Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers…
It is a matter of some interest, even as a memoir of ancient manners, to conceive the various and strikingly marked aspect of the multitude that now fled to John in the desert. There stood the Pharisee, covered from head to heel with the emblems of his sanctity, the haughtiest and most scornful of men; but then, for once, divested of his spiritual influence, and asking, "What shall I dote be saved?" There stood the splendid and voluptuous scribe — the man of affected philosophy, for once feeling that he had a soul to be saved. There stood the grasping and the iron hand of the publican, the common tribute gatherer, laying his accumulated gains before the feet of the prophet, and bowing down to the dust. There stood the moldier, subdued and hardened by the barbarous habits of his life, until he became a merciless murderer, there he stood, flinging down his sword at the feet of the prophet, and imploring to be purified from blood by the waters of baptism. In the midst of these kneeling and humble thousands stood the prophet full of the Holy Ghost, in utter defiance of human power, undaunted by the voice of human authority, and undismayed by the barbarism of the multitude, tendering to all alike the words of judgment: "Ye men of sin, ye splendid voluptuaries, who now cry out for mercy, show not by your words but by your deeds that you have abjured sin; and you, ye haughty despisers of all men's virtue, be ye holy. Ye jealous and persecuting Pharisees, cast off your self-righteous praises, rend the heart and not the garment, be humble, contrite, and holy."
(G. Croby, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?