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Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth : I
have put my Spirit upon him ; he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
Isaiah xlii. 1. Behold, my Servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be
very high.—Isaiah lii. 13.
SACRED NARRATIVE. THEN cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan, unto 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 he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, (praying—Luke iii. 21,] lo, the heavens were opened unto 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.—Matt. iii. 13-17.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent Priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou ? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, no. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself ? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John'answered
them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day, John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And I John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again, the next day after, John stood, and two of his disciples ; and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God !-John i. 19-36.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE.
Praise is ever valuable in proportion to the judgment and integrity of him who bestoweth it; and the panegyric is truly honourable, when the panegyrist is one who will not flatter, and who cannot be deceived. How then shall we raise our thoughts to conceive adequately of a person, whose encomium was spoken by the Son of God; and concerning whom, that Son of God declared, “ Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist ?”—Matt. xi. 11. After this declaration made by the master, the disciples cannot well be hyperbolical in their praises of John, as the great pattern of repentance; the relation of Christ; the friend of the Bridegroom; the herald of the King Immortal ; the glory of the Saints; and the joy of the World ! BISHOP HORNE.
John “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.”—Luke i. 80. John was not brought up in the schools of the prophets, nor in the academies of the Jews, nor at the feet of any of their Rabbins and doctors; that it might appear he was not taught and sent of men, but of God. Nor did he dwell in any of the cities, or larger towns, but in deserts : partly that he might be fitted for that gravity and austerity of life he was to appear in, and that it might be clear he had no knowledge of, nor correspondence with Jesus. And in this solitude he remained, till he appeared in his prophetic office, and showed himself to the people of Israel; to whom he came, preaching his doctrine of repentance and remission of sins, administering the ordinance of baptism, giving notice of the near approach of the Messiah, and pointing him out unto the people.
DR. GILL. When the Eastern monarchs travelled, harbingers went before to give notice that the King was upon the road, and likewise proper persons to prepare his way, and to remove obstacles. The prophet thus illustrates great things by small, and accommodates the language and usages of men to divine truth. Messiah is about to visit a wilderness world, and those parts of it which he blesses with his presence, shall become the garden of the Lord.
Among the Jews, the professing people of God, a way was prepared for Messiah by the ministry of his harbinger, John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, as had been foretold of him by the prophets, particularly by Malachi, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and proclaiming that the Saviour and his kingdom were at hand. When the ministry of John had thus previously disposed the minds of many for the reception of Messiah, and engaged the attention of the people at large, Messiah himself entered upon his public office, on the same scene, and among the same people. As he increased, John willingly decreased. This distinguished servant of God, having finished his work, was removed to a better world.
Rev. J. Newton.
John the Baptist's ministry consisted principally in preaching the law, to awaken and convince men of sin, to prepare them for the coming of Christ, and to comfort them, as the law is to prepare the heart for the entertainment of the gospel. A very remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God attended John's ministry, and the effect of it was, that Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, were awakened and convinced. They went out to him, and submitted to his baptism, confessing their sins. John was the greatest of all the prophets who came before Christ. Matt. xi. 11. Among those that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist," i. e. had a more honourable office. He was as the morning star, which is the harbinger of the approaching day, and forerunner of the rising sun. The other prophets were stars that gave light in the night; but those stars went out on the approach of the gospel day. Now the coming of Christ being very nigh, the morning star comes before him, the brightest of all the stars, as John the Baptist was, in the sense mentioned, the greatest of all the prophets. And when Christ came in his public ministry, the light of that morning star decreased too; as we see, when the sun rises, it diminishes the light of the morning star. So John the Baptist says of himself,
6 He must increase, but I must decrease.' -John iii. 30. And soon after Christ began his public ministry, John the Baptist was put to death : as the morning star is visible a little while after the sun is risen, yet soon goes out.
The Baptist had till this time, that is, about thirty years, lived in the wilderness under the discipline of the Holy Ghost, under the tuition of angels, in conversation with God, in great mortification, and disaffections to the world, his garments rugged and uneasy, his meat plain, necessary, and without variety, his employment prayers and devotion, his company wild beasts, in ordinary, in extraordinary, messengers from heaven. It was an excellent sweetness of religion that had entirely possessed the soul of John, that in so great reputation of sanctity, so mighty a concourse of people, such great multitudes of disciples and confidants, and such throngs of admirers, he was humble without mixture of vanity, and confirmed in his temper and piety against the strength of the most impetuous temptation. And he was tried to some purpose: for when he was tempted to confess himself to be the Christ, he refused it; or to be Elias, or to be accounted that prophet, he refused all such great appellatives, and confessed himself only to be a voice, the lowest of entities, whose being depends upon the speaker, just as himself did upon the pleasure of God receiving form and publication, and employment, wholly by the will of his Lord, in order to the manifestation of the Word Eternal.
Now that the full time was come, Jesus took leave of his mother and his trade, to begin his Father's work and the office prophetical, in order to the redemption of the world; and when “ John was baptizing in Jordan, Jesus came to John to be baptized of him." The Baptist had never seen his face ; but the Holy Ghost inspired John, and he knew him at his first arrival, and did him worship. And when Jesus desired to be baptized, John forbad him, saying, “ I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" But the holy Jesus, who came to fulfil all righteousness,” would receive that rite which his Father had instituted in order to the manifestation of his Son. For although he had a glimpse of his glory by the Spirit, yet John professed that he therefore came baptizing with water, “ that Jesus might be manifested to Israel ;” and it was also a sign given to the Baptist himself, that “ on whomsoever he saw the Spirit descending and remaining,” he is the person “ that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.”
Therefore Jesus came to be baptized, and by this baptism became known to John, who, as before he gave to him an unqualified testimony, so now he pointed out the person in his sermons and discourses, and, by calling him the “ Lamb of God," prophesied of his passion, and preached him to be the world's Redeemer, and the sacrifice for mankind.
As soon as John had performed his ministry, and “ Jesus was baptized, he prayed, and the heavens were opened,” and the air, clarified by a new and glorious .light, 6 and the Holy Ghost, in the manner of a dove, alighted upon” his sacred head, and God the Father gave a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." This was the inauguration and proclamation of the Messiah, when he began to be the great prophet of the new covenant. And this was the greatest meeting that ever was upon earth, where the whole cabinet of the mysterious Trinity was opened and shown, as much as the capacities of