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teaches the Soldiers, who consulted him as their spiritual instructor, to abstain from oppression and from discontent:-“Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.”—Thus, instead of rousing them, like an enthusiast, to vain resistance against an overpowering enemy, instead of dazzling them with treacherous hopes of deliverance and triumph, instead of asserting, that salvation is shut out from any state of life,—he distinguishes between the employment itself, and the abuses committed by those who confer, or those who sustain it.-Such was the nature of his preaching, and great was the concord it produced 4. “ Jews and Gentiles,” says Bishop Horne”, “Pharisees and Publicans, Sad
3 The word is not properly soldiers, but men actually under arms, (otpatevóuevos). The army of Herod, as appears from Josephus, was then marching against Aretas, a petty king of Arabia, whose daughter Herod had married, but afterwards ill-treated, &c.—The argument derived from this latent but perfect coincidence is strikingly shewn by Michaelis. (Vol. I. p. 51.)
4 The efficacy and success of John's preaching is an additional proof of the superiority, which a divine commission possesses over the sublimest efforts of unassisted reason and the noblest schemes of human philosophy. Tertullian, in his eloquent Apology for the Christians, remarks how systems of virtue are necessarily insufficient, being founded on conjectural precepts, which are too imperfect to instruct us fully, and enforced by mortal might, which is too feeble to command us effectually. For human wisdom is subject to error, as human power is to contempt.-" Tanta est Prudentia Hominis ad demonstrandum bonum, quanta Auctoritas ad exigendum ; tam illa falli facilis, quam ista contemni.” cap. xlv.
5 Life of John, p. 152.
ducees and Soldiers, all confess their sins, and participate of the same baptism; all struck with apprehensions of some impending evil, all flying from the wrath to come ; forgetting their mutual hostilities and antipathies, and like the creatures in the days of Noah, taking refuge together in the Ark. As if the prophecy of Isaiah had now begun to receive its accomplishment, the publicans who, before the preaching of John were ravenous as evening wolves,' became innocent as the "lamb.' The soldiers, who had been formerly fierce and cruel as the lion, became tame and tractable as the 'ox,' and submitted their necks to the yoke of the Gospel. Such of the Pharisees likewise, who, before their baptism, had been venomous as the ' asp,' or 'cockatrice,' did, by the worthy receiving of this baptism, and the grace which God gave them, become mild and gentle as the 'sucking infant,' or 'weaned child.""
«Ω της των συνδεδραμηκότων πληθύος οπόσοι ταις oxdais éppuńcav, a yel ndov, pucndov, nepipaveis, apavels, ontoi te kai á pöntou?.”—
To the effect of his preaching we may, perhaps, ascribe the unhesitating promptitude with which the Apostles, at the first summons, quitted their homes, and followed our Saviour. Whether they had heard it themselves, or whether they had learnt it from others, they might have made it the subject of their frequent meditation, and,
Incerti Auctoris Laudatio S. Joannis Bapt.
cherishing the expectation of the Messiah's immediate approach, they were led by the miracles of Jesus to recognize the person, whom John had already proclaimed and described. The probability of our conjecture will, it is hoped, remove an objection, which was successively urged by Porphyry and by Julian”, that their conduct proceeded not from deliberate conviction, but was remarkable for rashness and precipitancy. . Let us now consider in what manner St. John proved his claim to the title of the Prophet of the Highest.' - It is in the knowledge of futurity, that the wishes of man are most strong, and his ability is most weak.-It is not difficult, indeed, without the superinduction of divine assistance, for a person, who studiously observes the course of human affairs, and the tendency of human interests and passions, and who is accustomed diligently to deduce a series of possible contingencies, to be fortunate in his conjectures, respecting the issue of certain projects, or the growth and decay of certain institutions. But such conjectures are
2 « Arguit in loco Porphyrius et Julianus Augustus, vel imperitiam historici mentientis, vel stultitiam eorum, qui statim secuti sunt salvatorem, quasi irrationabiliter quemlibet vocantem hominem sint secuti; quum tantæ virtutes, tantaque signa præcesserint, quæ Apostolos, antequam crederent, vidisse non dubium est.”—Hieron. in Matt. Tom. IV. p. 30. . 3 Of this nature were the conjectures of Cicero.-“ Facilè existimari possit, prudentiam quodammodo esse divinationem. Non enim Cicero ea solum, quæ vivo se acciderunt, futura prædixit, sed etiam quæ nunc usu veniunt, cecinit ut vates.” Corn. Nep. Vit. Attic. §. clxx. - See also Cic. Epist. lib. vi. Ep. 6. &c.
always confined to the actual state of things at the time they were formed: though, even then, how often do the various turns of fate' destroy the connecting link of expected results, and the remaining chain of probabilities falls immediately to the ground. If, therefore, our foresight thus fails, even when it judges effects from causes that are known and visible, how can it ever extend so far as to foretel effects which depend on a train of causes that are new and remote :-Prophecy is in itself a miracle.—The predictions of John have all these marks of distinction from the feeble prescience of uninspired man. They are all relative to such events as impostors could never have foreseen: some of them apparently irreconcilable, none of them consistent with the prevalent opinions and expectations of the age, in which they were delivered. A slight mention of them will shew their extent and importance, and nothing more will be requisite to be convinced of their exact fulfilment, than to recall to mind the leading facts in the history of the Gospel.
St. John foretold the near: approach of the kingdom of the Messiah' ;-his existence, though unobserved, in the midst of the Jews,—his high character, and his superior power;—the opposition that would be made to his testimony, and the transcendent privileges with which he would be invested 4. He also asserted his pre-existence, and announced his atonement for sin ;—the punishments which would fall on unbelievers?;-and, lastly, the future descent of the Holy Spirit , : Such, in substance, were the predictions of John.—That they were probable on the ground of actual appearance, no one can maintain ; that they were realized, no one, who is acquainted with the history of Christianity, will deny.
* Matt. iii. 2. Theophylact interprets the words “ kingdom of heaven:”- kata Tò evayyémiov moliteia. 2 John i. 26.
3 Matt. ïïi. 11. John iii. 30. &c. John iii. 32. &c.
We have now considered the manner in which John executed his office: we have shewn, that his Baptism was both solemn and necessary; his preaching was spiritual, forcible, and successful; and his predictions were most numerous, explicit, and astonishing. We had before
5 On this and the last prophecy Bishop Porteus remarks:“ These were very singular things for a man to foretell at hazard and from conjecture, because nothing could be more remote from the ideas of a Jew, or more unlikely to happen in the common course of things. They were moreover of that peculiar nature, that it was utterly impossible for John and Jesus to concert the matter between themselves; for the completion of the prophecies did not depend solely on them, but referred to the concurrence of other agents ; of the Holy Ghost in the first instance, and of the Jews and the Roman governor in the others, and unless these had entered into a confederacy with the Baptist and with Christ, to fulfil what John foretold, it was not in the power of either to secure the completion of it. Yet both these prophecies were, we know, actually accomplished within a very few years after they were delivered ; for our Lord suffered death upon the cross for the redemption of the world ; and the Holy Ghost descended visibly upon the Apostles, in the semblance of fire on the day of Pentecost.”-Lectures on St. Matt. ii.
6 John i. 29, 30, 36.