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ty;-neither accuse any falsely; do not follow the example of your brethren; do not turn informers, and give false evidence against innocent persons, in order that with the protection of law, you may oppress them, and enrich yourself with their spoils and be content with your wages; live quietly on your pay, and do not mutiny when your officers happen not to bestow on you donations and largesses, to conciliate your favour. It seems the Baptist in his exhortations to penitents who asked his advice, did not follow the example of the Jewish teachers; for he was far from recommending the observation of ceremonies, and the little precepts of mens invention. He attended to the character of the persons; he considered the vices to which they were most addicted; and he strenuously enjoined the great duties of justice, charity, moderation, and contentment, according as he found those who applied to him had failed in them. And so by giving Pharisees, Sadducees, publicans, soldiers, and all sorts of persons, instructions adapted to their circumstances and capacities, he prepared them for receiving the Messiah, who he was sure would soon appear, although he did not know the person particularly, that was to sustain the high character.
Thus John Baptist acquired an extraordinary reputation, by the austerity of his life, the subject of his sermons, the fervency of his exhortations, and the freedom, impartiality, and courage with which he rebuked his hearers. Yet his fame received no small addition from the various rumours current in the country at that time. For the vision which his father Zacharias had seen in the temple, the coming of the eastern philosophers to Je rusalem, the prophecies of Simeon, the discourses of Anna, the perplexity of Jerusalem, and Herod's cruelty, though they had happened full thirty years before this, must still have been fresh in the memories of the people, who no doubt applied them all to John. Their expectations, therefore, being raised to a very high pitch, they began to think he might be the Christ, and were ready to acknowledge him as such; so that, had he aspired after grandeur, he might, at least for a while, have possessed henours greater than any of the sons of men could justly claim. But the Baptist was too strictly virtuous to assume what he had no title to, and therefore he declared plainly, that he was not the Messiah, but the lowest of his servants; one sent to prepare his way before him. At the same time, to give his hearers a just idea of his Master's dignity, he described the authority and efficacy of his ministry. Luke iii. 15. And as all the people. were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not, 16. John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptise you with water: I am sent from God, and the message I bring is, that all ranks and orders of persons must repent. Withal to impress this doctrine the more
deeply upon their minds, I address their senses by washing all my disciples with water;-but one mightier than I cometh: there is an infinitely greater prophet than me ready to appear, viz. the Messiah, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose, (Matt. whose shoes I am not worthy to bear away) i. e. to whom I am not worthy to perform the meanest servile office :-* he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: his baptism shall be unspeakably more efficacious than mine, for he will bestow on you the gifts of the Spirit. Perhaps the Baptist had likewise in view here, Mal. iii. 2. where Messiah is compared to a refiner's fire, on account of the judgments he has to inflict on the Jews for their unbelief.-Moreover, as the efficacy of his baptism will be much greater than mine, so will his authority be greater; for he will bring all men before his tribunal, to receive sentence according to their deeds; 17. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner, but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable
Ver. 16. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.] This expression some interpret thus, He shall give you the Holy Spirit, whose influences upon your minds will be like that of fire upon metals, will purify and refine you from the dross of sin. But others with more probability suppose, that the Baptist, speaking by inspiration, alluded to the flames which were to surround the heads of the apostles and first converts on the memorable day of Pentecost, when they received the miraculous effusion of the Spirit, whereof these flames were the symbols. Keuchenius and others, by baptism with fire, understand the conflagration of Jerusalem, wherein the Jewish polity was consumed, contrary however to the propri ety of the metaphor of baptizing with fire, which in this place at least, cannot be interpreted of any thing that has a destructrive quality, unless he spake to them as a body politic to be reformed by the divine judg. ments; the end of this baptism with fire being to purify, refine, and restore, as is plain from its being joined to baptism with the Spirit. For the same reason, Mr Heylin's interpretation, which makes verse 1. an explication of this clause, must be improper, He shall baptize you with the Ho ly Ghost; he will put you to the trial by the operation of his Spirit, and those who prove insincere, he will baptize with fire, will burn them; for his fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, &c. To understand the Baptist's meaning aright, we need only take notice, that in verse 17. he describes the authority of Christ's ministry, as in verse 16. he had described its efficacy; the Messiah is infinitely mightier than I, not only as he will bestow on you the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, but as he has power to reward them who obey him with eternal life, and to punish such with everlasting destruction as reject him. The descent of the Spirit upon the first converts was called baptism on account of the multitude, variety, and greatness of the gifts with which it was attended; in so much, that the minds of those on whom he descended, were as fully replenished with his gifts, as their bodies were covered with water in baptism. It was thus called likewise, because as baptism with water was appointed to be a sign of God's accepting the baptized person who gave the answer of a good conscience, so by the gifts of his Spirit, God declared his acceptance of the persons who enjoyed them, as the apostles Peter and Paul often assure us, both in their sermons and writings; vide Acts x. 47. *i. 17.
