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?
7 Verse 7. Pharisees] A very numerous sect among the Jews, who,
in their origin, were, very probably, a pure and holy people. It
is likely that they got the name of Pharisees, i.e. Separatists,
(from pharash, to separate,) from their separating themselves
from the pollution of the Jewish national worship; and hence, the
word in the Anglo-saxon version is [Anglo-Saxon], holy persons who
stand apart, or by themselves: but, in process of time, like all
religious sects and parties, they degenerated: they lost the
spirit of their institution, they ceased to recur to first
principles, and had only the form of godliness, when Jesus Christ
preached in Judea; for he bore witness, that they did make the
outside of the cup and platter clean-they observed the rules of
their institution, but the spirit was gone.
Sadducees] A sect who denied the existence of angels and
spirits, consequently all Divine influence and inspiration, and
also the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees of that time
were the Materialists and Deists of the Jewish nation. When the
sect of the Pharisees arose cannot be distinctly ascertained; but
it is supposed to have been some time after the Babylonish
captivity. The sect of the Sadducees were the followers of one
Sadok, a disciple of Antigonus Sochaeus, who flourished about
three centuries before Christ. There was a third sect among the
Jews, called the Essenes or Essenians, of whom I shall have
occasion to speak on Mt 19:12.
Come to his baptism] The AEthiopic version adds the word
privately here, the translator probably having read λαθρα in his
copy, which gives a very remarkable turn to the passage. The
multitudes, who had no worldly interest to support, no character
to maintain by living in their usual way, came publicly, and
openly acknowledged that they were SINNERS; and stood in need of
mercy. The others, who endeavoured to secure their worldly
interests by making a fair show in the flesh, are supposed to have
come privately, that they might not be exposed to reproach; and
that they might not lose their reputation for wisdom and sanctity,
which their consciences, under the preaching of the Baptist, told
them they had no right to. See below.
O generation of vipers] γεννηματαεχιδνων. A terribly
expressive speech. A serpentine brood, from a serpentine stock.
As their fathers were, so were they, children of the wicked one.
This is God's estimate of a SINNER, whether he wade in wealth, or
soar in fame. The Jews were the seed of the serpent, who should
bruise the heel of the woman's seed, and whose head should be
bruised by him.
Who hath warned you] Or, privately shown you. τις
επεδιξεν-from υπο, under, and δεικνυμαι, to show. Does
not this seem to allude to the reading of the AEthiopic noticed
above? They came privately: and John may be supposed to address
them thus: "Did any person give you a private warning? No, you
received your convictions under the public ministry of the word.
The multitudes of the poor and wretched, who have been convinced
of sin, have publicly acknowledged their crimes, and sought
mercy-God will unmask you-you have deceived the people-you have
deceived yourselves-you must appear just what you are; and, if you
expect mercy from God, act like the penitent multitude, and bring
forth FRUIT worthy of repentance. Do not begin to trifle with
your convictions, by thinking, that because you are descendants of
Abraham, therefore you are entitled to God's favour; God can, out
of these stones (pointing probably to those scattered about in the
desert, which he appears to have considered as an emblem of the
Gentiles) raise up a faithful seed, who, though not natural
descendants of your excellent patriarch, yet shall be his worthy
children, as being partakers of his faith, and friends of his
God." It should be added, that the Greek word also signifies
plain or ample information. See on Lu 6:47.
The wrath to come?] The desolation which was about to fall on
the Jewish nation for their wickedness, and threatened in the last
words of their own Scriptures. See Mal 4:6.
Lest I come and smite the earth (et ha-arets, this very
land) with a curse. This wrath or curse was coming: they did not
prevent it by turning to God, and receiving the Messiah, and
therefore the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Let
him that readeth understand.