Golden Chain 3219
3219 (Mt 2,19-20)
Euseb., Eccles. Hist., 1, 8: For the sacrilege which Herod had committed against the Saviour, and his wicked slaughter of the infants of the same age, the Divine vengeance hastened his end; and his body, as Josephus relates, was attacked by a strange disease; so that the prophets declared that they were not human ailments, but visitations of Divine vengeance. Filled with mad fury, he gives command to seize and imprison the heads and nobles out of all parts of Judaea; ordering that as soon as ever he should breathe his last, they should be all put to death, that so Judaea, though unwillingly, might mourn at his decease.
Just before he died he murdered his son, Antipater,(besides two boys put to death before, Alexander and Aristobulus.) Such was the end of Herod, noticed in those words of the Evangelist, "when Herod was dead," and such the punishment inflicted.
Jerome: Many here err from ignorance of history, supposing the Herod who mocked our (p. 86) Lord on the day of His passion, and the Herod whose death is here related, were the same. But the Herod who was then made friends with Pilate was son of this Herod and brother to Archelaus; for Archelaus was banished to Lyons in Gaul, and his father Herod made king in his room, as we read in Josephus.
Pseudo-Dionysius, Dion. De Cael. Hierarch. 4: See how Jesus Himself, though far above all celestial beings, and coming unchanged to our nature, shunned not that ordinance of humanity which He had taken on Him, but was obedient to the dispositions of His Father made known by Angels. For even by Angels is declared to Joseph the retreat of the Son into Egypt, so ordained of the Father, and His return again to Judaea.
Pseudo-Chrys.: See how Joseph was set for ministering to Mary; when she went into Egypt and returned, who would have fulfilled to her this so needful ministry, had she not been betrothed? For to outward view, Mary nourished and Joseph defended the Child; but in truth the Child supported His mother and protected Joseph.
"Return into the land of Israel;" for He went down into Egypt as a physician, not to abide there, but to succour it sick with error. But the reason of the return is given in the words, "They are dead, c
as it is said, "Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him."
Remig.: Or the Evangelist uses a figure of speech, by which the plural is used for the singular. These words, "the Child's life," overthrow those heretics (margin note: or "soul," i.e. the Apollinarians) who taught that Christ did not take a soul, but had His Divinity in place of a soul.
Bede, Hom. in Nat. Innocent: This slaughter of the infants for the Lord's sake, the death of Herod soon after, and Joseph's return with the Lord and his mother to the land of Israel, is a figure shewing that all the persecutions moved against the Church will be avenged by the death of the persecutor, peace restored to the Church, (p. 87) and the saints who had concealed themselves return to their own places. Or the return of Jesus to the land of Israel on the death of Herod shews, that, at the preaching of Enoch and Elijah (see note, c, below), the Jews, when the fire of modern jealousy shall be extinguished, shall receive the true faith.
(ed. note, c: That Enoch and especially Elias will come at the end of the world and by their preaching convert the Jews is affirmed by Tertullian, (de Anima 35. de Resur. c. 22) Origen, (in Joann, i. tom. 5. in Matt. tom. 13) Hilary, (in Matt. xx. 10. xxvi. 5) Chrysostom, (in Matt. xvii. 10) Augustine, (City of God 20, 29. Op. Imp. contra Julian. vi. 30) Pope Gregory, (in Job. lib. xiv. 23. in Joann. Hom. vii. 1) and Damascene, (de Fid. Orth. iv. 26 fin)
3221 (Mt 2,21-23)
Gloss: Joseph was not disobedient to the angelic warning, but "he arose, and took the young Child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel."
The Angel had not fixed the particular place, so that while Joseph hesitates, the Angel returns, and by the often visiting him confirms his obedience.
