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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 .

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 .

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 .

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.