I proceed now to the second part of the text. A promise annexed. They shall be filled'. A Christian fighting with sin is not like one that beats the air' (1 Corinthians 9:26), and his hungering after righteousness is not like one that sucks in only air, Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled.'
Those that hunger after righteousness shall be filled. God never bids us seek him in vain' (Isaiah 45:19). Here is an honeycomb dropping into the mouths of the hungry, they shall be filled'. He hath filled the hungry with good things' (Luke 1:53). He satisfieth the longing soul' (Psalm 107:9). God will not let us lose our longing. Here is the excellency of righteousness above all things. A man may hunger after the world and not be filled. The world is fading, not filling. Cast three worlds into the heart, yet the heart is not full. But righteousness is a filling thing; nay, it so fills that it satisfies. A man may be filled and not satisfied. A sinner may take his fill of sin, but that is a sad filling. It is far from satisfaction. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways' (Proverbs 14:14). He shall have his belly full of sin; he shall have enough of it, but this is not a filling to satisfaction. This is such a filling that the damned in hell have. They shall be full of the fury of the Lord. But he that hungers after righteousness shall be satisfyingly filled. My people shall be satisfied with my goodness' (Jeremiah 31:14). My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow' (Psalm 63:5). Joseph first opened the mouth of the sacks, and then filled them with corn and put money in them (Genesis 42:25). So God first opens the mouth of the soul with desire and then fills it with good things (Psalm 81:10). For the illustration of this, consider these three things: that God can fill the hungry soul; why he fills the hungry soul; how he fills the hungry soul.
1 That God can fill the hungry soul. He is called a fountain. With thee is the fountain of life' (Psalm 36:9). The cistern may be empty and cannot fill us. Creatures are often broken cisterns' (Jeremiah 2:13). But the fountain is filling. God is a fountain. If we bring the vessels of our desires to this fountain, he is able to fill them. The fullness in God is an infinite fullness. Though he fill us and the angels which have larger capacities to receive, yet he has never the less himself. As the sun, though it shines, has never the less light. I perceive that virtue is gone out of me' (Luke 8:46). Though God lets virtue go out of him, yet he has never the less. The fullness of the creature is limited. It arises just to such a degree and proportion; but God's fullness is infinite; as it has its resplendence, so its redundancy.' It knows neither bounds nor bottom.
It is a constant fullness. The fullness of the creature is a mutable fullness; it ebbs and changes. I could, says one, have helped you, but now my estate is low. The blossoms of the fig-tree are soon blown off. Creatures cannot do that for us which once they could. But God is a constant fullness. Thou art the same' (Psalm 102:27). God can never be exhausted. His fullness is overflowing and ever-flowing. Then surely it is good to draw nigh to God' (Psalm 73:28). It is good bringing our vessels to this spring-head. It is a never-failing goodness.
2 Why God fills the hungry soul. The reasons are:
(i) God will fill the hungry soul out of his tender compassion. He knows that else the spirit would fail before him and the soul which he has made' (Isaiah 57:16). If the hungry man be not satisfied with food he dies. God has more bowels than to suffer an hungry soul to be famished. When the multitude had nothing to eat, Christ was moved with compassion and he wrought a miracle for their supply (Matthew 15:32). Much more will he compassionate such as hunger and thirst after righteousness. When a poor sinner sees himself almost starved in his sins (as the prodigal among his husks) and begins to hunger after Christ, saying, there is bread enough and to spare in my Father's house', God will then out of his infinite compassions bring forth the fatted calf and refresh his soul with the delicacies and provisions of the gospel. Oh the melting of God's bowels to an hungry sinner! Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled' (Hosea 11:8) We cannot see a poor creature at the door ready to perish with hunger, but our bowels begin to relent and we afford him some relief. And will the Father of mercies let a poor soul that hungers after the blessings of the gospel go away without an alms of free grace? No, he will not; he cannot. Let the hungry sinner think thus, Though I am full of wants, yet my God is full of bowels.
(ii) God will fill the hungry that he may fulfil his Word. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled' (Psalm 107:9; Jeremiah 31:14; Luke 6:21). I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed . . .' (Isaiah 44:3). Has the Lord spoken and shall it not come to pass? Promises are obligatory. If God has passed a promise, he cannot go back. You who hunger after righteousness have God engaged for you. He has (to speak with reverence) pawned his truth for you. As his compassions fail not' (Lamentations 3:22), so he will not suffer his faithfulness to fail' (Psalm 89:33). If the hungry soul should not be filled, the promise would not be fulfilled.
(iii) God will fill the hungry soul because he himself has excited and stirred up this hunger. He plants holy desires in us, and will not he satisfy those desires which he himself has wrought in us? As in the case of prayer, when God prepares the heart to pray, he prepares his ear to hear (Psalm 10:17); so in the case of spiritual hunger, when God prepares the heart to hunger, he will prepare his hand to fill. It is not rational to imagine that God should deny to satisfy that hunger which he himself has caused. Nature does nothing in vain. Should the Lord inflame the desire after righteousness and not fill it, he might seem to do something in vain.
