On the passage from, "Behold, the ax has been laid to the root of the trees," up to the point where it says, "But publicans also came to be baptized by him."
AT THAT TIME John was already saying, "Behold, the ax has been laid to the root of the trees."1. And, if indeed the consummation were imminent and the end of the ages were at hand, I would have no questions. The Gospel says, "Behold, the ax has been laid to the root of the trees," and, "Hence every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire."2. I would say that these prophecies were uttered because they were being fulfilled at that time. But, since long ages passed afterwards, and countless years have gone by from that time until the present day, we should ask how the Holy Spirit could say through the prophet, "Behold, the ax has been laid to the root of the trees." I think the prophecy applies to the people of Israel. That people was soon to be cut away. For, "to those who were going out" to him "to be baptized," John said, among other things, "bear fruits worthy of repentance."3. And to the Jews he kept saying, "Do not begin to say among yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father.' For, I say to you, God can raise up sons for Abraham from these stones."4. So, when he says, "Behold, the ax has been laid to the root of the trees," he is speaking to the Jews.
2. The apostolic word also fits this sense. The author says that the branches of infidelity have been broken off and cut down by this ax. The goal was to cut off from the tree, not the____________________