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of something like that of a guardian Angel to his afflicted countrymen, or of an avenging Spirit to the sinful, rebellious, and corrupt.
It was upon this principle, that Simon Magus pretended to be Christ appearing to the world again, many years after his crucifixion, in his person, and he was believed by the credulous Samaritans, and some others. Hence, also, Herod, laboring under the terrors of a guilty conscience, thought that Christ was John the Baptist risen from the dead; and we learn from St. Matthew, that some imagined that "he was Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets." Now, the venerable Baptist entertaining no such silly, unfounded, and unscriptural notions, answered to the question, "Art thou Elias ?" "I am not ;" meaning, undoubtedly, in the sense which they annexed to the inquiry.
But, as it was foretold by the prophet Malachi, that the Messiah's kingdom should be ushered in by God sending Elijah the prophet;—that is, one, who may be said to be another Elijah, from his resemblance to him in manners, character, and conduct;-farther, as he reproved Herod, in the same manner that Elijah had reproved Ahab;-as he preached the great doctrine of repentance like him, to a sinful and corrupt na
tion; and, lastly, as the angel had declared that he should go before the Saviour of the world "in the Spirit and Power of Elias;" our blessed Lord might well say, on a subsequent occasion, in this true acceptation of the prophecy, that John was "the Elias that was to come;" and thus the supposed discrepance, which the boldness and ignorance of infidelity have raised, between the assertion of Christ, and the de-" claration of the holy Baptist, may be satisfactorily reconciled.
The next question, which the priests and Levites asked him, was, "Art thou that prophet?" meaning, it is probable, the prophet, which Moses had declared should appear, in these remarkable words" The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken: and whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which He shall speak in my! name, I will require it of him." Now, as the Jews, in all ages of their church, considered this prophecy as peculiarly applicable to the Messiah, John's ready answer to this question, also, was, “No.” Being pressed with the further inquiries, Then who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What
sayest thou of thyself?" he said, again, in the words of the text, without the least claim, or pretension, to more influence, dignity, or power than belonged to him, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias."
There are other circumstances in the history and character of the venerable Baptist, which may well deserve our attention; but fearing to trespass on a larger portion of your time than can be devoted to patient attention, I purpose, by Divine permission, to make these the subject of some future discourse. At present, allow me to observe, that, as we are now.celebrating the holy season of Advent, and as the day of the coming of our heavenly Redeemer in the flesh is drawing near, let us prepare once more to commemorate that glorious festival with hearts purified, as far as human frailty will permit, from the pollutions of sin;-with a lively faith in the merits and atonement of Christ ;and with minds disposed, at all times, not only to hear the gracious call to repentance, but also to bring forth such good fruits, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as may shew it to be stedfast, lasting, and sincere.
ON THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
JOHN I. 23.
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord."
IN my last discourse on these words, after other particulars relating to John the Baptist, I noticed the dialogue which passed between him, and the Priests and Levites, who were sent from Jerusalem to inquire into the nature of his character and mission. In prosecuting the subject,
may be proper to say a few words on the single ground, or commanding motive, on which he preached the great doctrine of Repentance. The exhortation to "all that had ears to hear," was, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." We may observe, that the state of the
Jews at this period was most deplorable. Since their return from the Babylonish captivity, they could not, indeed, be charged with the sin of apostacy, nor the gross absurdities of idolatrous worship; but, in addition to their being subject and tributary to a foreign power, they were wretchedly divided among themselves. Of the two principal sects, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the latter believed, not the resurrection of the body, nor a future state of retribution; and, adhering only to the Pentateuch of Moses, were a sort of Jewish epicureans; while the former, as our blessed Lord might well say, had rendered" the word of God of none effect through their traditions." In addition to their excessive zeal for external ordinances, their pomp and ostentation, their spiritual pride and gross hypocrisy, no one, who has not read the Mishna and the Talmuds, can form any adequate idea of the foolish, legendary tales, the absurd laws and customs, the superstitious observances, the fanciful and puerile interpretations, which they had adopted, and which they professed to believe as of equal authority with their ancient Hebrew Scriptures.
Now, the holy Gospel, whether we consider its exemption from the burdensome rites and