(iv) God will fill the hungry because of those sweet relations he stands unto them; they are his children. We cannot deny our children when they are hungry. We will rather spare it from our own selves (Luke 11:13). When he that is born of God shall come and say, Father, I hunger, give me Christ; Father, I thirst, refresh me with the living streams of thy Spirit, can God deny? Does God hear the raven when it cries, and will he not hear the righteous when they cry? When the earth opens its mouth and thirsts God satisfies it (Psalm 65:9, 10). Does the Lord satisfy the thirsty earth with showers and will he not satisfy the thirsty soul with grace?
(v) God will satisfy the hungry because the hungry soul is most thankful for mercy. When the restless desire has been drawn out after God, and God fills it, how thankful is a Christian! The Lord loves to bestow his mercy where he may have most praise. We delight to give to them that are thankful. Musicians love to play where there is the best sound. God loves to bestow his mercies where he may hear of them again. The hungry soul sets the crown of praise upon the head of free grace. Whoso offereth praise glorifies me' (Psalm 50:23).
3 How God fills the hungry soul. There is threefold filling: with grace; with peace; with bliss.
(i) God fills the hungry soul with grace. Grace is filling because suitable to the soul. Stephen was full of the Holy Ghost' (Acts 7:55). This fullness of grace is in respect of parts, not of degrees. There is something of every grace, though not perfection in any grace.
(ii) God fills the hungry soul with peace. The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace' (Romans 15:13). This flows from Christ. Israel had honey out of the rock. This honey of peace comes out of the rock, Christ. That in me ye might have peace' (John 16:33). So filling is this peace that it sets the soul a-longing after heaven. This cluster of grapes quickens the appetite and pursuit after the full crop.
(iii) God fills the hungry soul with bliss. Glory is a filling thing. When I awake I shall be satisfied with thy image' (Psalm 17:15). When a Christian awakes out of the sleep of death then he shall be satisfied, having the glorious beams of God's image shining upon him. Then shall the soul be filled brimful. The glory of heaven is so sweet that the soul shall still thirst, yet so infinite that it shall be filled. They who drink of thee, O Christ, being refreshed with sweet torrents, shall not continue to thirst yet they shall thirst'.
What an encouragement is this to hunger after righteousness! Such shall be filled. God charges us to fill the hungry (Isaiah 58:10). He blames those who do not fill the hungry (Isaiah 32:6). And do we think he will be slack in that which he blames us for not doing? Oh come with hungerings after Christ and be assured of satisfaction. God keeps open house for hungry sinners. He invites his guests and bids them come without money (Isaiah 55:1, 2). God's nature inclines him and his promise obliges him to fill the hungry. Consider, why did Christ receive the Spirit without measure,? (John 3:34). It was not for himself. He was infinitely full before. But he was filled with the holy unction for this end, that he might distil his grace upon the hungry soul. Are you ignorant? Christ was filled with wisdom that he might teach you. Are you polluted? Christ was filled with grace that he might cleanse you. Shall not the soul then come to Christ who was filled on purpose to fill the hungry? We love to knock at a rich man's door. In our Father's house there is bread enough. Come with desire and you shall go away with comfort. You shall have the virtues of Christ's blood, the influences of his Spirit, the communications of his love
There are two objections made against this.
The carnal man's objection. I have (says he) hungered after righteousness, yet am not filled.
You say you hunger and are not satisfied? Perhaps God is not satisfied with your hunger. You have opened your mouth wide' (Psalm 81:10), but have not opened your ear' (Psalm 49:4). When God has called you to family prayer and mortification of sin, you have, like the deaf adder', stopped your ear against God (Zechariah 7:11). No wonder then that you have not that comfortable filling as you desire. Though you have opened your mouth you have stopped your ear. The child that will not hear his parent, is made to do penance by fasting.
Perhaps you thirst as much after a temptation as after righteousness. At a sacrament you seem to be inflamed with desire after Christ, but the next temptation that comes either to drunkenness or lasciviousness, you fall in and close with the temptation. Satan but beckons to you and you come. You open faster to the tempter than to Christ; and do you wonder you are not filled with the fat things of God's house?
Perhaps you hunger more after the world than after righteousness. The young man in the gospel would have Christ, but the world lay nearer his heart than Christ. Hypocrites pant more after the dust of the earth (Amos 2:7) than the water of life'. Israel had no manna while their dough lasted. Such as feed immoderately upon the dough of earthly things, must not think to be filled with manna from heaven. If your money be your God, never look to receive another God in the sacrament.
The godly man's objection. I have had unfeigned desires after God, but am not filled.
You may have a filling of grace, though not of comfort. If God does not fill you with gladness, yet with goodness (Psalm 107:9). Look into your heart and see the distillations of the Spirit. The dew may fall though the honeycomb does not drop.
Wait a while and you shall be filled. The gospel is a spiritual banquet. It feasts the soul with grace and comfort. None eat of this banquet but such as wait at the table. In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees well refined. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him; we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation' (Isaiah 25:6,9). Spiritual mercies are not only worth desiring, but worth waiting for.
If God should not fill his people to satisfaction here, yet they shall be filled in heaven. The vessels of their desires shall be filled as those water pots (John 2:7) up to the brim'.