Blessed Are They That Mourn: For They Shall Be Comforted
They that mourn.–The verb is commonly coupled with weeping (Mark 16:10; Luke 6:25; James 4:9; Revelation 18:15-19). Here, as before, there is an implied, though not an expressed, limitation. The “mourning” is not the sorrow of the world that worketh “death” (2Corinthians 7:10) for failure, suffering, and the consequences of sin, but the sorrow which flows out in the tears that cleanse, the mourning over sin itself and the stain which it has left upon the soul.
They shall be comforted.–The pronoun is emphatic. The promise implies the special comfort (including counsel) which the mourner needs; “comforted” he shall be with the sense of pardon and peace, of restored purity and freedom. We cannot separate the promise from the word which Christendom has chosen (we need not now discuss its accuracy) to express the work of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, still less from the yearning expectation that then prevailed among such of our Lord’s hearers as were looking for the “consolation”–i.e., the “comfort”–of Israel (Luke 2:25).
Verse 4. – In some, especially “Western” authorities, vers. 4, 5 are transposed (vide Westcott and Hort, ‘Appendix’), possibly because the terms of ver. 5 seemed to be more closely parallel to ver. 3 (cf. Meyer, Weiss), and also those of ver. 4 fitted excellently with ver. 6. But far the greater balance of evidence is in favour of the usual order, which also, though not on the surface, is in the deepest connexion with the preceding and the following verses. They that mourn (cf. Isaiah 61:2). Our Lord does not define that which causes the mourning, but as the preceding and the following verses all refer to the religious or at least the ethical sphere, merely carnal and worldly mourning is excluded. The mourning referred to must, therefore, be produced by religious or moral causes. Mourners for the state of Israel, so far as they mourned not for its political but for its spiritual condition (cf. similar mourning in the Christian Church, 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10), would be included (cf. Weiss, ‘Life,’ 2:142); but our Lord’s primary thought must have been of mourning over one’s personal state, not exactly, perhaps, over one’s sins, but over the realized poverty in spirit just spoken of (cf. Weiss-Meyer). As the deepest poverty lies in the sphere of the spirit, so the deepest mourning lies there also. All other mourning is but partial and slight compared with this (Proverbs 18:14). For they shall be comforted. When? On having the kingdom of heaven (ver. 3); i.e. during this life in measure (cf. Luke 2:25), but fully only hereafter. The mourning over one’s personal poverty in spirit is removed in proportion as Christ is received and appropriated; but during this life such appropriation can be only partial.