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serving, “that he was a man of rigid virtue, of honest upright principles, the very opposite of those who de. light in the luxuries of a court. He was not a reed shaken with the wind, but immoveable in principle, and steady in testimony. He appeared a Prophet in unfold ing the genuine sense of ancient prophecies, and enforc. ing them with circumstances unknown and original ; in opening and characterising the Gospel-kingdom of the Messiah, in proclaiming his immediate approach, and predicting many of his attributes.”
And even more than a Prophet, in baptizing the Mes. stan to his office, in attesting his actual presence, in pointing him out in person as the Redeemer and Sancti. 'fier of the world, and the Son of God.
“ But, notwithstanding the great honour and advan. tage the Baptist enjoyed, every Christian is superior to him, as comprehending more evangelical truths than he could do who died before our Saviour. John was the Herald to proclaim the kingdom of God to be at hand; but every Christian is a member of it. John only ex. pected what every Christian has seen fulfilled *."
Those who thought themselves entitled to enter into the kingdom of heaven, the Pharisees and doctors of the law, were excluded from this kingdom; while many of those whom they esteemed unworthy, became members in defiance of them : this seems to be the meaning of the violent taking it by force.
To prevent any farther expectations of the Prophet Elijah, our LORD solemnly assured his followers, that "John was the very person who was to appear in the spirit and power of Elijah.
+“ There was a great contrast between the character of Jesus and John. Jesus lived in cities and public
* Bishop Newton's Dissertations.
places, and was of a social turn, John sought retirement and solitude : Jesus was indulgent, John rigid and severe; so that persons of all tastes might be gratified. 'Our Saviour pointed out this difference between himself and his forerunner, and exemplified by a parable the inconsistency of the Jews in rejecting them both; and added, that though those who pretended to be wise and learned presumed in this manner to slander them, those who were truly wise and religious would admire the beautiful variety in the conduct of divine Providence, which was so adapted to answer different purposes, and to promote the general design of God's glory and man's salvation."
Among the sinful generation of the Jews, the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin, which had enjoyed the advan. tage both of John's ministry and our Saviour's, were the most inexcusable, excepting Capernaum, which our LORD had particular reason to upbraid, because it had been his principal place of residence, where he had spent much time, wrought a number of miracles, and delivered many excellent discourses. Tyre and Sidon were desery. ing of their fate, because they abounded in luxury, pride, and contempt of religion; crimes to which, as national ones, God seems to have annexed, from the beginning, peculiar judgments. The vices in Sodom and Gomorrha, which provoked the divine vengeance, were so heinous, that those who practised them were not fit to live in society ; and those who connived at them, ex, posed themselves to the danger of being involved in that punishment, which there was reason to think would fall upon such impious offenders: but our Lord knew, that there were in each of these cities some who would have repented, if they had been as well instructed as
the inhabitants of Bethsaida and Chorazin, only it was not consistent with the gradual display of Christianity that they should be so: he therefore intimated, that, though all had been included in the temporal calamities that destroyed those cities, a discrimination would be made at the day of judgment, and allowance given for sins of ignorance, to which the inhabitants of Bethsaida, &c. could lay no claim.
By the expressions, being lifted up to heaven, and brought dowa to beld, as applied to the towns, is only meant a great degree of exaltation and abasement. In our Saviour's time these three places were wealthy cities, but they were afterwards reduced to inconsider. able villages.
The crime which our LORD imputed to these cities was not want of faith, but of repentance; from which we may infer, that though many believed him to be sent from God, few were inclined to reform their lives. This affords an important lesson to all Christians,
There is reason to suppose, that our LORD felt a compassionate concern for these wretched cities, and was comforted with reflections on the happiness afforded to the humble ; on which he brake out into that benevo. lent exclamation," I thank thee, O Father, &c." ex. pressive of his sense of God's righteous dealings with the Jews, and his own acquiescence in the sovereign will and pleasure of the FATHER.
Our Lord next informed bis followers, that all porwer was given unto him; that he was intimately united with the FATHER, but in a manner so incomprebersible, that no man could conceive the nature of the union ; that he had a perfect conception of the SUPREME ' BEING, which no mere man could have; neither could 3
any know all that they were capable of understanding in relation to the Deity, unless it were revealed to them by the Son, who was commissioned to make a covenant of peace with mankind: our Lord then graciously invited all who were laden with iniquity, or in bondage to ceremonial observances, to submit to his precepts, which would ease their minds from the heavy burden they at present laboured under ; since bis precepts were the most easy to practise, most agreeable to reason, infinitely preferable to a licentious freedom of mind, and such as would infallibly secure them from the woes denounced against Bethsaida, &c. No farther preparation, he intimated, was necessary for their coming to him, than humility of mind; and in this particular they had the advantages of his own example, who, not. withstanding the dignity of his character, humbled his soul to God, and disdained not to instruct and benefit mankind.
From this section we learn the danger of hearing or reading the Gospel, only to děspise it. Let us then reect on pur religious privileges, and improve them.
Since persons of superior understandings are frequently, through their own pride, obstinacy, and inat: tention, ignorant of divine truths; while others, who are, in respect to their general knowledge, babes in comparison, possess the truest wisdom; let us imitate the simplicity of the latter, and recur to the Word of God contained in the Scripture for instruction. And as all things are delivered to the Son by the FATHER, let us implore the Son to give us the true knowledge of the Father, and listen with joy to his gracious invitation, that we may be eased of our burdens of sin and
THE DEATH. OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
From Mark, Chap. vii. Matthew, xiv.
And when a convenient day was come, that Herod, on his birth-day, made a supper to his lords, 'high captains, and chief estates of Galilee :
The daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him.
And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.
And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John, the Baptist.
And she came in straitway with baste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by, in a charger, the head of John the Baptist.
And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.
And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,
And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel : and the damsel gave it to her mother,
And when the disciples heard of it, they came and took
and laid it in a tomb. When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship, into a desert place, apart : and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.