Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).

This is capable of two meanings: either that those are blessed who are afflicted with the loss of friends or possession; or that they who mourn over sin are blessed. As Christ came to preach repentance, to induce men to mourn over their sins and to forsake them, it is probable that he had the latter particularly in view, 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Godly Sorrow

Mourning is a wringing or pinching of the soul upon the apprehension of some evil present, whether it be privative or positive, as we speak; that is, when a man finds that absent that he desires, and that present which he abhors, then the soul shrinks and contracts itself, and is pinched and wringed; and this is what we call mourning.


This mourning is by no means to be confined unto the initial experience of conviction and contrition, for observe the tense of the verb: it is not “have mourned,” but “mourn”—a present and continuous experience. The Christian himself has much to mourn over. The sins which he now commits—both of omission and commission—are a sense of daily grief to him, or should be, and will be, if his conscience is kept tender.


Luther refers it to patient endurance as an element of religious character. Earthly afflictions, as leading to higher attainments in holiness, may be included in the mourning here spoken of. But it evidently refers primarily, if not exclusively, to spiritual sorrow, in view of the feelings of a corrupt sinful nature. A mourning spirit is nearly allied to one that feels its impoverished condition, and hence this beatitude follows very naturally the preceding one.


Satan comes, says St. Paul, as an angel of light. So sorrow, methinks, though it walks the earth veiled and draped in black, with dust upon its bent head and steps that fail, will yet be found to wrap within its weeds the light and blessedness of heaven; and he who should entertain this guest aright, will find, when the disguise is laid aside, that he has “entertained an angel unawares.” As a messenger of God’s grace, this angel of sorrow knocks at our door, charged to lead us, if we will, to that “godly sorrow” which “worketh repentance.” If, instead of putting it from us as an unwelcome visitor, we will sit meekly at its feet to hear its voice, it will fetch forth from its dark bosom the very consolations of God.


Whosoever hath sin must mourn. Let him take his time and place, whether he will do it in this life or in that which is to come. Sin must have sorrow, that is a ruled case; and he that will not willingly mourn, shall, will he or nill he, in another place.

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The Consolation

The promised consolation corresponds to the mourning which is called blessed: and here the consolation is not given by mere words, but in fact (Luke 6:24). This consoling efficacy is only one of a thousand virtues which come forth from the kingdom of God to bless men. In hearing this comfort, the hearers must have had brought before their view the consolations promised for the Messianic time: for comfort and consolation were expected to come to men with His kingdom (Isa. 40:1; 61:2; 66:11), nay, the Messiah and his kingdom were expressly called the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25; Jer. 31:6).


These seem worse off than the merely poor in spirit, for “they mourn.” They are a stage higher, though they seem to be a stage lower. The way to rise in the kingdom is to sink in ourselves. These men are grieved by sin, and tried by the evils of the times; but for them a future of rest and rejoicing is provided. Those who laugh shall lament, but those who sorrow shall sing. How great a blessing is sorrow, since it gives room for the Lord to administer comfort! Our griefs are blessed, for they are our points of contact with the divine Comforter. The beatitude reads like a paradox, but it is true, as some of us know full well. Our mourning hours have brought us more comfort than our days of mirth.


Buddha sought to comfort the mother whose babe had died, by sending her round the city with a bowl, instructing her to beg a peppercorn from each house, but to take none from any house whose parent, spouse, or child, or slave had died. And when, having fulfilled her instruction, she returned without a single grain, he pointed to the commoness of sorrow, and exhorted her to endure what all must suffer. His whole religious system was directed to training men so that they should not feel sorrow. Buddha’s view is the world view—that sorrow is the great evil; that its commonness is our only comfort; and how to endure it is our chief concern. But the Saviour’s view is directly opposite. He does not say, “Pitiable are the mourners;” but Blessed are they.


It is touching to find what impatience real mourners have of every false comforter. You try to heal their wounds with the usual salves of society. You tell them it is a common lot; and grief is vain; and it were better to bear up with a will, steeling the soul to hardness and coldness: for grief, you say, is profitless or hurtful. You bid them seek for a change of scene, and look out for solace on fair nature’s face; or you send them into cheerful company, and trust to time, the healer, to soothe the smart.… No mourner who is true to himself will have such comfort. God never meant he should. God would have men mourn on, and mourn deeper, till their heart has pierced through to the real root of all affliction, in its own separation from Himself; and then He would have them mourn for that till He has brought them to Himself to be comforted in Him. He has put this blessedness into all mourning, that he means it to lead to mourning for sin; and He means all mourning for sin to lead to repentance, and all repentance to the blessed comfort of pardon and purifying.

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Does this refer to all mourners? What class of mourners was Christ anointed to minister to? See Isaiah 61:3, first clause. What is meant by “mourners in Zion?” (Those whose mourning is of a spiritual kind—for their own sins, and to the sins of others.) What is promised to them in this verse? When is this fulfilled? (Partly in this life, partly in the life to come.) What comfort is given them now? Matthew 9:2. What comfort have they under chastisements? Hebrews 12:11. What comfort shall be given them hereafter? Revelation 7:16, 17. Is not such mourning, then, a happier and more blessed thing than the joy of the world?


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