Matthew 3
Biblical Illustrator
John the Baptist.
1. His work.

2. His qualifications.

3. His message.

4. His Divine appointment.

5. His un-worldliness.

6. His popularity.

7. His courageous utterances.

(D. C. Hughes,M. A.)


1. Heaven was more open.

2. God was more familiar and frequent in His visitations.

3. In the wilderness his company was angels.

4. His employment, meditation and prayer.

5. His temptations, simple and from within.

6. His occasions of sin as few as his examples.

7. His condition such, that if his soul were at all busy, his life could not easily be other than the life of angels.


1. In society, by the way of mercy, charity, and dispensations to others.

2. In solitude there are fewer occasions of vices.

3. But also the exercise of fewer virtues.

4. Temptations though they be not from many objects, yet are in some circumstances more dangerous.

5. Because the worst of evils, spiritual pride seldom misses to creep upon those goodly oaks, like ivy, and suck their heart out.

6. As they communicate less with the world, so they do less charity and fewer offices of mercy.


IV. John the Baptist UNITED BOTH THESE LIVES; and our blessed Saviour... for He lived a life:





(5)and public.From both we are taught that —

I. Solitude is a good school.

II. The world is the best theatre.

III. The institution is best there, but the practice here.

IV. The wilderness hath one advantage of discipline.

V. Society hath opportunities of perfection.

VI. Privacy is best for devotion.

VII. Publicity for charity.

(Jeremy Taylor.)

Everything in this desert is of one colour — a tawny yellow. The rocks, the partridges, the camels, the foxes, the ibex, are all of this shade, and only the dark Bedawin and their black tents are distinguishable in the general glare From a very early period this horrible wilderness appears to have had an attraction for ascetics, who sought a retreat from the busy world of their fellowmen, and who thought to please God by torturing the bodies which He had given them. Thus the Essenes, the Jewish sect whose habits and tenets resembled so closely those of the first Christians, retired into this wilderness and lived in caves. Christian hermits, from the earliest period, were also numerous in all the country between Jerusalem and Jericho, and the rocks are riddled with caves in inaccessible places where they lived Lifeless and treeless though it be, nature prepares every day a glorious picture, quickly-fading but matchless in brilliance of colour; the distant ranges seem stained with purple and pink; in autumn the great bands of cloud sweep over the mountains with long bars of gleaming light between; and for a few minutes, as the sun sets, the deep crimson blush comes over the rocks and glorifies the whole landscape with an indescribable glow.

(Lieut. Condor, R. E.)

The Baptist did not rush from the society of his species into the solitudes of Judaea to hide his candle for ever under a bushel, as modern and ancient asceticism has done; but he resorted thither only from an unselfish and most expanded motive, namely, in order that his candle alight all the more brightly, and widely, and publicly shine, when he issued forth at length to preach, in the midst of mixed crowds, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

(B. Jones.)

Only in quiet, in solitude with God, in unbroken questioning with his own soul, can a prophet of God discover what God is saying to his spirit.

(S. Brooke, M. A.)

Repent ye.
of Jesus was distinguished as a prophet.

I. The PREACHER. Powerful and faithful.

II. The DUTY enforced. "Repentance.'

III. The PLEA by which it is enforced. The kingdom of heaven is nigh.

(T. Heath.)

I. A GENERAL VIEW OF THE CHARACTER, OFFICE, AND MINISTRY OF THE BAPTIST. It was preparatory to setting up the gospel kingdom.

II. The appropriate CONNECTION BETWEEN REPENTANCE AND ANY PART IN THE KINGDOM of heaven, between spiritual conviction of sin and the realized advent of Him who is to deliver us from its guilt and power. The results of such preaching: —

1. Humiliating convictions of sin.

2. It makes ready for the reception of saving faith.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

I. The CHARACTER OF THE PERSONS to whom John's exhortation was addressed (Luke 3.) Many of them were soldiers and publicans, or Roman tax-gatherers, generally notoriously wicked. But many of them were brought to a temporary repentance (Luke 3:10-14). The bulk of them were professedly members of the Jewish Church (Luke 3:15), and among them many of their two great sects — Sadducees and Pharisees.

II. WHAT THIS EXHORTATION IMPLIES. Repentance — after-thought and consideration; hence arises conviction, humiliation, etc. A change of mind and heart (Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14; 2 Corinthians 7:10, 11). This doctrine is equally necessary to be inculcated upon us.

III. The MOTIVES by which the exhortation is enforced. The gospel dispensation is come (Luke 1:78, 79). And thus is a foundation laid for repentance. Jesus is exalted to give repentance (Acts 5:31).

(Joseph Benson.)

1. Repentance is generally made the child of fear; both John and Christ pressed people to repent because something good and happy was coming. This is true to our nature; men would rather turn their conduct by an expectation of good than by denunciation of evil. Fear is repellent, hope is an attraction; coldness hardens, warmth softens. Let man see a future near he likes and he will leave the past.

2. What God means when He says "Repent." It is not remorse, sorrow, conviction, but a change of mind. You want a great change before Christ comes.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)His sermon was an exhortation to repentance and a holy life.

I. REPENTANCE IS THE FIRST INTROMISSION INTO THE SANCTITIES OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION. The Lord treads upon no paths that are not(1) hallowed and made smooth by the sorrows and cares of contrition;(2) cleared of the impediments of sin by dereliction, and the succeeding fruits of emendation.

II. His BAPTISM DID SIGNIFY by a cognation to their usual rites and ceremonies of ablution and washing Gentile proselytes, that the Jews had so far receded from their duty and that holiness which God required of them by the law, that they were in the state of strangers.

(1)To be treated themselves as Gentile proselytes

(2)by baptism

(3)and a new state of life

(4)before they could be accepted by the Messias

(5)or admitted to His kingdom.

(Jeremy Taylor.)

