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hosts."-By attending to the various and connected transactions thus predicted respecting John and Jesus, we at once discover the propriety of our Lord's conduct on this occasion, and the evidence in vindication of his authority, which, under such circumstances, he pointed out as forcibly by declining any further statement, as if he had entered on a detail of the argument. If the authority of the precursor were admitted, it involved the admission of his own; if they had really so little considered the former question, as to be yet undecided, they then avoided, or hastily passed over, the proper and sufficient evidence which was yet open to their consideration.
But, though they were afraid to encounter our Lord's arguments, and sought to avoid them, he left them not unreproved and unwarned. In three parables,-that of the obedient and disobedient sons, who were requested to work in their father's vineyard,—that of the wicked husbandmen,—and that of the wedding garment,—he exposed the guilt, impotency, and danger of their unbelief, and also predicted their approaching murderous rejection of himself, their forfeiture of the blessings of the kingdom, and the transfer of them to the Gentiles, whose cause he had been espousing, and who would bring forth the proper fruits.
They saw the purport of the parables; they writhed under their severe correction; they could not refrain from deprecating the accomplishment of his predictions; yet they proceeded, even with increased eagerness, in the furtherance of their bloody designs.
Of the first parable he made an express application, which it will be expedient to notice with reference to our subject. He obtained from them a confession, that the son who first refused, but "afterwards repented and went" into the vineyard, "did the will of his father." And he then answered, "Verily, I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him. And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterwards, that ye might believe him." Our Lord here notices the excellence of John's character, and the efficacy of his instructions. Such a consideration they ought not to have neglected. They had been reminded of it in our text, and themselves must have felt it, when they beheld the salutary effects produced by John's labours, upon those whom they themselves had yet been unable to reform, even if they had indeed attempted to
a Matt. xxi. 31, 32.
do it. Yet this had not induced them to retrace their steps, but had, perhaps, operated to strengthen their prejudices.-The same principle applied, and still applies, to our Lord's instructions, as well as to those of the Baptist. They are intelligible to those, who have neither leisure nor capacity for philosophical research, or systematic morality. The same Gospel, which is preached to the rich and learned, is preached also to the poor and illiterate. By one and the same Gospel must both be instructed, edified, and saved. Let us, then, value the wisdom and sublimity of its design and contents; let us also admire its universal adaptation and utility; and let neither the pride of station, nor the prejudices of learning, nor the vulgarity of a poor man's religious observances, his uncouth phraseology, and his imperfect, and often mistaken, opinions, prevent the serious examination, and cordial acceptation, of the same truths, which reform, edify, and comfort him. For they were not intended to remedy the disadvantages of station, and the defects of education, excepting only so far as holiness here, and happiness hereafter, may thereby be affected.
Such were our Lord's reasonings and statements, in connexion with the witness of John, as delivered to the ruling authorities of the Jews. We have now only to notice the more remarkable addresses of our Lord on the same subject to the
disciples of John, the multitudes, and his own disciples.
II. The earliest of these was on occasion of the memorable message sent to Jesus by John. The disciples of John had given him early information respecting the popularity and success of him, "to whom he had borne witness beyond Jordan." The Baptist had then, in the last of his discourses which is recorded, endeavoured to divest them of any jealousy respecting his own honour, by directing them to the remembrance of his former statements; by re-assuring them of the divine and superior dignity of Jesus; and by exhorting them to a reception of his doctrine. Being informed by them, at a later period, of the still growing fame of Jesus, of his repeated miracles, and especially of the raising of the widow's son at Nain, John actually sent them to confer with Jesus, and to obtain, from his own mouth, an answer to the question, "whether he was he that should come, or whether they were to look for another?" They, probably, as well as the rest of the people, were in some degree of suspense, because Jesus had not, in so many words, declared himself the Messiah. Our Lord retained them with him, until he had wrought several additional miracles; and then, in a brief manner, led them to infer his Messiahship, from the miracles which he performed; for they were
such as the prophets ascribed to the Messiah. He reminded them, also, that the Gospel was by him preached to the poor, according to another prophecy of Isaiah; and then cautioned them against suffering the faith, produced by such considerations, to be impaired and subverted by any inconsistency which presented itself to their minds between his humble appearance and their expectations. Thus our Lord at once shewed the correctness with which John had described him as one "mightier than himself," and as a teacher who "spoke the words of God;" pointed out the agreement of John's testimony, with the prophecies respecting the Messiah, and the miracles which he was to perform; and intimated the probability and danger of that rejection of his testimony, of which also the prophets had spoken.
The discourse which our Lord addressed to the multitudes, after the departure of John's disciples, also very fully discusses the character and office of the Baptist". Of these his own disciples entertained such an opinion, as made their views end in him, and, therefore, for a time, prevented the proper object of his mission. But there was no such danger with the multitude; but rather one of a contrary character. They were in danger of losing the impressions, which
a Matt. xi. 7—19.