George Horne.

Considerations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist online

. (page 6 of 7)
Online LibraryGeorge HorneConsiderations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist → online text (page 6 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

SBCT.VI." things are paft away; behold, all
things are become new V
THE Baptift, having now lived to
fee the Lord's Chrift, and mew him to
the world, was ready, like old Simeon,
to depart in peace, and to make over
his difciples to a better Matter, who
would never leave them, nor forfake
them. Again, the next day after,
'* John flood, and two of his difciples ;
" and looking upon Jefus as he walked,
" he faith, Behold the Lamb of God."
Happy the Chriftian minifter, who, like
St. John, lives only to point out the
Saviour to his people. And happy the
people, who, like the two difciples,,
thereupon follow Jefus, enquire where
he dwelleth, enter in, and abide with

To one of St. 'John's difpofition it
could not but be matter of concern to
find envy and jealoufy ftirring in the
breads of his difciples, on account of
the increafmg fame of Jefus, as being
likely to eclipfe that of their mafter.
For on occaiion of a difpute which had
happened about purification by baptifm

* z Cor. v. 14.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. m

(difputes being feldom managed fo
not to produce ill-will ) they came
" unto John, and faid unto him, Rabbi,
* he that was with thee beyond Jordan,
" to whom thou beareft witnefs, be-
" hold, the fame baptizeth, and all
* men come unto him a j" intimating,
that John was in danger of lofmg both
his credit and his difciples, by means
of one, whom they took for a diiciple,
like themfelves, as he had been bapti-
zed by the fame matter. So ready are
men, at every turn, to form parties in
religion, and to fet up their refpedlive
teachers in oppofition to each other ;
the confequences of which are, that
the hearers wafte that time in wrang-
ling about a duty, which mould be
fpent in praclifmg it ; and the teachers,
if they have not good hearts and fteady
heads, preach themfelves, inftead of
preaching Jefus Chrift. "All men come
* to him ! " Great hath been the power
of this argument to kindle the flames of
emulation and diffcntion in the church ;
and the difciples of John did not doubt
but that the confideration would excite

a John iii. 26, Sec,


ii2 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.VI. in him thofc paffions, which they felt
working within themfelvcs.

BUT he was not framed of materials
liable to take fire from fuch a fparfc.
On the contrary, a perufal of the dif-
courfe which this addrefs procured from
him, is enough at any time to extin-
guifh it, where it may have fallen. He
made ufe of the incident, to bear his
laft and moft noble teftimony to the
power and majefty of his Lord. So far
was he from being offended, or chagri-
ned, becaufe all men reforted to Jefus,
that he triumphed in it, as his glory and
his joy, as the very end for which he
was fent into the world, to preach and
to baptize. As if he had faid

WHY are ye jealous, and why do
envious thoughts arife in your hearts ?
Look not to me, or to any thing that is
in me, but to God, who made me what
I am, placed me in the ftation, and
called me to the office defigned for me -,
" a man can receive," or take to him-
felf, " nothing, except it be given him
* from above." And ye know the cha-
racter in which I have ever acted ; " Ye
" yourfelves bear me witnefs, that I

" faid,

of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 113

c< faid, I am not the Chrift, but that ISECT.VI.
" am fent before him," as his mefienger
and minifter, not to aflemble difciples
in mine own name, but to prepare men
for him, and direct men to him. If
therefore ye fet fo much by my autho-
rity, why do ye not credit my teftimo-
ny ? To Mefiiah, not to me, the church
is to be gathered and united -, and " he
* that hath the bride is the bridegroom :
"but the friend of the bridegroom,'*
who hath been honoured with a (hare
in bringing about fo happy an event,
and who, when it is brought about,
" itandeth and heareth him" converling
with his fpoufe, cannot therefore be
grieved and vexed ; he cannot envy the
felicity of the bridegroom, or deiire to
take the bride from him ; but moft-af-
furedly congratulates with him, and
" rejoiceth greatly becaufe of the bride-
" groom's voice," finding that he hath
fo well fucceeded in the work in which
he was employed. This is my very cafe,
when you come and tell me, that all
men refort to the perfon, of whom I
have fo often teftified, that he is the
Chrift ; " this my joy therefore is ful-
P "filled."

