's worth. Poverty of spirit
is salt and seasoning, which makes Christ relish sweet to the soul. Mercy is
most welcome to the poor in spirit. He who sees himself clad in filthy rags
(Zechariah 3:4,5), what will he give for change of raiment, the
righteousness of Christ! What will he give to have the fair mitre of
salvation set upon his head! When a man sees himself almost wounded to
death—how precious will the balm of Christ's blood be to him! When he sees
himself deep in arrears with God, and is so far from paying the debt that he
cannot sum up the debt—how glad would he be for a surety! 'The pearl of
great price' is only precious to the one who is poor in spirit. He who needs
bread and is ready to starve, will have it whatever it cost. He will lay his
garment to pledge; bread he must have—or he is undone! So to him who is poor
in spirit, who sees his need of Christ—how precious is a Savior! Christ is
Christ and grace is grace to him! He will do anything for the bread of life!
Therefore will God have the soul thus qualified—to enhance the value and
estimate of the Lord Jesus.
3. Until we are poor in spirit—we cannot go to heaven.
'Theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. Poverty of spirit tunes and
prepares us for heaven. By nature a man is puffed up with self-esteem, and
the gate of heaven is so narrow that he cannot enter. Now poverty of spirit
lessens the soul; it pares off its superfluity, and now he is fit to enter
in at the 'narrow gate'. The great rope cannot go through the eye of the
needle—but let it be untwisted and made into small threads, and then it may.
Poverty of spirit untwists the great rope. It makes a man little in his own
eyes, and now an entrance shall be made unto him, 'richly into the
everlasting Kingdom' (2 Peter 1:11). Through this temple of poverty,
we must go into the temple of glory.
It shows wherein a Christian's riches consist, namely in
poverty of spirit. Some think if they can fill their bags with
gold—and then they are rich. But those who are poor in spirit, are the rich
men. They are rich in poverty. This poverty entitles them to a
kingdom! How poor are those who think themselves rich! How rich are those
who see themselves poor! I call it the 'jewel of poverty'. There are some
paradoxes in piety which the world cannot understand; for a man to become a
fool that he may be wise (1 Corinthians 3:18); to save his life by losing it
(Matthew 16:25); and by being poor to be rich. Carnal reason laughs at
it—but 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom'. Then
this poverty is to be striven for more than all riches. Under these rags, is
hidden cloth of gold. Out of this carcass comes honey.
If blessed are the poor in spirit, then by the rule of
contraries, cursed are the proud in spirit (Proverbs 16:5). There
is a generation of men who commit idolatry with themselves; no such idol as
self! They admire their own parts, moralities, self-righteousness; and upon
this stock graft the hope of their salvation. There are many too good to go
to heaven. They have commodities enough of their own growth, and they scorn
to live upon the borrow, or to be indebted to Christ. These bladders the
Devil has blown up with pride, and they are swelled in their own conceit;
but it is like the swelling of a dropsy man whose bigness is his disease.
Thus it was with that proud justiciary: 'The Pharisee stood and prayed, God,
I thank you that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust,
adulterers, or even as this publican; I fast twice in the week, I give
tithes ...' (Luke 18:11). Here was a man setting up the topsail of pride;
but the publican, who was poor in spirit, stood afar off and would not lift
up so much as his eyes unto heaven—but smote upon his breast saying, 'God be
merciful to me a sinner.' This man carried away the garland. 'I tell you'
(says Christ) 'this man went down to his house justified rather than the
other'. Paul, before his conversion, thought himself in a very good
condition, 'touching the law, blameless' (Philippians 3:6). He thought to
have built a tower of his own righteousness, the top whereof should have
reached to heaven; but, at last, God showed him there was a crack in the
foundation, and then he gets into the 'rock of ages'. 'That I may be found
in him' (Philippians 3:9). There is not a more dangerous precipice than
self-righteousness. This was Laodicea's temper: 'Because you say I am rich
and I have need of nothing . . .' (Revelation 3:17). She thought she wanted
nothing when indeed she had nothing. How many does this damn! We see some
ships that have escaped the rocks—yet are cast away upon the sands; so some
who have escaped the rocks of gross sins—yet are cast away upon the sands of
self-righteousness; and how hard is it to convince such men of their danger!
