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Thursday, December 7th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 3

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Verse 1

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,

Ver. 1. In those days came John the Baptist ] Whom Chrysologus fitly calleth fibulam legis et gratiae, the bond or buckle of both Testaments. He standeth as that angel, with one foot on the sea (the law), and with the other foot on the land (the gospel), Revelation 10:1 .

Preaching in the wilderness of Judea ] A place wherein we find six cities with their villages, Joshua 15:62 , but called a wilderness, because more thinly inhabited. In which sense we may say of Germany, that Aceldama or field of blood, and many other once rich and fertile countries, that they are become a wilderness, war being a tragedy that always destroys the stage whereon it is acted; but for the wickedness of them that dwell therein it is that a fruitful land is turned into a wilderness, saith David, Psalms 107:34 . And the heathen historian, Herodotus, saith little less, when he tells us that the ruin and rubbish of Troy are set by God before the eyes of men, for an example of that rule, that great sins have great punishments. Iam seges est ubi Troia fuit. Now grain grows where Troy was. (Ovid.) Now alterius perditio sit tua cautio, saith an ancient: not to be warned by others is a sure presage of ruin. (Isidore soliloq.) Scipio beheld and bewailed the downfall of Rome in the destruction of Carthage. And when Hannibal was beleaguering Saguntum in Spain, the Romans were as sensible thereof as if he had been then beating upon the walls of their Capitol. (Livy.) A storm often times begins in one place and ends in another. When the sword rides circuit (as a judge) it is in commission, Ezekiel 14:17 ; Jeremiah 47:6-7 . And, "When I begin" (saith God) "I will make an end," 1 Samuel 3:12 . We cannot but foresee a storm, unless we be of those in Bernard, who seek straws to put out their eyes with. a If we break not off our sins by repentance (that there may be a lengthening of our tranquillity, Dan 4:27 ), a removal of our candlestick may be as certainly foreseen and foretold as if visions and letters were sent us from heaven, as once to the Church of Ephesus. God may well say to us, as to them of old, "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel, a land of darkness?" Jeremiah 2:31 ; or, as Themistocles to his Athenians, Are ye weary of receiving so many benefits by one man? Bona a tergo formosissima. Our sins have long since solicited an utter dissolution and desolation of all; and that we should be made a heap and a hissing, a waste and a wilderness. Jeremiah 25:9 ; Jeremiah 49:2 . Quod Deus avertat. Because God left.

a Qui festucam quaerunt, unde oculos sibi eruant.

Verse 2

2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Ver. 2. And saying, Repent ye ] Change your minds now at the preaching of the gospel, as they changed their garments at the promulgation of the law. a "Rend your hearts, and not your garments," plough up the fallows of your hearts; grieve for your sins, even to repentance, as those Corinthians did, and as Simon Peter counselled Simon Magus, that snake that had cast his coat but kept his poison, for although he carried the matter so cleanly and cunningly, that Philip took him for a true convert and baptized him, yet Peter soon saw that he was "in the gall" or venom "of bitterness" (for the word used,Deuteronomy 29:18; Deuteronomy 29:18 , whereunto the apostle alludes, signifieth both), and therefore prescribes him an antidote, the very same that John doth here to this generation of vipers, "Repent, if perhaps the thoughts of thy heart may be forgiven thee,"Acts 8:22-23; Acts 8:22-23 . His wicked thought is called επινοια : the godly change of mind that the apostle persuadeth him unto is called μετανοια , he that by some mischance hath drunk poison ( ראש χολη ), must cast it up again as soon as he can, ere it got to the vitals. Repentance is the soul’s vomit, which is the hardest kind of physic, but the wholesomest. Happy is he that by the dung gate of Neh 3:14 his mouth (in a sorrowful confession) can disburden himself of the sin that both clogs and hazards his soul to death eternal. We ran from God by sin to death, and have no other way to return but by death to sin, Hebrews 12:1 .

For the kingdom of heaven is at hand ] q.d. Ye have a price put into your hands, a fair opportunity of making yourselves for ever. Will ye (like the vine and olive in Jotham’s parable, Jdg 9:9 ) not leave your sweetness and fatness, your dilecta delicta, beloved sins, although it be to reign, yea, and that in God’s kingdom? Knowest thou not, that the goodness of God should lead thee to repentance?Romans 2:4; Romans 2:4 ; Psalms 130:4 . Is there not mercy with God therefore that he may be feared? Should not men rend their hearts, because God is gracious, and turn to the Lord, because he will "multiply pardon?" Joel 2:12 ; Isaiah 55:7 . To argue from mercy to liberty is the devil’s logic, and makes God repent him of his favours to such, as David did of his kindness to Nabal. Rather we should argue from mercy to duty, as Joseph did to his master in a temptation; from deliverance to obedience, with David, Psalms 116:8-9 . And therefore return to our father’s house, with the prodigal, because there is bread enough; therefore repent, because his kingdom is at hand, and would be laid hold on. As John the Baptist was Christ’s forerunner into the world, so must repentance be his forerunner into our hearts.

a Ad mentem redite. Erasmus. As the prodigal came to himself, who, till converted, had been beside himself. See a like phrase, 2 Chronicles 6:37 .

Verse 3

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Ver. 3. For this is he which was spoken of ] Whether these be the words of the Baptist or the Evangelist, it appears not, skills not: the most say, of the Evangelist concerning the Baptist.

By the prophet Esaias ] Thus one Testament infolds another, as those wheels in Ezekiel; and the law preacheth faith in Christ, as well as the gospel, Romans 10:6-7 .

The voice of one crying ] Loudly and lustily; lifting up his voice as a trumpet ( βοωντος , boantis, vociferantis ), or as the sound of many waters. Likewise St Paul was ordained to be a crier, 1 Timothy 1:11 ; ( κηρυξ ), and so is every faithful preacher,2 Timothy 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:2 . He must cry and be instant, stand to the work, and stand over it ( επιστηθι ). Sta cum diligentia, Stand with care, saith the Syriac there, clangite, clamate, Shout, proclaim, Isaiah 58:1 ; Jeremiah 4:5 . Ye have to do with deaf men, dead men, living carcuses, walking sepulchres of themselves. Clames etiam ut Stentora vincas. Now, therefore, as our Saviour lifted up his voice when he said, "Lazarus, come forth," so must Christ’s ministers (when they speak to such as lie rotting and stinking in the graves of their corruptions) cry aloud, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and stand up from the dead, that Christ may give thee light," Ephesians 5:14 . Ecclesia (the Church) is a word in use among the Athenians, and signifies an assembly of citizens, called out of the multitude (as it were) by name, or in their ranks, by the voice of the public crier ( εκκαλειν ), to hear some speech or sentence of the senate. The Church, in like sort, is a company called out of the kingdom of Satan by the voice of God’s ministers, as it were criers, to hear the doctrine of the gospel revealed from heaven. There are that observe, a that John Baptist entered upon his calling in the year of Jubilee, which used to be proclaimed by a crier with the sound of a trumpet, and that in allusion thereunto he is called, "The voice of a crier."

