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shields in the royal palace of Jerusalem, in honour of Tiberius, but which the Jews failed not to represent as an indignity offered to them, rather than a compliment to that emperor. He had, it is truq, taken care that there should be no carved images upon them that might give them offence, but the very inscription of them was, they thought, contrary to their law ; otherwise, there was nothing more common, both before and after the Jewish captivity, than for the Jewish monarchs to cover even the front of the temple with such ornaments as the reader must have often observed through the course of their history. The magistrates, therefore, of that metropolis, with the sons of Herod at their head, went to represent to him, in the most civil terms, that such a consecration was contrary to their laws, and to beg of him that he would pay a greater regard to them. But their remonstrances not being able to prevail with him, they immediately withdrew, and soon after sent a very pressing, but submissive, letter to Rome, which had the desired effect. Tiberius immediately dispatched another to Pilate, wherein he highly blamed him for what he had done, and ordered him to remove the shields into some other place, which he accordingly did, and sent them to be hung up at Cæsarea.
His next project to vex the Jews was to find out some specious pretence for drawing money out of the sacred treasury. This, indeed, was the most effectual way to touch thein to the quick, next to the rilling of the temple ; for he knew, but too well, their invincible attachment to those two places. The plausible pretext he chose for it was the bringing of an aqueduct, about two hundred furlongs off, into Jerusalem, the expence of which he expected should be supplied out of that sacred depository, and commanded, accordingly, of them, that a tax should be levied upon it. However, as he knew that this would not fail to provoke the people into a mutiny, he took care to provide against it, by causing a number of his soldiers to mix themselves with the crowd, with clubs hid under their coats, to be ready, upon a signal, to fall upon the mutineers. He was hardly seated on his tribunal before it was surrounded, accordingly, by a vast concourse of the Jews, who came exclaiming against his project, and were some of the meaner sort, as is usual in such mobs, accompanied their clamours with bitter invectives against him. Pilate had not heard them long before he gave his men the signal, who immediately fell on the Jews with their clubs, wounded, lamed, and even killed many of them indiscriminately, and dispersed the rest.
All these calamities were so far from affecting any reformation among the Jews, that their wickedness continued daily to increase. Zealously devoted to the Mosaic dispensation, and equally tenacious for the traditions of the elders, they omitted the more weighty matters of the law, justice, mercy, and truth ; and while they compassed sen and land to obtain a proselyte, caused, through their abominable practices, the namo of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles. Thus did darkness cover the land, and gross darkness the people, immediately before that the sun of righteousness arose with healing in his beams.
THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST.
The puòüc appearance of John the Baptist--- His divine mission foretold by the prophets,
and asserted by the evangelists---the date of the commercement of his mission--his dress and diet compared with those of the present inhabitants of the east---his baptism and general preaching---his particular address to the Pharisees, Sadducecs, publicans, and soldiers---the obscurity of Christ's private life--his baptism---the testimony of the Father to the divine character of Christ---the temptation---reasons for God's permission, and for Satan's conduct in this affair---how he was shown all the kingdoms of the earth---John confesses that he is not the Christ---John, having announced Christ to be the Lamb of God, Andrew, and another disciple, Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel, become acquainted with him---at the wedding in Cana, Christ turns the water into wine-he attends his first passover--- how many passovers there were during his ministry-he cleanses the temple---the forty-six years which the temple had been building---Christ converses with Nicodemus--- John's last testimony to Christ---his imprisonmentreflections,
JOHN, the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the peculiar circumstances of whose birth and education have been already described, after remaining nearly thirty years in obscurity, burst forth, on a sudden, upon the attention of the public. The evangelists have not only given us a brief sketch of his history, but have unanimously concurred to assert the divinity of his mission.
The evangelist John tells us that the Baptist had a special commission from God, being called to his office by inspiration, as the prophets were of old, and that he was sent to bear witness of the light, or to point out the Messiah, whom he had called, in the preceding fourth verse, the light of men, because it was one of the principal prophetical characters of the Messiah, that he was to enlighten the world. John i. 6..8. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness: to bear witness of the light, that all men, through him, might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light: though sent from God, he was not the Word of God, who has enlightened the world ; but he came to point him out to mankind. Mark referz to this event, the fulfilling of Malachi iii. 1, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, observe, that John's preaching, the design of it, its efficacy upon the minds of the people, and even the place where he first appeared publicly, were all foretold by
the prophet Isaiah. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Luke, however, cites the passage more fully thay the rest. Luke iii. 5, 6. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' Of these metaphors, which are plainly taken from the making of roads, the meaning is, that Messiah's forerunner, by preacbing the doc. trine of repentance, shall produce such a change in the minds of the Jews, that many $f them, laying aside their prejudices, shall receive and acknowledge Messiah when he appears. After such a preparation of the way, mankind shall behold, not a splendid temporal monarch, accompanied with a magnificent retinue, but the author of that salvation which God has prepared before the face of all people. (Luke ii. 30, 31.]