Josephus: Herod had nine wives, by seven of whom he had a numerous issue. By Josida, his first born Antipater - by Mariamine, Alexander and Aristobulus - by Mathuca, a Samaritan woman, Archelaus - by Cleopatra of Jerusalem, Herod, who was afterwards tetrarch, and Philip. The three first were put to death by Herod; and after his death, Archelaus seized the throne by occasion of his father's will, and the question of the succession was carried before Augustus Caesar. After some delay, he made a distribution of the whole of Herod's dominions in accordance with the Senate's advice. (p. 88) To Archelaus he assigned one half, consisting of Idumaea and Judaea, with the title of tetrarch, and a promise of that of king if he shewed himself deserving of it. The rest he divided into two tetrarchates, giving Galilee to Herod the tetrarch, Ituraea and Trachonitis to Philip. Thus Archelaus was after his father's death a duarch, which kind of sovereignty is here called a kingdom.
Aug., De Con. Evan. ii. 10: Here is may be asked, How then could his parents go up every year of Christ's childhood to Jerusalem, as Luke relates, if fear of Archelaus now prevented them from approaching it? This difficulty is easily solved. At the festival they might escape notice in the crowd, and by returning soon, where in ordinary times they might be afraid to live. So they neither became irreligious by neglecting the festival, nor notorious by dwelling continually in Jerusalem.
Or it is open to us to understand Luke when he says, they "went up every year," as speaking of a time when they had nothing to fear from Archelaus, who, as Josephus relates, reigned only nine years.
There is yet a difficulty in what follows; "Being warned in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee." If Joseph was afraid to go into Judaea because one of Herod's sons, Archelaus, reigned there, how could he go into Galilee, where another of his sons Herod was tetrarch, as Luke tells us? As if the times of which Luke is speaking were times in which there was any longer need to fear for the Child, when even in Judaea things were so changed, that Archelaus no longer ruled there, but Pilate was governor.
Gloss. ord.: But then we might ask, why was he not afraid to go into Galilee, seeing Archelaus ruled there also? He could be better concealed in Nazareth than in Jerusalem, which was the capital of the kingdom, and where Archelaus was constantly resident.
Chrys.: And when he had once left the country of His birth, all the occurrences passed out of mind; the rage of persecution had been spent in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood. By choosing Nazareth therefore, Joseph both avoided danger, and returned to his country.
Aug., de Con. Evan., ii, 9: This may perhaps occur to some, that Matthew says His parents went with the Child Jesus to Galilee because they feared Archelaus, when it should seem most probable that they chose Galilee because Nazareth was (p. 89) their own city, as Luke has not forgot to mention. We must understand, that when the Angel in the vision in Egypt said to Joseph, "Go into the land of Israel," Joseph understood the command to be that he should go straight into Judaea, that being properly "the land of Israel." But finding Archelaus ruling there, he would not court the danger, as "the land of Israel" might be interpreted to extend to Galilee, which was inhabited by children of Israel.
Or we may suppose His parents supposed that Christ should dwell no where but in Jerusalem, where was the temple of the Lord, and would have gone thither had not the fear of Archelaus hindered them. And they had not been commanded from God to dwell positively in Judaea, or Jerusalem, so as that they should have despised the fear of Archelaus, but only in the land of Israel generally, which they might understand of Galilee.
Hilary: But the figurative intepretation holds good any way. Joseph represents the Apostles, to whom Christ is entrusted to be borne about. These, as though Herod were dead, that is, his people being destroyed in the Lord's passion, are commanded to preach the Gospel to the Jews; they are sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But finding the seed of their hereditary unbelief still abiding, they fear and withdraw; admonished by a vision, to wit, seeing the Holy Ghost poured upon the Gentiles, they carry Christ to them.
Rabanus: Or, we may apply it to the last times of the Jewish Church, when many Jews having turned to the preaching of Enoch and Elijah, the rest filled with the spirit of Antichrist shall fight against the faith. So that part of Judaea where Archelaus rules, signifies the followers of Antichrist; Nazareth of Galilee, whither Christ is conveyed, that part of the nation that shall embrace the faith. Galilee means, 'removal;' Nazareth, 'the flower of virtues;' for the Church the more zealously she removes from the earthly to the heavenly, the more she abounds in the flower and fruit of virtues.
