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10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees : • therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am e Matt. vii. 19.
f Mark i. 8; Luke iii. 16; John i. 26.
and made them his peculiar people. So Verse 11. I indeed baptize you with wa. Irenæus : “Jesus raised up children to ter.—That is, with water only; for the Abraham from the stones, when he turn- Spirit was to be administered by Christ ed us from the religion of stones, (a lapi. alone. “ Unto repentance, els Metavolay,” dum religione, meaning the worship of Upon repentance, as Grotius well suggests; gods of stone, &c.,) and from our own that being the condition of his baptism. insensible and barren state of mind, and Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear The brought us to a faith like that of Abra. Jewish shoes were a kind of sandal, fasham's.” Jerom takes a similar view of tened to the foot with thongs, easily unthe import of the passage.
tied and slipped off, and were laid aside Verse 10. And now also the axe is laid for washing the feet on entering a house, unto the root of the trees.-Fruitless and or before meals. The word here used is fruitful trees have in all ages been used as indeed not σανδαλιον, but υποδημα ; but metaphors to express good and bad men; the Septuagint renders by, sometimes by and as barren trees, after patient forbear- one and sometimes by the other. The ance, are finally cut down and burned, unloosing of the sandals, and carrying so the certainty and terribleness of the them away till wanted, was a menial office punishment of the wicked are forcibly of the lowest kind, both among Greeks indicated by the metaphor. The same and Jews. Hence among the latter the image is employed by Isaiah with great disciples of the Rabbins were obliged to effect to express the judgments which perform every kind of office for them, the should fall upon all the ranks of a guilty unloosing and carrying of the sandals nation, by the Chaldean invasion : “Be- excepted. Thus Maimonides : “All serhold, the Lord of Hosts shall lop the vices which a servant does for his master, bough with terror: and the high ones of a disciple does for his teacher, except stature shall be hewn down, and the unloosing his shoes.” No words could haughty shall be humbled. And he shall therefore more forcibly express the sense cut down the thickets of the forest with that John had of the superiority of Christ. iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty In his view, he was the Supreme Lord, one,” x. 33, 34. The Baptist does not, and himself a servant so low in comparihowever, refer to the Jewish state, but to son of this “ mightier" Being, that he the dangerous condition of sinful indivi- was not even worthy to unloose and bear duals. (See note on verse 8.) The axe his sandals. The whole manner in which being laid “ to the root,” that is, at or the Baptist speaks of Christ in compari. near to, the root, intimates both the long- son with himself, is utterly irreconcilasuffering of God which gave them space ble with his regarding him merely as an for repentance; and the certainty that, if exalted human being. “He shall baptize the tree remained unfruitful, it would be you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,' “ hewn down and cast into the fire.” ev Myevmatı ayıq kal tupk. Unless this be Mercy grants delay, but justice lays down rendered, “ He shall baptize you in the the axe in preparation for the work of Holy Ghost and fire,” it is a folly for the excision. The danger, too, was not dis- advocates of immersion to translate cy tant, but imminent; non de sal, and even vồari, “In water.” They have indeed now the axe is laid at the root, &c
ventured on both, in support of a favou
not worthy to bear : he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire :
rite opinion; but in what sense-what- “tarry at Jerusalem until they were ever allowance may be made for figurative endued with power from on high.” The language-men can be said to be plunged declaration in the text was first fulfilled or immersed “in the Holy Ghost and at the day of Pentecost ; but not only fire,” it is impossible to conceive. Ev TQ then : it is fulfilled whenever the Holy lopbarn may indeed be translated “in Jor- Spirit is vouchsafed to believers ; for dan,” for the reason before given; but the when St. Peter gives an account of the preposition may be taken in the sense of result of his mission to Cornelius, ho says, WITH, understanding an ellipsis, “ with “ And as I began to speak, the Holy the water of the Jordan.” But there the Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginplace of baptism only is referred to, here ning: then remembered I the word of the mode and kind of baptism; and as the the Lord, how that he said, John indeed manner in which the baptism of the Holy baptized with water ; but ye shall be bapGhost was actually administered by Christ tized with the Holy Ghost.” Acts xi. 15, is recorded, we have the sense of the 16. With this inspired comment before preposition fixed by the fact. Thus when them, how remarkable is it, that the prothis baptism took place we read, “ And fessed interpreters of scripture should there appeared unto them cloven tongues have had any difference of opinion as to as of fire, and it sAT UPON each of them; the meaning of the words of the Baptist ! and they were all filled with the Holy The external emblem of fire accompanied Ghost. Thus the baptism of “the Holy the descent of the Holy Spirit at the day Ghost and fire,” was a descent UPON, of Pentecost, probably, to mark more and not an immersion INTO; and John sensibly the accomplishment of this premust be understood to use the word bap- dictive promise ; but at other times, even tism when he refers to water, in the sense when followed by miraculous gifts, this of pouring or effusion.