They will not believe but that they may be helped out of their dungeon with
these rotten rags. They cannot be persuaded their case is so bad as others
would make it. Christ tells them they are blind—but they are like Seneca's
maid, who was born blind—but she would not believe it. The house, says she,
is dark—but I am not blind. Christ tells them they are naked, and offers his
white robe to cover them—but they are of a different persuasion; and because
they are blind, they cannot see themselves naked. How many have perished by
being their own saviors! O that this might drive the proud sinner out of
himself! A man never comes to himself until he comes out of himself. And no
man can come out, until first Christ comes in.
If poverty of spirit be so necessary—how shall I know
that I am poor in spirit? By the blessed effects of this poverty,
1. He who is poor in spirit—is weaned from himself.
'My soul is even as a weaned child' (Psalm 131:2). It is hard for a man to
be weaned from himself. The vine catches hold of everything that is near, to
prop itself upon. Just so, there is some bough or other a man would be
catching hold of to rest upon. How hard is it to be brought quite off
himself! The poor in spirit are divorced from themselves; they see they must
go to hell without Christ. 'My soul is even as a weaned child'.
2. He who is poor in spirit—is a Christ-admirer.
He has high thoughts of Christ. He sees himself naked—and
flies to Christ, to be clothed in the garments of His righteousness. He sees
himself wounded—and as the wounded deer runs to the water, so he
thirsts for Christ's blood, the water of life. "Lord!" says he, "give me
Christ or I die!" Conscience is turned into a fiery serpent and has stung
him; now he will give all the world—for a brazen serpent! He sees himself in
a state of death; and how precious is one leaf of the tree of life,
which is both for food and medicine! The poor in spirit sees all his riches
lie in Christ, 'wisdom, righteousness, sanctification . . '. In every need,
he flies to this storehouse! He adores the all-fullness in Christ.
They say of the oil in Rheims, though they are
continually almost using it—yet it is never used up. And such is Christ's
blood—it can never be emptied. He who is poor in spirit has recourse still
to this fountain. He sets a high value and appreciation upon Christ. He
hides himself in Christ's wounds. He bathes himself in his blood.
He wraps himself in Christ's robe. He sees a spiritual dearth and
famine at home—but he flees to Christ. 'Show me the Lord (says he) and it
3. He who is poor in spirit—is ever complaining of his
spiritual estate. He is much like a poor man who is ever telling
you of his needs. He has nothing to help himself with—he is ready to starve!
So it is with him that is poor in spirit. He is ever complaining of his
needs, saying, "I want a broken heart—and a thankful heart." He makes
himself the most indigent creature. Though he dares not deny the work of
grace (which would be a bearing false witness again the Spirit)—yet he
mourns he has no more grace. This is the difference between a hypocrite and
a child of God. The hypocrite is ever telling what good he has. A child of
God complains of what good he lacks. The one is glad he is so good; the
other grieves he is so bad. The poor in spirit goes from ordinance to
ordinance for a supply of his needs; he would gladly have his stock
increased. Try by this if you are poor in spirit. While others complain they
want children, or they want estates—do you complain you wany grace? This is
a good sign. 'There is one who makes himself poor—yet has great riches'
(Proverbs 13:7). Some beggars have died rich. The poor in spirit, who have
lain all their lives at the gate of mercy and have lived upon the alms of
free grace—have died rich in faith, heirs to an eternal kingdom!
4. He who is poor in spirit—is lowly in heart.
Rich men are commonly proud and scornful—but the poor are submissive. The
poor in spirit roll themselves in the dust in the sense of their
unworthiness. 'I abhor myself in dust' (Job 42:6). He who is poor in spirit
looks at another's excellencies—and his own infirmities. He
denies not only his sins—but his duties. The more grace he has, the more
humble he is—because he now sees himself a greater debtor to God. If he can
do any duty, he acknowledges it is Christ's strength more than his own
(Philippians 4:13). As the ship gets to the haven more by the benefit of the
wind than the sail—so when a Christian makes any swift progress, it is more
by the wind of God's Spirit than the sail of his own endeavor. The poor in
spirit, when he acts most like a saint, confesses himself 'the chief of
sinners'. He blushes more at the defect of his graces—than others do at the
excess of their sins. He dares not say he has prayed or wept. He lives—yet
not he—but Christ lives in him (Galatians 2:20). He labors—yet not he—but
the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).
