Imágenes de páginas

immerse entirely; but in nearly all the cases, the notion of applying the water to a part only of the person or object, though it was by dipping, is necessarily to be supposed.


In the New Testament the word, in various forms, occurs eighty times-fifty-seven with reference to persons. Of these fifty-seven times, it is followed by "in" () eighteen times-as in water, in the desert, in Jordan; nine times by "into" (us),-as into the name, &c., into Christ; once it is followed by on the ground of" ( with dat.) Acts ii. 38; and twice by "for" (vig). 1 Cor. xv. 23. The following remarks may be made, in view of the investigation of the meaning of this word :1. That in baptism it is possible, perhaps probable, that the notion of dipping would be the one that would occur to a Jew. 2. It would not occur to him that the word meant of necessity to dip entirely, or completely to immerse. 3. The notion of washing would be the one which would most readily occur, as connected with a religious rite. See the cases of Naaman, and Mark vii. 4 (Greek). 4. It cannot be proved, from an examination of the passages in the Old and New Testaments, that the idea of a complete immersion ever was connected with the word, or that it ever in any case occurred. If they went into the water, still it is not proved by that, that the only mode of baptism was by immersion, as it might have been by pouring, though they were in the water. 5. It is not positively enjoined any where in the New Testament, that the only mode of baptism shall be by an entire submersion of the body under water. Without such a precept, it cannot be made obligatory on people of all ages, nations, and climes, even if it were probable that in the mild climate of Judea it was the usual mode.

The river Jordan is the eastern boundary of Palestine or Judea. It rises in mount Lebanon, on the north of Palestine, and runs in a southerly direction, under ground, for 13 miles, and then bursts forth with a great noise at Cesarea Philippi. It then unites with two small streams, and runs some miles farther, and then empties itself into the lake Merom. From this small lake it flows 13 miles, and then falls into the lake Gennesareth, otherwise called the sea of Tiberias, or the sea of Galilee. Through the middle of this lake, which is 15 miles long, and from six to nine broad, it flows undisturbed, and preserves a southerly direction for about 70 miles, and then falls into the Dead Sea. At its entrance into the Dead Sea, it is about 90 feet wide. It flows in many places with great rapidity; and when swollen by rains, pours like an impetuous torrent. It formerly regularly overflowed its banks in time of harvest (that is, in March), in some places 600 paces. Josh. iii. 15; 1 Chron. xii. 15. These banks are covered with small trees and shrubs, and afford a convenient dwelling for wild beasts. Allusion is often made to these thickets in the Sacred Scriptures. Jer. xlix. 19, 1. 44.


But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from "the wrath to come?

[blocks in formation]

7. Pharisees and Sadducees. The Jews were divided into three great sects-the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. In addition to these, some smaller sects are mentioned in the New Testament, and by Josephus,-the Herodians, probably political friends of Herod; the Galileans, a branch of the Pharisees; and the Therapeutæ, a branch of the Essenes, but converts from the Greeks. The principal of these sects are supposed to have originated about 150 years before Christ, as they are mentioned by Josephus at or about that time in his history. Of course nothing is said of them in the Old Testament, as that was finished about 400 years before the Christian era.

I. The PHARISEES were the most numerous and wealthy sect of the Jews. They derived their name from the Hebrew word Pharash, which signifies to set apart, or to separate, because they separated themselves from the rest of their countrymen, and professedly devoted themselves to peculiar strictness in religion. Their leading tenets were the following:-That the world was governed by fate, or by a fixed decree of God; that the souls of men were immortal, and were either eternally happy or miserable beyond the grave; that the dead would be raised; that there were angels, good and bad; that God was under obligation to bestow peculiar favour on the Jews; and that they were justified by the merits of Abraham, or by their own conformity to the law. They were proud, haughty, self-righteous, and held the common people in great disrespect. John vii. 49. They sought the offices of the state, and affected great dignity. They were ostentatious in their religious worship; praying in the corners of the streets, and seeking publicity in the bestowment of alms. They sought principally external cleanliness; and dealt much in ceremonial ablutions and washing. Some of the laws of Moses they maintained very strictly. In addition to the written laws, they held to a multitude which they maintained had come down from Moses by tradition.

A. D. 26.]


These they felt themselves as much bound to observe as the written law.

