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them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day, John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And I John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again, the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples ; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God !-John i. 19-36.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE.
Praise is ever valuable in proportion to the judgment and integrity of him who bestoweth it; and the panegyric is truly honourable, when the panegyrist is one who will not flatter, and who cannot be deceived. How then shall we raise our thoughts to conceive adequately of a person, whose encomium was spoken by the Son of God; and concerning whom, that Son of God declared, “ Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist ?”—Matt. xi. 11. After this declaration made by the master, the disciples cannot well be hyperbolical in their praises of John, as the great pattern of repentance; the relation of Christ; the friend of the Bridegroom; the herald of the King Immortal ; the glory of the Saints; and the joy of the World ! BISHOP HORNE.
John “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”—Luke i. 80. John was not brought up in the schools of the prophets, nor in the academies of the Jews, nor at the feet of any of their Rabbins and doctors; that it might appear he was not taught and sent of men, but of God. Nor did he dwell in any of the cities, or larger towns, but in deserts : partly that he might be fitted for that gravity and austerity of life he was to appear in, and that it might be clear he had no knowledge of, nor correspondence with Jesus. And in this solitude he remained, till he appeared in his prophetic office, and showed himself to the people of Israel; to whom he came, preaching his doctrine of repentance and remission of sins, administering the ordinance of baptism, giving notice of the near approach of the Messiah, and pointing him out unto the people.
DR. GILL. When the Eastern monarchs travelled, harbingers went before to give notice that the King was upon the road, and likewise proper persons to prepare his way, and to remove obstacles. The prophet thus illustrates great things by small, and accommodates the language and usages of men to divine truth. Messiah is about to visit a wilderness world, and those parts of it which he blesses with his presence, shall become the garden of the Lord.
Among the Jews, the professing people of God, a way was prepared for Messiah by the ministry of his harbinger, John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, as had been foretold of him by the prophets, particularly by Malachi, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and proclaiming that the Saviour and his kingdom were at hand. When the ministry of John had thus previously disposed the minds of many for the reception of Messiah, and engaged the attention of the people at large, Messiah himself entered upon his public office, on the same scene, and among the same people. As he increased, John willingly decreased. This distinguished servant of God, having finished his work, was removed to a better world.
Rev. J. Newton.
John the Baptist's ministry consisted principally in preaching the law, to awaken and convince men of sin, to prepare them for the coming of Christ, and to comfort them, as the law is to prepare the heart for the entertainment of the gospel. A very remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God attended John's ministry, and the effect of it was, that Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, were awakened and convinced. They went out to him, and submitted to his baptism, confessing their sins. John was the greatest of all the prophets who came before Christ. Matt. xi. 11. Among those that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist," i. e. had a more honourable office. He was as the morning star, which is the harbinger of the approaching day, and forerunner of the rising sun. The other prophets were stars that gave light in the night; but those stars went out on the approach of the gospel day. Now the coming of Christ being very nigh, the morning star comes before him, the brightest of all the stars, as John the Baptist was, in the sense mentioned, the greatest of all the prophets. And when Christ came in his public ministry, the light of that morning star decreased too; as we see, when the sun rises, it diminishes the light of the morning star. So John the Baptist says of himself,
6 He must increase, but I must decrease.' -John iii. 30. And soon after Christ began his public ministry, John the Baptist was put to death : as the morning star is visible a little while after the sun is risen, yet soon goes out.
The Baptist had till this time, that is, about thirty years, lived in the wilderness under the discipline of the Holy Ghost, under the tuition of angels, in conversation with God, in great mortification, and disaffections to the world, his garments rugged and uneasy, his meat plain, necessary, and without variety, his employment prayers and devotion, his company wild beasts, in ordinary, in extraordinary, messengers from heaven. It was an excellent sweetness of religion that had entirely possessed the soul of John, that in so great reputation of sanctity, so mighty a concourse of people, such great multitudes of disciples and confidants, and such throngs of admirers, he was humble without mixture of vanity, and confirmed in his temper and piety against the strength of the most impetuous temptation. And he was tried to some purpose: for when he was tempted to confess himself to be the Christ, he refused it; or to be Elias, or to be accounted that prophet, he refused all such great appellatives, and confessed himself only to be a voice, the lowest of entities, whose being depends upon the speaker, just as himself did upon the pleasure of God receiving form and publication, and employment, wholly by the will of his Lord, in order to the manifestation of the Word Eternal.
Now that the full time was come, Jesus took leave of his mother and his trade, to begin his Father's work and the office prophetical, in order to the redemption of the world; and when “ John was baptizing in Jordan, Jesus came to John to be baptized of him.” The Baptist had never seen his face ; but the Holy Ghost inspired John, and he knew him at his first arrival, and did him worship. And when Jesus desired to be baptized, John forbad him, saying, “ I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” But the holy Jesus, who came to “ fulfil all righteousness,” would receive that rite which his Father had instituted in order to the manifestation of his Son. For although he had a glimpse of his glory by the Spirit, yet John professed that he therefore came baptizing with water, " that Jesus might be manifested to Israel ;” and it was also a sign given to the Baptist himself, that “ on whomsoever he saw the Spirit descending and remaining," he is the person “ that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.”
Therefore Jesus came to be baptized, and by this baptism became known to John, who, as before he gave to him an unqualified testimony, so now he pointed out the person in his sermons and discourses, and, by calling him the “ Lamb of God," prophesied of his passion, and preached him to be the world's Redeemer, and the sacrifice for mankind.