quenchable. The Baptist here has the forecited passage of Malachi plainly in his eye; and by applying it to Jesus, he intimated to the people, that he was the Refiner spoken of by that prophet.
In this manner did John inculcate the doctrine of repentance, and declare his Master's greatness. But his sermons were not confined to these matters. He spake also of many other important subjects, according as he knew they would be profitable to his hearers. Luke iii. 18. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.-In the whole course of his ministry, he shewed great integrity and courage, but especially in his intercourse with Herod the tetrarch, who it seems heard him, and admitted him into conversation; for he was so bold as to address the tetrarch on the subject of his favourite sins, particularly his adultery with Herodias. This he represented to him in its true colours, and reproved him for it. But the effect of his exhortation was not what it ought to have been. It did not bring Herod to repentance. On the contrary, it so provoked him, that he cast the Baptist into prison, and thereby put an end to his ministry, after it had lasted a considerable time. 19. But Herod the tetrarch being reproved by him for Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, (see § 59.) and for all the evils that Herod had done, 20. Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
§ XV. Jesus is baptized in Jordan; the Holy Spirit descends on him. Matt. iii. 13,-17. Mark i. 9,-11. Luke iii. 21, 22. John i. 15,-18.
WHILE John was at Bethabara, Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized of him. But he no sooner presented himself, than his forerunner acknowledged his superiority, by declaring before all the people, that he himself was so much his inferior, that he needed to be baptized of Jesus, and therefore that he was surprised he should apply to him for baptism. Matt. iii. 13. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. 14. But John forbade him, saying, * I have need to be bap
* Ver. 14. I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?] This acknowledgment seems inconsistent with what the Baptist said afterwards. John i. 33. I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit de cending and remaining upon him, the same is be that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Le Clerc therefore believes, that John acknowledged our Lord's superiority by a sudden impulse of the Spirit, which moved him to utter words, the meanig of which he did not comprehend.-Others think, that though he might sts; ect Jesus to be the Messiah b fore he saw the Spirit descend, he was not fully canfirmed in the belief of it till then.-Fabritius is of opinion, that the Spirit descended on Christ in John's presence, some time before his baptism; and on this Mr Whiston has grafted the principle article of his scheme of the harmony, in which he is followed by Mr Marshal and
tized 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. It is remarkable, that our Lord did not sustain John's excuse, but insisted on being baptized, because it became them to fulfil all righteousness, i. e. became them to do every thing agreeable to the divine will, and particularly in the present case, became them to do the things
Mr Pilkinton. He fancies that Jesus began to preach and baptise long be fore he was baptized himself: That the news of his preaching and baptizing had reached John before his arrival, which made the latter say, I have need to be baptized of thee: That the Baptist saw the Spirit descend the Jesus in the beginning of his ministry, as well as at his baptism; and that it is the descent of the Spirit in the beginning of his mmistry, which is mentioned in the forecited passage. Agreeably to these suppositions, be places Christ's baptism immediately before John's imprisonment; that is to say, a long time after our Lord began his ministry. But his opinion is contrary to Acts i. 21, 22. where Peter dates the commencement of Christ's ministry from his baptism. Besides, though Jesus might with great propriety confirm John's baptism, by receiving it before he began his own ministry, he could not, consistently with his pretensions as Messiah, submit to John's baptisin after that period. By baptizing and making disciples himself, Jesus assumed an authority distinct from, and superior to John's. This he would have renounced, if he had received John's baptism; because thereby he would have acknowledged himself John's disciple and inferior. For these reasons, Mr Whiston's scheme of harmony in this part ought to be rejected. Witsits, Dr Clarke, &c. following Chrysostom, suppose that God having given John the token to know Christ by, did upon his coming to be baptized, inform him by revelation, that this was the person on whom he should see the signal of the Spirit. Compare 1 Sam. xv. 16, 17. But this hypothesis is contradicted by the Baptist himself, who expressly ascribes his first knowledge of Jesus to the descent of the Spirit, John i. 34. And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God.