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which had attended him, marked the usefulness of his labours; but he was now prevented by his imprisonment from proceeding in the course which had been so beneficial to others, and so delightful to himself. The public attention had been so much excited by his ministry, that not only the common people, but even the rulers themselves had shown their willingness to acknowledge him to be the Messiah; if he had chosen to impose upon them by announcing himself as one who claimed that august character. But instead of seeking his own aggrandisement, he had at once rejected their flattering offers, and told them that he was not the Christ; but was sent before Him,83 to prepare the way of the Lord, in order that He might be received in a suitable manner on His appearing in the midst of them.
As John had acted so disinterestedly, he could not bear the idea of being treated with neglect; when One, whose miracles proclaimed Him to be the Son of God, was displaying His mighty power in the neighbourhood of the place where he was confined in prison; and when he was satisfied that he might be so usefully employed in promoting the cause of God, if he were set at liberty. He therefore sent two of his disciples to ask these questions of our Lord Jesus Christ in his name; in order to remind
83 John iii. 28.
Him that His servant was in prison, and that it was in His power to set him at liberty. In reply to their inquiry, our Saviour adduced undeniable proofs that He was indeed the Messiah. Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. St. Luke says, In the same hour He cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind, He gave sight. Our Saviour wrought miracles before the eyes of John's disciples, that they might have ocular demonstration of His Divine power.
The prophet Isaiah had foretold that such miracles would be wrought by the Messiah, when He should make His appearance. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.85 And in the forty second chapter, where the Lord Jehovah calls upon mankind, Behold My Servant, whom I uphold, Mine Elect, in whom My soul delighteth; He addresses Him, I the Lord have called Thee in righteousness, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.86
84 Luke vii. 21.
85 Isaiah xxxv. 5, 6. 86 Isaiah xlii. 1, 6, 7.
John the Baptist being acquainted with these prophecies, might think that as our Saviour fulfilled one part of them to others, the latter part might be accomplished with regard to himself, in his deliverance from the prison house in which he was confined. Our Saviour appealed to the miracles which He wrought as a proof that He was of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world, the long-promised Messiah. By His enumeration of these miracles, the inquiry of John the Baptist was fully answered. The superiority of Jesus to His forerunner was demonstrated; for John did no miracle. And he was informed that the gospel was still preached to the poor or the multitudes, notwithstanding he was prevented from being engaged in the promulgation of it. When God is pleased to give remarkable success to any instruments that He may think fit to employ, they are apt to imagine that His work will not proceed so well without them. Such, it is presumed, was the idea of John the Baptist. By this message
therefore, he was taught that the cause of God would still be promoted, although he was laid aside; that notwithstanding his services had been, for a time, most valuable and important, they were no longer absolutely necessary, but could now be dispensed with.
And lest his mind should be hurt at such considerations being set before him, our Saviour added, Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in or with Me. Here, I apprehend, the true reason of the message which John sent, appears. He was offended; it proved a stumbling-block to his mind, that the Lord Jesus did not deliver him out of prison. The miracles which Jesus had wrought, showed that it was in His power to rescue him from the unpleasant situation in which he was placed. He thought that he was hardly dealt with in being shut up in prison, after having fulfilled his ministry, and faithfully discharged the trust that had been committed to him. He supposed that Christ ought to have delivered him out of prison, because it would be for the glory of God that he should continue to labour as he had done. Our Saviour therefore desired him not to be offended at being laid aside, and put in prison; since his appointed work was done, notwithstanding he was still strong to labour, and anxious to come forward again, that he might cry aloud, and not spare, but lift up his voice like a trumpet, and show the people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.89 It was for his happiness to acquiesce in the Divine disposal, and bow to the overruling providence of God, who doeth all things well. By
89 Isaiah lviii. 1.
murmuring and repining at the Divine dispensations, he only made himself uncomfortable, and put away from himself the blessedness which it is the privilege of the servants of God to enjoy in submitting themselves to the will of their heavenly Father.
The counsel of our Lord Jesus Christ to His forerunner may also be given to all His believing people who are in a state of perplexity with regard to His dealings with them, in the dispensations of His providence. It shows them that it is for their happiness to bow to His sovereign will and pleasure, and not to be offended because they cannot discern wherefore they are afflicted. They may think that they should serve God better, if their troubles and distresses were removed. But He who knows whereof they are made, sees the end from the beginning, and sends afflictive dispensations to answer the most valuable purposes. It becomes them therefore in humility to say to their heavenly Father, Thy will be done; and to implore Him in His own time to bring good out of every seeming evil; and so to overrule His chastisements that they may turn to the profit of His afflicted children, that they may be partakers of His holiness, or that the peaceable fruit of righteousness may be yielded, through their instrumentality, to the praise and
90 Hebrews xii. 10, 11.