Gloss: To this he adds the Prophet's testimony, saying, "That is might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophets, &c."
Jerome: Had he meant to quote a particular text, he would not have written 'Prophets,' but 'the Prophet.' By thus using the plural he evidently [p. 90] does not take the words of any one passage in Scripture, but the sense of the whole. Nazarene is interpreted, 'Holy,' [ed. note, d: ] and that the Lord would be Holy, all Scripture testifies.
Otherwise we may explain that it is found in Isaiah rendered to the strict letter of the Hebrew. [margin note: c. 11. 1] "There shall come a Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Nazarene shall grow out of His roots." [ed. note, e: As if ]
Pseudo-Chrys.: They might have read this in some Prophets who are not in our canon, as Nathan or Esdras. That there was some prophecy to this purport is clear from what Philip says to Nathanael. "Him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth." (Jn 1,15) Hence the Christians were at first called Nazarenes, at Antioch their name was changed to that of 'Christians.'
Aug., de Con. Evan., ii, 5: The whole of this history, from the account of the Magi inclusively, Luke omits. Let it be here noticed once for all, that each of the Evangelists writes as if he were giving a full and complete history, which omits nothing; where he really passes over any thing, he continues his thread of history as if he had told all. Yet by a diligent comparison of their several narratives, we can be at no loss to know where to insert any particular that is mentioned by one and not by the other.
3301 (Mt 3,1-3)
Pseudo-Chrys.: 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."
Remig.: In these words we have not only time, place, and person, respecting St. John, but also his office and employment. First the time, generally; "In those days."
Aug., de Cons. Evan., ii, 6: Luke describes the time by the reigning sovereigns. (Lc 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 (p. 92) 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.
Remig.: The man is mentioned in the words "came John," that is, shewed himself, having abode so long in obscurity.
Chrys.: 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." (Lc 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." (Lc 7,33-34)
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." (Jn 8,3)
Remig., 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.
Remig.: The place; "the desert of Judaea."
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 Isa 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 Judaea, 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.
Aug. 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 (p. 93) we return from error, we escape from sin, and after shame for our faults, we make profession of forsaking them.
Pseudo-Chrys.: 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 Heaven 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.
Chrys.: 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.
Remig.: "The Kingdom of Heaven" has a fourfold meaning. It is said, of Christ, as "The Kingdom of God is within you." (Lc 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." (Mt 21,43) Of the Holy Church, as, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto ten virgins." (Mt 25,1) Of the abode above, as, "Many shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven." (Mt 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.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., 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 [p. 94] 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;" (Mt 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."
Greg., Hom. in Ev., i. 7: 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." (Jn 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-Chrys.: 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: 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 the Word which others shewed after off, he declares as nigh.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., i. 7. 2: "Crying in the desert," because he shews to deserted and forlorn Judaea the approaching consolation of her Redeemer.
Remig.: 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-Chrys.: 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 (p. 95) of sin, by the besom of repentance, and to gather by an ordinance of spiritual precepts those things which had been scattered abroad.
Greg., 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.
3304 (Mt 3,4)
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having said that he is the voice of one crying in the desert, the Evangelist well adds, "John had his clothing of camel's hair;" thus shewing what his life was; for he indeed testified of Christ, but his life testified of himself. No one is fit to be another's witness till he has first been his own.
Hilary: For the preaching of John no place more suitable, no clothing more useful, no food more fitted.
Jerome: His raiment of camel's hair, not of wool - the one the mark of austerity in dress, the other of a delicate luxury.
Pseudo-Chrys.: It becomes the servants of God to use a dress not for elegant appearance, or for cherishing of the body, but for a covering of the nakedness. Thus John wears a garment not soft and delicate, but hairy, heavy, rough, rather wounding the skin than cherishing it, that even the very clothing of his body told of the virtue of his mind. It was the custom of the Jews to wear girdles of wool; so he desiring something less indulgent wore one of skin.
