04 Aug Blessed are those who hunger
As I posted early this week I came across Thomas Watson’s Exposition of the Beatitudes and I post his writing on a pure heart. I wanted to post his writing on hunger and thirst for righteousness, thought it was equally good.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6
A duty implied: ‘Blessed are those who hunger’. Spiritual hunger is a blessed hunger.
What is meant by hunger? Hunger is put for desire (Isaiah 26:9). Spiritual hunger is the rational appetite whereby the soul pants after that which it apprehends most suitable and proportional to itself.
Whence is this hunger? Hunger is from the sense of lack. He who spiritually hungers, has a real sense of his own indigence. He lacks righteousness.
What is meant by righteousness? There is a twofold righteousness: of imputation; of implantation.
A righteousness of IMPUTATION, namely, Christ’s righteousness. ‘He shall be called the Lord our righteousness’ (Jeremiah 23:6). This is as truly ours to justify us, as it is Christ’s to bestow upon us. By virtue of this righteousness God looks upon us as if we had never sinned (Numbers 23:21). This is a perfect righteousness. ‘You are complete in him’ (Colossians 2:10). This does not only cover, but adorn. He who has this righteousness is equal to the most illustrious saints. The weakest believer is justified as much as the strongest. This is a Christian’s triumph. When he is defiled in himself, he is undefiled in his Head. In this blessed righteousness we shine brighter than the angels. This righteousness is worth hungering after.
A righteousness of IMPLANTATION: that is, inherent righteousness, namely, the graces of the Spirit, holiness of heart and life, which Cajetan calls ‘universal righteousness’. This a pious soul hungers after. This is a blessed hunger. Bodily hunger cannot make a man so miserable, as spiritual hunger makes him blessed. This evidences life. A dead man cannot hunger. Hunger proceeds from life. The first thing the child does when it is born, is to hunger after the breast. Spiritual hunger follows upon the new birth (1 Peter 2:2). Bernard comforts himself with this—that surely he had the truth of grace in him, because he had in his heart a strong desire after God. It is happy when, though we have not what we should, we desire what we have not. The appetite is as well from God, as the food.
1. See here at what a low price God sets heavenly things. It is but hungering and thirsting. ‘Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, buy without money’ (Isaiah 55:1). We are not bid to bring any merits as the Papists would do, nor to bring a sum of money to purchase righteousness. All that is required is to bring an appetite. Christ ‘has fulfilled all righteousness’. We are only to ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’. This is equal and reasonable. God does not require rivers of oil—but sighs and tears. The invitation of the gospel is free. If a friend invites guests to his table, he does not expect they should bring money to pay for their dinner—only come with an appetite. So, says God, It is not penance, pilgrimage, self-righteousness which I require. Only bring an appetite: ‘hunger and thirst after righteousness’. God might have set Christ and salvation at a higher price—but he has much beaten down the price. Now as this shows the sweetness of God’s nature—he is not a hard master; so it shows us the inexcusableness of those who perish under the gospel. What apology can any man make at the day of judgement, when God shall ask that question, ‘Friend, why did you not embrace Christ? I set Christ and grace at a low rate. If you had but hungered after righteousness, you might have had it—but you slighted Christ. You had such low thoughts of righteousness that you would not hunger after it.’ How do you think to escape, who have neglected ‘so great salvation’? The easier the terms of the gospel are—the sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy of who unworthy refuse such an offer!
2. It shows us a true character of a godly man. He hungers and thirsts after spiritual things (Isaiah 26:9; Psalm 73:25). A true saint is carried upon the wing of desire. It is the very temper and constitution of a gracious soul to thirst after God (Psalm 42:2). In the word preached, how he is big with desire! These are some of the pantings of his soul: ‘Lord, you have led me into your courts. O that I may have your sweet presence, that your glory may fill the temple! Will you draw some sacred lineaments of grace upon my soul that I may be more assimilated and changed into the likeness of my dear Savior?’ In prayer, how is the soul filled with passionate longings after Christ! Prayer is expressed by ‘unutterable groans’ (Romans 8:26). The heart sends up whole volleys of sighs to heaven, ‘Lord, one beam of your love! Lord, one drop of your blood!’
Let us put ourselves upon a trial—whether we hunger and thirst after righteousness. I shall give you five signs by which you may judge of this hunger.
1. Hunger is a painful thing. Esau, when he was returning from hunting, was famished with hunger (Genesis 25:32). ‘Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them’ (Psalm 107:5). So a man who hungers after righteousness, is in anguish of soul and ready to faint away for it. He finds a lack of Christ and grace. He is distressed and in pain until he has his spiritual hunger stilled and allayed.
2. Hunger is satisfied with nothing but food. Bring a hungry man flowers or music; tell him pleasant stories—nothing will content him but food. ‘Shall I die for thirst!’ says Samson (Judges 15:18). So a man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness says, ‘Give me Christ or I die! Lord, what will you give me seeing I go Christless? What though I have abilities, wealth, honor and esteem in the world? All is nothing without Christ. Give me Jesus—and it will suffice me. Let me have Christ to clothe me, Christ to feed me, Christ to intercede for me!’ While the soul is Christless, it is restless. Nothing but the water-springs of Christ’s blood, can quench its thirst.
3. Hunger wrestles with difficulties and hunts for food. We say hunger breaks through stone walls (Genesis 42:1, 2). The soul that spiritually hungers is resolved—Christ it must have; grace it must have. And to use Basil’s expression, the hungry soul is almost distracted until it enjoys the thing it hungers after.
4. A hungry man goes to his food with a strong appetite. You need not make an oration to a hungry man and persuade him to eat. So he who hungers after righteousness feeds eagerly on an ordinance. ‘Your words were found, and I did eat them’ (Jeremiah 15:16). In the sacrament he feeds with appetite upon the body and blood of the Lord. God loves to see us feed hungrily on the bread of life.
5. A hungry man tastes sweetness in his food. So he who hungers after righteousness relishes a sweetness in heavenly things. Christ is to him all marrow, yes the quintessence of delights. ‘You have tasted that the Lord is gracious’ (1 Peter 2:3). He who spiritually hungers, tastes the promises sweet—nay tastes a reproof sweet. ‘To the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet’ (Proverbs 27:7). A bitter reproof is sweet. He can feed upon the myrrh of the gospel as well as the honey. By these evidences, we may judge of ourselves whether we hunger and thirst after righteousness.
The words may serve to comfort the hearts of those who hunger and thirst after righteousness; I doubt not but it is the grief of many a gracious heart—that he cannot be more holy, that he cannot serve God better. ‘Blessed are those who hunger’. Though you do not have as much righteousness as you would—yet you are blessed because you hunger after it. Desire is the best evidence of a Christian. Actions may be counterfeit. A man may do a good action for a bad end. So did Jehu. Actions may be compulsory. A man may be forced to do that which is good—but not to will that which is good. Therefore we are to nourish good desires and to bless God for them. Oftentimes a child of God has nothing to show for himself, but desires. ‘Your servants, who desire to fear your name’ (Nehemiah 1:11). These hungerings after righteousness proceed from love. A man does not desire that which he does not love. If you did not love Christ, you could not hunger after him.