13. “Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Jerome: Attend to the words, for they have an especial force, “many walk” in the broad way - “few find” the narrow way. For the broad way needs no search, and is not found, but presents itself readily; it is the way of all who go astray. Whereas the narrow way neither do all find, nor when they have found, do they straightway walk therein. Many, after they have found the way of truth, caught by the pleasures of the world, desert midway.
15. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 23: When the Lord had said that there were few that find the strait gate and narrow way, that heretics, who often commend themselves because of the smallness of their numbers, might not here intrude themselves, He straightway subjoins, “Take heed of false prophets.”
Chrys.: Having taught that the gate is strait, because there are many that pervert the way that leads to it, He proceeds, “Take heed of false prophets.” In the which that they might be the more careful, He reminds them of the things that were done among their fathers, calling them “false prophets;” for even in that day the like things fell out.
Jerome: What is here spoken of false prophets we may apply to all whose dress and speech promise one thing, and their actions exhibit another. But it is specially to be understood of heretics, who by observing temperance, chastity, and fasting, surround themselves as it were with a garment of sanctity, but inasmuch as their hearts within them are poisoned, they deceive the souls of the more simple brethren.
Greg., Mor., xxxi, 14: Also the hypocrite is restrained by peaceful times of Holy Church, and therefore appears clothed with godliness; but let any trial of faith ensue, straight the wolf ravenous at heart strips himself of his sheep’s skin, and shews by persecuting how great his rage against the good.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 25: From this speech the Manichees suppose that neither can a soul that is evil be possibly changed for better, nor one that is good into worse. As though it had been, A good tree cannot become bad, nor a bad tree become good; whereas it is thus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,” nor the reverse. The tree is the soul, that is, the man himself; the fruit is the man’s works. An evil man therefore cannot work good works, nor a good man evil works. Therefore if an evil man would work good things, let him first become good. But as long as he continues evil, he cannot bring forth good fruits. Like as it is indeed possible that what was once snow, should cease to be so; but it cannot be that snow should be warm; so it is possible that he who has been evil should be so no longer; but it is impossible that an evil man should do good. For though he may sometimes be useful, it is not he that does it, but it comes of Divine Providence super-intending.
Chrys.: He had not enjoined them to punish the false prophets, and therefore shews them the terrors of that punishment that is of God, saying, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down, and cast into the fire.”
In these words He seems to aim also at the Jews, and thus calls to mind the word of John the Baptist, denouncing punishment against them in the very same words. For he had thus spoken to the Jews, warning them of the axe impending, the tree that should be cut down, and the fire that could not be extinguished.
But if one will examine somewhat closely, here are two punishments, to be cut down, and to be burned; and he that is burned is also altogether cut out of the kingdom; which is the harder punishment. Many indeed fear no more than hell; but I say that the fall of that glory is a far more bitter punishment, than the pains of hell itself. For what evil great or small would not a father undergo, that he might see and enjoy a most dear son? Let us then think the same of that glory; for there is no son so dear to his father as is the rest of the [p. 286] good, to be deceased and to be with Christ. The pain of hell is indeed intolerable, yet are ten thousand hells nothing to falling from that blessed glory, and being held in hate by Christ.
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. (Witham) --- 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. (Haydock) --- 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 St. Paul speaks, Acts xx. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xix.) Origen styles them, the gates of death, and the path to hell. (Com. in Job. lib. i. Tom. 2.)
21. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
Jerome: As He had said above that those who have the robe of a good life are yet not to be received because of the impiety of their doctrines; so now on the other hand, He forbids us to participate the faith with those who while they are strong in sound doctrine, destroy it with evil works. For it behoves the servants of God that both their work should be approved by their teaching and their teaching by their works.
And therefore He says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, enters into the kingdom of heaven.”
Jerome: For Scripture uses to take words for deeds; according to which the Apostle declares, “They make confession that they know God, but in works deny him.” [Titus 1:16]
Aug., non occ.: Let us not therefore think that this belongs to those fruits of which He had spoken above, when one says to our Lord, “Lord, Lord;” and thence seems to us to be a good tree; the true fruit spoken of is to do the will of God; whence it follows, “But who doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Greg., Mor., xx, 7: By this sentence it is given to us to learn, that among men charity and humility, and not mighty works, are to be esteemed. Whence also now the Holy Church, if there be any miracles of heretics, despises them, because she knows that they have not the mark of holiness. And the proof of holiness is not to work miracles, but to love our neighbour as ourselves, to think truly of God, and of our neighbour better than of ourselves.