circumstance was wanting, as in the inIt is a strange opinion entertained by stance of the house of Cornelius above some commentators, that the fiery bapreferred to. We are thus taught, that tism here spoken of signifies the cala- when the gift of the Spirit is invisible and mities which afterwards befel the impeni- secret, it is yet the mighty and transtent Jews. The fancies of some of the forming BAPTISM OF FIRE; that is, his Fathers on this text were also numerous, influences are fitly represented by that but not worth recording. Those of them powerful and purging element. This is who referred it to the descent of the Holy one of the particulars in which the supeSpirit at the day of Pentecost in his pleni. riority of Christ's baptism consisted tude of gifts and graces, interpret cor- John's baptism was founded upon a conrectly. The Holy Ghost, and fire, mean fession of sin ; and that of Christ was the same thing, the latter clause being the application of a divine energy to exegetical; (Spiritus, qui est ignis, Elsner;) purge it away; as fire removes those stains and the words added were designed to and pollutions which water cannot. The convey the lofty notion of an illuminating, words, “and fire,” are wanting in some purifying, and most energetic effusion of MSS.; but that they are genuine, is suffithe Holy Spirit. And it is to be observed, ciently proved from their being in the that whenever our Lord speaks of the gift parallel passages in St. Luke, and in the of the Holy Spirit, in that fulness of in- older mss. and versions. The Socinian fluence which was to be administered to writers urge the absence of the article all that believed on him, he speaks of it as before Ilvevuarı ayıq against the words a future gift," which they that believed being understood of the Holy Spirit; and on him should receive ;” and the direc- Bishop Middleton's distinction between tion to the disciples was, that they should the Holy Spirit taken personally, and his
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner ; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
influence, in order to account for this ab- from the process of thrashing among the sence of the article, is worth nothing. The Jews. The sheaves of corn were trodden reasons for the omissions and insertions by oxen upon a “ thrashing-floor,” or preof the Greek article in many instances, pared plain area, formed upon some eleafter all the investigation which the sub- vated place, so as to force out the grain ; ject has of late years received, are far then the winnowing fan, which was often from being satisfactorily made out. The a portable instrument used by the hand, foundation which different theories assume and here not inaptly rendered by some, is often too frail to bear the weight of an ar- "a winnowing shovel,” was applied to gument; and of this, the passage before us throw up the grain to the wind, that the is a pregnant proof. We may urge against chaff might be separated from it; whilst Wakefield's translation,“ with a holy spirit the straw, being crushed beneath the feet of fire,” and “with a holy wind, and with of the oxen, and rendered worthless, a fire,” their unintelligible absurdity; for was reserved with the separated chaff, to no idea, surely, can be attached to bap be burned with other fuel in heating their tism with a holy spirit of fire, or to ovens. The word axupov equally includes baptism with wind, much less to a holy the chaff, and the crushed and worthless wind; and especially when this same straw. The phrase, Trupi ao Beoty, with uncritic will not allow that even “a per- quenchable fire, is awfully emphatic. The sonified operation of Deity” is to be iin- domestic fires in which the straw was derstood without the article. To this burned as fuel were extinguishable, and may be added the remark of Campbell, often extinguished; but this is “unwhose views of the passage are otherwise quenchable,” a clear indication of the obscure and defective, that no example perpetuity of future punishment. Those can be produced of the adjective, holy, who refer all this to the destruction of being joined to trevua, where the meaning Jerusalem do not rightly apprehend the of avevja is wind. But there is a more nature of John's ministry. His office decisive answer in Acts xi. 15, 16; where was to warn men of their eternal danger it is plain that the absence or presence of as sinners, and