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foot the vanities of prosperous villainy, devoted his thoughts to the Almighty alone, and proclaimed his eternal laws.-Before Elijah the priests of Baal were confounded ; and the Pharisees felt the mask of their hypocrisy drop before John. At the rebuke of Elijah, king Ahab was" heavy and displeased;" at the adınonition of John, the wrath of Herod was kindled, the terrors of conscience were awakened, his joys were disturbed by the voice of alarm, and his dreams of greatness filled with the images of remorse :—" he laid hold on him” in his anger, “and bound him, and put him in prison?.”— In the history of both we see “ the adulteress hunt for the precious life.” Jezebel and Ahab sought to destroy Elijah; Herodias and Herod "feared John," and caused him to confirm the truth of his mission with his blood. — So excessive, so constant, so perilous, and so similar in every respect was the zeal of these holy men.-As the spirit of Elijah rested on Elisha, when the Lord took him up into heaven; so it seems to have descended on John, and to have animated him in the same fervent and remarkable manner.- .
He came also in the power of Elias. —The one “ stood up as fire, his word burned like a lamp";" the other “was a burning and a shining light 6." the language of both was a 'speech of fire, full of vehemence, and majesty, and vigour:-their appeals were the abrupt and impetuous addresses of an ardent spirit, stirring up the full energy of indignation, and sweeping all opposition before it. 3 Matt: xiv. 3.
. * Prov. vi. 26. 5 Eccles. xlviii.
• John v. 35.
" How long halt ye between two opinions??" was the first and forcible exclamation of Elijah to the people that forsook their God :-“O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee the wrath to come??”—was the first and impassioned rebuke of John, when he saw the Pharisees and the Sadducees,—the hypocrites and the unbelievers,
advancing to his baptism.—The preaching of both prophets had equal efficacy and success. The one drew the Jews from idolatry; the other recalled them from unholiness and infidelity :—the one employed sensible miracles; the other those silent miracles of the spirit, which “turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” Surely, then, the prediction of the angel concerning John, that he should go “ in the spirit and power of Elias,” is fully verified, and the description of the prophets exactly applied. . But it has been urged against our interpretation, that John himself positively contradicts it; for, when the Jews put the direct question,-"Art thou Elias ?"-he answered, “I am not?.”—The objection is trivial and futile. A question should be answered in the sense in which we are conscious the proposer thinks it is understood. Since, therefore, John was not that Elias,—that prophet descended from heaven,-whom the Jews intended ; it was both candid and reasonable to deny, that he was what he never pretended to be .—John was
1 Kings xviii. 21. ? Matt. iii. 7. 3 John i. 20. • This explanation is not only plain and natural, but it may be supported by several other instances, in which apparent contradictions arise from the same terms being used in different
not the prophet Elijah, who lived under Ahab, but he was the Elijah predicted by Malachi; for, as our Lord himself declared to the Jews, -" If ye, will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear let him hear).”—
It is manifest then from this perfect resemblance in situation and deportment, in zeal and boldness, in perseverance and success, that John the Baptist was really the person predicted under the name of Elias.--But he was also “greater than a prophet'," and therefore superior to Elias.
senses in different texts. Thus in many places we read that the kingdom of Christ is eternal, yet in one verse it is said to have an end*, because the former passages speak of the future state of blessedness, the incorruptible inheritance “ that fadeth not away;"—the latter alludes to the mediatorial kingdom of Christ, his grace towards sinners, his influence in the government of the church upon earth.–Again in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ix. 27.) we read that “it is appointed unto men once to die,” yet in the Gospel of St. John (viii. 51.) we are told that if any man keep Christ's sayings, “ he shall never see death.” The reason is obvious; the first passage refers to a temporal, the second to an eternal death. Thus the seeming repugnancy vanishes as soon as we make proper restriction to the terms in each text. See Horne's Introduction, &c. Vol. I. Appendix. . 5 " Joannes in Spiritu Elias, in personâ Elias non erat :
quod ergo Dominus fatetur de Spiritu, hoc Joannes negat de personâ.”—Greg. M. Hom. vii.- Jos. Frischmuth. Dissert. de Eliæ adventu.— Thesaur. Theologico-Philolog.
