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prepare men for the erection of Christ's kingdom. From the very beginning of his imprisonment, therefore, both he and his disciples had certainly expected that the divine power, which Jesus was every day giving fresh proofs of, would have been exerted in bringing about his release. And though they had not hitherto perceived any appearance of such a miracle, they had still waited with patience, and entertained hopes of it. But when John gat notice, that twelve illiterate fishermen were chosen to preach the gospel, and furnished with miraculous powers for that purpose ; and that two persons of no consideration at all were raised from the dead, while he was suffered to lie idle and useless in prison, he began at length to find that Jesus did not put that value upon his services which he thought they deserved, and of consequence, that no miracle would be wrought for his deliverance. His patience therefore being quite tired, he sent this message to Jesus, “ Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?” Not as if he entertained any doubt of his being Messiah ; but by asking the question, he complained that Jesus had not acted the part which he thought Messiah should have acted. That this was the Baptist's frame of mind when he sent his disciples to Christ, may be gathered also from the answer which he received. For our Lord, after having performed various miracles in presence of the messengers, bade them go tell their master what they had heard and seen. Luke vii. 20. When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another? 21. And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many
that were blind he gave sight. It happened that at the time the Baptist's disciples came to Jesus, a vast number of diseased, blind and possessed people were waiting on him in order to be cured. Wherefore, Jesus embraced the opportunity, and in presence of the Baptist's messengers instantly cured them all. --22. Then Jesus answering, said unto them, Go your way, and tell Jchn (Mat. again) what things ye have seen and heard, how that the blind see, the dame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, plainly claiming the powers ascribed by Isaiah to Messiah. For that prophet, chap. xxxv. had expressly foretold, that at the coming of God to save his people, ver. 5. " Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” Wherefore, by his miracles Jesus clearly proved himself to be Messiah, only he left it to the Baptist and his discipies to draw the conclusion themselves into the poor the gospel is preached. (Matthew, and the poor have the gospel proached to them.) It was another of the characters of Messiah, mentioned by Isaiah, that he was to preach the gospel to the poor. See
on Luke iv. 18. 9 24. This too was remarkably verified in Je
For he did not court the favour of the great and the rich, by shewing them peculiar respect in the exercise of his ministry. No: he preached to the poor, and assisted them by his miracles as readily as the rich; and by so doing distinguished himself from the Jewish doctors, who being for the most part lovers of pleasures, associated with the rich and neglected the poor. Farther, by preaching the gospel to the poor, Messiah was distinguished also from all the heathen philosophers and priests. For whereas they concealed the mysteries or depths of their doctrine from the vulgar, and those who were not initiated; he opened his to every one without distinction, to the poor as well as to the rich, to the unlearned as well as to the learned. Others put a different sense upon the clause" πτωχοι ευαγγελιζονται, translating it actively, The poor preach the gospel; as if Jesus intended to insinuate that the Baptist had no reason to be displeased with the election of twelve illiterate fishermen to preach the gospel, while he, whose gifts were far superior to theirs, was suffered to lie useless in prison; because this also was one of the characters of the Messiah's reign mentioned by Isaiah. According to this interpretation, our Lord's meaning was, Go and tell your master, that the miracles you have seen me perform, are the very miracles which Isaiah long ago predicted Messiah should perform, and that the persons I have chosen to assist me in preaching the gospel, are such as the same prophet has pointed out for that work. He desired them also to tell their master from him, that he would do well not to be offended, either at the choice he had made of the apostles, or at no miracles being wrought for his release. 23. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me. Our Lord's answer, therefore, was designed to make the Baptist sensible of the unrea. sonableness of his discontentment, and to teach him submission in a case which was plainly above the reach of his judgment. For Christ's kingdom was to be erected, not in the method which John thought the most proper, but which he himself saw to be so. That John should have grown impatient under his long confinement, is not more surprizing than that the prophet Jonah should have been out of humour, first at the preservation of Nineveh, and then at the withering of his gourd.