I. SINCERE. Though God is merciful He is not fallible, nor will He take the odour of sacrifices, or the incense of words in lieu of a solid, laborious virtue.

1. It is absolutely necessary to abandon the vice.

2. The thought of heaven should bring moral fortitude. The repentant soul should be great in purpose, rapid in action, unshaken in constancy.

II. TIMELY. It must take place at such a period as will enable us to make a real sacrifice of unlawful enjoyment to a sense of Christian duty.

1. Satiety is often mistaken for repentance. Many give up the offence when they have lost all appetite for its commission.

2. Change of body is mistaken for change of mind. He who quits a vice that has become unnatural to his period of life deems himself a progressive penitent, and believes he is receding from pleasure because pleasure is receding from him.

III. CONTINUOUS. If only a year of life remains let that be a whole year of repentance.

IV. JUST. In making

(1)restitution or

(2)compensation for the injuries committed.

V. The soul of a penitent man should be as FIRM AGAINST FUTURE RELAPSE as it is sorrowful for past iniquity.

(Sydney Smith.)


1. A man that does repent must see and know his sins.

2. Must be grieved and humbled for them.

3. He must loathe himself.

4. He must be ashamed of his sin. So long as a man walks in the dark, he does not blush, he is not ashamed, though his clothes be ragged and torn, because he is in the dark; but if he come to the light, then he blushes.

5. He must acknowledge his sins.

6. He must labour to undo his sins.


1. Tears of repentance flow from the eye of faith.

2. So also repentance flows from love. Love is the cause of grief.


1. A man, a malefactor, when he sees what shall become of him, wishes that he had never done it.

2. A man may be broken down with the weight of sin, yet his soul may not be thawed or melted. When you take a staff and break the ice with your hands, though you break it in one place, it freezes in another; but when there is a thaw, it melts and breaks everywhere.

3. A man may have more sorrow, grief, repentance in the ore, yet have none that is well refined.

4. It is one thing for grief, sorrow, and repentance to be more in view, sense and noise; and another thing to be more in spirit, and in profit.

(Wm. Bridge.)

Sometimes, nay, often, a church or a nation lies like a ship becalmed on the tropic sea. The air around it is heavy with pestilence and with death. The heat and the stagnation bring forth a brood of contemptible vices. Then some rushing storm-centre comes sweeping across the waters, and gathers into its bosom all the thunders of the lurid sky, lashes into fury the lazy elements, torments the putrescent waves into spray and foam, whirls the ship along with the noise of waterspouts, kindles electric fire upon its masts, making the ship's crew pale their features with fear — drunken, or slumbering, or careless as they are. And even such a storm-centre of moral force was St. John the Baptist. For a brief time be cleared the air of a religion heavy with imposture, but it was too late. A few pure souls prepared by him had listened in the hush which followed to the voice of Christ; but the heavy pall of formalism and insincerity fell again upon the nation, fold by fold, and when the hurricane burst upon it once more, it was not the purifying storm of spiritual regeneration, it was the tornado of final destination.

(F. W. Farrar.)

There are thousands of persons who are given to what may be called the reverie of repentance. There are thousands of persons who feel sad that they are such wicked creatures. Really they feel that it is too bad. They at times fall into a minor key. Perhaps, if they are educated to music, they sit down to the piano, and play touching airs, and sing of the wickedness of the heart till tears flow down their cheeks. They pity themselves that they are so pitiable. How much repentance is there in all this? Is there any definiteness in it? Does the man say, "I am as proud as Lucifer? " Not a word does he utter on that subject. Does the man say, "I am meanly selfish"? Oh, no; he only says, "I am sin-sick." Does the man say, "I am unscrupulous, I am untrustworthy, I give way to debauch in this direction, and to animal appetites in that "? Does the man follow the example of that surgeon who, when called to dress a wound, probes it in all directions, and cleanses it thoroughly before he binds it up? Does he sit down and explore his heart with a searching, minute examination? No; he does not want to go particularly into it. He merely wants to have a feeling of regret in view of his general sinfulness.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Prepare ye the way.
When the Pacha of Magnesia went to take possession of his new appointment at Aleppo, he was attended by a large retinue of horse and foot soldiers, and other attendants, to the number of 2,000 persons. The road had been recently repaired for the passage of the Pacha to his government; affording a striking illustration of the Scripture, "He shall prepare the way before Him." The rough places were attempted to be made plain.

(Arundel's discoveries in Asia Minor.)

John was Christ's forerunner, as the ploughman goes before the sower. Before good work can be expected, there must be excitement. The turf-bound surface of communities must be torn up, the compacted soil turned to the air and light. Upon the rough furrows, and not on the shorn lawn, is there hope for the seed.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Raiment of camel's hair.
These insects are found at all times, and in every part of Western Asia, in Arabia, and in Northern Africa. The full-grown locusts are from two to three inches in length, and differ from the common grasshopper in their regularly elongated bodies, their reddish colour, and the length of their wings, which enable them to rise to a considerable height above the ground, and to pass over a distance of several miles, by sailing before the wind. The statement that John the Baptist's food while in the wilderness chiefly consisted of "locusts and wild honey," best describes the habitual fare of those who at the present day lead a life of isolation and poverty in the same region, and we know that the Mosaic law allowed the Hebrews to eat the locust (Leviticus 2:22). The full-grown insect is extensively eaten by the poorer classes,... particularly by the Bedawin of the desert. When the locusts come down upon the face of the earth, crowds of people go forth and collect vast numbers of them in bags, even loading horses and cattle with the booty. They are roasted and eaten as butter upon loaves of bread, resembling shrimps in taste, or they are boiled in water with a little salt, dried in the sun, and, being deprived of their wings and legs, are packed in bags for use. They are also beaten to a powder, which is mixed with flour and water, made into little cakes, and used as a substitute for bread when flour is scarce. Dried locusts are generally exposed for sale in the markets of Medina, Bagdad, and even Damascus.

