Ver. 1. Judge not,† or condemn not others rashly, that you may not be judged or condemned. Wi.
--- S. Jerom observes, Christ does not altogether forbid judging, but directs us how to judge. Where the thing does not regard us, we should not undertake to judge. Where it will bear a favourable interpretation, we should not condemn. Magistrates and superiors, whose office and duty require them to judge faults, and for their prevention to condemn and punish them, must be guided by evidence, and always lean towards the side of mercy, where there are mitigating circumstances. Barefaced vice and notorious sinners should be condemned and reprobated by all. A.
--- In this place, nothing more is meant than that we should always interpret our neighbor's actions in the most favourable light. God permits us to judge of such actions as cannot be done with a right intention, as murder. As to indifferent actions, we must always judge in the most favourable sense. There are two things in which we must be particularly on our guard: 1. With what intention such an action was done. 2. Whether the person who appears wicked will not become good. S. Jerom.
[†] V. 1. Nolite judicare, krinein, which signifies either to judge, or to condemn.
Ver. 2. This rule, which God will infallibly follow, should put a check to the freedom with which we so frequently condemn our neighbour. A.
--- As we behave towards our neighbours, interpreting their actions with charitableness, and excusing their intentions with mildness; or, on the contrary, judging them with severity, and condemning them without pity; so shall we receive our judgment. M.
--- As the pardon of our sins is proportioned to the pardon we afford to others, so also will our judgment be proportioned to the judgment we pass on others. If our neighbour be surprised by sin, we must not reproach or confound him for it, but mildly admonish him. Correct your brother, not as an enemy, taking revenge, but as a physician, administering appropriate remedies, assisting him with prudent counsels, and strengthening him in the love of God. Chry. hom. xxiii.
Ver. 3. "Mote and beam," light and grievous sins. M.
Ver. 5. Thou hypocrites, cast out first the beam, &c. Correct first thy own greater faults, before thou censure the lesser failings of others. Wi.
Ver. 6. Give not that which is holy, or holy things, (as in the Greek) to dogs; i.e. to scandalous libertines, or infidels, who are not worthy to partake of divine mysteries and sacraments, who sacrilegiously abuse them, and trample them under their feet, as hogs do pearls. Wi.
--- The sacred mysteries should not be given to those that are not properly instructed in the sublime nature of them; nor should we hold any communication of religion with those that are enemies to the truths of Christ, which they tread under their feet and treat contemptuously, and will be so far from having any more friendship for you on account of such a criminal complaisance, that it is more probable they will betray you and turn against you. A.
Ver. 7. After having preached these great and wonderful truths, after having commanded his apostles to keep themselves free from the vices of mankind, and make themselves like not to angels or archangels only, but to the Lord of all things; and not only observe justice themselves, but likewise to labour for the correction of others, lest they should be disheartened at these almost insurmountable difficulties: our Redeemer subjoins, Ask, and you shall receive, &c. When we offer our petitions to the Almighty, we must imitate the example of Solomon, who immediately obtained what he asked of the Lord, because he asked what he ought. Two things, therefore, are necessary to every prayer, that it be offered up with perseverance and fervour, and that it contain a lawful prayer. Chry. hom. xxiv.
--- The reasons why so many do not obtain the effects of their prayers, are,—1st. Because they ask for what is evil; and he that makes such a request, offers the Almighty an intolerable injury by wishing to make him, as it were, the author of evil: 2nd. Although what they ask be not evil, they seek it for an evil end. S. James iv.: 3rd. Because they who pray, are themselves wicked; (S. John ix.) for God doth not hear sinners: 4th. Because they ask with no faith, or with faith weak and wavering: (S. James i.) 5th. Because although what we ask be good in itself, yet the Almighty refuses it, in order to grant us a greater good: 6th. Because God wishes us to persevere, as he declares in the parable of the friend asking bread, Luke, ch. ii.; and that we may esteem his gifts the more: 7th. We do not always receive what we beg, because, according to S. Augustine, (lib. ii, de Serm. Dom. et epis. 34, ad Paulinum) God often does not grant us what we petition for, that he may grant us something more useful and profitable. Maldonatus.