-Wolf thinks the meaning of the Bap ist's affirmation is no more than that he was not personally acquainted with Jesus before his baptism. Yet this may be doubted, as they were relations, and consequently had been often together in Jerusa len at the passovers, and other festivals which the Jewish males were obliged by law to attend. For on such occasions, relations would seek each other out, and converse together as much as possible. Luke ii. 44. Moreover, the difficulty will be encreased, if, as is probable, the Baptist was acquainted with our Lord's private history, having been informed of it by his parents, who were religious observers of Providence, and had got from Mary an account of the miracle that accompanied the conception and birth of her son. Wherefore, to reconcile these seeming inconsistencies we must suppose, that Christ's obscure hite as a carpenter, till he was upwards of thirty years of age, had in some degree obliterated the impressions which the extraordinary circumstances attending his advent had made upon the minds of those who had heard of them. And as the Jews in general entertained very high notions of the splendour of the Messiah's person and kingdom, the Baptist, if he was tinctured with those prejudices, could not easily form a just notion of our Lord's dignity, even though he knew the history of his conception and birth. Having perfect knowledge, however, of his holy Lfe, and his own baptism being the baptism of repentance, when Jerus came desiring baptis.n, he fitly refused to give it to him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
proper for promoting the ends of both their missions; may have had the Levitical law in view, Exod. xxix. 4. xl. 12. which ordained, that the priests at their consecration should be purified by washing; and desired to obey the letter as well as the spirit of that law, before he entered on his ministry, wherein he discharged the office of high priest for all the nations of the world. Christ's baptism being proper on these accounts, he urged it; and John at length complied, baptizing him in Jordan, before a multitude of spectators. But as he had no need of the instructions that were given after baptism, he came straightway out of the water, and kneeling down on the banks of the river, prayed, probably for the influences of the Spirit, whereby his future ministry would be rendered acceptable to God, and effectual unto the salvation of men. This may be gathered from the answer he received. For in time of prayer, the heaven, i. e. the sky, was opened unto him, and an immense expanse appeared beyond it, from whence the Holy Spirit, in some visible form, perhaps that of flarne or fire, was seen descending in the † manner that a dove descends. And as the fire descended, a voice from heaven was heard pronouncing articulately these words: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 16. And Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water, Luke iii. 22. And praying, the heaven was opened; (Mark, to him) and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him. Matt. iii. 17. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is (Mark, thou art) my beloved Son, in whom (Mark, in thee) I am well pleased ‡. The epithet beloved (aya≈nt®) given
Our Lord's baptism tended to promote the ends both of his own mise sion and of his forerunner's, as it established the authority of both. It established John's mission, great honour being done him by the Messiah's receiving his baptism. It established our Lord's mission also; for after he was baptized, the testimonies of the Spirit and voice from heaven, were given him in the presence of the multitude assembled at Jordan. That these testimonies should have been given on this occasion, rather than on any other, was fit; because it was an august manner of opening our Lord's ministry, was the most public occasion that could be found, and pointed him out as Messiah to the Baptist, who was thereby qualified for the principal duty of his mission, John i. 31.
In the manner that a dove descends.] It must be owned, however, that Luke's description of this circumstance is ambiguous. And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him: for it may imply, that the material symbol of the Spirit's presence, had on this occasion the shape as well as the motion of a dove, to represent those gracious qualities which the human nature of Jesus possessed by virtue of its unction with the Spirit. (See Matt. x. 16. Song ii. 1o, 14. v. 2. vi. 8.) Just as the form of tongues, in which the material symbol of the Spirit appeared on the day of Pentecost, denoted the gift of tongues which the apostles obtained, by virtue of his descent upon them.
Mark relates the words thus, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am swell pleased. Gershon and Chemnitius imagine that both sentences were 3 C