(Dr. Van-Lennep.)Wild honey. — The frequent description of Palestine as a land " flowing with milk and honey," points out the fact that the honey-bee, and, as a concomitant, wild flowers too, abounded in it anciently, as at the present day. The flowers are so various in Western Asia, that the honey of different districts assumes very marked peculiarities. The honey of Kirk-Aghai, near Pergamus in Asia Minor, chiefly made of the flower of the cotton plant, it is said, so closely resembles butter in appearance, that it can only be detected by the taste. The honey of Mount Hymettus is dark and disagreeable to persons unused to it; the Athenians prefer it to any other. In some parts of Asia Minor the hives which are kept in the villages are transported at a certain season of the year to the slopes and high plains of the mountains, where the bees feed upon the blossoms of the pine and of the mountain plants. Orientals are very fond of honey, and usually eat it in the comb.

(Dr. Van-Lennep.)When the Egyptians on the Upper Nile find that their bees obtain no more honey around. their villages, they take their hives on boats, and sail down the river, stopping a"" every green spot to let the bees collect honey from the flowers on the shore; so thus by the time they reach Cairo, which is their market, their hives are full of honey.


All the region round about Jordan.
is not only the most remarkable feature of Palestine, but one of the most curious places in the world. It has no counterpart elsewhere, and the extraordinary phenomenon of clouds sweeping as a thick mist 500 feet below the level of the sea is one which few European eyes have seen, but which we witnessed in the early storms of the spring of 1874. The Jordan rises as a full-grown river, issuing from the cave at Banihs, about 1,000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean .... In twenty-six and half miles, there is a fall of 1,682 feet, or more than sixty feet to the mile .... The Jordan Valley was now one blaze of beautiful flowers, growing in a profusion not often to be found, even in more fertile lands. The ground was literally covered with blossoms; the great red anemone, like a poppy, grew in long tracts on the stony soil; on the soft marls, patches of delicate lavender colour were made by the wild stocks; the retem, or white broom (the juniper of Scripture), was in full blossom, and the rich purple nettles contrasted with fields of kutufy, or yellow St. John's wort. There were also quantities of orange-coloured marigolds, long fields of white and purple clover, tall spires of asphodel and clubs of snap-dragon, purple salvias and white garlic, pink geraniums and cistus, tall white umbelliferous plants, and large camomile daisies, all set in a border of deep green herbage which reached the shoulders of the horses. Jordan's banks were covered with flowers, while brown turfali or tamarisks and canebrake line the rushing stream, and the white marl banks stood out in striking contrast.

(Lieut. Conder, R. E.)But certainly, of multitudes that will run to the word, and, possibly, particularly flock after the ministry of some for a time, there may be many, as doubtless were then, that are but light stuff, carried with the stream as corks and straws are. Men should examine well even such things as seem to speak some love of religion in them, whether they be real or not.

(R. Leighton, D. D.)

Baptized of Him.
1. An initiatory rite.

2. A leading ordinance.

3. A confirmatory rite.

4. An instrument of regeneration.

5. A representative ordinance.

6. A sealing ordinance.

(T. Watson, M. A.)

Confessing their sins.
1. Confession of sin should not be made to every one we meet; it should be discriminating.

2. It should be honest.

3. The moment a man attempts to be honest with himself in respect to his moral character, and to make confession before God, everything that is in Him rises up against him: —

1. Reason. Reason suborned by his feeling: refuses to investigate. It returns false reports.

2. Pride. How on the proud man do the evidences of sin beat as hailstones on a slate roof, and never penetrate. The mouth of pride has the lockjaw, when it is a question of confessing wrong.

3. "Vanity. Vanity teaches men to regard more the opinions of men than of God.

4. Conscience. When ready to confess, conscience says, "Stop, insincere hypocrite."

5. Prudence. "Let well alone." Let the past alone.

6. Yet is there anything nobler than confession of wrong done? It is a way of pleasantness and peace.

7. Do not be afraid to confess your sin to Jesus. It is easy for sorrow to confess to love.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Men's faults lie like reptiles — like toads, like lizards, like serpents; and what if there is over them the evening sky, lit with glory, and all aglow? All the gorgeousness of the departing day, shining down on a reptile, leaves it a reptile still. Men think, "I am generous; I am full of fine feelings; I am endowed with superior taste; " but what of that? Down in the very thicket; down where men do not love often to go — there their faults lie nestling.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Ah! the bank is breaking away. A craw-fish has pierced it. The stream is working, and working and working. The engineer is sent up to see if all is safe. He sees that a stream is running through the bank, big as his finger. He looks at it, and waits to see if the stream enlarges. Soon it is as big as his two fingers. He waits a little longer, and it is as big as his hand. It is wearing on either side the opening, and the waters are beginning to find it out, and slowly they swirl on the inside towards this point. It will not be many hours before the bank will be so torn that it will give way, and the flood will pour through the crevasse. But the engineer goes back and says, "Well, there was a little rill there. But it was a very beautiful place: I never saw a prettier bank than that. The trees that grow in the neighbourhood are superb; and the shrubbery there is very fragrant and charming; and the moisture which finds its way through the bank seems to nourish all vegetation near it." "Well, but the break! How about that?" "It was something of a break; but, as I was saying, it is a beautiful spot. And right there is a fine plantation; and the man that owns it —" "But how about the crevasse? Yes, there was a little crevasse; but, as I was saying, all things conspire to make it a lovely scene." What kind of a report is that, of an engineer sent out to investigate, when it is question of impending ruin? What kind of a report is that, when the elements are at work which will soon launch desolation on the neighbourhood? Send the engineer Reason into a man's soul, and ask it to report concerning the habit of drinking in the man. It comes back and says, "Oh! well, he takes a little for the oft infirmities of his stomach; but he is a good fellow, he is a strong man, and his heart is in the right place." "But what about his habit? .... He takes a little now and then; but, as I was saying, he is a generous fellow. If you had heard of his kindnesses to that family when they were in distress —" "But what about his habit?"

