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Verse 2

Matthew 3:2. Repent ye, &c. Be sorry for your sins, and amend your lives; for the original word, μετανοειτε , here used, implies this. It properly signifies, says Beza, to be wise after the action, and so to grieve for a fault committed as to amend it, which, in Latin, is properly expressed by resipiscere. In this respect it differs from another Greek word, which the evangelists sometimes use, viz., μεταμελομαι , which simply signifies to be distressed, and anxious after any thing done, but does not necessarily imply any change of mind, or reformation of life. Therefore Matthew uses the latter word of Judas, the traitor, Matthew 27:3, but not the former. Thus Christ and his apostles began their preaching, confirming John’s doctrine. John taught other things also, but this he began with, and this was the main scope of his preaching. He did not give them any new precepts of life, but charged them with breaking the law they had already, and called upon them to be sensible of it, sorry for it, and to reform their conduct: to lay aside the false opinions they had imbibed, whether from the Pharisees or Sadducees; to acknowledge, condemn, and lament the faults they had committed, and to turn from all error and all sin, to true faith in, and piety toward, God. He that so deplores some sins as to commit others, or to repeat the commission of those he deplores, either counterfeits, or is ignorant of repentance. Repentance is, as Jerome speaks, secunda post naufragium tabula a lucky plank after a shipwreck. The first degree of happiness is, not to sin; the second, to know our sins, and repent of them. For repentance not only implies sorrow for sin, or sincerely wishing it undone, but a change of mind, and reformation of life. The kingdom of heaven is at hand As if he had said, God is about to appear in an extraordinary manner, to erect that kingdom spoken of by Daniel, (Daniel 2:44; and Daniel 7:13-14,) as the kingdom of the God of heaven, which he would set up, and give to the Son of man, making it finally victorious over all other kingdoms. This phrase, the kingdom of heaven, is used thirty times by St. Matthew. The other evangelists, and St. Paul, term it generally, the kingdom of God, and sometimes, the kingdom of Christ. These different phrases mean the same thing, and were in familiar use among the Jews, as plainly appears from divers passages of the gospels. They seem to have borrowed them from the above-mentioned passages in the book of Daniel, which they wholly misunderstood and misinterpreted, inferring from them that God would erect a temporal kingdom the seat of which would be at Jerusalem, which would become, instead of Rome, the capital of the world. The expected sovereign of this kingdom, they learned, from Daniel, to call the Son of man, by which title they understood the promised Messiah, or the Anointed One of God. Both John the Baptist, then, and Christ took up this phrase, and used it as they found it, and gradually taught the Jews to affix right ideas to it, though it was a lesson which that worldly people were remarkably unwilling to learn. This very demand of repentance showed that it was a spiritual kingdom which was spoken of; and that no wicked man, how politic or brave, how learned and renowned soever, could possibly be a genuine subject of it. As the term kingdom implies the dominion of a king over his subjects, so the kingdom of God, or heaven, is God’s reigning in and over his rational creatures, whether angels or men; and, as to the latter, whether on earth or in heaven, that is, whether of the church militant or the church triumphant. The expression properly signifies the gospel dispensation, in and by which subjects were to be gathered to God by his Son, and a society formed, which was to subsist first in more imperfect circumstances on earth, and afterward in complete perfection and felicity in the world of glory. In some places of Scripture the phrase more particularly signifies the former, and denotes the state of Christ’s kingdom on earth, as Matthew 13:0., especially Matthew 13:41; Matthew 13:47; Matthew 20:1; and sometimes it signifies only that most blessed state of things which shall take place after the resurrection, when God will be all in all. See 1 Corinthians 6:9; and 1 Corinthians 15:50. But it generally includes both; and what is closely connected therewith, God’s subduing, or executing judgment upon his and his people’s enemies. For God’s regal power is exercised in delivering, assisting, defending, and rewarding all his faithful subjects, and in warning, punishing, and destroying his obdurate enemies. This latter particular, namely, the punishing and destroying his enemies, seems, at least, to be partly meant in this passage, as appears by the context. For, to enforce his doctrine of repentance, he warns them of approaching wrath that would speedily come upon the impenitent, Matthew 3:7; Matthew 3:10, the executing of which wrath, first upon the unbelieving Jews, and then upon the persecuting Gentiles, is elsewhere represented as the coming of the Son of man in his kingdom.

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