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3. Baptism of Jesus

1Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2in the highpriesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the region round about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance unto remission of sins; 4as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye ready the way of the Lord, Make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, And every mountain and hill shall be brought low; And the crooked shall become straight, And the rough ways smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 7He said therefore to the multitudes that went out to be baptized of him, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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. 9And even now the axe also lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10And the multitudes asked him, saying, What then must we do? 11And he answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath food, let him do likewise. 12And there came also publicans to be baptized, and they said unto him, Teacher, what must we do? 13And he said unto them, Extort no more than that which is appointed you. 14And soldiers also asked him, saying, And we, what must we do? And he said unto them, Extort from no man by violence, neither accuse any one wrongfully; and be content with your wages. 15And as the people were in expectation, and all men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether haply he were the Christ; 16John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire: 17whose fan is in his hand, thoroughly to cleanse his threshing-floor, and to gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire. 18With many other exhortations therefore preached he good tidings unto the people; 19but Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother's wife, and for all the evil things which Herod had done, 20added this also to them all, that he shut up John in prison. 21Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that, Jesus also having been baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form, as a dove, upon him, and a voice came out of heaven, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 23And Jesus himself, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29the son of Jesus, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30the son of Symeon, the son of Judas, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, 33the son of Amminadab, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah 36the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

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Luke 3:10 And the multitudes asked him. A true feeling of repentance produces in the mind of the poor sinner an eager desire to know what is the will or command of God. John’s reply explains, in a few words, the fruits worthy of repentance: for the world is always desirous to acquit itself of its duty to God by performing ceremonies; and there is nothing to which we are more prone, than to offer to God pretended worship, whenever he calls us to repentance. But what fruits does the Baptist here recommend? The duties of charity, and of the second Table of the Law:272272     “Des ceuvres de charite comprises en la seconde Table de la Loy;” — “works of charity included in the second Table of the Law.” not that God disregards the outward profession of godliness, and of his worship; but that this is a surer mark of distinction, and less frequently leads to mistakes.273273     “Non pas que Dieu ne requiere aussi une profession externe de son service et de la crainte de son nom, mais pource que l’autre partie est la marque la plus certaine pour cognoians, et, laquelle vrals on est le moins abuse.” — “Not that God does not require also an external profession of his service and of the fear of his name, but because the other part is the surest mark to know true penitents, and one in which there is less risk of deception.” For hypocrites labor strenuously to prove themselves worshippers of God by the performance of ceremonies, — paying no regard, however, to true righteousness: for they are either cruel to their neighbors, or addicted to falsehood and dishonesty.

It was therefore necessary to subject them to a more homely examination,274274     “C'est a dire, ou ils ne peuvent pas si aisement tromper.” — “That is to say, in which they cannot so easily deceive.” if they are just in their dealings with men, if they relieve the poor, if they are generous to the wretched, if they give liberally what the Lord has bestowed upon them. This is the reason why our Lord pronounces “judgment, mercy, and faith,” to be “the weightier matters of the law,” (Matthew 23:23,) and Scripture everywhere recommends “justice and judgment.” We must particularly observe, that the duties of charity are here mentioned, not because they are of higher value than the worship of God, but because they testify the piety of men,275275     “De la crainte de Dieu qui est en l'homme;” — “of the fear of God which is in man.” so as to detect the hypocrisy of those who boast with the mouth what is far distant from the heart.

But it is asked, did John lay this injunction, in a literal sense, on all whom he was preparing to be Christ’s disciples, that they should not have two coats? We must observe, first, that this is the figure of speech which is called a Synecdoche, for under one example it comprehends a general rule. Hence it follows, that we must draw from it a meaning, which corresponds to the law of charity, as it is laid down by God: and that law is, that each person should give out of his abundance to supply the wants of the poor. God does not extort a tax, to be paid “grudgingly or of necessity” by those who, but for that necessity, would have chosen not to pay it: “for the Lord loveth a” willing and “cheerful giver,” (2 Corinthians 9:7.) I make this observation, because it is of great consequence for men to be convinced, that the portion of their wealth which they bestow in this manner is a sacrifice pleasing and of good savor to God, — that “with such sacrifices God is well pleased,” (Hebrews 13:16.)

Those who lay it down as a law, that no man must have any property of his own, not only make consciences to tremble, but overwhelm them with despair. With fanatics of this sort, who obstinately adhere to the literal meaning, it is not necessary that we should spend much time in refutation. If we are not allowed to have two coats, the same rule will apply to dishes, to salt-cellars, to shirts, and, in short, to all the furniture of a house. But the context makes it evident, that nothing was farther from John’s intention than to overthrow the order of a state. Hence we infer, that all that he enjoined on the rich was, that they should bestow on the poor, according to their own ability, what their necessity required.

“Consider to what extent the necessaries of life, which you enjoy abundantly, are wanted by your neighbors, that your abundance may be a supply for their want,” (2 Corinthians 8:14.)

But the more liberty that God allows us, we ought to be the more careful not to allow ourselves undue liberty.276276     “Cependant, tant plus Dieu nous traite doucement, et nous donne de liberte, tant plus faut-il que nous prenions garde a ne nous flatter ou lascher par trop la bride.” — “Yet the more gently God treats us, and the more liberty he gives us, so much the more ought we to take care not to flatter ourselves, or loose the bridle too much.” Let the necessity of our brethren affect us powerfully, and let the bounty of God, which is in our hands, stimulate us to acts of kindness and generosity.