In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
1. Now in those days John the Baptist comes, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2. And saying, Repent:  for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, 3. For this is he, of whom it has been spoken by Isaiah the prophet, who says, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4. And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan. 6. And were baptized in Jordan by him, confessing their sins.
1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 2. As it is written in the prophets, Lo, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. 3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4. John was baptizing in the wilderness, preaching the baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. 5. And all the country of Judea, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, went out to him, and were all baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a leathern girdle about his loins, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
1. And in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the country of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2. While Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of the Lord came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3. And he came into all the country surrounding Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4. As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be laid low, and those things which are crooked shall become straight, and those which are rough shall become plain ways. 6. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Mark 1:1. The beginning of the Gospel. Though what we have hitherto taken out of Matthew and Luke is a part of the Gospel, yet it is not without reason that Mark makes the beginning of the Gospel to be the preaching of John the Baptist. For the Law and the Prophets then came to an end, (John 1:17.) "The Law and the Prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached," (Luke 16:16.) And with this agrees most fully the quotation which he makes from the Prophet Malachi, (3:1.) In order to inflame the minds of his people with a stronger desire of the promised salvation, the Lord had determined to leave them, for a time, without new prophecies. We know that the last of the true and lawful prophets was Malachi.
That the Jews, in the meantime, may not faint with hunger, he exhorts them to continue under the Law of Moses, until the promised redemption appear. He mentions the law only, (John 1:17,) because the doctrine of the Prophets was not separate from the law, but was merely an appendage and fuller exposition of it, that the form of government in the Church might depend entirely on the Law. It is no new or uncommon thing in Scripture, to include the Prophets under the name of the Law: for they were all related to it as their fountain or design. The Gospel was not an inferior appendage to the Law, but a new form of instruction, by which the former was set aside.
Malachi, distinguishing the two conditions of the Church, places the one under the Law, and commences the other with the preaching of John. He unquestionably describes the Baptist, when he says, "Behold, I send my messenger," (Malachi 3:1:) for, as we have already said, that passage lays down an express distinction between the Law and the new order and condition of the Church. With the same view he had said a little before, (which is quoted by Mark, [9:13;] for the passages are quite similar,) "Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord," (Malachi 4:5.) Again,
"Behold, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple," (Malachi 3:1.)
In both passages, the Lord promises a better condition of his Church than had existed under the Law, and this unquestionably points out the beginning of the Gospel But before the Lord came to restore the Church, a forerunner or herald was to come, and announce that he was at hand. Hence we infer, that the abrogation of the Law, and the beginning of the Gospel, strictly speaking, took place when John began to preach.
The Evangelist John presents to us Christ clothed in flesh, "the Word made flesh," (John 1:14;) so that his birth and the whole history of his appearance are included in the Gospel. But here Mark inquires, when the Gospel began to be published, and, therefore, properly begins with John, who was its first minister. And with this view the Heavenly Father chose that the life of his Son should be buried, as it were, in silence, until the time of the full revelation arrived. For it did not happen without the undoubted Providence of God, that the Evangelists leave out the whole period which Christ spent in private, and pass at once from his earliest infancy to his thirtieth year, when he was openly exhibited to the world, invested with his public character as a Redeemer; Luke excepted, who slightly touches one indication of his future calling, which occurred about his twelfth year, (Luke 2:42.)
It had a very close connection with this object, that we should be informed, first, that Christ is a true man, (John 1:14,) and next, that he is "the Son of Abraham and of David," (Matthew 1:1;) as to both of which, the Lord has been pleased to give us an attestation. The other matters which we have examined, relating to "the shepherds," (Luke 2:8,) the "Magi," (Matthew 2:1,) and "Simeon," (Luke 2:25,) were intended to prove his Divinity. What Luke relates about John and his father Zacharias, (Luke 1:5,) was a sort of preparation for the Gospel.
There is no impropriety in the change of the person which is here made, in quoting the words of Malachi. According to the prophet, God says, I send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way Before Me. Mark introduces God as addressing the Son, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way Before Thee. But we see that Mark had no other intention, than to express more clearly the prophet's meaning. Mark designates Christ the Son of God The other Evangelists testify that he was born of the seed of Abraham and David, and therefore was the Son of man, (Matthew 8:20.) But Mark shows us, that no redemption is to be expected but from the Son of God
Matthew 3:1 Now in those days Luke 3:1. And in the fifteenth year It could not be gathered from Matthew and Mark in what year of his age John began to preach: but Luke shows sufficiently, that he was about thirty years of age. The ancient writers of the Church are almost unanimously agreed, that he was born fifteen years before the death of Augustus. His successor Tiberius had held the government of the Roman Empire for fifteen years, when the same John began to preach. In this way are made up the thirty years which I have mentioned. Hence it follows, that he did not long discharge the office of teacher, but, in a short time, gave way to Christ; for we shall soon find, that Christ also was baptized in the thirtieth year of his age, when he was immediately installed into the discharge of his public office. Now as John, the morning-star, or dawn, was immediately followed by Christ, "the Sun of Righteousness," (Malachi 4:2,) there is no reason to wonder, that John disappeared, in order that Christ might shine alone in greater brightness.
Luke 3:1. When Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea It is probable that this was the second year of Pilate's government: for since Tiberius had held the reins of government, he had, as Josephus informs us, (xviii. 2:2,) appointed Valerius Gratus to be governor of Judea, in room of Annius Rufus. This change might take place in his second year. The same Josephus writes, that Valerius was governor of Judea for "eleven years, when Pontius Pilate came as his successor," (Ant. 18:2:2.) Pilate, therefore, had governed the province for two years, when John began to preach the Gospel. This Herod, whom Luke makes tetrarch of Judea, was the second heir of Herod the Great, and succeeded to his father by will. Archelaus had received the ethnarchy of Judea, but, when he was banished to Vienna (Jos. Wars, 2, vii. 3) by Augustus, that portion fell into the hands of the Romans. Luke mentions here two sons of Herod, -- Herod Antipas, who had been made tetrarch of Galilee, and governed Samaria and Peraea, -- and Philip, who was tetrarch of Trachonitis and Iturea, and reigned from the sea of Tiberias, or Gennesareth, to the foot of Lebanon, which is the source of the river Jordan.
Lysanias has been falsely supposed to be the son of Ptolemy Mennaeus, King of Chalcis, who had been long before put to death by Cleopatra, about thirty years before the birth of Christ, as Josephus relates, (Ant. 15:4:1.) He could hardly even be the grandson of Ptolemy, who, as the same Josephus records, kindled the Parthian war, (Wars, 1, xiii. 1;) for then he must have been more than sixty years of age at the time of which Luke speaks. Besides, as it was under Antigonus that the Parthian war commenced, he must even then have been a full-grown man. Now Ptolemy Mennaeus died not long after the murder of Julius Caesar, during the triumvirate of Lepidus, Antony, and Octavius, (Jos. Wars, 1, xiii. 1.) But as this grandson of Ptolemy bore the name of Lysanias as well as his father, he might have left a son who had the same surname. Meanwhile, there can be no hesitation in rejecting the error of those who make Lysanias to live sixty years after he had been slain by Cleopatra.