5. He who is poor in spirit—is much in prayer.
He sees how short he is of the standard of holiness, therefore begs for more
grace; Lord, more faith, more conformity to Christ. A poor man is ever
begging. You may know by this—one who is poor in spirit. He is ever begging
for a spiritual alms. He knocks at heaven-gate; he sends up sighs; he pours
out tears; he will not leave the gate—until he has his alms. God loves a
modest boldness in prayer; such shall not be turned away.
6. He who is poor in spirit—is content to take Christ
upon his own terms. The proud sinner will argue and bargain with
Christ. He will have Christ—and his pleasures; Christ—and his covetousness.
But he who is poor in spirit sees himself lost without Christ, and he is
willing to have him upon his own terms, a Prince to rule him—as well
as a Saviour to save him: 'Jesus my Lord' (Philippians 3:8). A
castle which has long been besieged and is ready to be captured, will
surrender on any terms to save their lives. He whose heart has been a
garrison for the devil, and has held out long in opposition against Christ,
when once God has brought him to poverty of spirit, and he sees himself
damned without Christ, let God propound whatever articles he will—he will
readily subscribe to them. 'Lord, what will you have me to do?' (Acts 9:6).
He who is poor in spirit will do anything—that he may have Christ. He will
behead his beloved sin! He will, with Peter, cast himself upon the water to
come to Christ.
7. He who is poor in spirit—is an exalter of free grace.
None so magnify God's mercy—as the poor in spirit. The poor are
very thankful. When Paul had tasted mercy, how thankfully does he adore free
grace! 'The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant' (1 Timothy 1:14). It
was super-exuberant grace! He sets the crown of his salvation—upon the head
of free grace! As a man who is condemned and has a pardon sent him—how
greatly he proclaims the goodness and mercifulness of his prince! So Paul
displays free grace in its magnificent colors. He interlines all his
epistles with free grace. As a vessel which has been perfumed makes
the water taste of it—so Paul, who was a vessel perfumed with mercy, makes
all his epistles to taste of this perfume of free grace! Those who are poor
in spirit, bless God for the least crumb which falls from the table of free
grace! Labor for poverty of spirit. Christ begins with this, and we must
begin here if ever we are saved. Poverty of spirit is the foundation stone,
on which God lays the superstructure of eternal glory!
There are four things which may persuade Christians to be
poor in spirit.
1. This poverty is your riches. You may have the world's
riches, and yet be poor. You cannot have this poverty without being made
rich. Poverty of spirit entitles you to all Christ's riches.
2. This poverty is your nobility. God looks upon you as
people of honor. He who is vile in his own eyes—is precious in God's eyes.
The way to rise—is to fall. God esteems the valley highest.
3. Poverty of spirit sweetly quiets the soul. When a man
is brought off from himself to rest on Christ, what a blessed calm is in the
heart! I am poor—but 'my God shall supply all my needs!' (Philippians 4:19).
I am unworthy—but Christ is worthy! I am indigent—but Christ is infinite!
'Lead me to the rock that is higher than I' (Psalm 61:2). A man is safe upon
a rock. When the soul goes out of itself and centers upon the rock,
Christ—now it is firmly settled upon its basis. This is the way to comfort.
You will be wounded in spirit—until you come to be poor in spirit.
4. Poverty of spirit paves the pathway for blessedness.
'Blessed are the poor in spirit.' Are you poor in spirit? You are blessed
people! Happy for you that ever you were born! If you ask, "Wherein does
this blessedness appear?" read the next words, 'Theirs is the Kingdom of
5. The poor in spirit are enriched with a heavenly
"Theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3
Here is high advancement for the saints. They shall be
advanced to a heavenly kingdom! There are some who, aspiring after earthly
greatness, talk of a temporal reign here—but then God's church on earth
would not be militant, but triumphant. But sure it is—that the
saints shall reign in a glorious manner: 'Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.'
