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might have been easily detected, is there had never been such a person; and a Jewish historian attests, that john lived in Judea in the reign of Herod-Antipas *. In his outward appearance, John greatly resembled the prophet Elijah, and the same piety and zeal animated his heart: there was nothing of excessive rigour, but only of great simplicity; in his manner. The place where he preached was not an uninhabited desert, for
it had six cities in it; but it was a part of the country
not so well cultivated and peopled as the rest of Judea. The food which he ate was the natural produce of the country. Locusts are a kind of large grasshoppers, and, when sprinkled with salt and fried, are said to taste much like river cray-fish. Wild honey is that which is found in trees and the clists of rocks. - **** , John was by birth a priest, and as such had authority to Preach; and, besides his exemplary piety, he bore evident marks of prophetic inspiration. All these causes toncurred to awaken, the attention of the people to his doctrine, and without doubt they were curious to know why he did not, like the other priests, deliver his doctrine in the Synagogues or the Temple; but this he could not do, because the rulers of the Sanhedrim, or great council, would have prevented him, as he spake in opposition to their opinions. Now Christianity is established, field-preaching is unnecessary, because there are places for public worship provided, where Christians may assemble without obstruction or interruption. The Jewish church, to which 7pha was sent to announce the coming of the Messiah, was at that time, as has been before observed, in a barren and desert condition; unfit, without reformation, for the reception of her King. It was in this desert country, desert in respect f : . . s. . . * Mosephus’s Antiquities, x : *** Josep 14 ... to to spiritual things, that John was sent to prepare the way of the Lo RD, by preaching repentance.
It appears from the history, that the person of Jesus was unknown to john, which might very possibly be the case, because they had from their infancy lived in distant places; but Žohn received, by divine revelation, a commission to point Christ out to the Jews, as soon as he should be made known to himself; and in the mean while; he was to remove the wrong notions they entertained respecting the Kingdom of the MFssiah. The people, from the prophecy of Daniel, were in full expectation, that the kingdom of the God of heaven, under Messi AH the Prince, would shortly appear; and their subjection to the Roman power made them impatient for its approach." They were; therefore, extremely attentive to john, when he preached, that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand; but could not reconcile his doctrines with the idea they had formed of this kingdom, which they supposed would be like that of David and Solomon, and exalt their church and nation to the greatest height of power, splendor and solemnity. john preached the baptism of Repentance, teaching them, that the works or ceremonial observances of the law, in which they made righteousness to consist, would not procure them salvation; but that they must seek for acceptance from God upon other terms ”, must repent of all the irregularities of their lives, and be baptized in token of their sincere desire to be washed and cleansed from them; assuring the people, that if they attended to this institution in a truly penitent manner, they might consider; it as a pledge or token of their being freely forgiven of God; and as a sign to distinguish that rem
* Doddridge's Family Expositor. o, - nant,
nant, which God, by the prophet Malachi, had pro
mised to spare *. 1
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 estima. tion by the common people, on account of their 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 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. , . . so ...'. 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. , - ... . . . . to o ji is to The Baptist’s address to the Pharisees and, Saddurees 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, stones, if God thought proper to animate them, might become, in a much nobler 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 Sadducees 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.
* See Sect. ii. ffortés,
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 . Mess 1 AH, immediately acquainted them he was not so, and proceeded to describe, the office of CHR 1st ; 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 scenis 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 Messi AH, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. o
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When we read the discourses of john the Baptist, we 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 those who are made children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven.
a pass Ace of the prophecy of 1s A1 AH RELAT- ING To The Messi AH.
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. - - , a And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord : and he shall not jūdge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his cars. 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