Ver. 8. Whatever we ask necessary to salvation with humility, fervour, perseverance, and other due circumstances, we may be assured God will grant when it is best for us. If we do not obtain what we pray for, we must suppose it is not conducive to our salvation, in comparison of which all else is of little moment. A.
Ver. 9. Lest any one considering the great inequality between God and man, should despair of obtaining favours of God, and therefore should not dare to offer up his petitions, he immediately introduces this similitude of the Father; so that if we were on the point of despairing on account of our sins, from his fatherly tenderness we might still have hopes. S. Thos. Aquinas.
Ver. 12. For this is the law and the prophets; that is, all precepts that regard our neighbour are directed by this golden rule, do as you would be done by. Wi.
--- The whole law and all the duties between man and man, inculcated by the prophets, have this principle for foundation. The Roman emperor Alexander Severus, is related to have said, that he esteemed the Christians for their acting on this principle. A.
--- This is the sum of the law and of the prophets, the whole law of the Jews. M.
Ver. 13. Enter ye in at the narrow gate, &c. The doctrine of these two verses needs no commentary, but deserve serious attention. Wi.
Ver. 14. Our Saviour in another place says, my yoke is sweet, and my burthen light. How comes it then that so few bear it, or how can we reconcile these texts together? The answer is at hand; for if soldiers and mariners esteem wounds, storms, and shipwreck, easy to be borne with, in hopes of temporal rewards, surely no one can complain that the duties of a Christian are difficult, when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Chry.
--- It may also be added that God, by his heavenly consolations, makes them not only supportable, but even easy and pleasant. Thus the martyrs occasionally did not feel their torments through the sweet unction of divine love, and the excessive joy which God poured into their souls. A.
Ver. 15. In the clothing of sheep. Beware of hypocrites, with their outward appearance of sanctity, and sound doctrine
--- by their fruits you shall know them. Such hypocrites can scarcely ever continue constant in the practice of what is good. W.
--- Heretics usually affect an extraordinary appearance of zeal and holiness, calling themselves evangelical preachers and teachers of the gospel, as if that Church which preceded them, and which descends by an uninterrupted succession from the apostles, did not teach the pure gospel of Christ. A.
--- Beware of false prophets, or heretics. They are far more dangerous than the Jews, who being rejected by the apostles, are also avoided by Christians, but these having the appearance of Christianity, having churches, sacraments, &c. &c. deceive many. These are the rapacious wolves, of whom S. Paul speaks, Acts xx. Chry. hom. xix. Origen styles them, the gates of death, and the path to hell. Com. in Job. lib. i. Tom. 2.
Ver. 16. As the true Church is known by the four marks of its being one, holy, catholic, and apostolical, so heretics and false teachers are known by certain vices, and the pernicious effects of their novelties in religion. As the true Church is one, by its members submitting with humility to the authority established by Christ, (he that will not hear the Church, let him be unto thee as the heathen and the publican. Mat. xviii. 17.) so are false teachers known by their separation from the ancient Church, and their divisions among themselves, the necessary consequences of rebelling against the authority established by Christ, and alone capable of determining controversies. The same pride and other secret vices which make them despise government, (2 Peter ii. 10.) make them also not afraid to bring in sects of perdition, blaspheming, and this in civil government as well as ecclesiastical. Those that call themselves Reformers, in the beginning of the 16th century, of all others were remarkable in this. What bloody tumults and wars were there not produced in Germany, by the first Reformers in that country! Calvin overturned the government of Geneva; and his followers, under the name Hugonots, filled France for a great length of time with slaughter and civil wars, frequently shaking the throne itself. In this country, the first cause of its separation from the universal Church, was the unbridled passion of a tyrant: the effects were adultery, and the murder of the successive queens that he had taken to his adulterous bed. In the reign of his successor, the insatiate avarice of a corrupt nobility, gratified with the sacrilegious plunder of the Church, established what is called the Reformation. The fear of being compelled to disgorge the fruits of their rapine, contributed much to the confirmation of that order of things in the reign of Elizabeth. She was inclined to it by the circumstances of her birth, which could not be legitimate, if her father's marriage with Catharine of Arragon was valid, as the first authority in the Catholic Church had declared. The natural spirit of this heresy, though checked a while and kept under by the despotical government of this queen, appeared in its own colours soon after, and produced its natural fruits in the turbulence of the times that succeeded, and the multiplicity of sects that are continually springing up to this very day.
