Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner…
A hidden fire burns perpetually upon the hearth of the world. Scientific men call it by the hard name of eremacausis, which means quiet, or slow burning. We see its effects in the fading of leaves, in the rusting of iron, and in the mantling of the rosy blush upon the cheek of youth. Every tree is a burning bush. In autumn this great conflagration becomes especially manifest. Every blade of grass in the fields and every leaf in the woodlands is cast into the great oven of nature; and the bright colours of their fading are literally the flames of their consuming. By this autumn-fire God every year purges the floor of nature. All effete substances that have served their purpose in the old form are burnt up, and only what has the promise of life and usefulness passes scathless through the ordeal. The straw and the chaff are consumed, and the wheat remains. As God thus purges His floor in nature, so He does in grace. We have a striking example of the effect of this autumn-fire in the removal of the effete things of the Levitical institution. The Mosaic dispensation had become dead ripe. Jesus came in the autumn of the world, when all things had grown ripe and old, and all growth had closed. He came to gather in the harvest of all previous dispensations. He came to cast fire upon the earth, to burn up the chaff of withered and effete institutions. His was a fiery baptism, which thoroughly purged His floor — which consumed the stubble and the withered foliage of the old growth that had served its purpose in the religious culture of a former age, and prepared them for being worked up into the new developments of the springtime of grace. The baptism of John was a process at purification; but it was only a baptism of water. Water can only remove superficial impurities; it cannot take away what is ingrained; it can cleanse surface and accidental or temporary stains, but it cannot change the nature of anything. And so the baptism of John could produce ceremonial purity, but it could not cleanse the sinful heart, or transform the erring and polluted mind. The baptism of Jesus, on the other hand, was a baptism of fire, and fire penetrates every substance submitted to its action, and changes it into its own nature. The fire of life in nature burns up all its decay and prepares it for new growth. And so in the fulness of time Jesus passed like an autumn fire over all the dead products of human attainment, thoroughly purging His floor. He caused, by the same fire of grace, to grow in spring freshness and beauty that fruit which is unto holiness, and whose end is everlasting life. But not once only in the end of the world did Jesus come to purge His floor with this sacred fire. He is coming continually, and His fire of purification is unquenchable. In each of these partial and temporary consumings He anticipates and foreshadows what He will do in the great and final judgment. In each human heart this sacred autumn fire of purification is burning as a vestal flame. To each human being the apostolic precept is uttered, "Quench not the Spirit," put not out the heavenly fire.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.