Matthew 5:4

Blessed are they that mourn, etc. Perhaps this Beatitude may be counted as the one that most amazed ears and minds, which were not a little amazed by each one in turn. How little real cheerfulness possessed the heart of the people among whom Jesus lived! There was a maddened, frivolous excitement on the one hand; on the other, a tamed-down and habitual dispiritedness. The heritage of the nation at this time was the misery and sense of degradation that came of many of the grossest forms of bodily disease, of the heart of religion eaten out, and of an oppressed and down-trodden political condition. And both - the ever-memorable, ever-dear invitation, "Come to me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden," and this Beatitude, "Blessed are they that mourn" - betray and bespeak in utter harmony with one another the prevailing tone and genius of the saddened nation. Nay, unless what Jesus now pronounces can be thoroughly maintained and made good, so suited is the word to the most patent aspects of the people's heart, that it; might run the risk of seeming the refinement of a mocking flattery. But, whatever the people of the time thought and believed, or believed not, about this saying, nineteen centuries have fortified and still fortify its position. Even "the natural history" of the mourner, much more his spiritual history, passed in simplest review, will show that the saying of Jesus is not to take rank with the strained, unreal, arbitrary sayings of philosopher or quack, either optimist or pessimist, but is the saying of deep, abiding truth.

I. MOURNING EXPRESSES AT THE LOWEST ESTIMATE A HOPEFUL SUSCEPTIBILITY. Where tears are, there is some susceptibility, at all events. Fatal fever does not rage, and is not doing its irremediable worst. Pitiless heat, shut-up heavens, unyielding drought, have not scorched up irrecoverably the verdure of the heart. One tear in the eye tells of at least one spring in the heart, though it lie ever so concealed. Esau's deluge of tears testified that, though his birthright was irrecoverably lost, yet he himself was not so. The woman who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears had lost more, and more irrecoverably, than Esau lost, yet she herself was saved, and Jesus guaranteed it: "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace." Peter, at the fire of the judgment-hall. renounced his faith, his Lord, his hope; and was not his conscience seared and his soul branded for a lost soul? No, for he "went out and wept bitterly." But there was another who also denied Jesus. He was close by, and he too "went out," but not to weep; we read not of one tear. So, even so, on the lowest showing, the mourner is blessed.

II. THE TRUE THING MOURNING SPEAKS OF THE PROBATION OF EARTH. Violent grief, wailing, gnashing of teeth, are indeed revealed as characteristic of the place or state of future woe. But the true spirit of mourning, unknown in heaven, ungiven to hell, marks "the day of grace" that belongs to earth. It is one of the chiefest signs of earth's trial and education, and one of the chiefest symptoms of earth's hope. It subserves highest and most intrinsic uses - uses not the sequel of God's displeasure only, but the arguments of his most gracious love, till such time as "the former things have passed away, and God wipe away all tears from the eye." What mercy lies ambushed in mourning!


1. There is the mourning of sympathy. The reaction of sympathy is of Divinest use. Whatever it gives, it takes inevitably more. It opens the whole fulness of the spiritual eye, enlarges the heart, gives liberty and free action to each faculty for love, and each limb for service.

2. There is the mourning of pain. Pain presses it forth, and it expresses pain. That very expression is relief. Even physical pain is a power in and throughout the whole world. It has a widely pervading usefulness, a deeply penetrating service, in this world's stages- of spiritual growth and spiritual immaturity. The mourning of pain, for infancy, childhood, youth, strong age. and old age, we cannot tell what it has not been the means, directly or indirectly, of sparing to flesh, blood, mind; what fever of body and soul it has not averted, adding endurance to patience, vigour to energy, length of days to life itself.

3. There is the mourning of a full heart, whether the heart that is full of sorrow or of joy. How often is it the safety of the heart surcharged with grief, or likely to be overbalanced with joy! So Hagar wept. So Joseph wept when he heard of his father, "the old man, yet alive." So wept the exile patriots "by the rivers of Babylon." So the overjoyed father, whose prayer had successfully wrestled, and who with tears cried out, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." And so was Mary's mourning, as she stood "without at the sepulchre," transmuted into an ever-springing well of joy.

