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CHAPTER III.

Ministry of John the Baptist.
N those days came John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness

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suffering and despised, as well as a markable birth are related by Luke, triumphant Messiah. Is. liii. To now appear upon the stage of be a Nazarene was to bear an un action; the Messiah and his Forehonored name. The guileless Na runner.-In those days. A common thaniel could ask, “ Can there any introduction to Scriptural narragood thing come out of Nazareth ?" tion, used with considerable latitude The reputation of the place was of meaning. “ At this period,” or bad. The idea then is, that, accord “about this time,” not immediately ing to the tenor of those predictions after the events of the last chapter, usually supposed to refer to Christ, but while Jesus lived at Nazareth.-be became an inhabitant of a pro John the Baptist. Or, the Baptizer. verbially low place, dwelt in bum So called, because it was peculiarly ble life, and was despised and reject- his office to baptize; and in order ed by men.

to distinguish him from the Evan“It was undoubtedly a párt of gelist and Apostle of the same name. the plan of Providence to draw the John's mission was to prepare men Saviour from humble human cir for the ministry of Jesus, to cail cumstances, in order to render his public attention to him as the Christ, divine authority the more conspicu- and to furnish evidence of the jusous and unquestionable. It was tice of his claims by the fulfilment thus made to appear that his words. of prophecy. For an account of of wisdom could not have been the origin of John, see Luke, chap. learned from man, and that he must i. Matthew was writing to those have been from God. He probably who were already acquainted with received little or no education dur the events of the age. Hence he ing his early years; for the Jews leaves much to be explained by a asked, "How knoweth this man reference to other sources.-

--Preachletters, having never learned?' ing. Or, proclaiming, or crying and Schools and instruction were not announcing as a herald, for so the then universal as they are now, and word implies in the original. It Joseph was probably too poor to suggests the idea that he delivered afford to his children a privilege his message with great publicity, which could be purchased only by earnestness, and authority.

The the rich."

substance of the proclamation is CHAP. III.

recorded in the following verses. 1-12. For the parallel passages

-The wilderness of Judea. A tract in the other Gospels see Mark i. lying on the river Jordan and the 1-8. "Luke iii. 1–18.

Dead Sea, east of Jerusalem. The 1. After the lapse of twenty-five words “ wilderness” and “ desert” or thirty years from the events re are not to be taken in the Bible as corded in the last chapter, the cur always meaning regions totally tain is again drawn aside, and we without cultivation or inhabitants, behold a new scene. Jesus grown

but those thinly peopled, and comto manhood, and John, a new char-' paratively barren ; generally deacter, whose parentage and re voted to grazing. In Josh. xv. 61,

hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, say- 3 ing: “ The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way 02, a wilderness is represented as of the Messiah, or, in more modern having "six cities with their villa- phraseology, the Christian Religion, ges." Judea was the southern por which came to rule over the hearts tion of Palestine.

and lives of men, and bring them 2. The following words are to be to an obedience to the moral Govunderstood as containing the bur ernor of the world, and thus estabden of his preaching, the general lish a moral kingdom. For this outline of his addresses, which were spiritual reign Reformation was adapted to different times, places, requisite; a far different preparaand persons. Luke iii. 11-18. tion from that which the Jews conRepent ye.

Rather, Reforın your- templated; whose hearts, at the selves. The exhortation involved approach of the long expected Dein itself more than mere sorrow liverer, savored more of ambition, for sin. It iinplied not only regret revenge, and avarice, than of sentifor the past, but amendment for ments of good will to man or piety the future; not only that the wound to God, expecting, as they did, a was to be probed, but healed. The temporal King, and not the Prince reason why John seized upon this of Peace. So now the Gospel detheme was, that the Jews had un mands penitent hearts, and reformfitted themselves by their world ed lives, for its subjects. As an old liness and vices for the reception writer says, “Thus must the way of the great coming Teacher. The be made for Christ into every heart. professed believers in religion need Never will he enter that soul where ed first to be renewed in holiness. the herald of repentance hath not Judgment must begin at the house been before him." of God. The Jewish people had 3. Prophet Esaius, i.e. Isaiah xl. suffered the fire of heaven to go 3. The Evangelist quotes from the out upon the altars of their hearts, Septuagint version of the Old Tesand were cold, skeptical, and cor tament; hence there is a slight varirupt. Hence the key note of the ation from our translation, which Baptist's desert cry, the first blast was made from the Hebrew. Isaiah of his trumpet echoing over the undoubtedly spoke with reference moral wilderness of Judea, was, to the return from the Babylonish REFORMATION. Jesus prolonged captivity. Matthew applies the the note which John had struck.

