Matthew 4:17

It would appear that while first John the Baptist uttered the summons, "Repent ye," when announcing the advent of "the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 3:1), and while now Jesus himself does the same, the charge to utter it was not committed to "the twelve" (Matthew 10:7), nor to "the seventy" (Luke 10:9). The reason, perhaps, is this, that the work of these disciples was intentionally didactic rather than dogmatic for the present, while all the weight of the solemn responsibility of appealing to men's souls and awakening them would strictly attach to the prophet John the Baptist, and to that "greater Prophet" "like unto him," Jesus. The text informs us, now at all events, that Jesus does not only teach but preach, does not only work mighty works, but demand a hearing for mighty appeals of a direct and personal nature, and practical results from them. Remark -

I. THE UNIQUE NOVELTY ONCE OF THIS SHORT, SHARP SUMMONS FROM THE SPEAKER'S STANDPOINT. The world knew many a "cry " before this - perhaps never before one like this, except in the case of the older prophet-appeals, and those almost exclusively addressed to their own people. Nevertheless, Noah's preaching to the old world, and Jonah's preaching to Nineveh, are fair samples of the real summons to men, on the rights of things, on eternal rights, to "repent." However, the present appeals of John the Baptist and of Jesus began the sound that was to travel the world round, to penetrate the densest Gentile masses, and never cease its reverberatings in human ear. We may remark distinctly

(1) upon the peculiar attitude of the man who thus addresses a fellow-man;

(2) upon the ground and warrant that he must claim for holding this attitude, if he does so rightly;

(3) upon the very serious responsibility that he ought to feel, and the "constraint laid upon him" lest he but usurp what does not belong to him;

(4) upon the unfeigned and deep dependence on unseen force he should feel and acknowledge. For in regard of all of these points it may be said that there is no assumption so great as that which is manifested when one man, facing his fellow-men, speaking into their ear, presumes to penetrate to all that is highest, deepest, most solemn, most enduring, in them and their soul, and commands them to "repent."

II. THE STRANGE SURPRISE OF IT ON THE EAR OF THE HEARER. The command itself is to altered thought, altered love, altered life and works. For:

1. It is the typical, the grandest interference with the individual's love, nature's instinct, habit's easy and determined leaning, and the universal world's pronounced preference, manifested all unequivocally in favour of the doctrine of laissez-faire.

2. It is all this, where it must needs be felt

(1) most penetratingly, - for each individual man is called on to set his own house in order;

(2) most sensitively, - for the house is that wherein his innermost self has its haunt;

(3) most comprehensively, - for outside and inside, what is most seen and most withdrawn from sight, have to be set in order; nay, diligent search and inquisition of self have to be made with pain, smart, sacrifice, self's denying, if the contemplated alteration, reformation, repentance, are really wrought.

3. It is all this, from a personal presence unambitious in its outer appearance, unimposing, untempting, and certainly unwinning.

III. A CERTAIN OSTENSIBLE GROUND UPON WHICH THE SUMMONS IS URGED. The ground may be called ostensible, but only for one reason - that by the vast majority it would be counted more ostensible than real. The eye that should see furthest, the thought that should pierce deepest and comprehend most, would well understand the genuineness, force, tellingness, of the plea, "For the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This announcement purported to describe in brief the more light, the purer light of knowledge now coming to earth; the clearer and the much more catholic revealing of the Father and his love to men, now to dawn on earth; and the more spiritual and inner methods by which justice, holiness, goodness, were to become the familiar study and search and possessions of humanity. The plea, therefore, is of the nature of inducement, The inducement is that which comes

(1) of new opportunity;

(2) of great encouragement in the fresh suggestions of the almighty Father's persevering watchfulness over his children on earth;

(3) of splendid prospect, when the methods that now should be were compared with past methods;

(4) of the suggestion of solemn added responsibilities, if vast increase of privilege were not responded to by increase of effort. - B.

Jesus began to preach.
I. I would insist upon the prominence given to preaching in the Church of God: the text marks the introduction of A NEW SCIENCE.

1. Our Lord might have instituted this agency without preaching Himself. He might have sent an angel; but He set us the copy of this new science Himself. Three Greek words are used in the New Testament, and translated "preach" in connection with our Lord's ministry. One is "evangelize," which means to declare good tidings; the next word means "to declare as a herald;" a third word implies argumentation. Here, then, we have the science of preaching defined.

2. From these historical facts, in the description of which we gain these words, it will not be difficult to deduce the underlying principles of this Divine science of preaching, that it is the announcement of glad tidings, the presence of an ambassador as the one announcing and pressing upon men by arguments which address the conscience, will, affections, and understanding.

