2. - "Blessed Are They That Mourn"
The second stunningly paradoxical statement with which Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount was the declaration, "Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted." (Matt. 5:4) We must introduce our study in part.
What seeming contradiction that blessedness in some way lies in grief! How those ancient Jews must have gathered nearer the Speaker at this word, to hear His explanation! (Well may preachers today note the effectiveness of the use of paradox to capture the attention of the audience.) We have previously stressed the fact that true blessedness -- that blessedness which Jesus spoke of - is a deep, abiding soul-happiness, rather than an ephemeral pleasure. It goes almost without saying that such soul-happiness is only found in Christ. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavv laden . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls." ( Matt. 11 :28-29) But grief apparently has nothing to do with joy, any more than labor has with rest, yet Jesus in His teachings relates the one directly to the other!
Here it would be well to note that grief, according to the teachings of Christ, has a purpose. To be sure, he did not create sadness and sin for these things, so often man's undoing, are likewise man's doing. Be that as it may, grief is present in the world. Call it the "problem of evil, or whatever you may, it is the most thought-provoking of all things around which men construct theologies and philosophies. No system of thought can be adequate for man's guidance and fail to explain grief - its origin, its purpose, its nature and particularly the way to its conquest. Although Christianity is more than a mere philosophy of life, it must teach men how to grapple with grief and overcome it, if it is to provide for their spiritual needs. It will not do to deny grief's existence as does that un-Christian and un-scientific monstrosity known as "Christian Science" nor will it do to seek to hide from its presence by burying our heads ostrich-like in humanistic and modernistic reconstructions of the problem, such as those found in so-called neo-orthodoxy. Due to many causes, the hearts and souls of men do often ache, and what is to be said of it? It is all very well for someone to explain to us the typhoons in far off Taiwan, but how are we to deal with those tragedies which tear at the fibres of our own heart? Grief in the world, then, cannot be denied and cannot be escaped. We must therefore learn how to face or use grief, and this Jesus shows how to do, for he describes a kind of "grief" by which man can effect his conquest of all kinds of grief, so that, indeed, "the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity . . ." (Prov. 18:14) Please note that this is a special kind of grief or mourning to which Jesus here refers, not all kinds. Hence, we discuss . . .
Precisely who are those that mourn? Jesus surely does not refer (1) to those Jews of His day who mourned Israel's fallen state, as some have suggested, and neither does he refer (2) to those who mourned mere physical suffering and pain. To be sure, these may well have received comfort through the benefits of the gospel which Jesus brought to Israel, but it must be noted that it is not to these griefs as such Jesus called attention, for that kind of mourning in the second Beatitude was that for which there universally and inevitably is comfort. Many were the Jews who received no relief in their grief for Israel's destitution, much less for agonies of the body. For this reason also, Christ must not refer (3) to that mourning resulting from death or loss, for many like Rachal weeping for her children will not be comforted. Too, it may be true in a very large sense that (4) "they who mourn" are the "broken and contrite spirits" (Ps. 51:7) who mourn their sins, or those who mourn for the sins of others. But is this precisely of what Jesus speaks? Indeed there is a "godly sorrow which worketh repentence unto salvation," but there is also a remorse, a "sorrow of the world," which "worketh death" (2 Cor. 7:10): those who mourn for sins per se are not necessarily comforted. Note, too, that regarding those who mourn the sins of others, there are those who "could wish themselves anathema from Christ for their brethren's sake" and who are led by such "great sorrow and unceasing pain in heart" (Rom 9:2-3) to carry the gospel to the sinners, but some - yea even many today who betimes wail sentimentally over lost sinners, do not so much as lift a finger to alleviate the soul-suffering of the same. Again, we emphasize: the mourning of the second Beatitude is that grief which always finds solace, a mourning which always effects its own comfort,a thing deeper in soul than these mentioned above, though certainly related to some of them.
