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Isaiah, he had read Malachi; and it cannot be doubted but that he possessed a prophetic knowledge of them both. Another peculiarity may be remarked in our Lord's intercourse with John after he was put in prison. When John had heard in prison, at the beginning of our Saviour's ministry, the wonderful miracles that he was then performing, he sent his disciples for further information; with this inquiry, "Art thou he that should come, [the Messiah, as the expression denoted] or do we look for another 1?” This inquiry was made, not on his own account, but for the sake of his disciples, who knew nothing of this second mission; and for the sake of that multitude who were finally to be partakers of all the benefits of the expected Redeemer. They saw the miracles, and returned the answer. But it is the nature of the Messiah's miracles which forms the argument. The prophet foretold the kind of miracles the Messiah should perform. They were domestic miracles, if I may so say. He made the blind to see, and the lame to walk, &c. In the reign of the prophets, miracles were designedly more striking, being appropriate to peculiar situations. Moses stretched out his hand, and the sea divided; Elijah ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire; Mount Sinai was covered with thundering and flames, that all men trembled: these were emblems of the grandeur and severity of the law-" the soul
! Matt. xi. 3.
that sinneth it shall die;"-but the Gospel came in on milder principles-" grace and truth came by Jesus Christ'." Not that the impenitent sinner has any greater cause for rejoicing under the Gospel than under the Law; but as the convinced penitent assumes no righteousness to himself, being dead in trespasses and sins, he has cause for rejoicing in him who died for sinners, and becomes alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The benevolent nature of Christ's miracles therefore constitutes an additional mark of his mediatorial character. May the Lord grant that none of us may frustrate his mercies!-But consider the genial blessings which he bestows upon us, by restoring health in sickness, and comfort in trouble, as miracles peculiar to ourselves.
To be prepared for all events is the duty of the consistent Christian; and as in a progressive world new events continually occur, it is indispensably necessary that we should not be taken by surprise. What event is of more importance to him who is preparing for eternity, than to prepare to meet that God who inhabiteth eternity! and what way is more effectual for this purpose, than, in imitation of the Baptist, by penitence and prayer, personally to prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight in the desert an high-way for our God!
1 John i. 17.
VI.-The Preaching and Baptism of John.
As the mission of John was wholly preparatory, we must remark rather the gradual progress, than the attainment of the great object in view. The order of Providence in all its dispensations takes this general We grow in stature: we grow in grace. attend to this in the establishment of our faith bespeaks the wisdom of the wise. "I commend you," says St. Paul in his prayer, "to the word of grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified 1."
; The first preaching of John laid the foundation for him, who should afterwards be complete in Jesus. The magnificent and appropriate prophecy of Isaiah concerning John, leads us into all the varieties of preparation suitable to the important occasion. There is an elevation in manner, as well as thought, which attracts the attention, and disposes the heart to the most intense devotion.
Whilst the prophet is addressing those whose duty it should be to speak comfortably to Jerusalem, he breaks off suddenly as if interrupted by a voice. "Hark!—a glad voice from the wilderness 3 !"—or, as Bishop Lowth translates it-" A voice that criethIn the wilderness prepare ye the way of Jehovah !”
1 Acts xx. 32.
2 Col. ii. 10.
3 Isaiah xi. 3. &c.
The whole scenery of this prophecy is grand beyond description. A high-way formed in the desert; prophets, patriarchs, and kings walking along it in procession: the meek and lowly believers in the expected Saviour, moving forward in the same train, not less in spiritual rank, and proclaiming their acceptance with palms in their hands. But hearken to the voice:-" Prepare ye the way of the Lord: make straight in the desert an high-way for our God:"-The desert of the world, a world under the rule of sin and sorrow, is no path-way for the Lord of life. All offensive obstructions must be removed; a moral clearance of all that desolates the heart of man must be taken away, and the pure waters of salvation must make all clean. "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low :" alterations of every kind must take place in the renewed breast, or else the altered, will be no new man; the detestable and degrading vices of the wicked must be broken like the stubborn soil, the sinner must be made to feel the danger of his way and the unavoidable difficulties of his daily travels. In short, the spirit of the world must be totally destroyed before the spirit of Gospel righteousness can find a way for the redeemed to pass along. "The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain ;"-not only the original corruption of the mind shall be corrected, and all the crooked and wily purposes of the secret sinner frustrated, and bent into the opposite direction; but
the difficulties of the law itself shall be softened, its yoke shall be made easy, and its burthen light, till in the end every inequality shall vanish, and all shall be renewed-and then, when this happy prospect shall be spread around, "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Every faithful servant of the Gospel well knows what is to be understood by the glory of the Lord. The Evangelist John evidently alludes to this very expression, when he says of the Saviour,-" the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'." The manifestation of this glory has this particular attribute, that it shall be universal, "all flesh shall see it together;" no person, or nation, shall restrict its worth. Redemption by Christ is truly styled our "common salvation 2," which all shall see, all shall feel, and, one day, all shall acknowledge.
The life and character of the Baptist were, in all respects corresponding with this prophecy; so much so, that Isaiah does not seem so much of a prophet as an evangelist. The benefits of the Gospel are promised for the consolation of an expiring, or of a fallen Church." Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem”— a Church, which had indeed effected God's purposes, but, like the Baptist himself, was only preparatory
1 John i. 14.
2 Jude 3.