This Chapter opens with an account of the ministry of .John the Baptist. The description of his office and ministry. The Chapter closeth with an account of his baptizing the LORD JESUS CHRIST, and the glorious manifestations on the occasion.
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.
I include the whole of these verses into one view, for the better apprehension, and of connecting together what is recorded of John the Baptist. And first let us pause and consider the person and character of this illustrious man. His birth, though not miraculous, was attended with such remarkable circumstances, as intimated a more than ordinary purpose intended from his ministry. As the herald and harbinger of the LORD JESUS CHRIST, the Prophets Isaiah and Malachi foretold of his coming. Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1. And his birth was not only announced by the ministry of an angel, but it was declared of him by the same heavenly messenger, that he should be filled with the HOLY GHOST even from his mother's womb Luke 1:13-17. And the LORD JESUS himself declared concerning him, that among them that are born of women, there had not risen a greater than John the Baptist. Matthew 11:11.
Now before the Reader goes a step further in the account of John, let him pause, and ponder over the precious testimony which this wonderful man, this greatest of men born of women, gave of his Almighty LORD and Master, For when the Jews upon John's appearing, sent to ask him who he was, and the object of his mission; he declared himself to be unworthy of the office of even unloosening the very latchets of CHRIST'S shoes. I am (said John) the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the LORD. John 1:19-36. And what is a voice? It is a nonentity, a mere sound, light as air, and so short in its being and existence, if it can be called by such a name, that when it hath performed its office, it dies away in the air, is dissolved, and is known no more. Such said John am I, when considered in any comparative view with my LORD and Master. Reader! are you a believer in the GODHEAD of CHRIST? Oh! think what a precious testimony this is to that glorious doctrine of our holy faith! And should a reader of the Arian or Socinian heresy but glance the same; oh that the LORD the HOLY GHOST may graciously carry conviction to his very soul of the blessed truth, and bring him upon his knees with Thomas; crying out My LORD and My GOD!
The next thing to be noticed in the account of John, is of his office and ministry. He came preaching and baptizing. Baptizing was altogether a new rite in the church, and probably John was called the Baptist on this account, for he was the first who used it. But both his preaching the doctrine of repentance, and the use of baptism were evidently intended only as preparatory to the coming of CHRIST: for no efficacy did John pretend to convey by his preaching the doctrine of repentance: for to CHRIST is reserved the power of communicating the grace of repentance in the heart: for it is said, that He was exalted as a Prince and a Savior for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31. And John no less drew a line of everlasting distinction between his water ordinance, and the unction of the HOLY SPIRIT. I indeed baptize you (said he) with water; but He shall baptize you with the HOLY GHOST and with fire. Matthew 3:11.
I pass over all notice of the endless disputes which have taken place in the church of CHRIST on the subject of baptism. The warmest advocates for immersion, who are themselves partakers of the baptism of the SPIRIT, will be free to confess that the outward sign, void of the inward effect, is nothing worth. And they who contend for infant baptism, if they know anything of the LORD, must as readily allow, that nothing short of the regeneration of the heart can be profitable before GOD. Here then let it rest. It is awful to behold thousands who have been baptized in their infancy by water only; and who, in riper years, live and die as complete infidels as those who never heard of CHRIST. And it is equally awful to behold numbers who have been immersed in riper years; and yet, by their after conduct, as fully proved that they never were baptized by the HOLY GHOST. Oh! LORD! grant to my soul the continual baptisms und renewings of the HOLY GHOST to be shed upon me abundantly, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. Titus 3:5-6.
The poor food, and the austere dress and 'manners of the Baptist, are particularly noticed by the Evangelist. His raiment perhaps, was somewhat in conformity to ancient times. See 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4. The Locusts were among the clean beasts allowed for food. Leviticus 2:16. Reader! It is our happiness under the gospel to remember that meat commendeth us not to God. The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the HOLY GHOST. Ro 14 throughout. 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Titus 1:15.