A kingdom is the pinnacle and top of all worldly felicity, and 'this honor
have all the saints!' So says our Savior, 'Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'
All Christ's subjects are kings! By the kingdom of heaven, is
meant that state of glory which the saints shall enjoy when they shall reign
with God and the angels forever; sin, hell and death being fully subdued.
A. For the illustration of this, I shall show
first—wherein the saints in heaven are like kings.
Kings have their insignia or regalia, their ensigns of royalty and majesty.
1. Kings have their CROWNS. So the saints
after death have their royal crown. 'Be faithful unto death—and I will give
you a crown of life' (Revelation 2:10). Believers are not only pardoned—but
crowned! The crown is an ensign of honor. A crown is not for
everyone. It will not fit every head. It is only for kings and people of
renown to wear (Psalm 21:3). The crown which the poor in spirit shall wear
in heaven, is an honorable crown. God himself installs them into their honor
and sets the royal crown upon their head. And this crown that the saints
shall wear, which is divinely glorious and illustrious, exceeds all other.
 It is more pure. Other crowns, though they
are made of pure gold—yet they are mixed metal; they have their troubles.
A crown of gold, cannot be made without thorns. It has so many
vexations belonging to it, that it is apt to make the head ache. Which made
Cyrus say, did men but know what cares he sustained under the imperial
crown, he thought they would not stoop to take it up. But the saints'
crown is made without crosses. It is not mingled with care of
keeping—or fear of losing. What Solomon speaks in another sense,
I may say of the crown of glory, 'It adds no sorrow with it' (Proverbs
10:22). This crown, like David's harp, drives away the evil spirit of sorrow
and disquiet. As there can be joy in hell—so there can be no grief in
 This crown of glory does not draw envy to it.
David's own son envied him and sought to take his crown from his head. A
princely crown is oftentimes the mark for envy and ambition to
shoot at! But the crown the saints shall wear is free from envy. One saint
shall not envy another—because all are crowned! And though one crown
may be larger than another—yet every one shall have as big a crown as he is
able to carry!
 This is a never-fading crown. Other crowns
quickly wear away and tumble into the dust: 'Does the crown endure to all
generations?' (Proverbs 27:24). Henry VI was honored with the crowns of
two kingdoms, France and England. The first was lost through the faction
of his nobles; the other was twice plucked from his head. The crown has many
heirs and successors. The crown is a withering thing. Death is a worm
which feeds in it; but the crown of glory is imperishable, 'it fades not
away' (1 Peter 5:4). It is not like the rose which loses its color and
vernancy. This crown cannot be made to wither—but it keeps always fresh and
resplendent. Eternity is a jewel of the saints' crown!
2. Kings have their ROBES. The robe is a
garment with which Kings are arrayed. 'The King of Israel and the King of
Judah sat clothed in their robes' (2 Chronicles 18:9). The robe was
of scarlet or velvet lined with ermine, sometimes of a purple color;
sometimes of an azure brightness. Thus the saints shall have their robes. 'I
beheld a great multitude which no man could number of all nations and
kindreds, clothed in white robes' (Revelation 7:9). The saints' robes
signify their glory and splendor; white robes denote their sanctity. They
have no sin to taint or defile their robes. In these robes they shall shine
as the angels!
3. Kings have their SCEPTERS in token of rule and
greatness. King Ahasuerus held out to Esther the golden scepter
(Esther 5:2); and the saints in glory have their scepter, and 'palms in
their hands' (Revelation 7). It was a custom of great conquerors to have
palm branches in their hand, in token of victory. So the saints, those kings
have 'palms', an emblem of victory and triumph. They are victors over sin
and hell. 'They overcame by the blood of the Lamb' (Revelation 12:11).
4. Kings have their THRONES. When Caesar
returned from conquering his enemies, there were granted to him four
triumphs in token of honor, and there was set for him a chair of ivory in
the senate, and a throne in the theater. Just so—the saints in heaven
returning from their victories over sin, shall have a throne more rich than
ivory or pearl—a throne of glory! (Revelation 3:21).
