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3. John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1And in those days cometh John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, saying, 2Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3For this is he that was spoken of through Isaiah the prophet, saying,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Make ye ready the way of the Lord,
Make his paths straight.
4Now John himself had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then went out unto him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about the Jordan; 6and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said unto them, Ye offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance: 9and 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. 10And even now the axe lieth at the root of the trees: every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11I indeed baptize you in 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 in the Holy Spirit and in fire: 12whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing-floor; and he will gather his wheat into the garner, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.
13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15But Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffereth him. 16And Jesus when he was baptized, went up straightway from the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him; 17and lo, a voice out of the heavens, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Matthew 3:4. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair The Evangelist does not desire us to reckon it as one of John’s chief excellencies, that he followed a rough and austere way of living, or even that he avoided a moderate and ordinary degree of elegance: but, having already stated that he was an inhabitant of the mountains, he now adds, that his food and clothing were adapted to his residence. And he mentions this, not only to inform us, that John was satisfied with the food and dress of the peasants, and partook of no delicacies; but that, under a mean and contemptible garb, he was held in high estimation by men of rank and splendor. Superstitious persons look upon righteousness as consisting almost entirely of outward appearances, and have commonly thought, that abstinence of this kind was the perfection of holiness. Nearly akin to this is the error, of supposing him to be a man who lived in solitude, and who disdained the ordinary way of living; as the only superiority of hermits and monks is, that they differ from other people. Nay, gross ignorance has gone so far that, out of camel’s hair they have made an entire skin.
Now, there can be no doubt, that the Evangelist here describes a man of the mountains,252252 “Montanum hominem;” — “un homme suivant les montagnes.” widely distant from all the refinement and delicacies of towns,—not only satisfied with such food as could be procured, but eating only what was fit to be used in its natural state, such as wild honey, which is supplied by that region in great abundance, and locusts, with which it also abounds. Or he may have intended to point out that, when a man of mean aspect, and without any polite accomplishments, appeared in public life, it was attended by this advantage, that the majesty of God shone alone in him, and yet struck all with admiration. For we must observe what is added, that there was a great concourse of people from all directions; from which we infer, that his fame was very widely spread.253253 “Qu il a ete merveilleusement grand bruit de luy par tout le pays.” — “That there was an astonishingly great noise about him through all the country.” Or the Evangelist may have signified the design of God, to present, in the person of John, a singular instance of frugality, and, in this manner, to fill the Jews with reverence for his doctrine, or at least to convince them of ingratitude, according to that saying of our Lord, John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, (Luke 7:33.)