passage to the Forerunner of the It has continued to resound to this Messiah.—The voice, &c. The ofday, and must forever, in a sinful fice of John was to act as a voice world. It is the great theme for for the coming Word, a herald of men and nations. For the kingdom the great Teacher. The succeedof heaven is at hand. Or, better, ing imagery is drawn from oriental the reign of God draws near, customs, a knowledge of which is This is the persuasive for immedi often required to understand the ate repentance and reformation, Scriptures. When monarchs jourthat the Messiah was now coming. neyed, or marched on military ex

The kingdom of heaven, of God, peditious, they despatched pioneers of Christ, pbrases suggested, per forward to level eminences, fill up haps, by Dan. ii. 44. vii. 13, 14, valleys, and make a straight road. all refer to the same thing, the reign The Jews were called upon to pre

4 of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And the same John had his

raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and 5 his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to bim Jerusa

pare for the Messiah's advent, clear modern dervises, or Turkish priests, ing their hearts of those prejudices are clothed like the ancient proand sins which would impede his phets.--His meat, &c. Meat, in progress and success as a moral old English, stands for food in conqueror. As the greatest bless- general, whether animal or vegetaings were expected under the Re able. The locusi was allowed as deemer's reign, John bids the Jews an article of food by the law of make ready for his coming by re Moses. Lev. xi. 22. They have penting of and forsaking those been in use for this purpose, both sins, which would prove the worst in ancient and modern times, in stumbling-blocks in his way, the

the east.

“ We saw," says .Niemost serious impediments to the buhr, in his travels, “an Arab who cordial reception of a pure religion. had gathered a sack full in order to

4. Raiment of camel's hair, &c. dry them, and keep them for his This description is thrown in, per winter provisions."Wild honey. baps to show the similarity between The honey which was found in the John and Elijah, or to remind the cavities of trees and the clefis of Jews that the herald of Christ did rocks may have been so denominot come in that rich dress and nated. Ps. Ixxxi. 16. Palestine equipage, which they would sup was described as “a land flowing pose appropriate to one who came with milk and honey.” Or it may to announce so splendid a king; have been not the honey made by but, on the contrary, dressed in the the bee, but honey-dew, a sweet garments, and subsisting on the substance exuding from the leaves food, of the poorest class of his of palm, date, and olive trees. 1 countrymen. He was not "a man Sam. xiv. 25, 26. Oriental travelclothed in soft raiment,” but ap lers speak of the abundance of pareled like one of the old proph. honey in Arabia and Palestine. ets. 2 Kings i. 8. Zech. xiij. 4. The dress and diet of the Baptist Raiment is an ancient word for indicated no uncommon rigor and clothing Camels are not only severity, but rather simplicity and very valuable for carrying burdens poverty. His mode of life affords over the vast deserts of the east, but no countenance or approbation to their milk and flesh are eaten, and the recluse and hermit. garments are made of the hair, 5. The Jews, galled by the Rowhich, though coarse and shaggy, is man yoke, looked with impatience manufactured into a rough, cheap for the Messiah, from whom they cloth, for the common people. The expected deliverance and universal hair is shed annually.--Å leathern rule over the rest of the world. girdle. This was a very important Curiosity, impatience, and ambipart of the oriental dress, as it con tion, together with the striking air fined the flowing cloak or robe, and bold address of John, probably which would otherwise have been drew thousands to the Jordan.--inconvenient, if suffered to hang Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the loosely about the body. The girdle city. This was the Jewish me. was also used as a purse. The tropolis, situated about forty miles

lem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan; and were 6 baptized of him in Jordan, consessing their sins. But when he saw 7 east of the Mediterranean, in a re the Rabbins. How administered gion of high hills. The wonderful · is no where said; whether by imevents of which it has been the mersion or sprinkling is of little scene, both in ancient and modern

consequence, so it was done with times, render it the most remarkable water, and the heart was right. It city on the globe.All Judea. Not was a new thing, however, to bapliterally every one, but vast crowds; tize Jews. John by that means the country went as one man. It intimated to them, that, though they is an important role in the inter were the covenant people of God, pretation of Scripture, as well as they had so far become like heathen, other writings, that universal pro that, before they could be prepared positions should be qualified and for the Messiah's kingdom, they limited by the circumstances in must pass through the same cerewhich they occur. The Bible is

mony as proselytes.-- In Jordan. written in the free, figurative, diver the Jordan. The definite article sified language of common life, and should be uniformly placed before by no means in a literal, technical, this word.—Confessing their sins. philosophical dialect.

