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The wilder. ness of Judæa.
And he came into all the country about Jordan, Luke iii. 3. preaching the baptism of repentance 45 for the remission of sins,
vallies abounded in palm trees, which trees, if we may credit Diodorus Siculus (d), yield much wild honey.
45 Lightfoot ascribes the first use of baptism to Jacob, when he admitted into his family, and into the Church of God, the proselytes of Shechem, and other Heathens. “ Put away your strange gods, and be ye clean, and change your garments.” Aben Ezra interprets the word 7770ni, Gen. xxxv. 2, “and be ye clean," to be nian 907v, “ the washing of the body,” or “baptism :" but this would not prove that the rite of baptism was then used as the commencement of a permanent institution. It might have been an useful and expressive ordinance of Jacob, but no more.
The Israelites assert, that all Gentile proselytes were brought into their church by baptism. The question is, whether they were so initiated before the time of John, by a customary rite which might be dispensed with at pleasure, or, by a positive law. Lightfoot quotes Maimonides, who lived only in the fourteenth century, and whose authority, in the absence of other proofs, is not therefore decisive. Lightfoot's Works, vol. ii. p. 117.
We have no evidence to prove that baptism, among the Jews, was of divine appointment. It was principally administered to the Gentiles, who were considered after that ceremony as new creatures, and worthy of admission into the church. A Jew, if he had lived as a Gentile, even for a day, would undergo this ceremony, which makes it appear more like a legal washing, or purification, than an ordinance divinely instituted. The Jews must have well understood this ceremony as emblematical of the introduction of a more perfect dispensation, which required the greatest purity of heart and life. When the Jews baptized the Heathens, they admitted them into their own church, into a new religion ; and John now calls upon the Jews themselves to be baptized, and to become members of another church, under another dispensation, different from that of Moses.
In this then consisted, in some measure, the essential difference between the baptism of John, and that of any other teacher. The law required the washing of polluted persons, on account of legal uncleanness: the baptism of John required the purification of those who were legally clean. It exacted obedience to the spirit, not to the letter, of the law. If we consider the Christian dispensation, therefore, as commencing with the preaching of John, we shall find there were three forms of baptism : that of John, who baptized in the name of the Messiah about to come upon the earth ;-that of the disciples of Christ, when he was incarnated and living among them ;—and that of the Apostles, who received, at the ascension, an express command from Christ himself to proselytize all nations ; and to baptize them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The Ministers of the Church of God have ever since baptized in the same holy name, using the same form of words.--Vide Lightfoot's Works, vol. i. p. 465, 466.
(α) Φυέται αυτούς, από των δένδρών, μέλι πολύ το καλέμενον άγριον, W xpūvtal motų pèy üdaroc—" they have much honey from the trees, which they call wild honey, which they drink with water."-Diod. Sic. lib. 19. ap Lightfoot.
Matt. iii. 2.
ness of Judæa.
Mark 1. 2.
Luke iii. 4.
Luke iii. 5.
And saying, Repent ye : for the kingdom of The wilder. heaven is at hand.
As it is written in the prophets, 9 Behold, I Mal. iii. 1.
As it is written in the book of the words of
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
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.
And there went out unto him all the land of s Matt. iii. 5. Judæa, and they of Jerusalem, and all the region round about Jordan,
Luke iii. 6.
Matt. iii. 4.
Mark i. 5.
Matt. iii. 5.
Matt, iii. 6.
Mark i. 5.
all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, con
fessing their sins 47. 46 Malachi predicted of the Elias who was to come, that he should turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers (a). The Angel predicted of John the same things. The event corresponded to the prediction. When John began to preach to Israel, the Jews were divided into three principal, and innumerable smaller sects, differing both in religious opinions and ceremonies. The Pharisees and Sadducees were inflamed with the most bitter hatred against each other. The expounders of the law were at variance. The dissensions in the synagogues disturbed the repose of families. Children and their parents disputed : all was confusion. The ministry of the Baptist withdrew the people from under the banners of the leaders of these sects, and directed them to the One Great Teacher, who was now at hand to decide all controversies, and unite them to himself.— Witsius de vitâ Johan. Bap. Misc. Sacr. vol. ii. p. 518.
47 The different addresses of St. John to those who came to him, given in this section, could not have been delivered at one time. They may be supposed to contain the sum and substance of his general preaching.
We may observe, that all the exhortations of John refer to the spiritual dominion of the Messiah over the hearts and consciences of men. He never once speaks of it as a temporal or earthly power. He exhorts to repentance and confession of sin, metávola, a total renewing of the spirit of the mind--a change of the whole man.
In the same way all those of the present day, who have lived (a) The passage in Malachi, ch. iii. 1, is supposed by Dr. Owen to have been both corrupted and altered by the Jews, both in the Hebrew copies, and in the copies of the Septuagint, and to have been originally exactly as three of the Evangelists have delivered the citation of it to us. -Owen's Inquiry into the State of the Septuagint Version, p. 54.
able to amend. ment of life.
The wilder. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Matt. Iki. 7. ness of Judæa. Sadducees come to his baptism
Then said he to the multitude that came forth Luke iil. 7.
to be baptized of him • Matt. xil 34. he said unto them, "O generation of vipers, who Matt, fii. 7.
hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Or, answer. Bring forth therefore fruits * meet for repentance: Matt. ill. 8.
And think not to say within yourselves, "We Matt. lii. I. u John viii. 30. have Abraham to our father : for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up
children unto Abraham.
And now also the ax is laid unto the root of Matt, fii. I. * Matt. vii. 19. the trees : * therefore every tree which bringeth
not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into
And the people asked him, saying, What shall Luke lii. 10.
we do then ? James il. 15. He answereth and saith unto them, 5 He that Luke tif. II. John iii. 17. hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath
none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Then came also publicans to be baptized, and Luke ii. 12. said unto him, Master, what shall we do?
