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remind us of Elijah (2 Kings i. 8); | tration of a proselyte by another - and our blessed Lord said ex- person, had not previously existed, pressly, concerning John, “This is and that nothing more than ceremoElias which was to come.” Mat. nial ablutions—the act of the indivixi. 14.
duals themselves-had been in use. Reader. You must not be surprised - Perhaps there are no sufficient at reading that John ate locusts; for means of determining this question. we are told by several authors, an- - At all events, the baptisnı percient and modern, that there is a formed by John was not any arbikind of locust in the East which is
trary act, or one of his own invenused as an article of food, especially tion ; for he was “sent to baptize by poor people. Indeed, the per- with water.” John i. 33. mission anciently given to the Jews As the mention of Pharisees and to adopt this kind of food proves that Sadducees occurs for the first time the use of it existed from very early in this passage, I will request Theotimes.-Read Lev. xi. 22.
philus to read a page to which I Mary. “Even these of them ye point, containing an account of these may eat; the locust after his kind, two leading Jewish parties. and the bald locust after his kind, Theophilus. “ The PharisEES deand the beetle after his kind, and rived their name from the Hebrew the grasshopper after his kind.” word Pharash, which signifies 'to
Reader. You can easily understand set apart, or to separate,' because what the wild honey was, which the they separated themselves from the Baptist used. It was such as was rest of their countrymen, to peculiar found in the clefts of rocks, or in strictness in religion. Their leading the hollow parts of trees; and in tenets were the following :-that the this, as some suppose, the dried lo- world is governed by fate, or by a custs were fried, when prepared for fixed decree of God; that the souls food.
of men were immortal, and were Theophilus. I believe the ceremony either eternally happy or miserable of baptism was not entirely new and beyond the grave; that the dead unknown at this time.
would be raised; that there were Reader. Some suppose that it had angels, good and bad; that God was been already in use among the Jews under obligation to bestow peculiar on occasion of receiving proselytes, favour on the Jews; and that they especially such proselytes as did not were justified by the merits of Abrasubmit to circumcision. And there- ham. They were proud and selffore, say they, by baptizing Jews, righteous; and they held the common and thus treating them as proselytes, people in great contempt. John vii. John marked his ministry as the in- 49. They sought the offices of the troduction of a new economy.
state, and affected great dignity. Others, however, think that baptism, They were ostentatious in their reproperly so called,—that is, the lus-ligious worship, and even in their
dress; praying at the corners of the were zealots for the ceremonies, for streets, and seeking publicity in the the power of the church, and the trabestowment of alms. They sought ditions of the elders ; the Sadducees principally external cleanness; and ran into the other extreme, and were dealt much in ceremonial ablutions | little better than deists, denying the and washing.
existence of spirits, and of a future “ In addition to the written law, state.” they adhered to the traditions of the When St. John saw these men elders, which they vainly supposed come to his baptism-(the Æthiopic to have been handed down from version adds, privately)—he addressMoses.—They were, in general, a ed them in language strongly excorrupt, hypocritical, office-seeking, pressive of his abhorrence of their haughty class of men.
character as the very personification however, some among them of a bet of inveterate and malicious wickedter character. See Acts v. 14.
And he inquired, with asto“The SADDUCEES are supposed nishment, who had warned them to to have taken their name from Sadoc, flee from the impending wrath, who flourished about 260 years be- Hence, then, it appears that neither fore the Christian era.
He was a
of these parties came in a right dispupil of Antigonus Sochæus, presi- | position of mind, or with proper dent of the Sanhedrim, or great views. The Pharisees were proud council of the nation. He had of their supposed superiority in piety taught the duty of serving God dis- and virtue, and of their relation to interestedly, without the hope of Abraham; the Sadducees were vain reward, or the fear of punishment. of their fancied wisdom and philoHence Sadoc, incorrectly, drew the sophical attainments; and all were inference that there was no future alike unprepared to become disciples state of rewards or punishments; of the uncompromising Baptist, or of and on this belief he founded the the meek and lowly Jesus. sect..... They held that there is Theophilus. Did the Baptist alno resurrection, neither angel nor lude to any particular stones or rocks, spirit (Matt. xxii. 23; Acts xxiii. when he said what we read in the 8); and that the soul of man pe- ninth verse ? rishes with the body; ..... and they Reader. Perhaps he then pointed rejected all traditions."