--- As the true Church is holy, recommending various exercises of religion tending to purify human nature, and render men holy, as fasting, confession of sins, evangelical counsels, &c. so false teachers cast off all these, promising liberty, (2 Pet. ii. 16.) and giving full rein to the lustful passions, thus giving a liberty of living, as well as a liberty of believing.
--- Another fruit of false teachers is, separation from what was the Universal Church before their time, and which continues to be still the far greater part, not being confined to one state or country. If some modern principles, of not allowing any communion of religion out of each state, were admitted, as many religions should have been established by heaven as men think proper to establish different states; nor could Christ have given one for all mankind, under whatever state or form of government they might live.
--- Finally, false teachers are to known by their not being able to shew, that they have received their doctrine and mission from the apostles, in a regular succession from them. Some of our modern divines would spurn at the idea of holding their doctrine and orders from the Catholic Church, such as it existed at the time of the Reformation, which is precisely such as it exists at the present moment.
--- In answer to this it has been retorted, that the fruits of the Catholic religion have been as bad, or worse; and the horrors of the French revolution are particularly mentioned, as a proof. . . . That great crimes have been committed by those who professed themselves Catholics, is not denied; but that they were prompted to them by the nature of their religion, is certainly not admitted. The revolution of France in particular, was the effect of the people falling off from their religion. As well may the Puritans, that brought Charles to the block, be said to be Catholics, because they or their parents once had been such: as well may the present bench of Protestant bishops be said to be Catholics, because the bishops of their sees once were so; or that Robespierre, Marat, and the Jacobins that persecuted catholicity in France, and brought its too indulgent sovereigns to the guillotine, were Catholics, or directed in the least by Catholic principles. A.
Ver. 17. It is not to be understood from this text, that a man who is once bad can never bring forth good fruit; but that as long as he remains in the state of sin, he cannot perform any meritorious action. Chry. hom. xxiv.
Ver. 18. A good tree cannot yield bad fruit, &c. Not but that both good and bad men may change their lives.† This, according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, is only to be understood while they remain such. If a bad tree begin to produce good fruit, it becomes a good tree, &c. Wi.
--- For not those who do one or two good works are just, but those who continue permanently to do good: in the same manner, not those who commit one or two bad actions are wicked, but those who continue in evil. M.
[†] V. 18. Non potest Arbor bona, &c. S. Jerom on this place, brings divers examples to shew, that men's natures are not necessarily or unchangeably good or bad. See S. Aug. lib. ii. de Serm. Domini in Monte, c. xxiv, p. 232. Non potest esse nix calida, cum enim calida esse cæperit, non jam eam nivem, sed aquam vocamus. See also S. Chrys. om kg, pag. 168. linea 1. Edit. Savil.
Ver. 21. Here Jesus Christ shews, that it is not sufficient to believe in him and hear his words, but that in order to salvation, we must join works with faith; for in this shall we be examined at the last day. M.
--- Without faith they could not cry out, Lord, Lord. Rom. x. But the strongest faith without the works of justice, will not be available to salvation. 1 Cor. xiii. B.
--- Many who have the Lord continually in their mouths, but care little about putting on the Lord, or penetrating themselves with his true spirit, will find their presumption, and the false consciences they have made to themselves, wofully disappointed. A.
Ver. 22. Have not we prophesied in thy name? The gift of prophecy, and of doing miracles, may sometimes be granted to bad men, as to Caiphas, and Balaam. Wi.
--- Under the name of prophets, the Hebrews comprised not only such as predicted future events, but also in general all such as gave themselves out for inspired, or who undertook teaching and interpreting the holy Scriptures; and here by prophesying is understood, in a general acceptation, all public functions, predicting futurity, expounding Scripture, instructing the people, preaching, &c. V.
Ver. 23. So as to approve and reward your works. Here he shews that even prophecy and miracles will not save us without good works. M.
--- How much less will faith, unassisted by good works, preserve us from condemnation. A.