Luke has marked the commencement of the Baptist's ministry with a great degree of precision, ch. iii. 1,2. Now, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Casar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea, and of the region of Trachonitis and Lysanias, the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caraphas being the high-priests, the word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. This account is, however, attended with several difficulties. 1. The reign of Tiberius had two commencements, one, when Augustus made him his colleague in the empire, in the year of Rome 764, or 765, and the other, when he began to reign alone, after Augustus's death, in 767. The earliest of these computations is usually preferred, but it does not appear that any of them would be attended with consequences at all dangerous to the credibility of the evangelical history. 2. Luke says, Philip's dominions were Iturea and Tracbonitis, but Josephus says, they were Auranitis and Trachonitis. Reland reconciles the historian with the evangelist, by supposing that Iturea and Auranitis were different names of the same country. 3. Annas and Caiaphas, we are told, were high-priests when John began his ministry. But, according to the institutions of the Jewish religion, there could be only one high-priest, properly so called, at a time, that minister being typical of the one inediator between God and man. The most probable solution, therefore, of this difficulty, is, that Annas was the high-priest, and Caiaphas his deputy, to whom, also, the title of high-priest might improperly be given.
John the Baptist began his public labours in the wilderness of Judea, and his appearance was every way answerable to the ruggedness of the country. (Mat. jii. 4.] And the same John had his raiment of camels' hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins ; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. These locusts were a species of large insects, such as frequently destroy the crops in Barbary and Syria, and were, on a particular occasion, the means of executing the wrath of God. Wild boney, the other article of the Baptist's fare, is supposed, by many, to have been a kind of liquor, which, in those countries, distilled from the trees. But because this kind of juice, when used as food, was sometimes attended with bad effects, others are of opinion, that the wild honey on which the Baptist fed was that which bees deposit in the hollow trunks of trees, and of which there was great plenty in Palestine. (1 Sam. xiv. 25..27.] It will, however, be proper to compare the diet and clothing of the Baptist with those of the present inhabitants of the same countries ; and here we shall be considerably assisted by the observations of the late Mr. Harmer. He is speaking concerning the use of honey as a luxury in the east, and concerning the prediction that the Messiah should eat butter and honey, that he might learn to choose the good, and refuse the cvil.
" The account that is given of the diet of John the Baptist may be thought a
much stronger objection. He lived on locusts and wild honey, and his way of life is represented, by our Lord, as the very reverse of the way of those who dwell in king's courts, nay, as very different from his own; consequently, honey and locusts must be thought to have been then reckoned very coarse sort of food, whatever honey may now be among the Arabs. But the force of this difficulty lies in taking for granted what is not to be adınitted, that the management of John was like the affected rigour and pompous abstinence of some superstitious hermits ; whereas, the account we have of him only expresses great simplicity, that he contented himself with what nature offered him in those retreats. This, to those that expected the Messiah's should be an earthly kingilom, and those that were concerned in introducing into it, great men, after the manner of this world, might well be pointed out, by our Lord, as a thing extremely observable."
There is a passage in Rauwolff that greatly illustrates this explanation, in which, speaking of his passing through the Arabian deserts
, he says, “ We were necessitated to be contented with some slight food or other, and make a shift with curds, cheese, fruits, honey, &c.; and to take any of these, with bread, for a good entertainment. The honey, in these parts, is very good, and of a whitish colour, whereof they take, in their caravans and navigations, great leather bottles full, along with them ; this they bring you in small cups, and put a little butter to it, and so you eat it with biscuits. By this dish I often remembered St. John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord, how he also did eat honey in the deserts, together with other food. Besides this, when we had a mind to feast ourselves, some ran, as soon as our master had landed at night, to fetch some wood, and others, in the mean time, made an hole in the ground on the shore, in the nature of a furnace, to boil our meat. So every company dressed, accordingly, what they had a mind, or what they had laid up in store ; some boiled rice, others ground corn, &c. And when they had a mind to eat new bread instead, or, for want of biscuits, they made a paste of flour and water, &c.” Rauwolff speaks of honey, fruits, curds, and cheese, as sorts of food that they were obliged to make a shift with, and he opposes them to those eatables on which they sometimes feasted, but, certainly, not because these things were in themselves coarse and mortifying, for he tells us the honey was very good, and, elsewhere, speaks of the bringing some of these things to the eastern tables of delicacies, at the close of their entertainments : but he considers them, when alone, as being a slight sort of food, and which people are not wont to be pleased with without something of a more solid kind.“
" Such, doubtless, was the character of the Baptist's abstemiousness ; not pompous, affected, and brutal, like that of the hermits of superstition, (who more resemble Nebuchadnezzar in his distraction than the forerunner of our Lord) but perfectly natural, as living among the people of the wilderness, contenting himself, therefore, with a way of life sparing as theirs, and, perhaps, more visibly dependant on what providence presented than even they ; instead of living in abundance and profusion. after the manner of those that dweit in king's palaces, or eating bread and meat, and drinking wine, as our Lord did.”
