J.C. Ryle says there are eight “foundation-stones”, which Jesus lays down at the beginning of the sermon on the mount. The wise person will look at all eight and evaluate their life against this passage of Scripture.
1-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are poor in spirit. He means the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased. He means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight. These are they who are not “wise in their own eyes and holy in their own sight.” They are not “rich and increased with goods.” They do not imagine that they need nothing. They regard themselves as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Blessed are all such! Humility is the very first letter in the alphabet of Christianity. We must begin low, if we would build high.
2-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who mourn. He means those who sorrow for sin, and grieve daily over their own short-comings. These are they who trouble themselves more about sin than about anything on earth. The remembrance of it is grievous to them. The burden of it is intolerable. Blessed are all such! “The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite spirit.” One day they shall weep no more. “They shall be comforted.”
3-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are meek. He means those who are of a patient and contented spirit. They are willing to put up with little honor here below. They can bear injuries without resentment. They are not ready to take offence. Like Lazarus in the parable, they are content to wait for their good things. Blessed are all such! They are never losers in the long run. One day they shall “reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:10.)
4-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who hunger and thirst after righteousness. He means those who desire above all things to be entirely conformed to the mind of God. They long not so much to be rich, or wealthy, or learned, as to be holy. Blessed are all such! They shall have enough one day. They shall “awake up after God’s likeness and be satisfied.” (Psalm. 17:15.)
5-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are merciful. He means those who are full of compassion towards others. They pity all who are suffering either from sin or sorrow, and are tenderly desirous to make their sufferings less. They are full of good works, and endeavors to do good. Blessed are all such! Both in this life and that to come they shall reap a rich reward.
6-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are pure in heart. He means those who do not aim merely at outward correctness, but at inward holiness. They are not satisfied with a mere external show of religion. They strive to keep a heart and conscience void of offence, and to serve God with the spirit and the inner man. Blessed are all such! The heart is the man. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7.) He that is most spiritual-minded will have most communion with God.
7-The Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are peacemakers. He means those who use all their influence to promote peace and charity on earth, in private and in public, at home and abroad. He means those who strive to make all men love one another, by teaching that Gospel which says, “love is the fulfilling of the law.” Blessed are all such! They are doing the very work which the Son of God began, when he came to earth the first time, and which He will finish when He returns the second time.
8-Lastly, the Lord Jesus calls those blessed, who are persecuted for righteousness sake. He means those who are laughed at, mocked, despised, and ill-used, because they endeavor to live as true Christians. Blessed are all such! They drink of the same cup which their Master drank. They are now confessing Him before men, and He will confess them before His Father and the angels at the last day. “Great is their reward.”