H4 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.VI." filled." I have no greater pleafure
*-^s^> than to hear, that difciples go from me
to him. As the morning ftar, I only
fhone to proclaim the approach of the
fun. Now he is rifen, I go down $
*' he muft increafe, but I muft decreafe;"
he will mine more and more unto the
perfect day, while I fhall fet, and dif-
appear. And reafon good why it fliould
be fo. That which is preparatory muft
give place to that which is perfective -,
a baptifm of water muft yield to a bap-
tifm of fire $ an human inftruftor muft
cede to one that is divine. " He that
" is of the earth is earthly, and fpeak>
" eth of the earth ;" in fpite of his beft
endeavours, he will favour of his origi-
nal, and there will be an alloy of duft
and afhes in all he faith j whereas " he
" that cometh from heaven," I mean
the blelTed perfon of whom ye are fo
jealous, " is above all" the children of
Adam. When this fun mineth in his
ftrength, every flar is obfcured, and the
world will perceive the difference be-
tween the difcourfes of the Mafter and
thofe of the fervant, as readily as it dif-
tinguiilaeth the glories of the day from


cf St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 115

the pale luftre and faint glimmering of SECT.VI.
thofe orbs, which ferve in fome mea-
Cure to difpel the darknefs of the night,
According to the grace given unto me,
I have declared the kingdom of heaven
to be at hand; but when Meffiah fpeaks
of that kingdom, he fpeaks from his
own knowlege ; " what he hath feen
" and heard, that he teftifieth ;" and
yet, though I have faid fo much of him,
and fo many go to hear him, " no man
" receiveth his teftimony," as he ought
to do. Think not this a flight matter,
for no one can difbelieve him, without
giving God the lie ; he that hath re-
" ceived his teflimony, hath fet to his
" feal, that God is true," by allowing
the credentials of his Son, and acknow-
ledging in him the accomplifhment of
what was foretold by the law, by the
prophets, and by myfelf. " For he,"
the MefTjah, " whom God hath fent,
" fpeaketh the words of God," and
that in a different fenfe from all others,
who, from time to time, have been
endued with fuch a portion of the di-
vine influence as was meet for them ;
but " God giveth not the Spirit by
P 2 ' mea-

1 1 6 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.VJ. te m eafure unto him," having decreed,
that in him mould all fulnefs dwell.
" For the Father loveth the Son," not
as he loveth any of his faithful fervants,
but fo as that ' he hath put all things
" into his hand," difpenfing glory, ho-
nour, and immortality to mankind,
through him alone. Be no longer en-
vious and jealous, then, of his great-
nefs, which is your falvation. If you
would honour me, and at the fame time
ferve your own eternal intereft, receive,
in few words, the fum and fubftance

of this my laft teftimony " He

" that believeth on the Son, hath ever-
" lafting life : and he that believeth
" not the Son, mall not fee life -, but
" the wrath of God abideth on him.'*
B Y this part of St. Johns character
and conduct, in how pleating a manner
are the minifters of Chrift inftructed,
that they are to bear teftimony to him,
not to themfelves ; to feek his glory,
not their own ; that they mould take
pleafure in the fuccefs of their breth-
ren's labours, by which the caufe of
their common Mailer is promoted ; that


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 117

the rifing lights of the church mould SECT.VI.
do honour to thofe who have gone be- ^
fore them, and the fetting ones rejoice
to be outfhone by thofe who are coming
after them ; that envy and jealoufy, in
fhort, ought to have no place among
the difciples of the Lamb of God, on
whom defcended and abode the deleftial