Jerome: Food moreover suited to a dweller in the desert, no choice viands, but such as satisfied the necessities of the body.
Rabanus: Content with poor fare; to wit, small insects and honey gathered from the trunks of trees. In the sayings of Arnulphus (ed. note: Arnulphus, who visited Palestine 705; his travels to the Holy Land written from his mouth by Adamannus, Abbot of Lindisferne, are still extant.), Bishop of Gaul, we find that there was a very small kind of locust in the deserts of Judaea, with bodies about the thickness of a finger and short; they are easily taken among the grass, and when cooked in oil form a poor (p. 96) kind of food.
He also relates, that in the same desert there is a kind of tree, with a large round leaf, of the colour of milk and taste of honey, so friable as to rub to powder in the hand, and this is what is intended by wild honey.
Remig.: In this clothing and this poor food, he shews that he sorrows for the sins of the whole human race.
Rabanus: His dress and diet express the quality of his inward conversation. His garment was of an austere quality, because he rebuked the sinner's life.
Jerome: His girdle of skin, which Elias also bare, is the mark of mortification.
Rabanus: He ate locusts and honey, because his preaching was sweet tot he multitude, but was of short continuance; and honey has sweetness, locusts a swift flight but soon fall to the ground.
Remig.: In John (which name is interpreted 'the grace of God,') is figured Christ who brought grace into the world; in his clothing, the Gentile Church.
Hilary: The preacher of Christ is clad in the skins of unclean beasts, to which the Gentiles are compared, and so by the Prophets' dress is sanctified whatever in them was useless or unclean. The girdle is a thing of much efficacy to every good work, that we may be girt for every ministry of Christ. For his food are chosen locusts, which fly the face of man, and escape from every approach, signifying ourselves who were borne away from every word or speech of good by a spontaneous motion of the body, weak in will, barren in works, fretful in speech, foreign in abode, are now become the food of the Saints, chosen to fill the Prophets' desire, furnishing our most sweet food not from the hives of the law, but from the trunks of wild trees.
3305 (Mt 3,5-6)
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having described the preaching of John, he goes on to say, "There went out to him," for his severe life preached yet more loudly in the desert than the voice of his crying.
Chrys.: For it was wonderful to see such (p. 97) fortitude in a human body; this it was that chiefly attracted the Jews, seeing in him the great Elias. It also contributed to fill them with wonder that the grace of Prophecy had long failed among them, and now seemed to have at length revived.
Also the manner of his preaching being other than that of the old prophets had must effect; for now they heard not such things as they were wont to hear, such as wars, and conquests of the king of Babylon, or of Persia; but of Heaven and the Kingdom there, and the punishment of hell.
Gloss. interlin.: This baptism was only a forerunning of that to come, and did not forgive sins. (ed. note: Tertullian (de Bapt. 10. 11) S. Jerome (adv. Lucifer. 7) S. Gregory (Hom. in Evang. vii. 3) Theophylact in Marc. ch. i. S. Augustine (de Bapt. e Donat. v. 10) considered that S. John's baptism gave a sort of suspensive or implicit remission, to be realized in the Atonement; and S. Cyril. Hieros. Cat. iii. 7-9. S. Greg. Nyss. in laud. Bas. t. 3. p. 482. vid. Dr. Pusey on Baptism, Ed. 2. pp. 242-271)
Remig.: The baptism of John bare a figure of the catechumens. As children are only catechized that they may become meet for the sacrament of Baptism; so John baptized, that they who were thus baptized might afterwards by a holy life become worthy of coming to Christ's baptism. He baptized in Jordan, that the door of the Kingdom of Heaven might be there opened, where an entrance had been given to the children of Israel into the earthly kingdom of promise.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Compared with the holiness of John, who is there that can think himself righteous? As a white garment if placed near snow would seem foul by the contrast; so compared with John every man would seem impure; therefore they confessed their sins. Confession of sin is the testimony of a conscience fearing God. And perfect fear takes away all shame. But there is seen the shame of confession where there is no fear of the judgment to come. But as shame itself is a heavy punishment, God therefore bids us confess our sins that we may suffer this shame as punishment; for that itself is a part of the judgment.
