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was made, and the tax levied in Judea also. Ant. XVIII. 1, 1. Josephus dates it in the thirty-seventh year after the battle of Actium; 37-B.C. 31 A.D. 6. Ant. XVIII. 2, 1. It was, therefore, carried into effect the same year, by this trusty and active commissioner.
CHRIST VISITS THE TEMPLE.
During the government of Coponius, the first procurator of Judea appointed by Cyrenius, CHRIST, when he was twelve years of age, went with his mother and reputed father, at the feast of the passover, to Jerusalem, to be made "a disciple of the Law," or examined in his proficiency therein; a ceremonial corresponding to confirmation in the Christian Church. On this occasion, it was both lawful and customary for the disciples to enquire of the president of the Sanhedrim, or of the doctors, about any matter of doubt or difficulty in the law. And "the Child JESUS" availed himself of this privilege, to stay behind his parents in the temple, to hear the expositions of the doctors, and to ask them questions. And all that heard him "were astonished at his understanding and answers." When his parents, after a search of some days, found him there, they were amazed, and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Lo, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. But he said unto her, How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not, that I ought to be in MY FATHER'S house? Thus gently rebuking her for calling Joseph "his father," and disclaiming the connexion, by calling the temple "MY FATHER'S house," as expressly afterwards, at his first passover, when he purged it by an act of authority, appropriated to him as the SON OF GOD, Luke ii. 41-49; John ii. 13-16.
Thus CHRIST, a true " Nazarite," (Matt. ii. 23,) "separated" from the womb, like the prophet Samuel, and consecrated unto the LORD, 1 Sam. i. 28, resembled him in his early call, at the same age, 1 Sam. iii. 4—19, and "came suddenly," or unexpectedly, "to his temple, as THE ANGEL OF THE COVENANT," fulfilling prophecy, Mal. iii. 1; and also, after the appointment of the first Roman procurator, Coponius, in Judea, "when the
"In MY FATHER's house." This is the rendering of the Syriac, Arabic, and Armenian Versions. "In Haman's house," Esther vii. 9, the Septuagint renders ev τοις Αμαν.
sceptre of civil government had departed from Judah," as the true SHILOH or " APOSTLE," Gen. xlix. 10, fulfilling the times, Gal. iv. 4.
This early assertion of his divine parentage, was not then understood by Joseph and his mother. JESUS, however, though conscious of it himself, returned with them to Nazareth, and was "subject unto them" in all filial duty and obedience: and appears to have followed his reputed father's trade, of a carpenter; from the reproach of the Jews, considering the meanness of the employment as inconsistent with his claims to be the MESSIAH. "Is not this the carpenter ?" Mark vi. 3. In this humble occupation" He advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour with GOD and man," Luke ii. 52. His human understanding, like that of any other son of Adam, however mysteriously united with his divine nature, increasing in wisdom, as his human body in stature, until he was " immeasurably endued with the HOLY SPIRIT" after his baptism, John iii. 34; so that at length in him" dwelt all the fulness of the GODHEAD bodily," Col. ii. 9. In what favour he was with GOD, his Baptism and Transfiguration declared, "THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED." And in what favour with man, the rapture of his friends evinced, "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked!" and "all," even his most prejudiced enemies, "wondered at the gracious words which issued from his mouth," and declared, that “ Never man spake like this man!" Luke xi. 27, iv. 22, John vii. 46.
THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
From CHRIST's first visit to the temple, to the commencement of the Baptist's ministry, there is a chasm of seventeen years in the evangelical history, which properly begins with the latter; all the preceding part being only introductory thereto. This is filled up chronologically from Josephus, by the administrations of the intervening procurators after Coponius, namely, Marcus Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, and Pontius Pilate. The last was appointed A.D. 25, the year before John's ministry, as shewn Vol. I. p. 87. and confirmed by Eusebius, who dates his appointment in the twelfth year of the sole reign of Tiberius, which began A.D. 14. But A.D. 14+11=A.D. 25.
John's ministry began next year, A.D. 26, probably about the great day of atonement, Matt. iii. 1—4, Mark i. 1—41, Luke
iii. 1-3, John i. 6, 7. The time, therefore, is sedulously ascertained by the Evangelist Luke; supplying deficiencies in the concise accounts of his predecessor, Matthew. See Vol. I. p. 88, &c.
The ministry of John excited universal attention, upon various accounts. 1. The miraculous circumstances of his birth and circumcision, "were noised abroad throughout the hill country of Judea; and all that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be?" Luke i. 65, 66. 2. The manner of his education, in the desert; in the simplicity and austerity of the ancient Prophets, living on "locusts and wild honey," and wearing "raiment of camel's hair," or sackcloth, and "a leathern girdle about his loins," like another Elijah, 2 Kings i. 8. 3. The style of his "proclaiming the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins," "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," by which they generally understood the kingdom of the GOD OF HEAVEN, to be erected by the MESSIAH upon earth, as foretold by the Prophet Daniel, ii. 44, vii. 27; (thence indiscriminately styled the kingdom of GOD, and the kingdom of HEAVEN, in the Gospels,) and of which," all the people were in expectation" at that time, Luke iii. 15, and thought that "it would immediately appear," Luke xix. 11, from the expiration of the chronological prophecies respecting the successions of temporal kingdoms, destined to precede it; noticed especially by the Prophet Daniel. 4. He represented himself as the forerunner of the expected MESSIAH, foretold by ancient prophecy, especially by Isaiah and Malachi.
[“ I am] the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of THE LORD, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hillock shall be levelled; and the crooked ways be made straight, and the rough smooth. And all flesh shall see the salvation of GOD *," Isai. xl. 3-5, Luke iii. 4-6, John i. 23. "Lo, I send my angel, (or messenger,) before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee +," Mal. iii. 1, Mark i. 2.
This conclusion differs from that of Isaiah: "And all flesh shall see together" [the glory of the Lord.] Instead of, "together;" the Sept. (which is followed by the Evangelist Luke,) seems to have read yw, “the salvation," as in the parallel prophecy, "And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of OUR GOD," Isai. lii. 10. See the variation of expression in the citation from the original, accounted for in the foregoing remarks on Malachi.
In these magnificent prophecies, with which John opened and described his divine commission, as "sent by GOD," (John i. 6, Luke iii. 2,) to be the harbinger of CHRIST, to proclaim his approach, and call upon the whole world to attend to HIM; (a distinction peculiarly honourable and appropriate to CHRIST, of which neither Moses nor any of the Prophets could boast,) there is a plain allusion to the practice of the eastern monarchs, to send pioneers to prepare the roads, open the passes, and remove impediments, in the rough and desert countries through which they were to pass with their pompous retinues. Thus Semiramis, queen of Assyria, in her royal expeditions into Media and Persia, and the other countries of Asia subject to her dominions, wherever she went, ordered mountains and precipices to be levelled, raised causeways in the low countries; and by great cost and trouble, made straight, short, and commodious high-ways, through places impassable before. Diodorus, B. II. In like manner, GOD sent the Baptist as a spiritual pioneer, to prepare and smooth the way before the MESSIAH; by clearing and removing the various impediments and obstructions that impeded the march of THE GOSPEL, arising from the prejudices, passions, and vices of mankind.
John not only resembled Elijah in his sackcloth dress, spare diet, and retired mode of life, but also in his character: in his power of conversion, and spirit of reproof. Both, indeed, were raised up by PROVIDENCE, in times of general apostacy from the true faith, and corruption of morals, to reclaim and reform their countrymen. Both were commissioned to denounce vengeance from heaven, unless the nation repented, and were converted to the Lord their God; both were actuated by the same ardent and undaunted zeal, in the discharge of their commission; both were persecuted for their labour of love; yet nothing deterred Elijah from boldly rebuking Ahab, Jezebel, and the idolatrous Israelites; nor John from rebuking Herod, Herodias, and that "wicked and adulterous generation" of the Jews, who flocked to his baptism.
Baptism, "immersion in water," or ablution, was a symbol of purification among the Jews and other ancient nations. It was solemnly prescribed to the Israelites after their departure from the pollutions of Egypt, in the desert of Sinai, preparatory to their entering into covenant with God, as his chosen people.
"Sanctify the people to day, and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes," Exod. xix. 10.
This precept is understood to denote baptism, both here and in 1 Sam. xvi. 5, by Maimonides, the great interpreter of the Jewish law. Issureh Biah, cap. 13. And this rite was also required of heathen proselytes, along with circumcision, according to the maxim of their schools: "No man is a proselyte until he be circumcised and baptized." Female proselytes were only to be baptized. See Lightfoot on Matt. iii. 6 *.
This ancient rite, therefore, was with great propriety renewed to the Jews themselves, preparatory to the new covenant of the GOSPEL, analogous to the former, of the LAW.
The important objects of John's baptism were, 1. To proclaim, as a herald, the approach of CHRIST to all the people; for "He was sent by GOD to bear witness to THE LIGHT [of the world] that all men through HIM might believe," John i. 6-8. And 2. To point out JESUS personally as the CHRIST, to some true Israelites; for, " to manifest him unto Israel, came he baptizing with water," John i. 31-49.
John held his baptism at Bethabara, "the ford" of Jordan, where the miraculous passage of the Israelites, under Joshua, took place. And his general testimony to the people who attended him, was, "I, indeed, baptize you with water, unto repentance; but He that cometh after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry; (nor even to stoop down and untie the latchet of his shoes.) He shall baptize you with THE HOLY SPIRIT, and with fire," [unto regeneration; on the memorable day of Pentecost; as explained by OUR LORD, and by the event, John iii. 5, Acts i. 5, ii. 3,] Matt. iii. 11, Mark i. 7, 8, Luke iii. 16.
He afterwards explained, more particularly, in what respects CHRIST was mightier: "John testified of him and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake; He that cometh after me,
Among the heathens also, from ancient times, ablution, or sprinkling with water, was practised as an initiatory rite of admission to the mysteries of Mithras, among the Persians; of Isis among the Egyptians; and of Ceres among the Greeks and Romans.
Nationes extraneæ-sacris quibusdam initiantur Isidis alicujus, aut Mitræ per lavacrum. Tertull.-Apuleius thus describes those of Isis.-" Sacerdos, stipatum me religiosâ cohorte, deducit ad proximas balneas; et prius sueto lavacro traditum, præfatus Deûm veniam, purissimè circumrorans abluit." Metam. Lib. IX.