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7 ¶ But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O gene
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6 " And were baptized of him in Jordan, con- ration of vipers, who hath warned you to flee fessing their sins. from the wrath to come?
a Mark 1. 5. Luke 3. 7.- b Acts 19. 4, 18
The Jewish church was that desart country, to which John was sent, to announce the coming of the Messiah. It was destitute at that time of all religious cultivation, and of the spirit and practice of piety; and John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, by preaching the doctrine of repentance. The desart is therefore to be considered, as affording a proper emblem of the rude state of the Jewish church, which was the true wilderness meant by the Prophet, and in which John was to prepare the way of the promised Messiah. The awful importance of the matter, and the vehemence of the manner of the Baptist's preaching, probably acquired him the character of the crier, Bowy.
For the meaning of the word JOHN, see the note on Mark i. 4.
Ch. 12. 34. & 23. 33. Luke 3. 7, 8, 9. Rom. 5. 9. 1 Thess. 1. 10.
to dip all the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea, and of all the country round about the Jordan? Were both men and women dipped, for certainly both came to his baptism? This could never have comported either with safety or with decency. Were they dipped in their clothes? This would have endangered their lives, if they had not with them change of raiment: and as such a baptism as John's (however adminis tered) was, in several respects, a new thing in Judea, it is not at all likely, that the people would come thus provided. But suppose these were dipped, which I think it would be impossible to prove, does it follow, that in all regions of the world, men and women must be dipped, in order to be evangelically baptized? In the eastern countries, bathings were frequent, because of the heat of the climate, it being there so necessary to cleanliness and health; but could our climate, or a more northerly one, admit of this with safety, for at least three fourths of the year? We may rest assured that it could not. And may we not presume, that if John had opened his commission in the North of Great Britain, for many months of the year, he would have dipped neither man nor woman, unless His meat was locusts] Axgides. Axes may either signify the in- he could have procured a tepid bath? Those who are dipped sect called the locust, which makes still a part of the food in the or immersed in water in the name of the Holy Trinity, I beland of Judea: or the top of a plant. Many eminent com-lieve to be evangelically baptized. Those who are washed or mentators are of the latter opinion; but the first is the most likely. The Saxon translator has gærstapan grasshoppers.
Verse 4. His raiment of camel's hair] A sort of coarse or rough covering, which, it appears, was common to the prophets, Zech. xiii. 4. In such a garment we find Elijah clothed, 2 Kings i. 8. And as John had been designed under the name of this prophet, Mal. iv. 5. whose spirit and qualifications he was to possess, Luke i. 17. he took the same habit, and lived in the same state of self-denial.
Wild honey.] Such as he got in the rocks and hollows of trees, and which abounded in Judea: see 1 Sam. xiv. 26. It is most likely that the dried locusts, which are an article of food in Asiatic countries to the present day, were fried in the honey, or compounded in some manner with it. The Gospel according to the Hebrews, as quoted by Epiphanius, seems to have taken a similar view of the subject, as it adds here to the text, Ου η γευσις ην του μανια, ως εγκρις εν ελαίω. And its taste was like manna, as a sweet cake baked in oil.
Verse 6. In Jordan] Many of the best MSS. and versions, with Mark i. 5. add Toтauw, the river Jordan; but the definitive article, with which the word is generally accompanied, both in the Hebrew and the Greek, is sufficient; and our article the, which should ever be used in the translation, expresses the force of the other.
Verse 6. Were baptized] In what form baptism was originally administered, has been deemed a subject worthy of serious dispute. Were the people dipped or sprinkled? for it is certain BunTM and Bartkw mean both. They were all dipped, say Can any man suppose, that it was possible for John
sprinkled with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, I believe to be equally so: and the repetition of such a baptism, I believe to be profune. Others have a right to believe the contrary, if they see good. After all, it is the thing signified, and not the mode, which is the essential part of the sacrament. See the note on Mark x. 16.
Confessing their sins.] Etouoλoyouμros, earnestly acknowledg ing, that their sins were their own. And thus taking the whole blame upon themselves, and laying nothing to the charge of GOD or man. This is essential to true repentance: and till a man take the whole blame on himself, he cannot feel the absolute need he has of casting his soul on the mercy of God, that he may be saved.
