3. Hungering And Thirsting After Righteousness
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”—Matthew 5:6
The righteousness intended here is not creature-righteousness, worth, or worthiness; for that is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away; nay, at best it is only filthy, and its fountain unclean. Eternal truth declares 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.! 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.” 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.” 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.” Yea, “God hath made him to be sin for them, that they might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Here it is the child of God stands acquit of all charge, and is viewed by the God of gods perfect and complete; for, by the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, all that believe are justified from all things, not partially, but fully and completely.
Now, this blessed justification is all of free grace: “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” 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.” 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 by faith, and the sinner may challenge earth and 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, that 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 sighs, 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 Isa. xli. 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 (red 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 manifestively to find him, and to lead him about, and to instruct him; yea, and he will keep him as the apple of his eye.
Now, the Lord of the house says such souls are blessed. And indeed it is no small blessing for them to know their poverty, feel their need, and be sensible of their own helplessness. There are a people who say that they are 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 favorably 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; 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.”
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 soul will enjoy a sweet measure of the work and effect of the righteousness of Christ, which are peace, quietness, and assurance for ever. 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, and obedience, they will joyfully unite with the psalmist, 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.”
Thus they that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be abundantly satisfied with the fulness of God’s house, and shall drink of the river of his pleasure; for “with the Lord is the fountain of life.” 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.” Their -mouth shall be filled with praise and with the honour of God. Blessed be the name of our adorable Three-One God, he filleth the hungry with good things, while the rich he sendeth empty away; 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 fulness of God, and eternally enjoy the blessedness of being blessed in and with Christ, and filled with his righteousness.—July 18t/t, 1885.
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist. John Hazelton wrote of him—
“[Gadsby’s] labours extended to well-nigh every part of the country, and who by his sermons, hymns, and other writings, exerted a wide spiritual influence, and his interest in the poor and needy in Lancashire and elsewhere rendered his public advocacy of their cause of great value. In him we have a man of eminent public spirit, as well as of originality and spiritual force…The first time he preached was in 1798, in an upper room in a yard at Bedworth, from the words, "Unto you therefore which believe, He is precious." His Hymn Book, now so widely known, was first published in 1814, his desire being "to have a selection of hymns free from Arminianism and sound in the faith, that the Church might be edified and God glorified.” He removed to Manchester in 1805, and while over the Church there he travelled over 60,000 miles and preached nearly 12,000 sermons.”