Rabanus: Rightly are they who are to be baptized said to go out to the Prophet; for unless one depart from sin, and renounce the pomp of the Devil, and the temptations of the world, he cannot receive a healing baptism.
Rightly also in Jordan, which means their (p. 98) descent, because they descended from the pride of life to the humility of an honest confession. Thus early was an example given to them that are to be baptized of confessing their sins and professing amendment.
3307 (Mt 3,7-10)
Greg., De Cur. Past., iii, prologue: The words of the teachers should be fitted to the quality of the hearers, that in each particular it should agree with itself and yet never depart from the fortress of general edification.
Gloss: It was necessary that after the teaching which he used to the common people, the Evangelist should give an example of the doctrine he delivered to the more advanced; therefore he says, "Seeing many of the Pharisees, &c."
Isid. Hisp. Orig. 8. 4: The Pharisees and Sadducees opposed to one another; Pharisee in the Hebrew signifies, 'divided;' because choosing the justification of traditions and observances they were 'divided' or 'separated' from the people by this righteousness.
Sadducee in the Hebrew means 'just;' for these laid claim to be what they were not, denied the resurrection of the body, and taught that the soul perished with the body; they only received the Pentateuch, and rejected the Prophets.
Gloss: When John saw those who seemed to be of great consideration among the Jews come to his baptism, he said (p. 99) to them, "O generation of vipers, &c."
Remig.: The manner of Scripture is to give names from the imitation of deeds, according to that of Ezekiel, "Thy father was an Amorite;" (Ez 16,3) so these from following vipers are called "generation of vipers."
Pseudo-Chrys.: As a skilful physician from the colour of the skin infers the sick man's disease, so John understood the evil thoughts of the Pharisees who came to him. They thought perhaps, We go, and confess our sins; he imposes no burden on us, we will be baptized, and get indulgence for sin. Fools! if ye have eaten of impurity, must ye not needs take physic? So after confession and baptism, a man needs much diligence to heal the wound of sin; therefore he says, "Generation of vipers."
It is the nature of the viper as soon as it has bit a man to fly to the water, which, if it cannot find it, straightway dies; so this "progeny of vipers," after having committed deadly sin, ran to baptism, that, like vipers, they might escape death by means of water.
Moreover it is the nature of vipers to burst the insides of their mothers, and so to be born. The Jews then are therefore called "progeny of vipers," because by continual persecution of the prophets they had corrupted their mother the Synagogue. Also vipers have a beautiful and speckled outside, but are filled with poison within. So these men's countenances wore a holy appearance.
Remig.: When then he asks, "who will shew you to flee from the wrath to come," - 'except God' must be understood.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or "who hath shewed you?" Was it Esaias? Surely no; had he taught you, you would not put your trust in water only, but also in good works; he thus speaks, "Wash you, and be clean; put your wickedness away from your souls, learn to do well." (Is 1,16)
Was it then David? who says, "Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;" (Ps 51,7) surely not, for he adds immediately, "The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit." If then ye had been the disciple of David, ye would have come to baptism with mournings.
Remig.: But if we read, "shall shew," in the future, this is the meaning, 'What teacher, what preacher, shall be able to give you such counsel, as that ye may escape the wrath of everlasting damnation?'
Aug., City of God, book 9, ch. 5: God is described in Scripture, from some likeness of effects, not from being subject to such weakness, as being angry, and yet is He never moved by any passion. (p. 100) The word, 'wrath,' is applied to the effects of his vengeance, not that god suffers any disturbing affection.
Gloss: If they ye would escape this wrath, "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance."
Greg., Hom. in Ev. 20. 8: Observe, he says not merely "fruits of repentance," but "fruits meet for repentance." For he who has never fallen into things unlawful, is of right allowed the use of all thing lawful; but if any hath fallen into sin, he ought so far to put away from him even things lawful, as far as he is conscious of having used unlawful things. It is left then to such man's conscience to seek so much the greater gains of good works by repentance, the greater loss he has brought on himself by sin.