Judea lay One that truly repents of his sins between the Jordan and the Medi will be ready to confess them to terranean.--All the region round God, and, so far as is proper, to about Jordan. Should be, the coun men, John required of his contry along the Jordan on both sides verts a confession of their sins of the river. This stream rises in either in general or particular, as the Antilibanus mountains, and an indication of true contrition and flowing south through Lake Meroin a fitness to be baptized. and the Sea of Galilee, after a 7. The Pharisees and Sadducees. course of one hundred and twenty These were the two leading philoor thirty miles, empties into the sophical and religious sects among Dead Sea. It forms the eastern the Jews. The Essenes were a boundary of Galilee, Samaria, and third one, resembling monks in Judea. Its average width is from their mode of life, but no mention sixty to eighty feet, and its depth is made of them in the New Tesabout ten or twelve, though it varies tament. From Josephus and the according to the season of the year. Talmuds, as well as from scattered John had two stations, at least, on notices in the New Testament, we the Jordan ; Bethubara, or Bethany, gather information respecting the and Enon, an, perhaps more.

other two. 6. Baptized of him, i. e. by

The Pharisees. The Separatists. bim. Baptism was well known They were so called from a Heamong the Jews before John's day, brew word, meaning to separate, or as is evident from Matthew's fa to set apart, because they professed miliar way of introducing the to set themselves apart from the mention of it. It was employed rest of the people, and live purer to initiate heathen proselytes into lives. They plumed themselves the Jewish religion, according to upon their scrupulous adherence the testimony of the Jewish books to all religious ceremonies and obcalled Talmuds, which consisted servances, washings, fastings, tithes, of the writings and traditions of and long, ostentatious devotions, but

many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said

unto them: O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee in their lives were notorious for came to the baptism of John, intheir ambition, corruption, hypocri cited by this expectation; and supsy, and haughtiness. Such was posing John to be either the Mesthe prevailing character of the sect, siah or his Forerunner, they were though there were doubtless among desirous of early securing his favor, them, as in every body of men, and gaining posts of profit and some true and noble spirits. Acts honor in his kingdom. John saw v. 34. They received all the Old through their motives, and uttered Testament as of divine authority, a powerful, thongh deserved, reand adhered closely to the letter of buke.-0 generation of vipers. the Mosaic law. But in addition Offspring of vipers, or broods of to these writings, they had the tra vipers. This phrase is descriptive ditions of the elders or early of the two aforementioned classes. teachers of the nation, to which He did not spare the rich and lordthey gave equal credence as to the ly, but launched at them his burnPentateuch itself. Some of their ing reinonstrances with the bold doctrines were: the government of tone of one of the ancient prophets. the world by Fate, or a fixed de- Vipers are a kind of snakes, whose cree of God; the existence of spir- bite is immediately fatal. This its and angels; the resurrection from reptile has been used from the rethe dead; the immortality of the motest antiquity as an emblem of soul; and the future state of re what is destructive. Applied to wards and punishments.

the Pharisees and Sadducees, it The Sadducees derived their signifies that they were subtle, maname from Sadoc, the founder of lignant, deadly. The poison of their sect. They were less numer vipers rankled in their hearts, unous and had less influence among der the fair seeming and smooth the people than the Pharisees, but disguise of religious professions.were more wealthy. They rejected Who hath warned you to flee from the traditions, and, as is supposed, the wrath to come ? Rather a strong received only the law of Moses, or exclamation of surprise than an inthe Pentateuch, as of divine author- terrogation. John expresses wonity. They believed not in the der that men so hardened and hypoexistence of spirits, in immortality, critical should have been induced or a future retribution. In fact, to come to a baptism of repentance. they were the skeptics of their day The wrath to come” was the imand nation. They however joined pending destruction soon to fall on in the worship of the temple, and the Jewish nation, unless they reassisted at all religious assemblies. pented and reformed, and which Several of thein held the office of did descend forty years after, overhigh priest. Caiaphas, who con throwing the Temple, destroying demned our Saviour, was a Sad millions of men, and annihilating ducee. No account is given in the the national existence of the Jews. Gospels of a single conversion to Those who embraced Christianity Christianity from this sect.

escaped these judgments of heaven, Both Pharisees and Sadducees, because they believed in the proin common with the rest of the na phecies foretelling their approach, tion, expected a Messiah. They and fled from the country. The

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