And he said unto them, Exact no more than Luke iii, 13. that which is appointed you.
unmindful of their spiritual covenant with God, are called upon by the ministers of God's word to adopt that mode of returning to their Almighty Father, pointed out by the Baptist : and, by a true repentance and confession of sins, to renew their baptismal vow, and become spiritual members of his spiritual church.
In Luke iii. 14, we read that certain soldiers came to John the Baptist, while he was preaching in all the country about Jordan, and demanded of him, saying, “ And what shall we do?" An important question in Christian morality. It has been asked, who these soldiers were? For it does not appear that the Roman soldiers then stationed in Judæa were engaged in any war. Now it happens that the expression used by the evangelical historian is not spariūtai, or “ soldiers," but spatevóuevot, that is, “ men, who were actually under arms, or, marching to battle."
It is not to be supposed that he would use this word without a sufficient reason, and what that reason is we may readily discover, on consulting Josephus's account of the reign of Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee. He tells us (a), that Herod was at that very time engaged in a war with his father-in-law, Aretas, a petty king of Arabia Petræa, whose daughter he had married, but who had returned to her father in consequence of Herod's ill-treatment. The army of Hered, then on its march from Galilee, passed of necessi through the country where John was baptizing; and the military men, who questioned him, were a part of that army. So minute, so perfect, and so latent a coincidence, was never discovered in a forgery of this or any other age (6).
(a) Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. 18. c. 3. sect. 1, 2. (6) For the above illustrative coincidence we are indebted to Michaelis, (vol. i. ch. ii. sect. 11. p. 51.)
Luke iii, 15.
Mark 1. 8.
Mark i, 7.
Luke fil. 14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, The wilder
ness of Judæa. saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, * Do violence to no man, neither accuse any * Or, put no
man in fear. falsely; and be content with your + wages. + Or, allowAnd as the people were Iin expectation, and once.
Or, in sus. all men & mused in their hearts of John, whether pense.
Or, reasonhe were the Christ, or not;
ed, or,debated. Luke iii. 16. John answered, saying unto them all, . I indeed - Matt, ili, L.
have baptized you with water Matt. iii, 11. unto repentance, but
there cometh one mightier than I after me, the
down and unloose;
baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Matt. lii, 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly
purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the
MATT. iii. 3, 5, 6, 11. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, « The voice a Isa. xl. 3.
Mark i. 3. of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, 6 – baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
11 6 I indeed baptize you with water-he that cometh after me is mightier Mark i. 5. than I.
MARK i. 3-8. 3 c The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, c Isa. xl. 3. make his paths straight
4 —and preach the baptism of repentance || for the remission of sins. .!! Or, unto. 5 —and were
6 And John was d clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about a Matt. iii. 4. his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
7 And preached, saying,
LUKE iii. 16, 17.
17 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner ; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
Luke iii. 16.
Luke iii. 4. John L. 23.
J. P. 4739. V. Æ. 26*.
Bethabara, where the ark had rested on
The Baptism of Christ *. from the wil. MATT. iii. 13. to the end.
MARK I. 9, 10, 11. Canaan.
21, 22. and part of 23. e Matt. lll. 13 * And it came to pass in those days,
when all the people were baptized,
Mark i. 9.
Luke iii. 21.
ON THE PERIOD THAT ELAPSED BETWEEN THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE
MINISTRY OF JOHN AND THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST.
• Much discussion has at various times taken place respecting the period which elapsed between the commencement of the ministry of John and the baptism of Christ. Lightfoot, (Harmony, p. 8. Works, vol. i.) and Newcome, (Harm. not. in loc.) suppose six months.—Bedford's (Scrip. Chron.) the same. -Benson (Chron. of the Life of Christ,) five months.-Dean Prideaux three years and a half. It is the general opinion, that about the same interval, elapsed between the commencement of the ministry of the Messiah and of his forerunner, as had previously elapsed between their births. Pilkington, however, has supposed there were about seventeen months between these events ; and, contrary to the united authorities of the most learned harmonizers, and perhaps to his general good judgment, he has adopted the fanciful theory of Whiston, who supposes thirteen months to have transpired, and that the baptism of Christ followed the calling of Andrew, Philip, and Nathanael,--the marriage at Cana, the first driving of the buyers and sellers from the temple, and the conversations which were held, in the course of that period, in Jerusalem, and with Nicodemus. It is after this last event, that Whiston inserts the baptism of Christ. Pilkington goes on to arrange, in addition to these events, the baptizing by Christ himself of many disciples in Judæa, and his conversation with the woman of Samaria,—the believing of many of the Samaritans and Galileans, and the healing of the nobleman's son at Capernaum: it is not till then, that he proceeds to the account of the baptism of our Lord, and his subsequent temptation ; both of which events these two commentators concur in placing, as the Scripture expressly asserts, immediately after that event.
Whiston's arguments, together with those of Pilkington and Marshall, in favour of the later date assigned to the baptism of Christ, may be thus enumerated and answered.
Eusebius asserts that the three Evangelists omitted the former part of Christ's ministry, which took place before the imprisonment of John.
This assertion of Eusebius, as is easily proved by examining the several harmonies, is totally groundless; the more public ministry of Christ certainly did not begin till that event: and even if it were correct, John no where declares that the date of the baptism of Christ was that, which is assigned to it by Whis
2. It appears, from Matt. iii. 14. that Jesus baptized before his own baptism. In reply to this remark, Archbishop Newcome has observed, that John, ac
48 See page 90.