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aloud, by authority, and inviting | to like the Son of Man.". general attention, like a herald. He Dan. ii. 44 ; vii. 13, 14. In the was, indeed, a herald of the King of apocryphal book of Wisdom (x. 10), kings.
we find the expression “ kingdom of Theophilus. Does the appearance God;” and in later Jewish writings, of John in the wilderness of Judea the terms “kingdom of God” and give any sanction to the lives of her- “ kingdom of heaven" are common. mits or recluses ?
Theophilus. What are we to unReader. Certainly not. Their re- derstand by these expressions in the tirement into a wilderness is no imi- | New Testament ? tation of the Baptist; at least, it is Reader. Sometimes they describe a following of the example of this the Church on earth, and sometimes holy man no farther than it is an the perfection and happiness of the adoption of the conduct of a certain future state. Or rather, I would seducer of whom we read in Acts
say, they present to our minds one xxi. 38; for it is said that he “led great idea, under various phases or his followers into the wilderness." modifications. They denote the di
The place in which John preached vine supremacy over men's wills and was not altogether uncultivated or persons throughout the whole course uninhabited. It was a mountainous of its development, beginning within and thinly-populated part of Judea, men's hearts, and extending to their but it contained hamlets and even outward circumstances and to extertows. Thus, in Joshua xv. 61, 62, nal nature,-beginning with indiviwe read of six cities or towns in a duals, and spreading through the part of the country called the desert whole mass of mankind, or over the or wilderness.
whole surface of society. Or, to Theophilus. While you were read- speak at once more fully and preing the second verse, it occurred to cisely, by the kingdom of God, or of me that, although we often find the heaven, we are to understand the expression “ kingdom of heaven" or Church of Christ in all the various “ kingdom of God” in the New stages of its progress towards perfecTestament, yet we never meet with tion ;—that state of things in which it in the Old.
God in Christ is acknowledged and Reader. This phrase, which be served by a body of faithful people, came current among the Jews after and which will eventually issue in the completion of the Old Testament the complete establishment and uniScriptures, appears, however, to have versal acknowledgment of divine aubeen founded by them upon certain thority, perfect conformity to the expressions in the prophecies of Da- divine will, and abundant manifestaniel, in which it is said that the tion of the divine glory,-in one "God of heaven" should “set up a word, in the holiness and happiness kingdom," and that “dominion, and of heaven. “The kingdom of heaglory, and a kingdom,” were given ven," says Baxter, “is a special go
vernment of God by a Saviour sent being part of his description of the from heaven to lead men to heaven." march of Semiramis into Media and
We may thus apprehend the full Persia; which I will read to you, meaning of this general and most as containing a lively illustration of significant expression. Of course, this passage of Holy Scripture.the precise import of the term must “In her march to Ecbatane," says vary a little in difterent places where the historian, “she came to the Zait occurs, according to its connec- rean mountains, which, extending tion, and according to the promi- many furlongs, and being full of nence which may be given to some craggy precipices and deep hollows, particular part of the whole complex could not be passed without fetching idea.
a great compass. Therefore, being Theophilus. The application of the desirous of leaving a lasting memoprophecy which the Evangelist quotes rial of herself, as well as of shortenappears obvious and simple. I sup- ing the road, she ordered the precipose it involves no peculiar difficulty. pices to be digged down, and the hollows Reader. It is taken from the
pro- to be filled up; and, at a great exphecies of Isaiah, or as the name is pense, she made a shorter and more here given, in the Greek form, expeditious passage, which, to this Esaias (xl. 3). In its primary sense, day, is called The Road of Semirait refers to the return of the Jews to mis. Afterwards, she went into Pertheir own country after their libera- sia, and all the other countries of tion by the king of Persia. In its Asia subject to her dominion ; and, secondary and farther signification, wherever she went, she ordered the -equally according to the prophetic mountains and precipices to be levelled, design of the Holy Spirit,-it points raised causeways in the plain country, to John the Baptist, in his work of and, at a great expense, made the preparing the Jews to receive Christ, roads passable.” by exhorting them to repentance,
In like manner, the ministry of and by bearing testimony to his per- John was appointed for the purpose son as the Messiah. Do
under- of bringing down the haughty spirit stand the allusion to an oriental of the proud, and raising the grovelcustom which runs through this pas- ling minds of the carnal and thought
less, and thus preparing them for the Theophilus. The reference is to reception of the great God and their the work of pioneers employed in Saviour, Jesus Christ. opening the passes, levelling or rais- The mention of the Baptist's dress ing the roads, and removing obstruc- and appearance, in the fourth verse, tions for a monarch when about to reminds us of what is said concernmarch through a marshy or moun- ing one of the old prophets in partitainous district.