 This shall be a HIGH throne. It is seated
high above all the kings and princes of the earth. Nay, it is far above all
heavens (Ephesians 4). There is the airy heaven—which is that space
from the earth to the sphere of the moon. There is the starry
heaven—the place where the stars are. There is the empyrean heaven, which is
called the 'third heaven' (2 Corinthians 12:2). In this glorious sublime
place, shall the throne of the saints be erected.
 It is a SAFE throne. Other thrones are
unsafe; they stand tottering. 'You have set them in slippery places'
(Psalm 73:18); but the saints' throne is sure. 'He who overcomes shall sit
with me upon my throne' (Revelation 3:21). The saints shall sit with
Christ. He keeps them safe, that no hand of violence can pull them from
their throne. O people of God, think of this—you shall shortly sit upon the
heavenly throne with Jesus!
B. Having shown wherein the saints in glory
are like kings—let us see wherein the kingdom of
heaven excels other kingdoms.
1. It excels in the FOUNDER and MAKER. Other
kingdoms have men for their builders—but this kingdom has God
for its builder! (Hebrews 11:10). Heaven is said to be 'made without hands'
(2 Corinthians 5:1), to show the excellency of it. Neither man nor angel
could ever lay stone in this building. God erects this kingdom. Its
'builder and maker is God'.
2. This kingdom excels in the RICHES of it.
Gold does not so much surpass iron—as this kingdom surpasses all other
riches. 'The gates are of pearl' (Revelation 21:21). 'And the foundations of
the wall of it are garnished with all precious stones' (verse 19). It is
enough for cabinets to have pearl; but were 'gates of pearl'
ever heard of before? It is said that 'Kings shall throw down their crowns
and scepters before it (Revelation 4:10), as counting all their glory and
riches but dust—in comparison of it. This kingdom has deity itself to enrich
it, and these riches are such as cannot be weighed in the balance; neither
the heart of man can conceive, nor the tongue of angel express the
magnificence of the heavenly kingdom!
3. This kingdom excels in the PERFECTION of it.
Other kingdoms are defective. They have not all provisions within
themselves, nor have they all commodities of their own growth—but are forced
to trade abroad to supply their needs at home. King Solomon sent for gold to
Ophir (2 Chronicles 8:18). But there is no defect in the kingdom of
heaven! Here are all delights and rarities to be had! 'He who overcomes
shall inherit all things!' (Revelation 21:7). Here is beauty, wisdom,
glory and magnificence. Here is the Tree of Life in the midst of this
paradise. All things are to be found here—but sin and sorrow—the absence
whereof adds to the blessedness of this kingdom!
4. This kingdom excels in SECURITY. Other
kingdoms fear either foreign invasions or internal divisions. Solomon's
kingdom was peaceable a while—but at last he had an alarum given him by the
enemy (1 Kings 11:11,14). But the kingdom of heaven is so impregnable, that
it fears no hostile assaults or inroads. The devils are said to be locked up
in chains (Jude 6). The saints in heaven shall no more need fear them than a
man fears a thief who is hanged up in chains. The gates of this celestial
kingdom 'are not shut' (Revelation 21:25). We shut the gates of the city in
a time of danger—but the gates of that kingdom always stand open—to show
that there is no fear of the approach of an enemy. The kingdom has gates for
the magnificence of it—but the gates are not shut because of the
security of it.
5. This kingdom excels in its STABILITY. Other
kingdoms have vanity written upon them. They cease and are changed;
though they may have a head of gold—yet feet of clay. 'I will
cause the kingdom to cease' (Hosea 1:4). Where is the glory of Athens? the
pomp of Troy? What is become of the Assyrian, Grecian, Persian monarchy?
Those kingdoms are demolished and laid in the dust! But the kingdom of
heaven has eternity written upon it! It is an 'everlasting kingdom'
(2 Peter 1:11). Other kingdoms may be lasting—but not everlasting.
The apostle calls it 'a kingdom which cannot be shaken' (Hebrews 12:28). It
is fastened upon a strong foundation—the omnipotence of God. It runs
parallel with eternity. 'They shall reign forever and ever!' (Revelation
C. I shall next show the truth of this proposition—that
this kingdom is infallibly entailed on the saints.