The word Tetrarch is here used in a sense not quite accurate, as if the whole country had been divided into four parts. But as at first there was a fourfold division into districts, so afterwards, when other changes took place, the names Tetrarch and Tetrarchies were retained by way of honor. In this sense Pliny enumerates seventeen tetrarchies of one country.
Luke 3:2. Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests It is certain, that there never were two persons who held the office of high priest at the same time. Josephus states, that Valerius Gratus made Caiaphas high priest, a short time before he left the government. During the time that Pilate was governor of Judea, Josephus does not speak of him as having made any change in this respect;  but, on the contrary, states that, when Pilate had been recalled from the government, and sent to plead his cause at Rome, Vitellius, who was at that time governor of Syria, reduced Caiaphas to a private rank, and transferred the high priesthood to Jonathan, the son of Ananus, (Ant. 18:4:3.) When Luke says that there were two high priests, we must not understand him to mean, that both held the same title, but that the honor of the priesthood was partly shared with him by Annas his father-in-law. Luke's narrative indicates such a state of trouble and confusion, that, though there was not more than one person who was actually high priest, the sacred office was torn in pieces by ambition and tyranny.
The word of the Lord came upon John Before relating, as the other Evangelists do, that John began to exercise his office of teaching, Luke asserts that he was divinely called to that office: and he does so, in order to assure us, that the ministry of John carried undoubted authority. Why the interpreters have chosen to translate the word, epi 'Ioannen, UPON John, instead of TO John, I do not see: but because there is no ambiguity as to the meaning, that this commission was entrusted to him, and that he received a command to preach, I have followed the received version. Hence infer, that there are no regular teachers, but those on whom God has conferred the office; and that it is not enough to have the word of God, if there be not likewise a special calling.
Matthew and Mark do not speak of the preaching of John as extending beyond the wilderness, while Luke says, that he came into all the country around Jordan These statements may be reconciled by observing, that John discharged the office of teaching among the neighbors, with whom he dwelt; but that his Gospel spread more widely, and became known in many places, so that the report of it, in a short time, reached Jerusalem. Indeed, the whole of that tract of the Jordan might be called a wilderness: for the word does not mean "a solitude," but "a rough, and mountainous, and thinly inhabited district."
Matthew 3:2. Repent ye Matthew differs from the other two Evangelists in this respect, that he relates the substance of John's doctrine, as uttered by John himself, while they relate it in their own words; though Mark has one word more than Luke: for he says, he came Baptizing, and preaching the baptism of repentance But in substance there is the most perfect agreement: for they all connect repentance with the forgiveness of sins. The kingdom of God among men is nothing else than a restoration to a happy life; or, in other words, it is true and everlasting happiness. When John says, that the kingdom of God is at hand, his meaning is, that men, who were alienated from the righteousness of God, and banished from the kingdom of heaven, must be again gathered to God, and live under his guidance. This is accomplished by a free adoption and the forgiveness of sins, by which he reconciles to himself those who were unworthy. In a word, the kingdom of heaven is nothing else than "newness of life," (Romans 6:4,) by which God restores us to the hope of a blessed immortality. Having rescued us from the bondage of sin and death, he claims us as his own; that, even while our pilgrimage on earth continues, we may enjoy the heavenly life by faith: for he
"hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ,"
Though we are like dead men, yet we know that our life is secure; for it "is hid with Christ in God," (Colossians 3:3.)
From this doctrine, as its source, is drawn the exhortation to repentance. For John does not say, "Repent ye, and in this way the kingdom of heaven will afterwards be at hand;" but first brings forward the grace of God, and then exhorts men to repent Hence it is evident, that the foundation of repentance is the mercy of God, by which he restores the lost. In no other sense is it stated by Mark and Luke, that he preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins Repentance is not placed first, as some ignorantly suppose, as if it were the ground of the forgiveness of sins, or as if it induced God to begin to be gracious to us; but men are commanded to repent, that they may receive the reconciliation which is offered to them. Now, as the undeserved love of God -- by which he receives into his favor wretched men, "not imputing their trespasses unto them," (2 Corinthians 5:19) -- is first in order; so it must be observed, that pardon of sins is bestowed upon us in Christ, not that God may treat them with indulgence, but that he may heal us from our sins. And, indeed, without hatred of sin and remorse for transgressions, no man will taste the grace of God. But a definition of repentance and faith may explain more fully the manner in which both are connected; which leads me to handle this doctrine more sparingly.
With regard to the meaning of the present passage, it is proper to observe, that the whole Gospel consists of two parts, -- forgiveness of sins, and repentance Now, as Matthew denominates the first of these the kingdom of heaven, we may conclude, that men are in a state of deadly enmity with God, and altogether shut out from the heavenly kingdom, till God receives them into favor. Though John, when he introduces the mention of the grace of God, exhorts men to repentance, yet it must not be forgotten that repentance, not less than the inheritance of the heavenly kingdom, is the gift of God. As he freely pardons our sins, and delivers us, by his mercy, from the condemnation of eternal death, so also does he form us anew to his image, that we may live unto righteousness. As he freely adopts us for his sons, so he regenerates us by his Spirit, that our life may testify, that we do not falsely,  address him as our Father. In like manner, Christ washes away our sins by his blood, and reconciles our Heavenly Father to us by the sacrifice of his death; but, at the same time, in consequence of
"our old man being crucified with him, and the body of sin destroyed," (Romans 6:6)
he makes us "alive" unto righteousness. The sum of the Gospel is, that God, through his Son, takes away our sins, and admits us to fellowship with him, that we, "denying ourselves" and our own nature, may "live soberly, righteously, and godly," and thus may exercise ourselves on earth in meditating on the heavenly life.
Luke 3:3. Preaching the baptism of repentance This form of expression shows first, generally, what is the right use of the Sacraments; and next, why baptism was instituted, and in what it consists. A sacrament, then, is not a dumb ceremony, exhibiting some unmeaning pomp without doctrine; but the Word of God is joined to it, and gives life to the outward ceremony. By the Word I mean, not mutterings of a magical character, made by some exorcist between his teeth, but what is pronounced with a clear and distinct voice, and leads to the edification of faith. For we are not simply told, that John baptized unto repentance, as if the grace of God were contained in a visible sign; but that he explained, in his preaching, the advantage of baptism, that the sign, through the word preached, might produce its effect. This is the peculiarity of baptism, that it is said to be an outward representation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins Now, as the meaning, power, and nature of that baptism are the same as ours, if we judge of the figure from its true import, it is incorrect to say, that the baptism of John is different from the baptism of Christ. 