Verse 7. Pharisees] A very numerous sect among the Jews, who, in their origin, were, very probably, a pure and holy people. It is likely, that they got the name of Pharisees, i. e. Separatists (from w¬5 pharash, to separate) from their separating themselves from the pollution of the Jewish national worship; and hence, the word in the Anglo-saxon version is rundoɲ-halgan, holy persons who stand apart, or by themselves: but, in process of time, like all religious sects and par
to the people.
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8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet I say unto you, that God is able of
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9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for
a Or, answerable to amendment of life.
ties, they degenerated: they lost the spirit of their institution, they ceased to recur to first principles, and had only the form of godliness, when Jesus Christ preached in Judea; for he bore witness, that they did make the outside of the cup and platter clean-they observed the rules of their institution, but the spirit was gone.
10 And now also the ax is laid unto the root
John 8. 33, 39. Acts 13. 26. Rom. 4. 1, 11, 16.
deceived the people—you have deceived yourselves—you must appear just what you are; and, if you expect mercy from God, act like the penitent multitude, and bring forth FRUIT worthy of repentance. Do not begin to trifle with your convictions, by thinking, that because you are descendants of Abraham, therefore you are entitled to God's favour; God can, out of these stones, (pointing probably to those scattered about in the desart, which he appears to have considered as an emblem of the Gentiles) raise up a faithful seed, who, though not natural descendants of your excellent patriarch, yet shall be his as-worthy children, as being partakers of his faith, and friends of his God." It should be added, that the Greek word also signifies plain or ample information. See on Luke vi. 47.
Sadducees] A sect who denied the existence of angels and spirits, consequently all divine influence and inspiration, and also the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees of that time were the Materialists and Deists of the Jewish nation. When the sect of the Pharisees arose cannot be distinctly certained; but it is supposed to have been some time after the Babylonish captivity. The sect of the Sadducees were the followers of one Sadok, a disciple of Antigonus Sochæus, who flourished about three centuries before Christ. There was a third sect among the Jews, called the Essenes or Essenians, of whom I shall have occasion to speak on chap. xix. 12. Come to his baptism] The Ethiopic version adds the word privately here, the translator probably having read λaga in his copy, which gives a very remarkable turn to the passage. The multitudes, who had no worldly interest to support, no character to maintain by living in their usual way, came publicly, and openly acknowledged that they were SINNERS; and stood in need of mercy. The others, who endeavoured to secure their worldly interests by making a fair show in the flesh, are supposed to have come privately, that they might not be exposed to reproach; and that they might not lose their reputation for wisdom and sanctity, which their consciences, under the preaching of the Baptist, told them, they had no right to. See below.
O generation of vipers] гivnμata exidywy. A terribly expressive speech. A serpentine brood, from a serpentine stock. As their fathers were, so were they, children of the wicked one. This is God's estimate of a SINNER, whether he wade in wealth, || or soar in fame. The Jews were the seed of the serpent, who should bruise the heel of the woman's seed, and whose head should be bruised by him.
Who hath warned you] Or, privately shewn you. Tos UTEJEE-from UTO, under, and Sexual, to shew. Does not this seem to allude to the reading of the Ethiopic noticed above? They came privately: and John may be supposed to address them thus: "Did any person give you a private warning? No, you received your convictions under the public ministry of the word. The multitudes of the poor and wretched, who have been convinced of sin, have publicly acknowledged their crimes, and sought mercy-God will unmask you-you have
The wrath to come?] The desolation which was about to fall on the Jewish nation for their wickedness, and threatened in the last words of their own Scriptures. See Mal. iv. 6. Lest I come and smite the earth (87 ♫ et ha-arets, this very This wrath or curse was coming: they land) with a curse. did not prevent it by turning to God, and receiving the Messiah, and therefore the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Let him that readeth, understand.
Verse 10. And now also the ax is laid] Or, Even now the ax lieth. As if he had said, There is not a moment to spare
God is about to cut off every impenitent soul-you must therefore either turn to God immediately, or he utterly and finally ruined. It was customary with the prophets, to represent the kingdoms, nations, and individuals, whose ruin they predicted, under the notion of forests and trees, doomed to be cut down. See Jer. xlvi. 22, 23. Ezek. xxxi. 3, 11, 12. The Baptist follows the same metaphor: the Jewish nation is the tree, and the Romans the ax, which, by the just judgment of God, was speedily to cut it down. It has been well observed, that there is an allusion here to a woodman, who, having marked a tree for excision, lays his ax at its root, and strips off his outer garment, that he may wield his blows more powerfully; and that his work may be quickly performed. For about sixty years before the coming of Christ, this ax had been lying at the root of the Jewish tree, Judea having been. made a province to the Roman empire, from the time that Pompey took the city of Jerusalem, during the contentions of the two brothers Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, which was about sixty-three years before the coming of Christ. See Joseph. Antiq. 1. xiv. c. 1-5. But as the country might be still considered as in the hands of the Jews, though subject to the Romans, and God had waited on them now, nearly ninety years from the above time, expecting them to bring forth
fruit, and none was yet produced; but he kept the Romans, as an ax, lying at the root of this tree, who were ready to cut it down the moment God gave them the commission.
Verse 11. But he that cometh after me] Or, Is coming after me, who is now on his way, and will shortly make his appearance. Jesus Christ began his ministry when he was thirty years of age, Luke iii. 23. which was the age appointed by the Law, Numb. iv. 3. John the Baptist was born about six months before Christ, and as he began his public ministry when thirty years of age, then this coming after refers to six months after the commencement of John's public preaching, at which time Christ entered upon his.
Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear] This saying is expressive of the most profound humility and reverence. To put on, take off, and carry the shoes of their masters, was not only among the Jews, but also among the Greeks and Romans, the work of the vilest slaves. This is amply proved by Kypke, from Arrian, Plutarch, and the Babylonian Talmud.
With the Holy Ghost, and with fire] That the influences of the Spirit of God are here designed, needs but little proof. Christ's religion was to be a spiritual religion, and was to have its seat in the heart. Outward precepts, however well they might describe, could not produce inward spirituality. This was the province of the Spirit of God, and of it alone, therefore he is represented here under the similitude of fire, because he was to illuminate and invigorate the soul, penetrate every part, and assimilate the whole to the image of the God of Glory. See on John iii. 5.
With fire] Kai Tug. This is wanting in E. S. (two MSS. one of the ninth, the other of the tenth century) eight others, and many Evangelistaria, and in some versions and printed editions; but it is found in the parallel place, Luke iii. 16. and in the most authentic MSS. and versions. It was probably the different interpretations given of it by the Fathers, that caused some transcribers to leave it out of their copies.
The baptism of fire has been differently understood among the primitive Fathers. Some say, it incans the tribulations, crosses, and afflictions, which believers in Christ are called to pass through. Hence the author of the Opus Imperfectum, on Matthew, says, that there are three sorts of baptism, 1. that of water; 2. that of the Holy Ghost; and 3. that of tribulations and afflictions, represented under the notion of fire. He observes farther, that our blessed Lord went through these three
baptisms: 1. That of water, he received from the hands of John. 2. That of the Holy Spirit, he received from the Father. And 3. That of fire, he had in his contest with Satan in the desart. St. Chrysostom says, it means the superabundant graces of the Spirit. Basil and Theophilus explain it of the fire of hell. Cyril, Jerom, and others, understand by it the descent of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. Hilary says, it means a fire that the righteous must pass through in the day of judgment, to purify them from such defilements, as necessarily cleaved to them here, and with which they could not be admitted into glory.
Ambrose says, this baptism shall be administered at the gate of Paradise, by John Baptist; and he thinks, that this is what is meant by the flaming sword, Gen. iii. 24.
Origen and Lactantius conceive it to be a river of fire, at the gate of heaven, something similar to the Phlegethon of the heathens; but they observe, that when the righteous come to pass over, the liquid flames shall divide, and give them a free passage: that Christ shall stand on the brink of it, and receive through the flames, all those, and none but those, who have received in this world, the baptism of water in his name: and that this baptism is for those, who, having received the faith of Christ, have not, in every respect, lived conformably to it; for, though they laid the good foundation, yet they built hay, straw, and stubble upon it, and this work of theirs must be tried, and destroyed by this fire. This, they think, is St. Paul's meaning, 1 Cor. iii. 13-15. If any man build on this foundation (viz. Jesus Christ) gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest:-and the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is.-If any man's work be burnt, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so, as by fire. this fire, understood in this way, the Fathers of the following ages, and the school-men, formed the famous and lucrative doctrine of PURGATORY. Some in the primitive church thought, that fire should be, in some way or other, joined to the water in baptism; and it is supposed, that they administered it by causing the person to pass between two fires, or to leap through the flame; or by having a torch, or lighted candle present. Thus have those called Doctors of the Church trifled. The exposition which I have given, I believe to be the only genuine one.
Verse 12. Whose fan is in his hand] The Romans are here termed God's fan, as in ver. 10. they were called his ax, and in chap. xxii. 7. they are termed his troops or armies.
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15 AndJesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.. ¶ Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the
a Mal. 4. 1. ch. 13. 30.-b Mark 1. 9. Luke 3. 21.- ch. 2. 22.
d Mark 1. 10.
His floor] Does not this mean the land of Judea, which had been long, as it were, the threshing floor of the Lord? God says, he will now, by the winnowing fan (viz. the Romans) throughly cleanse this floor-the wheat, those who believe in the Lord Jesus, he will gather into his garner, either take to heaven from the evil to come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by sending them to Pella, in Calosyria, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem. But he will burn up the chaff-the disobedient and rebellious Jews, who would not come unto Christ, that they might have life.
Unquenchable fire.] That cannot be extinguished by
Verse 14. John forbad him] Earnestly and pressingly opposed him: this is the proper import of the words SexwhEVED AUTOY. I have observed that da, in composition, most frequently, if not always, strengthens the signification in classic authors.-Wakefield.
respect to the opinions and prejudices of mankind, should per form the same without motives of interest. The wise man,. by industriously performing all the duties of life, should induce the vulgar to attend to them."
The Septuagint use this word often for the Hebrew now, mishpat, judgment, appointment. And in Ezek. xviii. 19, 21.. the person who dixo xa thog einnehath done righteous-, —hath ness and mercy, is he who sacredly attended to the performance of all the religious ordinances, mentioned in that chap ter, and performed them in the genuine spirit of mercy. Anapata is used 1.Mac. i. 13, 49. ii. 2ł. and in Heb. x. 1, 10. to, denote religious ceremonies. Michaelis supposes, that pr. kol chok, all religious statutes or ordinances, were the words used in the Hebrew original of this gospel.
eternal mercy and truth. But it was necessary on another account: Our Lord represented the High-priest,, and was to,
But was this an ordinance? Undoubtedly it was the ini-tiatory ordinance of the Baptist's dispensation; now as Christ had submitted to circumcision, which was the initiatory ordi-. nance of the Mosaic dispensation; it was necessary that he, Verse 15. To fulfil a righteousness.] That is, Every right- should submit to this, which was instituted by no less an aueous ordinance: so I think av Sixalcony should be trans-thority, and was the introduction to his own dispensation of lated; and so our common version renders a similar word, Luke i. 6. The following passage, quoted from Justin Martyr, will doubtless appear a strong vindication of this trans-be the High-priest over the house of God:-now, as the. lation. "Christ was circumcised, and observed all the other High-priest was initiated into his office by washing and anointordinances of the law of Moses, not with a view to his ing, so must Christ: and hence he was baptized, washed,, own justification; but to fulfil the dispensation committed and anointed by the Holy Ghost. Thus he fulfilled the rightto him by the Lord, the God and Creator of all things." eous ordinance of his initiation into the office of HighWakefield. priest, and thus was prepared to make an atonement for the.
Then he suffered him.] In the Opus Imperfectum, quoted by Griesbach, there is the following addition, which, at least, may serve to shew the opinion of its author: Et Johannes qui-. dem baptizavit illum in aqua, ille autem Johannem cum spiritu. Then John baptized him with water, and he baptized John with the Spirit."
How remarkable are the following words of Creeshna (ansins of mankind. Incarnation of the Supreme God, according to the Hindoo theology) related in the Bhagvat Geeta, p. 47. Addressing his disciple Arjoon, he says, "I myself, Arjoon, have not in the three regions of the universe, any thing which is necessary for me to perform; nor any thing to obtain, which is not obtained; and yet I live in the exercise of the moral duties. If I were not vigilantly to attend to those duties, all men would presently follow my example. If I were not to perform the moral actions, this world would fail in their duties: I should be the cause of spurious births, and should drive || the people from the right way. As the ignorant perform the duties of life from a hope of retard, so the wise man out of
Verse 16. The heavens were opened unto him] That is, to John the Baptist--and he, John, saw the Spirit of God-lighting upon him, i. e. Jesus. There has been some controversy about the manner and form in which the Spirit of God ren- . dered itself visible on this occasion. St. Luke iii. 22. it was in a bodily shape like to a doce: and this likeness to a
fore the judges, and according to their determination, te proclaim the victor.
7. To deliver the prize to the conqueror, and to put the crown on his head, in the presence of the assembly.
8. They were the persons who convoked all solemn and religious assemblies, and brought forth, and often slew, the
This passage affords no mean proof of the doctrine of the Trinity. That three distinct persons are here represented, there can be no dispute. 1. The person of Jesus Christ, bap-sacrifices offered on those occasions. tized by John in Jordan. 2. The person of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape (paix du, Luke iii. 22.) like a dove. 3. The person of the Father; a voice came out of heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, &c. The voice is here represented, as proceeding from a different place to that in which the persons of the Son and Holy Spirit were manifested; and merely, I think, more forcibly to mark this divine personality.
9. They frequently called the attention of the people during the sacrifices, to the subject of devotion, with hoc age! TOUTO TEATTE: mind what you are about; don't be idle; think of nothing else. See PLUTARCH in Coriolanus.
The office, and nearly the word itself, was in use among the ancient Babylonians, as appears from Dan. iii. 4. where the Chaldee word * caroza, is rendered by the Septuagint xngu kerux, and by our translation very properly, herald. His Verse 17. In whom I am well pleased.] Ev a vdoxnoa, in business in the above place, was to call an assembly of the whom I have delighted—though it is supposed that the past tense people, for the purpose of public worship; to describe the obis here used for the present: but see the note on chap. xvii. 5. ject and nature of that worship, and the punishment to be inBy this voice, and overshadowing of the Spirit, the mission of flicted on those who did not join in the worship, and prothe Lord Jesus was publicly and solemnly accredited; God in-perly assist in the solemnities of the occasion. timating that he had before delighted in him: the Law, in all its ordinances, having pointed him out, for they could not be pleasing to God, but as they were fulfilled in, and shewed forth the Son of Man, till he came.
Dan. iii. 4. is the only place in our translation, in which the word herald is used: but the word xnęvž, used by St. Paul, 1 Tim. ii. 7. 2 Tim. i. 11. and by St. Peter, 2 Epist. ii. 5. is found in the Septuagint, Gen. xli. 43. as well as in Dan. iii. 4. and the verb xngvow is found in different places of that version, and in a great number of places in the New Testament.
As the office of a herald is frequently alluded to in this chapter, and also in various other parts of the New Testament, It is worthy of remark, that the office of the xngu, kerux, I think it best to give a full account of it here, especially as or herald, must have been anciently known, and indeed esthe office of the ministers of the gospel is represented by it.tablished among the Egyptians: for in Gen. xli. 43. where Such persons can best apply the different, correspondences an account is given of the promotion of Joseph to the second between their own and the herald's office. place in the kingdom, where we say, And they cried be
At the Olympic and Isthmian games, heralds were per-fore him, saying, Bow the kuce; the Septuagint has xa exnsons of the utmost consequence and importance. Their office was, 1. To proclaim from a scaffold, or elevated place, the combat that was to be entered on.
guy goodEY αυτου κηρυξ. And a HERALD made proclamation before him. As the Septuagint translated this for Ptolemy Philadelphus, the Egyptian king, and were in Egypt when
2. To summon the Agonista, or contenders, to make their they translated the Law, we may safely infer, that the office appearance, and to announce their names.
was not only known, but in use among the Egyptians, being de nominated in their language 78 abrek, which our translators, following the Vulgate, have rendered, Bow the knee; but which the Septuagint understood to be the title of an officer; who was the same among the Egyptians, as the x-zu among the Greeks. This is a probable meaning of the word, which escaped me when I wrote the note on Gen. xli. 43. As every kind of office had some peculiar badge, or ensign, 6. After the conflict was ended, to bring the business be- by which it was known among the ancients, so the heralds.
3. To specify the prize for which they were to contend. 4. To admonish and animate, with appropriate discourses, the Athletæ, or combatants.
5. To set before them, and explain, the laws of the AgoRes, or contenders; that they might see, that even the conqueror could not receive the crown or prize, unless he had strove lawfully.