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34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

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34. Come, you blessed of my Father. We must remember Christ’s design; for he bids his disciples rest satisfied now with hope, that they may with patience and tranquillity of mind look for the enjoyment of the heavenly kingdom; and next, he bids them strive earnestly, and not become wearied in the right course. To this latter clause he refers, when he promises the inheritance of the heavens to none but those who by good works aim at the prize of the heavenly calling. But before speaking of the reward of good works, he points out, in passing, that the commencement of salvation flows from a higher source; for by calling them blessed of the Father, he reminds them, that their salvation proceeded from the undeserved favor of God. Among the Hebrews the phrase blessed of God means one who is dear to God, or beloved by God. Besides, this form of expression was not only employed by believers to extol the grace of God towards men, but those who had degenerated from true godliness still held this principle. Enter, thou blessed of God, said Laban to Abraham’s servant, (Genesis 24:31.) We see that nature suggested to them this expression, by which they ascribed to God the praise of all that they possessed. There can be no doubt, therefore, that Christ, in describing the salvation of the godly, begins with the undeserved love of God, by which those who, under the guidance of the Spirit in this life, aim at righteousness, were predestined to life.

To this also relates what he says shortly afterwards, that the kingdom, to the possession of which they will be appointed at the last day, had been prepared for them from the beginning of the world. For though it may be easy to object, that the reward was laid up with a view to their future merits, any person who will candidly examine the words must acknowledge that there is an implied commendation of the grace of God. Nay more, Christ does not simply invite believers to possess the kingdom, as if they had obtained it by their merits, but expressly says that it is bestowed on them as heirs.

Yet we must observe another object which our Lord had in view. For though the life of the godly be nothing else than a sad and wretched banishment, so that the earth scarcely bears them; though they groan under hard poverty, and reproaches, and other afflictions; yet, that they may with fortitude and cheerfulness surmount these obstacles, the Lord declares that a kingdom is elsewhere prepared for them. It is no slight persuasive to patience, when men are fully convinced that they do not run in vain; and therefore, lest our minds should be east, down by the pride of the ungodly, in which they give themselves unrestrained indulgences—lest our hope should even be weakened by our own afflictions, let us always remember the inheritance which awaits us in heaven; for it depends on no uncertain event, but was prepared for us by God before we were born,prepared, I say, for each of the elect, for the persons here addressed by Christ are the blessed of the Father.

When it is here said only that the kingdom was prepared from the beginning of the world, while it is said, in another passage, that it was prepared before the creation of heaven and of earth, (Ephesians 1:4) this involves no inconsistency. For Christ does not here fix the precise time when the inheritance of eternal life was appointed for the sons of God, but only reminds us of God’s fatherly care, with which he embraced us before we were born; and confirms the certainty of our hope by this consideration, that our life can sustain no injury from the commotions and agitations of the world.

35. For I was hungry. If Christ were now speaking of the cause of our salvation, the Papists could not be blamed for inferring that we merit eternal life by good works; but as Christ had no other design than to exhort his people to holy and upright conduct, it is improper to conclude from his words what is the value of the merits of works. With regard to the stress which they lay on the word for, as if it pointed out the cause, it is a weak argument; for we know that, when eternal life is promised to the righteous, the word for does not always denote a cause, but rather the order of procedure. 173173     “Elle ne touche pas tousjours la cause et le fondement de salut, mais plustost l’ordre et la procedure que Dieu y tient;” — “it does not always refer to the cause and foundation of salvation, but rather to the order and procedure which God observes in regard to it.” But we have another reply to offer, which is still more clear; for we do not deny that a reward is promised to good works, but maintain that it is a reward of grace, because it depends on adoption. Paul boasts (2 Timothy 4:8) that a crown of righteousness is laid up for him; but whence did he derive that confidence but because he was a member of Christ, who alone is heir of the heavenly kingdom? He openly avows that the righteous Judge will give to him that crown; but whence did he obtain that prize but because by grace he was adopted, and received that justification of which we are all destitute? We must therefore hold these two principles, first, that believers are called to the possession of the kingdom of heaven, so far as relates to good works, not because they deserved them through the righteousness of works, or because their own minds prompted them to obtain that righteousness, but because God justifies those whom he previously elected, (Romans 8:30.) Secondly, although by the guidance of the Spirit they aim at the practice of righteousness, yet as they never fulfill the law of God, no reward is due to them, but the term reward is applied to that which is bestowed by grace.

Christ does not here specify every thing that belongs to a pious and holy life, but only, by way of example, refers to some of the duties of charity, by which we give evidence that we fear God. For though the worship of God is more important than charity towards men, and though, in like manner, faith and supplication are more valuable than alms, yet Christ had good reasons for bringing forward those evidences of true righteousness which are more obvious. If a man were to take no thought about God, and were only to be beneficent towards men, such compassion would be of no avail to him for appeasing God, who had all the while been defrauded of his right. Accordingly, Christ does not make the chief part of righteousness to consist in alms, but, by means of what may be called more evident signs, shows what it is to live a holy and righteous life; as unquestionably believers not only profess with the mouth, but prove by actual performances, that they serve God.

Most improperly, therefore, do fanatics, under the pretext of this passage, withdraw from hearing the word, and from observing the Holy Supper, and from other spiritual exercises; for with equal plausibility might they set aside faith, and bearing the cross, and prayer, and chastity. But nothing was farther from the design of Christ than to confine to a portion of the second table of the Law that rule of life which is contained in the two tables. The monks and other noisy talkers had as little reason to imagine that there are only six works of mercy, because Christ does not mention any more; as if it were not obvious, even to children, that he commends, by means of a synacdoche, all the duties of charity. For to comfort mourners, to relieve those who are unjustly oppressed, to aid simple-minded men by advice, to deliver wretched persons from the jaws of wolves, are deeds of mercy not less worthy of commendation than to clothe the naked or to feed the hungry.

But while Christ, in recommending to us the exercise of charity, does not exclude those duties which belong to the worship of God, he reminds his disciples that it will be an authentic evidence of a holy life, if they practice charity, agreeably to those words of the prophet,

I choose mercy, and not sacrifice, (Hosea 6:6;)

the import of which is, that hypocrites, while they are avaricious, and cruel, and deceitful, and extortioners, and haughty, still counterfeit holiness by an imposing array of ceremonies. Hence also we infer, that if we desire to have our life approved by the Supreme Judge, we must not go astray after our own inventions, but must rather consider what it is that He chiefly requires from us. For all who shall depart from his commandments, though they toil and wear themselves out in works of their own contrivance, will hear it said to them at the last day, Who

hath required those things at your hands? (Isaiah 1:12.)




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