(H. W. Beecher.)

Wrath to come.
I. Divine;

II. Deserved;

III. Unmingled;

IV. Accumulated;

V. Eternal.


In former days, when a military company was to be called out, the notice delivered to each of the members was called " the warning." An officer, who was a Christian, having given the warning to a young man, was playfully accosted by another young man, who was not a member of the company, with a question, "Have you not a warning for me too?" The officer replied, "Yes, I have a warning for you: I want you to flee from the wrath to come." This unexpected reply proved an arrow from the Lord's quiver, and to it the young man ascribes his conversion.


Fruits meet for repentance.
Hear a story, or a parable. In a delightful bit of country, early one summer morning, I walked out to be refreshed by the pure sweet air, the sight of fields and woods, grasses and flowers, beasts and birds, when, presently, I came upon an orchard, into which I entered. The trees were beautiful to behold, the air was fragrant, and fruit was abundant. I wandered on almost enchanted, until, to my great wonder, I came upon a tree having neither bloom nor fruit. I was so painfully impressed that, without any thought of hurting or giving offence, and as to myself, I said, "You poor, lost tree, what can you be doing here? I marvel you are not removed." Upon which, to my astonishment, this tree replied, not without tartness, "Oh, indeed, sir; indeed! No doubt you think you are wise, wise above your fathers. -You think you know much about things, I dare say, but you are in a great mistake. I am neither poor nor lost." "Well," I said, "you have neither leaves nor fruit, and, I should judge, no sap." "What has that to do with it?" it broke out. "Your ignorance is inexcusable. You seem not to know that a great Saviour of trees has been down here, and I have believed His gospel, and am saved by grace. I have accepted salvation as a free gift, and, though I have neither leaves nor fruit, I am saved all the same." I looked at it with pity and said, "You are a poor deluded tree; you are not saved at all. You are only a dead, good-for-nothing tree, despite all your talk about grace and redemption. The only salvation you can ever know is to be made living and fruit-bearing. Life, that is salvation. When I come and see you laden with fruit, or even showing signs of leaves, I shall say, ' Ah! that poor tree is saved at last; it has received the gospel and is saved by grace.' " As I turned away, I heard it saying, "You are not sound; you do not understand the gospel." And I thought, so it is, as with trees so with men; they talk as if grace and salvation were something God keeps for them outside themselves, and will not understand nor believe that he who is saved, he who takes Christ fully, and rests on His atoning work alone, "is made free from sin," and " has his fruit unto holiness."

(W. Hubbard.)

And it ought not to be a mere partial sorrow; but it should permeate the entire constitution of man. You have most likely seen water falling in drops from a rock. There it is dropping — dropping — dropping, summer and winter, during many a century; — but the rock remains a rock still. There are many who shed tears which seem to be those of repentance, but whose hearts remain as hard as an adamantine rock. Their tears are those out of a rock — a rock that never crumbles. True repentance dodos with man as the furnace with the metal. There is the metal cast into the furnace; and there it is heated and melted so as to be shaped and coined according to will. The whole of man should be completely melted by repentance, so as to be purged of all the cross of sin and be remodelled by the plastic influences of God's Spirit, and made to bear anew the Divine image.

(R. Hughes.)

Repentance hath a purifying power, and every tear is of a cleansing virtue; but these penitential clouds must be still kept dropping a one shower will not suffice; for repentance is not one single action, but a cause.

(Dr. South.)

Repentance without amendment is like continual pumping in a ship without stopping the leaks.


Thomas Olivers was an itinerant cobbler, who spent his time working, carousing, and contracting debts. He congratulated himself on his skill in defrauding his creditors. This reprobate Welshman was at last rescued by Methodism, and became one of Mr. Wesley's itinerant corps. So great had been his wickedness, that his friends thought he must have had some terrible fright, His uncle said to him, "Thou hast been so wicked, thou hast seen the devil." His conscience was awakened. Of his old debts he said, "I feel as great sorrow and confusion as if I had stolen every sum I owed." He resolved to pay the last cent from money due to him from the estate of one of his kindred. With part of his money, he bought a horse, and started on his memorable journey from. town to town, preaching Christ, and paying his debts. He went to Whithurst to pay a sixpence. Before his strange pilgrimage was ended, he paid about seventy debts, and had to sell his horse, saddle, and bridle, to finish his payments. Such fruits of repentance were followed by great religious prosperity and usefulness.


Abraham to our father.

1. Their national lineage. The true element in this:(1) great moral influence descends from a pious progenitor, and more or less imbues our life and feeling;(2) the traditions of a pious ancestry are precious;(3) some importance is to be attached to the prayers of a pious ancestry. The untrue element is to think that God will merge all considerations of a personal character. The true conception of a pious ancestry is obligation.

2. Another substitute for fruitfulness upon which the Jews relied was ecclesiastical prerogative.

3. Another substitute upon which they relied was doctrinal orthodoxy.


(H. Allon.)

Axe is laid.

II. THE MEANS WHICH GOD EMPLOYS TO RENDER US PRODUCTIVE of this kind of fruit, and which show how reasonable it is that He should expect it from us.

1. God has endowed you with a capacity to produce this kind of fruit.

2. In order to enable you to bring forth good fruit, God has supplied you with the gospel of His Son, which contains the means, motives, and influences of fruitfulness.

3. God has visited you with various dispensations of providence, and with various convictions of conscience.


1. Some of these unfruitful persons are sensual and profane.

2. Some are intellectual, moral, and amiable.

3. Some are professors of the gospel.


1. The axe which is lying at your root reminds you of the patience and long-suffering of God.

2. It reminds you of the critical circumstances in which you are placed.

3. It has sometimes admonished you of its being there.


1. The nature of this condition is indescribably terrible: "He is hewn down." The certainty that this condition will be incurred: "He is hewn," etc.

(J. Alexander.)


1. It may denote temporal judgments.

2. It may denote church discipline.

3. It may denote eternal wrath and vengeance. The axe laid to the root of the tree seems to imply its utter destruction.


1. Ministerially, by preachers of the Word.

2. By the inflicting of temporal judgments.

3. By God Himself. Whether it be an act of mercy or of judgment, He directs, strengthens for, and assists in it.


1. God's judgments are certain and inevitable.

2. They are near at hand when least expected, least prepared for.

3. These judgments already begin to operate.

(B. Beddome.)

And with fire.
I. THE HOLY GHOST IS FIRE. Baptism with the Holy Ghost is not one thing and baptism with fire another, but the former is the reality of which the latter is the symbol.

II. CHRIST PLUNGES US INTO THIS FIRE. What a grand ideals conveyed by the metaphor of the completeness of the contact with the Spirit of God into which we are brought! How it represents all our being as flooded into that transforming power. Christ's personal agency in effecting this saturating of man's coldness with the fire from God.


1. Fire gives warmth. It comes to kindle in men's souls a blaze of enthusiastic Divine love, melting all the icy hardness of the heart, etc. For a Christian to be cold is sin. Marked absence of this " spirit of burning" in the Christian Church.

2. This baptism gives cleansing by warmth. Fire purifies. The Spirit produces holiness in heart and character. All other cleansing is superficial. The alternative for every man is to be baptized in fire or to be consumed by it.

(Dr. MacLaren.)

I. The NATURE of the promised baptism. John's baptism was introductory and transitory — Christ's was to be spiritual, quickening, searching. Analogy between water in the natural world and the Spirit's influence in the moral world. The baptism of the spirit includes all other blessings (Luke 11:13, with Matthew 7:11).

II. The PLENITUDE of the promise. A baptism, repletion, falness, etc. Like torrents of rain poured on the thirsty earth (Ezekiel 34:26; Joel 2:28; Hosea 14:5; Malachi 3:10). On the day of Pentecost there was THE baptism of the Holy Ghost. What abundant communications of Divine influence we should expect!

III. The NEED of the promised baptism.

1. In the time of John.

2. In our time — now. The low and languid piety of many. The comparatively small success of the various agencies for the conversion of sinners. Church agencies can only be spiritually useful as they are charged with Divine force. Have you received this baptism? "Ye must be born again."

(A. Tucker.)

John's baptism was outward washing merely, significant, but no inward grace. It was only a symbol. Christ's would be the same in outward appearance, as water was employed, but there shall be an inward reality, a living, glorious, inward grace in His baptism. "When was the Baptist's prediction fulfilled? Though Christ never baptized with His own hands, yet it is He who baptizeth when His authorized ministers baptize. Theirs are the hands, but His the grace. Like Elijah, they pour the water on the sacrifice, but He gives the fire. It refers to Pentecost, cloven tongues. It is important to realize the double aspects in the gifts of God. The Holy Ghost would be in every heart a Spirit of fire — fire for death or life, to purify or to destroy. God's presence in man's heart is His greatest gift; how truly it may be called a fire l It separates good from evil. It purifies. It tests. Our duty in life is to cherish and obey this awful fiery Spirit. To burn in the spirit, to have a glowing zeal for God. The spark is blown into a flame by prayer.

(G. Moberly, D. C. L.)




(4)is a solace.The Holy Spirit is a Comforter through





(H. T. Day.)

I. The NATURE and importance of this baptism.

II. The CHARACTER AND DIGNITY OF THE PERSON who baptizes. Not a mere man — the SON OF GOD. He dispenses this blessing as the fruit of His mediation.

III. The PERSONS WHO MAY PARTAKE of this baptism (Luke 3.).

IV. On what TENETS, or in what way they may have it conferred. Repentance towards God. Faith in Christ.

1. Consider the necessity of this baptism, etc.

2. If you have received it, "Quench not the Spirit," etc.

(Joseph Benson.)

To all, sooner or later, Christ comes to baptize them with fire. But do not think that the baptism of fire comes once for all to a man in some terrible affliction, some one awful conviction of his own sinfulness and nothingness. No; with many — and those, perhaps, the best people — it goes on month after month, and year after year. By secret trials, chastenings which none but they and God can understand, the Lord is cleansing them from their secret faults, and making them to understand wisdom secretly; burning out of them the chaff of self-will and self-conceit and vanity, and leaving only the pure gold of righteousness.

(Charles Kingsley.)

The manner in which the Holy Spirit enters the heart resembles the manner in which fire is kindled. This manner is not always uniform. Sometimes a spark lies smothered for a while, and only after a long interval bursts out and begins to burn. So with the Holy Spirit. The spark may have reached the heart, and may remain theres hut the deceitfulness of worldly cares or pleasures, or the remains of unsubdued sin, stifle it, till at length some providential circumstance occurs which fans the spark into a flame. Another effect of fire is, to communicate its warmth to all that come within its reach. And such is also, the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the soul. The heart of man is by nature cold — cold towards God, and cold towards his fellow-creatures. Not so the man whose heart has been touched by the Holy Spirit. I shall only carry this comparison one step further. We all understand the effect of fire in restoring comfort to the body. We approach closer to it when we have been made uneasy through the chilling influence of cold, and the genial feelings of health and warmth revive within us. So, likewise, the Holy Spirit cheers the heart and re-animates the languid feelings; gives new life to the zeal and piety, which, without it, would sicken and decay.

(J. B. Sumner, M. A.)

But there is also a fire that, like the genial heat in some greenhouse, makes even the barren tree glow with blossom, and bends its branches with precious fruit.