Under the influence

of these laws, they washed themselves before meals with great scrupulousness; they fasted
twice a-week-on Thursday, when they supposed Moses ascended mount Sinai, and on Monday,
when he descended; they wore broad phylacteries, and enlarged the fringe or borders of their gar-
There are, however, some
ments; they loved the chief rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues;-they were in
general a corrupt, hypocritical, office-seeking, haughty class of men.
honourable exceptions recorded. Acts v. 34; perhaps also, Mark xv. 43; Luke ii. 25, xxiii. 51;
John xix. 38.

II. The SADDUCEES are supposed to have taken their name from Sadok, who flourished about
He was a pupil of Antigonus Sochæus, president of the sanhe-
260 years before the Christian era.
He had taught the duty of serving God disinterestedly, with-
drim, or great council of the nation.
out the hope of reward, or the fear of punishment. Sadok, not properly understanding the doctrine
of his master, drew the inference that there was no future state of rewards or punishments; and
The other notions which they held, all to be traced to this
on this belief he founded the sect.
leading doctrine, were,-1. That there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit (Matt. xxii.
23; Acts xxiii. 8); and that the soul of man perishes with the body. 2. They rejected the
doctrine of fate. 3. They rejected all traditions, and professed to receive only the books of the Old
Testament. They were far less numerous than the Pharisees, but their want of numbers was com-
pensated, in some degree, by their wealth and standing in society. Though they did not generally
seek office, yet several of them were advanced to the high priesthood.

III. The ESSENES, a third sect of the Jews, are not mentioned in the New Testament. They differed from both the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were Jewish monks or hermits, passing their time little in society, but mostly in places of obscurity and retirement. It is not probable, therefore, that our Saviour often, if ever, encountered them; and this, it is supposed, is the reason why they are not mentioned in the New Testament. They were a contemplative sect, having little to do with the common business of life. The property which they possessed they held in common. They denied themselves generally of the usual comforts of life, and were exceedingly strict in the observance of what they conceived to be duty. They were also, for the most part, more pure than the rest of the Jews, and appear to have been an unambitious, a modest, and retiring sort of people. The two sexes were not in company except on the Sabbath, when they partook of their coarse fare (bread and salt only) together. They practised dancing in their worship. Few of them were married; they were opposed to oaths; and asserted that slavery was repugnant to nature. In regard to doctrine, they did not differ materially from the Pharisees, except that they objected to the sacrifices of slain animals; and of course did not visit the temple. They perpetuated their sect by proselytes, and by adopting orphan children.

Other sects existed amongst the Jews, but they were too insignificant to demand any particular Whilst the particulars which have been mentioned regarding the three leading sects, notice here. will furnish the reader with materials for forming an estimate of their respective characters; it may be said of the Jews, generally, that they possessed little of the spirit of true religion-that they had corrupted some of the most important doctrines of the Bible-and that they were an ignorant, proud, ambitious, and sensual people. There was, therefore, great propriety in John's preaching to them the necessity of repentance.

bitten swells Generation of vipers. Vipers are a species of serpents. They are from two to five feet. in length. The person and about an inch thick, with a flat head. They are of an ash or yellowish colour, speckled with The word serpent, or viper, is long brown spots. There is no serpent that is more poisonous in its bite. up almost immediately, and falls down dead. See Acts xxviii. 6. Among the Jews the serpent was regarded as the used to denote both cunning and malignity. symbol of cunning, circumspection, and prudence. He was so regarded in the Egyptian hieroglyphics. In the phrase, Generation of vipers," the viper is the symbol of wickedness, of envenomed malice-a symbol drawn from the venom of the serpent. Wrath to come. John Of all sinners those are in the most hopeless conexpresses his astonishment that sinners so hardened and so hypocritical as they were, should have been induced to flee from coming wrath. dition, who, in the midst of deepest alienation from God, and the most profound slumber of spiritual death, yet fancy that all is well with them, and that they stand in need of nothing. They have a knowledge, after their own way, of the doctrines of grace; but these doctrines have no power over them. They are, to them, a dead letter, wholly without life and energy. The Pharisees, who came to John's preaching, were sinners of this complexion. None so self-righteous and spiritually proud as they; yet none so far from the kingdom of heaven-except, indeed, the Sadducees, whose pretensions to holiness were not so high, and many of whose doctrines were purely infidel."



