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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.
As to the loud and open rebuke, which was administered to them in presence of all, it was for the sake of others; and that is the reason why Luke mentions, that it was addressed to multitudes, (Luke 3:7.) Though the persons whom John reproved were few in number, his design was to strike terror on all; as Paul enjoins us to regard it as the advantage of public rebukes, “that others also may fear,” (1 Timothy 5:20.) He addresses directly the Pharisees and Sadducees, and at the same time, addresses, through them, a warning to all, not to hold out a hypocritical appearance of repentance, instead of a true affection of the heart. Besides, it was of great importance to the whole nation to know263263 “Davantage, tout le peuple avoit grand interest d'estre advertis quelles gens estoyent les Sadduciens et Pharisiens.” — “Besides, all the people had a deep interest in being warned what sort of people the Sadducees and Pharisees were.” what sort of people the Pharisees and Sadducees were, who had miserably corrupted the worship of God, wasted the church, and overturned the whole of religion; — in a word, who had extinguished the light of God by their corruptions, and infected every thing by their crimes.
It is probable, therefore, that John publicly attacked the Pharisees, for the benefit of the whole church of God, that they might no longer dazzle the eyes of simple men by empty show, or hold the body of the people under oppression by wicked tyranny. In this respect, it was a remarkable display of his firmness, that those, who were highly esteemed by others, were not spared on account of their reputation, but sternly reduced, as they deserved, to their proper rank. And thus ought all godly instructors to be zealous, not to dread any power of man, but boldly strive to “cast down every high thing that exalteth itself” against Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5.)
If John, the organ of the Holy Spirit, employed such severity of language in his opening address to those who voluntarily came to be baptized, and to make a public profession of the gospel; how ought we now to act towards the avowed enemies of Christ, who not only reject obstinately all that belongs to sound doctrine, but whose efforts to extinguish the name of Christ are violently maintained by fire and sword? Most certainly, if you compare the Pope, and his abominable clergy, with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the mildest possible way of dealing with them will be, to throw them all into one bundle. Those, whose ears are so delicate, that they cannot endure to have any bitter thing said against the Pope, must argue, not with us, but with the Spirit of God. Yet let godly teachers beware, lest, while they are influenced by holy zeal against the tyrants of the Church, they mingle with it the affections of the flesh. And as no vehemence, which is not regulated by the wisdom of the Spirit, can obtain the divine approbation, let them not only restrain their feelings, but surrender themselves to the Holy Spirit, and implore his guidance, that nothing may escape them through inadvertency.264264 “Afin qu'il ne leur eschappe aucun mot inconsiderement, et a la volee;” — “that no word may escape them inconsiderately, and at random.”
Offspring of vipers. He gives them this name, instead of simply calling them vipers, in order to expose the envenomed malice of the whole class: for he intended to condemn, not merely those few persons who were present, but the whole body, and to charge both sects with producing nothing but serpents. They had vehement disputes, no doubt, with each other: but all were agreed in despising God, in a wicked desire to rule, in hatred of sound doctrine, and in a disgusting mass of numerous crimes.
Who warned you? As he had suspicions of their repentance, he puts the question with doubt and wonder, if it be possible that they repent sincerely. In this way, he summons them to the inward tribunal of conscience, that they may thoroughly examine themselves, and, laying aside all flattery, may institute a severe investigation into their crimes. Wrath is put here, as in many other places, for the judgment of God: as when Paul says, “The law worketh wrath,” (Romans 4:15,) and “Give place to wraths265265 “Il fait mention du temps avenir, parce que les hypocrites, tandis que Dieu les espargne, desprisent hardiment toutes ses menaces, et ne se resveillent jamais, sinon qu’il frappe dessus a grands coups.” — “He mentions the future, because hypocrites, so long as God spares them, despise boldly all his threatenings, and never awake, till he strikes them with heavy strokes.” ”, (Romans 12:19.) He calls it the wrath to come, which hangs over their heads, that they may not indulge in their wonted carelessness. For, though the wrath of God overflows, and his chastisements strike, the whole world, hypocrites always entertain the hope that they will escape. To flee from the wrath of God, is here taken in a good sense, that is, to seek the means of appeasing God, that he may no longer be angry with us. For a good part of men, in order to escape the wrath of God, withdraw themselves from his guidance and authority. But all that the sinner gains by fleeing from God, is to provoke more and more the wrath of God against him.