“ This explanation will, at the same time, remore a difficulty that might otherwise arise from what modern authors have told us of the agreeableness of the taste of locusts, and their being frequently used for food in the east. Dr. Shaw observing, that, when they are sprinkled with salt, and fried, they are not unlike, in taste, to our fresh water cray-fish ; and Russel saying, the Arabs salt them up, and eat them as cacy.” Even his clothing of hair is mentioned by Rauwolff
' as in common use in those descrts; and he says, that he himself, in his travels among that people, put on a et
frock of this kind. There was nothing, then, in John, of excessive rigour, nothing of an ostentatious departure from common forms of living in order to indulge in delicacies, like those St. Jerom blames in the letter to Nepotian ; but, retiring into the deserts for meditation and prayer, he lived, with great simplicity, after the manner of the inhabitants of those places, both with respect to dress and food.”
To some writers, however, these reasons are not quite satisfactory. John resembled, say they, the old prophets, particularly Elijah, in the coarseness of his clothing, [2 Kings i. 8.] and in the abstemiousness of his diet. He wore a rough kind of garment made of camels' hair, probably, the sackcloth with which penitents and mourners used to cover their loins, and, sometimes, their whole bodies. [1 Chron. xxi. 16.] His extraordinary mortification, by which he acquired the air of an old prophet, was intended to make the people reverence him. Besides, such a course of life was suitable to the doctrine of repentance which he preached. Accordingly, the public attention being turned towards him, the inhabitants of the country, who were all now expecting the Messiah, went out to him in multitudes. And, because he preached the necessity of repentance, from the consideration that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, many of all ranks, sects, and characters, submitted to confession of sins, baptisni in Jordan, and whatever else the prophet was pleased to prescribe as preparations for that kingdom ; so eagerly desirous were all the Jews to have it erected among them without delay. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Juden, and all the region round about Jordan : And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
The great employment of John was preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, i. e. explaining the nature, and declaring the necessity of baptism, as a testimony, on the part of those who submitted to it, of the sincerity of their repentance, and on the part of him who administered it by the commandment of God, as a seal or token of the remission of their sins. Perhaps, also, as the Jews themselves were required, by John, to submit to baptism, it signified, that, together with their sins, they were to renounce the institutions of Moses, just as the Gentile proselytes, by their baptism, were understood to renounce, not their sins only, but the profession of heathenism also. Wherefore, if this opinion may be admitted in every view of this ríte, the Baptist, by preaching it as necessary, and by administering it to all who were willing to receive it, prepared the people for the coming of Messiah.
As the chief subject of the Baptist's preaching was repentance, i. e. a complete change of principles, and, consequently, of practice, it surprised him, not a little, to find among those who came confessing their sins, and desiring baptism, many of the Pharisees, a sect generally puffed up with an high opinion of their own sanctity. He was equally astonished at the Sadducees, who, though they did not believe any thing at all of a future state, expressed the greatest earnestuess to obtain remission. In a word, he wondered to see the whole people so much moved with his threatenings, especially as he knew that they confidently expected salvation on account of their being Abraham's children, a conceit of which they were extremely fond, and which they seem to have derived from a misinterpretation of Jeremiah xxxi. 35, 37. Wherefore, as a rebuke of their presumption on this head, he called them, in his exhortation, the offspring of vipers, instead of the children of Abraham, plainly alluding to Gen. iii. 15, where wicked men are called the seed of the serpent. Who hath warned you, he asks, to flee from the wrath to come ? By what means have you been awakened to a sense of the danger you are in from the impending judgment of God? Or his questions may imply a strong negation, as if he had said, I have not shewed you that you can flee from the wrath to come inerely by baptism without repentance. It seems the Pharisces and Sadducees desired his baptism only as the ceremony of admission into the