Matthew 3:3. The yoke of one crying in the wilderness Though this passage of the prophet Isaiah (40:3) ought not to be limited exclusively to John, yet he is one of the number of those to whom it certainly refers. After having spoken of the destruction of the city, and of the awful calamities that would befall the people, he promises a restoration that would follow. His words are,
"Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God," (Isaiah 40:1.)
When the temple had been thrown down, and sacrifices abolished, and the people led away into captivity, their affairs seemed to be desperate. And as their ears had been deaf to the uninterrupted voice of the prophets, the Lord kept silence for a time.  That pious minds may not be cast down during this melancholy silence, the prophet announces, that other preachers of grace will yet arise, to awaken in the people a hope of salvation. Such were Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi, and the like.  But as the restoration promised is perpetual, and not for a time only, and as Isaiah refers chiefly to the redemption, which was to be expressed at the coming of Christ, John the Baptist is justly considered the chief minister of consolation.
Next follows in the words of the prophet, The voice of one crying That voice is contrasted with the temporary silence,  which I have just mentioned: for the Jews were to be deprived, for a time, of the instruction, which they had wickedly despised. The word wilderness is here used metaphorically for desolation, or the frightful ruin of the nation, such as existed in the time of the captivity. It was so dismally shattered, that it might well be compared to a wilderness The prophet magnifies the grace of God. "Though the people," says he, "have been driven far from their country, and even excluded from the society of men, yet the voice of God will yet be heard in the wilderness, to revive the dead with joyful consolation." When John began to preach, Jerusalem was in this sense a wilderness: for all had been reduced to wild and frightful confusion. But the very sight of a visible wilderness must have had a powerful effect on stupid and hardened men, leading them to perceive that they were in a state of death, and to accept the promise of salvation, which had been held out to them. We now see, that this prediction actually relates to John, and is most properly applied to him.
Prepare the way of the Lord The prophet undoubtedly addresses Cyrus and the Persians, whose agency the Lord employed in this matter. The meaning is: by his wonderful power, God will open a way to his people through impassable forests, through broken rocks, through a sandy desert; for he will have at hand the ministers of his grace, to remove all hindrances out of the way. But that was a shadowy anticipation of redemption. When the spiritual truth is about to appear, John is sent to remove obstacles. And even now the same voice sounds in our ears, that we may prepare the way of the Lord: that is, that we may take out of the way those sins which obstruct the kingdom of Christ, and thus may give access to his grace. To the same purpose are the following words of the prophet: the crooked shall be made straight, (Isaiah 40:4.) All that they mean is: there are intricate and crooked windings in the world, but through such appalling difficulties the Lord makes a way for himself, and breaks through, by incredible means, to accomplish our salvation.
Luke 3:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God That salvation will not be at all obscure, or experienced by a small number of persons, but will strike every eye, and will be common to all. Hence it follows that this prediction was far from being accomplished, when the people returned from Babylon:  for though the Lord gave, at that time, a memorable display of his grace, yet he did not reveal his salvation to the whole world. On the contrary, the prophet's design was, to present the uncommon excellence of the salvation which was to be manifested, in contrast with God's former benefits, and thus to inform believers, that the dispensations of God towards his Church had never been so remarkable, nor his power so illustriously displayed in their deliverance. Flesh is here put for men, without being intended to denote their depravity. 
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,  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.  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.)
Matthew Luke 3:6; Mark 1:5. And were baptized, confessing their sins This confession was a testimony of repentance: for, as the Lord, in the sacraments, brings himself under obligation to us, as if he had given his own hand-writing, so it is our duty, on the other hand, to reply to him. In Baptism, he declares that our sins are forgiven, and calls us to repentance. That men may come forward, in a right manner, to be baptized, confession of sins is demanded from them: otherwise the whole performance would be nothing but an idle mockery  Let it be observed, that we are here speaking of adults, who ought not, we. are aware, to be admitted indiscriminately into the Church, or introduced by Baptism into the body of Christ,  till an examination has been previously made. 
Hence it is obvious, how absurdly this passage has been tortured by the Papists, to support auricular confession. There were no priests at hand, in whose ears each individual might privately mutter  his sins; nor is it said that they enumerated all their sins; nor are we told that John left in charge to his disciples an ordinary rule for confession. Even granting to Papists all that they ask, confession will belong to Catechumens alone,  and will have no place after Baptism. At all events, the law which they lay down for confession after Baptism, derives no countenance from John's example. 
 "Ammendez-vous, ou, convertissez, ou, repentez."-- "Reform yourselves, or be converted, or, repent."
 The whole passage is remarkable, and proves that the appointment to the sacred office of high priest was entirely at the disposal of the Roman Governor. "This man (Valerius Gratus) deprived Ananus of the high priesthood, and appointed Ishmael, the son of Phabi, to be high priest. He also deprived him in a little time, and ordained Eleazar, the son of Ananus, who had been high priest before, to be high priest: which office, when he had held for a year, Gratus deprived him of it, and gave the high priesthood to Simon, the son of Camithus; and, when he had possessed that dignity no longer than a year, Joseph Caiaphas was made his successor. When Gratus had done those things, he went back to Rome, after he had tarried in Judea eleven years, when Pontius Pilate came as his successor." -- (Ant. 18:2:2.)
 "Ce n'est pas a fausses enseignes ni par feintise." -- "It is not with false colors, nor by hypocrisy."
 "Maintenant puis que le Baptesme de Jean a eu mesme signification, vertu et propriete que le nostre, si nous voulons juger de la figure et du signe selon la chose signifee, c'est 'a dire la verite, nous trouverons que le Baptesme administre par Christ, n'a point este autre que celuy que Jean a administre."--"Now, since the baptism of John had the same meaning, power, and nature as ours, if we wish to judge of the figure and of the sign according to the thing signified, that is to say the reality, we shall find that the Baptism administered by Christ was no other than that which John administered."
 "Et pource qu'ils avoyent auparavant ferme leurs aureilles a la voix des prophetes, qui journellement et sans cesse, parloyent a eux, le Seigneur se teut, et laissa de parler a eux pour un temps." -- "And because they had formerly shut their ears to the voice of the prophets, who daily and unceasingly spoke to them, the Lord was silent, and ceased to speak to them for a time."
 "Malachie, Esdras, et autres semblables personnages." -- "Malachi, Ezra, and other similar characters."
 "Anquel il n'y avoit personne qui parlast au nom de Dieu;" -- "in which there was nobody who spoke in the name of God."
 "In populi reditu;" -- "quand le peuple est retourne de Babylone."
 "Le mot de Chair n'est pas ice mis pour denoter la corruption de nature, mais il signifie simplement les hommes." -- "The word Flesh is not put here to denote the corruption of nature, but means simply men."
 "Montanum hominem;" -- "un homme suivant les montagnes."
 "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."
 "Autrement, tout ce sainct mystere seroit tournee en mines et bas-tellerie." -- "Otherwise, all this holy mystery would be turned into grimaces and buffoonery."