cular. Can either of you tell me to Reader. I have before me an ex- which prophet I allude ? tract from Diodorus Siculus (lib. 2), Mary. His hair-cloth and girdle
remind us of Elijah (2 Kings i. 8); | tration of a proselyte by another -and our blessed Lord said ex- person, had not previously existed, pressly, concerning John, “This is and that nothing more than ceremoElias which was to come.” Mat.
nial ablutions—the act of the indivixi. 14.
duals themselves-had been in use. Reader. You must not be surprised Perhaps there are no sufficient at reading that John ate locusts; for means of determining this question. we are told by several authors, an- -At all events, the baptism percient and modern, that there is a formed by John was not any arbikind of locust in the East which is trary act, or one of his own invenused as an article of food, especially tion ; for he was “sent to baptize by poor people. Indeed, Indeed, the per
with water.” John i. 33. mission anciently given to the Jews As the mention of Pharisees and to adopt this kind of food
that Sadducees occurs for the first time the use of it existed from very early in this passage, I will request Theotimes.-Read Lev. xi. 22.
philus to read a page to which I Mary. “Even these of them ye point, containing an account of these may eat; the locust after his kind, two leading Jewish parties. and the bald locust after his kind, Theophilus. “THE PHARISEES deand the beetle after his kind, and rived their name from the Hebrew the grasshopper after his kind.” word Pharash, which signifies 'to
Reader. You can easily understand set apart, or to separate,' because what the wild honey was, which the they separated themselves from the Baptist used. It was such as was rest of their countrymen, to peculiar found in the clefts of rocks, or in strictness in religion. Their leading the hollow parts of trees; and in tenets were the following that the this, as some suppose, the dried lo- world is governed by fate, or by a custs were fried, when prepared for fixed decree of God; that the souls food.
of men were immortal, and were Theophilus. I believe the ceremony either eternally happy or miserable of baptism was not entirely new and beyond the grave; that the dead unknown at this time.
would be raised; that there were Reader. Some suppose that it had angels, good and bad; that God was been already in use among the Jews under obligation to bestow peculiar on occasion of receiving proselytes, favour on the Jews; and that they especially such proselytes as did not were justified by the merits of Abrasubmit to circumcision. And there- | ham. They were proud and selffore, say they, by baptizing Jews, righteous; and they held the common and thus treating them as proselytes, people in great contempt. John vii. John marked his ministry as the in- | 49. They sought the offices of the troduction of a new economy. state, and affected great dignity. Others, however, think that baptism, They were ostentatious in their reproperly so called,—that is, the lus-ligious worship, and even in their
He was a
dress; praying at the corners of the were zealots for the ceremonies, for streets, and seeking publicity in the the power of the church, and the trabestowment of alms. They sought ditions of the elders ; the Sadducees principally external cleanness; and ran into the other extreme, and were dealt much in ceremonial ablutions little better than deists, denying the and washing.
existence of spirits, and of a future “ In addition to the written law, state.” they adhered to the traditions of the When St. John saw these men elders, which they vainly supposed come to his baptism—(the Æthiopic to have been handed down from version adds, privately)—he addressMoses. They were, in general, a ed them in language strongly excorrupt, hypocritical, office-seeking, pressive of his abhorrence of their haughty class of men.
character as the very personification however, some among them of a bet- of inveterate and malicious wickedter character. See Acts v. 14.