to the stones which lay scattered Reader. The Pharisees, as they about in the rough and rocky desert. appear before us in the New Testa- Or, as he was baptizing at the ford ment, are to be regarded as repre of Jordan, where Israel passed over, sentatives of superstition, hypocrisy, some have thought that he alluded and self-righteous pride; the Saddu to the twelve stones which were set cees, of worldliness, sensual indul
up as a memorial of that event. gence, and unbelief.--" The Phari- Josh. iv. 20. But before we could sees," says a judicious commentator, adopt the latter opinion, we should
require proof that the ancient mo- Reader. The period of his minisnument had continued in its place try, probably, did not exceed six until the Baptist's time. At all months,—which was the distance of events, the meaning is clear and cer- time between the commencement of tain. St. John assured his hearers his preaching, and of that of our that, rather than that the promises blessed Lord.—Can you explain that of God should fail, and rather than phrase, in the eleventh verse, “whose that proud, impenitent, unbelieving shoes I am not worthy to bear ?” sinners should partake of the bless- Mary. It is an allusion to the cusings promised to the real, spiritual tom of slaves carrying their master's posterity of Abraham, God would sandals. The sandal was a piece of raise up others who should tread in wood or leather, fitted to the soles of his footsteps, and thus become his the feet, and fastened by thongs of children, even, if necessary, by the leather. And it was the business of most unlikely means ;--- that He certain slaves, of the lowest class, to would raise up children to Abra- remove these sandals from their masham even from among the Gentiles, ters' feet, and to take charge of them, whom the Jews may have thought as while the wearers were reclining at unlikely to receive that privilege as table, or otherwise stationary in the the senseless rocks which they saw house. around them, or the stones beneath Theophilus. I am not sure that I their feet.
rightly understand the meaning of The Jews falsely gloried in their that saying, “He shall baptize you descent from Abraham; regarding it with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." as securing to them an immunity Reader. Some suppose that this from punishment. That descent, expression alludes to the gifts of the however, rightly considered, ought Holy Spirit which were poured out not to have been regarded as a pri- upon the Apostles on the day of vilege, in and of itself; but rather Pentecost, and were afterwards imas an obligation and excitement to a parted, through the instrumentality godly life and conversation.
of the Apostles, to other believers. Theophilus. By “the axe laid unto You remember the appearance of the root of the trees” we are to un- “tongues like as of fire" on the day derstand, I suppose, the Romans, of Pentecost, Acts ii. 3.-Others rewhose power was ready to crush the gard the words “with the Holy guilty city and nation of the Jews. Ghost and fire" (for in the original
Reader. Such seems to be the pri- the preposition is not repeated) as mary meaning of the expression ; referring to the spiritual influences which may also be understood as re- of the divine agent, set forth under ferring to future and eternal judg- the similitude of fire.
“ The Holy ments ready to fall upon the wicked. | Spirit,” say they, “is represented
Mary. How long did St. John here under the image of fire, because continue to preach?
he was to illuminate and invigorate
the soul, penetrate every part, and cerning a fictitious purgatorial fire, assimilate the whole to the image of which soon became a fashionable the God of glory.” Perhaps this subject of belief in the corrupt interpretation is the most satisfactory. churches of antiquity. -Others explain the "fire" as re- Theophilus.
How thankful we lating to the threatened visitation of ought to be that we have been taught divine judgment;-a view which is to interpret Scripture by itself, and supported, in some degree, by the by the rules of sound criticism, -and mention of "unquenchable fire” in reverently to avoid attempting to this connection, in the next verse. explain it by the reveries of fancy, “He shall baptize, not only with or by the light of a false philosophy! water, but with the pouring out of his Spirit on believers, and with that READER. May we, by the difiery trial, which shall refine the gold, vine blessing, learn much from this the faithful, but separate the dross, remarkable portion of sacred history! and destroy the rebellious unbeliev
Repent ye ! - That was the subers."-Some expositors combine all stance of the Baptist's preaching. these ideas; supposing fire to be in Turn from your evil thoughts, corthis place an emblem both of the rupt inclinations, and wicked ways, operations of the Holy Spirit, and of to the love and service of the holy judgment upon the impenitent and and heart-searching God!
