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A Commentary Upon The Gospel According To Saint Luke -St. Cyril

The Baptist therefore said to the multitudes that came to be baptized of him, Generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

WE affirm therefore that the blessed Baptist, as being full of the Holy Ghost, was not ignorant of the daring acts that Jewish wickedness would venture against Christ. For he foreknew that they would both disbelieve in Him, and wagging their envenomed tongue, would pour forth railings and accusations against Him: accusing Him at one time of being born of fornication; at another, as one who wrought His miracles by the help of Beelzebub, prince of the devils: and again, as one that had a devil, and was no whit better than a Samaritan. Having this therefore in view, he calls even those of them who repent wicked, and reproves them because, though they had the law speaking unto them the mystery of Christ, and the predictions of the prophets relating thereunto, they nevertheless had become dull of hearing, and unready for faith in Christ the Saviour of all. “For who hath warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Was it not the inspired Scripture, which tells the happiness of those who believe in Christ, but forewarns those who believe not, and are ignorant, that they will be condemned to severe and inevitable punishment?

V. 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.

Moreover, the fruit of repentance is, in the highest degree, faith in Christ: and next to it, the evangelic mode of life, and in general terms the works of righteousness in contradistinction to sin, which the penitent must bring forth as fruits worthy of repentance. And he has added; “Begin not to say within yourselves. We have Abraham for our father: for I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” You see how most skilfully he humbles their foolish pride, and shews that their being born of Abraham according to the flesh is useless for their profit. For of what benefit is nobility of birth, if men practise not the like earnest deeds, nor imitate the virtue of their ancestors? For the Saviour says unto them, “if ye were Abraham’s children, ye would have done the works of Abraham.” The relationship which God requires is one in character and manners: so that it is a vain thing to boast of holy and good parents, while we fall far short of their virtue.

But, says the Jew, if this be so, in what way is the seed of Abraham still to be multiplied, and the promise made to him of God hold true, of which the terms are, that “He will multiply his seed as the stars of heaven?” By the calling of the Gentiles, O Jew: for it was said to Abraham himself, that “in Isaac shall a seed for thee be called:” and that “I have set thee as a father of many nations.” But the phrase “in Isaac” means, According to promise. He is set therefore as a father of many nations by faith, that is to say, in Christ. And of these it was that God spake also by the voice of Ezekiel: “And I will take away out of their flesh the heart of stone, and will give them a heart of flesh, that they may know Me, that I am the Lord.”

And the blessed Baptist apparently calls them stones, because they as yet knew not Him Who is by nature God, but were in error, and in their great folly worshipped the creation instead of the Creator: but they were called, and became the sons of Abraham, and acknowledged, by believing in Christ, Him Who is by nature God.

But that he may benefit in a still higher degree those that hear him, the blessed Baptist brings forward something more: “But already even the axe is laid at the root of the trees.” But by the axe in this passage he signifies the sharp wrath which God the Father brought upon the Jews for their wickedness towards Christ, and audacious violence: for the wrath was brought upon them like an axe. And this the prophet Zecharias has explained to us, saying, “The wailing of Jerusalem shall be as the wailing of a grove of pomegranate trees cut down in the plain.” And Jeremiah also addressing her, said, “The Lord called thy name a beautiful olive tree, very leafy to behold: at the sound of its felling, a fire was kindled upon it: great was the lamentation over it: its branches have been made unserviceable: and the Lord of hosts That planted thee hath uttered evils against thee.” And to this thou mayest add also the parable in the Gospels about the fig-tree. As being therefore a plant unfruitful, and no longer of generous kind, it was cut down by God. He does not, however, say that the axe was laid into the root, but at the root, that is, near the root. For the branches were cut off, but the plant was not dug up by its root: for the remnant of Israel was saved, and did not perish utterly.








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