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has been generally supposed that John sent his disciples to Jesus for their satisfaction, and not his own; that they might be convinced that he was the Messiah, by seeing his miracles and hearing his discourses themselves: but this supposition does not at all agree with the account here given of the message of John; or of the answer of Jesus, which is directed to him, and not to them; “ go and tell John what ye have seen and heard.” We may observe, likewise, that Jesus does not make a direct answer to the Baptist's question, by telling him that he was the Messiah, but refers him to his miraculous works, as the proper evidence of this truth; acting, on this occasion, towards John as he had acted towards his own disciples: for he did not directly inform them that he was the Christ, but left them to infer it from his discourses and miracles; and, when he found that they knew it, he enjoined them to keep it secret. But how superfluous would this reserve be, it
' John had publicly proclaimed him to be the Messiah.
6. And happy is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.
The humble circumstances and mean appearance of Christ, led John to conclude at first that he could not be the Messiah; till the miracles which he wrought began to dispel his prejudices. Christ, therefore, takes occasion hence to pronounce those happy who can surrender to the force of evidence their long-cherished prejudices, and are willing to receive a Saviour who
produces proper credentials
of a divine mission, although destitute of all that external splendour which men are ready to expect, and placed in mean and afflicted circumstances.
7. And, as they departed, at their departure, Jesus began to say to the multitudes, concerning John; What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
The meaning is, You had, I suppose, some cause for which you ran, with so much eagerness, into those desert places: for it is not credible that you assembled there that you might see reeds shaken with the winds: yet besides John, there was scarcely anything but reeds to behold in those places.
8. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment ? rather, “ in delicate apparel?” Behold they that wear delicate apparel are in kings' houses.
John's dress was the very reverse of delicate apparel : for he wore a garment of camel's hair, fastened round him with a leathern girdle. It could not, therefore, be the object of your assembling there to see delicate apparel, which is only to be found in noblemen's palaces.
9. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? “ a teacher ?”. Yea, I say unto you, and more than a teacher.
10. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee,
This language, which is taken from the prophet Malachi, iii. 1, 2. is an allusion to the custom of kings, who send people before them to prepare the way by which they are to pass. John prepared the way. for Christ, by calling upon men to repent; by declaring that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and by pointing out Jesus to them as far superior to himself, and as qualified to give them full information upon this subject,
11. Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, i. e. among the children of men, there hath not risen, rather, " there hath not been raised up,” a greater than John the Baptist.
What rendered John superior in dignity to all the other prophets, was his being employed to announce the approach of the kingdom of the Messiah; an event of infinitely greater consequence than any thing which the ancient prophets had foretold. In regard to supernatural gifts, he was far inferior to his predecessors: for he wrought no miracles.
Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than hę.
The least in the kingdom of heaven, is the least in preaching the heavenly kingdom: the whole comparison is in regard to the gift of prophecy: as much as John exceeded all the other prophets, by so mucli did the prophets of the New Testament, even the meanest of them, exceed John, on account of the extent of their knowledge in regard to the deliverance of the human race: for that, before the coming of Jolin, was a mystery: it began to receive light in his time; and after the sufferings of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, it shone more clearly than the meridian light, in the discourses of the apostles.
12. And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force; or, as it is better translated in the margin, “ the kingdom of
heaven is gotten by force, and they that thrust men take it by force.”
By this language Christ meant to express the zeal, haste or greediness, with which men pressed into the kingdom of heaven: he mentions this in the presence of John's disciples, that they might convey to their master the agreeable news that the kingdom of heaven, which he had announced, was begun, and was enlarging itself with great rapidity.
13. For all the prophets, and the law, prophesied, rather, “ were your teachers,” until John.
The meaning is, the law and prophets have been your masters, till the time that John appeared. Now Providence is about to give you another master in my person, of whose approach John was sent to give not
14. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was to come.
The appearance of Elias, or Elijah, before the coming of Christ, had been foretold by Malachi;(iv.5.) "behold I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” phecy some of the Jews understood of the appearance of Elijah in person, a second time, in the world: others supposed, with much better reason, that it referred to a prophet who should appear with the spirit and power of Elias, who was deterred by no dangers, in the most corrupt times, from placing before the king and before all the people their sins. A prophet with the same zeal and fortitude was to appear before the coming of Christ. Hence the Jews, when they wished to know who John was, asked him, Art thou Elias? i. e. he in person: when he said, I am not, they again asked, Art thou that prophet? the prophet foretold under that character, to which he answered, No. It is remarkable
that in that passage, John denies himself to be the very person whom Christ, in this, says he is. concile these two passages, it has been generally supposed that when John said he was not Elias, he only meant to deny that he was Elias in person, and that he still believed himself to be the figurative Elias: but this will not account for his saying that he was not that prophet who, by his character, represented Elias. I see no other way of reconciling the language of John with that of Christ, than by supposing that he was mistaken in telling the Jews that he was not Elias.---This agrees very well with the account given of him in this chapter, where he is represented as not knowing, or at least doubting, whether Jesus was the Christ. For if he was ignorant of the character of Christ, or doubtful about it, he must be unacquainted with his own, or could not know that he was Elias: for if Jesus was not the Christ, he could not be the prophet that was immediately to precede him, but there must be another who was to sustain that character. On the other hand, had he been sure that he was Elias, he could have no doubt that Jesus was the Messiah.
15. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
In such words, Christ calls the attention of his audience to any important sentiments which he has to deliver: that John was the Elias foretold by Malachi, was of this kind: for it might be inferred thence that Jesus was the Messiah.
1. From the conduct of John the Baptist we may learn how those ought to act who entertain doubts about any important religious truth. He was not