The wrath to come. The Divine indignation, or the punishment that will come on the guilty. See 1 Thess. i. 10, 11, i. 8, 9.

8 Bring forth therefore fruits || meet for repentance :

[Or, answerable to amendment of life.

8. Bring forth therefore fruits, &c. That is, the proper fruits of reformation, the proper evidence that you are sincere. Do not bring your cunning and dissimulation to this work-carry not your hypocrisy into your professed repentance; but evince your sincerity by forsaking sin, and thus give evidence that this crowding to Jordan is not some act of dissimulation. No discourse could have been more appropriate or more severe. Fruits. Conduct. See Matt. vii. 16-19. ¶ Meet for repentance. Fit for repentance; appropriate to it; the proper expression of repentance.

9 And 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.

o John viii. 33, 39; Acts xiii. 26; Rom. iv. 1, 11, 16.

9. And think not to say, &c. They regarded it as sufficient righteousness that they were descended from so holy a man as Abraham. They deemed it as such an honour that it would go far to justify all his descendants. John viii. 33-37, 53. John assured them that this was a matter of small consequence in the sight of God: of the very stones of the Jordan he could raise up children to Abraham. The meaning seems to be this:-God, from these stones, could more easily raise up those who should be worthy children of Abraham, or be like him, than simply, because you are descendants of Abraham, make you, who are proud and hypocritical, subjects of the Messiah's kingdom. Or :-Mere nativity, or the privileges of birth, avail nothing where there is not faith and holiness of life. Some have supposed, however, that by these stones he meant the Roman soldiers, or the heathen, who might also have attended on his ministry; and that God could of them raise up children to Abraham.

10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

p Chap. vii. 19; Luke iii. 7, 9; John xv. 6.

10. The axe is laid at the root of the tree. Laying the axe at the root of a tree is intended to denote that the tree is to be cut down. It was not merely to be trimmed, to be cut about the limbs, but the very tree itself was to be struck; that is, a searching, trying kind of preaching has been commenced; a kingdom of justice is to be set up; principles and conduct are to be investigated; no art, no dissimulation, are to be successful; men are to be tried by their lives, not by birth, or profession; they who are not found to bear this test are to be rejected;—the very root shall feel the blow, and the fruitless tree shall fall. This is a beautiful and very striking figure of speech, and a very direct threatening of future wrath. John regarded them as making a fair and promising profession, as trees do in blossom. But he told them, also, that they should bear fruit as well as flowers. Their professions of repentance were not enough, they should show, by a holy life, that their profession was genuine.

11 I indeed baptize you with 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 with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

q Mark i. 8; Luke iii. 16; Acts i. 5, xi. 16, xix. 4.

Isa. xliv. 3; Acts ii. 3, 4; 1 Cor. xii. 13.

11. Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. The word here translated shoes, has a signification different from what it has in our language. At first, in order to keep the feet from the sharp stones, or the burning sand, small pieces of wood were fastened to the soles of the feet, called sandals. Leather, or skins of beasts dressed, afterwards were used. The foot was not covered at all; but the sandal, or piece of leather, or wood, was bound by thongs.

The annexed cuts will give an idea of the early form of the shoe, or sandal, and of the thongs or latchets by which they were bound; and will serve to explain this and other passages of the New Tes tament, when reference is made to them. The first (a), is taken from ancient Egyptian monuments.

A. D. 26.]


It has a We subjoin (b, c) other forms of leather sandals, and such as are still in common use in many The wooden sandal is much worn in Arabia, Judea and Egypt. countries of the East. raised heel and toe, as represented in the following cuts; and though often expensive and neat, it was usually a cheap, coarse, and very clumsy article.



