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received. It “has the promise of the life " that now is, as well as of that which is to “ come” Not only will its future recompense exceed all that we can ask or think; but, during this our earthly pilgrimage, it will “ fill us with all joy and peace in believing";” “ the Spirit itself bearing witness with our “ spirit, that we are the sons of God"."
t1 Tim. iv.8.
v Rom. xv. 13.
w Rom. viii. 16.
MATT. xi. 10. This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall
prepare thy way before thee.
In the series of wonderful events introductory to the coming of the Messiah, those which relate to his immediate fore-runner, John the Baptist, have especial claims to our consideration. The testimony which he bore to our Blessed Saviour was singular in its kind, and so essential to the purpose for which it was given, that without it there would have been wanting one most important link in the chain of evidence by which the whole Christian Revelation is upholden. This gives to the history and character of the Baptist an interest greater, perhaps, than that of any other individual (our Lord only excepted) whose name is recorded in Holy Writ. Our Lord himself indeed suggests this, when he says of him, “ This is he of whom it is “ written, Behold, I send my messenger be“ fore thy face, which shall prepare thy way “ before thee;" and again, when he affirms of him that he was “ more than a Prophet",” and that “among them that were born of women “ there had not arisen a greater than heb.” John also proclaimed himself to be “the “ voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make
straight the way of the Lord, as said the “ prophet Esaiaso;" that harbinger of “ the “ day spring from on high,” sent to announce his immediate appearance, and to prepare
the world for his reception.
The proofs of these pretensions on the part of the Baptist were of a peculiar kind. He himself wrought no miracles; yet his own birth was attended by miraculous circumstances. His office was altogether distinct from that of the Prophets in general, yet
he himself was foretold by the Prophets. The Prophets knew not what individual person among the Jews would answer to their description of the Messiah ; but to John it was specially revealed that Jesus was the Christ. He received also by immediate inspiration a more perfect knowledge of the nature of our Lord's kingdom, and the design of his coming, than had been communicated to the Prophets, or than even any of the Apostles attained to, until after the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
a Matth. xi. 9.
b Matth. xi. 11.
John i. 23.
The circumstances attending the birth of John were evidently supernatural, and are established by evidence the most unexceptionable. The
message delivered by an angel to his father Zacharias, the sudden loss of speech inflicted upon Zacharias for his slowness to believe the divine message, the no less instantaneous restoration of it on the accomplishment of the prediction, and his burst of prophetic rapture when the event took place, are told by St. Luke with that simplicity and clearness which bespeak the narrator of known and acknowledged facts. Nor can any delusion or deception be reasonably supposed, in matters which occurred under the immediate observation of many persons who could have no interest in believing, or in spreading the belief of them, had they not been true. “ The
people,” says the Evangelist, “ waited d” for their aged pastor, when he first saw the vision, and witnessed its effect upon him when he returned. Probably a numerous assembly was also present at the circumcision of the infant, when the tongue of his venerable parent was loosed, and he declared his son to be“ the Prophet of the Highest, who should
d Luke i. 21.
go before the face of the Lord to prepare “ his ways."
“ And,” it is said, “ fear came “ on all that dwelt round about them; and all “ these sayings were noised abroad through“ out all the hill country of Judæa. And all they that heard them laid them up in their
arts, saying, What manner of child shall “ this be'?” Such was the publicity of the whole procedure, leaving no room for suspicion of fraud, of collusion, or of credulity in any of the parties concerned.
The circumstances attending also the conception and birth of our Lord himself afford a strong confirmation of those relating to the Baptist. Though the two events are so connected as to appear almost dependent on each other; yet are they of such a kind as to make it utterly impossible that a combination between the parties to impose upon the world could have succeeded under
circumstances, however favourable to the attempt, much less by persons of such blameless characters, and such obscure stations of life, as those who were here concerned. All such suspicions are indeed effectually removed, not e Luke i. 76.
f Luke i. 65, 66.