MI ISTRY OF JOH THE BAPTIST. REV. RICHARD CECIL, A.

M

Then said they unto him, Who art thou 1 that we rnay 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. — John i. 22, 23. [1805.] The Sanhedrim, or great council at Jerusalem, to whom it belonged to judge who were true prophets, sent messengers to John the Baptist to ask him, saying, Who art thou ? Art thou Elias ? He saith, " I am not ;" i. e. not Elias who was now dead ; not Elias the Tishbite ; nor yet " that prophet" which Moses spake of — Deut. xviii. 15. But he tells them plainly, he was the predicted forerunner of the Lord Christ : and he refers to Isaiah's prophecy concerning him, Isa. xl. 3. " The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." St. John was the only one among the prophets who was expressly foretold, except the Messiah. Isaiah prophesied of him 700 years, and Malachi near 400, before his birth. And though he disclaims being " that prophet," he was declared by our Lord to be " more than a prophet" — probably in this respect, that he was the only one who pointed out the Messiah as actually come. I propose, I. To SET BEFORE YOU SOME GE ERRL CO SIDERATIO S WITH REFERE CE TO JoHn's CHARACTER A D MI ISTRY. II. To LOOK AT IT AS IT WAS PREPARATORY TO THE WORK OF Christ. III. To CO SIDER IT AS IT WAS ADAPTED TO ALL CLASSES OF HEARERS.

108 • ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. I. Let me offer some general considerations

WITH reference TO JoHn's CHARACTER A D MI ISTRY. St John was a most extraordinary character ; even his birth was extraordinary ; and it was said of him, as was said of no other, " He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb," He lived the most blameless, holy, and mortified life, and reproved vi(fe wherever he saw it. Witness his rebuke of Herod, which occasioned him to die a martvr. But he who has lived up to his character, though he may be cut oflf, as we express it, in the midst of his usefulness, yet, depend upon it, he has accomplished his work. While he lived, he pointed to " the Lamb of God,'* and declared the excellency of Christ's person and ministry above his own ; and that he was not worthy to carry his shoes, or to perform the least office of service for him. The more holy any man is, the more sensible he is of his unholiness. Christ gave testimony concerning John, " Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist :" " He was a burning and a shining light." Yet when this holy prophet came to speak of his divine Master, he feels himself nothing before him ; but says, " He it is, who coming after me, is preferred before me, whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose." See, again, his humility when our Lord came to be baptized of him ; " J have need to be baptized of theie, and comest thou to me ?" As though he had said, Thou art purity : I am pollution : Thou art the Son of God ; I am the son of Adam. Our Lord was baptized, as he was before circumcized, that he flight by his own baptism sanctify this ordinance to his church ; as well as that he might fulfil -the right-

MI ISTRY OF JOH THE BAPTIST. 109 eousness of the ceremonial law, which required the washing of the priests in water when they entered upon their office ; as appears from Exod. xxix. 4. Our Lord never reproved any one for thinking too highly of him. John always testified of Christ that he was " the Son of God :" " Ye yourselves bear me wit-

ness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him .... He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above, is above all." " He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life : but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him." John iii. 36. He declares that Christ should not baptize with water, as he did, but " with the Holy Ghost, and with fire ;" I. e. purifying their hearts, and consuming their corruptions. Let us look at John the Baptist's ministry, II. As IT WAS PREPARATORY TO THE WORK OF ChRIST. John sets out preaching " repentance :" " Repent ;'* change your mind ; endeavor to take a new view of things ; you are all wrong ! Look into the world, and see what there is in it of God ! John felt, and saw, that in the wilderness there was no love, no fear of God ; for savage life is not more disposed to godliness than polite life ; and vice versa. Yet he lifted up his voice ; he knew the sound of his Master's feet was behind him. " Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance ;" but Christ shall so animate your hearts, that like Elisha, when the mantle was thrown over him, j'ou will desire to follow. Among the endless disputes about baptism, we should recollect, that in whatever form it is administered, it means but one thing. Water is the grand purifier ; baptism with water means, as our Church Catechism

110 ORIGI AL thoughts; very properly expresses it, " an outward sign of inward spiritual grace." Water was the sign of this purification under the law : see um , viii. 7. John washed the Jews, to show the necessity of inward purification notwithstandyig their outward profession. " Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father." There must be inward purity and faith. There is one characteristic of true Christianity that makes it differ from all other systems of religion ; namely, that it consists not in Word, but in Power :

that it is not a Form, but a Substance. The Jews, though they had true religion among them, yet were so degenerated as to fall into superstition and formality. The time was come, however, when " the axe was to be laid to the root of the tree." John's whole life, and death, showed what he meant : this is a great thing in religion. He showed, both to the Pharisee and Sadducee, the uselessness of mere forms : he pointed them to " the Lamb of God," as suited to their character, and to every other character. I come, as though he should say, preaching the necessity of preparing for O E that comes after me, on whom my hopes are placed, " who is preferred before me ; whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to bear." / only administer the sign ; but he shall give you the thing signified : it shall operate like fire : the Holy Ghost shall enlighten, warm, and purify your hearts. The promise of Christ's Spirit is our grand encouragement to set up Christ's Gospel in the world, or in our hearts ; and this promise runs through both Testaments. See Ezek. xxxvii. and Mai. iii. There is nothing wanting to our salvation but an humble, contrite, willing spirit. III. Consider the ministry of the Baptist, as it WAS adapted to different characters. The first thing that is required of a minister, in

MI ISTRY OF JOH THE BAPTIST. Ill making straight the way of the Lord, is to bear a plain testimony of Christ. " There standeth one among you whom ye know not. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me : for he was before me And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God." ow observe the tendency of such a ministry to a certain class of people with whom John had to do, and with whom we shall have to do, as long as we live in

the world : we may consider them as composed of such as are careless about every religion, and those who are setting up something else instead of Christ. To the careless — the whole expression of the Baptist's life is as if he had said, I am a candidate for eternity : I look upon this world as passing away : I am looking to the atonement ; to " the Lamb of God," as my only hope — as " taking away the sin of the world." But to the Pharisee, he would say — What is your hope ? If you are turning your back upon this great atonement, you are the most forlorn of men ! But, if ye are not willing to "behold the Lamb of God" as your Great Remedy, then behold the axe of his vengeance, prepared to cut down and destroy you ! You will be condemned not only by sins of commission, but sins of omission : " Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit" — as well as that which bringeth forth evil fruit — " is hewn down and cast into the fire." A modern Sadducee is gratified exceedingly if you will meet him with reasoning, giving him an opportunity to cavil and dispute. But what did the Baptist do in this case ? He comes at once to the heart and conscience : " the axe is laid to the root of the tree : " he comes to the motive which keeps him back, namely,

112 ORIGI AL THOUGHTS. that he is carnal. There is no end of talking and arguing with sceptical, bad men. The only means to do them any good is to come directly to their consciences ; to tell them they are wicked. The same to the Pharisee. See what John says to both Pharisee and Sadducee, Matt. iii. 7—12. " Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father." Glory not in this, that you are the only visible church God has upon earth ; for God is able, out of the obdurate Gentile world, to raise up a people to himself, and to cast you out. If ye are not born of the Spirit, it will avail nothing to be born of Abraham " according to the flesh." It was enough for John that he spake the truth. or let us suppose that he would keep back any of the

counsel of God. He would not only address the careless, the Pharisee, and the Sadducee ; but he would meet the penitent also : he would say to the contrite, " He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." He would preach to them by his own example : q. d. God is my end : Christ is my way : and the Holy Spirit is my guide. This was to prepare a people for the Lord. The Gospel is not addressed to man's opinion ; it is addressed to faith : " Wilt thou be made whole ? " If not, then you are not the friend of God ; then you are not genuine in your religion. When the messengers came to John and said, " Who art ihou ? " John gave the answer : but we do not find that he gave satisfac^ tion ; for a thing is received according to the nature of the recipient : the sun that softens tho wax hardens the clay : the truth is the same, whether sown in ''stony ground," or whether the seed is sown on "good ground ;" whether preached by a poor illiterate man, or by John the Baptist. An unconverted, unhumbled heart, will receive it from neither. But let us pray for a teachable spirit : and let us remember who it is that says, " Learn of me :" while looking to the Lamb of God, we are safe. This is the great design of the ministers of Christ, to direct the eyes of a lost world to a crucified Saviour : to behold him, to accept him, and to submit to him.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=970

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful