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Matthew 1:19

19. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.

CHRYSOSTOM. The Evangelist having said that she was found with child of the Holy Ghost, and without knowledge of man, that you should not herein suspect Christ’s disciple of inventing wonders in honour of his Master, brings forward Joseph confirming the history by his own share in it; Now Joseph her husband, being a just man.

PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in App. s. 195.) Joseph, understanding that Mary was with child, is perplexed that it should be thus with her whom he had received from the temple of the Lord, and had not yet known, and resolved within himself, saying, What shall I do? Shall I proclaim it, or shall I overlook it? If I proclaim it, I am indeed not consenting to the adultery; but I am running into the guilt of cruelty, for by Moses’ law she must be stoned. If I overlook it, I am consenting to the crime, and take my portion with the adulterers. Since then it is an evil to overlook the thing, and worse to proclaim the adultery, I will put her away from being my wife.

AMBROSE. (in Luc. ii. 5.) St. Matthew has beautifully taught how a righteous man ought to act, who has detected his wife’s disgrace; so as at once to keep himself guiltless of her blood, and yet pure from her defilements; therefore it is he says, Being a just man. Thus is preserved throughout in Joseph the gracious character of a righteous man, that his testimony may be the more approved; for, the tongue of the just speaketh the judgment of truth.

JEROME. But how is Joseph thus called just, when he is ready to hide his wife’s sin? For the Law enacts, that not only the doers of evil, but they who are privy to any evil done, shall be held to be guilty.

CHRYSOSTOM. But it should be known, that just here is used to denote one who is in all things virtuous. For there is a particular justice, namely, the being free from covetousness; and another universal virtue, in which sense Scripture generally uses the word justice. Therefore being just, that is kind, merciful, he was minded to put away privily her who according to the Law was liable not only to dismissal, but to death. But Joseph remitted both, as though living above the Law. For as the sun lightens up the world, before he shews his rays, so Christ before He was born caused many wonders to be seen.

AUGUSTINE. Otherwise; if you alone have knowledge of a sin that any has committed against you, and desire to accuse him thereof before men, you do not herein correct, but rather betray him. But Joseph, being a just man, with great mercy spared his wife, in this great crime of which he suspected her. The seeming certainty of her unchastity tormented him, and yet because he alone knew of it, he was willing not to publish it, but to send her away privily; seeking rather the benefit than the punishment of the sinner.

JEROME. Or this may be considered a testimony to Mary, that Joseph, confident in her purity, and wondering at what had happened, covered in silence that mystery which he could not explain.

RABANUS. He beheld her to be with child, whom he knew to be chaste; and because he had read, There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, (Is. 11:1.) of which he knew that Mary was comes, and had also read, Behold, a virgin shall conceive, (Is. 7:14.) he did not doubt that this prophecy should be fulfilled in her.

ORIGEN. But if he had no suspicion of her, how could he be a just man, and yet seek to put her away, being immaculate? He sought, to put her away, because he saw in her a great sacrament, to approach which he thought himself unworthy.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Or, in seeking to put her away, he was just; in that he sought it privily, is shewn his mercy, defending her from disgrace; Being a just man, he was minded to put her away; and being unwilling to expose her in public, and so to disgrace her, he sought to do it privily.

AMBROSE. (in Luc. ii. 1.) But as no one puts away what he has not received; in that he was minded to put her away, he admits to have received her.

GLOSS. (part ap. Anselm. part in Ord.) Or, being unwilling to bring her home to his house to live with him for ever, he was minded to put her away privily; that is, to change the time of their marriage. For that is true virtue, when neither mercy is observed without justice, nor justice without mercy; both which vanish when severed one from the other. Or he was just because of his faith, in that he believed that Christ should be born of a virgin; wherefore he wished to humble himself before so great a favour.

Matt 1:19

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