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portance of heavenly pursuits, as it sinks the value of earthly attachments. It was necessary to begin this total reformation of characters, by convincing the Jews, that their explanations of scripture were false, and their hopes of temporal deliverance delusive. It was necessary, that the roughness of their disposition should be made smooth, and the obliquity of their views be made straight, or, in the figurative language of prophecy, “ that every valley" should be “ filled,” and every mountain and hill be “brought low3" Such was the primary object of the office of forerunner; - the next was, to announce the approach of the Messiah. · He was, first, to “go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins 4:"-he was, secondly, to point out the “ Lamb of God,” and “to bear witness of the Lights ;”-and, in both ways, to introduce the dispensation of grace and truth R.
We proceed to consider the manner in which John executed his ministry, and the actions which he performed,—but, before we enter on this part of the subject, it may not be improper to advert to a circumstance in his conduct, which appears, at first sight, most strange and inexplicable." John did no miracles.”—It has been said, that God withheld from him the working of miracles,' lest the Jews, already too prone to mistake him for the Messiah, should have been '. confirmed in their erroneous opinion, and have contracted still deeper aversion for the claims of Christ.-Without denying the truth of this reason, we may, perhaps, be allowed to offer a solution, which has not yet been suggested: if true, it will account for the surprising fact, that he, who was greater than a prophet, should not have wrought greater wonders than preceding prophets; if false, the other proofs remain equally unimpaired and satisfactory.-- We learn from Deuteronomy, that one of the commands of Moses to the Jewish people, was this :-“ If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul."
Such are the words from which we may, perhaps, conclude, that the Jews deduced their reason for rejecting any person, who founded his claim to a divine commission on the ground of miracles alone. They were persuaded, that a true miracle might be wrought by a false prophet, in support of false doctrines: they imagined that an impostor might deceive them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do:"_and, in consequence, universally ascribed all supernatural effects, unaccompanied by other proofs, to the agency of magic. - It would, therefore, have been an unsatisfactory argument, either for St. John, or for our Saviour, to have appealed to miracles alone, as the test of their inspiration.-Nor was this intended.—The great object of John was 'to bear witness of the light,'— to convince the Jews, that our Lord not merely worked miracles, but those very miracles, which the prophets had specified, and which himself had declared. This should have been to them a conclusive argument, both of the divine mission of Christ, and of John the Baptist: of Christ, because they expected he would perform those particular signs, which were mentioned in their prophecies ; of John, because they admitted not the supposition, that any pro
? It is a proof of the prevalence of this opinion among the Jews, that Maimonides should assert, that the Israelites did not believe in Moses on account of the miracles he performed, and state as the reason :-"there may remain some suspicion in one's mind, that all miracles may be wrought by a power of magic and incantation.” De fund. leg. cap. 8. §. 1. See Stillingfleet's Origines Sacræ. B. II. c. 6.
phecy could proceed but from God'.- Prophecy was deemed the sole privilege,—the characteristic marka of the Deity :-“Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods®:”—and its evidence was considered as a much stronger proof, than even the conviction of our external senses by miracles :~" we have also a more sure word of prophecy 4.”—The miracles might be the work of evil spirits, might be the illusion of their own minds 5: but prophecy, admitting no such solution, was, in their opinion, irresistible evidence. That such was their mode of reasoning, and such its effect, is evident from the narrative itself." And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle ; but all things that John spake of this man were true.-And
1 “ It is a maxim amongst the Jews that he, who is acknowledged for a prophet may confirm the authority of another, by attesting him to be a true prophet. And this is that which St. John did to Christ; he was generally accounted a prophet, and he attested that Jesus Christ was so. This was that which confounded the elders of the Jews, when they demanded of our Saviour by what authority John acted ? Jesus Christ answered their question with another, whether St. John had a call from God.”—Allix.
2 Το χαρακτηρίζον την θεότητα η περί μελλόντων έστιν ånayyería. Origen. cont. Cels. A similar observation occurs in Justin Martyr's Apology. cap. 14. 3 Isai. xli. 23.
4 2 Pet. i. 19. 5 «Τούτο γαρ μάλιστα έργον θεού, όπερ ουδε μιμήσασθαι δύναιντ' άν οι δαίμονες, κάν σφόδρα φιλονεικώσιν επί μεν γαρ των θαυμάτων, και φαντασία γένοιτο αν το δε τα μέλλοντα προειπείν μετα ακριβείας της ακηράτου φύσεως εκείνης μόνης έστιν.” Chrysostom. in Joan. Hom. xix.
6 John x. 41.
many believed on him."-But it was an argument to which Christ, consistently with their notions, could not appeal. “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true?.—There is another that beareth witness of me, and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Ye sent unto John, and he hare witness unto the truth.”—Our Saviour declares, iudeed, that his works were a greater witness, but they were a less satisfactory one to the Jews:- This was a circumstance which gave the miracles of Christ the greatest advantages over those of Moses. - When Moses first appeared, miracles were sudden, and hitherto unknown; nor was this improper in a nation as yet rising and uncivilized ; but, as it grew more refined and more suspicious of deceit, it was necessary, that the kind of proof should be known beforehand, that curiosity might be prepared for an exact examination, and that incredulity might be without shadow of excuse 10. 7 John v. 31–33.
& John v. 36. 9 « Non igitur suo testimonio, (cui enim de se dicenti potest credi ?) sed prophetarum testimonio, qui omnia quæ fecit ac passus est, multo antè cecinerunt, fidem divinitatis accepit ; quod neque Apollonio, neque Apuleio, neque cuiquam magorum potest aliquando contingere.” Lact. Inst. Div. Lib. v.
10 Origen says, that our Saviour came to the Jews in preference to other nations, because, from their previous acquaintance with miracles, they might compare his works with those they had formerly heard of, and thus be more easily convinced.
« Δια τούτο δ' οίμαι και τον Ιησούν ουκ άλλα έθνει ή Ιουδαίοις επιδεδημηκέναι, τοις έθάσι γενομένοις προς τα παράδοξα τη παραθέσει των πεπιστευμένων προς τα υπ' αυτού γενόμενα, κ. τ.λ. Cont. Celsum. lib, ii. n. 57. See also Iren. lib. ii. c. 57. Lact. v. 3,