Such s unbelieving. “St. John,” say they, the nature of real repentance. “True “declares that Christ should plenti- penitents have other thoughts of God fully pour down of the gifts and and Christ, of sin and holiness, of graces of the Holy Spirit upon his this world and the other, than they proselytes, which, like fire in their have had; and they stand otherwise operation, should purify their hearts affected towards them. The change from sin, consuming their lusts and of the mind produces a change of the corruptions; but that, at the same way. This repentance is a necessary time, he has a fiery indignation, and duty, in obedience to the conımand flaming judgments, to destroy and of God (Acts xvii. 30); and a necesburn up impenitent sinners like com- sary preparation and qualification for bustible stubble."
the comforts of the Gospel of Christ.” Theophilus. Do you remember For the kingdom of heaven is at what view of the matter is taken by hand.—Time is short,—the Judge is early Christian writers ?
at the door,—and there is no room Reader. Some of them take one for delay.-Besides this, encouraging or other of the views already men- motives to repentance are contained tioned; but the speculations of “the in the hopes of pardon and acceptance Fathers” on this passage are, in held out, through divine mercy and many instances, deplorably childish grace, under the gospel covenant. and frivolous. Nay, more; they con- “ The free and full tenders of grace tain the foundation of a doctrine con- in the gospel are most alluring argu
ments to move a sinner to repent and repentance, i.e. suitable to it,-such to turn to God."
as may manifest the conversion and Prepare ye the way of the Lord.— renovation of your hearts.—“ As the " There is a great deal to be done, to body without the spirit, and as faith make way for the entrance of Christ without works, is dead, so repentance into a soul, to bow the heart for the without fruit is dead also." reception of the Son of David (2 Sam. pentance is seated in the heart. xix. 14); and nothing is more need There it is as a root; but in vain do ful, in order to this, than the disco we pretend to have it there, if we do very of sin, and a conviction of the
not bring forth the fruits of it in a insufficiency of our own righteous- universal reformation, forsaking all ness. Prejudices must be removed, sin, and cleaving to that which is high thoughts brought down, and good. It becomes penitents to be captivated to the obedience of Christ.” humble and low in their own eyes,
Prepare ye the way.—This prepa to be thankful for the least mercy, ration must indeed be effected by the and patient under the greatest afflicpower of God ;—but yet man, weaktion, to be watchful against all apas he is, has his part to perform. pearances of sin and approaches " Though it be grace that prepareth towards it, to abound in every duty, for further grace, man's duty must and to be charitable in judging be used thereunto; and the exalting others." These are fruits worthy of work of grace presupposeth the repentance. humbling work of repentance, as a Think not to say within yourselves, necessary preparation."
We have Abraham to our father.Then went out to him Jerusalem, God observes what
God observes what passes within and all Judea, and all the regions men's hearts, their hidden principles, round about Jordan.— The rejection secret hopes, and matters of private of the Messiah by the great body of confidence. Here is a warning to the Jews makes it appear to how us all not to rest satisfied with the little purpose they had heard the mere possession of outward priviexhortations of his forerunner. So leges, with bearing a religious name, also, in the present day, “there may or with the credit and advantages of be a multitude of forward hearers, church-membership. Our duty and where there are but few true believ- happiness consist, not in the possesers. Curiosity, and affectation of sion, but in the due use and improvenovelty and variety, may bring many ment, of these blessings. Many, it is to attend upon good preaching, and to to be feared, who pride themselves be affected with it for awhile, who upon belonging to this or that church, are yet never subject to the power of and who rest in the supposed benefit it (Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32).”—May we, of their connection with a body of by God's grace, be not only hearers, professing Christians, will come short but also doers, of the word !
of heaven.-Nor will the mere cirBring forth therefore fruits meet for cumstance of our connection with