And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
The wilderness of Judea John preached in, is not to be considered by us as what we should now call a wilderness, that is a solitary place, for there were both towns and villages in it. The multitude thronging to him is not to be wondered at, when we consider how long an interval, even of 350 years, had taken place in the church, from the days of Malachi, the last Prophet.
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.
The Pharisees were a sect who prided themselves upon a more than ordinary sanctity of life and manners. The Evangelist Luke hath drawn the portrait of one, which may serve as a sample of all. Luke 18:9-14. And their general character our LORD himself hath most strikingly marked in a whole chapter. Mt 23. The Sadducees, in their very name, which implied righteousness, from Sedek, were of that class who justified themselves before GOD. What unceasing persecutions our dear LORD sustained from both these characters I need not enumerate, for the history of the life of JESUS is full of them. But what a name did the Baptist give them; O generation of Vipers! A name which can belong only to the seed of the Serpent. And I pray the Reader, once for all, to observe this feature of character as uniformly given to the reprobate, and to them only, throughout the whole Bible. See Matthew 23:33; Revelation 12:9; John 8:44. The children of the Kingdom are never once in all the Word of GOD called by such a name. See POOR on Ephesians 2:3. I pray the Reader to weigh this consideration well, for it is highly important. And I pray the Reader to remark yet further with me, that (as far as my memory chargeth me) we do not find a single. Pharisee or Sadducee who saw CHRIST in the days of his flesh (Nicodemus excepted), ever savingly converted. Paul was a Pharisee indeed, and of the highest order in point of high, self exalting notions: but then Paul lived not in the days of CHRIST'S flesh, so as to know CHRIST and saw nothing of JESUS, until he saw him in his glory in his way to Damascus. It furnisheth out a solemn consideration this, that not one (Nicodemus excepted) of those sects in the days of CHRIST, and who assumed a greater degree of holiness than others, was savingly converted.
The children of Abraham, according to the Covenant made with Abraham, were those of grace, and not counted after nature. The one decisive feature of this family is; if ye be CHRIST'S, then y e are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29. So hath it been in all ages. So was it then. So is it now. And such will it be forever. The Ishmaels, and the sons of Keturah; the Esaus, and the whole troop of natural descendants from Abraham: these, as the HOLY GHOST hath said by Paul, which are the children of the flesh; these are not the children of GOD but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. In Isaac shall thy seed be called! Reader! think What a blessed thing it is to be able to say, as Paul did, Now we brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. Romans 9:7-8; Galatians 4:28.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
Here we have, at this verse, the introduction of the LORD of life and glory, in his public entrance upon his divine office, as the GOD-MAN Mediator. Luke, in his relation of this wonderful event, tells the Church, that at this time, JESUS himself began to be about thirty-years of age. Luke 3:23. Hence we learn that the SON of GOD waited the appointed time for the being manifested unto Israel. But let not the Reader suppose, that the long interval from his birth, to this public entrance upon his ministry, was spent without an eye to the redemption-work he became incarnate to perform. No doubt every act, and every incident, in the life of CHRIST, had respect to the great object for which he came. The poverty of his birth, the humbleness of his calling, as a carpenter, the meanness of his companions, to one who from all eternity had lain in the bosom of the FATHER No doubt, some great and special ends were intended from the whole. That sweet and precious scripture answers every enquiry, though it enters not into the full investigation of the cause: Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren. Hebrews 2:17. Precious JESUS! how ought such views to endear thee to thy people!
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 should seem from the modesty of John in first declining this office, that he had some consciousness concerning the Person of CHRIST. The relation John gives of himself, John 1:26-34, was that he knew him not, but only that he should be made manifest to Israel. But at this transaction of CHRIST'S baptism, the knowledge of his person and character was to be more strikingly given to John. I beg the Reader to remark what John saith: I have need to be baptized of thee. Yes! though John was filled with the HOLY GHOST, even from his mother's womb, Luke 1:15, yet the work of GOD the SPIRIT upon the child of GOD, doth not supersede the necessity of the work of GOD the SON. All the office-work of each glorious person of the GODHEAD becomes essential in the covenant of redemption. And the baptism of the LORD JESUS is not water baptism; for it is expressly said, that JESUS baptized none. John 4:2; Acts 1:5.
The importance of CHRIST'S baptism is evident from what the LORD saith: thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. But who shall take upon him to explain all that is contained in this expression? It is most certain, that here, at this solemn transaction of CHRIST'S baptism, he openly entered upon his office, and therefore it should seem the whole persons of the GODHEAD would publicly give the commission. The SON of GOD, all along in the Old Testament dispensation, had been set up and made known to the church as the Messiah, or anointed; and now therefore in the New, he shall have the public seal to the same. If the Reader will consult and compare a few scriptures on this point, they do, in my view, beautifully elucidate and explain each other. Isaiah 48:16-17; Isa_61:1 with Luke 4:18; Acts 10:37-38.
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Here is everything that is solemn, sublime, and glorious to be contemplated in this transaction: but of the scene itself; we can only behold with the most profound reverence and holy awe, without attempting to be wise above what is written. We behold the testimony of that glorious doctrine which is the foundation of our holy faith: that there are Three which bear record in heaven; the FATHER, the WORD, and the HOLY GHOST, and these Three are One. 1 John 5:7. And here they distinctly manifested themselves at the baptism of the LORD JESUS. Here is the FATHER, by a voice from heaven, manifesting himself. Here is GOD the SON, incarnate in the Water. And here is GOD the HOLY GHOST, manifesting his person in the likeness of a Dove, hovering over the person of CHRIST. What can be more conclusive and satisfactory, in proof of this precious doctrine of our most holy faith?
In addition to the testimony this scripture brings, of the personality of the HOLY THREE in ONE, let not the Reader overlook the testimony it also brings of their perfect approbation of redemption-work. JEHOVAH is not only well pleased with CHRIST but in CHRIST: all that are in CHRIST. CHRIST and his members: CHRIST and his church. And the whole persons of the GODHEAD, take the same delight and complacency together. For it is said, GOD was in CHRIST reconciling the world to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19. that is, the whole three persons, constituting the One Eternal, undivided JEHOVAH, were in CHRIST. GOD the FATHER was, and is, in CHRIST: for so saith the LORD JESUS. Believest thou not that I am in the FATHER, and the FATHER in me? Believe me, that I am in the FATHER, and the FATHER in me. John 14:10-11. GOD the SON was, and is, in CHRIST. For GOD the SON, in his own eternal power and GODHEAD, had his Almighty hand in the work and purpose of redemption, as much as the person of GOD the FATHER, or GOD the H0LY GHOST. Neither could there have been any access to the Person of GOD the SON, as GOD, more than to the person of the FATHER, or the person of the HOLY GHOST, without CHRIST, as the God-Man-Mediator.
The SON of GOD doth not lose the glory and perfection of his essential divinity, because of his infinite condescension, in assuming our nature for the purpose of redemption. And it is most exceedingly necessary, that in contemplating the great object of faith, true believers in CHRIST should everlastingly keep in view the GODHEAD of the SON of GOD, as one of the glorious persons constituting JEHOVAH while we keep no less in view, that the SON of GOD, in his twofold nature, of GOD, and Man, in one person, becomes the CHRIST of GOD, in whom, and through whom, and by whom, we have access to JEHOVAH: FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST, in grace here, and glory forever.