(Dr. Maclaren.)

Did you ever see a blast-furnace? How long would it take a man, think you, with hammer and chisel, or by chemical means, to get the bits of ore out from the stony matrix? But fling them into the great cylinder, and pile the fire, and let the strong draught roar through the burning mass, and by evening you can run off a glowing stream of pure and fluid metal, from which all the dross and rubbish is parted, which has been charmed out of all its sullen hardness, and will take the shape of any mould into which you like to run it. The fire has conquered, has melted, has purified. So with us. Love "shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us," love that answers to Christ's, love that is fixed upon Him who is pure and separate from sinners, will purify us and sever us from our sins. Nothing else will. All other cleansing is superficial, like the water of John's baptism. Moralities and the externals of religion will wash away the foulness which lies on the surface, but stains that have sunk deep into the very substance of the soul, and have dyed every thread in warp and woof to its centre, are not to be got rid of so.

(Dr. Maclaren.)

1. They are both sudden. Whitefield was once preaching on Blackheath, and a man and his wife coming from market saw the crowd, and went up to hear. Whitefield was saying something about what happened eighteen hundred years ago, and the man said to his wife: "Come, Mary, we will not stop any longer. He is talking about something that took place more than eighteen hundred years ago. What's that to us?" But they were fascinated. The truth of God came to their hearts. When they were home, they took down the Bible and said: "Is it possible that these old truths have been here so long, and we have not known it?" Ah! it was in the flash of God's Spirit on Blackheath that they were saved — the Spirit coming mightily, and suddenly, and overwhelmingly upon them. So it was that God's Spirit came to Andrew Fuller, and James Harvey, and the Earl of Rochester, and Bishop Latimer — suddenly.

2. They were both irresistible. Notwithstanding all our boasted machinery and organization for putting out fires, the efforts that were made did not repulse the flames last December one single instant. There was a great sound of fire-trumpets, and brave men walking on hot walls; but the flames were baulked not an instant. So it has been with the Holy Spirit moving through the hearts of this people. There have been men here who have sworn that the religion of Jesus Christ should never come into their households; they and their children kneel now at the same altar.

3. They are both consuming. Did you ever see any more thorough work than was done by that fire last December? The strongest beams turned to ashes. The iron cracked, curled up, destroyed. So the Holy Ghost has been a consuming fire amid the sins and habits of those who despise God.

4. They were both melting. If you examined the bars, and bolts, and plumbing work of the Tabernacle, after it went down, you know it was a melting process. The things that seemed to have no relation to each other adjoined — flowed together. So it has been with the Spirit of God, melting down all asperities and unbrotherliness. Heart has flowed out towards heart.

5. The fiery influence qualifying for work. — If God baptized us with fire, it is because He means to fit us for hot and, tremendous work.

(Dr. Talmage.)

Whose fan.
Humanity yields its twofold crop, its wheat and chaff, and keeps its terrible capacity of mixing chaff and wheat together, making them look alike. A sifter needed. — Something, then, is watered to lift the cover, to unveil the reality, to expose the things that we do and the persons that we are. Whether we want Him or not, He comes "whose fan is in His hand."

Realize, too, that the sifting work must be done not only for the truth's sake and for God's sake, but for the sake of the foolish people themselves — for the welfare of the world. Otherwise the world, cheated by the delusion, would go from bad to worse, and be deluded to destruction.

Christ prepares the way for His own great reckoning to come, by setting foreshadows of His sifting work around us where we are. Life itself moves on with the fan in its hand. So into this medley where you live there springs suddenly some new-comer. It is a providence of God. A contagious disease escapes quarantine and breaks out in the town. There is a wreck on a reef off the shore. On a Western river great waterfloods sweep away scores of houses and lives. A hundred human bodies are crushed and burned in a mass in some building. You are not hurt; but as the report strikes man after man in the neighbourhood, if you could look underneath the masks which some people from pride or policy keep over their real selves, would you not see always two sorts of men revealed? In one there is apathy, and in another there is sympathy. Here are the two sorts of men disclosed. Before, you could not have told which was which; all looked alike; but in the threshing-floor of God the winnowing has begun.

One family that you know, overtaken by misfortune, is paralysed or embittered, and goes down. Another, struck by the same blow, summons its interior strength, is sweet-tempered, hopeful, and courageous, and as it descends in style rises in spiritual stature. The season why prosperity seems to enlarge some persons and belittle others is not so much that it actually alters their dimensions as that it publishes what their dimensions are. It is a shaking of the fan.

Now and then a sharp question of right or wrong is thrust in upon a whole community in palpable shape — a question of public justice or oppression, of fair dealing between capital and labour, of chastity in literature or decency in art, of commercial honour, temperance in drinking, political integrity. Everybody must take sides, openly in act or virtually in secret choice or feeling. This new truth has the fan in its hand. It sifts your gay society, getting souls in position for their judgment. At certain historical epochs great characters arrive. They utter one of these great truths, and stand out or fight for it. They are not judges of men, but sifters of men. Every one of them has a fan in the hand.

There is no privacy for character in the universe. The righteousness of God has arranged it that we shall live surrounded by a system of detectives and exposures, and all the uniforms and costumes and cosmetics and masks and escapes of that public stage, society, will not baffle them. This life is the beginning, though not the end, of judgment.

It is inwrought benignantly into the silent and steady operation of the truth. Truth itself is a dividing power.

To me it establishes faith, and makes the awful doctrine of retribution reasonable, to see the law wrought into the whole fabric of Nature around us and the very constitution of man. Even in the orchards and gardens there is a visible economy of discrimination, of rejection, of judgment. Bad fruit drops off and is cast away by the same hand that gathers and garners the good. Sow chaff and grain together if you choose; the chaff rots, while the vital seeds sprout and grow and yield "some thirty, some sixty, some an hundred." Why not so when we come up to the immortal wheat?

