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to a better covenant, and a more perfect temple. The foundation of that temple had been laid by patriarchs and prophets, but was reserved to the Son of God for its completion. The Baptist may be considered as contributing his part in laying the elect and precious corner-stone of this holy temple, but neither his preaching nor his baptism were of themselves conclusive.
He was not, it is true, a self-constituted preacher; for the word of God came unto him in the wilderness. In what manner revealed, whether by open vision, or dream, or secret intimation, is not recorded. The time and place, however, as well as the subject, were matters of prophecy. "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand1." This was not in the solitary desert where he had been so long secluded, but in a better frequented country, on the banks of the river Jordan. The repentance which he here preached to the multitudes, which his fame brought from many quarters for instruction, was necessarily introductory to the plan which he had in view, and of that kingdom the object of his preaching. That kingdom was the kingdom of Christ. As a pious and well-informed Jew, he was well-read in the law and the prophets; and he expected, with all others of his nation, the Advent of the Messiah.
1 Matt. iii. 1, 2.
That his knowledge of the subject was correct, is evident by his "looking upon Jesus, as he walked, and saying, Behold, the Lamb of God1!"
The redemption of man was still prospective, and John's mission was, according to his father's prophecy, "to give knowledge of salvation unto the Lord's people, by the remission of their sins"." Had they been as ready to accept his mission, as he was to preach, the fundamental doctrine, the high-way formed in the desert, would have been more accessible to every hearer. Repentance is indispensable both as a doctrine and as a duty; but it is only the leader of the way. The Baptist preached-"repent;" why? because "the kingdom of heaven was at hand3."—“ I indeed have baptized you with water, but he [that cometh after me] shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost *:"-" For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God 5."
The same argument may be pursued in discussing John's baptism. It was not definitive. He adopted the usual ceremony of admitting proselytes into the Jewish Church; namely, by the use of water. But this conveyed no remission of sins. It was merely preparatory, as he himself declared to his own proselytes. It was, as it has been styled, only the preface
1 John i. 36.
Mark i. 8.
2 Luke i. 77.
3 Matt. iii. 2.
5 Eph. ii. 8.
to a discourse, or a porch to the temple'. The institution of Christian baptism completed the great design:
"Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost2" It was indeed the same baptism in kind, but not in degree. But however different, it was, at that time, to John's disciples, an efficacious baptism. The banks of the river Jordan were crowded with penitents; doubtless, all prospectively believing in Christ: and when Christ himself submitted to John's baptism, and the supernatural sign of divinity descended on his head, who can doubt but salvation was at hand, and that many of the vast multitude, constituting the Baptist's converts, were accepted as believing Christians.
While reflecting on this sublime scene let us prolong our contemplation that we may comprehend ourselves in that anxious society waiting for the troubling of the waters, that when the angel touches the pool, we may be made whole of whatever disease we have. John's disciples considered the kingdom of heaven-the Gospelkingdom―at hand. Christ's disciples find it present, "The kingdom of heaven," said our Lord, "is within you." And within us truly it is, if we are a part of St. Peter's audience, who "gladly received the word, and were baptized 3. Christ's kingdom on earth was, and is, a kingdom of grace; God grant that it may be
1 Taylor's Life of Christ. 2 Matt. xxviii. 19.
3 Acts ii. 41.
to every one of his faithful followers a kingdom of glory hereafter !
VII.-The Second Advent of Jesus Christ.
WHEN every part of divine revelation is placed before our eyes in one consistent plan, and we are enabled by the eye of faith to behold not only what is, but what shall be hereafter, we shall perceive that we are not creatures of an hour, the insects, as it were, of a short and sunny day, the mortal seed of a mortal seed; but that within us resides a principle not to be consumed by time, a principle guarded by the progressive, and continually improving faculties of reason and understanding; a principle, in short, of conscious immortality; not ending, till every vivid imagination, confirmed by an eternal promise, shall rest in that first and only impulse, which launched the immortal man from the hand of his Creator. There is no wild speculation in this thought; for if we compare the capabilities of man with his whole history in the book of God's revealed will, we shall, indeed, be blind leaders of the blind, if we see not a most pleasing harmony between the man of Scripture and the man of immortality. What then we see, and acknowledge, it is our duty to believe: and what it is our duty to believe, it should also be our pleasure to execute: or else we act inconsistently with our belief, and involve
ourselves in the fatal consequence of wilful infidelity.
We have hitherto traced the coming of Christ through the varieties of the prophecies and promises concerning him, and his actual appearance in the world. Every link is perfect. We are now called upon to contemplate a future advent, which is most closely and most importantly connected with the first.
The person of John the Baptist, considered as the figurative Elias, has been thought essential to the second, as he was to the first advent of our Lord. Malachi says, in the spirit of prophecy, "Behold! I send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." That day is universally interpreted to be the day of judgment. "If we do not admit this "," Mede says, "I scarce know any description of that day in the Old Testament but we may elude." On this he founds his opinion that the Baptist will be again the precursor of our Lord. And other valuable interpreters of Scripture imagine that the events of the second advent will be similar to those of the first. That a preparatory teacher may be sent in the spirit and power of Elias, which is all that is promised, to "turn the hearts of the disobedient" in the latter days, as in the former "to the wisdom of the just;" or, as the author of the Book of Ecclesiasticus says, to "restore the tribes of Israel," may be true;
1 Mal. iv. 5.
2 Mede, Disc. 25.
3 Faber on Proph.