The Jews who gloried in their race, would not own themselves sinners because they were Abraham's seed. "Say not among yourselves we are Abraham's seed."
Chrys., Hom. 11: He does not forbid them to "say" they are his, but to trust in that, neglecting virtues of the soul.
Pseudo-Chrys.: What avails noble birth to him whose life is disgraceful? Or, on the other hand, what hurt is a low origin to him who has the lustre of virtue? It is fitter that the parents of such a son should rejoice over him, than he over his parents. So do not you pride yourselves on having Abraham for your father, rather blush that you inherit his blood, but not his holiness. He who has no resemblance to his father is possibly the offspring of adultery. These words then only exclude boasting on account of birth.
Rabanus: Because as a preacher of truth he wished to stir them up, to "bring forth fruit meet for repentance," he invites them to humility, without which no one can repent.
Remig.: There is a tradition, that John preached at that place of the Jordan, where the twelve stones taken from the bed of the river had been set up by command of God. He might then be pointing to these, when he said, "Of these stones."
Jerome: He intimates God's great power, who, as he made all things out of nothing, can make men out of the hardest stone.
Gloss. ord.: It is faith's first lesson to believe that God is able to do whatever He will.
Chrys.: That men should be made out of stones, is like Isaac coming from Sarah's womb; "Look into the rock," says Isaiah, "whence ye were hewn." Reminding them thus of this prophecy, he shews that it is possible that the like might even how happen.
Rabanus: (p. 101) Otherwise; the Gentiles may be meant who worshipped stones.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Stone is hard to work, but when wrought to some shape, it loses it not; so the Gentiles were hardly brought to the faith, but once brought they abide in it for ever.
Jerome: "These stones" signify the Gentiles because of their hardness of heart. See Ezekiel, "I will take away from you the heart of stone, and give you the heart of flesh." Stone is emblematic of hardness, flesh of softness.
Rabanus: Of stones there were sons raised up to Abraham; forasmuch as the Gentiles by believing in Christ, who is Abraham's seed, because his sons to whose seed they were united.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The axe is that most sharp fury of the consummation of all things, that is to hew down the whole world. But if it be already laid, how hath it not yet cut down? Because these trees have reason and free power to do good, or leave undone; so that when they see the axe laid to their root, they may fear and bring forth fruit.
This denunciation of wrath then, which is meant by the laying of the axe to the root, though it have no effect on the bad, yet will sever the good from the bad.
Jerome: Or, the preaching of the Gospel is meant, as the Prophet Jeremiah also compares the Word of the Lord to an axe cleaving the rock. (Jr 23,29)
Greg., Hom. in Ev., 20. 9: Or, the axe signifies the Redeemer, who as an axe of halt and blade, so consisting of the Divine and human nature, is held by His human, but cuts by His Divine nature. And though this axe be laid at the root of the tree waiting in patience, it is yet seen what it will do; for each obstinate sinner who here neglects the fruit of good works, finds the fire of hell ready for him. Observe, the axe is laid to the root, not to the branches; for that when the children of wickedness are removed, the branches only of the unfruitful tree are cut away. But when the whole offspring with their parent is carried off, the unfruitful tree is cut down by the root, that there remain not whence the evil shoots should spring up again.
Chrys.: By saying, "Every," he cuts off all privilege of nobility: as much as to say, Though thou be the son of Abraham, if thou abide fruitless thou shalt suffer the punishment.
Rabanus: There are four sorts of tree; the first totally withered, to which the Pagans may be likened; (p. 102) the second, green but unfruitful, as the hypocrites; the third, green and fruitful, but poisonous, such are heretics; the fourth, green and bringing forth good fruit, to which are like the good Catholics.
Greg.: "Therefore every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire," because he who here neglects to bring forth the fruit of good works finds a fire in hell prepared for him.
Golden Chain 3219