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Matthew 3:

1. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa,

2. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3. For this is he that was spoken of by the Prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The Sun as he approaches the horizon, and before he is yet visible, sends out his rays and makes the eastern sky to glow with light, that Aurora going before may herald the coming day. Thus the Lord at His birth in this earth, and before He shews Himself, enlightens John by the rays of His Spirit’s teaching, that he might go before and announce the Saviour that was to come. Therefore after having related the birth of Christ, before proceeding to His teaching and baptism, (wherein he received such testimony,) he first premises somewhat of the Baptist and forerunner of the Lord. In those days, &c.

REMIGIUS. In these words (ver. 1.) we have not only time, place, and person, respecting St. John, but also his office and employment. First the time, generally; In those days.

AUGUSTINE. (De Con. Evan. ii. 6.) Luke describes the time by the reigning sovereigns. (Luke 3:1.) But Matthew must be understood to speak of a wider space of time by the phrase ‘those days,’ than the fifteenth year of Tiberius. Having related Christ’s return from Egypt, which must be placed in early boyhood or even infancy, to make it agree with what Luke has told of His being in the temple at twelve years old, he adds directly, In those days, not intending thereby only the days of His childhood, but all the days from His birth to the preaching of John.

REMIGIUS. The man is mentioned in the words came John, that is, shewed himself, having abode so long in obscurity.

CHRYSOSTOM. (non occ.) But why must John thus go before Christ with a witness of deeds preaching Him? First; that we might hence learn Christ’s dignity, that He also, as the Father has, has prophets, in the words of Zacharias, And thou, Child, shalt be called the Prophet of the Highest. (Luke 1:76.) Secondly; That the Jews might have no cause for offence; as He declared, John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous man. (Luke 7:33.) It needeth moreover that the things concerning Christ should be told by some other first, and not by Himself; or what would the Jews have said, who after the witness of John made complaint, Thou bearest witness of thyself, thy witness is not true. (John 8:13.)

REMIGIUS. (ap. Anselm.) His office; the Baptist; in this he prepared the way of the Lord, for had not men been used to be baptized, they would have shunned Christ’s baptism. His employment; Preaching;

RABANUS. For because Christ was to preach, as soon as it seemed the fit time, that is, about thirty years of age, he began by his preaching to make ready the way for the Lord.

REMIGIUS. The place; the desert of Judæa.

MAXIMUS. (Hom. in Joan. Bap. nat. 1.) Where neither a noisy mob would interrupt his preaching, and whither no unbelieving hearer would retire; but those only would hear, who sought to his preaching from motives of divine worship.

JEROME. (In. Is. 40:3.) Consider how the salvation of God, and the glory of the Lord, is preached not in Jerusalem, but in the solitude of the Church, in the wilderness to multitudes.

HILARY. Or, he came to Judæa, desert by the absence of God, not of population, that the place of preaching might witness the few to whom the preaching was sent.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) The desert typically means a life removed from the temptations of the world, such as befits the penitent.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm.) Unless one repent him of his former life, he cannot begin a new life.

HILARY. He therefore preaches repentance when the Kingdom of Heaven approaches; by which we return from error, we escape from sin, and after shame for our faults, we make profession of forsaking them.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. In the very commencement he shews himself the messenger of a merciful Prince; he comes not with threats to the offender, but with offers of mercy. It is a custom with kings to proclaim a general pardon on the birth of a son, but first they send throughout their kingdom officers to exact severe fines. But God willing at the birth of His Son to give pardon of sins, first sends His officer proclaiming, Repent ye. O exaction which leaves none poor, but makes many rich! For even when we pay our just debt of righteousness we do God no service, but only gain our own salvation. Repentance cleanses the heart, enlightens the sense, and prepares the human soul for the reception of Christ, as he immediately adds, For the Kingdom of Hearen is at hand.

JEROME. John Baptist is the first to preach the Kingdom of Heaven, that the forerunner of the Lord may have this honourable privilege.

CHRYSOSTOM. And he preaches what the Jews had never heard, not even from the Prophets, Heaven, namely, and the Kingdom that is there, and of the kingdoms of the earth he says nothing. Thus by the novelty of those things of which he speaks, he gains their attention to Him whom he preaches.

REMIGIUS. The Kingdom of Heaven has a fourfold meaning. It is said, of Christ, as The Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21.) Of Holy Scripture, as, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. (Mat. 21:43.) Of the Holy Church, as, The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto ten virgins. (Mat. 25.) Of the abode above, as, Many shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Mat. 8:11.) And all these significations may be here understood.

GLOSS. (ord.) The Kingdom of Heaven shall come nigh you; for if it approached not, none would be able to gain it; for weak and blind they had not the way, which was Christ.

AUGUSTINE. (De Cons. Ev. ii. 12.) The other Evangelists omit these words of John. What follows, This is He, &c. it is not clear whether the Evangelist speaks them in his own person, or whether they are part of John’s preaching, and the whole from Repent ye, to Esaias the prophet, is to be assigned to John. It is of no importance that he says, This is he, and not, I am he; for Matthew speaking of himself says, He found a man sitting at the toll-office; (Mat. 9:9.) not He found me. Though when asked what he said of himself, he answered, as is related by John the Evangelist, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. i. 7. 2.) It is well known that the Only-begotten Son is called the Word of the Father; as in John, In the beginning was the Word. (John 1:1.) But it is by our own speech that we are known; the voice sounds that the words may be heard. Thus John the forerunner of the Lord’s coming is called, The voice, because by his ministry the voice of the Father is heard by men.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The voice is a confused sound, discovering no secret of the heart, only signifying that he who utters it desires to say somewhat; it is the word that is the speech that openeth the mystery of the heart. Voice is common to men and other animals, word peculiar to man. John then is called the voice and not the word, because God did not discover His counsels through him, but only signified that He was about to do something among men; but afterwards by His Son he fully opened the mystery of his will.

RABANUS. He is rightly called, The voice of one crying, on account of the loud sound of his preaching. Three things cause a man to speak loud; when the person he speaks to is at a distance, or is deaf, or if the speaker be angry; and all these three were then found in the human race.

GLOSS. (ord.) John then is, as it were, the voice of the word crying. The word is heard by the voice, that is, Christ by John.

BEDE. (Gloss. ord. in cap. iv. 1.) In like manner has He cried from the beginning through the voice of all who have spoken aught by inspiration. And yet is John only called, The voice; because that Word which others shewed afar off, he declares as nigh.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. i. 7. 2.) Crying in the desert, because he shews to deserted and forlorn Judæa the approaching consolation of her Redeemer.

REMIGIUS. Though as far as historical fact is concerned, he chose the desert, to be removed from the crowds of people. What the purport of his cry was is insinuated, when he adds, Make ready the way of the Lord.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. As a great King going on a progress is preceded by couriers to cleanse what is foul, repair what is broken down; so John preceded the Lord to cleanse the human heart from the filth of sin, by the besom of repentance, and to gather by an ordinance of spiritual precepts those things which had been scattered abroad.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. i. 20. 3.) Every one who preacheth right faith and good works, prepares the Lord’s way to the hearts of the hearers, and makes His paths straight, in cleansing the thoughts by the word of good preaching.

GLOSS. (interlin.) Or, faith is the way by which the word reaches the heart; when the life is amended the paths are made straight.


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