--- The gift of miracles is bestowed on men not for their own good, but for the advantage of others. We must not then be surprised if men, who had indeed faith in Christ, but whose lives did not correspond with their faith, should be honoured with these extraordinary gifts, since the Almighty sometimes employs as his instruments in working similar wonders, men destitute both of faith and virtue. Balaam, void of faith and probity, still by the will of God, prophesied for the advantage of others. To Pharao and Nabuchodonosor were revealed future events of the greatest moment; and the wicked Judas himself cast out devils. Therefore S. Paul said, "if I had all faith so as to remove mountains, and if I knew all mysteries, and was possessed of all wisdom, but had not charity, I am nothing." Hom. xv. S. Chry.
Ver. 24. In the Greek text, "I will compare him;" an apposite comparison, to shew the necessity of good works. It is the duty of each individual to erect this spiritual edifice of good works in the interior of his soul, which may be able to resist all the attacks of our spiritual enemy: whilst those men who have true faith and no works are compared to a fool, and are sure to perish. M.
--- Here again our Saviour dispenses his rewards to such as order their lives according to his instructions; but as before he promised the kingdom of heaven, divine consolations, and other rewards, so here he promises them the numberless blessings attendant on virtue in this life. The just alone are surrounded with virtue as with a strong guard, and amidst the high swelling waves of worldly troubles, enjoy a calm and unchangeable tranquillity. Thus was Job strengthened by his virtue against the attacks both of men and satan. Chry. hom. xxv.
Ver. 25. The Scribes and Pharisees only explained the law, and laid open the promises of Moses, whereas our Saviour gives new laws, and makes new promises in his own name; But I say to you, &c. The energy also with which our Saviour spoke, together with the miracles which he wrought, had far greater influence on the minds of the people than the frigid manner in which the Scribes delivered their doctrines. M.
Ver. 26. Nothing can be more foolish than to raise an edifice on sand: it carries punishment with it, causing indeed abundance of labour, but yielding neither reward nor repose. The slaves of malice, luxury, and voluptuousness, labour in the pursuit of their desires, yet not only receive no reward, but, on the contrary, the greatest punishment. They sow in the flesh, from the flesh they shall reap corruption. Gal. vi. Chry. hom. xxv.
Ver. 27. Such again shall be the end of all false prophets. Their death shall be in the same proportion, ignominious and miserable, as their life had been glorious and attractive. They shall be punished with so much greater severity, than others, as their sins have proceeded from greater knowledge and greater malice. A.
Ver. 28. With reason were the people enraptured with his doctrines; for he taught as having authority from himself, and not like their doctors, who only spoke in the name of Moses, and whose only ambition was to please, and not to correct. In the Greek text there is only mention of the Scribes or doctors, but not of the Pharisees.
Ver. 29. He taught as one having power, exousian, to found a law of his own. Hence he said: Ego autem dico vobis; "But I say to you," viz. as a legislator, announcing to you not the law of Moses, or of any other, but my own law. Est. in dif. loca.
--- All agree that S. Matthew anticipates the sermon on the mount, in order thus to prefix the doctrines of Christ to the account of his miracles; for we cannot doubt that the discourse on the mount, which is mentioned by S. Matthew, is the same as that recorded by S. Luke. The beginning, the middle, and the conclusion correspond with each other. If S. Matthew mentions some particulars omitted by S. Luke, it is because his design was to collect together several instructions, which Jesus delivered on different occasions; and these, for the most part, are to be found in other parts of S. Luke.
--- This admirable sermon may be divided into three parts, viz. the exordium, the body of the discourse, and the conclusion. The exordium comprises the eight beatitudes, and merits our most serious attention. The body of the discourse is chiefly addressed to the apostles, whom Jesus had recently chosen, in order to instil into them, and all succeeding pastors of the Church, a right sense of the great duties belonging to their ministry; and, in the second place, it refers to all the faithful in general. The conclusion consists of an exhortation to a life of piety, and contains several advices, some of which chiefly regard pastors, others indiscriminately all the faithful in general.
--- May this excellent abridgment of thy doctrine, O Jesus! be the rule of our manners, the pattern of our life. Amen. A.