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•guish that remnant, which God, by the prophet Malachi, had promised to spare *.
The sect of the Pharisees was one of the most ancient and most considerable sects among the Jews; its origin is not very well known. It was very numerous, and distinguished from other Israelites by a greater appearance of sanctity and strictness of life. The Pharisees substituted human tradition in the room of God's written word, and, in our Lord's and John the Baptist's time, they were proud, covetous, unjust, superstitious, and hypocritical: yet they were held in great estimation by the common people, on account oftheir eminent learning and pretensions to piety.
The Sadducees was another principal sect of the Jews: what chiefly distinguished them was, that they denied the immortality cf the soul; and consequently disbelieved the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. Notwithstanding these erroneous opinions, the Sadducees were in the chief employments of the nation, and many of them even priests.
The Publicans were a set of men, whose office it was to collect the taxes which the Romans imposed on the Jews, and to pay them to others, who were called the Chiefs of the Publicans; and these people, being generally persons of an infamous character for their injustice and oppression, seem to have applied'to John under a sense of guilt.
The Baptist's address to the Pharisees and Sadducees implied, that so far from being accepted as the children of Abraham, they would be rejected as a race of crafty mischievous creatures, unless they became true penitents, and entirely forsook their sins; and that the very.
* See Section ii.
Hones, if God thought proper te animate them, might become, in a much nobler sense of the word, children to Abraham, by imitating hnjaith and obedience, which would entitle them to be partakers in the promises made to that Patriarch. That the Phariseet and Sadducees might be truly sensible of their danger, the Bap. tist warned them, in vehement and forcible language, to expect those judgments which had formerly been denounced by the Prophets.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were offended with this address, and refused to be baptized; but the common people were alarmed, and requested John to inform them how they should escape this dreadful condemnation; on which he told them to be careful, not only to observe the ceremonies of religion, but to practice the duties of charity and justice also.
John, finding that many began to think him the Messiah, immediately acquainted them he was not so, and proceeded to describe the office of Christ; acknowledging that Chiiist would be greatly superior to himself, as by the baptism of water he could only cleanse the body, whereas Chhist would with the Holy Ghost purify the mind; and finally separate the good from the bad, as the husbandman separates the wheat from the chaff; and take the good to heaven, but doom the wicked to a place of everlasting torment.
The spirit of prophecy, which seems to have been withheld from the time of Malachi, now openly revived in John; for though his predictions agreed with the ancient prophecies, he mentioned many circumstances, which could only be known by divine revelation to himself, particularly the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins, the approach of the Messiah, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
„-Whenwe read the discourses of John the Baptist, ve should consider them addressed to ourselves, as well as to the Jews; for we equally stand in need of repentance. The Sacrament of Baptism will prove ineffectual to our salvation, unless we perform the conditions made in our name, and endeavour to live as becomes tho'se who are made children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven.
A PASSA6E OF THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH RELATING TO THE MESSIAH.
From, Isaiah, Chap. xi.
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity, for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
This passage of Isaiah's prophecy certainly relates to
, .. the
the Messiah, and intimates, that lie would be particularly distinguished from all mankind, by the circumstance of the Spirit of the Loan resting upon him ; or, in other words, by the constant inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
Under the Mosaic dispensation, we read of the Spiuit «/' the Lord coming upon particular persons, such as Moses, Joshua, Samson, &c. who by this means were endued with supernatural tvisdum, strength, courage, &c. or they were enabled to foretel future events, impenetrable to human reason; and, compelled by an impulse, which they could not resist, to declare the divine Will and Commandments to others. This is what we call divine inspiration, and the men who were thus inspired, denominated Prophets. The Prophets were mere men,a\\A. in common had no guide but human reason ; but occasional inspiration improved their understandings, and had undoubtedly an influence on their lives, which they willingly devoted to the service of the Loan, who had thus honoured them: and endeavoured to reform the rest of the world, both by their conversation and example. The Messiah was to be eminently distinguished above these : for the spirit ofxmsdom and understanding, the sjiirit of knowledge, andthejear of the Loud, was to rest on him, or remain constantly with him, that he might be qualified to judge with righteousness, and reprove with equity; which no mere human being could do in all instances, men having no means of forming any judgment of things, but from the sight of their eyes and the hearing of their ears. ,
Let us now go on with the history, and see whether it was made evident that the Spirit of the Loud rested upon Jesus Christ.
vol* v. D SECTION .SECTION XVII.
.. 3'HE BAPTISM OP JESUS.—THE HOLY SPIRIT
'' I ,
Front Matthew, Chap. iii.— John, Chap. i.!
Then com eth Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unt» John, to be baptized of him.
But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of'thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then lie suffered him.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened tmto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.
And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This is lie of whom I spake. He that cometh after me, is preferred before me; for he was before me.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
We must perceive a wonderful difference betwixt .the reception which John the Bapti&l gave to the people who flocked around him from different parts, and to our Saviour.—The former he called upon as sinners to repent, and be baptized ; our Loud he addressed as one .from, whom he stood in need of baptism himself, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, of which he had advertised his followers; nor was the Baptist willing to perform hie office to a person so infinitely his .superior, till . .. . he