In regard of God's free grace. 'It is your Father's
good pleasure to give you the kingdom' (Luke 12:32). It is not for
any desert in us—but the free grace in God. The papists say we merit the
kingdom—but we disclaim the title of merit. Heaven is a gift of God's grace.
There is a price paid. Jesus Christ has shed his
blood for it. All saints come to the kingdom, through blood. Christ's
hanging upon the cross was to bring us to the crown. As the kingdom of
heaven is a gift in regard of the Father—so it is a purchase
in regard of the Son.
1. This shows us that true religion is no unreasonable
thing. God does not cut us out work—and give no reward. Godliness
enthrones us in a kingdom! When we hear of the doctrine of repentance,
steeping our souls in brinish tears for sin; the doctrine of
mortification, pulling out the right eye, beheading the king-sin; and we
are ready to think it is hard to swallow down this bitter pill. But here is
something in the text which may sweeten it. There is a glorious kingdom
reserved for us—and that will make amends for all. This glorious
recompense as far exceeds our thoughts—as it surpasses our defects. No one
can say without wrong to God, that he is a hard master. God gives double
pay. He bestows a kingdom upon those who fear him. Satan may disparage the
ways of God, like those spies who raised a bad report of the good land
(Numbers 13:32). But will Satan mend your wages if you serve him? He gives
damnable pay! Instead of a kingdom—he gives 'chains of darkness' (Jude 6).
2. See here the mercy and bounty of God, who has prepared
a kingdom for his people. It is a favor that we poor 'worms and
no men' (Psalm 22:6) should be allowed to live. But that worms should be
made kings—this is divine bounty! It is mercy to pardon us—but it is
rich mercy to crown us! 'Behold, what manner of love' is this!
Earthly princes may bestow great gifts on their subjects—but they keep the
kingdom to themselves. Though Pharaoh advanced Joseph to honor and gave him
a ring from his finger—yet he kept the kingdom to himself. 'Only in the
throne will I be greater than you' (Genesis 41:40). But God gives a kingdom
to his people, he sets them upon the throne! How David admires the goodness
of God in bestowing upon him a temporal kingdom! 'Then went king David in,
and sat before the Lord and said, Who am I, O Lord God! and what is my
house, that you have brought me hitherto?' (2 Samuel 7:18). He wondered that
God should take him from the sheepfold and set him on the throne! that God
should turn his shepherd's staff into a king's scepter! O then how may the
saints admire the riches of grace, that God should give them a glorious
kingdom above all the princes of the earth, nay, far above all heavens! God
thinks nothing too good for his children. We many times think much of a
tear, a prayer, or to sacrifice a sin for him—but He does not think a
kingdom is too much to bestow upon us! How will the saints read over the
lectures of free grace in heaven, and trumpet forth the praises of that God,
who has crowned them with such astonishing loving-kindness! "Don't be
afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom."
3. This shows us that Christianity is no disgraceful
thing. Wise men measure things by the final end. What is the end
of godliness? It brings a glorious kingdom! A man's sin brings him to shame
(Proverbs 13:5). What fruit had you in those things, whereof you are now
ashamed? (Romans 6:21). But religion brings to honor (Proverbs 4:8). It
brings a man to a throne, a crown, it ends in eternal glory! It is the
sinner's folly to reproach a saint. It is just as if Shimei had reproached
David when he was going to be made king. It is a saint's wisdom to despise a
reproach. Say as David when he danced before the ark, 'I will yet be more
vile' (2 Samuel 6:22). If to pray and hear and serve my God, is be to be
vile—'I will yet be more vile'. This is my excellency, my glory. I am doing
now, that which will bring me to a kingdom. O think it no disgrace to be a
Christian! I speak it chiefly to you who are entering upon the ways of God.
Perhaps you may meet with such as will reproach and censure you. Bind their
reproaches as a crown about your head. Despise their censure as much
as their praise. Remember there is a kingdom entailed upon godliness.
Sin draws hell after it; grace draws a crown after it!
4. See here that which may make the people of God long
for death. Then they shall enter upon their glorious kingdom!