 "En la communion de Christ;" -- "into communion or fellowship with Christ."
 "Devant qu'ils n'ayent este examinez et interroguez de leur foy;" --"before they have been examined and interrogated as to their faith."
 "Il n'y avoit point 1a de prestres, devant lequel un chacun eust peu s'a genouiller l'un apres l'autre, pourbarboter ses pechez en leurs aureilles." -- "There were no priests there, before whom each individual might kneel down, one after another, to mutter his sins in their ears."
 "Ceste confession n'appartient droit qu'a ceux qui de nouveau se convertissent a la foy." -- "That confession would only belong to those who are recently converted to the faith."
 "Pour le moins, quand ils commandent par leur loy de se confesser depuis le Baptesme, ils ne peuvent pas dire qu'ils ensuivent Jean, ny l'alleguer pour autheur." -- "At least, when they enjoin, by their law, to make confession after Baptism, they cannot say that they follow John, nor produce him as their author."
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way 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 his meat was locusts and wild honey.
Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
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?
7. And when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Offspring of vipers, who warned you that ye might flee from the wrath to come? 8. Yield then fruits worthy of repentance. 9. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our fathers: for I say to you, that God is able to raise, from these stones, children to Abraham. 10. And now also the axe is laid at the root of the trees: every tree, therefore, which yieldeth not good fruit, is cut down, and is thrown into the fire.
7. He said therefore to the multitudes, which went out, that they might be baptized by him, Offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8. Yield therefore fruits worthy of repentance. And begin to to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father: for I say to you, that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children to Abraham. 9. And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: every tree, therefore, which yieldeth not good fruit, is cut down, and is thrown into the fire. 10. And the multitudes asked him, saying, What then shall we do? 11. And he answering saith to them, He who hath two coats, let him impart to him who hath none; and he who hath food, let him do in like manner.  12. And the publicans also came, that they might be baptized, and said to him, Master, what shall we do? 13. And he said to them, Exact no more than what has been enjoined you. 14. And the soldiers also asked him, saying, And what shall we do? He saith to them, Do violence to no man, accuse no man falsely, and be content with your wages.
Matthew 3:7. And when he saw many of the Pharisees. It is here related by Matthew and Luke, that John did not merely preach repentance in a general manner, but that he also applied his discourse to individuals. And the manner of teaching will, in point of fact, be very unprofitable, if instructors do not judiciously inquire what the season demands, and what belongs to individuals. Nothing can be more unequal, in this respect, than a constant equality.  For this reason John, we are told, addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees with greater severity: because he saw that their hypocrisy, and swelling pride, rendered them liable to be more severely censured than the common people. To comprehend more fully his design, we must understand, that none are more stupid than hypocrites, who deceive themselves and others by the outward mask of holiness. While God thunders, on all sides, against the whole world, they construct a refuge for themselves in their own deceitful fancy; for they are convinced that they have nothing to do with the judgment of God. Does any one suppose, that John acted improperly, in treating them with so much harshness at the first interview? I:reply: They were not unknown to him,  and the knowledge he had of them was derived, not from acquaintance or experience, but, on the contrary, from a secret revelation of the Spirit. It was therefore necessary that he should not spare them, lest they might return home more inflated with pride. Is it again objected, that they ought not to have been terrified by such severity of reproof, because they made a profession, in baptism, that they would afterwards be different persons from what they had formerly been? The reply is still easy. Those whose habits of uttering falsehood to God, and of deceiving themselves, lead them to hold out hypocrisy and pretension, instead of the reality, ought to be urged, with greater sharpness than other men, to true repentance. There is an astonishing pertinacity, as I have said, in hypocrites; and, until they have been flayed by violence, they obstinately keep their skin.
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 know  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. 
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 wraths  ", (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.
Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8. Yield therefore fruits worthy of repentance. He confirms what I have already said, that the repentance, which is attested by words, is of no value, unless it be proved by the conduct: for it is too important a matter to be estimated lightly, or at random. And so John affirms, that the solemn declaration, which they made, is not enough, but that, in process of time, their works will make it evident, whether or not they have seriously repented.  It ought to be observed, that good works (Titus 3:8) are here called fruits of repentance: for repentance is an inward matter, which has its seat in the heart and soul, but afterwards yields its fruits in a change of life.  But as the whole of this part of doctrine has been grievously corrupted by Popery, we must attend to this distinction, that repentance is an inward renewal of the man, which manifests itself in the outward life, as a tree produces its fruit.
Matthew 3:9. And think not to say within yourselves. Luke 3:8. And begin not to say within yourselves. As the import of both phrases is undoubtedly the same, it is easy to ascertain what John meant. Till hypocrites are hard pressed, they either sleep in their sins, or indulge in licentious mirth.  But when they are summoned to the tribunal of God, they eagerly seek for some subterfuge or concealment, or some covering to interpose between God and them. John's address to the Pharisees and Sadducees amounts to this: "Now that I have sharply upbraided you, do not, as persons of your stamp are wont to do endeavor to find a remedy in an empty and deceitful title."
He thus tears from them the wicked confidence, by which they had been bewitched. The covenant, which God had made with Abraham, was employed by them as a shield to defend a bad conscience: not that they rested their salvation on the person of one man, but that God had adopted all the posterity of Abraham. Meanwhile, they did not consider, that none are entitled to be regarded as belonging to "the seed of Abraham," (John 8:33,) but those who follow his faith, and that without faith the covenant of God has no influence whatever in procuring salvation. And even the little word, in yourselves, is not without meaning: for though they did not boast in words, that they were Abraham's children, yet they were inwardly delighted with this title, as hypocrites are not ashamed to practice grosser impositions on God than on men.
God is able. The Jews flattered themselves with nearly the same pretenses, as are now brought forward insolently by the Papists. "There must be some Church in the world; because it is the will of God that he be acknowledged, and his name invoked, in the world. But the Church can be nowhere else than among us, to whom God has entrusted his covenant."  This arrogance was chiefly displayed by the high priests, and by others who had any share of government or authority. The common people were treated by them as profane and "accursed," (John 7:49,) and they looked upon themselves as the holy first-fruits; just as, in our own day, mitred Bishops, Abbots, Canons, Monks, Sorbonnists, and every description of Priests, glorying in the proud title of Clergy, regard the Laity with contempt. This error, of relying too much on the promise of God, John exposes and refutes, by saying that, though God passes by them, he will not want a Church.
