The Axe At the Root
Matthew 3:9, 10
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you…

Here we have an insight into the method of John the Baptist. We see how he led his hearers to repentance. He found them too often soothing their consciences in a false security, and quite blind to the danger that threatened them. So he set to work first to destroy the false security and then to reveal the imminent danger.


1. Its excuse. The Jews prided themselves in their pedigree. They were Abraham's children, and they expected to be favoured on account of their great ancestor. Glorious promises had been made to Abraham and his seed; the Jews were the seed of Abraham; therefore they concluded that the promises were for them, and that no final harm could come near them. The same delusion is found in those people who comfort themselves with the thought that they belong to a Christian Church, that they are members of a Christian family, that in some way they are included in a Christian covenant, although there is nothing Christian in their character and conduct.

2. Its mistake. There is no such thing as hereditary salvation. The children of a saint will suffer the doom of sinners if they are sinners, quite as much as the children of a sinner; nay, even a worse doom, because their advantages are greater. It is true that great promises are laid up for the children of Abraham; but only they are his true children who have their ancestor's faith. The Jews could not but admit that the Arabs were children of Abraham, yet they did not extend to them the hope of Abraham's blessings. It might have been urged that the Israelites cannot perish because, if they were lost, God would not have a people on whom he could fulfil his rear promises to Abraham. This would be to limit the power of God, to forget his resources. If he wanted other children he could raise them from the very stones of the wilderness. He did raise them from the Gentile peoples. We are none of us necessary to God.

II. A NEAR DANGER. (Ver. 10.) This question of Abraham's family is not a subject for quiet speculation only. Soon the futility of the theory of the Jews with which they quiet their fears will be apparent. The axe is already lying by the root of the tree. The Roman power that is destined to cut down the Jewish state is close at hand.

1. Its unsuspected presence.

(1) The tree is still standing - a great tree, with massive trunk and spreading branches. An imposing presence suggests strength and security.

(2) The tree is vigorous. Its stem is not rotten. But it is bearing no good fruit, and it is cumbering the ground; in these facts is its danger.

(3) The axe is unseen. It lies at the root - perhaps hidden among the grasses. Yet the place where it lies suggests utter destruction. We do not see dangers lurking at our feet.

2. Its fatal power. That cold gleam of steel at the root of the tree - how frightfully suggestive it is I It is a small thing by the side of the giant of the forest. Nevertheless how soon cart it bring the proud tree crashing to the ground! No one can escape from the keen blows of the axe of God's judgment.

3. Its merciful warning. Why is the axe laid at the root of the tree? why is it not used at once? Here is mercy in the midst of judgment. The Baptist points to the axe that he may drive his hearers to repentance. Our attention is drawn to it that we may escape - though at the eleventh hour. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Don't think to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

The Fruit of Repentance
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