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only by the declared publicity of the whole transaction, but also by the total absence of any proof, or even any surmise, of such imposture, on the part of the Jews themselves. That John the Baptist was held in great personal veneration by the Jews, even by those who refused to acknowledge either him or his Lord in the characters they assumed, is evident from the narratives of the Evangelists, and also from the testimonies of Josephus and other Jewish historians. That his parents were highly esteemed, appears from the uncontradicted declaration of St. Luke, that they 66 walked in all the commandments and “ ordinances of the Lord blameless.” That the mother of Jesus was also of unsullied reputation is to be inferred from the conduct of the Jewish rulers, who, notwithstanding their implacable hatred of her Son, appear not in any instance to have cast the slightest imputation upon her conduct, nor to have shewn the least disposition to implicate her in any of the accusations urged against our Lord himself. With such proofs of the estimation in which these parties were held, the evidence of the facts relating to them stands clear of a shadow of pretence for calling their reality in question.
& Luke i. 6.
It was pe
Another strong testimony of the Divine mission of the Baptist arises from the fulfilment of prophecy in his person. culiar to him, among the messengers of the Most High, that he shared with his Lord in the distinction of being personally foretold by the ancient prophets. The prophet Isaiah, announcing the glad tidings of the Gospel, exclaims, (as if he had actually heard the Baptist pr
preaching in the wilderness,) “ The voice “ of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye
of the Lord, make straight “ in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain 6 and hill laid low: and the crooked shall be “ made straight, and the rough places plain ; " and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, “ and all flesh shall see it together b." These highly figurative expressions strikingly represent the wonderful changes to be produced by the preaching of the Gospel, and the manner in which it would be taught by the Baptist himself; the superiority of whose teaching was in no circumstance more remarkable than in his declarations of the spiritual nature of the Messiah's kingdom. He preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins in a manner almost, if not altogether,
h Isaiah xl. 3, 4, 5.
new to the generality of his hearers; not as a mere outward token of purification from pollutions incurred by violation of the Jewish law, but as an inward purification of the heart, springing from a deep sense of guilt, and an earnest desire to embrace the redemption offered them through that “ Lamb of God which 66 taketh away the sins of the world'.” This, he taught them, was to be wrought by Him whose baptism would be accompanied with a power and efficacy to which John's baptism was only subordinate and introductory :-“I, “ indeed, baptize you with water ; but One
mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose “ shoes I am not worthy to unloose; He shall
baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with “ firek” He corrected also the erroneous impressions of the Jews respecting their exclusive privileges as the people of God; intimating their rejection in consequence of their unbelief, and the admission of the Gentiles into the Christian covenant. However clearly this doctrine may appear to us to be deducible from the scriptures of the Old Testament, it is evident that the Jews, for the most part, overlooked it, or applied it to other circumstances or events. This unwelcome truth the Baptist enforced with peculiar earnesti John i. 29.
k Matth. iii. 11.
“ O generation of vipers,” he exclaims, addressing the hypocritical Pharisees who came to be baptized of him, “ who hath “ warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance; and think not to
your“ selves, We have Abraham to our father; for
I say unto you, that God is able of these “ stones” (these Gentiles whom ye so despise) “ to raise up children unto Abraham!”
Thus did this chosen servant of God preach evangelical righteousness to them who had hitherto trusted entirely to the outward observance of the law. He taught that the meek and lowly and contrite in heart were to be exalted by faith in the Redeemer ; that the high and haughty, whether Jew or Gentile, were to bring into captivity every lofty imagination to the obedience of Christ; that the crooked and perverse ways of men were now to be relinquished for the plain and straight paths pointed out to them by the Saviour of the world; that the glory of the Lord was about to be revealed by the immediate appearance of the Son of God; and that “all flesh," all mankind without respect of persons,“ should
see it together,” and be admitted to a joint participation in its blessings.
| Matth. ii. 7, 8, 9.
The effect of this preaching was no less extraordinary. From that time, “ the kingdom “ of heaven,” as our Lord expressed it,“ suf“ fered violence, and the violent took it by “ forcem.” People of every description, Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and Publicans, Sadducees and Roman soldiers, strangers to the law of Moses, together with the seed of Abraham, pressed with ardour to hear the preacher's doctrine and to receive his baptism; verifying another figurative prediction of the same prophet, “the wolf and the lamb, the “ leopard and the kid, the lion and the ox, “ shall lie down together”.”
In the conduct of the Baptist was also fulfilled one of the most remarkable prophecies, that of Malachi, the last of the Hebrew Prophets; “ Behold, I will send you Elijah the “ Prophet, before the coming of the great and “ dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall “ turn the hearts of the fathers to the chil“ dren, and the hearts of the children to the
fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with - a curse."
There prevailed an universal persuasion among the Jews, that before the appearance of the Messiah “ Elias must first come.” Our Lord, too, expressly said, “ Elias verily com
m Matth. xi. 10. n Isa. xi. 6. o Mal. iv. 5, 6.