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Verse 3

Matthew 3:3. For this is he, &c. These may be the words of John himself, (comp. John 1:22-23,) but it is more likely that they are the words of the evangelists; spoken of by the Prophet Esaias, saying, The voice, &c. Isaiah, in the passage referred to, Isaiah 40:3, &c., is to be understood as speaking first, though not principally, concerning the Jews returning from the Babylonish captivity, as appears from the preceding chapter. As, however, the prophet intended, under the emblem of that deliverance of God’s people, to shadow out a redemption of an infinitely higher and more important nature, the evangelists, with the greatest propriety, apply his words to the opening of the gospel dispensation by the preaching of John, and to the introduction of the kingdom of the Messiah, who was to effect a much greater deliverance of the people of God, Gentiles as well as Jews, from the captivity of sin, and the power of death. And the same thing may be affirmed concerning many other passages of the prophets. See notes on Isaiah 40:3-4. This expression, The voice of one crying, is as much as to say, A herald is at hand proclaiming. The word crying, implies that John’s testimony concerning Christ was uttered, not secretly, negligently, or doubtfully, but openly and publicly, freely, expressly, and resolutely, with a fervent spirit, and an audible, or strong voice. In the wilderness These words are generally considered as connected with the preceding, so as to signify that John preached in the wilderness of Judea; and some interpret the expression figuratively as well as literally, and by the wilderness of Judea, understand the desert state of the Jewish Church at that time, destitute of religious culture, and the trees and fruits of righteousness. But Bishop Lowth connects Isaiah’s words with the following clause, and translates them, A voice crieth: In the wilderness prepare ye the way of Jehovah, which he thus interprets: “The prophet hears a crier giving orders, by solemn proclamation, to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness; to remove all obstructions before Jehovah marching through the desert; through the wild, uninhabited, and unpassable country;” the idea, he thinks, “being taken from the practice of the eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered upon an expedition, or took a journey, especially through desert countries, sent harbingers before them to prepare all things for their passage, and pioneers to open the passes, to level the ways, and to remove all impediments.” Thus John the Baptist, the harbinger of Christ, who was God manifest in the flesh, is sent to prepare his way before him, by calling the people to repentance and to faith in him, their great Redeemer and Saviour. Make his paths straight The paths of our God. Remove all obstructions out of his way, particularly all sin and unbelief, all carnal desires and worldly views, affections, and expectations, that your Saviour and your King may have a ready passage, and free access to your hearts, and may there erect his spiritual kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in, and by, the Holy Ghost; and may rule your lives, your whole conversation and conduct by his righteous and holy laws. Though this could only be done by divine grace, and it is grace which prepares for further grace, yet as man must concur with God, and be a worker together with him, John with propriety calls on the people thus to prepare the Lord’s way, that his grace might not be received in vain. The words imply that they were unprepared for receiving the Messiah and his salvation, which indeed they were in every sense, being neither in a fit disposition to relish, or even understand, his doctrine, to be convinced by his miracles, receive his Spirit, follow his example, rely on his mediation, or become his subjects. An earthly, sensual, and devilish disposition had taken possession of their minds and hearts, even the whole spirit of the world, and obstructed the entrance of Christ’s spiritual kingdom into them and among them. It was necessary, therefore, that these hinderances should be removed out of the way, that they might become the true people and followers of the Messiah.

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