As soon as John had performed his ministry, and “ Jesus was baptized, he prayed, and the heavens were opened,” and the air, clarified by a new and glorious .light, “ and the Holy Ghost, in the manner of a dove, alighted upon” his sacred head, and God the Father gave a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” This was the inauguration and proclamation of the Messiah, when he began to be the great prophet of the new covenant. And this was the greatest meeting that ever was upon earth, where the whole cabinet of the mysterious Trinity was opened and shown, as much as the capacities of our present imperfections will permit; the second person in the veil of humanity ; the third in the shape or with the motion of the dove; but as the first kept his primitive state, and, as to the Israelites, he gave notice
way of caution, “ Ye saw no shape, but ye heard a voice ;” so now also God the Father gave testimony to his Holy Son, and appeared only in a voice without any visible representment.
BISHOP JEREMY TAYLOR.
No such pre
Among the peculiarities which distinguish the most perfect dispensation of revealed religion, was the fact that its Author and Finisher was introduced to his work of mercy to man by a special harbinger. paration had Divine wisdom judged necessary to any preceding disclosure of truth or authority. This honour was reserved till God should “ bring the First Begotten into the world.”
This arrangement was a particular topic of prophecy; and that, not the Sovereign only, but his servant and herald likewise, was predicted. We have the words complete, and no one disputes their authenticity.—Luke i. 15, 17.—xliii. lxxvi.
The Sovereign thus announced and introduced, is THE LORD God of Israel, The Most High, THE LORD Jehovah of the prophets. Can honesty of interpretation require any more? Is not the obedience of faith, which is the characteristic of every real Christian, satisfied that the Christ, whom John proclaimed in the wilderness, is God JEHOVAH, The Most High ? The language of Elizabeth implies that she had so understood the prophecy of her husband; and that the same spirit of faith was given to her, by which she saw in the child to be born to Mary, him whom she owned as her Lord. Indeed, it is expressly recorded that, on this occasion, “ Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The faithful herald proclaimed the dignity of his Lord and Master, not only by declaring that he was greater and mightier than himself, but by giving instances of the exertion of his power. John had baptized by the symbolical use of water : the Messiah was actually to confer the blessing thus signified, that Divine influence which would produce and nourish all piety and religion ; “ He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Neither can the subsequent hesitation of John (Matt. xi. 3.) be admitted as any bar to our interpretation of the testimony which he was inspired to bear. We have no reason to think that he was raised above the current opinion of his countrymen, that the reign of the Messiah would be established with temporal authority and power, exercised for the vindication of the injured and the deliverance of the oppressed. But his message to Jesus may be justly regarded as the utterance of complaint and remonstrance, rather than of serious doubt: “ If thou art indeed the Hope and Deliverer of Israel, why dost thou permit thine enemies to triumph ? Why dost thou forsake thy faithful messenger, and leave him to pine in chains and misery?"
But in this very message of embarrassment and despondency, we find an important circumstance of reference to prophecy : “ Art thou He that should come,”—the coming one ? Now this was a part of the descriptions of the Messiah occurring in the Old Testament: the Shiloh that should come, -God, who would come and save,—the Adonai Jehovah, who would come to feed his flock,—the Lord, who would suddenly come to his temple, the Angel of the covenant. The Messiah, in the estimation of John, was distinctively the coming one ; but the prophetic passages which speak of the great expected advent, connect it with plain attributions of the names of Deity to that coming one.
DR. J. P. SMITH. Jesus came after John in order of time, but was immensely superior to him in dignity, authority, and excellency; insomuch that John was not worthy to loose or carry his sandals, or to perform the lowest menial service for him, who would baptize them “ with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, in the form
fiery tongues lighting on the apostles, with the effects produced on their minds and by their ministry, was a remarkable fulfilment of this prediction ; yet this baptism “ by the Holy Spirit and by fire” was vouchsafed comparatively to few of those who believed in Christ ; but the language of John evidently denotes a general benefit.
All other persons whom John baptized o confessed their sins;" but Jesus went up straightway from the water :" And immediately while he was praying, “ the heavens were opened,” and the Holy Spirit “ descended like a dove," the emblem of purity, gentleness, and love, “ and lighted upon him,” probably both in the form and with the hovering motion of a dove. This extraordinary appearance was seen by John as well as by our Lord; but it is not said that any of the people were present. This visible descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ, was token of his being endued with his sacred influences without measure, to qualify him, as man, for every part of his mediatorial work; and to be communicated to his people from him, as the head of the Church. At the same time a voice was heard from heaven, God the Father himself acknowledging Jesus as his beloved Son, in whose person and mediation he was satisfied. At the baptism of our Lord there was a manifestation of the three persons in the sacred Trinity, acting in their proper relations according to the economy of our redemption. The Father appointing and sealing the Son to be the Mediator; the Son solemnly accepting the designation, and entering upon his work; and the Holy Spirit descending on him, as through his mediation communicated to his people, to apply his salvation to their souls.
The most eminent saints have always been the most humble; they have had the most abasing thoughts of themselves, and the most exalted apprehensions of the glory and excellency of Christ; they have felt the need of his atoning blood and sanctifying Spirit more than others; and have thought the meanest place in his service too high and honourable for them.
Thus may we wait for the supply of the Spirit of Christ to make us fruitful in the works of righteousness, to evince our union with him, and to be in us “ the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,” accepted in “ his beloved Son, in whom he is