1 1 8 ConfideratiQns on the Life and Death


Confederations on the imprifonment of Sf.
John, the mejfage fent by him to
Cbriji, and the anfwer returned to A DM I R ABLE is the advice of the
j[~\ fon of Sirach to every one who
is about to ftand forth in the caufe of
true religion. " My fon, if thou come
" to ferve the Lord, prepare thy foul
* for temptation. Set thy heart aright,
" and conftantly endure, and make not
" hafte in time of trouble. Whatfo-*
" ever is brought upon thee take cheer-
" fully, and be patient when thou art
" changed to a low eftate. For gold is
" tried in the fire, and acceptable men
" in the furnace of adveriity V The
reformer will proceed but a little way
in his work, whofe zeal is not backed
with fortitude. The apprehenfion of
danger, or even the frown of power,

* Ecclcf. ii. I.


ef St. JOHN tht BAPTIST. 119

will alter his fentiments; he will fee Scft.vil.
things in a different point of view, and
turn with every blaft of famion or in-
tereft, till he himfelf believes every
thing, and his hearers, offended and
confounded, believe nothing.

NOT fo the Baptift. " What went ye
" out into the wildernefs to fee ? A reed
" fhaken with the wind V No: a co-
lumn firm and immoveable, againfl
which winds might blow, and waves
beat, in vain ; one who had fixed his
principles, and confidered well, before
he entered upon action ; one who be-
gan not to build, till he had firft count-
ed the cofts -, but who, when once he
did begin, would be fure to finim.

A PERSON unacquainted with the
world, and the tempers of it's child-
ren, might, perhaps, be furprized upon.
hearing, that a prophet, like St. ffi/w,
who fpent his time in calling his fellow
creatures to happinefs and falvation, and
who coveted no man's gold, or filver,
or -apparel, was caft into prilbn. But,
as the wife man obferveth, " The thing
" which hath been is that which {hall

* Matt. xi. 7.


j 20 Confideratlons on the Life and Death

Seft.VH. t be, and there is nothing new under
" the fun V Ahab, at the infligation
of Jezebel, again thirfts after the blood
of Elijah.

HEROD, the tetrarch of Galilee, had
put away his own wife, the daughter
of Aretas, and had married Herodias,
the wife of his brother Philip, whom,
contrary to the laws of hofpitality as
well as religion, he had feduced, while
a gueft in her hufband's houfe b . The
fanctity and integrity of the Baptift had
begotten, even in Herod, a great vene-
ration and reverence for his character.
" Herod feared John, knowing that he
" was a juft man, and an holy, an4 ob-
" ferved him, and when he heard him,
" he did many things, and heard him
" gladly ." But the matter of Herodias
was a tender point, on which the te-
trarch was not difpofed to hear the law,
becaufe he was not difpofed to do it.
He was determined to perfevere in what
was wrong, and his monitor to perfift
in telling him of it, without referve.

a Ecclef. i. 9.

fc See Jofepbus Antiq. Lib. xviii. Cap. 6.

c Mark vi. 20.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 121

" John faid unto him, It is not lawful Scct.vii.
" for thee to have thy brother's wife." ^~v~^
John, who had overcome the world,
could not, either by pfomifes or threat-
nings, be induced to recede from his
duty, through hope of temporal good,
or fear of temporal evil. He was there-
fore foon convinced, by being carried
to prifon, that Herod had no farther
occafion for his fervice. And who doth
not rather wiih to have been imprifoned
with him, than to have glittered in all
the glories of the throne of Herod ?
Happy John, fequeftered once more
from a troublefome world, to COnVeffe
with God, and to meditate on that
bleffed place, and that blefled company,
to which he was now haftening !