4. There is the mourning of bereavement. Of all the heart's mourning, irrespective of that toward God in penitence, there is none more deep, more keen, more pitifully bowed down. Even when we Sorrow as those with a good hope, the poet's verse is most true -

"Oh! 'tis the pang severest
That human hearts can know,
To lay what we hold dearest,
Thus, thus the dust below." Of this mourning, too, how truly it may be said, it is alike signally fruitless and fruitful - fruitless to reverse, or in the least to stay the unanswering and unanswerable will of God, but fruitful to bring heaven nearer! Of brother and child, of wife and sister, of friend and second self, once slipped from our touch, it only remains to be said, with dreadest conviction of the truth of it, "he" or "she shall not return to me." The most undoubting trust is demanded in the darkest conflict; the most unsuspecting love in the blankest heart. Clinging, unaltering attachment is wrapt in bleeding, writhing affection. But to no mourning has Jesus come more deliberately to assuage it, with none has he more touchingly sympathized, none in the days of his flesh which seemed more to stir him to his mightiest works. Yes, blessed is this mourner, for he is already "comforted," in that those he loves so well are, though vanished from his sight, where for the first time no mourning can affect them. No recall can disturb their secure bliss.

5. Beyond the natural history of mourning there is that spiritual history of it, that sacred service belonging to it, infinitely removed from all mere sentiment, unfeignedly acknowledged by the strongest man, the tenderest woman, the frailest child - the mourning of penitence. This has no meritorious worth. Nor does it derive any consecration from our being able to say it was shared by Jesus. But it was sanctioned by him, looked on with most gracious approval by him, commended by him, as surely as those very different shouts of triumph and loud hosannas that echoed to the skies when once he was journeying into the city of Jerusalem. Yet what a touching history belongs to the mourning of penitence! With what extraordinary experiences has it been allied! Upon what fears, darkness, struggles, anguish, has it at last followed with its infinite peace! What workings in the deepest unseen of the heart has it betrayed! And what irresistible energy has it argued in that majestic friend of silent persuasiveness - God's Holy Spirit!

6. Once more, there is the mourning which may be called specially that of Christ - the mourning over sinners, and because of sin. He who had no sin for which to reproach himself is he who wept most freely over the sins of others. "He beheld the city, and wept over it." "He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and wept." In proportion as any disciple of Christ attains resemblance to him, he will be marked by the same hatred of sin and its work, by the same grief over the sinner and his folly. Holy men of old, moved by God's Spirit, knew such grief. "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved, because they kept not thy Word Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy Law." Our genuine mourning over sin will bring us into some faint resemblance, at least, to him of whom we thus sing -

"The Son of God in tears,
Angels with wonder see.
Be thou astonished, O my soul!
He shed those tears for thee."

IV. MOURNING HAS ITS PERIOD DIVINELY FIXED. There is this particular "comfort" attached to it - that, though painful at present, it is useful; and that when its main uses are gained, itself is lost in "comfort." To the believer in Christ mourning cannot be unalloyed, for he knows its present sacred advantages, and he believes its early termination. "Blessed are the mourners: for they shall be comforted." Comforted, indeed, now by many a sanctified use and fruit of affliction, and by many a sanctified suggestion, but most of all by the sanctified assurance that ere long, nay, right early, God shall abolish it, and shall "wipe away all tears from the eye." So it is no mere end to which mourning comes; it is not the mere extinction of nature; it is the doing of God's own kind hand, moved by his own kind heart. This Beatitude is good as a rainbow covenant between heaven and earth, for souls and their inner' skies. Whether any Christian sorrow more or less, he may now, with this Beatitude of sorrow, "rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." - B.

They that mourn.
I. Those who indulge the sorrow of discontent.

II. The inordinate sorrow for worldly losses.

III. Sorrow for wounded pride.

IV. A despairing spirit as to their acceptance with God. Those who are blessed: —

1. There is a mourning arising from a sense of having offended God.

2. Those who mourn under the afflicting dispensations of God's providence.

3. A few words to those who enjoy worldly contentment: you are no mourners.

4. May God give us grace to mourn so as to be comforted.

(H. Alford, M. A.)