to pluck them, if possible, the article before mevua makes not the out of the fire of divine wrath. There is least difference in the sense of the term; not an expression in the whole of this and that it is both inserted and omitted discourse of his which leads to the supin the same breath. Ev de tw apgaodai je position, that he intended merely or dal ELV, ETTETTEN E TO Ilvevua TO a lov et' aurous, chiefly to warn his hearers against temWOTEP Kal ed' nuas ev apxn. Euvnobnu De TOU poral judgments. Its awakening characmuatos KupLou ws eleyev, Iwavuns der eBATTLEV ter was manifestly framed upon views of vbatı, vuels de Banting code ev svevmatı ayıdeeper and more formidable dangers than “ And as I began to speak, the Holy the Roman invasion, before which most Ghost fell on them, as at the beginning : of his hearers, he knew, would be in an then remembered,” &c. Here it is clear, eternal world. And as he had preached that the absence of the article in the Christ in his offices of grace, and as bapwords of John, which he quotes, occa- tizing those who should believe on him sioned St. Peter no difficulty; but that with the Holy Ghost, so here he proclaims he applied avevua in its anarthrous form him in his office of Judge, separating the to the personal operations of the divine chaff and straw from the grain, the Spirit of God himself.
wicked from the righteous, the office Verse 12. Whose fan is in his hand, &c. which he now exercises in the invisible -The metaphors in this verse are taken world, upon all departed spirits, between
13 g . Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now : for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
g Mark i. 9; Luke iii. 21.
whom he will make a still more public edly had some seasons of relaxation and separation, with visible majesty, at the of privacy. judgment of the great day. The instru. Verse 14. But John forbad him, 80.ment by which corn was winnowed was John declares that “ he knew him not” employed by heathen writers with a simi- till his baptism; the reason being, that, lar metaphorical application; and in the though the families were related, yet Eleusinian mysteries, a mystic FAN is John had lived long in solitude, at a great said to have been employed as a symbol, distance from the residence of Christ; to denote the separation of the initiated, divine providence having ordered this or holy, from the profane.
circumstance that it might be manifest Verse 13. Then cometh Jesus from Gali- that there was no concert between them. lee to Jordan unto John—Tote, then, does Now, for the first time since the days of not always so accurately mark the time, their infancy, John became acquainted as to lead to the conclusion, that our with Christ; and his recognition of him Lord in this instance came to John at was no doubt produced by supernatural that particular juncture when he was impulse ; and knowing then in whose preaddressing the multitudes in the discourse sence he was, said, in acknowledgment of contained in the preceding verses. The his dignity, “ I have need to be baptized notion of those, therefore, who think that of thee.” Then, in the baptism which the august scene of the descent of the took place immediately after, he received Holy Spirit upon him was a public one the confirmatory sign which demonstrated has no solid foundation. The contrary, him to be the Messiah. indeed, appears to be indicated by this Verse 15. To fulfil all righteousness.circumstance, that the descent of the See note on verse 3. To the remarks Spirit was promised to be a sign to John there, may be added, that our Lord says, the Baptist himself, John i. 33, to point “ It becometh us to fulfil all righteousout that personage whose precursor he ness," using the plural ; by which form of was commissioned to be. It is not pro- speaking he urged John to his duty. bable that this solemn token was given in Christ, who never sinned, was not under the midst of a multitude ; and in the pre- obligation to submit to Jobn's baptism as sence of the scoffing Pharisees and Saddu- a baptism upon repentance, nor was he cees. The whole had too sacred and too received by John under that condition ; mystic a character for indiscriminate gaze; for John's reluctance to baptize Christ and as no reference occurs to this event was an explicit declaration that he in the Gospels, as a public one, we may “needed no repentance.” But he was conclude that none but the Baptist and baptized by him, as stated in the note reChrist were present. The adverb of time ferred to, on the simple ground of “fulwith which the account is introduced filling all righteousness,” which is to be means no more than at the period when understood of obedience to every appointJohn was baptizing on the Jordan; near ment of his Father, the reasons of which, to which river he appears for some time notwithstanding many have becn given, to have fixed his abode; but he undoubt- as that it was to honour John's ministry,
