“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.
The righteousness intended her is not creature-righteousness, worth, or worthiness, for that is as the morning cloud , and as the early dew it goesth away (Hos.6:4); nay, at best it is but filthy rags, and its fountain unclean (Isaiah 44:6). Eternal truth declareth, that “all flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field, which withereth and fadeth away when the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it” (Isaiah 40: 6,7). But the righteousness the dear Lord has in view in this text, is that blessed righteousness which is unto all and upon all them that believe, even the glorious Person and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ; for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). This is that righteousness which justifies the ungodly; and when this glorious righteousness is received into the heart by faith, through the divine power of God the Holy Ghost, the soul will unite with the Church of old, and say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength;” not merely by Him, or from Him, but in Him: and the Lord the Spirit solemnly says, that “in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isaiah 45: 24,25).
God is determined that no flesh shall glory in His presence, but “in the Lord alone.” Therefore, “Christ is made of God unto His people wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I or. 1: 26-31). Yea, “God hath made Him to be sin for them, that they might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). Here it is the child of God stands acquit of all charge, and is viewed, by the God of gods, perfect and complete (Col. 2:10); for, by the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, all that believe are justified from all things, not partially, but fully and completely (Acts 13:30). Now, this blessed justification is all of grace: “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). It is on this glorious ground the apostle sends forth his God-glorifying, soul-supporting challenge: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8: 33,34).
Here divine faith makes a solemn stand, and, with indescribable pleasure, makes its boast of the Lord, putting no confidence in the flesh. Let Christ be seen and received into the heart of faith, and the sinner may challenge earth or hell to bring him in guilty; for Christ is the Lord His righteousness.
Well, blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after this righteousness, for they shall be filled. Now, no one will ever hunger and thirst after this righteousness till the Holy Ghost has quickened his soul, and brought him to feel that he is a sinner before the heart-searching God; that his sins have been committed against a righteous God; that he has no righteousness of his own, nor any power to work one out; and yet, with without a righteousness perfectly adequate to the requirements of law, and the demands of Justice, he must for ever perish. To describe the various workings of mind, and the feelings of such a soul, under the heart-rending tortures of the awful nature of sin, and the holiness and inflexible justice of God, as revealed in the law, would fill a volume. Suffice it, therefore, to say, that night and day he hungers and thirsts for that righteousness which justifies the ungodly. A religion which consists of creature goodness, creature duties, and creature piety, will not do for him. He proves that both duty-works and duty-faith fail him, and leave him a lost sinner, without help and without hope. He therefore signs, and groans, and cries for mercy, pardoning mercy, justifying mercy, in the Person, blood, and obedience of Christ. Nothing short of this will satisfy his hungry soul. He can in very deed enter into the feelings described in the first part of Isaiah 41:17, “When the poor and needy seek water.” He feels that he is poor, wretchedly poor, and very needy; for he needs all that is necessary to make him righteous and holy in the sight of God: and though he has sought this in a variety of ways, still he can neither see nor feel anything in himself, nor of himself, but sin and loathsomeness. With deep concern, he has earnestly sought the water of life, but cannot find it; so that his tongue faileth for thirst, and he appears at times unable to speak the feelings of his heart to either God or man. Hungry and thirsty, his soul fainteth within him. Well, in this desert land, in this waste, howling wilderness, the Lord, in His own blessed time, is graciously pleased manifestatively to find him, and to lead him about, and to instruct him; yea, and He will keep him as the apple of His eye. (Deuteronomy 32:10).
Now, the Lord of the house says such souls are blessed; and indeed it is no small blessing to know their poverty, feel their need, and be sensible of their own helplessness. There are a people who say that they are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. These are not spoken of very favourably by the Lord of the house; but the poor and needy, who seek water and can find none, are blessed of the Lord, yea, and in the Lord; for in Him they have all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3); and the Lord has promised them, saying, “I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water” (Isaiah 41:17,18).
“They shall be filled.” Not with self-righteousness, but with Christ and His glorious righteousness. The blessed Spirit shall reveal Christ in their hearts the hope of glory; then their souls will enjoy a sweet measure of the work and effect of the righteousness of Christ, which are peace, quietness, and assurance for ever. (Isaiah 32:17). Then they shall find that Christ is unto them a peaceable habitation, and here they have rest; and having thus tasted that the Lord is gracious, and feasted upon His blood, love, obedience, they will joyfully unite with the Psalmists, and say, “Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:3-5).
Thus they that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be abundantly satisfied with the fullness of God’s house, and shall drink of the river of His pleasure; for “with the Lord is the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:8,9). The time shall come when they shall say, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:3,4). Their mouth shall be filled with praise, and with the honour of God (Ps. 71:8). Blessed be the name of our adorable Three-One God, He filleth the hungry with good things, while the rich He sendeth empty away. (Luke 1:53); and when body and soul are transformed into the image of Christ in glory, then in very deed they will be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:9), and eternally enjoy the blessedness of being blessed in and with Christ, and filled with His righteousness.
July 13, 1835