I. What we are to UNDERSTAND BY THE MOURNING mentioned.

1. It is not the mourning of a melancholy disposition.

2. It is not sorrow over temporal distress.

3. It is not sorrow in adversity.

4. It is not sorrow because of disappointed hopes. It arises purely from religion.

II. What are the CAUSES of this mourning?

1. Sin is one —

(1)Because it dishonours God;

(2)Because it cleaves to himself.

(3)The prevalence of sin causes him to mourn

(4)because of the punishment it shall receive.

2. Another cause of his mourning is the absence of spiritual joys.

3. Another cause is the imperfect and afflicted state of the Church.

III. The import of the GRACIOUS PROMISE made by the Saviour.

1. Spiritual mourners shall be comforted by an assurance of their personal interest in Christ.

2. By the assurance that the causes of their present mourning shall be removed.

3. By the expression of Divine approbation.

4. If the Christian be thus comforted here, what must be his comfort in heaven?To conclude.

1. How mistaken is the world in its decisions! It supposes the mourner miserable; he only has joy.

2. Are you a spiritual mourner?

(J. Jordan.)

I. THEIR CHARACTER. We do not say that piety is never clothed in the garb of sorrow. The things which excite grief in the ungodly cause it in the godly. But while the sorrow is common, they do not mourn in the same spirit. Sorrow for sin chiefly meant in the text: no source of sorrow equal to this. Mourn for the sins of others; their own small attainment in grace.

1. Their sorrow is sincere.

2. It is bitter, not superficial.

3. It is godly.

4. They mourn in faith.


1. They may think that they are far from being in a blessed state.

2. By whom shall they be comforted? By God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

3. How shall comfort be imparted to them? By clear views of Christ and of His grace, etc.

4. By what means does God usually comfort the mourners? Prayer, worship, work, converse, sacrament.

(D. Rees.)

I. WHAT THAT MOURNING IS WHICH CHRIST THUS PRONOUNCES BLESSED. Not every kind of mourning. There is the sorrow of the world that worketh death: —

1. Such is the mourning that springs from a bad source. From pride or discontent.

2. Such is the mourning that is the expression of a bad spirit. But

(1)Blessed are they who mourn for themselves;

(2)Who mourn for their Christian brethren;

(3)Who mourn for the Church;

(4)Who mourn for the world.


1. It is present and positive.

2. There are comparative and contrasted blessings connected with this sorrow; the situation of such is less dangerous than that of others.

3. It is less equivocal than that of others. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth."

4. This blessedness is peculiar to themselves.

(Dr. T. Raffles.)

Administration of Divine comfort to the subjects of godly contrition, the benevolent purpose of Messiah (Isaiah 61:3; Luke 4:18). Immediately on entering His ministry the prediction was accomplished.

I. The mourners addressed. The nature, cause, and evidences of their sorrow.

II. The consolation promised. Spiritual, seasonable, abundant, gracious (2 Chronicles 30:9; Isaiah 55:7-9; Hosea 6:1; Zechariah 1:3, 4; Luke 15:7-10; Luke 17:21, 24, 32).


I. The mourning intended. Not murmuring, natural sorrow, or grief, but the sorrow connected with sin — "godly sorrow" — the mourning in the house of affliction, and mourning in Zion — sighing over the abominations of the people, etc.

II. The blessing promised. The sorrow, whatever its nature, shall not overwhelm. The comfort is certain.

(W. Barker.)

I. WHAT IS THE SORROW that is blessed? Not the vulgar sorrow that every man feels, etc. But —

1. Sorrow at the recollection and the sense of sin — for sin rather than for the consequences — secret sins — sin seen in the light of Christ's countenance — "godly sorrow."

2. Sorrow because of the sins that we see around us (Jeremiah 9:18; Psalm 119:36). Sins of the world, and sins of the Church — inconsistency, etc.

3. Sorrow because of the little progress of Christianity.

4. That we are able to do so little.

5. Sorrow that makes one sometimes long to be " absent from the body," etc.

II. They who sorrow thus shall be COMFORTED. There is a comfort in such sorrow, as well as beyond it. Such sorrow is blessed in its endurance, and at the close of it. It is Divine, complete, unalloyed comfort.

