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JUDGE SEPTIMUS J. HANNA, CSD
Extracts from a sermon recently delivered in Chickering Hall, Boston, by S. J. Hanna of Scranton, Pa., from the text, Matt. v. 1-11, Rev. Ver.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Could we but realize the full import of this language, we should ourselves be in the kingdom. To be poor in spirit, in the sense meant by Jesus, is the attaining to that spiritual altitude, to that mountain height of understanding, which brings us into the kingdom of heaven. This is the "Blessedness" hence the heaven to which the Master referred. What, therefore, is it to be "Poor in spirit?" Can our, at present, clogged perception answer the question? No. But we certainly can make some effort in that direction that may, in some measure, aid us in working out the great problem before us. This is all we can hope to do, until we shall attain a higher point in our ascent than we have yet reached. When we shall have become poor in spirit. When we shall be able to say that we have no longer any sensual passions and appetites; no longer any malice; no longer any fear, except the fear of God; no longer any depraved will; no longer any false human pride; no longer any envy; no longer any feelings of revenge; no longer any anger; when we love our neighbor as ourselves, and God with all our heart, mind and strength, when we have reached this height, on the Mount, we can make claim to poorness of spirit, but not before. Until we do this, we cannot, and shall not be numbered among the "Blessed" of the Master. To be "poor in spirit" then, means a great deal, does it not? When we shall have reached this height we shall be pure; we shall be meek; we shall be wise, wise in spiritual things; we shall be faithful; we shall have understanding; we shall have Love.
Are men mistaken then when they tell us that there are hundreds of thousands of Christians in the world? Either they are mistaken, or the Sermon on the Mount is false. I have endeavored to show what it is to be poor in spirit as Jesus meant it.
I cheerfully admit that there are millions of religionists in the world. I as cheerfully admit that there are millions of people in the world who are sincerely striving to be Christians. But until they are ready to say, and are able to prove that they are poor in spirit, they are not Christ-like; and until they are Christ-like, they are in no true sense Christians. There is perhaps no word in our language so loosely and thoughtlessly used as the word Christian. How little we comprehend the mighty import of this word! There have been many, there are doubtless many, who are near the kingdom; nearer perhaps than they and we realize. How earnestly we should strive to reach the goal of true Christianity.
When we realize that we have eternity in which to work out our salvation; in which to become poor in spirit; in which to become perfect, we have no reason to become discouraged. If we have rightly apprehended what it is to be poor in spirit, if this be the true interpretation of the Master's words, what a mistake we should make if, claiming to be Christian Scientists, we should flatter ourselves that we had overcome the claims of the flesh, and to have attained to the spiritual, while yet living in and indulging the claims and demands of the material senses! Sooner or later, we shall be awakened from this false and delusive dream.
"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
What is the mourning here meant? The mourning of sadness? Not at all! Jesus spoke of no such mourning. When we begin to see the folly of living only for the gratification of the material senses; when our eyes are beginning to open to the foolishness of building only with reference to the temporary things of this world; when we come to understand that the Spiritual is the true, the permanent, the lasting; and that the material is the temporal, the fleeting, the illusive; when we begin thus to mourn, we are beginning the mourning the Master meant. This mourning will bring with it corresponding comfort. In the degree in which we thus mourn are we "overcoming." We cannot too soon begin this kind of mourning. We may be sure that we shall not be "comforted " until we thus "mourn."
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."
From every human standpoint, what an anomalous and impractical statement this is! It is the very reverse of what we see in daily life. If it were left to mortal man, how much of the earth would be inherited by the meek? If mankind had to rely on the great majority of our millionaires for the carrying out of this divine precept, how soon would it be carried out? How soon would the meek inherit the earth, or any part of it? Mortal man is living in open defiance of this divine law, and shall he escape the penalty of his disobedience? How long will it be before the grasping and selfish money kings of the world shall become poor in spirit; shall become meek; shall mourn and be comforted; shall in the true and desirable sense, inherit the earth? Inheritance of this kind brings with it comparative joy and peace, while inheritance of the other kind brings with it discord, anxiety, unhappiness.
"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
In proportion as we seek the Christ-Truth shall we be filled with it. It will grow and unfold in human consciousness. Righteousness is right living. To live rightly is to be poor in spirit. How earnestly should we strive then in the direction of right living! How we should hunger and thirst after righteousness! No danger of our getting too hungry or too thirsty in this way. The more we hunger and thirst in this way, the more rapid will be our ascent up the Mount, for then we shall, the more, eat of the bread and drink of the water of life.
"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy."
This is but another expression for unselfishness. If we are unselfish, we shall have loving kindness for all; we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. Mercy includes love in the broadest sense of Divine Love.
"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
Here is struck the keynote of Christianity. If all were pure in heart, there would be no unhappiness, no discord in the world. If purity were the principle and rule of human conduct, the kingdom of heaven would indeed be here. Malice, lust, envy, pride, selfishness, revenge, anger could find no place where all is purity. The overcoming of these qualities of human nature then, is becoming pure in heart. In no other way can we become pure in heart than by destroying these elements of mortal mind. Thus may we see God, and thus only. Thus are we ascending the Mount, and getting out of the dark valley of material blindness, up into the bright and shining atmosphere of Life and Truth and Love. This is the true Mount of Transfiguration.
This is the true Christian striving. Let our earnest striving be to become pure in heart. Thus only can we become Christ-like; thus only can we become Christian Scientists.
"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God."
This is but a repetition, in another form, of the preceding declarations. They who make peace, love; they love their neighbor as themselves; and it is the Christ love that brings peace. And what brings the desire for peace but purity of heart, purity of thought? This reflects peace as it does every other Christian virtue.
"Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
This is, of course, equivalent to saying: Blessed are they that shall be persecuted for righteousness sake. And why are they blessed? Because the doing of the things of Christ, the striving for the Truth, is so at variance with the desires of mortal mind, that it would turn and rend the bearer of the torch of Truth; and misconstruction, misrepresentation. and calumny are the results. These bring with them the varied forms of persecution which have beset the pathway of every true reformer in all ages. If, therefore, we meet with persecution, it is the best evidence we can have that we are ascending the mount. So when men persecute us and say all manner of evil against us falsely for the sake of Truth, it should only incite us to further striving. The very object lesson of the Mount suggests a steep and rugged ascent.
Our grand assurance, amidst all apparent discouragements, is that we shall meet the Christ on the way up the Mount. As Paul met Him on the way to Damascus, so shall we meet Him, if we but continue our ascent. Christ-Truth will become our companion. Christian Science makes Christ its constant companion. It centres all its purposes around Him. It wants a whole Christ. It wants the Christ who yet heals sin; who yet heals the sick; who yet raises the dead; who can yet say to the entombed Lazarus: "Come forth" and to those about him: "Loose him, and let him go." The Christ who said: "Before Abraham was I AM," and, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." It wants the Christ who yet says to the sick: "Go and sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." It wants the Christ, the glory of whose presence and power has been partly throbbing and pulsating in human consciousness all down the ages since his first appearing. This is the Christ it is endeavoring to live and demonstrate in the world today.
Judge Septimus J. Hanna, CSD
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