It is not unsafe to say that the beginning point in every case of true conversion is the feeling of dissatisfaction with self and with the world. Satiety overtakes us at the height of earthly enjoyment and we turn, in quick succession, from one pursuit to another, crying, as we change, “Who will show us any good?” The moment is critical. We are either drawn towards God, from whose fullness our immortal longings shall be satisfied, or we turn back to the “weak and beggarly elements” and harness ourselves to the world as its servant and drudge. So, too, the Holy Spirit takes off the veil from our own hearts and self-complacency gives way to shame under the discovery of our own vileness and sin. We turn, upon this disclosure, as upon a pivot, either to the Great Physician and are healed or else we debauch the conscience and live contented with our own degradation. In these benedictions, however, our Lord is disclosing the spiritual nature of his kingdom and, of course, the first will express that sense of emptiness and want in which renewing grace commences the work of a sound conversion. This “poverty of spirit” is, therefore, to be taken in its widest scope, extending from that earliest feeling of displacency and unrest in the sinner’s heart to the permanent humility and sense of dependence in which the Christian goes out of himself and finds all his resources in God.
From: “The Poor in Spirit” in Selected Writings of Benjamin Morgan Palmer: Articles Written for The Southwestern Presbyterian in the Years 1869-1870, edited by Caleb Cangelosi and C. N. Willborn (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014), p. 129. This article was originally published on January 13, 1870.