IN this fituation we find the thoughts
of the Baptift employed not upon^ his
own fufferings, but upon the interefts
of his great Matter, the fame of whofe
miracles had reached the prifon, and
founded in his ears. " When John had
" heard in prifon the works of Jefus,
' he fent two of his difciples a "
Thus the afflictions and tribulations

* Matt. xi. 2, &c,


122 Conjiderations on the Life and Death

Seft.vii. which a Chriilian muft endure for a
little feafon, in the world, fhould ferve
only to quicken his defires after his Re-
deemer, of whofe works, wrought in
mercy for the children of men, he will
often hear ; and the contemplation of
them mould afford him continual de-
light in the time of his captivity, until
the day of his enlargement mall come.
With Paul and Silas let him declare the
glad tidings of falvation, and iing the
praifes of God in the prifon-houfe. Let
him enquire diligently, and take every
opportunity of hearing more particulars
concerning his Saviour, as alfo of pla-
cing others in the way of information.
So will he copy the example of him,
who, " when he heard in prifon the
" works of Jefus, fent two of his dif-
" ciples," that they might be more
fully inftructed, as to his perfon and

FOR that this muft have been St.
"John's intention in fending them, is
plain from the queftion which they were
enjoined to afk ; "Art thou he that
" mould come, or do we look for an-
" other ?" The Baptiil could not pro-


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 123

pofe this queftion for his own informa- Sea.vil.
tion, but evidently for that of his dif-
ciples, whofe prejudices in favour of
hirnfelf, their firft mafter, he found it
fo difficult to conquer. What he had
hitherto faid having proved infufficient
for that purpofe, he now, in companion
to their infirmity, condefcendeth to
have their fcruples propounded in his
own name ; affording us thereby a
very ufeful hint, that in order to in-
ftru6t others, we mould abafe ourfelves,
and know how to become weak with
thofe who are fo. For it often hap-
pens, that men need information upon
fome important point, who either thro'
pride or bafhfulnefs will not afk it, or
through paffion and prejudice will not
receive it at our hands. In this cafe,
the good, which we cannot do dife&ly,
we muft contrive, if we can, to do in-
directly, by propofing thofe queftions
ourfelves, which we know that others
in company want to hear anfwered, but
cannot bring themfelves to afk. This
method of edifying the weak, without
expofing their infirmities, will produce
in them that love and confidence to-


i 24 Confederations on the Life and Death wards us, which, for their own fakes,
W e wifh them to have. Whereas a con-
trary conduct, by provoking and alie-
nating their affections from us, may
put it out of our power ever to be of
iervice to them again.

THE fame charitable plan is carried
on by our Lord, who, in his anfwer,
inftructs the difciples, by feeming to
inftrucl: their mafter ; "Go (faith he)
" and tell 'John what ye have feen and
" heard." And this may fuggeft a rea-
fon, why Chriftians in general mould
converfe more upon religious fubje&s,
than they are wont to do, both afking
queftions, like St. John, and returning
anfwers, like Chrift, for the benefit and
improvement of the by-ftanders, who
may need information, through the per-
fon to whom one immediately addreifeth
onefelf, mould not. And many a man
hath been the better, all his life after,
for a feafonable word fpoken in com-
mon converfation, which is often more
regarded and attended to, than a formal
difcourfe from the pulpit.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 125

TH E beft proofs of a divine miffion,
which man is capable of receiving, are
miracles, evidently and inconteflably
fuch -, miracles, of the reality of which
the outward fenfes, the eyes and the
ears, are competent judges ; miracles
wrought publickly in the face of the
world, in the prefence of enemies as
well as friends ; and that, not once, or
twice, but repeatedly \ and thefe mi-
racles expreflly predicted, hundreds of
years beforehand. Such were the proofs
offered by Chrift to the difciples of
John. For " in that fame hour," while
they were prefent, and before their eyes,
" he cured many of their infirmities and
t( plagues, and of evil fpirits, and unto
" many that were blind he gave fight.
" Then faid he unto them, Go your
" way, and tell John what things ye
" have feen and heard ; how that the
" blind fee, the lame walk, the lepers
" are cleanfed, the deaf hear, the dead
" are raifed, to the poor the gofpel is
' preached. And bleffed is he whofo-
" ever mall not be offended in me." As
if he had faid ; I bear not witnefs of
rnyfelf ; my miracles bear witnefs of me.