Our Lord saw this matter, not as John did, but in its true light. He knew that if a miracle had been wrought for his fore-runner's deliverance, it miglit have lessened the weight of his testimony, bec use some would have alleged, that the two were combined together to advance each other's reputation. The Baptist, indeed, on a forin e occasion had been at pains to prevent all suspicion of this kind; for wh'n he testified that Jesus was Messiah, he at the saire time declared, that he did not so much as know his pretensions to the character, till he saw the Spirit descend upon him in a visible manner at his baptism, John i. 38. Besides, that which gave John Baptist such offence, was by the direction of the divine Providence made the strongest support of the gospel. The weakness of the instruments employed in preaching it, clearly demonstrated the excellency of the power by which they acted; for which reason Jesus made it twice the matter of particular thanksgiving. See Mat. xi. 25. 8.42. Luke x. 11.9 81.
But lest the people who heard John's message, should have entertained harsh thoughts of him on account of it, our Lord thought fit to set his character in its true light, Mat. xi. 7. And as they departed, (Luke, When the messengers of John were departed) Jesus began to say unto the multitudes (Luke, the people) concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? a reed shaken with the wind? that is, a man of an unstable disposition, and of a cowardly behaviour. In this question, which implies a strong negation, the invincible courage and constancy of the Baptist is applauded. His imprisonment for reproving king Herod, shewed that he was not afraid of men, and as for his constancy, though it seemed a little hurt by the message which he sent, it was not impaired by it in the least. For his faith in Christ could not but remain inviolable, as it had been founded on a particular revelation, and on the visible descent of the Spirit, accompanied with a voice from heaven, declaring him to be the Son of God. John's message, therefore, did not proceed from weakness of faith, but was the effect of discontentment, a fault which the best of men at times may fall into. 8. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing, (Luke, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in king's courts) are in king's houses. In this question, the austere mortified life of the Baptist is praised, and the spiritual nature of Messiah's kingdom insinuated. His fore-runner did not resemble any of the officers who attend the courts of earthly princes, and consequently he himself was in no respect to be like an earthly prince. 9. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? rea, I say unto you, and more (Luke, much more) than a prophet, John Baptist justly merited to be called a prophet, because he excelled in every thing peculiar to a prophet. He was commissioned by God, and had immediate communication with him, John i. 33. He foretold that the kingdom of heaven spoken of · by Daniel was at hand. He pointed out the Messiah by revelation. He declared the terrible judgments that were to befal the people on account of their impénitence, their disbelief, and their rejecting the Messiah, Luke iii. 17. To conclude, he was more than a prophet, in as much as he was Messiah's harbinger sent to prepare the way before him, an office which clothed him with a dignity superior to that of a simple prophet; not to mention that he had the honour of baptising Messiah himself. 10. For this is
ke of whom it ie written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. In this and the foregoing verse, Jesus signified to the people, that as they had gone out to John under the character of a prophet, and had be. lieved in him on the best grounds, it was their duty to retain his doctrine in their minds, and to put it in practice through the whole course of their lives. 11. Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women, there hath not risen greater (Luke, prophet) than John the Baptist; notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven, is greater than he. The least inspired teacher under the gospel dispensation is a greater prophet than John. In this latter part of the Baptist's character, our Lord tacitly condemned his mistake with respect to the gospel dispensation, which prompted him to send the angry message mentioned above,
Our Lord having thus spoken concerning John, commended the people, particularly the tax-gatherers, for having cheerfully submitted to him as a prophet sent from God. Luke vii. 29. And all the people that heard him, (viz. John) and the publicans, justi. fied God, being baptized with the baptism of John. These are not the evangelist's words, but Christ's, as is plain from this, that the people could not now get baptism from John, though our Lord's testimony had induced them to believe in him, he being