Prepare ye the way of the Lord ] Suffer the terrors of the Lord to seize upon your souls: take not up bucklers against the strokes of God’s law, bring not your buckets to quench the motions of his Spirit, knocking at your hearts by the hammer of his word; make much of the least beginnings of grace, even those they call repressing, since they prepare the heart for conversion. "Open the everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in," that "Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." As Esther leaned upon her two maids when she came before the king, so let the soul lean upon the attrition of the law and contrition of the gospel; so shall the King of glory stretch out the golden sceptre of his grace, and we shall live. As John Baptist was Christ’s forerunner into the world, so must repentance be his forerunner into our hearts; for he that repenteth not, the kingdom of God is far from him: he cannot see it for his lusts that hang in his light.

Make his paths straight ] ( ετοιμασατε . Heb. פנו , Isaiah 40:3 . Viam apertam et oculis intuentium conspicuam facite. Obstant enim affectus mundani, &c. Erasmus.) Walk exactly, precisely, accurately, by line and by rule; Eph 5:15 walk as in a frame, make straight steps to your feet, or else there is no passing the strait gate; so strait, that as few can walk in it, so none can halt in it, but must needs go upright. Plain things will join in every point one with another; not so, round and rugged things. In like sort, plain spirits close with God’s truths, not those that are swollen, &c. The old heart will never hold out the hardship of holiness.

a Rolloc. in John 1:15 .

Verse 4

4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

Ver. 4. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair ] Suitable to Elias (in whose spirit and power he came), who was thus habited. So those worthies, of whom the world was not worthy, wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins; Heb 11:37 but they were like the ark, without, covered with goat’s hair; within, all of pure gold. God clothed our first parents in leather, when there was means of better clothing, to humble them, doubtless, and to shame all such as are proud of their clothes, which are the ensigns of our shame, and came in with sin as its cognizance. Saepe sub attrita latitat sapientia veste. Vestes sunt peccati testes. Vestium curiositas deformitatis mentium et morum indicium est. Bernard.

And a leathern girdle about his loins ] So had Elias, and God takes notice of it, and records it, when the pomp and pride of many monarchs lie hidden in obscurity, buried in oblivion. Such love beareth the Lord to his people, that everything in them is remarked and registered. He thinks the better of the very ground they go upon, Psalms 87:2-6 ; their walls are ever in his sight, and he loveth to look upon the houses where they dwell, Isaiah 49:16 .

And his meat was locusts ] These creatures have their name in Greek from the top of the ears of grain ( ακριδες ) which, as they fled, they fed upon. That they were man’s food in those eastern countries appears Leviticus 11:22 , and Pliny testifieth as much (lib. xi. cap. 29). Coarse meat they were, but nature is content with little, grace with less. Cibus et potus sunt divitiae Christianorum, Food and dring are the wealth of Christians. saith Jerome. a Bread and water with the gospel are good cheer, saith another. Our Saviour hath taught us to pray for bread, not for manchet b or junkets, but downright household bread; and himself gave thanks for barley bread and broiled fishes. A little of the creature will serve turn to carry thee through thy pilgrimage. One told a philosopher, If you will be content to please Dionysius, you need not feed upon green herbs. He replied, And if you can feed upon green herbs, you need not please Dionysius; you need not flatter, comply, be base, &c. c The ancients held green herbs to be good cheer, and accounted it wealth enough, μη διψαν και μη ριγαν , not to be thirsty, nor cold, saith Galen. But what miscreants were those Jews, that for ακριδες , locusts, read εγκριδες , deserts, as Epiphanius noteth against the Ebionites. The best, we see, are liable to be belied.

And wild honey ] Such as naturally distilled out of trees: as did that which Jonathan tasted with the tip of his rod, called honey of the wood, 1 Samuel 14:27 . God made Jeshurun suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock,Deuteronomy 32:13; Deuteronomy 32:13 . Hence Judea was called Sumen totius Orbis. breeding sow of the whole world. (Heidfeldius.) And Strabo, that spitefully affirmeth it to be a dry, barren country, had not so much ingenuity as that railing Rabshakeh, 2 Kings 18:32 .

a Liba recuso,

Pane egeo, iam mellitis potiore placentis.

Hor. Epist. i. 10,11.

b The finest kind of wheaten bread. ŒD

c Adulator est qui ollam sectatus. Becman. Holus ab ολον . Prisci nihil obsonii sibi deesse existimabant, modo ne deesset holus.

Verse 5

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,

Ver. 5. Then went out to him Jerusalem ] Hitherto the description of the Baptist: follows now the resort that was made unto him; for by his divine doctrine and austere life he had merited among many to be taken for the Messiah, John 1:20 .

And all Judea ] That is, very many, as the word "all" is many times elsewhere taken in the New Testament.

And all the region round about Jordan ] Stirred up by the noise of that new preacher. So various among us will be content to hear, if there go a great report of the man; or if he deliver some new doctrine, or deal in deep points, as Herod, Luke 23:8 . But these grow weary and fall off as those Jews did from John, for the which they were justly taxed by our Saviour, John 5:35 ; Matthew 11:7 .

Verse 6

6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Ver. 6. And were baptized of him in Jordan ] Baptizing of proselytes was in use among the Jews before the days of John Baptist. From this custom (saith Broughton, in Dan 9:1-27 ), though without commandment and of small authority, Christ authorizeth a seal of entering into his rest, using the Jews’ weakness as an allurement thither. As from bread and wine, used with the paschal lamb, being without all commandment of Moses, but resting upon the common reason given by the Creator, he authorized a seal of his flesh and blood.

In Jordan ] At Bethabara, John 1:28 , that is, at that very place where the people of Israel passed over Jordan and possessed the land. Baptism then was there first administered, where it had been of old foreshadowed. Here also we see that the acts of Joshua and Jesus took their happy beginning at one and the same place. And like as the people, after they had passed over Jordan, were circumcised before they received the land by lot of inheritance: so after we have been baptized, and thereby enrolled among the citizens of the New Jerusalem, the remnants of sin and superfluity of naughtiness must be daily pared off by the practice of mortification, ere we can come to the kingdom of heaven, James 1:21 ; η περισσεια της κακιας . In allusion to the garbage and excrements of the sacrificed beast.