(Bishop Huntingdon.)

1. Christ is the universal Judge; "His fan is in His hand." He possesses authority, discrimination, and impartiality, — the three grand qualifications for this office.

(M. Henry.)

I. In the Christian Church there is a MIXTURE of nominal and real Christians. Parable of the Tares. Of the Wedding Garment. Judas. Ananias and Sapphira. The false are the careless or indifferent. The self-righteous or sentimental; the hollow-hearted or hypocritical. The true are penitents, believers, new creatures.

II. The Head of the Church KNOWS THE TRUE CHARACTER OF ALL its members. Seven churches of Asia. "I know thy works." Intimate and exact knowledge of His own people.

III. The Head of the Church WILL SEPARATE the precious from the vile. By His doctrine — providential dealings — Satanic temptations — fire of persecution.

IV. THE FINAL DOOM of all the mem-bets of the Church will correspond to their character. The wheat to the garner, The chaff to the fire.

1. Examine yourselves.

2. Prepare for judgment.


I. The Two GREAT CLASSES into which the world is divided. Two only. In the eyes of men many. Either believers or unbelievers. No third class.



IV. The portion of those WHO ARE NOT CHRIST'S.

(J. C. Ryle.)

By the wheat is evidently intended those whose characters are useful; by the chaff those who are worthless. Wheat is valuable because it answers the purpose of the cultivator, which is to produce food for himself and others; so those persons are useful who answer the ends for which God has placed them here. God has placed us here to glorify Him: —

1. By our exercising suitable dispositions towards Him;

2. By cultivating every virtue;

3. By our doing good to others.From this description of the wheat we may easily infer the character of those who resemble the chaff.

1. If those are the wheat who exercise suitable dispositions towards God, those are the chaff who are without such dispositions.

2. If those are the wheat who are seeking the perfection of their nature, then those are the chaff who neglect to seek it.

3. If those are the wheat who labour for the temporal and spiritual welfare of their fellow-creatures, those are the chaff who live chiefly to please themselves.

4. If those are the wheat who glorify God by believing in Christ, then those are the chaff who remain in unbelief.

5. To which of these two classes do we belong?

(B. W. Noel, M. A.)Good and evil are really different in kind, absolutely and intrinsically, essentially and in the nature of things:

I. By the free choice of will, and the practice consequent upon such a choice, real virtue or vice can be acquired.

II. Every man is as to his moral character what his own behaviour and practice make him. By as certain and determinate a distinction as wheat and chaff are, of their real and proper natures, different from each other.

III. God in all His commandments really desires to bring men by the habitual practice of virtue to a state by which they can become capable of His eternal happiness in the enjoyment of His unchangeable favour. Therefore the good must be separated from the evil surely and thoroughly, if we would win salvation.

(Samuel Clarke, D. D.)

And let me remind you how like the chaff is to the wheat, how like the mere professor is to the saint. Of what colour is the chaff? Precisely the same as that of the wheat. And what is its form? Exactly that of the wheat. And where is it found? Not blowing about the highway, but in close contact with the wheat. It is upon us that this sifting trial is to pass; and it matters not how perfect may be our resemblance to the saints, if there be a resemblance and nothing more.

(P. B. Power.)

I have seen a field here, and a field there, stand thick with corn — a hedge or two has separated them. At the proper season the reapers entered; soon the earth was disburdened, and the grain was conveyed to its destined resting-place, where, blended together in the barn or the stack, it could not be known that a hedge had ever separated this corn from that. Thus it is with the Church. Here it grows, as it were, in different fields, and even, maybe, by different hedges. By and by, when the harvest is come, all God's wheat shall be gathered into the garner, without one single mark to distinguish that once they differed in outward circumstantials of form and order.


Baptized of him.
I. The circumstance of TITLE.

1. Seasonable. Men were at this time being baptized and confessing their sins. People were expecting the Christ (John 1:19). Let man be diminished, but let God arise. The truth is revealed that the servant may not rob the Master of His honour.

2. This adverb of time points to the age of Christ. Mature age. He taught the need of well-seasoned timber to make pillars for the Church of God. As Christ attained perfect age in nature, His servants should be perfect in grace and glory.


1. Upon what ground did John begin this new ceremony: It betokened the end of the old ceremonies. Superstitions turned into a blessing. Heathen used washings. Turned into an immortal laver.

2. The dignity of John's baptism. It was the baptism of repentance. It did not lack grace. But Christ's ministry is better than man's.Distinctions between the two baptisms.

1. John baptized in the name of the Messiah. Christ bade His disciples use another form.

2. They differ in extent — John baptized in the regions of Judaea, Christ bade His disciples to except none.

3. Christ's baptism transcends John's in the variety of persons.

4. Christ's baptism is more operative since He has gone to His Father.

5. John's baptism was good, Christ's is necessary to the end of the world.


1. John was jealous of our Saviour's honour.

2. He confesses his vileness and inferiority.

(Hacket.)Faith is nothing else but a long-continued astonishment, which knows not how to utter itself, because the Lord hath done such marvellous things for us.


What so Divine an instigation to press us all to come unto the flood of living waters, to thirst for that immortal spring of grace than this, that the Son of God Himself did not decline to be partaker of the baptism of repentance. To make the sacrament virtuous and powerful for them that should take it after Him. That by His example, to undergo a new rite and ordinance, men might be drawn from old customs to newness of life.


As Caesar did not lessen his own dignity, because he would both command as General, and yet work in the trenches like the meanest pioneer, Dux confilio, miles exemplo; and as Helen, the mother of Constantine, was not under the honour of a princess, because she would dress the blains and ulcers of poor cripples in the hospital; so the mighty Son of God was not diminished in His glory, because He put Himself into the rank of abject ones by His own yielding and accord, not by compulsive necessity.