126 Confederations on the Life and Death

Only tell John what you have heard and
feen, and he will teach you how to
" draw the proper inference. Ifaiah, as
he well knoweth, did foretell, that
when Meffiah came, he would perform
fuch and fuch mighty works. You
yourfelves are eye and ear witnefles of
the works done by me. Lay the pre-
mifes fairly together, and you cannot
be to feek for the conclufion.

JOHN had engaged his reputation as
a prophet, that Jefus of Nazareth,
whom he baptized in Jordan, would
anfwer the character of Meffiah, and
do the works predicted of him ; as ap-
pears from John x. 39. where we read,
that Jefus, having efcaped from the
Jews, " went again beyond Jordan,
" unto the place where John at firft
" baptized ; and there he abode. And
" many reforted unto him, and faid,
" John did no miracle : but all things
" that John fpake of this man were
" true. And many believed on him
" there." Malice itielf cannot find rea-
fon to fufpect a collufion, when pro-
phecies and -miracles thus unite their


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 127

teftimony, and proclaim Jefus to be the Scft.Vir.

AT his word, " the eyes of the blind
" were opened, and the ears of the deaf
" unftopped - y the lame man leaped as
" an hart, and the tongue of the dumb
"did fing V' the leprofy, that foul,
contagious, and obftinate difeafe, for
which fo many ceremonies of purifica-
tion were appointed by the law, was
healed at once ; and the dead in their
graves, hearing the voice of the fon of
man, came forth. Every malady and
infirmity, to which the children of
Adam were fubject, vanimed at his pre-
fence, and confefled the almighty deli-
verer of his people. This, therefore,
is " He that fhould come," nor let us
think of " looking for another," to
open the eyes of the understanding, and
let in the light of heavenly knowlege
upon ignorant and benighted minds ;
to remove all obftruclions, formed by
intereft, prejudice, or paffion, and give
us the hearing ear ; to reftore and invi-
gorate the will and affections, that we
may make large advances in the courfe

* Ifai. xxxv. j, 6.


128 Confederations, on the Life and "Death

. of duty, and run with delight the way
of God's commandments ; to loofe the
tongues which guilt hath tied, and
tune them to hymns of praife and thankf-
giving ; to cleanfe us, by his blood,
from all fin, that leprofy which exclu-
deth from the congregation of Ijrael,
the camp of the faints, and the beloved
city ; to raife our fouls from death to
life, and our bodies from duft to glory.
" We have found him of whom Mofes
< in the law, and the prophets did
write Rabbi, thou art the Son of
" God, thou art the King of Ifrael a !"
TH E R E is one particular in this an-
fwer of Chrifb, which remaineth yet
unnoticed , " The poor have the gofpcl
" preached unto them." Our Lord here
referreth to the celebrated paffage in
Ifaiah, which, in the fynagogue of

* Nazareth, he had expounded, and de-
clared to be fulfilled in himfelf. " The
" Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
" becaufe he hath anointed me to preach
" good tidings," or the Gofpel, " to
" the meek," or poor -, " he hath fent
' me to proclaim liberty to the captives,

b John i. 45, 49,


of S/. JOHN the BAPTIST. 129

" to comfort all that mourn, to give Sea VU.
" them beauty for afhes, the oil of joy'
' for mourning a ," &c. The meaning
of all the figurative expreffions here
ufed by the prophet, is this ; that Mef-
fiah mould, at his appearance, confer
upon fuch as were difpofed to receive
them, the two great evangelical blef-
iings, viz. remiflion of fins, and a par-
ticipation of the Spirit of joy and glad-
nefs, with which God had " anointed
" him above his fellows." The inau-
guration of Jefus to all the offices of the
Meffiah, by this divine unction, John
had beheld, when, after his baptifm,
he faw the Holy Ghoft defcending upon
him, and thereby knew him to be that
" Rod," or "Branch of Jefle," on whom
Ifaiah had elfewhere foretold, that " the
" Spirit of the Lord mould reft b ."
Nothing therefore could be more appo-
fite, than this part of Chrift's anfwer,
." The poor have the Gofpel preached
" unto them ;" the full import of which,
confidered as referring to the LXi ft chap-
ter of Ifaiah, and addreffed to St. John*

