Page images

glory of God. And if affliction and distress should attend them through life, they may be assured that they shall be blessed hereafter; that their light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory :91 the cross is the road to the crown; its tendency is to wean their affections from the things of time and sense, from this present evil world, from all sublunary enjoyments, and to lead them to look with a stedfast regard and desire not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen ; and to remember that the things which are seen are temporal, and will soon have passed away; but the things which are not seen are eternal,91 and will know no end for evermore.

The message of our Saviour to John the Baptist doubtless produced the desired end; it led him to submit with cheerfulness to the will of God, and no longer to be offended because Jesus did not show His mighty power in effecting the deliverance of this faithful servant of God from the dismal abode which he was compelled to occupy. Instead of being delivered from prison, he was shortly afterwards put to death, and then entered upon the eternal blessedness promised to those who have turned many to righteousness.92 Then he was doubtless brought to acknowledge, with respect to the dealings of God towards him, that, in the language of the song of Moses, He is the Rock, His work is perfect, for all His ways are judgment, or those of a well-ordered government; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is He.93 Such will also be the acknowledgment of all the afflicted children of God, when they shall have entered into the joy of their Lord; and mortality shall be swallowed up of life.94 They will also thankfully say, Great and marvellous' are Thy works, O Lord God Almighty, just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.95

91 2 Corinthians iv. 17, 18.

92 Daniel xH. 3.

When the messengers of John had departed, the Evangelist informs us that Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? The ministry of John the Baptist was exercised in the country, where the inhabitants were thinly scattered, and not in the large cities or towns. This is what is meant by his preaching in the wilderness. But it excited so much attention, that the people went out of the towns into the country to hear him. Our Saviour asks them what was the character of John the Baptist. Was it that of a reed shaken with the wind? By no means. There was no wavering in his character, no shrinking back from the avowal of the truth of God. His preaching was of the most energetic and solemn description : Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Flee from the wrath to come. Now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees ; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.96 In consequence of his solemn language, and earnest exhortations, the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then ?97 How shall we escape from the wrath to come ?

93 Deit. xxxii. 4.

94 2 Cor. v. 4.

95 Rev. xv. 3.

This is indeed an important inquiry, which it becomes us also to make for ourselves.

Our Saviour asks again, What went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment ? No. They were not attracted by the elegance or delicacy of his apparel. For the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins.96 His garments were of a common and rough kind, like those of the prophet Elijah, described in similar terms. 28

But notwithstanding the uncourtliness of his appearance, he was treated with the utmost respect by the Jewish Council, and was invited to the palace of King Herod; although, generally speaking, they only that wear soft clothing, and not rough looking, country people, are in king's' houses. And it is said that Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and a holy man, and observed him ; and when he heard him, he did many things; and heard him gladly.99 But John was not a reed shaken with the wind in his presence, though he was an arbitrary tyrant. For Herod the tetrarch being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done ; added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison. For John had said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. Such was the situation of John the Baptist when he sent his disciples to Jesus. But soon after Herod sent and beheaded him in prison."

96 Mat. iii. 2, 7, 10, 4.

97 Luke iji. 10.

98 2 Kings i. 8.

Our Saviour proceeded to ask, What went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. The former prophets had merely foretold the coming of Christ; but John had the happiness of seeing Him, and pointing Him out as being actually come. He was more than a prophet ; for the last of the prophets, Malachi, had foretold his coming, as well as that of the Messiah ; according to the remark of our Saviour in the text, For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. John the Baptist enjoyed the high honour of being the immediate forerunner of Christ, which was a


99 Mark vi. 20.

| Luke iii. 19, 20. 2 Mat. xiv. 4, 5, 10.

higher mark of distinction than had ever been conferred upon any of the children of men. But still, to obtain spiritual blessings is of infinitely greater importance than any temporal honour or distinction whatever; as our Saviour intimated when He afterwards declared, Verily, I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist ; notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Let us seek this highest honour, to be little in our own eyes, and be the humble disciples of the meek and lowly Saviour, to sit at His feet, to hear His words, to receive His instruction. Then we shall be blessed indeed. All earthly distinctions fade away; they perish in the using. But he who has Christ for the Saviour of his soul, shall live

When this world, and all that men desire to possess in it shall have vanished away, the humble believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, however mean in his own estimation, and how

and despised he may be by his fellowcreatures, shall be advanced to a throne of glory; and sing, Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen. Let us seek above all things this high honour, that we may be eternally blessed.

for ever.

3 Revelation i. 4, 5.

ever poor

« EelmineJätka »