I. We should sincerely FEEL THE WANT OF A DIVINE REDEEMER. When Jesus demands baptism of John, the latter -publicly declares: "I have need to be baptized of Thee."


III. WE SHOULD ADMIRE THE GRANDEUR AND MAJESTY WITH WHICH JESUS WAS ENCOMPASSED. "We beheld our Saviour encompassed by a glory which transcends the most enchanting pageantry of nature.

(From the Danish of Dr. Balle.)

Sermons by the Monday Club.
I. The office of John was to awaken the conscience of mankind.

II. John had a ministry of separation.

III. John was a forerunner in pointing to Christ.

IV. John was to identify Christ.

(Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Sermons by the Monday Club.
We can only allude to meanings which have been discovered in it; all of them, it may be, parts of its largest import. It "was to ratify the mission of John; it was to purify the water of baptism. Christ .was ceremonially unclean, as representing sinners. St. Bernard sees in the baptism the exhibition of perfect humility; and Meyer, of perfect obedience. Still others look upon the baptism as an inaugural announcement, a formal identification, of His Person as the Messiah — an inauguration of His Messianic ministry. It is important to notice certain respects in which the baptism was unlike that of the people.

1. It was at the close of the day. He waited until all the penitents of that day had been baptized; in this, as in all else involving sin, separate from sinners.

2. John did not treat Christ as a sinner. He gave Him the remarkable testimony, "I have need to be baptized of Thee."

3. At Jesus' baptism there was no confession of sin. In the place of confession was a prayer.

4. The promised token, the descent of the Spirit as a dove, which abode upon Him, while a voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

(Sermons by the Monday Club.)

Heavens were opened unto Him.
1. Great in the Object.

2. Great in the Person.

3. Great in the Mysteries.


1. Jesus of .Nazareth.

2. The Holy Ghost miraculously exhibited.

3. The Holy Father.


1. Here was salvation embodied in Jesus Christ.

2. The Holy Ghost falls on Him.

3. The Holy Father's solemn attestation of the sufficiency of Christ and His salvation.


1. We view Him as our Federal Head and Representative.

2. In this capacity He received the Holy Ghost.

3. In this character the Father delighted in Him, and also in His people.

(1)What a practical view of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

(2)Have we a personal interest in this great work?

(3)Let the power of these truths be seen in our lives.

(F. Close, M. A.)

I. Demonstrate from Scripture the Tri-unity of the Godhead.

II. Prove Christ's perfect union in the Godhead, as the true ground of Christian faith.

III. How GREAT A BLESSING THIS GLORIOUS DOCTRINE IS FOR ALL GOD'S PEOPLE. There may be mines of precious wealth, of minerals, gold, silver, jewels, in a domain only partially known; so with this doctrine. God the Father planned the way of redemption. God the Son willingly came to accomplish our salvation. And God the Spirit guides us into all truth. The whole Trinity joins in man's salvation.

1. How great the condescension of Jehovah thus to reveal the nature and perfections of mercy.

2. How much all revelation testifies of God the Father's delight in His beloved Son.

3. How God is well pleased in the soul's salvation by Christ.

(J. G. Angley, M. A.)

I. Christ's SUBMISSION to the ordinance of baptism.

1. Jesus humbly waits upon the Baptist. The fortitude with which to meet publicity.

2. He is privately discovered to John.

3. The Saviour meekly persists in His obedient resolution. How lovely this conflict of humility!

4. Jesus at last receives the sign from His forerunner.

II. The HONOURS Christ received at His baptism.

1. The opening of the heavens.

2. The descent of the Spirit followed.

3. The proclamation of the Father closed the scene of wonders.

(J. Bennett, D. D.)


1. The dignity of His Person.

2. The endearedness of the Son.

II. THE FATHER'S COMPLACENCY IN THE SON. Complacency takes place.

1. In Creation: "All things were made by Him."

2. In redemption: "He hath made us accepted in the beloved."

3. The Father is well pleased with Christ in His incarnation and mediation.

4. He is well pleased with Him in all His people.

(H. Budd, M. A.)Here we have(1) the rising of the morning star, John the Baptist;(2) The more glorious rising and shining of the Sun of Righteousness Himself;(3) A messenger from heaven. The Spirit of Christ is a dove-like Spirit. The dove was the fowl offered in sacrifice; so Christ offered Himself without spot unto God.(4) A voice from heaven. As the Holy Ghost manifests Himself in the likeness of a dove, so God the Father in a voice. This voice speaks God's favour to Christ.

1. Expresses the relation He stands in to Him.

2. Expresses the affection the Father hath to Him. Observe God's favour to us Is Him. He is My beloved Son, IN whom I am well pleased. Consider what God is out of Christ, and what God is IN Christ.

I. WHAT GOD IS OUT OF CHRIST to the sinner.

(1)An angry God;

(2)a threatening God;

(3)a dishonoured God;

(4)a distant God.


(1)A reconciled God;

(2)a promising God;

(3)a glorified God;

(4)a near God.

(Ralph Erskine.)

A gentleman, passing a church with Daniel Webster, asked him, "How can you reconcile the doctrine of the Trinity with reason?" The statesman replied by asking, "Do you understand the arithmetic of heaven?" The application is evident.

(Anon.)The heavens are never shut while either of the sacraments is duly administered and received; neither do the heavens ever thus open without the descent of the Holy Ghost.

(Bishop Hall.)

1. The Person that did hear witness.

2. The manner how He testified to the honour of His Son.

3. The authority of that voice from heaven.

4. The Person to whom the witness is borne.

5. What is witnessed of Him in respect of Himself.

6. What is witnessed of Him in respect of our consolation, we the beloved in Him.

(Hacket.)As the Father sent His voice from heaven to earth, let our lips be full of prayers, that we may send our voice from earth to heaven.


The Biblical Illustrator, Electronic Database.
Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bible Hub
Matthew 2
Top of Page
Top of Page