John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

5 (Matthew 5:5)

Verse 5

5.Happy are the meek By the meek he means persons of mild and gentle dispositions, who are not easily provoked by injuries, who are not ready to take offense, but are prepared to endure anything rather than do the like actions to wicked men. When Christ promises to such persons the inheritance of the earth, we might think it exceedingly foolish. Those who warmly repel any attacks, and whose hand is ever ready to revenge injuries, are rather the persons who claim for themselves the dominion of the earth. And experience certainly shows that, the more mildly their wickedness is endured, the more bold and insolent does it become. Hence arises the diabolical proverb, that “We must howl with the wolves, because the wolves will immediately devour every one who makes himself a sheep.” But Christ places his own protection, and that of the Father, in contrast with the fury and violence of wicked men, and declares, on good grounds, that the meek will be the lords and heirs of the earth The children of this world never think themselves safe, but when they fiercely revenge the injuries that are done them, and defend their life by the “weapons of war,” (Ezekiel 32:27.) But as we must believe, that Christ alone is the guardian of our life, all that remains for us is to “hide ourselves under the shadow of his wings,” (Psalms 17:8.) We must be sheep, if we wish to be reckoned a part of his flock.

It will perhaps be objected, that what has been now said is contradicted by experience. I would first suggest that it be considered, how greatly ferocious (363) people are disturbed by their own restlessness. While they lead so stormy a life, though they were a hundred times lords of the earth, while they possess all, they certainly possess nothing. For the children of God, on the other hand, I answer, that though they may not plant their foot on what is their own, they enjoy a quiet residence on the earth. And this is no imaginary possession; (364) for they know, that the earth, which they inhabit, has been granted to them by God. Besides, the hand of God is interposed to protect them against the violence and fury of wicked men. Though exposed to every species of attack, subject to the malice of wicked men, surrounded by all kinds of danger, they are safe under the divine protection. They have already a foretaste, at least, of this grace of God; and that is enough for them, till they enter, at the last day, into the possession of the inheritance (365) of the world.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible