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We shall find, as we proceed, a great many proofs that this was the state of mind among the people, and shall have frequent occasion to refer to it.
It is remarkable, that this expectation of some extraordinary person being about to appear, was not confined to the Jews, but existed in other nations. Perhaps they had learned it of the Jews, who were to be found in every part of the world, and who every where carried their Scriptures with them. Hence we see how it happened, that when the star appeared in the East, the Magi at once knew its meaning. And when they came to Jerusalem, inquiring for the new-born king, Herod, though troubled, was not surprised at it; but simply asked, Where is the Christ to be born? He and the people were evidently expecting his birth. Simeon, too, was waiting for him in the temple.
In this state of mind the people continued, and undoubtedly grew more and more impatient, the longer his coming was delayed. Their oppression was more and more intolerable, and they were ready to seize upon every incident which gave the slightest prospect of relief. Thus at the enrolment and taxation under Cyrenius, they flew to arms, and made resistance under many leaders; among whom was probably Theudas, mentioned by Gamaliel, in the sixth chapter of Acts. A
few years afterwards, another similar insurrection took place in Galilee, on occasion of an second taxation. We do not know that any of the leaders in either instance pretended to be the Messiah; but it is not improbable that they did so, as such pretensions were very common afterwards. What is to be remarked, is, the restless condition of the people, and their readiness to follow any leader who promised them reliefsitqed orow bun At this moment there appeared in the midst of them, in the desert country of Judea, and not thirty miles from Jerusalem, an austere man, clothed like a hermit, and denouncing sin like one of the ancient Prophets. The attention of the people was turned to him at once. Perhaps, said they, this is her whom we are expecting! There was much in his appearance to favor the idea. Refusing the delicacies of cultivated life, he lived frugally on locusts, which are freely used as food in that part of the world, and wild honey. He was coarsely clothed in a garment of camel's hair, with a leathern girdle about his loins. He preached boldly to the people, like another Elijah, and cried, " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He also did, what was a new and striking thing; he baptized those who followed him. It was an old custom to bap
Mat. iii. Marki. Luke iii.
tize heathen persons when they became converts to Judaism; but it was a new thing to baptize Jews. He declared it to be in preparation for the "kingdom of God," that is, the reign of the Messiah. The people therefore, as Luke says,
were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts whether he were the Christ or not.” They thronged to him from Jerusalem, and all Judea, and were baptized of him in the Jordan, confessing their sins, and anxiously inquiring for the Messiah. Even the chief men of the nation were excited; and a formal deputation of priests and Levites was sent out to him from Jerusalem, while he was at Bethabara beyond Jordan, about thirty-five miles distant, to inquire of him whether he were the Christ, or whether they must wait yet longer for his appearance. John acknowledged to them, that he was not; that he was only come to prepare the way for the Christ, agreeably to the prediction of Isaiah: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'
The people were therefore satisfied that he was not the Messiah; but they honored him as a great prophet, and he preached to them with boldness and severity. When he saw Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, whom he knew to
be hypocritical and worldly, he cried out to them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruit meet for repentance." He did not spare them, though they were members of the most powerful sects in the land. To the publicans also, and soldiers, who came to him, he gave appropriate warning and instruction. And, in a word, he did what he could, to rouse the nation from its sinful condition, and prepare it to receive in a right spirit the great messenger who was to succeed him. He undoubtedly produced some effect; but the people were too corrupt to be easily reformed. Indeed they were so intent on having a Messiah who should lead them to political freedom and glory, that they had little relish for moral exhortation and religious duty.
THE BAPTISM OF JESUS-HIS TEMPTATION.
THE time at length arrived, when Jesus should enter on his public work. He had reached the age of thirty years, the period prescribed in the law for the induction of the priests into their of fice. Hitherto he had lived in retirement, undistinguished from the men about him. He had been making no visible, preparation for, the great duties he was to perform. He attended no distinguished school; he was brought up at the feet of no learned Rabbi or eminent philosopher; it is not certain that he had learned, as men learn, the very elements of knowledge, Having therefore no human attainments to fit him for his arduous office, he must be qualified for it by supernatural endowments. Nothing but the consciousness of possessing these, could embolden and enable the lowly Galilean to undertake the religious reformation of his country and of the world.
The time being arrived, he left Nazareth, and went to the place where John was preaching and baptizing on the banks of the Jordan. He went, like the rest of the people, to be baptized. Now
Matt. iii. 13. Mark i. 9. Luke iii. 21.