Editor’s Note: Wesley wrote in his Explanatory Notes on the Beatitudes, “Though all desire, yet few attain happiness, because they seek it where it is not to be found.” At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus “pronounces eight blessings together, annexing them to so many steps to Christianity.” Carefully consider Wesley’s comments, here edited and rephrased.
1. Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit are those who are sincerely penitent, who are truly convinced of sin, and who see and feel the state they are in by nature, being keenly aware of their sinfulness, guiltiness, and helplessness.
They are promised the kingdom of heaven— that is, the present inward kingdom which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, as well as the eternal kingdom if they will endure to the end.
2. Happy are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. This promise is to those who mourn either for their own sins or the sins of others and who are steadily and habitually serious. They shall be comforted even in this world and then eternally in heaven.
3. Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. This refers to those who hold all their passions and affections evenly balanced. They shall have all things that are really necessary for life and godliness.
They shall enjoy whatever portion God hath given them here, and they shall also possess hereafter the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
4. Happy are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. All those who in earnest search after the holiness described in these verses shall be satisfied with it.
5. Happy are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Here the blessed ones are the tenderhearted, those who love others as themselves. Whatever mercy therefore we desire from God, the same let us show to our brothers and sisters.
He will repay us a thousand-fold for the love that we extend to any for His sake.
6. Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. The pure in heart are those who are sanctified— those who love God with all their hearts. Most certainly they shall see God in all things here and then hereafter in Glory.
7. Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. To those who out of love for God and others do all the possible good they can to everyone is this blessing promised.
Peace in the scriptural sense implies all blessings both temporal and eternal. The peacemakers shall be acknowledged as such by both God and men.
8. Happy are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. One would think that all those who have the kind of holiness that Jesus blesses in this passage would be the darling of mankind. But He knew that it would not be so as long as Satan is the prince of this world.
He therefore warns his disciples of the treatment that they were to expect. He who is truly a righteous person, he who mourns, and he who is pure in heart, yea, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus (II Tim 3:12) shall suffer persecution. [Shortly thereafter, Jesus says to these persecuted ones], “Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
So they are promised eternal reward beyond the happiness that they shall have in this world resulting from holiness of heart and life.