(Dr. J. Gumming.)The mourning here intended is that which arises from the due consideration of our own sins, and the sins of others.

I. Such was the godly sorrow of David (Psalm 51:4).

1. The same kind was that of the woman who "was a sinner," and whose conversion is briefly related by St. Luke (chap. 7.).

2. Peter mourned when his Lord looked on him after his cruel denial. He went out and "wept bitterly."

3. Such was the sorrow of the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:11).

II. The generous spirit of the Christian deeply mourns the sins of others.

1. Thus saith the pious king of Israel: "I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved," etc.

2. Such was the lamentation of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1, 2).

3. The most perfect illustration of holy sorrow is seen in our Lord (Luke 19:41, 42).

(J. E. Good.)

I. It is SPONTANEOUS and free.

1. It must come as water out of a spring, not as fire from flint.

2. Tears for sin must be like the myrrh which drops from the tree freely, without cutting or forcing.

II. It is SPIRITUAL, that is when we mourn for sin more than suffering. We must mourn for sin as it is

(1)An act of hostility and enmity that

(2)affronts and resists the Holy Ghost;

(3)An ingratitude, in its unkindness against God;

(4)A privation that keeps good things from us, and hinders our communion with God.

III. It SENDS THE SOUL TO GOD. When the prodigal son repented, he went to his father.

IV. It is FOR SIN IN PARTICULAR. There must, be a particular repentance before we have a general pardon.

V. It is WITH HOPE. Believing that though our tears drop to the earth, our faith must reach heaven.


VII. It must be PURIFYING. Our tears must, make us more holy. The waters of holy mourning are like the river Jordan, wherein Naaman washed, and was cleansed of his leprosy.

VIII. It must be JOINED WITH HATRED OF SIN. We must not only abstain from sin, but abhor it. The dove hates the least feather of the hawk; a true mourner hates the least motion to sin.

IX. It is JOINED WITH RESTITUTION. If we have eclipsed the good name of others, we are bound to ask them forgiveness; if we have wronged them by unjust, fraudulent dealing, we must make them compensation.

X. It must BE SPEEDY.

XI. It must be CONSTANT. The waters of repentance must not overflow in the morning, at the first hearing of the gospel; and at mid-day, in the midst of health and prosperity, grow cold and be ready to freeze. It must be a dally weeping, a daily mourning.

(Thomas Watson.)

They are not muddied with guilt, nor mixed with fear — they are the pure wine of the Spirit; what the mourner feels is joy, and nothing but joy. The comforts God gives His mourners are —

I. SWEET. The love of God shed into the heart is said to be better than wine (Song of Solomon 1:2).

II. They are HOLY. Divine comforts give the soul more acquaintance with God.

III. They are SATISFYING. They fill the heart and make it run over.

IV. They are POWERFUL. Strong cordials.

1. They strengthen for duty.

2. Support, under affliction.

V. They are ABIDING; abound in us, and so abide ever with us. Worldly comforts are still upon the wing, ready to fly. The comforts of the Spirit are immortal and eternal. Oh, how rare and superlative are these comforts!

(Thomas Watson.)

I. The GRIEF which is here specified. It will be proper: —

1. To ascertain its cause.

(1)He is led to view the immense debt of obedience due to the blessed God as the Sovereign Ruler of the universe.

(2)The awful consequences attending the non-payment of this debt.

(3)His utter inability to make restitution.

2. To ascertain its character.

(1)It is voluntary and sincere; not forced or artificial.

(2)It is deep, not superficial.

(3)It is evangelical and spiritual.

(4)It is characterized by a hatred and an abandonment of sin.

II. The CONSOLATION with which it is associated. "They shall be comforted." This intimates certainty as well as the futurity of the comfort. But some may ask —

1. What is this consolation? It arises from the satisfaction Christ has made; none so rich, free, and. satisfying as this.

2. Whence does this comfort proceed? From the free favour of God.

3. How is this comfort applied? It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

(R. May.)

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