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n»nt, which God, by the prophet Malachi, had promised to spare *. •• • ii • ...'
The sect of the Pharisen 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, jn 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 of their eminent learning and pretensions to piety. ;i;
The. Sadducees was another principal sect of the Jews; what chiefly distinguished them was, that they denied .the immortality of 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. , . . :';..-v 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. , . f'i funiln . •• t
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 oi crafty. mischievous creatures, unless they became true; penitents, and entirely forsook their sins; and that the very
* See Seek ii. .r .
stones, if God thought proper to animate them, might become, in a much vobler sense of the word, children to Abraham, by imitating his faith and obedience, which would entitle them to be partakers in the promises made to that Patriarch. That the Pharisee* and Saddu. cees might be truly sensible of their danger, the Baptist .warned them, in vehement and forcible language, to expect those judgments which had formerly been de-. nounced 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 practise 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 Christ would be greatly superior. to himself, as by the baptism of water he could only cleanse the body, whereas Christ 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 oi 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. • • •
When we read the discourses of John the Baptist, w£ should consider them addressed to ourselves, as well as to the Jews; for we equally stand in need of repentaiiee. 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 those who are made children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven.
A PASSACE OF THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH RELAT. ING TO THE MESSIAH.
From Isaiah, Chgp. 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 Tear 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 Akd REFLECTIONS.
This passage of Isaiah's'prophecy certainly relates t<» "the the Messiah, and intimates, that he would be particularly distinguished from all mankind, by the circutn. stance ©f the Spirit of the Lord resting upon him; or, in other words, by the constant inspiration of theHbLV Ghost. •. •
Under the Mosaic dispensation, we read of the Spirit of the Lord coming upon particular persons, such as Moses, Joshua, Sampson, &c. who by this means were endued with.supernatural wisdom, strength, courage, or they were enabled to foretel future events, impenetrable to human reason; and, compelled by an irm. pulse, which they could not resist, to declare the divitk Will and Commandments toothers. This is what we call divine inspiration, and the men who were thus inspired, det. nominated Prophets. The Prophets were mere men, and in common had no guide but human reason; but ocoSl sional inspiration improved their understandings, and had undoubtedly an influence on their lives, which they willingly devotad to the service of the Lord, who had thus honoured them; and endeavoured to reform thfe rest of the world, both by their conversation and example. The Messiah was to be eminently distinguished above these: for the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord, 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 cf their ears.
Let us now go on with the history, and see whether it was made evident that the Spirit of the Lord rested upon Jesus Christ. .,
Vol. V. D SECTION. SECTION XVIT.
*8E BAPTISM OF JESUS.—TilE HOLY SPIRIT
Tram Matthew, Chap. iii.—Joh,it Chap, i.
Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to jordau unto Jlohn, to be baptized of him.
But John forbad him, saying, I have nerd to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to mvi And jEsus .answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now; for thus it oecometh us to fujfil all righteousness. Then lie suffered him.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the wa It: and lo, the heavens were opened •unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending Jike a dove, and lighting upon him. ;. And io, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom 1 am weil pleased.
John bare witness of rum, and cried,'saying, This is he of whom I spake. He th.it coineih after me, is preferred before me; for he was before me.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
We must perceive a wonderful difference betwixt the reception which Juhn the Baptist gave to the people Vh; flocked around him from different par s, and to our (bavioi's, — The former he called upon as snners to repent, ai.d be bap i/.ed; our Lord he addr.tsed a; one "from whom he stood in need of b;ip i m himself, ihe fcap'isr^ of the Holy Ghost, of which he had advertised his fol. "wi: , nor was the Baptist willing o perform ius uthce to a person so infinitely his superior, till