Confessing their sins ] In token of their true repentance. For as only the man that is wakened out of his dream can tell his dreams; so only he that is wakened out of his sins can clearly confess them. a And this confession of sin, joined with confusion of sin (without the which, confession is but wind, and the drops of contrition, water), is that which in baptism we reciprocate. "Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the confident answer of a good conscience toward God," 1 Peter 3:21 ; b a clearing, cheering conscience, a heart washed from wickedness in this laver of regeneration, the baptism of repentance, the washing of the new birth, the being baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, this sayeth, saith St Peter. Not as the efficient cause of salvation, for that is Christ alone: nor yet as a necessary instrument, for that is faith alone: but only as a badge of the saved, and a pledge of their salvation; as, on the other side, God will not own a viperous brood, though baptized, that bring not forth fruits meet for repentance. To such, baptism is not the mark of God’s child, but the brand of a fool that maketh a vow and then breaketh it, Ecclesiastes 5:4 . For the font is Beersheba, the well of an oath; and there we swear (as David did) "to keep God’s righteous judgments," Psalms 119:106 ; Isaiah 10:1-19 . Now, if Zedekiah and Shimei paid so dearly for their perjury, for their fast and loose with men, how will God revenge the quarrel of his covenant? The Spanish converts in Mexico remember not anything of the promise and profession they made in baptism, save only their name, which many times also they forget. In the kingdom of Congo in Africa, the Portuguese, at their first arrival, finding the people to be heathens, without God, did induce them to a profession of Christ, and to be baptized in great abundance, allowing of the principles of religion; till such time as the priests pressed them to lead their lives according to their profession; which the most part of them in no case enduring, returned again to their Gentilism. Such renegades we have among us not a few, that give themselves up to Christ, Quoad Sacramenti perceptionem, by external profession (Augustine); but when it comes once ad vitae sanctificationem, to holiness of life, there they leave him in the open field, forsaking their colours, renouncing their baptism, and running away to the enemy. Now for such there is but one law, and it is martial law,Hebrews 10:39; Hebrews 10:39 : If any withdraw ( υποστειληται ) or steal from his captain (as the military term there used importeth) he doth it to perdition, -he is even a son of perdition, as Judas; who was circumcised indeed, as well as Peter, but better he had not. As it had been better for him never to have been born,Mark 14:21; Mark 14:21 , so, being born, never to have been circumcised, and thereby bound to the law. Unregenerate Israel is as Ethiopia, Amos 9:7 . And it had been happy that baptismal water had never been spilt on that face that is afterwards hatched with impudent impiety, Jeremiah 3:3-5 .

a εξομολογεισθαι . Est aperta et clara voce confiteri.

b επερωτημα .

Verse 7

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Ver. 7. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees ] Two leading sects among the Jews, but notable hypocrites, yet pressing to the ordinances. (Joseph. B. J.; Ant. Jdg 13:17 ) A Doeg may set his foot as far within the sanctuary as a David, and let him. He may be caught, as those warrant officers sent to apprehend our Saviour, as Saul’s messengers coming to Naioth were turned from executioners to prophets. "Come" (saith Latimer) "to the holy assemblies, though thou comest to sleep; for God, perhaps, may take thee napping."

He said unto them, O generatian of vipers ] Or adders, which are outwardly specious, inwardly poisonous: so are all hypocrites a mere outside, but God will wash off their paint with rivers of brimstone. Of the viper it is said, that when he hath stung a man he makes haste to the water, and drinks, or dies for it. So did these Pharisees to baptism, hoping by the work done to avoid the wrath to come. But a man may go to hell with baptismal water on his face, unless with the water of baptism he have grace to quench the fiery darts of the devil: as that holy virgin, whereof Luther reports, that she beat back Satan’s temptations with this only argument, I am a Christian. a The enemy quickly understood (saith he) the virtue of baptism, and the value of that vow, and fled from her. There are those who boast and bear themselves bold on their Christendom; but hath not many a ship, that hath been named Safeguard and Goodspeed, miscarried at sea, or fallen into the hands of pirates. This generation of vipers conceited themselves to be Abraham’s seed: so do many of the serpent’s seed today, because of their baptism; but all in vain, unless they walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, Romans 4:12 . The old serpent hath stung them, neither is there any antidote for such but the flesh (not of the biting viper, but) of the slain Messiah, foreshadowed by the brazen serpent. See Isaiah 27:1 . God hath promised to break for us the serpent’s head, who hath so deeply set his stings in us; yea, with his sore and great and strong sword, to punish Leviathan, that piercing serpent, and to slay the dragon that is in the sea.

Who hath forewarned you ] Who hath privily and underhandedly, as it were, shown you ( υπεδειξεν , clanculum indicavit et admonuit ), and set you in a course of avoiding the danger that hangs over your heads as by a twined thread? The wrath of God is revealed from heaven, and hell hath enlarged herself, and even gapes for you: who gave an inkling thereof, and sent you hither for help? &c.

From the wrath to come ] Called the damnation of hell, Matthew 23:33 , which hath torments without end and past imagination. For "who knoweth the power of thine anger?" saith David. "Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath," Psalms 90:1 ; that is, as I conceive it, let a man fear thy wrath never so much, he is sure to feel a fair deal more thereof than ever he could have feared. When but a drop of God’s displeasure lights upon a poor soul in this present world, what intolerable pain is it put to! "The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity," saith Solomon, Proverbs 18:14 , q.d. some sorry shift a man may make to rub through an outward affliction, and to bear it off by head and shoulders, "but a wounded spirit who can bear?" q.d. the stoutest cannot possibly stand under it: there is no proportion between the back and the burden; it is able to crush and crack the mightiest among us. Judas chose a halter rather than to endure it: and well he might, when as Job (with whom God was but in jest, in comparison) preferred strangling and any death before such a life, Job 7:15 . But all this, alas, is but present wrath, and nothing at all to the "wrath to come," a phrase of speech that involves and carries in it stings and horrors, woe, and, alas, flames of wrath and the worm that never dieth, trembling and gnashing of teeth, seas of vengeance, rivers of brimstone, unutterable and insufferable tortures and torments. We read of racking, roasting, hanging, stoning, putting men under harrows of iron and saws of iron, scratching off their flesh with thorns of the wilderness, pulling their skins over their ears, and other exquisite and unheard of miseries that men have here been put unto; -but ετυμπανισθησαν , Heb 11:35 what is all this to the wrath to come? not so much as a flea biting, as a prick with a pin, or smart blow with a finger; no, though a man should go through a thousand cruel deaths every hour his whole life throughout. Oh, bless and kiss that blessed Son of God that bore for us the brunt of this insupportable wrath, even "Jesus that delivered us from the wrath to come," 1 Thessalonians 1:10 ; and shun sin, that draws hell at the heels of it. Is it nothing to lose an immortal soul, to purchase an everliving death?

a Legitur de quadam sancta virgine quae quoties tentabatur, non nisi baptismo suo repugnabat, dicens brevissime, Christiana sum. Intellexit enim hostis statim virtutem baptismi et fidei, et fugit ab ea.

Verse 8

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

Ver. 8. Bring forth therefore fruits ] q.d. You cannot wash your hands in innocence, wash them therefore in tears: there is no way to quench hell flames but by the tears of true repentance; to prevent the wrath to come, but by bearing those fruits of righteousness that are by Christ Jesus to the glory and praise of God, Philippians 1:11 . Optima et aptissima poenitentia est nova vita, The best and most appropiate repentance is a new life, saith Luther; which saying, though condemned by Pope Leo, is certainly an excellent saying.

Meet for repentance ] That weigh just as much as repentance, that may parallel and prove it to be right, evince and evidence it to be a "repentance never to be repented of," 2 Corinthians 7:10 . There is no grace but hath a counterfeit. See therefore that your graces be of the right stamp, an effectual faith, laborious love, patient hope, &c., as the apostle hath it. See that your performances and whole course be such as becomes repentance, and may justify it; as may bear weight in the balance of the sanctuary, and amount to as much as repentance comes to, 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ; ( αξιον παρα του αγειν ). And albeit your righteousnesses be but as a menstruous clout, and your works at best (if tried by the fire of the word, Isa 64:6 ; 1Co 3:13 ) would burn (which made good Nehemiah,Nehemiah 13:12; Nehemiah 13:12 , to pray for pardon of his reformations), yet upon your true repentance for the evil that cleaves to your best works, your souls may be saved from the wrath to come; yea, they are such "as accompany salvation," and comprehend it, as the Greek Scholiast expounds that text, Hebrews 6:9 ; ( εχομενα , i.e. κατεχομενα σωτηριας ). Labour, therefore, to have a "heart full of goodness," as those Romans,Romans 15:14; Romans 15:14 , and a life "full of good works," as Tabitha, Acts 9:36 , such as may beseem amendment of life.

Verse 9

9 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.

Ver. 9. And think not to say within yourselves ] Hypocrites are never without their holes of refuge, out of which they must be ferreted. There are infinite turnings and windings in the heart of man, studious of deceiving itself by some paralogism ( παραλογιζομενοι εαυτους , Jam 1:22 ). Therefore the apostle so often premiseth, "Be not deceived," when he reckons up reprobates, 1 Corinthians 6:9 ; Ephesians 5:6-8 .

We have Abraham to our father ] What of that? so had Ishmael, an outcast, -Esau, a castaway, &c. External privileges profit not where nothing better can be pleaded. Nabal, the fool, was of the line of faithful Caleb, Qui implevit post me, " followed me fully," saith God, Numbers 14:24 . Virtue is not, as lands, inheritable. Why should these men brag they had Abraham to their father, when they might have observed that God had raised up of this stone a son to Caleb?

God is able ] His power Isaiah 1:1-31 . Absolute, whereby he can do more than he doth. 2. Actual, whereby he doth that only which he willeth. Some things he can do, but will not, as here, and Matthew 26:53 ; Romans 9:18 . Some things he neither will nor can, as to lie, to die, to deny himself, 2 Timothy 2:13 ; Titus 1:2 ; Hebrews 6:18 , for these things contradict his essence, and imply impotence. But whatsoever he willeth, without impediment he effecteth, Isaiah 46:10 ; Psalms 115:3 .

Of these stones to raise up children to Abraham ] This he could do, though he will not. And yet he doth as much as this, when he takes the stone out of the heart; when of carnal he makes us a people created again, Psalms 102:18 ; when out of a hollow person (one as empty and void of heart as the hollow of a tree is of substance) is fetched out a heart of oak, and of a wild asscolt born, is made a man: see both these similitudes, Job 11:12 . It was a strange change that Satan mentioned and motioned to our Saviour of turning stones into bread. But nothing so strange as turning stony hearts into hearts of flesh. This is a work of God’s almighty power, the same that he put forth in raising Christ from the dead,Ephesians 1:19; Ephesians 1:19 ; (where the apostle, the better to set forth the matter, useth a six-fold gradation in the original), and in creating the world, Psa 51:10 ; 2 Corinthians 5:17 . The prophet Isaiah tells us, "that he plants the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, that he may say to Zion, Thou art my people," Isaiah 51:16 . And although man’s heart be an emptiness, as in the creation, as herbs in winter, or as a breathless clod of earth, yet that hinders not, saith the prophet.

Verse 10

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.

Ver. 10. And now also is the axe laid to the root of the trees ] q.d. God is now taking aim where to hit, and how to fell you, as a man layeth his axe at that very place that he intends to smite at: he seeth well enough that all his patience and pains in digging, in dunging, and in dressing you, is to no purpose. He comes "seeking fruit from time to time, but findeth none," Luke 13:7 . Now therefore he hath laid down his basket, and taken up his axe, as resolved to ruin you, unless present course be taken. Neglect not the present "now," lest ye be cut off for ever. a God will not always serve you for a sinning stock. Since ye have a preacher, repent or perish. Let this spring distinguish between dead and living trees.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit ] So God is graciously pleased to style our poor performances; in every of which there is something of his, as well as something of our own (Jerome). That which is his he accepts, that which is ours he pardons. But good it must be, quoad fontem, as long as the souce, the Spirit of God: and quoad finem, as long as the end, the glory of God. Negative goodness serves no man’s turn to save him from the axe. It is said of Ithacius, that the hatred of the Priscillian heresy was all the virtue that he had. (Hooker ex Sulpitio. ) The evil servant did not riot out his talent; those reprobates Mat 25:41-46 robbed not the saints, but relieved them not. Moab and Ammon were bastardized and banished the sanctuary to the tenth generation, for a mere omission, because they met not God’s Israel with bread and water in the wilderness; Deu 23:4 and Edom is forethreatened for not harbouring them when scattered by the Chaldeans. (Obadiah.) Take we heed that live in the last age of the world, lest God hasten the calling of the Jews, and cast us off for our unfruitfulness,Romans 11:17-24; Romans 11:17-24 .

a Ultimae desperationis indicium est, quoties securis admovetur radici. Erasmus, Annot.

