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had been "baptized with the HOLY SPIRIT," on the day of Pentecost, a baptism, therefore, which John could not understand.
2. OUR LORD's answer was directed not to the messengers, but to John himself, and the conclusion conveyed a gentle, but yet pointed rebuke, for " the offence" he in particular had taken, with a kind admonition not to forfeit that " blessing," by doubt or distrust, which awaited "all that trusted in Him," as THE SON OF GOD, foretold by David, Ps. ii. 12.
3. That John and his disciples were fully satisfied with this answer, and with the triple evidence of miracles, doctrines, and prophecy, to establish CHRIST'S mission, (more especially foretold by that evangelical prophet Isaiah, on whom John rested his own credentials, as CHRIST's herald) we may conclude, because it was fully sufficient to convince such a wise and good man, and because when John was beheaded, "his disciples, after they had buried the body, went and told JESUS," which was plainly an act of respect and kindness, and the behaviour of men who entertained an honourable opinion of CHRIST, as their master's" chief," and deeply interested in his unworthy fate.
4. And this is confirmed by the testimony of JESUS to JOHN. To remove any unfavourable impressions the multitude might have entertained of John, in consequence of his message, and OUR LORD'S answer, JESUS took the earliest opportunity, "while the messengers were departing," to delineate
THE CHARACTER OF JOHN.
1. "John was not a reed shaken with the wind." He was no wavering or inconstant teacher, but invariably and steadily preached the same doctrine of repentance to the people throughout, as the only means of averting the divine judgments, and qualifying them for admission into CHRIST's kingdom.
2. "He was not a man cloathed in soft raiment." He was no courtier, or great man," cloathed in purple and fine linen," but coarse in his dress, and austere in his deportment; commanding respect and veneration, as a prophet, by the energy of his preaching, and the sanctity of his manners, like another Elijah in character.
3. "He was greater than a prophet," because he was himself the subject of prophecy, as the harbinger of the Messiah; and whereas the prophets of old only foresaw at a distance the
expected MESSIAH with the eye of faith, Numb. xxiv. 17, John viii. 56, 1 Pet. i. 11, 12, he had the more glorious privilege and the higher honour of conversing with him face to face, as a man with his friend, and of opening the new dispensation of THE GOSPEL, which dated its commencement from him, as the old dispensation of THE LAW and the prophets terminated in him, Acts i. 21, 22, Matt. xi. 13.
4. His powerful preaching turned many to righteousness, and produced a considerable reformation among the people, insomuch that they eagerly and violently pressed" for admission into CHRIST's kingdom, Matt. xi. 12.
However, as a drawback from this high character, OUR LORD observed,
5. "He that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he;" that is, one of my inferior disciples, after the baptism of THE SPIRIT, shall be superior to John, in knowledge of the mystery of THE GOSPEL, in spiritual gifts, and power of working miracles.
Such was the honest and impartial testimony which the Baptist and HIS CHIEF reciprocally bore to each other. The offence taken by John is not disguised, nor his reprehension by CHRIST suppressed, in the memoirs of those most candid of all historians, the Evangelists.
From their combined evidence, we are abundantly warranted to believe, that John and JESUS were neither enthusiasts nor impostors*, but that their testimony to each other was true, and proved by mighty signs, wonders, and prophecies, fulfilled
CHRIST'S PUBLIC MINISTRY.
FIRST PASSOVER †.
After JESUS had worked his first miracle at Cana, he went
This important question is ably discussed in Doctor Bell's critical examination of the missions of John the Baptist and of JESUS CHRIST.
The assumed date of this passover, A.D. 28, is confirmed, 1. By the time that had then been spent in rebuilding Herod's temple, this year being the forty-sixth from the time he laid its foundations; see the preceding period, Herod's reign. 2. It was also "the acceptable year of THE LORD," or a Jubilee, Luke iv. 19, the thirty-third, reckoned from the first general sabbatical year, after the second division of the conquered lands by Joshua, B.C. 1589, as shewn before, under the article of Jubilee.
from thence, with his mother, brethren, (or cousin-germans) who, after Joseph's death, appear to have resided with her, and his five first disciples, to Capernaum, on the lake of Gennesareth, or sea of Galilee, whence, after a sojournment of "not many days," he proceeded with them to the passover at Jerusalem, John ii. 12, 13.
He there first," coming to his own home," John i. 11, opened his divine commission in the temple, by a significant act of authority, namely, of purging it, or driving out of its courts, all the traders in sacrifices, and the money-changers, who exercised a profane traffic there, for the convenience of foreigners who attended the passover, Deut. xiv. 25, with this rebuke, "Make not MY FATHER's house a house of merchandize;" repeating in public, what he had before said in private, at his first visit, that GOD was his peculiar FATHER, or that He was their expected MESSIAH, the SON OF GOD; "animated" with that pious zeal" for the purity of the temple, foretold of him by David, Ps. Ixix. 9.
Upon this occasion, the Jews, or their rulers, required of him a sign from heaven to prove his commission; but he enigmatically referred them to a sign from the earth, his crucifixion by them, and resurrection on the third day: "Destroy this temple, and in three days will I raise it up.”
This they misunderstood literally, and expressed their surprise forty-six years hath this temple been building, [and it is not finished yet] and wilt thou raise it up in three days? But he spoke figuratively, of " the temple of his body," [in which "dwelt all the fulness of THE GODHEAD corporeally," Col. ii. 9.] Hence this was made an article of false accusation against him at his iniquitous trial, three years after, one witness alleging that he said, "I am able to destroy the temple of GOD, and to build it in three days," Matt. xxvi. 61; the other, "I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another, made without hands:" their testimony not being consistent, and the latter confounding the literal and figurative meaning together, Mark xiv. 58, 59.
Neither was the studied obscurity of this enigmatical answer understood by the disciples themselves, until it was explained by the event of his resurrection on the third day; then indeed they remembered this saying, and believed the scripture-pro
phecy, (yoapy) [that “he was to rise from the dead,” Ps. xvi. 10, &c. John xx. 9.] and “the oracular word which JESUS spake," John ii. 12-22.
During this part of the passover, JESUS worked miracles at Jerusalem, and many seeing them, believed in his name as THE CHRIST; but JESUS did not trust himself to them, or openly profess himself to be THE CHRIST, "because he knew all men," and especially their carnal and worldly minded notions respecting CHRIST and his kingdom; and had no need that " any should testify of man, [whether he were sincere in his belief, or not] for he knew himself what was in man," as THE SEARCHER OF HEARTS, (Acts i. 24, Rev. ii. 23,) and even "knew from the beginning that Judas would betray him," John vi. 64, ii. 23—25.
was one of these early converts, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews," or a member of the Sanhedrim, and also styled "the teacher of Israel," a distinguished scribe, or expounder of the law, a man of superior rank and information. He came privately to JESUS "by night," in order, it should seem, to avoid giving offence to the ruling powers, who, in general, did not believe in him, John vii. 48, though several unquestionably did, John xii. 42, such as Joseph of Arimathea, the friend and fellow-disciple of Nicodemus, John xix. 38, 39, and perhaps Gamaliel, the favourer of the apostles, Acts v. 34-40.
Nicodemus seems to have been a hearer of John the Baptist also, who did no miracles, (compare Matt. iii. 7, and John iii. 11,) and came to learn the way of salvation more perfectly from a divine teacher, as he acknowledged CHRIST to be from his miracles, both in his own opinion, and in that of others also.
Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from GOD, for none can do those miracles that thou doest, unless GOD be with him," John iii. 1, 2.
To such a respectful and respectable enquirer, JESUS was more explicit. In an interesting conversation, he communicated
* Ο διδασκαλος του Ισραηλ. The Jews gave their doctors high and sounding titles, like the "Angelic, the Admirable, the Irrefragable," &c. of the scholastic ages. Nicodemus might have been distinguished as "the teacher of Israel," by his followers, which makes the reproof of JESUS severer, John iii. 10. Middleton, p. 346.
to him the fundamental doctrines of Christian faith. 1. The necessity of new birth, or regeneration by baptism and the HOLY SPIRIT to salvation, verse 3-11. 2. The redemption of mankind by the death of CHRIST through faith, of which the brazen serpent was a type, verse 12-15. 3. The original cause of this mode of redemption, the love of GOD, verse 16-18. 4. The vices of mankind, the leading cause of unbelief, verse 19-21. These will be considered in the ensuing article of the spirit of the gospel.
After he had attended this first passover at Jerusalem, JESUS spent some time in Judea. During his stay there, our Lord's disciples baptized in his name with water unto repentance, following up John's baptism; but JESUS himself baptized not, because his was properly the baptism of THE SPIRIT unto regeneration, and it was not to take place until he was glorified, after his resurrection, John iii. 26, iv. 2, vii. 39, Acts i. 5.
At length, the fame of his baptism (or rather that of his disciples) excited the jealousy of the Pharisees, and gave umbrage to the rulers, who found not in the poor, the meek, and lowly JESUS, the MESSIAH they wanted. "His own household entertained him not," John i. 11, iii. 25, 26, iv. 1-3. As soon, therefore, as he heard of John's imprisonment by Herod, near the end of that year, he determined to leave his own country, where he testified a prophet had no honour, and to return to Galilee, and undauntedly preach the Gospel even in Herod's dominions, John iii. 23, 24, iv. 3, 43, 44.
His stay in Judea this time was probably about eight months, for in his passage through Samaria to Galilee, he reckoned that there were "four months until harvest," John iv. 35, which commenced in that country about the passover.
THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA.
JESUS, on his way through Samaria, stopped at Jacob's well, near Sychar, formerly Sichem, or.Sechem, Gen. xxxiii. 19, about the sixth hour, or noon; and while his disciples went to buy provisions in the neighbouring town, JESUS, wearied with his journey, sat down, during the heat of the day; as formerly, perhaps, when THE LORD appeared to Abraham, Gen. xviii. 1-5.
In his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman, who came to the well to draw water, he, in answer to her ques