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no less emphatic declaration of John. They were both remarkable for their abstemious life. John the Baptist is described as "clothed with camel's hair, with a girdle of a skin about his loins'." The very same description is given of Elijah; and by it he was known to the idolatrous king of Israel. "What manner of man," he enquires of his messengers, was he which came up to meet you, and told you these words? And they answered him, he was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said it is Elijah the Tishbite 2." They also resembled each other in this, that the one boldly reproved Ahab for his idolatry and oppression; the other, no less openly, denounced Herod for his adultery and incest; that the one was sought after, by a wicked queen, that she might put him to death, and that the other was actually destroyed by similar means. So many points of resemblance, as those
1 Mark i. 6.
22 Kings i. 7.
which we have now stated, will surely explain why the name of Elijah was given to John the Baptist.
We will next consider in what way it was that this great person discharged the office which was assigned him. It has been already observed, that he was intended to represent that messenger who usually preceded kings, to prepare the road for their reception, to level hills, and to remove impediments.
But the preparations which he had to make were as widely different, as was the monarch whom he preceded from an earthly potentate. The holy and the humble were the valleys which he was to exalt; the self-sufficient and selfrighteous were the mountains and hills which he was to bring low; ignorance, both in teaching and in hearing, were the crooked ways which he was to make straight; spiritual blindness and lethargy were the rough places which he was to make plain.
In order to effect this purpose, with undaunted boldness, he preached the
Gospel; with uncompromising integrity, he addressed himself, without respect of person, to all whom he saw doing wrong; with perfect sincerity, he stated to each what was his crime, and why he should avoid it; and declared the reason which induced him to make this exhortation, because the kingdom of heaven was at hand."
But we have not, merely, to admire the boldness and integrity of the man, in his speaking, thus openly, to the people of their sins, but we may observe how judiciously he inculcated, in every one, personal reform, by the actual and individual application of his admonitions. The Pharisees were full of pride, on account of their descent from Abraham, and pretended to a great degree of inward sanctity. To them he proclaimed "that God was able out of stones to raise up children unto Abraham, and he exhorted them to bring forth FRUITS meet for repentance." To the people, in general, he
Matt. iii. 8.
enjoined, not merely the talking about charity, but the actual practice of it. "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none, and he that hath meat let him do likewise." The publicans, the collectors of Roman taxes, he admonished "to exact no more than that which was appointed them.". And the soldiers he dissuaded from oppression and plunder; "do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages!" Nor did the tetrarch himself escape this scrutinizing discrimination, for he, also, was attacked on his own peculiar sin; of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, whom Herod had, incestuously, married, the uncompromising integrity of: the Baptist declared; "it is not lawful for thee to have her 2."
There was also a peculiarity in John's ministry, which indicated the purity of mind necessary in those who, rightly, would receive the coming Messiah. As many as were convinced by his preaching,
1 Luke iii. 11, &c.
2 Matt. xiv. 4.
were baptized of him, in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And by this symbol of outwardly washing with the water, did the Baptist inculcate the expedience of his disciples' inwardly cleansing the thoughts of their hearts, and removing from them the defilement of their sins.
In this course of plain and unaffected sincerity did John proceed. Thus did he endeavour to prepare for the coming of the Lord, by preparing the minds of men to receive him, properly; by bidding them look into themselves; examine their own sins, rather than those of their neighbours; correct what was wrong; confirm what was right; establish the doctrine of God; and be ready to acknowledge their Saviour, when he should appear to them.
At length, this holy Being arrived. In the form of a meek and humble man, he came to the river where John was baptizing, requesting from him the benefit of his holy office. Instantly, through the knowledge imparted to him by the divine Spirit, the Baptist knew him, and, con