And he inquired, with asto“THE SADDUCEES are supposed nishment, who had warned them to to have taken their name from Sadoc, flee from the impending wrath, who flourished about 260 years be- | Hence, then, it appears that neither fore the Christian era.
of these parties came in a right dispupil of Antigonus Sochæus, presi- pasition of mind, or with proper dent of the Sanhedrim, or great views. The Pharisees were proud council of the nation. He had of their supposed superiority in piety taught the duty of serving God dis- and virtue, and of their relation to interestedly, without the hope of Abraham ; the Sadducees were vain reward, or the fear of punishment. of their fancied wisdom and philoHence Sadoc, incorrectly, drew the sophical attainments; and all were inference that there was no future alike unprepared to become disciples state of rewards or punishments ; of the uncompromising Baptist, or of and on this belief he founded the the meek and lowly Jesus. sect..... They held that there is Theophilus. Did the Baptist alno resurrection, neither angel nor lude to any particular stones or rocks, spirit (Matt. xxii. 23;. Acts xxiii. when he said what we read in the 8); and that the soul of man pe- ninth verse ? rishes with the body; ..... and they Reader. Perhaps he then pointed rejected all traditions."
to the stones which lay scattered Reader. The Pharisees, as they about in the rough and rocky desert. appear before us in the New Testa- Or, as he was baptizing at the ford ment, are to be regarded as repre- of Jordan, where Israel passed over, sentatives of superstition, hypocrisy, some have thought that he alluded and self-righteous pride; the Saddu- to the twelve stones which were set cees, of worldliness, sensual indul- up as a memorial of that event. gence, and unbelief.-" The Phari- Josh. iv. 20. But before we could sees,” says a judicious commentator, adopt the latter opinion, we should require proof that the ancient mo- Reader. The period of his minisnument had continued in its place try, probably, did not exceed six until the Baptist's time. At all months,—which was the distance of erents, the meaning is clear and cer- time between the commencement of tain. St. John assured his hearers his preaching, and of that of our that, rather than that the promises blessed Lord.-Can you explain that of God should fail, and rather than phrase, in the eleventh verse, “whose that proud, impenitent, unbelieving shoes I am not worthy to bear ?” sinners should partake of the bless- Mary. It is an allusion to the cusings promised to the real, spiritual | tom of slaves carrying their master's posterity of Abraham, God would sandals. The sandal was a piece of raise up others who should tread in wood or leather, fitted to the soles of his footsteps, and thus become his the feet, and fastened by thongs of children, even, if necessary, by the leather. And it was the business of most unlikely means ; that He certain slaves, of the lowest class, to would raise up children to Abra- remove these sandals from their masham even from among the Gentiles, ters' feet, and to take charge of them, whom the Jews may have thought as while the wearers were reclining at unlikely to receive that privilege as table, or otherwise stationary in the the senseless rocks which they saw house. around them, or the stones beneath Theophilus. I am not sure that I their feet.
rightly understand the meaning of The Jews falsely gloried in their that saying, “He shall baptize you descent from Abraham ; regarding it with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” as securing to them an immunity Reader. Some suppose that this from punishment. That descent, expression alludes to the gifts of the however, rightly considered, ought Holy Spirit which were poured out not to have been regarded as a pri- upon the Apostles on the day of vilege, in and of itself; but rather Pentecost, and were afterwards imas an obligation and excitement to a parted, through the instrumentality godly life and conversation.
of the Apostles, to other believers. Theophilus. By " the axe laid unto You remember the appearance of the root of the trees” we are to un- “tongues like as of fire" on the day derstand, I suppose, the Romans, of Pentecost, Acts ii. 3.-Others rewhose power was ready to crush the gard the words “with the Holy guilty city and nation of the Jews. Ghost and fire” (for in the original
Reader. Such seems to be the pri- the preposition is not repeated) as mary meaning of the expression ; referring to the spiritual influences
also be understood as re- of the divine agent, set forth under ferring to future and eternal judg- the similitude of fire. “ The Holy ments ready to fall upon the wicked. Spirit,” say they, “is represented
Mary. How long did St. John here under the image of fire, because continue to preach?
he was to illuminate and invigorate