The meaning of the words, therefore, is: "God has made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his seed. In one point you are mistaken. While you are worse than bastards,  you imagine that you are the only children of Abraham. But God will raise up elsewhere a new seed of Abraham, which does not now appear." He says in the dative case, children To ABRAHAM, (to 'Abraam,) to inform us, that the promise of God will not fail, and that Abraham, who relied on it, was not deceived, though his seed be not found in you. Thus from the beginning of the world the Lord has been faithful to his servants, and has never failed to fulfill the promise which he made to them, that he would extend mercy to their children, though he rejected hypocrites. Some imagine, that John spoke of the calling of the Gentiles. This appears to me to be without foundation: but as proud men did not believe it to be possible that the Church should be removed to another place, he reminds them, that God has in his power ways of preserving his Church, which they did not think of, any more than they believed that he could create children out of stones.
Matthew 3:10; Luke 3:9. And now also the axe. After having stripped hypocrites of the covering of a vain confidence, John announces the approaching judgment of God. He had formerly said that, though they were rejected, God would not want a people: and he now adds, that God is just about to drive out unworthy persons from the Church, as barren trees are wont to be cut down. His statement amounts to this, that God has already displayed his power for purifying the Church. The grace of God is never manifested for the salvation of the godly, till his judgment first appears for the destruction of the world: and for two reasons; because God then separates his own people from the reprobate, and because his wrath is kindled anew by the ingratitude of the world. So that we have no reason to wonder, if the preaching of the gospel and the coming of Christ laid the axe for cutting down barren trees, or if the same causes  daily advance the wrath of God against the wicked.
Luke 3:10 And the multitudes asked him. A true feeling of repentance produces in the mind of the poor sinner an eager desire to know what is the will or command of God. John's reply explains, in a few words, the fruits worthy of repentance: for the world is always desirous to acquit itself of its duty to God by performing ceremonies; and there is nothing to which we are more prone, than to offer to God pretended worship, whenever he calls us to repentance. But what fruits does the Baptist here recommend? The duties of charity, and of the second Table of the Law:  not that God disregards the outward profession of godliness, and of his worship; but that this is a surer mark of distinction, and less frequently leads to mistakes.  For hypocrites labor strenuously to prove themselves worshippers of God by the performance of ceremonies, -- paying no regard, however, to true righteousness: for they are either cruel to their neighbors, or addicted to falsehood and dishonesty.
It was therefore necessary to subject them to a more homely examination,  if they are just in their dealings with men, if they relieve the poor, if they are generous to the wretched, if they give liberally what the Lord has bestowed upon them. This is the reason why our Lord pronounces "judgment, mercy, and faith," to be "the weightier matters of the law," (Matthew 23:23,) and Scripture everywhere recommends "justice and judgment." We must particularly observe, that the duties of charity are here mentioned, not because they are of higher value than the worship of God, but because they testify the piety of men,  so as to detect the hypocrisy of those who boast with the mouth what is far distant from the heart.
But it is asked, did John lay this injunction, in a literal sense, on all whom he was preparing to be Christ's disciples, that they should not have two coats? We must observe, first, that this is the figure of speech which is called a Synecdoche, for under one example it comprehends a general rule. Hence it follows, that we must draw from it a meaning, which corresponds to the law of charity, as it is laid down by God: and that law is, that each person should give out of his abundance to supply the wants of the poor. God does not extort a tax, to be paid "grudgingly or of necessity" by those who, but for that necessity, would have chosen not to pay it: "for the Lord loveth a" willing and "cheerful giver," (2 Corinthians 9:7.) I make this observation, because it is of great consequence for men to be convinced, that the portion of their wealth which they bestow in this manner is a sacrifice pleasing and of good savor to God, -- that "with such sacrifices God is well pleased," (Hebrews 13:16.)
Those who lay it down as a law, that no man must have any property of his own, not only make consciences to tremble, but overwhelm them with despair. With fanatics of this sort, who obstinately adhere to the literal meaning, it is not necessary that we should spend much time in refutation. If we are not allowed to have two coats, the same rule will apply to dishes, to salt-cellars, to shirts, and, in short, to all the furniture of a house. But the context makes it evident, that nothing was farther from John's intention than to overthrow the order of a state. Hence we infer, that all that he enjoined on the rich was, that they should bestow on the poor, according to their own ability, what their necessity required.
"Consider to what extent the necessaries of life, which you enjoy abundantly, are wanted by your neighbors, that your abundance may be a supply for their want," (2 Corinthians 8:14.)
But the more liberty that God allows us, we ought to be the more careful not to allow ourselves undue liberty.  Let the necessity of our brethren affect us powerfully, and let the bounty of God, which is in our hands, stimulate us to acts of kindness and generosity.
Luke 3:12. And the publicans  also came. The publicans are not only exhorted, in general terms, to repent, but the duties peculiar to their calling are demanded: for we know that, besides the general rule of the law, each person ought to consider what is required by the nature of the employment to which he has been called. All Christians, without distinction, "are taught of God to love one another," (1 Thessalonians 4:9:) but then there follow particular duties, which a teacher, for example, is bound to perform towards the Church, -- a magistrate or prince towards the people, and the people, on the other hand, towards the magistrate, -- a husband towards his wife, and a wife towards her husband, -- and finally, children and parents toward each other. The Publicans, viewed as a class, were covetous, rapacious, and cruel, and often oppressed the people by unjust exactions. In consequence of this, the Baptist reproves them for those offenses, with which that class was, for the most part, chargeable, when he commands them not to go beyond moderation in exacting tribute. At the same time, we draw this inference, that it is quite as lawful for a Christian man to receive or levy taxes, as for a magistrate to impose them.
In the same way we must judge about war. John does not order the soldiers to throw away their arms, and to relinquish their oath; but he forbids them to pillage the wretched people under the pretense of their duty as soldiers, to bring false accusations against the innocent, and to be guilty of extortions, -- all of which crimes the greater part of them were accustomed to practice. These words obviously contain an approbation of civil government. It is a piece of idle sophistry to say, that John's hearers were ignorant people, and that he gave them nothing more than elementary instructions, which fell very far short of Christian perfection. John's office was, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, (Luke 1:17) and there is no doubt that it was entirely and faithfully performed. Those men are guilty of calumny and sacrilege, who slander the Gospel, by declaring it to be opposed to human governments;  as if Christ destroyed what his heavenly Father sanctioned. But, without the sword, laws are dead, and legal judgments have no force or authority. Magistrates require not only an executioner,  but other attendants, among whom are the military,  without whose assistance and agency it is impossible to maintain peace. Still, the object must be considered. Princes must not allow themselves to sport with human blood, nor must soldiers give themselves up to cruelty, from a desire of gain, as if slaughter were their chief business: but both must be drawn to it by necessity, and by a regard to public advantage.
 "Qui a a manger, face la semblable." -- "He who hath to eat, let him do the like."
 "Et n' y a rien plus inegal en cest endroit, que de vouloir garder tousjours une mesme egalite." -- "And nothing is more unequal, in this respect, than to wish to maintain always one uniform equality.
 "Je res ond uil co oissoit bien quelles gens c'estoyent." -- "I reply, that he knew well what sort of people they were."
 "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."
 "Afin qu'il ne leur eschappe aucun mot inconsiderement, et a la volee;" -- "that no word may escape them inconsiderately, and at random."