Indeed the wicked may fear death. It will not lead them to a kingdom—but a
horrid dungeon. Hell is the jail where they must lie rotting forever
with the devil and his demons! To every Christless
person—death is the king of terror; but the godly may long for death. It
will raise them to a kingdom. When Scipio's father had told him of that
glory the soul should be invested with in a state of immortality, "why
then," says Scipio, "do I tarry thus long upon the earth? Why do I not
hasten to die?" Believers are not perfectly happy until death. When Croesus
asked Solon whom he thought happy, he told him one Tellus, a man who was
dead. A Christian at death shall be completely installed into his honor. The
anointing oil shall be poured on him, and the royal crown set upon his head.
The Thracians, in their funerals, used festive music. The heathens
(as Theocritus' observes) had their funeral banquet, because of that
felicity which they supposed the deceased were entered into. The saints are
now 'heirs of the kingdom' (James 2:5). Does not the heir desire to be
Truly there is enough to wean us and make us willing to
be gone from hence. The saints 'eat ashes like bread'. They are here in a
suffering condition. 'Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when
one cuts wood' (Psalm 141:7). When a man hews and cuts a tree the chips fly
up and down; here and there a chip. So here a saint wounded, there a saint
massacred; our bones fly like chips up and down. 'For your sake we are
killed all the day long' (Romans 8:36). But there is a kingdom a-coming;
when the body is buried the soul is crowned. Who would not be willing to
sail in a storm—if he were sure to be crowned as soon as he came at the
shore? Why is it that the godly look so ghastly at thoughts of death, as if
they were rather going to their execution, than their coronation?
Though we should be willing to stay here awhile to do service—yet we should
with Paul, 'desire to depart—and be with Christ'. The day of a believer's
dissolution—is the day of his inauguration.
But how shall we know that this glorious kingdom shall be
settled upon us at death?
1. God has set up his kingdom of grace within each
of his children. 'The kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:21).
By the kingdom of God here—is meant the kingdom of grace in the
heart. Grace may be compared to a kingdom. It sways the scepter; it gives
out laws. There is the law of love. Grace beats down the devil's garrisons.
It brings the heart into a sweet subjection to Christ. Is this kingdom of
grace set up in your heart? Do you rule over your sins? Can you bind
those kings in chains? (Psalm 149:8). Are you a king over your pride,
passion and unbelief? Is the kingdom of God within you? While others aspire
after earthly greatness—do you labor for a kingdom within you? Certainly if
the kingdom of grace is in your heart, you shall have the kingdom of
glory. If God's kingdom of grace enters into you, you shall enter
into his kingdom of glory. But let not that man ever think to reign in
glory—who now lives a slave to his lusts!
2. If you are a believer—you will go to this
blessed kingdom. 'Rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom'
(James 2:5). Faith is a heroic act of the soul. It makes a holy adventure on
God, by a promise. Faith is the crowning grace. Faith puts us into Christ,
and our title to the crown comes in by Christ. By faith we are born of God,
and so we become children of the royal blood. By faith our hearts are
purified (Acts 15:9, 10), and we are made fit for a kingdom; 'rich in faith,
heirs of the kingdom'. Faith paves a highway to heaven. Believers die heirs
to the crown.
3. He who has a noble, kingly spirit—shall go to the
heavenly kingdom. 'Set your affection on things above, not on
things on the earth.' (Colossians 3:2). He who has a heavenly spirit—shall
go to the heavenly kingdom. Do you live above the world? The eagle does not
catch flies—she soars aloft in the air. Do you pant after glory and
immortality? Do you abhor that which is sordid and carnal? Can you trample
upon all sublunary things? Is heaven in your eye—and Christ
in your heart—and the world under your feet? He who has such a kingly
spirit, who looks no lower than a crown—'he shall dwell on high', and have
his throne mounted far above all heavens!
The exhortation has a double aspect.
1. The exhortation looks toward the WICKED. Is
there a kingdom to be had, a kingdom so enameled and bespangled with glory?
