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8. Bring forth therefore fruits,'. &c. That is, the proper fruits of reformation, the proper evidence that you are sincere. Do not bring your cunning and dissimulation to this work; carry not your hypocrisy into your professed repentance, but evince your sincerity by forsaking sins. • Fruits.' Conduct. See Matt. vii, 16-19. ‘Meet for repentance. The proper expression of repentance.
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father : for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
9. They regarded it as sufficient righteousness that they were descended from so holy a man as Abraham, John viii. 33–37, 53. John assured them that this was a matter of small consequence in the sight of God. Of the very stones of the Jordan he could raise up children to Abraham. The meaning seems to be this: God, from these stones, could more easily raise up those who should be worthy children of Abraham, or be like him, than simply, because you are descendants of Abraham, make you, who are proud and hypocritical, subjects of the Messiah's kingdom. Mere nativity, or the privileges of birth, avail nothing where there is not righteousness of life. Some have supposed, however, that by
these stones' he meant the Roman soldiers, or the heathen, who attended on his ministry; and that God could of them raise up children to Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
10. Laying the axe at the root of a tree is intended to denote that the tree is to be cut down. A searching, trying kind of preaching has been commenced. Principles and conduct are to be investigated. No art, no dissimulations, are to be successful. Men are to be tried by their lives, not by birth, or profession. The very root shall feel the blow, and the fruitless tree shall fall. This is a beautiful and very striking figure, and a very direct threatening of future wrath. John regarded his hearers as making a fair and promising profession, as trees do in blossom. But he told them, also, that they should bear fruit as well
as flowers. Their professions of repentance were not enough. They should show, by a holy life, that their profession was genuine.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance : but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire
11. To keep the feet from the sharp stones, or the burning sand, email pieces of wood were fastened to the soles, called sandals Leather, or skins of beasts dressed, were after wards used. The foot was not covered at all; but the sandal, or piece of leather or wood, was bound by thongs. The people put off these when they entered a house, and put them on when they lest it. To loose and bind on sandals, on such occasions, was the business of the lowest servants. It was an expression of great humility ; and John says that he was not worthy to be the servant of Him who should come after him. Shall baptize you.' Shall send upon you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is frequently represented as boing poured out upon his people, Prov. i. 23; Isa. xliv. 3; Joel ji. 28, 29; Acts ii, 17, 18. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the same, therefore, as the sending of his influences to convert, purify, and guide the soul. "The Holy Ghost.' The third Person of the adorable Trinity, whose office it is to renew, enlighten, change, and comfort the soul. He was promised by the Saviour to convince of sin, John xvi. 8. To enlighten or teach the disciples, John xiv, 26; xvi. 13. To comfort them in the absence of the Saviour, John xiv. 18; xvi. 7. He changes the heart, Titus iii. 5. To be baptized with the Holy Ghost means that the Messiah would send upon the world a far more powerful and mighty influence than had attended the preaching of John. His ministry would not affect the external life only, but the heart, the motives, the soul; and produce rapid and permanent changes in the lives of men. See Acts ii. 17, 18. With fire.' This expression has heen very variously understood. Some have supposed that it refers to the afflictions and persecutions with which men would be tried under the gospel; others, that the word 'fire' meant judgment or wrath. A part of his hearers he should baptize with the Holy Ghost, but the wicked with fire and vengeance. Fire is a symbol of vengeanoe. See Isa. v. 24; lxi. 2; lxvi. 24. The ministry of the Messiah would be very powerful, trying, purifying, searching. Multitudes would be converted; and those who were not true penitents should not be able to abide the trial, and should be
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
12. • His fan.' 'His foor.' The threshing-floor was an open space in the field. It had no covering or walls. It was thirty or forty yards in diameter, and made smooth by rolling it, or treading it hard. A high place was selected for the purpose of keeping it dry, and for the convenience of winnowing the grain by the wind. The grain was usually trodden out by oxen. Sometimes it was beaten with flails, as with us; and sometinies with a sharp threshing instrument, made to roll over the grain, and to cut the straw at the same time, Isa. xli. 15. After being threshed, it was winnowed. The grain was then separated from the dirt and coarse coaff by a sieve, and then still further cleansed by a fan, an instrument to produce an artificial wind. This method is stili practised in eastern nations. Shall purge.' Shall cleanse or purify. Shall remove the chaff, &c. The garner.' The place to deposit the wheat. “Unquenchable fire.' Fire that will utterly consume it. By the floor,' here, is represented the Jewish people, By the wheat, the righteous, or the people of God. By the 'chaff,' the wicked. They are often represented as being driven away like chaff before the wind, Job xxi. 18; Ps. i. 4; Isa. xvii. 13; Flos. xiii. 13. They are also represented as chaff which the fire consumes, Isa. v. 24. This image is often used to express judgments, Isa. xli. 15. By the unquenchable fire is meant the eternal suffering of the wicked in hell, 2 Thess, i. 8, 9; Mark ix. 48; Matt. xxv. 41.