 "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."
 "Si leur repentance est vraye, et si c'est it bon escient qu'ils vienent k luy." -- "If their repentance is true, and if it is in good earnest that they come to him."
 "Par le changement et amendement de vie;" -- "by the change and amendment of life."
 "Ils s'endorment toujours en leurs vices, ou s'egayent comme chevaux eschappez." -- "They sleep always in their sins, or indulge in merriment, like horses let loose."
 "D'autant que le Seigneur nous a ordonnez gardiens de son alliance." -- "Because the Lord has appointed us guardians of his covenant."
 "Quum sitis plus quam degeneres." -- "Combien qu' a la verite vous soyez pires que bastards."
 "Ces deux choses mesme;" -- "these very two things."
 "Des ceuvres de charite comprises en la seconde Table de la Loy;" -- "works of charity included in the second Table of the Law."
 "Non pas que Dieu ne requiere aussi une profession externe de son service et de la crainte de son nom, mais pource que l'autre partie est la marque la plus certaine pour cognoians, et, laquelle vrals on est le moins abuse." -- "Not that God does not require also an external profession of his service and of the fear of his name, but because the other part is the surest mark to know true penitents, and one in which there is less risk of deception."
 "C'est a dire, ou ils ne peuvent pas si aisement tromper." -- "That is to say, in which they cannot so easily deceive."
 "De la crainte de Dieu qui est en l'homme;" -- "of the fear of God which is in man."
 "Cependant, tant plus Dieu nous traite doucement, et nous donne de liberte, tant plus faut-il que nous prenions garde a ne nous flatter ou lascher par trop la bride." -- "Yet the more gently God treats us, and the more liberty he gives us, so much the more ought we to take care not to flatter ourselves, or loose the bridle too much."
 "Peagets;" -- "tax-gatherers."
 "Qui veulent faire accroire qu'elle n'a rouve point les principautes, empires et gouvernements qui sont entre les hornroes; -- "who wish to make it believed that it does not approve of the principalities, empires, and governments, which exist among men."
 "Un bourreau;" -- "a hangman."
 "Les gendarmes."
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
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.
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.
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:
11. I indeed baptize you with water to repentance: but he who cometh after me is stronger than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. 12. Whose winnowing-fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his thrashing-floor, and will collect the wheat into his barn: but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
7. And he preached, saying, One cometh after me, that latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. 8. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
15. And while the people were waiting, and while all were thinking in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ: 16. John answered to all, saying, I indeed baptize you with water, but there cometh one stronger than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. 17. Whose winnowing-fan is in his hand, and he will cleanse his thrashing-floor, and will collect the wheat into his barn: but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. 18. And exhorting also as to many other things, he preached the Gospel  to the people.
The three Evangelists relate the Baptist's discourse in the same words. In one respect, Luke's account is more full: for he opens it by explaining the occasion on which this discourse was delivered. It arose from the people being in danger of being led, by a false opinion, to convey to him the honor which was due to Christ. To remove, as soon as possible, every occasion of such a mistake, he expressly declares, that he is not the Christ, and draws such a distinction between Christ and himself as to maintain Christ's prerogative. He would have done this of his own accord, by handing them over, to use a common expression, as disciples to Christ: but he takes up the matter at an earlier stage, lest, by remaining silent any longer, he should confirm the people in an error.
He who cometh after me is stronger than I Christ is thus declared to be so far superior in power and rank, that, with respect to him, John must occupy a private station.  He uses ordinary forms of speech to magnify the glory of Christ, in comparison of whom he declares that he himself is nothing. The chief part of his statement is, that he represents Christ as the author of spiritual baptism, and himself as only the minister of outward baptism. He appears to anticipate an objection, which might be brought forward. What was the design of the Baptism which he had taken upon himself? For it was no light matter to introduce any innovation whatever into the Church of God, and particularly to bring forward a new way of introducing persons into the Church, which was more perfect than the law of God. He replies, that he did not proceed to do this without authority; but that his office, as minister of an outward symbol, takes nothing away from the power and glory of Christ.
Hence we infer, that his intention was not at all to distinguish between his own baptism, and that which Christ taught his disciples, and which he intended should remain in perpetual obligation in his Church. He does not contrast one visible sign with another visible sign, but compares the characters of master and servant with each other, and shows what is due to the master, and what is due to the servant. It ought not to have any weight with us, that an opinion has long and extensively prevailed, that John's baptism differs from ours. We must learn to form our judgment from the matter as it stands, and not from the mistaken opinions of men. And certainly the comparison, which they imagine to have been made, would involve great absurdities. It would follow from it, that the Holy Spirit is given, in the present day, by ministers. Again, it would follow that John's baptism was a dead sign, and had no efficacy whatever. Thirdly, it would follow, that we have not the same baptism with Christ: for it is sufficiently evident, that the fellowship, which he condescends to maintain with us, was ratified by this pledge,  when he consecrated baptism in his own body.
We must therefore hold by what I have already said, that John merely distinguishes, in this passage, between himself and the other ministers of baptism, on the one hand, and the power of Christ, on the other, and maintains the superiority of the master over the servants. And hence we deduce the general doctrine, as to what is done in baptism by men, and what is accomplished in it by the Son of God. To men has been committed nothing more than the administration of an outward and visible sign: the reality dwells with Christ alone. 
Scripture does sometimes, though not in a literal sense,  ascribe to men what John here declares not to belong to men, but claims exclusively for Christ. In such cases, however, the design is not to inquire, what man has separately and by himself, but merely to show, what is the effect and advantage of signs, and in what manner God makes use of them, as instruments, by his Spirit. Here also is laid down a distinction between Christ and his ministers, that the world may not fall into the mistake, of giving to them what is justly due to him alone: for there is nothing to which they are more prone, than to adorn creatures with what has been taken from God by robbery. A careful attention to this observation will rid us of many difficulties. We know what disputes have arisen, in our own age, about the advantage and efficacy of signs, all of which may be disposed of in a single word. The ordinance of our Lord, viewed as a whole, includes himself as its Author, and the power of the Spirit, together with the figure and the minister: but where a comparison is made between our Lord and the minister, the former must have all the honor, and the latter must be reduced to nothing.
Matthew 3:11. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire It is asked, why did not John equally say, that it is Christ alone who washes souls with his blood? The reason is, that this very washing is performed by the power of the Spirit, and John reckoned it enough to express the whole effect of baptism by the single word Spirit The meaning is clear, that Christ alone bestows all the grace which is figuratively represented by outward baptism, because it is he who "sprinkles the conscience" with his blood. It is he also who mortifies the old man, and bestows the Spirit of regeneration. The word fire is added as an epithet, and is applied to the Spirit, because he takes away our pollutions, as fire purifies gold. In the same manner, he is metaphorically called water in another passage, (John 3:5.)