Ver. 11. Greater than John the Baptist.] Our Lord honoured the Baptist with the magnificent title of the greatest of all the propl:ets under the law, for four reasons: 1. He was the subject of ancient prophecies, and had long been expected by the people of God, under the notion of Elias, a name given him by Malachi, because he was to possess the spirit and power of Elias. See on Luke i. 17. p. 9. Thus Messiah is called David, because he was to descend from that prince and enjoy his crown, Jer. xxx. 9. Ezek. xxxiv. 23. xxxvii. 24. Hos. iii. 5. 10. This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which, &c. 2. His conception and birth had been accompanied with miracles. 3. When the season of his inspiration came, he was favoured with a clearer revelation concerning the Messiah, than had been enjoyed by any of the prophets under the law. 4. By his sermon he prepared the Jews for receiving the go pel, and consequently began that more excellent dispensation. But though the Bapti t'thus excelled all the precedent prophets, the least in. spired person in the kingdom of heaven, the least apostle or preacher of the gospel, was a greater prophet than he, becau e, by constantly attend. ing on Je u., they were much better acquainted with his character, di positions and doctrine, than the Bapti ti who had only seen him transichtly. Wherefore, in respect of their personal knowledge of Me, iah, the apostles greatly excelled the Baptist.. Farther, they were employed, not in niaking preparation for, but in erecting the Messiah's kingdom ; hence they were greater than the Baptist, in respect of the dignity of their office. More. nver, having gifts bestowed on them to fit them for that office, far superior 10 hin, they were greater in re pect of their illumination. They had the Spirit so dwelling in them, that on ail occasions they could declare thç will of God infallibly, being, as it were, living oracles. To conclude, as they had likewise been the subjects of ancient oracles, Acts ii. 16. they had long been expected by the people of God.
at this time shut up in prison. Our Lord's meaning was, that while John executed his ministry, the people, particularly the pnblicans, justified God by receiving his baptism ; or, to express the matter differently, by believing on John, and repenting of their sins they approved of, and complied with God's merciful counsel towards themselves, and so vindicated the divine wisdom in sending him. See Matt. xi. 19. This sense is confirmed by the parallel passage in Matthew, where our Lord expresses himself somewhat differently, but to the same purpose as in Luke. It is Mat. xi. 12. And from the days of John the Baptist, until now, the kingdom of heaven, the dispensation which admits all persons equally, upon their faith and repentance, suffereth violence, and the violent, the publicans believing, take it by force. 13. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come. will believe it, this is Messiah's fore-runner, whom Malachi predicted under the name of Elias. Jesus added this particular concerning John, to prove his assertion in the 12th and 13th verses, concerning the abrogation of the Mossical dispensation at the appearing of John. He was Messiah's fore-runner, and therefore the law began to wax old and vanish at his appearing. To make this connection the more plain, the Greek particle xat ought to be translated for, in which sense it is used often by the New Testament writers. The meaning, therefore, of the whole passage is this : Gentiles, tax-gatherers, soldiers, harlors, and others of the same stamp, persons of the most abandoned characters whom ye look upon as having no right to become members of the Messiah's kingdom, enter into it. And this ye think a violence done to the kingdom of heaven, but in reality it is not so, because the law and the prophets, the dispensation which makes a distinction between men, was virtually set aside at the coming of John, in whose ministry the gospel began, the dispensation which admits all persons equally, upon their faith and repentance. For if ye will believe it, he is Messiah's fore-runner, whom Malachi predicted under the name of Elias. The words with which our Lord closed this branch of his discourse are remarkable : « He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” As Dr Clarke observes, they are a strong and general appeal unto the reason and understanding of all unprejudiced and impartial men, and an exhortation to them to use the powers of reason and understanding which God hath given them. They are highly expressive of the authority of the person who speaks, of the reasonableness, truth, and excellency of the thing that is spoken, and of the capacity which men have, and the obligations they are under, to hearken to and obey what is thus delivered unto them. Hence they are often used by Christ when he is speaking things of great importance, and which deserve the serious consideration of mankind. Mat. xi. 15. He