32. But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
32. Recordamini dierum superiorum, quibus illuminati multum certamen sustinuistis passionum;
33. Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.
33. Partim dum probris et afflictionibus fuistis traducti, partim dum socii facti estis eorum qui sic conversabantur.
34. For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.
34. Etenim vinculis meis compassi estis, et rapinam bonorum vestrorum suscepistit cum guidio, scientes vos habere meliorem substantiam in coelis et manentem:
35. Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.
35. Ne abjiciatis igitur fiduciam vestram quae remunerationem magnam habet.
32. But call to remembrance, etc. In order to stimulate them, and to rouse their alacrity to go forward, he reminds them of the evidences of piety which they had previously manifested; for it is a shameful thing to begin well, and to faint in the middle of our course, and still more shameful to retrograde after having made great progress. The remembrance then of past warfare, if it had been carried on faithfully and diligently under the banner of Christ, is at length useful to us, not as a pretext for sloth, as though we had already served our time, but to render us more active in finishing the remaining part of our course. For Christ has not enlisted us on this condition, that we should after a few years ask for a discharge like soldiers who have served their time, but that we should pursue our warfare even to the end.
He further strengthens his exhortation by saying, that they had already performed great exploits at a time when they were as yet new recruits: the more shame then would it be to them, if now they fainted after having been long tried; for the word enlightened is to be limited to the time when they first enlisted under Christ, as though he had said, |As soon as ye were initiated into the faith of Christ, ye underwent hard and arduous contests; now practice ought to have rendered you stronger, so as to become more courageous.| He, however, at the same time reminds them, that it was through God's favor that they believed, and not through their own strength; they were enlightened when immersed in darkness and without eyes to see, except light from above had shone upon them. Whenever then those things which we have done or suffered for Christ come to our minds, let them be to us so many goads to stir us on to higher attainments.
33. Partly, whilst ye were made, etc. We see who they were whom he addresses, even those whose faith had been proved by no common trials, and yet he refrains not from exhorting them to greater things. Let no man therefore deceive himself by self-flattery as though he had reached the goal, or had no need of incentives from others.
Now he says, that they had been made gazingstocks both by reproaches and afflictions, or exposed to public shame by reproaches and distresses, as though they were exposed on a public theater. We hence learn that the persecutions which they had sustained were remarkably severe. But we ought especially to notice the latter clause, when he says that they became companions, or associates of the godly in their persecutions; for as it is Christ's cause for which all the godly contend, and as it is what their contend for in common, whatever one of them suffers, all the rest ought to transfer, as it were, to themselves; and this is what ought by all means to be done by us, unless we would separate ourselves from Christ himself.
34. And took joyfully, etc. There is no doubt but as they were men who had feelings, the loss of their goods caused them grief; but yet their sorrow was such as did not prevent the joy of which the Apostle speaks. As poverty is deemed an evil, the plunder of their goods considered in itself touched them with grief; but as they looked higher, they found a cause for joy, which allayed whatever grief they felt. It is indeed thus necessary that our thoughts should be drawn away from the world, by looking at the heavenly recompense; nor do I say any other thing but what all the godly find to be the case by experience. And no doubt we joyfully embrace what we are persuaded will end in our salvation; and this persuasion the children of God doubtless have respecting the conflicts which they undertake for the glory of Christ. Hence carnal feelings never so prevail in overwhelming them with grief, but that with their minds raised up to heaven they emerge into spiritual joy.
And this is proved by what he subjoins, knowing that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Joyfully then did they endure the plundering of their goods, not because they were glad to find themselves plundered; but as their minds were fixed on the recompense, they easily forgot the grief occasioned by their present calamity. And indeed wherever there is a lively perception of heavenly things, the world with all its allurements is not so relished, that either poverty or shame can overwhelm our minds with grief. If then we wish to bear anything for Christ with patience and resigned minds, let us accustom ourselves to a frequent meditation on that felicity, in comparison with which all the good things of the world are nothing but refuse. Nor are we to pass by these words, |knowing that ye have|; for except one be fully persuaded that the inheritance which God has promised to his children belongs to him, all his knowledge will be cold and useless.
35. Cast not away, therefore, etc. He shows what especially makes us strong to persevere, even the retaining of confidence; for when that is lost, we lose the recompense set before us. It hence appears that confidence is the foundation of a godly and holy life. By mentioning reward, he diminishes nothing from the gratuitous promise of Salvation; for the faithful know that their labor is not vain in the Lord in such a way that they still rest on God's mercy alone. But it has been often stated elsewhere how reward is not incompatible with the gratuitous imputation of righteousness.