Oh then, do not by your folly make yourselves incapable of this glorious
blessing! Do not for the satisfying of a base lust, forfeit a kingdom. Do
not drink away a kingdom. Do not for the lap of pleasure—lose the
crown of life! If men, before they committed a sin, would but sit down and
rationally consider whether the present gain and sweetness in sin, would
countervail the loss of the heavenly kingdom—it would put them into a cold
sweat, and give some check to their unbridled lusts. Jacob took Esau by the
heel. Look not upon the smiling face of sin—but 'take it by the heel'. Look
at the end of it. It will deprive you of a kingdom, and can anything
make amends for that loss? O, is it not madness, for the unfruitful works of
darkness (Ephesians 5:11), to lose a kingdom? How will the devil at the last
day reproach and laugh at men, that they should be so stupidly sottish for a
rattle—to forgo a crown! They are like those Indians who for
glass beads, will part with their gold. Surely it will much contribute to
the vexation of the damned—to think how foolishly they missed of a kingdom.
2. The exhortation looks toward the GODLY, and it exhorts
to two things.
 Is there a kingdom in reserved for us? Then let this
be a motive to duty. Do all the service you can for God while you live.
'Spend and be spent.' The reward is honorable. The thoughts of a kingdom,
should add wings to prayer, and fire to zeal. Inquire what you
have done for God. What love have you shown to his name? What zeal
for his glory? Where is the head of that Goliath lust which you
have slain for his sake? Methinks we should sometimes go aside into our
closets and weep, to consider how little work we have done for God. What a
vast disproportion is there between our service—and our reward!
What is all our weeping and fasting—compared to a kingdom! Oh improve
all your talents for God. Make seasons of grace, opportunities for service.
And that you may act more vigorously for God, know and be
assured—that the more work you do, the more glory you shall have. Every
saint shall have a kingdom—but the more service any man does for God, the
greater will be his kingdom. There are degrees of glory which
I will prove thus:
First, because there are degrees of torment in hell.
'They shall receive greater damnation' (Luke 20:47). Those who make
religion a cloak for their sin, shall have a hotter place in hell. Now if
there are degrees of torment in hell, then by the rule of contraries, there
are degrees of glory in the kingdom of heaven.
Again, seeing God in his free grace rewards men according
to their works, therefore, the more service they do the greater shall their
reward be. 'Behold I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every
man according as his work shall be' (Revelation 22:12). He who has done
more—shall receive more. He who gained ten times what was entrusted to him,
was made ruler over ten cities (Luke 19:16, 17). This may very much excite
to eminency in religion. The more the lamp of your grace shines, the
more you shall shine in the heavenly orb. Would you have your crown
brighter, your kingdom larger, your palm-branches more flourishing? Be
eminent Christians. Do much work, in a little time. While you are laying
out, God is laying up. The more glory you bring to God, the more glory you
shall have from God.
 Walk worthy of this kingdom. 'You should walk
worthy of God, who has called you to his kingdom' (1 Thessalonians 2:12).
Live as kings! Let the majesty of holiness appear in your faces.
Those who looked on Stephen, 'saw his face, as it had been the face of an
angel (Acts 6:15). A kind of angelic brightness was seen in his visage. When
we shine in zeal, humility, and holinesss—this beautifies and honors us in
the eyes of others, and makes us look as those who are heirs to a heavenly
Here is comfort to the people of God in case of poverty.
God has provided them a kingdom: 'Theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. A child
of God is often so low in the world, that he has not a foot of land to
inherit. He is poor in purse—as well as in spirit. But here is a fountain
of consolation opened. The poorest saint who has lost all his golden
fleece, is heir to a kingdom—a kingdom which excels all the kingdoms and
principalities of the world, more than diamond excels dirt! This kingdom is
peerless and endless. "The hope of a kingdom," says Basil, "should carry a
Christian with courage and cheerfulness through all his afflictions!" And it
is a saying of Luther, "The sea of God's mercy, overflowing in spiritual
blessings, should drown all the sufferings of this life!" What though you go
now in rags? You shall have your white robes! What though you have only
bread and water? You shall feast when you come into the kingdom! Here you
drink the brinish water of tears—but shortly you shall drink the wine of
paradise. Be comforted with the thoughts of your glorious kingdom!