6 Περισσότερον δε προφητών, το και αυτον ιδείν εν σαρκί, τον προφητευόμενον, όν πάντες οι πατρίαρχαι και προφήται, δι' ονείρων μεν ή οπτασιων εφαντάσθησαν, θεωρήσαι δε αυτοψει ουκ ÉTÉT Ugov.” Isid. Pelus. Ep. xxxiii.--See Ammoniųs in Cat. in Cap. i. Joh.--Macarius. Homil. xxviii.-Suicer. Thesaur. Eccles.
* 1 Cor. xv, 24.
He was the last of that long train of holy men, whom we see in continued succession from the time of Moses, for more than fourteen hundred years, handing down the torch of prophecy, which burns clearer and brighter, as it approaches nore nearly to that period, when “ the Sun of Righteousness” arose.—He lived to see in person the promised kingdom, which preceding prophets had only viewed at a distance through the veil of futurity. He came as the herald of a new dispensation, and proclaimed the abolition of the Mosaic rites.—"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John'."
Having examined the two principal proofs of the truth of the mission of John, we shall next endeavour to demonstrate the impossibility of any Imposture from considerations on his Reputation, and his Mode of Life.
If we consider that constant tendency in the human mind to hasten from a natural distaste for the precept to hatred of the teacher; and, conversely, from a previous dislike of the teacher to disbelief of the precept ;--if we add the inseparable attendants of prejudice,-misconstruction of motives, misinterpretation of actions,-a total blindness to the most splendid excellencies, an eager pursuit after the most minute faults, a desperate defence of the most contemptible cavils, with all the malignity, the virulence, and the rancour, which disturb and poison the sources of conviction ;-we shall look upon the silence, and with still greater reason, the approbation of pro
Matt. xi. 13.
fessed enemies, as the strongest species of presumptive evidence, which can be adduced in favour of any character or of any institution?
Now it is universally admitted, that the characters of John the Baptist and of our Saviours, exposed as they were to the severest scrutiny, remained unsullied by the slightest imputation of
: . The above observations are strikingly exemplified in the Apology of Tertullian, where he remonstrates with his persecutors, and exposes their unfairness in a tone of nervous eloquence and emphatic reproof. Minucius Felix has also drawn the character of an adversary in the person of Cæcilius, whom he introduces as the champion of Paganism.
The ancient Fathers were fully aware of the value which the testimony of enemies possesses, as the following passages among many may serve to show.—Isidore of Pelusium observes :—“Kai "Exinoi kai Bupßápois kai nãow avāpumois oi TWv ¢xOpwr MapTupía cikótws ôokei ašióxpews eivai.”—lib. iv. Ep. ccxxv. See also lib. ii. Ep. ccxxviii.-So Chrysostom:« Και εν τοις δικαστηρίοις, και πανταχού τότε μάλιστα ανύποπτος η μαρτυρία των πραγμάτων γίνεται, όταν παρα των εχθρών αύτη Dépntai. In Psal. xlv. See also Hom. xxxviii. in Matt.—And Gregory Nyssen :-“'Io xupoi ciow ai twv éxOpwv yaptupiau UtèP ripwv, örav undeuiav årtidoyíav wow émoexóuevar. De Animæ. T. II. p. 112. See also Orat. III. cont. Eunom. T. II. p. 529. Again, Basil :~Ai napa Twv éxOpw. Maptuplai džiomiotótepar eioi.” De nat. Christ. &c. Suicer. Thes. Eccl. &c.
3 To those, who undervalue this testimony, we would put the question,--have not the most eminent philosophers of antiquity been accused of some criminal propensity ? - They will find an answer in the pages of Athenæus, Diogenes. Laërtius, and Lactantius. We insist not on the truth of the facts, but on the existence of the charge, and on the singular advantage which Christianity derives from the absence of all such imputations on the character of its Founder: or of his Precursor.