Verse 11

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Ver. 11. I indeed baptize you with water to repentance ] There is a twofold baptism, Hebrews 6:2 , the doctrine of baptisms ( βαπρισμων ), viz. Fluminis et flaminis, external and internal, the putting away of the pollution of the flesh, and the answer of a good conscience (purged from dead works) to God-ward. When these two meet, when men are baptized with water to repentance, then baptism saveth ( σωζει ), 1 Peter 3:21 ; that is, it effectually assureth salvation, whensoever by the Spirit and faith the baptized comes to be united to Christ, and to feel the love of God shed abroad in his soul, whereby is wrought in him a spirit of repentance, a grief for sin, as it is an offence against God. And hereupon St Peter saith, "Baptism saveth," in the present tense, implying that it is of permanent and perpetual use; effectual to save and seal up the promises, whensoever we repent. From which happy time, baptism, once received, remains a fountain always open for sin and for uncleanness, to those that mourn over him that bled over them; a laver of regeneration, a washing of the Spirit, who poureth clean water upon them, ridding and rinsing them from all their sins, past, present, and future, Zechariah 12:10 ; Zechariah 13:1 ; Ezekiel 36:25 . Provided that they stand to the covenant and order of baptism, in a continual renovation of faith and repentance, as occasion shall be offered. This doctrine of baptisms (now cleared by divines) various of the ancient doctors understood not, which disheartened Piscator from spending much time upon them. a

He that cometh after me ] Whose harbinger and herald I am, whose prodromus and paranymph, friend and forerunner, I am, as the morning star foreruns the sun, with whose light it shineth.

Is mightier than I ] And will easily outshine me: "he must increase, but I must decrease;" and this is the complement of my joy, John 3:29-30 . To rejoice in the good parts of others, though it eclipseth thy light, and that from the heart, this is indeed to be able to do more than others; this is to excel others in any excellence whatsoever, if this be wanting.

Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear ] Christ thought John worthy to lay his hand on his holy head in baptism, who thinks not himself worthy to lay his hand under Christ’s feet. The more fit any man is for whatsoever vocation, the less he thinks himself. "Who am I?" said Moses, when he was to be sent to Egypt; whereas none in all the world was comparably fit for that embassy. Not only in innumerable other things am I utterly unskilful, saith St Augustine, but even in the Holy Scriptures themselves (my proper profession), the greatest part of my knowledge is the least part of mine ignorance. b I, in my little cell, saith Jerome, with the rest of the monks my fellow sinners, dare not determine of great matters. c This is all I know, that I know nothing, said Socrates; and Anaxarchus went further, and said, that he knew not that neither, that it was nothing that he knew. d This is the utmost of my wisdom, said David Chytraeus, that I see myself to be without all wisdom. And if I would at any time delight myself in a fool, saith Seneca, I need not seek far: I have myself to turn to. e Thus the heaviest ears of grain stoop most towards the ground; boughs, the more laden they are, the more low they hang; and the more direct the sun is over us, the less is our shadow. So the more true worth is in any man, the less self-conceitedness; and the lower a man is in his own eyes, the higher he is in God’s. Surely John Baptist lost nothing by his humility and modesty here, for our Saviour extols him to the multitude Matthew 11:7-11 ; and there are those who doubt not to affirm (where they have it I know not) that for his humility on earth he is dignified with that place in heaven from whence Lucifer fell. Sure it is, that "he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." If men reckon us as we set ourselves ( Tanti eris aliis, quanti tibi fueris ), God values us according to our abasements. The Church was black in her own eyes, fair in Christ’s,Song of Solomon 1:5-15; Song of Solomon 1:5-15 .

With the Holy Ghost, and with fire ] That is, with that fiery Holy Ghost, εν δια δυοιν , that spirit of judgment and of burning, wherewith the "filth of the daughters of Zion is washed away,"Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 4:4 ; that they may escape that unquenchable fire mentioned in the verse next following. This fire of the spirit must be fetched from heaven, Lumen de lumine, light from the light from the Father of lights, who giveth his Spirit to those who ask it; Hinc baptismus dicitur φωτισμος . It must be a coat from his altar, which when you have once gotten, your heart must be the hearth to uphold it; your hands, the tongs to build it; God’s ordinances, the fuel to feed it; the priest’s lips, the bellows to blow it up into a flame: so shall we find it (according to the nature of fire): 1. To enlighten us, as the least spark of fire lightens itself at least, and may be seen in the greatest darkness. 2. To enliven and revive us; for "whatsoever is of the Spirit is spirit," John 3:6 , that is, nimble and active, full of life and motion. A bladder is a dull lumpish thing, so is a bullet; but put wind into the one, and fire to the other in a gun, and they will flee far. Fire is the most active of all other elements, as having much form, little matter; and therefore the Latins call a dull dronish man a fireless man, which God cannot abide. f "What thou doest, do quickly," said our Saviour to Judas; so odious to him is dullness in any business. Baruch, full of the spirit, repaired the wall of Jerusalem earnestly, Nehemiah 3:20 . Se accendit, he burst out into heat, and so finished his part in shorter time. "I press toward the mark," saith Paul, διωκω , I persecute it, Philippians 3:14 . Never was he so mad in persecuting the saints, Acts 26:11 , as after his conversion he was judged to be the other way,2 Corinthians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 5:13 ; as Lucan says of Caesar:-

" In omnia praeceps,

Nil actum credens, dum quid superesset agendum. "

In all things first, never to trust the action while the matter remains to be completed. 3. To assimilate: as fire turns fuel into the same property with itself; so doth the Spirit inform the mind, conform the will, reform the life, transform the whole man more and more into the likeness of the heavenly Pattern; it spiritualizeth and transubstantializeth us, as it were, into the same image from glory to glory, 2Co 3:18 as the sun (that fire of the world) by often beating with its beams upon the pearl makes it radiant and orient, bright and beautiful like itself. 4. To elevate and carry the heart heavenward, as fire naturally aspireth, Job 5:7 ; and the spark fleeth upwards, to kindle our sacrifices, and make us heavenly minded; to break out at length, though for a while it lie under the weight of sin, that doth so easily beset us, Hebrews 12:1 ; as fire may lie puffing and blowing under green wood, as almost smothered. g 5. To purify us (as fire doth metals) from "our dross, and to take away all our tin," Isa 1:25 ; 1 Corinthians 9:11 . For he is "like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap," Malachi 3:2 , whereby we are purified by "obeying the truth, unto unfeigned love of the brethren,"1 Peter 1:22; 1 Peter 1:22 . 1 Peter 1:6 . And that is the last property of the Holy Ghost and of fire (that I now insist upon), Congregat homogenea, segregat heterogenea: it unites them to saints, and separates them from sinners, for "what communion hath light with darkness?" 2 Corinthians 6:14 . It maketh division from those of a man’s house, if not of his heart; and yet causeth union with Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, if truly Christian, Colossians 3:2 . Oh, get this fire from heaven: so shall you glorify God, Mat 5:16 and be able to dwell with devouring fire (which hypocrites cannot do, Isa 33:14 ), get warmth of life and comfort to yourselves, give light and heat to others, walk surely, as Israel did by the conduct of the pillar of fire, and safely, as walled with a defence of fire, Zechariah 2:5 . And if any man shall hurt such, "fire shall proceed out of their mouths to devour them,"Revelation 11:5; Revelation 11:5 . So that a man had better anger all the witches in the world than one of those that are "baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire," &c., especially if they be much mortified Christians, such as in whom his fiery spirit hath done with the body of sin, as the king of Moab did with the king of Edom, Amo 2:1 burnt his bones into lime.