12. Whose winnowing-fan is in his hand In the former verse, John preached concerning the grace of Christ, that the Jews might yield themselves to him to be renewed: now he discourses of judgment, that he may strike despisers with terror. As there are always many hypocrites who proudly reject the grace of Christ offered to them, it is also necessary to denounce the judgment that awaits them. For this reason John here describes Christ as a severe judge against unbelievers. And this is an order which must be observed by us in teaching, that hypocrites may know, that their rejection of Christ will not go unpunished. They will thus be roused from their lethargy, and begin to dread him as an avenger, whom they despised as the author of salvation.
I have no doubt, that John intended also to show, what Christ accomplishes by means of his Gospel. The preaching of the Gospel, then, is the winnowing-fan Before the Lord sifts us, the whole world is involved in confusion, every one flatters himself, and the good are mixed with the bad in short, it is only necessary that the chaff be blown. But when Christ comes forward with his Gospels, -- when he reproves the consciences and summons them to the tribunal of God, the chaff is sifted out,  which formerly occupied a great part of the thrashing-floor It is true that, in the case of individuals, the Gospel effects a separation from the chaff: but in this passage, John compares the reprobate to chaff, and believers to wheat The thrashing floor accordingly denotes -- not the world, (as some people imagine,) but the Church: for we must attend to the class of persons whom John addresses. The mere title filled the Jews with pride,  but John tells them that it is foolish in them to be proud of it, because they hold but a temporary place in the Church of God, from which they are soon to be thrown out, like chaff from the thrashing-floor. In this way, he gives a rapid glance at the corrupt state in which the Church then was: for it was covered with husks, and straws, and other rubbish, but would soon be cleansed by the strong breeze of the Gospel. But how is Christ said to separate the chaff from the wheat, when he can find nothing in men but mere chaff? The answer is easy. The elect are formed into wheat,  and are then separated from the chaff, and collected into the granary
He will thoroughly cleanse his thrashing-floor This work was begun by Christ, and is daily going forward: but the full accomplishment of it will not be seen till the last day. This is the reason why John draws our attention to the subject. But let us remember, that believers even now enter, by hope, into the granary of God, in which they will actually have their everlasting abode; while the reprobate experience, in their convictions of guilt, the heat of that fire, the actual burning of which they will feel at the last day.
Many persons, I am aware, have entered into ingenious debates about the eternal fire, by which the wicked will be tormented after the judgment. But we may conclude from many passages of Scripture, that it is a metaphorical expression. For, if we must believe that it is real, or what they call material fire, we must also believe that the brimstone and the fan are material, both of them being mentioned by Isaiah.
"For Tophet is ordained of old; the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it," (Isaiah 30:33.)
We must explain the fire in the same manner as the worm, (Mark 9:44, 46, 48.) and if it is universally agreed that the worm is a metaphorical term, we must form the same opinion as to the fire. Let us lay aside the speculations, by which foolish men weary themselves to no purpose, and satisfy ourselves with believing, that these forms of speech denote, in a manner suited to our feeble capacity, a dreadful torment, which no man can now comprehend, and no language can express.
 "In ordinem cogendus sit." -- "Il faut qu'il baissc la teste." -- "He must bow the head."
 "A este confirme et ratifie par ce signe;" -- "was confirmed and ratified by this sign."
 "La verite du Baptesme vient et procede du Christ seul." -- "The truth of Baptism comes and proceeds from Christ alone."
 "Les pailles s'en vont avec le vent;" -- "the chaff goes away with the wind."
 "Les Juifs s'arrestoyent a ce beau titre de Peuple de Dieu, et d'En-fans d'Abraham, et s'en enfioyent." -- "The Jews dwelt upon this fine title of People of God, and Children of Abraham, and were proud of it."
 "Les esleus, qui de leur nature ne sont que paille, deviennent froment par la grace de Dieu." -- "The elect, who by their nature are only chaff; become wheat by the grace of God."
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.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
13. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan to John, that he might be baptized by him. 14. But John forbade  him, saying, I have need to be baptized by thee, and dost thou come to me? 15. And Jesus answering said to him, Suffer it now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffers him. 16. And Jesus, having been baptized, went up immediately from the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. 17. And, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my be loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
9. And it happened in those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in Jordan. 10. And immediately, when he was going up out of the water, he saw the heavens cleft assunder, and the Spirit descending as a dove, upon him. 11. And a voice came from heaven, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
21. And it happened, that, while all the people were being baptized,  when Jesus had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22. And that the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily appearance,  as a dove, upon him, and a voice came from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son: in thee I am well pleased. 23. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age.
Matthew 3:13. That he might be baptized by him. For what purpose did the Son of God wish to be baptized? This may be learned, in some measure, from his answer. We have already assigned a special reason. He received the same baptism with us, in order to assure believers, that they are ingrafted into his body, and that they are "buried with him in baptism," that they may rise to "newness of life," (Romans 6:4.) But the end, which he here proposes, is more extensive: for thus it became him to fulfill all righteousness, (verse 15.) The word righteousness frequently signifies, in Scripture, the observation of the law: and in that sense we may explain this passage to mean that, since Christ had voluntarily subjected himself to the law, it was necessary that he should keep it in every part. But I prefer a more simple interpretation. "Say nothing for the present," said our Lord, "about my rank:  for the question before us is not, which of us deserves to be placed above the other.  Let us rather consider what our calling demands, and what has been enjoined on us by God the Father." The general reason why Christ received baptism was, that he might render full obedience to the Father; and the special reason was, that he might consecrate baptism in his own body, that we might have it in common with him.
14. I have need to be baptized by thee. It is certain, that John acknowledged Christ to be not only a distinguished prophet, as many foolishly dream, but the Son of God, as he really was: for otherwise he would have dishonored God by lowering his holy calling to a mortal man. How he came to know this, the reader will learn by consulting John's Gospel, (1:15,33.) There was, no doubt, plausibility in this ground of refusal, that Christ had no need of his baptism: but John was mistaken in not considering, that it was for the sake of others that baptism was asked.  And so Christ bids him consider, what was suitable to the character of a servant, (Philippians 2:7,) which he had undertaken; for a voluntary subjection takes nothing from his glory. Though the good man  remained ignorant, for a time, of some part of his public duty, this particular error did not prevent him from discharging, in a proper and lawful manner, his office of Baptist. This example shows, that we do not act rashly, in undertaking the commission which the Lord has given us, according to the light we enjoy, though we do not immediately comprehend all that belongs to our calling, or that depends upon it. We must also observe his modesty, in giving up his opinion, and immediately obeying Christ.
