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To one of St. John's disposition, it could not but be matter of concern to find envy and jealousy stirring in the breasts of his disciples, on account of the increasing fame of Jesus, as being likely to eclipse that of their master. For on occasion of a dispute which had happened about purification by baptism (disputes being seldom managed so as not to produce ill-will)"they came unto John, and said unto him, "Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to "whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come unto him';" intimating, that John was in danger of losing both his credit and his disciples, by means of one whom they took for a disciple, like themselves, as he had been baptized by the same master. So ready are men, at every turn, to form parties in religion, and to set up their respective teachers in opposition to each other; the consequences of which are, that the hearers waste that time in wrangling about a duty, which should be spent in practising it; and the teachers, if they have not good hearts and steady heads, preach themselves, instead of preaching Jesus Christ. "All men
come to him!" Great hath been the power of this argument to kindle the flames of emulation and dissension in the church; and the disciples of John did not doubt but that the consideration would excite in him those passions, which they felt working within themselves.
But he was not framed of materials liable to take fire from such a spark. On the contrary, a perusal
1 John, iii. 26, &c.
of the discourse which this address procured from him, is enough at any time to extinguish it, where it may have fallen. He made use of the incident, to bear his last and most noble testimony to the power and majesty of his Lord. So far was he from being offended, or chagrined, because all men resorted to Jesus, that he triumphed in it, as his glory and his joy, as the very end for which he was sent into the world to preach and to baptize. As if he had said
Why are ye jealous? and why do envious thoughts arise in your hearts? Look not to me, or to any thing that is in me, but to God, who made me what I am, placed me in the station, and called me to the office designed for me: "a man can receive," or take to himself, "nothing, except it be given him "from above." And ye know the character in which I have ever acted: "Ye yourselves bear me "witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that "I am sent before him," as his messenger and minister, not to assemble disciples in mine own name, but to prepare men for him, and direct men to him. If therefore ye set so much by my authority, why do ye not credit my testimony? To Messiah, not to me, the church is to be gathered and united; and" he that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but "the friend of the bridegroom," who hath been honoured with a share in bringing about so happy an event, and who, when it is brought about, "standeth "and heareth him" conversing with his spouse, cannot therefore be grieved and vexed; he cannot envy the felicity of the bridegroom, or desire to take
the bride from him; but most assuredly congratulates with him, and "rejoiceth greatly because of "the bridegroom's voice," finding that he hath so well succeeded in the work in which he was employed. This is my very case, when you come and tell me, that all men resort to the person, of whom I have so often testified, that he is the Christ: "this my
joy therefore is fulfilled." I have no greater pleasure than to hear, that disciples go from me to him. As the morning star, I only shone to proclaim the approach of the sun. Now he is risen, I go down; "he must increase, but I must decrease:" he will shine more and more unto the perfect day, while I shall set and disappear. And reason good why it should be so. That which is preparatory must give place to that which is perfective; a baptism of water must yield to a baptism of fire; a human instructor must cede to one that is divine. "He that is of the "earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth;" in spite of his best endeavours, he will savour of his original, and there will be an alloy of dust and ashes in all he saith; whereas "he that cometh from heaven," I mean the blessed person of whom ye are so jealous, "is above all" the children of Adam. When the sun shineth in his strength, every star is obscured; and the world will perceive the difference between the discourses of the Master and those of the servant, as readily as it distinguisheth the glories of the day from the pale lustre and faint glimmering of those orbs, which serve in some measure to dispel the darkness of the night. According to the grace given unto me, I have declared the kingdom of hea
ven to be at hand, but when Messiah speaks of that kingdom, he speaks from his own knowledge; "what "he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth;" and yet, though I have said so much of him, and so many go to hear him, no man receiveth his testi"mony" as he ought to do. Think not this a slight matter, for no one can disbelieve him, without giving God the lie; "he that hath received his testimony, "hath set to his seal, that God is true," by allowing the credentials of his Son, and acknowledging in him the accomplishment of what was foretold by the law, by the prophets, and by myself. "For he," the Messiah, "whom God had sent, speaketh the "words of God," and that in a different sense from all others, who, from time to time, have been endued with such a portion of the divine influence as was meet for them; but "God giveth not the Spirit
by measure unto him," having decreed, that in him should all fulness dwell. "For the Father loveth "the Son," not as he loveth any of his faithful servants, but so as that "he hath put all things into "his hand," dispensing glory, honour, and immortality to mankind, through him alone. Be no longer envious and jealous, then, of his greatness, which is your salvation. If you would honour me, and at the same time serve your own eternal interest, receive in few words, the sum and substance of this my last testimony-" He that believeth on the
Son, hath everlasting life and he that believeth (6 not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of "God abideth on him."
By this part of St. John's character and conduct,
in how pleasing a manner are the ministers of Christ instructed, that they are to bear testimony to HIM, not to themselves; to seek His glory, not their own; that they should take pleasure in the success of their brethren's labours, by which the cause of their common Master is promoted; that the rising lights of the church should do honour to those who have gone before them, and the setting ones rejoice to be outshone by those who are coming after them; that envy and jealousy, in short, ought to have no place among the disciples of the Lamb of God, on whom descended and abode the celestial Dove.
Considerations on the Imprisonment of St. John, the Message sent by him to Christ, and the Answer returned to it.
ADMIRABLE is the advice of the son of Sirach to every one who is about to stand forth in the cause of true religion: "My son, if thou come to serve "the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set "thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make "not haste in time of trouble. Whatsoever is "brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient "when thou art changed to a low estate. For gold "is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the fur"nace of adversity"." The reformer will proceed
Ecclus. ii. 1.