What is this mourning? Those who mourn are they who grieve in spirit. The fact that they are promised comfort implies a grief to be assuaged and that grief implies a prior want over which one mourns. The grief that always finds comfort is the grief of the righteous soul over its own want of goodness! This grief" (1) arises from a basic love for good -- good as defined by God- rather than by the sentiments of man - and this very love leads one to acquire greater goodness. This is that love for God and His institutes which results in subjection to Him through obedience rendered to His will: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." (I Jn. 5:2) And (2) this resulting greater goodness leads directly to blessedness - and paradoxically to greater soul mourning and desiring for additional righteousness! What true child of the Most High has not in his secret meditations peered within at his own frail and shuddering self and then lifted tear-rimmed eyes to ask the unseen God that Seeth, "What is man that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that thou visitest him?" (Ps. 8:4) And who has not then in such soul-yearnings thought on that Ideal Man who was "made a little lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor" and Who is now "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession"? ( Heb. 2:7; 3:1 ) Who, we ask, has not thought on his own worthlessness and on His worth and has not been led consequently to greater endeavor in "pressing on unto perfection"? (Heb. 6:1) This is precisely that spiritual faculty which makes godly sorrow so powerful a stimulus unto repentance from sins (2 Cor. 7:10), but does this impetus result merely in one's overt turning from wrongdoing? Is not this the deep sense of ones own inadequacy which accounts for the Christian's entire, unflagging struggle upwards? It is a mourning not only for sin, - and certainly a true Christian mourns every sin he in weakness commits - but also a mourning for his every imperfection. It is a continuous cognizance and appreciation of his infirmities: his lack of wisdom, that leads him "to ask of God who giveth to all liberally and upbraideth not" (Jas. 1:5); his lack of knowledge, that leads him to "examine the scriptures daily" (Acts 17 :11 ) and his lack of strength, which leads him boldly "unto the throne of grace" to petition Him upon the Mercy Seat. (Heb. 4:15-16)
And the paradox is that this mourning in soul leads inevitably to happiness in one's relation to the outward carnal sphere, despite the existence of the "problem of evil" and the griefs caused by this present evil world. Why? Because this soul-mourning, leads us (1) to understand true values so that we no longer place a premium upon all the material things which "rust' and for which "thieves break through and steal" (Matt. 6:19-21) or yet upon the earthly life itself which is "a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." (Jas. 4:14) How can the loss of those things which are not highly valued bring much unhappiness? In Christ we have learned to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33), knowing that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking" or any other carnal thing, "but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17)
Again, this motivating soul-mourning leads us (2) to accept the lessons in adversity. That suffering has disciplinary values for us surely cannot be doubted by any who have merely scanned the books of Job or I Peter (or Hebrews 12). One of the greatest values of grief in a Christians life is that it logically results in joy! The stylus of inspiration set it down in indelible words: ". . . We also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness; and stedfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope," a hope in which there is no shame but only rejoicing in the Holy Spirits wondrous revelation of God's love toward us! (Rom. 5:3-5: also Jas. 1 :2) The Christian knows that trials come to test him ( I Pet. 4:12) - a test which way well result in increased faith (ch. 1:7), a faith which results in Divine approvedness and "the crown of life." (Jas. 1:12)
Not only so, but this soul-mourning leads us (3) to hope for comfort in the "God of all comfort" who comforts all who are afflicted (2 Cor. 1:3ff), especially in providing them wisdom in times of trial, and instruction through His saving word. (Jas. 1:2, 12, in context)
The comfort for the afflicted, promised in the second Beatitude, depends therefore upon an antecedent condition in their hearts - the presence of that soul-mourning which weeps at all imperfections and longs for, and works toward, higher, eternal, spiritual values. Thus, and only thus, can "they that mourn" be comforted. Those above mentioned (first paragraph in part 2) who mourned so many things, could indeed be comforted, provided they possessed first this soul-mourning of which Jesus speaks, which always paradoxically carries the balm for its own comfort. Thus (1) those in Jesus' day who mourned Israel's fallen state could be comforted in accepting the gospel of the kingdom, by which they could know the fulfillment of the ancient word, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob . . . (Rom. 11:26), and by which they could experience a higher than mere civil liberty in Christ (2 Cor. 3:17). Those (2) who suffered physical pain, particularly that connected with penury, could in the gospel understand the special blessings of the poor - that they could be raised "to high estate" (Lk. 4:18; Jas. 1:9), and especially that they could learn the true values of poverty in spirit (Matt. 5:3). Those (3) who mourned death and loss could in their acceptance of the gospel understand the meaning of death and the certainty of resurrection and could comfort one another with these words." (I Thess. 4:18) Finally (4), those who mourned the sins of self and others could be brought by conviction of the gospel to that "godly sorrow" which effects repentance (2 Cor. 7 :10) toward Divine forgiveness and one's own forgiveness of his own sins, and who could be brought likewise to the life which "holds forth the word of life" to others (Phil. 2:16) in order to bring them also to repentance.
God therefore has extended magnificent privileges to suffering man and comforts him in the gospel, but the appropriation of that wondrous balm depends upon man's possessing a humble, receptive desire. How many read these words of Jesus who truly mourn in spirit and consequently exert every erg of energy in betterment? If the first Beatitude requires a truly spiritual poverty as a requisite for approaching God, the second demands a true evaluation of one's own spiritual destitution as in impetus toward approaching Him. It is not enough merely to read His words; one must realize their meaning and react wholeheartedly to them. Thus only can man arrive at the deep soul-happiness promised: "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
(Next Article: "Blessed Are the Meek")
Truth Magazine III:3, pp. 4-5, 11