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water : and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
&c., are not clearly revealed ; so that it renders it, “ Jesus, being baptized, no becomes us to confess our ignorance. It sooner arose out of the water, than heawas sufficient for our Lord that such was ven was opened,” &c., which is a very the divine will that he should be baptized forced translation of aveßn evdus ato TOU of John, and that John, though over- udatos. The common version is to be whelmed with a just sense of his inferiority, every way preferred ; or, if any alteration should baptize him; and it was “the were thought necessary, “and scarcely righteousness" of both to obey. Some had he ascended from the water,” as suglight is, however, thrown upon this act gested by several critics, would be preby the phrase rendered, “it becometh us ferable. The adverb has been variously to fulfil,” &c., iPETTOL EOTIV nur, intimating arranged in the sentence by others; but fitness and propriety, rather than that none of them appear to have caught the obligation under which all the Jews were intention of the evangelist, which evi. placed to submit to the baptism of John. dently was, to mark distinctly the differThis “ fitness" appears to have arisen out ence of time between the ASCENT from the of the inutual testimony that John and river and the descent of the Spirit, so as Jesus were to give to each other's mis- to guard against the idea, that the bapsion; and thus a connexion was esta tism of John was an ordinance through blished between the forerunner and him which the effusion of the Holy Spirit upon whose herald he was; so that the person Christ was dispensed. to whom John gave testimony as Messiah The heavens were opened, &c.- When a could not be mistaken. The notion that meteor, or any extraordinary appearance, Christ was baptized with reference to the falling froin the clouds or from the higher entrance of the Levitical priests into their regions of the atmosphere, occurred, the office by anointing and baptism, does not Jews usually expressed it by the phrase, seem to be well founded, since their bap- “the heavens were opened.” Unto him, tism was a mere ablution, which was con- some think to Christ, in the sense of for stantly repeated during their ministry. his sake ; but more probably the sense is,
Verse 16. Went up straightway out of the they were opened unto John; for his conwater, 8c —That it should be stated that viction the sign was made a visible and he went up straightway out of, or rather splendid one, because he was to be the FROM the water, has its reason, or other- witness of those things, and to give his wise it would be a trifling remark; for public testimony to them. why should he remain in the water after Descending like a dove, and lighting upon he had been baptized ? It is manifest that him.—Tertullian and St. Augustine enterthe descent of the Holy Spirit did not take tained the notion that a real dove was place during the administration of the rite employed as the visible sign on this occa. to him, which is a clear proof that it was sion. It does not, however, clearly appear a distinct act of God, wholly unconnected that the likeness of a dove was apparent. with the baptism of John; so that this St. Luke says, “ And the Holy Ghost baptism was not a means of communi- descended in a bodily shape like a dove cating this grace; for John baptized not upon him;" but the bodily shape, owhatIQ with the Holy Ghost; and it was no Eldet, may mean no more than a dedoubt to mark this circumstance, that his fined, visible appearance; and the comdeparting from the water, that is, ascend- parison may be between the motion of ing the bank of the Jordan, IMMEDIATELY this appearance in its descent, and the after his baptism, is noticed. Campbell motion of a dove when alighting. But,