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verse of our text; and therefore, he addressed those, who had every qualification, which adequate information could give, to judge of his own pretensions, as far as the witness of John was concerned in supporting them.
Having defended himself against the charge which they had now brought against him, by claiming a divine commission, which, if admitted, would fully justify his supposed violation of the sabbath, and also prepare them to judge aright respecting all his other proceedings, he wishes them to consider the proofs of such a commission. Adopting a judicial principle, in arguing before an official body, he ceased to bear further witness concerning himself; as they would not receive this as true, unless, in his defence, he could support his own assertions by other, and independent, testimony. Now there was another, who had appeared as his witness; and who, both in public and private, had delivered a decided, consistent, and persevering testimony in his favour. Jesus himself was fully aware, that the witness which John bore was true; both because he was fully acquainted with his own original and commission, and also because he had been present at, and immediately concerned in, that visible communication of the Spirit, and that audible attestation from heaven, which was the crowning evidence to convince John himself,
that Jesus was the person, of whose approach and office he had testified. Upon that evidence, John had afterwards enlarged to such as had considered his previous instructions. But as our Lord was addressing those, who had themselves taken the pains to obtain, officially, a statement from John's own mouth; he therefore more especially referred them to the answer which John had given. "Ye sent unto John; and he bare witness to the truth." For, "he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, that he was not the Christ;""neither Elias," at least in person, and for the purposes which they expected Elias to fulfil; "neither that prophet," nor a prophet at all in the sense in which they looked for a prophet to appear among them, by rising from the dead. When a definite answer was demanded from him, he referred them to that prophecy of Esaias, of which their own interpretation, was in the main, correct; and explicitly declared, that his was the voice of him, that was to cry in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord." In this he manifestly implied, that his office only authorized him to bear testimony to another; that he was, therefore, to be compared to "a sound, which, as soon as it has expressed the thought of which it is the sign, dies into air, and is heard no more"."
Fenelon, cited by Bishop Horne in his Considerations on the Life and Death of John the Baptist.
Whether, therefore, they considered the prophecy, and its usual interpretation; or the express testimony of John; they could not have rightly considered, nor could they finally decide upon, his witness, unless they looked out for another, whose way he prepared, and whose forerunner he was. Of such a one, greater than himself in office, power, and dignity, he expressly spoke to them ; of one, who when John testified this, had already taken his station among them, but whom they had then not known; one, who was to come after him, but who existed before him, and who was to be preferred to him; one whose office was more extensive than his own, which merely authorized him to baptize with water'.-We may consider Jesus as demanding of them, in the words of our text, whether these things had been duly considered? They had known, or might have known, or might easily ascertain, that John had pointed out Jesus, personally and expressly, as him of whom he had spoken. If he were so, the question assumed an important aspect, and was of extensive connexion. Here was a declaration of the approach of the kingdom of heaven; a claim to the office of its herald, and precursor; and a specification of the person, whose approach was to be thus preceded and prepared. They had, therefore, to
a Johni. 26, 27.
meet this great question, to consider these extensive claims. If they neglected to do this, they would incapacitate themselves for judging in a comprehensive and sufficient manner; and would, probably, in consequence of their narrow and partial views, again object, as they were doing, against some supposed breach of the law, or apparently hasty statement, while they were wholly inattentive to the miracles wrought previously, and at the time; and though they had never fully comprehended, or duly considered, the extent and purport of his claims. Hence they would be likely, both to blaspheme against the Son of man, who was now personally preaching the Gospel of the kingdom amongst them, and also against the Holy Ghost, of which John spake, and who, though not yet given, was hereafter to be given. Now our Lord never required of any, that they should have made advancements beyond the information and evidence which had been communicated to them. He was satisfied with, and commended, those, who were not far from the kingdom; who were willing to judge impartially of what had come before them; and who, although some doubts and difficulties remained, were willing to suspend their judgment, and not hastily to exaggerate such doubts, so as to dismiss all further inquiry. All would in due season be set before them; so much already had
been exhibited, that it ought to arrest their attention, and to claim their serious investigation. It remained with themselves to make a proper and successful use of what had been advanced, and of what was yet in reserve. John had long ago borne witness to the truth, and Jesus was now himself declaring his office and authority. Not that he himself received the testimony from man, but he had "received from his Father a commandment, what he should speak," and perform. They might derive this assurance, not from his words only, but from other sources. And these things he declared to them, "that they might be saved.” If they refused to hear and consider them, theirs was the danger, and the responsibility rested with themselves.
But our Lord went on further to remind them, that, if they finally rejected the testimony of John, they were in a measure self-condemned. He was the burning and the shining light of that age and country; the excellence of his instructions, and their success and beneficial tendency, they could not deny; even they themselves, "for a season, were willing even exceedingly to rejoice in his light." Thus had they themselves, both felt and virtually confessed, his prophetic character. Some of them might even have been of the number of those Pharisees and Sadducees, who came to his baptism. But they were by him