a A patrum lectione, postquam nonnullos evolvisset D. Piscator, sibi temperavit: aususque fuit dicere, Vix ullum patrum usum et efficaciam baptismi recte intellexisse.

b Non solum in aliis innumerabilibus rebus multa me latent, &c. Epist. 119.

c Ego in parvo tuguriolo, cum monachis, i.e. cum compeccatoribus meis, de magnis statuere non audeo. Epist. ad August. cxii. 5.

d Anaxarchus praedicabat se ne id quidem nescire, quod nihil sciret. Tusc. 3.

e Si quando fatuo delectari volo non longe mihi quaerendum est, me video. Seneca. Quod si ex parte aliquid didicerim, tamen in comparatione latitudinis intellectus, profecto nihil me intellexisse intelligo. Baldus.

f Segnis quasi seignis, id est, frigidus, ignavus. Tardis mentibus virtus non facile committitus. Cic.

g The least spark of fire will endeavour to rise above the air: so the Spirit.

Verse 12

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.

Ver. 12. Whose fan is in his hand ] Though the devil and wicked men mightily strive to wring it out of his hand; for what, say they, need this shedding and this shoaling? this distinguishing and differencing of men into saints and sinners? Are not all the Lord’s people holy? Numbers 16:3 . Is there any man lives and sinneth not? but yet there is as wide a difference between sinner and sinner as is between the bosom of Abraham and the belly of hell, Luke 16:26 ; Luke 1:1-80 . The godly man projects not sin as the wicked doth; but is preoccupied by it, against his general purpose, προληφθη , Galatians 6:1 ; Galatians 2:1-21 . He arts not the sin that he acts: he sins not sinningly; ου ποιει αμαρτιαν , 1 John 3:9 . He is not transformed into sin’s image, as the wicked are,Micah 1:5; Micah 1:5 . His scum rests not in him; he works that out by repentance that he committed with reluctance, Ezekiel 24:11 ; Ezekiel 3:1-27 . He is the better for it afterwards. His very sin (when bewailed and disclaimed) maketh him more heedful of his ways, more thankful for a Saviour, more merciful to others, more desireful after the state of perfection, &c. Whence grew that paradox of Mr. John Fox, "That his graces did him most hurt, and his sins most good." a Whereas wicked men grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, till at length by long trading in sin, being hardened by the deceitfulness thereof, they are utterly deprived of all (even passive) power of recovering themselves out of the devil’s snare,2 Timothy 2:23; 2 Timothy 2:23 ; 2 Timothy 3:13 ; Hebrews 3:13 ; which is a conformity to the devil’s condition. This their covering therefore is too short. Christ’s fan is in his hand to take out the precious from the vile, Jeremiah 15:19 ; and the ministers of Christ must separate (as the priests of old did) the clean from the unclean, drive the chaff one way and the wheat another: "for what is the chaff to the wheat, saith the Lord?"Jeremiah 23:28; Jeremiah 23:28 . See this enjoined them, Isaiah 3:10-11 . Zuinglius, as in his public lectures be would very sharply rebuke sin, so ever and anon he would come in with this proviso, Probe vir, haec nihil ad te: this is nothing to thee, thou godly man. (Scultet. Annul.) He knew that he could not beat the dogs, but the children would be ready to cry, whom therefore he comforted.

And he will throughly purge his floor ] That is, his Church, called God’s threshingfloor,Isaiah 21:10; Isaiah 21:10 , because usually threshed by God with the flail of affliction. That is one way whereby the Lord Christ doth purge his people, and separate between the son that he loves and the sin that he hates. This he doth also by his word and Spirit: "sanctifying them by his truth, his word is truth,"John 17:17; John 17:17 ; "And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are justified, but ye are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God," 1 Corinthians 6:11 . Thus Christ purgeth his floor, here initially and in part, hereafter thoroughly and in all perfection. In all which we may observe (saith a divine) this difference between Christ and the tempter. Christ hath his fan in his hand, and he fanneth us; the devil hath a sieve in his hand, and he sifteth us. b Now a fan casteth out the worst and keepeth in the best: a sieve keepeth in the worst, and casteth out the best. Right so Christ (and his trials) purgeth chaff and corruption out of us, and nourisheth and increaseth his graces in us. Contrariwise, the devil, whatever evil is in us, he confirmeth it; what faith or other good thing soever, he weakeneth it. But Christ hath prayed for his (though never so hard laid at) that their faith fail not, and giveth them in time of fanning, to fall low at his feet, as wheat, when the wicked, as light chaff, are ready to fly in his face, as murmuring at their hard measure, with those miscreants in the wilderness.

And gather his wheat into the garner ] Mali in area nobiscum esse possunt, in horreo non possunt. (Augustine.) The wicked may be with us in the floor, they shall not in the garner: for there shall in no wise enter into the City of the Lamb anything that defileth, or that worketh abomination, Revelation 21:27 , βδελυγμα . Heaven spewed out the angels in the first act of their apostasy; and albeit the devil could screw himself into Paradise, yet no unclean person shall ever enter into the kingdom of heaven. Without shall be dogs and evildoers, Revelation 21:8 ; no dirty dog doth trample on that golden pavement, no dross is with that gold, no chaff with that wheat; but the spirits of "just men made perfect," amidst a general assembly of angels, and that glorious amphitheatre,Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 12:22 . In the mean while, Dei frumentum ego sum (may every good soul say, with Ignatius), I am God’s wheat: and although the wheat be as yet but in the ear, or but in the blade, yet when the fruit is ripe, he will put in the sickle (because the harvest is come), and gather his wheat into his barn, into his garner. It doth the husbandman good at heart to see his grain come forward, though the harvest be not yet, Mark 4:28-29 . Spes alit agricolas, sed adhuc mea messis in herba est.

But will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire ] In reference to the custom of those countries, which was to cast their chaff into the fire. But this, alas, is another manner of fire than that. A metaphorical fire doubtless, and differs from material fire: 1. In respect of the violence, for it is unspeakable. 2. Of the durance, for it is unquenchable. 3. Of illumination, for though it burn violently to their vexation, yet it shines not to their comfort. 4. Of operation, for it consumes not what it burneth; they ever fry, but never die; vivere nolunt, mori nesciunt; they "seek death, but find it not," as those Revelation 9:6 . A just hand of God upon them; that they that once might have had life and would not, now would have death and cannot.

a παραδοξον αλλ ου παραλαγον . Capell on Temptations.

b Luke 22:31 . σιυιασαι , Concussionem notat vehementissimam, quae manibus et genibus fit, nunc in altum efferendo, nunc ab uno latere ad alterum agitando.

Verse 13

13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.