In like manner GOD the HOLY GHOST was, and is, in CHRIST. Not simply in his anointings, and endowments, without measure, given to CHRIST, in the qualifying him for the vast undertaking he came to perform; but as One of the glorious persons of the GODHEAD, was, and is in CHRIST, reconciling the world to himself, in common with the FATHER, and the SON. So that, as JEHOVAH, in his three-fold character of person; FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST, were all alike concerned in the indignity shewn by the fall of man; so all alike were concerned in the recovery, by the glorious undertaking, and accomplishment of salvation by CHRIST JESUS. Such are the scriptural views of this most sublime subject. before we desire further information, let it be considered, that it is proposed to us as an article of faith, and not for our full investigation. Perhaps it is impossible, in the present imperfect state of being, to know more. The LORD be praised for what he hath thought proper to reveal. And with this measure of knowledge, may the LORD give grace to both Writer, and Reader, of this Poor Man's Commentary, to be thankful.
I will only detain the Reader with a short observation more upon those verses, just to notice the descent of the HOLY GHOST, which both the LORD JESUS, and his servant John, saw in the form of a dove. Some visible appearance, to make it personal, was thought necessary. I presume not to say wherefore it was necessary, but only humbly propose the enquiry. Was it because in after ages heresies would spring up in the church, in denying the personality of GOD the SPIRIT? And was the LORD pleased, by way of giving his assurance to the glorious truth in the minds of his people, thus to assume a personal appearance? Let the Reader remember, I do not presume to determine the point: I only humbly ask the question. But whether I am right or not, certain it is, that both JESUS, and John, saw the SPIRIT of GOD descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. John 1:32-34. Like a dove, I apprehend means as a dove lighting down, or hovering over.
There is a great beauty in this Scripture. The appearance of the HOLY GHOST shall not be in the form of a man: for this was specially belonging to the SON of GOD but of a dove. And a dove was, of all the other creatures of GOD, the most suited, both to represent that glorious person, who thus descended and. abode upon CHRIST, and CHRIST himself. For, not to notice the meekness and gentleness of the dove, and the loving affections of its nature, it is worth remarking, that the dove hath no gall, neither talons. Sweet emblems of manifesting the frame of GOD the HOLY GHOST himself, when anointing JESUS in our nature, to the blessed offices he hath communicated to our nature! And sweet emblem, no less to shew, how JESUS should manifest to his people the tenderness and love of his heart, as doves do to each other. Reader! recollect what the Evangelist records of the LORD JESUS immediately after this descent of the HOLY GHOST, and never lose sight of it through life. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, (said that sweet SAVIOR) because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor: he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted; to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the LORD. Luke 4:18-19.
WELCOME, John the Baptist, thou faithful herald of thy LORD! As the star of the morning becomes the sure pledge of day; so thy coming plainly foretold the LORD of his temple was at hand, But thrice welcome, yea, everlastingly and eternally welcome, thou glorious Sun of Righteousness, precious LORD JESUS, art thou in thy arising, with healing in thy wings, to all thy people. Oh! do thou, LORD, thou great Baptizer with the HOLY GHOST, bring my soul, and the souls of all thy redeemed, under the continual and unceasing baptisms of thy Spirit: fill our hearts, fill our houses, fill thy church, thy whole people, with grace!
And from this blessed unction given to the souls of thy people, grant, LORD, to everyone, grace, according to the measure of the gift of CHRIST that we may bless and adore the HOLY THREE IN ONE, who bear record in heaven; for the record given in this chapter, to the LORD JESUS CHRIST, on his entering upon his public ministry, at his holy baptism. And may the LORD mercifully grant, that the whole church of GOD, through divine teaching, may be enabled to keep in unceasing remembrance, the FATHER'S testimony to his dear Son. And while my soul, and the souls of all his redeemed, are thus continually hearing, and receiving, the precious assurance of GOD'S being well pleased with his dear SON, for his redeeming love to his church, and his finished salvation for his people; oh, for grace to love Him, whom JEHOVAH, in all the persons of the GODHEAD, loves; and to delight in Him, in whom JEHOVAH delighteth. Precious LORD JESUS! I would say, Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none upon earth my soul desireth but thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany