“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Matthew 5:3-12
Now let us see, in the first place, why Christ spoke to his disciples about true happiness. We know that not only the great body of the people, but even the learned themselves, hold this error: that he is the happy man who is free from annoyance, attains all his wishes, and leads a joyful and easy life. At least it is the general opinion that happiness ought to be estimated from the present state. Christ, therefore, in order to accustom his own people to bear the cross, exposes this mistaken opinion that those are happy who lead an easy and prosperous life according to the flesh. For it is impossible that men should mildly bend the neck to bear calamities and reproaches so long as they think that patience is at odds with a happy life. The only consolation which mitigates and even sweetens the bitterness of the cross and of all afflictions, is the conviction that we are happy in the midst of miseries, for our patience is blessed by the Lord and will soon be followed by a happy result.
This doctrine, I do acknowledge, is widely removed from the common opinion, but the disciples of Christ must learn the philosophy of placing their happiness beyond the world and above the affections of the flesh. Though carnal reason will never admit what is here taught by Christ, yet he does not bring forward anything imaginary, but demonstrates that those persons are truly happy whose condition is supposed to be miserable.
Let us remember that the leading object of the discourse is to show that those are not unhappy who are oppressed by the reproaches of the wicked and subject to various calamities. And not only does Christ prove that they are wrong who measure the happiness of man by the present state, since the distresses of the godly will soon be changed for the better, but he also exhorts his own people to patience by holding out the hope of a reward. – John Calvin