Ver. 13. Then cometh Jesus from Galilee ] Our Saviour came far to seek his baptism. Let not us think much of any pains taken, that we may partake of the ordinances. The Shunammite went (ordinarily) every sabbath and new moon, on horseback, to hear the prophet, 2 Kings 4:23 . The good people in David’s time "passed through the valley of Baca,"Psalms 84:6; Psalms 84:6 , from strength to strength, to see the face of God in Sion, though but in that dark glass of the ceremonies. And in Daniel’s time they ran to and fro "to increase knowledge," Daniel 12:4 . In Zechariah’s days the inhabitants of one city went to another, saying, "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also," Zechariah 8:21 . Our Saviour took it ill that men came not as far to hear him as the queen of Sheba did to hear Solomon, Matthew 12:42 . The eunuch came as far to worship in the temple, Acts 8:27 . And of our forefathers in King Henry VIII’s time Mr Foxe saith thus: "To see their travels, earnest seeking, burning zeal, readings, watchings, sweet assemblies, love, concord, godly living, faithful marrying with the faithful, may make us now in these our days of free profession to blush for shame. George Eagles, martyr in Queen Mary’s days, for his great pains in travelling from place to place to confirm the brethren, was surnamed, ‘Trudge over the world.’" (Acts and Mon.)

To be baptized of him ] Not for any need he had (for he was a Lamb without blemish of natural corruption, and without spot of actual transgression, 1Pe 1:19 ), but merely for our benefit, to sanctify baptism to us, and to grace his own ordinance for us.

Verse 14

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Ver. 14. But John forbade him ] Flatly forbade him, and kept him out of the water with both hands earnestly; a not out of disobedience, but reverence, though faulty and erroneous. The very best have their blemishes. Omnibus malis Punicis inest granum putre, dixit Crates: and the fairest apple tree may have a fit of barrenness. But for involuntary infirmities, and those of daily incursion, there is a pardon of course, if sued out. And although Satan stood at the right hand of Joshua the high priest, because (as some will have it) his accusation was as true as vehement, and so Satan seemed to have the upper hand of him; yea, although he was so ill clothed, yet he stood before the angel. Christ did not abhor his presence, nor reject his service, Zec 3:2

I have need to be baptized of thee ] There can be no flesh without filthiness, as a grave divine noteth upon this text (Dr Hall). Neither the supernatural conception nor austere life of John could exempt him from need of baptism.

And comest thou to me? ] Amica συρραξες , a friendly falling out, but quickly made up. Most of our jarrings grow from mistakes. "Be swift to hear, slow to wrath;" easily satisfied. Not like glasses, which being once broken, cannot be pieced again.

" Quae modo pugnarant iungunt sua rostra columbae. " Ovid.

a διεκωλυεν , obnixe prohibebat, ad vim praepositionis δια exprimendam.

Verse 15

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.

Ver. 15. Suffer it to be so now ] Or, let be now: for the Baptist seems to have laid hands upon Christ to keep him off. a Our Saviour assents to that John had said, but yet shows cause why he should suffer it so to be for the present.

To fulfil all righteousness ] Not legal only, and of equality, but that of his present condition also, and of equity; to the end that all kind of sinners might have all kind of comfort in Christ, an absolute and all-sufficient Saviour.

Then he suffered him ] The wisdom from above is gentle, and easy to be persuaded, when better reason is alleged, ευπειθης , James 3:17 : as in Peter, John 13:8 , first peremptory, but after conviction pliable. A humble man will never be a heretic: show him his error, and he will soon retract it. Joannes Bugenhagius (a reverend Dutch divine) lighting upon Luther’s book de Captivitate Babylonica, and reading some few pages of it as he sat at supper, rashly pronounced him the most pestilent and pernicious heretic that ever the Church had been troubled with since the times of Christ. But a few days after, having seriously read over the book, and well weighed the business, he returned to his collegioners, and recanted what he had said among them; affirming and proving that Luther only was in the light, and all the world besides in gross darkness, so that many of them were converted by him to the truth. ( Scultet. Annal. ) Joannes Denckius (a learned Bavarian) held this heresy, that no man or devil should be damned eternally, because God willeth that all should be saved: and Christ saith, "There shall be one shepherd and one sheep-fold." But being a humble minded man, he was convinced and converted by Oecolampadius, and died of the plague (but piously) at Basil, A.D. 1528. Of Swenckfeldius the heretic, because he prayed ardently, and lived unblameably, Bucholcerus the chronologer was wont to say that his heart was good, but his head not well regulated. b But how that could be, I see not, so long as he lived and died in his detestable opinions, and would not forego them. If the leprosy were gotten into the head, the priest was to pronounce such utterly unclean, Leviticus 13:44 . And the prophet pronounceth his soul that is lifted up with pride and pertinace not to be upright in him, Habakkuk 2:4 .

a Consentaneum est, iniecta manu Ioannem conatum vetare Iesum. Erasmus.

b Non defuisse Swenckfeldio cor bonum sed caput regulatum.

Verse 16

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:

Ver. 16. And Jesus when he was baptized ] Many of the ancients held that the day of Epiphany was the day of our Saviour’s baptism. But that, I think, is but a conjecture. The Habassines, a kind of mongrel Christians in Africa, baptize themselves every year on that day in lakes or ponds; thereby to keep a memorial of our Saviour’s baptism in Jordan. This is (as Tyndal was wont to say of a like matter) to pass by the provision, and lick the sign post.

Went up straightway out of the water ] And stood upon the shore, apart from the company, that all might see and hear what was now to be done. St Luke addeth, Luk 3:21 that he fell there upon his knees and prayed; thereby teaching us, with what deep devotion we are to receive the sacraments, which are given us of God to signify, as by sign; to assure, as by seal; and to convey, as by instrument, Jesus Christ and all his benefits. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are there one in covenanting and working thy salvation. Stir up thyself therefore to hope and faith at the sacrament: speak to thy faith, as Deborah did to herself, Judges 5:12 ; "Awake, awake, Deborah, utter a song:" give glory to God, lay claim to the covenant: lean on Christ’s bosom at that supper, and bethink thyself, with Esther at the feast, what suit thou hast to commence, what Haman to hang up, what lust to subdue, what grace (chiefly) to get growth in, &c. But for most communicants, urge them to prayer before, in, and after sacrament, and they must say (if they say truly), as David did of Saul’s armour, I cannot go with these, for I have not been accustomed to them, 1 Samuel 17:39 .

