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3. Baptism of Jesus

Now 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 Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye 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 be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 7Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath 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 now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 10And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 11He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. 12Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? 13And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. 14And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 15And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; 16John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: 17Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. 18And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people. 19But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison. 21Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, 22And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. 23And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, 24Which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, 25Which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, 26Which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, 27Which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, 28Which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Cosam, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, 29Which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, 30Which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, 31Which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, 32Which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the son of Naasson, 33Which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of Aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, 34Which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, 35Which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, 36Which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, 37Which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, which was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, 38Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was 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.


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