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12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
12. Rejoice ye, and leap for joy The meaning is, a remedy is at hand, that we may not be overwhelmed by unjust reproaches: for, as soon as we raise our minds to heaven, we there behold vast grounds of joy, which dispel sadness. The idle reasonings of the Papists, about the word reward, which is here used, are easily refuted: for there is not (as they dream) a mutual relation between the reward and merit, but the promise of the reward is free. Besides, if we consider the imperfections and faults of any good works that are done by the very best of men, there will be no work which God can judge to be worthy of reward.
We must advert once more to the phrases, on my account, or, on account of the Son of Man, (Luke 6:22;) and lying, shall speak every evil word against you; that he who suffers persecution for his own fault (1 Peter 2:20) may not forthwith boast that he is a martyr of Christ, as the Donatists, in ancient times, were delighted with themselves on this single ground, that the magistrates were against them. And in our own day the Anabaptists,370370 The Anabaptists here named must not be confounded with the Baptists or Anti-poedo-baptists of the present day, who are, indeed, at issue with Calvin as to the subjects and mode of baptism, but who utterly disown the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. Our notes are restricted by the plan of this work to the elucidation of our author, and to matters of criticism and history. It would, therefore, be out of place to enter here into the merits of a doctrinal controversy, or to vindicate brethren from the heavy charge which is here implied. But we are at liberty to say, that against them Calvin brings no such charge. Nowhere does he represent a departure from his views on the ordinance of Baptism as a fundamental error, or as necessarily connected with danger to society. He alludes to sentiments, which were openly avowed by the Anabaptists, and which he viewed as striking at the root of civil government. To any one at all conversant with their history, the name instantly awakens the recollections of Munster, and of the enormities which were perpetrated there, to the disgrace of the Christian name, — enormities which none are more ready to condemn than the esteemed brethren to whom we have referred. If we seem to discover excessive solicitude to remove the appearance of calumny, our apology must be found in our deep veneration for the author, and in our conviction that he was not less distinguished by a Catholic spirit than by the other great excellencies of his character. Never was there a human breast, in which there dwelt a stronger affection for all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. — Ed. while they disturb the Church by their ravings, and slander the Gospel, boast that they are carrying the banners of Christ, when they are justly condemned. But Christ pronounces those only to be happy who are employed in defending a righteous cause.
For so did they persecute This was expressly added, that the apostles might not expect to triumph without exertion and without a contest, and might not fail, when they encountered persecutions. The restoration of all things, under the reign of Christ, being everywhere promised in Scripture, there was danger, lest they might not think of warfare, but indulge in vain and proud confidence. It is evident from other passages, that they foolishly imagined the kingdom of Christ to be filled with wealth and luxuries.371371 “Plein de richesses, magnificences, et delices terriennes;” — “full of riches, magnificence, and earthly luxuries.” Christ had good reason for warning them, that, as soon as they succeeded to the place of the prophets, they must sustain the same contests in which the prophets were formerly engaged. The prophets who were before you This means not only, that the prophets were before them with respect to the order of time, but that they were of the same class with themselves, and ought therefore to be followed as their example. The notion commonly entertained, of making out nine distinct beatitudes, is too frivolous to need a long refutation.