And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him ] As he was praying; for prayer is the key of heaven, wherewith we may take out of God’s treasury plentiful mercy for ourselves and others. He cannot possibly be poor that can pray,Romans 10:12; Romans 10:12 . One said of the Pope, that he could never want money so long as he could hold a pen in his hand: of the faithful Christian it may safely be affirmed, he cannot want any good thing while he can call to God for it. If he can find a praying heart, God will find a pitying heart and a supplying hand. Now he is worthily miserable that will not make himself happy by asking. The ark and the mercy seat were never separated. God never said to Israel, "Seek ye me in vain," Isaiah 45:19 . The hand of faith never knocked at heaven’s gates, but they were opened, and the Spirit descended, though not so visibly as here at the baptism of our Saviour, nor a voice heard so audibly from heaven as then, yet as truly and effectually to the support of the poor suppliant: who while he prayeth in the Holy Ghost, Judges 1:20 , receiveth new supplies of the Spirit, επιχορηγια , Philippians 1:19 ; Eph 4:16 and is sweetly, but secretly, sealed up thereby to the day of redemption.

And he saw the Spirit of God descending ] From the Father (who spake from the most excellent glory, 2Pe 1:17 ) upon the Son, who stood upon the shore, so that here was concilium augustissimum, a most majestical meeting of the three persons in Trinity, about the work of man’s redemption, as once about his creation: Genesis 1:26 ; "Let us make man." The Hebrews interpret it, "I and my judgment hall;" by which phrase the Trinity of old was implied. For a judgment hall in Israel consisted of three at least; which, in their close manner of speech, they applied to God, but their posterity understood it not. And as in the matter of man’s creation and redemption, so likewise of his sanctification, remarkable is that of the apostle, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 , where the diversities of gifts are said to be of the Spirit; the diversities of ministries (whereby these gifts are administered) of the Lord, that is, of Christ; and the diversities of operations (effected by the gifts and ministries) to be of God the Father.

Like a dove, and lighting upon him ] This was shadowed of old, by Noah’s dove lighting upon the ark; and serveth to denote Christ’s innocence, purity, love to his little ones, κυουσι γαρ αλληλας, saith Aristotle; a and another thus:-

" Felle columba caret, rostro non caedit, et ungues

Possidet innocuos puraque grana legit. "

That was more than ridiculous, nay, it was blasphemous, that those pilgrims that went to Jerusalem to fight in the Holy War (as they called it) did carry a goose before them, pretending it to be the Holy Ghost. These were drunk with the wine of the whore of Babylon’s abominations; and not filled with the Spirit, as St Stephen was, and Barnabas, and others of old; as of late, among many, that famous Beza, de quo collegae saepe dicebant, eum sine felle vivere. And himself reports of himself and his colleagues, in an epistle to Calvin, that, disputing with a Spanish Jesuit about the Eucharist, "the Jesuit" (saith he) "called us vulpes, et simias, et serpentes (foxes, apes, serpents). My answer was this, Non magis nos credere, quam transubstantiationem." To not greatly believe us than transubstantiation. So that angel John Bradford (as one calleth him), when he reasoned with Alphonsus a Castro; the friar was in a wonderful rage, and spake so high that the whole house rang again, chafing with om and cho, saith Mr Fox. But Bradford answered him with meekness of wisdom, and, like the waters of Shiloah at the foot of Sion, ran softly, Isaiah 8:6 . He had been baptized with that Holy Ghost that descended upon our Saviour, who received not the Spirit by measure, but had a fulness, not of abundance only, but also of redundance, John 1:14 .

a περιστερα, παρα, του περισσως εραν . Herdfield.

Verse 17

17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Ver. 17. And, lo, a voice from heaven ] Whereupon St Peter foundeth the certainty of Christian faith and doctrine, 2 Peter 1:17 , especially since we have a more sure word of prophecy; for that former might have been slandered, or suspected for an imposture.

Saying, This is my beloved ] My darling, he on whom my love resteth; a so that I will seek no further. Zephaniah 3:17 . When the earth was founded, Christ was with his Father as his daily delight, sporting or laughing, always before him, risum captans ac consilium, Proverbs 8:30 . Jerome.

In whom I am well pleased ] The beloved, in whom he hath made us accepted, Ephesians 1:6 . God’s Hephzibah, so the Church is called,Isaiah 62:4; Isaiah 62:4 ; the dearly beloved of his soul, Jeremiah 12:7 ; or, as the Septuagint render it, b his beloved soul, over whom he rejoiceth as the bridegroom over his bride, Isaiah 62:5 . Yea, "he will rest in his love," as abundantly well pleased, "he will joy therein with singing," Zephaniah 3:17 . So well thinketh God of his Son Christ, and of us through him, as some of the ancients rendered this word, ευδοκησα , In quo bene sensi. So (after Irenaeus) Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine interpret it. c And yet, as well as he thought of his only Son, he spared him not, but "delivered him up for us all," Romans 8:32 , whereupon St Bernard thus cries out, O quantum dilecte, prae quo filius ipse aut non dilectus, aut saltem neglectus? God so loved his Son, that he gave him all the world for his possession, Psalms 2:6-8 ; but he so loved the world, that he gave Son and all for its redemption. One calls this a hyperbole, an excess of love, a miracle of mercy, a sic so, without a sicut. just as, God so loved the loved, so infinitely, so incomparably, so incomprehensibly, as that there is no similitude in nature whereby to express it. John 3:16 ; Ephesians 3:18-19 . Abraham (God’s friend) showed his love to him in not withholding his only son Isaac: but what was Isaac to Christ? or what was Abraham’s love to God’s? He did that freely and voluntarily, that Abraham would never have done but upon a command: besides, Isaac was to be offered up after the manner of holy sacrifices, but Christ suffered after the manner of malefactors. And yet further, Isaac was in the hand of a tender and compassionate father; but Christ died by the wicked hands of barbarous and blood thirsty enemies, that thereby he might slay the enmity and reconcile us to God, Ephesians 2:15-16 ; so making peace, d and paving us "a new and living way," with his blood, to the throne of grace, "wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved," Ephesians 1:6 . David saw the features of his friend Jonathan in lame Mephibosheth, and therefore loved him. He forgave Nabal at Abigail’s intercession; and was pacified toward Absalom at Joab’s. Pharaoh favoured Jacob’s house for Joseph’s sake. Shall not God do as much more for Jesus’ sake? Joseph was well pleased with his brethren when they brought Benjamin; bring but the child Jesus in our arms (as Simeon did, and as Themistocles did the king of Persia’s child) and he cannot but smile upon us. Were he never so much displeased before, yet upon the sight of this his well beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased, all shall be calm and quiet, as when Jonah was cast into the sea.

a αγαπαν , quasi αγαν παυειν, Αγαπρτος .

b εδωκα την ηγαπημενην ψυχην μου . Dedi dilectam animam meam.

c ευδοκιμοι Graecis dicuntur celebres, et de quibus magnifica est opinio. Erasm.

d ειρηνη απο του εις εν ειρειν .

Mat 4:1-25

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/matthew-3.html. 1865-1868.
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