H. P. Wotton
‘Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.’ Matthew 5. 4.
I. This Beatitude does not apply to all who mourn
This beatitudes belong only to the born-again children of God, for none but they have these spiritual attitudes brought about in their hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit.
There are many and varied reasons why people mourn, and in many cases there may be good reason why they should do so. Such mourning may lead to temporal blessing, but if it has not in it that peculiar element that proves it to be the result of God working in the soul, it cannot be included in the blessing of this beatitude.
There are so many things for which we may mourn. The world mourns for its losses, and for its inability to gain all it would like to have. It sees that its god does not bestow its gifts freely, for its riches and honours are attainable not by standing by to look on, but by entering the race and biting off as much of the cake as possible. In all this there is doubtless sorrow and hidden mourning, for the race to riches is treacherous and hard, and one bite of the cake is sufficient to prove that it is deceptive.
The world sees little or no blessing in its sorrow, and it is right, for there is none.
II. The Quality of Mourning required by this Beatitude
The psalmist wrote, ‘Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me’. (Psalm 51. 5). He mourned because he was in a state of sin, and that sin dwelt in him. But he did not do so in a way of resentment, neither did he blame God, who is in no way to be blamed for it, for how can sin, in any sense, proceed from an infinitely holy God? Sin and the sinner must take all the responsibility, for they alone are to blame. But the fact that he mourns for his sin proves him to be in a state of regeneracy, for none but the regenerate mourn for their inherent sinfulness because it is evil.
The psalmist mourned for his sin because he knew that God was displeased with it. He loved God, and knew that in the final analysis every sin was against Him. So, after David had sinned against Bathsheba and her husband, he saw that sin against God’s creatures was essentially against Him, and in his prayer of confession he cried, ‘Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight’. (Psalm 51, 4).
Holiness is the principle that opposes sin. Though these two dwell together in the believer, they can never have any basis for agreement.
Indeed, the more the believer grows in Christian charity, the more clearly he sees that there can be no unity between holiness and sin.
But he who mourns because of his sin shall have comfort. He shall have beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for the spirit of mourning.
III. The House of Mourning
The man to whom the Lord gave great wisdom wrote, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting..
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth”. (Ecclesiastes 7, 2, 4).
How different are the words of the wise man to the opinion of many! The popular criterion of spiritual attainment is certainly not this. It is rather that of the happy smile, but if this is not related to the house of mourning, it is justifiably suspect. Bunyan referred to repentance as the scouring grace, and Spurgeon said that there was more joy in a Christian’s repentance than there is in the greatest worldly pleasure. These statements are both true. It is true also that if we spend our time in the house of vain laughter rather than in the house of mourning, we will miss the privilege of a much-needed heart clean-up. We will also miss the secret of those who have found a joy in sorrow, a secret balm in pain. Solomon said that ‘as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool’. (Ecclesiastes 7. 6). An apt description of vain mirth, for the crackling of thorns makes more noise than heat, and so accomplishes nothing; and vain mirth cannot do what the laugh of faith does.
IV. ‘Behold, and see if there ever was sorrow like unto My sorrow.’ (Lamentations 1. 12).
It is not recorded in the scriptures that Jesus laughed, which is no proof that He did not do so. The fact, however, is that He did not come into the world to laugh. How could He when He saw in it so much suffering? He saw nothing of mirth in the evil inherent in the human heart. We cannot know the depth of the suffering of the infinitely holy Son of God when He felt men’s hatred towards Him as He lived among them. He was essentially “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not”. (Isaiah 53, 3).
I suppose that there was, in His day among His people, as there is in our day among ours, a certain amount of light-hearted mirth, but tainted, as it must necessarily be, when proceeding from uncleansed hearts: we cannot think that He took part in it.
His life was a cross from the stable to the grave. He was a stranger in the world that He had made. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1,10,11). He was a man alone, for even His disciples misunderstood Him. Yet He was not
alone, for His Father was with Him, and in this He was blessed with the blessing of those who are divinely comforted.
What He suffered on the cross for our sins we can never know.
But He did it that the godly mourner’s sorrow might be turned to eternal joy.
V. Sorrow for the Sins of Others
David, the psalmist, wrote, ‘Rivers of waters run down mine eyes because they keep not thy law’. (Psalm 119, 36). The godly man cannot see the sins of others without some sorrow of heart. When he is injured he may well suffer more from the sin that caused the suffering than from what the injury has done. It is true that Lot chose to dwell in Sodom, but it is true also that he afflicted his righteous soul daily because of the ungodly deeds of the wicked.
Every godly person does the same, according to the degree of godliness he himself has.
God has respect for those who mourn because of the sins of others Â— it may be for the sins of a nation, or of a city. We see this in the vision given by Him to the prophet Ezekiel when God had decided to punish with the sword the inhabitants of Jerusalem for their abominations. Ezekiel heard a loud voice, saying, “Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brazen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house: and he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary”. (Ezekiel 9. 1-6).
From this we may understand that God has special care for those who mourn for the sins of the age.
VI. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy”. (Psalm 126. 5).
This text is similar to the beatitude we are now considering. For the comfort and use of His children. God expresses Himself in different ways: ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’
The seed sown in our gardens and in our fields needs the rain from heaven to make it live, for without it the seed would dry up and die. The reason why much of the gospel seed that is sown does
not spring up into life may be because it has not been watered with our tears, for we live in spiritually dry times.
If we study the history of revival we will realize that wet eyes have a lot to do with it; before the revival, and with a mixture of joy when the revival comes. Tears have often been evidence that God has broken the hearts of His people by the hammer of His word, and given them a heart of flesh for a heart of stone. His people’s sowing in tears is as much due to the grace of God as is their reaping in joy. To God must be all the glory, for it is He who works in us according to the good pleasure of His own will.
This promise may not only refer to Him “that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed” for the conversion of others. It may also apply to the individual believer who on his own personal piece of ground sows to the Spirit rather than to the flesh, “for he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting”. (Galatians 6. 8).
When the redeemed sinner sees something of the corruption of his own heart and what his corruptions did to his suffering Saviour, the springs of gratitude may well pour from his eyes.
VII. The Comforter
The Saviour knew that His disciples would feel it dreadfully when the time of His departure came. He had been with them so long, and He had so many comforting words to say to them; but now the time is near at hand, and they knew that when He was gone they would mourn His absence. Though He had told them about His sufferings, His resurrection, and His departure, they still did not seem to understand. They would need another Comforter, who would open the eyes of their understanding to see the things concerning Himself and the great work of their redemption.
Jesus said to His disciples, “It is expedient for you that I go away:
for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you … I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you”. (John 16.7,12, 13, 14).
When the Comforter came the disciples were comforted in a way they had not known before.The glory of the Lord Jesus was revealed to them as they had not before seen it, and their misunderstandings regarding Him were cleared up.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” Do we mourn for our sins, for the sins of others, for an absent Jesus? If so, the promise of the beatitude is ours most certainly.