13 | Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
14. It is more fit that I should be baptized with thy baptism, the Holy Ghost, than that thou shouldest be baptized in water by me. I am a sinner, and unworthy to administer this the Messiah.
15 And Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
15. “ Thus it becometh us.' Though you may feel yourseli unworthy, yet it is proper it should be done. 'All righteous
Christ chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John. Jesus had no sin. But he was about to enter on his work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connexion with him, and give his approbation to what John had done.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
16. Straightway.' Immediately, 'The heavens were opened unto him.' This was done while he was praying, Luke iii. 21. If, in the ordinances, we look to God, we may expect he will bless us; the heavens will be opened ; light will shine upon our path. The heavens appear to open, or give way. Something of this
kind probably appeared to John at this tine. A similar appear, ance took place at Stephen's death, Acts vii. 56. The expression means, he was permitted to see far into the heavens, beyond what the natural vision would allow. Unto him.' It probably refers to John. See John i. 33. It was a testimony given to John that this was the Messiah. • He saw.' John saw. "The Spirit of God.' See ver. 11. This was the third Person of the Trinity, descending upon him with somewhat of the hovering motion of a dove, Luke ini. 22. The gift of the Holy Spirit, in this manner, was the public approbation of Jesus, John i. 33, and a sign of his being set apart to the office of the Messiah. He was pub. licly set apart to his work, and solemnly approved by God in the office to which he was appointed.
17 And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
17. ‘A voice from heaven. A voice from God. Probably heard by all who were present. This voice, or sound, was repeated on the mount of transfiguration, Matt. xvii. 5; Luke ix. 35, 36; 2 Peter i. 17. It was also heard just before his death, John xii. 28–30. It was a public declaration that Jesus was the Messiah. "My beloved Son. This is the title which God himself gave to Jesus. It denotes the nearness of his relation to God, and the love of God for him, Heb. i. 2; it implies that he was equal with God, Heb. i. 5—8; John x. 29—33; xix. 7. well pleased.' Am ever delighted; and in this solemn and public manner expressed his approbation of him as the long expected Redeemer of the world.
The baptism of Jesus has usually been considered a striking manifestation of the doctrine of the Trinity, or the doctrine that there are three Persons in the Divine nature. 1. There is the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, baptized in the Jordan, elsewhere declared to be equal with God, John x. 30. 2. The Holy Spirit, descending in a bodily form upon the Saviour. The Holy Spirit is also equal with the Father, or is also God, Acts v. 3, 4. 3. The Father, addressing the Son, and declaring that he was well pleased with him. It is impossible to explain this transaction consistently in any other way than by supposing that there are three equal Persons in the Divine nature, or essence, and that each of these sustains an important part in the work of redeeming men.
In the preaching of John the Baptist we are presented with an example of a faithful minister of God. Neither the wealth, dignity, nur power of his auditors, deterred him from fearlessly declaring the truth respecting their character. He called things by their right names. He did not apologize for their sin. He set it fairly before them, and denounced the appropriate curse, So should all ministers of the gospel. Rank, riches, and power
should have nothing to do in shaping their ministry. In respectful terms, but without shrinking, all the truths of the gospel must be spoken, or wo will follow the ambassador of Christ.
In John we have also an example of humility. Blessed with great success; attended by the great and noble, and with nothing but principle to keep him from turning it to his advantage, he still kept himself out of view, and pointed to a far greater personage at hand. So should every minister of Jesus, however successful, keep the Lamb of God in his eye, and be willingnay, rejoice to lay all his success and honours at his feet.
Every thing about the work of Jesus was wonderful. He was the equal with God, the Redeemer of men, the mighty God, the Father of eternity, the Prince of peace, Isa. ix. 6, and it was proper that a voice from heaven should declare it, that the angels should attend him, and the Holy Spirit signalize his baptism by his personal presence. And it is proper that we, for whom he came, should
give to him our undivided affections, our time, and influence, and hearts, and lives.
CHAPTER IV. 1 THEN was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil.
1. ' The wilderness.' See Matt. iii. 1. 'The Spirit.' Luke says, ch. iv. 1, that Jesus was full of the Holy Ghost. It was by his influence, therefore, that Christ went into the desert. "To be tempted. The word to tempt, in the original, means to try, to endeavour, to attempt to do a thing; then, to try the nature of a thing, as metals by fire; then, to test moral qualities by trying them, to see how they will endure; then, to endeavour to draw men away from virtue by suggesting motives to evil. This is the meaniny here, and this is now the established meaning of the word in the English language. The devil.' This name is given in the scriptures, by way of eminence, to the leader of evil angels; he is characterised as full of subtilty, envy, art, and hatred of mankind. He is known, also, by the name Satan, Job i. 6--12; Matt. xii. 26. Beelzebub, Matt. xii. 24. The old serpent, Rev. xii. 9. And the prince of the power of the air, Eph, ii. 2.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
2. 'Had fasted.' Abstained from food. Forty days and nights. It has been questioned by some whether Christ abstained wholly from food, or only from bread and the food to which he was accustomed. Luke says, ch. iv. 2, that he ate nothing. This settles the question. Mark says, ch. i. 13, that angels came