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the appearance and preaching of the Baptist had produced. And yet they did not abate this respect for him, in order to transfer it to the Messiah ; but were disposed to err, both with respect to him and his precursor. Our Lord, therefore, adapted his discourse to the character of the persons addressed; endeavouring to recall their former feelings, in order that he might direct them to a proper end and object. He reminded them of the earnest attention, which had been excited among them, by the solemn and unvarying testimony of that holy and self-denying man. He had appeared, not as the herald or attendant of an earthly monarch, though he proclaimed the setting up of a kingdom. They allowed him to be a prophet; but he was more. For, citing the words of Malachi, our Lord applied them to him; and declared that he was "the Messenger who was to prepare the way 'of the Lord." Thus he at once directed their thoughts to the kingdom of the Messiah, and pointed out what might prepare them to discern its real nature. He spoke distinctly of the introduction of a new religious dispensation; of the superiority of the least prophet of that dispensation, even to John; as more honoured, and more enlightened, and more successful. They as yet had been under the guidance of the law, and of the prophets. But each of these had prophesied of more glorious times.
Those times had begun with the appearance of John. Now the kingdom of heaven had commenced; not guarded, like Mount Sinai, in order to repel and alarm; but permitting, and even inviting, all to approach and enter. They expected Elias to come. Though no Elias, such as they looked for, would come; yet he who was to come, he whom Malachi had predicted under that title, had already come; for this was no other than John the Baptist. This was important information; a statement to be attentively heard, and earnestly examined. And our Lord therefore added; "he that hath ears to hear, let him, therefore, hear."
Thus did our Lord declare the proper view, in which they were now to examine the mission of John; thus did he assist them in that examination, and direct them rightly to employ the means which already existed, for forming a correct decision, and which the progress of his ministry rendered continually more abundant. Yet he well knew, both from the past conduct, and present disposition, of that generation, and from his foreknowledge of their future proceedings, that the connected mission of John and himself, and the different conduct and demeanour which suited their respective functions, would not meet the prejudices, or engage the impartial consideration, of all. They had their favourite and obstinate
prejudices, which operated against each of these messengers. Two consecutive, but distinct, methods had been employed for the introduction of the kingdom of heaven. "John came neither eating nor drinking;" to him they objected, because he came in a severe and repulsive character; of him they said, "He hath a devil." "The Son of man came eating and drinking;" not declining to join in social and familiar intercourse with the world, and yet, however inconsistently, they found in this also a motive to reject and calumniate him. "Behold, said they, a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." They appeared therefore not disposed to be satisfied with any thing, however expressly calculated to obviate and remove their prejudices. They therefore acted as perverse a part, as those "children," whom "when assembled in the market-place" for their pastime, no variety of proposal, suggested by a spirit of compliance and accommodation on the part of their companions, could persuade to join in the amusements of the hour. But however they might thus "reject the counsel of God against themselves,” “the children of wisdom," all of candid and reflecting minds, would perceive and acknowledge that both these methods were adopted by divine wisdom, and that they might justly be applauded and admired.
As too many among the Jews were offended,
both by the austere demeanour of John, and the social one of Jesus, so the disciples of John were backward to approve of the latter, and exclusively admired the former. They therefore demanded of Jesus, why they, and the disciples of the Pharisees, fasted often, but his, like himself, did not fast, but ate and drank like others, without any such abstemiousness. Here also Jesus endeavoured to satisfy the well disposed inquirers; and, in several parabolical illustrations, shewed the propriety of this part of his conduct. These you will readily call to mind; and we have only time to observe, that he adopted, in one instance, the same figure in which John had instructed them respecting himself. For John had spoken of Jesus as the bridegroom, and of himself as the attendant of the bridegroom. And Jesus now observed, that his chosen disciples, as well as John, were attendants of him the bridegroom, but that he called them not to any premature austerities; because these comparatively were the days of their festivity. But after he had trained them up for their future work, "the bridegroom would be taken from them; and then they would fast in those days." For the event to which he alluded, and for its consequences, he was gradually
a Mark ii. 18-22. Luke v. 33-39. The inquiry seems to have been proposed, not only by the disciples of John, but also by the Scribes and Pharisees.
preparing them; but if he adopted the procedure to which they alluded, so harsh a discipline, employed in the first instance, would too much discourage them.
The disciples of our Lord do not appear to have entertained any objection to the proceedings and appearance, either of John or Jesus. The fact, "that the bridegroom should be taken from them," was that, at the mention of which they were confounded, in whatever manner it was couched. They also expected, as other Jews did, and as the Scribes taught, that "Elias would first come, and restore all things;" and, probably, at the transfiguration, they conceived that their expectations were about to be fulfilled. But their joy and eagerness was soon checked by the injunction to "tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man was risen from the dead." This recalled to their minds the parallel declarations made by their Master a short time before; and they could not either understand "what the rising from the dead should mean," as applied to their Master, or how it could be reconciled with their past expectations, and present suppositions, respecting Elias. They proposed the difficulty to their Master, and received, in answer, a statement, calculated to remove their doubts, if not immediately, yet soon afterwards. With the citation of that answer, and of another remark of our Lord