Ifai. Ixi. i.
b Ibid. xi. i, 2,

R is

136 ConfiJerdtiohs on the Life and Dtatk

Scft.Vii. is as followeth Co fhew John again,
that the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit
of wifdom and underftanding, the Spirit
of might and counfel, which Ifaiah
foretold mould reft upon the Rod and
Branch of JefTe, and which John faw
defcending and abiding upon me, in the
likenefs of a dove, at my baptifm, is
not departed from me. The unction of
the Spirit was not given me for mine
own ufe ; nor is it fpent, or confumed,
although it hath powerfully diffufed it-
felf to all about me. By it the poor are
made rich, being inflated in the king-
dom of grace and of the gofpel, and
anointed heirs unto the kingdom of
glory. By it every contrite heart is
healed ; fuch as were mut up are fet at
liberty; fuch as were bound are loofed;
and by it the yoke of the opprefibr is
broken 1 .

WE muft not omit to mention the
end for which, according to the pro-
phet, all thefe changes were wrought
in the converts to the Gofpel ; " That
" they might be called Trees of Right-
" eoufnefs, the planting of the Lord,

See the Works of Dr Jackfon, Vol.ii. p. 542.

" that

of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 131

< that he might be glorified." The Sea.vil.
< Rod," the Branch of Jeffe,"
ff Righteous Branch of David," were
the known titles of the Meffiah, or Son
of David ; and it was his glory, while
he lived upon earth, to make others,
like himfelf, Trees," or " Plants of
*f Righteoufnefs." This expreffion, as
it flandeth here joined with others
plainly defcrjptive of evangelical bene*-
fits and comforts, upfoldeth to us J:he
true nature of thofe wonders which
Ifaiah foretold mould be wrought in the
wildernefs, and which he hath repre-
fented under fo rich a variety of poeti-
cal imagery ; fuch as, ftreams of water
breaking forth in the defarts, caufing
them to blofibm as the rofe ; myrtles
coming up, inftead of briars ; cedars,
firs, and olive trees, inftead of thorns,
&c. The purport of thefe figurative
predictions appears, by the paflage be-
fore us, to be this ; that the dry and
barren places of Judea 9 where John
baptized, and preached repentance,
ihould, in the days of the Mefiiah, be-
come a fruitful nurfery of a new kind
of plants, prepared for the celeftial pa-
R 2 radife.

Confederations on tke Life and Death Thefe were men of humble,
peaceable, contrite hearts ; fuch as po-
verty and difeafe had rendered thofe
who came to be healed by Chrift, and
the confideration of our fins and infir-
mities mould render us all. To fuch is
the gofpel of the kingdom preached,
and they with joy receive it. "Bleffed
" are the poor in fpirit ; for theirs is
" the kingdom of heaven. Blefled are
" the meek ; for they mall inherit the
" earth. Bleffed are they that mourn ;
" for they mail be comforted/'

To thefe beatitudes let us add one
more, with which our Lord concludeth
his anfwer to the queftion alked by
John's difciples. " Bleffed is he whofo-
" ever is not offended in me." In other

words And now, bleffed, thrice

bleffed are all they, who mall fo conli-
der the wonderful works done by me,
as not to be offended at my poor and
lowly appearance, during the time of
my humiliation and fuffering here on
earth j or at the feeming harlhnefs of
my falutary dodtrines to flem and blood.
For I well know, that many, though
they have beheld me giving fight to the


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 133

blind, and vigour to the impotent > Sea. VJi.

1 2 3 4 6

Online LibraryGeorge HorneConsiderations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist → online text (page 6 of 7)