The people put off these when they entered a house, and put them on when they left it. To loose and bind on sandals on such occasions was the business of the lowest servants; and their office was, to loose and carry about their masters' sandals. The expression here, then, was an expression of great humility; and John says that he was not worthy to be the servant of Him who should come after him. Shall baptize you. Shall send upon you the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is frequently represented as being poured out upon his people. Prov. i. 23; Isa. xliv. 3; Joel ii. 28, 29; Acts ii. 17, 18. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the same, therefore, as the sending of his influences to The Holy Ghost. The third person of the adorable Trinity, convert, purify, and guide the soul. whose office it is to enlighten, renew, sanctify, and comfort the soul. He was promised by the Saviour to convince of sin (John xvi. 8); to enlighten or teach the disciples (John xiv. 26, xvi. 13); Many more would be to comfort them in the absence of the Saviour (John xiv. 17, xvi. 7); to change the heart (Tit. iii. 5) To be baptized with the Holy Ghost means, that the Messiah would send upon the world a far more powerful and mighty influence than had attended the preaching of John. Some have converted- -a mighty change would take place; his ministry would not affect the external life only, but the heart, the motives, the soul—and produce rapid and permanent changes in the lives of men. See Acts ii. 17, 18. With fire. This expression has been very variously understood. A part of his hearers he would supposed that he refers to the afflictions and persecutions with which men would be tried under the Gospel; others, that the word fire means judgment, or wrath. baptize with the Holy Ghost, but the wicked with fire and vengeance. Fire is a symbol of vengeance. See Isa. y. 24, lxi. 2, lxvi. 24. If this be the meaning, as seems to be probable, then John says that the ministry of the Messiah would be far more powerful than his was: it would be more searching and trying, and they who were not fitted to abide the test would be cast into eternal fire. Some have supposed, however, that by fire, here, he intends to denote that his ministry would be refining, powerful, purifying, as fire is sometimes an emblem of purity. Mal. iii. 2. It is difficult to ascertain the precise meaning, further than that his ministry would be very trying, purifying, searching. Multitudes would be converted; and those who were not true penitents should not be able to abide the trial, and should be driven away.

12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will 'burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

s Mal. iii. 3.

t Mal. iv. 1: Matt. xiii. 30.

12. His fan. It seems probable that this was some portable instrument, made light, so that it might be easily carried about. The fan is a well-known agricultural instrument, which was used by the Jews, as it is at the present day, to separate grain from the chaff. The usual custom was, to throw the grain in the air by means of a large shovel, and suffer the wind to drive the chaff away; but it is probable that the fan was often employed. His floor. The thrashing-floor was an open space, or area, in the field, usually on an elevated part of the land. Gen. 1. 10. It was a space of ground 30 or 40 paces in diameter, and made smooth by rolling it, or treading it hard. A high Sometimes it was beaten with flails, as place was selected for the purpose of keeping it dry, and for the convenience of winnowing the grain by the wind. The grain was usually trodden out by oxen. with us; and sometimes with a sharp thrashing instrument, made to roll over the grain, and to cut

the straw at the same time. Isa. xli. 15. After being thrashed it was winnowed. The grain was then separated from the dirt and coarse chaff by a sieve, and then still further cleansed by a fanan instrument to produce an artificial wind. This method is still practised in Eastern nations:

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

Shall purge. Shall cleanse, or purify-shall remove the chaff, &c. The garner. The granery, or place to deposit the wheat. Unquenchable fire. Fire that shall not be extinguished, that will utterly consume it. By the floor, here, is represented the Jewish people; by the wheat, the righteous, or the people of God; by the chaff, the wicked-they are represented as being driven away like chaff before the wind. Job xxi. 18; Ps. i. 4; Isa. xvii. 13; Hosea xiii. 13. They are also represented as chaff which the fire consumes. Isa. v. 24. This image is often used to express judgments. Isa. xli. 15, "Thou shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff." By the unquenchable fire is meant the eternal suffering of the wicked in hell. 2 Thess, i. 8, 9; Mark ix. 48; Matt. xxv. 41.


"Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

[blocks in formation]

14. John forbad him. Refused him. I have need. It is more fit that I should be baptized with thy baptism, the Holy Ghost, than that thou shouldest be baptized with water by me. I am a sinner, and unworthy to administer this to the Messiah.

15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

15. Thus it becometh us. It is fit and proper: and though you may feel yourself unworthy, yet it is proper it should be done. All righteousness. There was no particular precept in the Old Testament requiring this, but he chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance. The phrase "all righteousness," here, is the same as a righteous institution, or appointment. Jesus had no sin; but he was about to enter on his great work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connection with him, and give his approbation to what John had done. Also, he was baptized that occasion might be taken, at the commencement of his work, for God publicly to declare his approbation of him, and his solemn appointment to the office of the Messiah.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

[blocks in formation]

16. Out of the water. This shows that he had descended to the river. It literally means,


« AnteriorContinuar »