II. The text gives us the inauguration of A NEW ART. Preaching was original with Jesus Christ.

1. Show that this is a new science. Preaching did not exist in patriarchal times: it was not a Jewish institution: it was not practised among the Gentiles.

2. It was original, because until Jesus lived and died there was no good news to be told.


1. That preaching is the sole agency for man's salvation.

2. It is the unlimited privilege of all believers.

(S. H. Tyng.)


1. It is of gospel parentage.

2. It is of gracious origin.


1. Illumination.

2. Humiliation.

3. Detestation.

4. Transformations.


1. Faith.

2. Confession.

3. Holiness.

4. Peace.


1. Pleasantness.

2. It is sweet to God as well as to men.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. There is conviction of sin.

2. Sorrow for sin.

3. Confession of sin.

4. Amendment of life.

II. REPENT, FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND. The phrase, "kingdom of heaven," is used only by St. Matthew. Jews did not want a spiritual kingdom. National quiet brings ruin. Our Lord gave Jews an opportunity to repent.

(A. Jones.)


1. The commencement of repentance is a deep sorrow for sin.

2. The utter forsaking of sin.

3. A continuation of the good work begun.

4. The adding on to the whole train of Christian virtues.

II. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The glorious gospel was to be preached.


(E. Thompsom, M. A.)

I. Repentance is a necessary QUALIFICATION TO FIT US FOR GLORY.

1. Be it never so troublesome and painful a work, it is richly worth our while.

2. Reward is the life of action.

3. The encouragement of industry.

II. Repentance does not only give us a future evidence for heaven, but PUTS US INTO ACTUAL POSSESSION.

1. It instates us into our happiness.

2. Is an earnest of future glory. Thus grace is the incohation of glory, and glory is the consummation of grace.

III. What CONTENT must this needs be, to enjoy the morning of our eternity, even in this life; and through the crannies of our mortality to have a glimpse of that broad day of glory, which, unlike our longest days, will never have an end.

IV. If every penitential tear were a diamond, and thou didst nothing all thy lifetime but shed tears of liquid pearl, the kingdom of heaven would still be a CHEAP PRACTISE. Thou shouldst never have cause to complain of thy bargain.

(Adam Littleton, D. D.)

This definition may be divided into three parts.

I. A SORROWING for our sins.

1. This only is the penance whereto all the Scripture calleth us.

2. This penance do I now call you all unto.

3. This must be continually in us, and not merely for a Lent-season.

4. This must increase daily more and more in us.

5. Without this we cannot be saved.

II. EXAMINING our sins.

1. Outward evil springs out of inward corruption. This must be perfectly and spiritually understood if we will come to the true knowledge of our sins.

2. Therefore let us get God's law as a glass to look in, and that not only literally, outwardly, or partly, but also spiritually, inwardly, and thoroughly. For, as St. Austin saith, it is a, glass which feareth nobody; but even look what a one thou art, so it painteth thee out.

III. A trust of pardon.

IV. A purpose to amend, or a CONVERSION TO A NEW LIFE. Let your sorrowing for your evils demonstrate itself by departing from the evils you have used. Let your certainty of pardon of your sins through Christ, and your joy in Him, be demonstrated by pursuing the good things which God's Word teacheth you.

1. Repent your sins.

2. Believe in God's mercy for pardon.

3. Earnestly pursue a new life, bringing forth worthy and true fruits of repentance.

(John Bradford.)All who sincerely obey, and do what He hath commanded, may be properly said to serve Him

(1)By acknowledging the justice and goodness of His laws, and

(2)His power and authority over them;

(3)By loving, fearing, trusting, and believing on Him;

(4)By being sober, temperate, for the honour of His image enstamped on you;

(5)By being meek, patient, and thankful in all conditions, in whatsoever happens to you;

(6)By being humble and lowly in your own eyes;

(7)By being bountiful, kind, and merciful to others;

(8)By being just and righteous in all your dealings.

(William Beveridge, D. D.)

Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
1. Daily. Somebody dies every day; folks are travelling in and out of this great Inn, the world, continually.

2. Death may suddenly come to your door. Though he hath passed by often without calling, he will knock at last, and when he summons, thou must away. As the angels did with Lot, while thou lingerest he will lay hold upon thy hand, and hasten thee away even against thy will. Therefore — L Think often of thy own end, which is to thee the end of all things. When thou art gone, all is gone.

II. Then it will be found that the best pillow to lay a dying head on will be a good conscience.

III. Thou must then bid adieu to earth's spangled glories. Honours and estates will prove but weak cordials.

IV. A thousand worlds will then be bid for one hour's respite; and it cannot be bought so, if thou hadst them to give.

(Adam Littleton, D. D.)

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