16. And, lo, the heavens were opened to him. The opening of the heavens sometimes means a manifestation of heavenly glory; but here it means also a cleft, or opening, of the visible heaven, so that John could see something beyond the planets and stars. The words of Mark can have no other meaning, he saw the heavens cleft asunder  An exact inquiry into the way in which this opening was made, would be of no importance, nor is it necessary. It is sufficient for us to believe, that it was a symbol of the Divine presence. As the Evangelists say that John saw the Holy Spirit, it is probable that the opening of the heavens was chiefly on his account. Yet I do not hesitate to admit that Christ also, so far as he was man, received from it additional certainty as to his heavenly calling. This appears to be the tendency of the words of Luke: while Jesus was praying, the heaven was opened, (Luke 3:21:) for, though his prayers were always directed towards the benefit of others, yet as man, when he commenced a warfare of so arduous a description, he needed to be armed with a remarkable power of the Spirit.
But here two questions arise. The first is, why did the Spirit, who had formerly dwelt in Christ, descend upon him at that time? This question is answered by a passage of the prophet Isaiah, which will be handled in another place.
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord God hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted," (Isaiah 61:1.)
Though the grace of the Spirit was bestowed on Christ in a remarkable and extraordinary manner, (John 3:34,) yet he remained at home as a private person, till he should be called to public life by the Father. Now that the full time is come, for preparing to discharge the office of Redeemer, he is clothed with a new power of the Spirit, and that not so much for his own sake, as for the sake of others. It was done on purpose, that believers might learn to receive, and to contemplate with reverence, his divine power, and that the weakness of the flesh might not make him despised.
This was also the reason why he delayed his baptism till the thirtieth year of his age, (Luke 3:23.) Baptism was an appendage to the Gospel: and therefore it began at the same time with the preaching of the Gospel. When Christ was preparing to preach the Gospel, he was introduced by Baptism into his office; and at the same time was endued with the Holy Spirit. When John beholds the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ, it is to remind him, that nothing carnal or earthly must be expected in Christ, but that he comes as a godlike man,  descended from heaven, in whom the power of the Holy Spirit reigns. We know, indeed, that he is God manifested in the flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16:) but even in his character as a servant, and in his human nature, there is a heavenly power to be considered.
The second question is, why did the Holy Spirit appear in the shape of a dove, rather than in that of fire? The answer depends on the analogy, or resemblance between the figure and the thing represented. We know what the prophet Isaiah ascribes to Christ.
"He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench," (Isaiah 42:2, 3.)
On account of this mildness of Christ, by which he kindly and gently called, and every day invites, sinners to the hope of salvation, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the appearance of a dove And in this symbol has been held out to us an eminent token of the sweetest consolation, that we may not fear to approach to Christ, who meets us, not in the formidable power of the Spirit, but clothed with gentle and lovely grace.
He saw the Spirit of God That is, John saw: for it immediately follows, that the Spirit descended on Christ There now arises a third question, how could John see the Holy Spirit? I:reply: As the Spirit of God is everywhere present, and fills heaven and earth, he is not said, in a literal sense, to descend, and the same observation may be made as to his appearance. Though he is in himself invisible, yet he is spoken of as beheld, when he exhibits any visible sign of his presence. John did not see the essence of the Spirit, which cannot be discerned by the senses of men;  nor did he see his power, which is not beheld by human senses, but only by the understanding of faith: but he saw the appearance of a dove, under which God showed the presence of his Spirit. It is a figure of speech,  by which the sign is put for the thing signified, the name of a spiritual object being applied to the visible sign.
While it is foolish and improper to press, as some do, the literal meaning, so as to include both the sign and the thing signified, we must observe, that the connection subsisting between the sign and the thing signified is denoted by these modes of expression. In this sense, the bread of the Lord's Supper is called the body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 10:16:) not because it is so, but because it assures us, that the body of Christ is truly given to us for food. Meanwhile, let us bear in mind what I have just mentioned, that we must not imagine a descent of the thing signified, so as to seek it in the sign, as if it had a bodily place there, but ought to be abundantly satisfied with the assurance, that God grants, by his secret power, all that he holds out to us by figures.
Another question more curious than useful has been put. Was this dove a solid body, or the appearance of one? Though the words of Luke seem to intimate that it was not the substance of a body, but only a bodily appearance; yet, lest I should afford to any man an occasion of wrangling, I leave the matter unsettled.
17. And, lo, a voice from heaven From that opening of the heavens, which has been already mentioned, a loud voice was heard, that its majesty might be more impressive. The public appearance of Christ, to undertake the office of Mediator, was accompanied by this announcement,  in which he was offered to us by the Father, that we may rely on this pledge of our adoption, and boldly call God himself our Father. The designation of Son belongs truly and naturally to Christ alone: but yet he was declared to be the Son of God in our flesh, that the favor of Him, whom he alone has a right to call Father, may be also obtained for us. And thus when God presents Christ to us as Mediator, accompanied by the title of Son, he declares that he is the Father of us all, (Ephesians 4:6.)
Such, too, is the import of the epithet beloved: for in ourselves we are hateful to God, and his fatherly love must flow to us by Christ. The best expounder of this passage is the Apostle Paul, when he says
"who hath predestinated us into adoption by Jesus Christ in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will; to the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he hath accepted us in the Beloved," (Ephesians 1:5,6)
that is, in his beloved Son. It is still more fully expressed by these words, in whom I am well pleased They imply, that the love of God rests on Christ in such a manner, as to diffuse itself from him to us all; and not to us only, but even to the angels themselves. Not that they need reconciliation, for they never were at enmity with God: but even they become perfectly united to God, only by means of their Head, (Ephesians 1:22.) For the same reason, he is also called "the first-born of every creature," (Colossians 1:5;) and Paul likewise states that Christ came
"to reconcile all things to himself, both those which are on earth, and those which are in heavens," (Colossians 1:20.)
 "Empeschoit fort;" -- "strongly opposed him."
 "Quum baptizaretur omnis populus;" -- "en baptizant tout le peuple;" -- "in baptizing all the people."
 "En apparence corporelle, ou, forme;" -- "in bodily appearance, or, shape."
 "Je laisse maintenant ma dignite a part." -- "I now lay my rank aside."
 "Lequel de nous deux est plus grand ou excellent;" -- "which of usboth is greater or more excellent."
 "Que c'est pour le profit des autres, et non pas pour le sien, que Christ demande d'estre baptize." -- "That it is for the benefit of others, and not for his own, that Christ asks to be baptized."
 "Quelque excellent personnage qu'il fust." -- "However excellent a person he was."
 "Il vid les cieux mi-partir, ou se fendre." -- "He saw the heavens divided in the middle, or deft."
 "Un homme rempli de Dieu;" -- "a man filled with God."
 "A parler proprement, il ne descend point, et semblablement ne peut estre veu." -- "Strictly speaking, he does not descend, and in like manner he cannot be seen."
 "C'est une maniere de parler par Metonymie, (ainsi que parlent les gens de lettres.")--"It is a way of speaking by Metonymy, (as learned people talk.")
 "Avec ce tesmoignage et recommandation;" -- "with this testimony and recommendation."
But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
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.
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:
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.