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denounced by name in his first work, the Apocalypse. The other motive was to supply those important circumstances in our Saviour's life, or doctrine, which the other three evangelists had omitted. He is dif. fuse upon the cardinal points of Christ's divinity, incarnation, and atonement; the personality and office of the Holy Ghost; the supernatural assistance to be communicated to the apostles, and other subjects of a like import; but the moral discourses of our Lord, which had been fully recorded by the other evangelists, he passes over more lightly, confining himself rather to those which are doctrinal, and which overthrow the heresies that had already begun, and which still continue, to grieve the Spirit, and to trouble the church, of Christ. To St. John, however, we are also indebted for the record of our Lord's first miracle at the wedding in Cana, the remarkable interview between our Saviour and Nicodemus, the conversation with the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and some other miracles.
- There was a man sent from God, whose name was
John.” John, i. 6. John the Baptist was that “ burning and shining light” divinely appointed to be, in the spirit and power of Elias, the messenger and forerunner of the Messiah. The mission of John the Baptist forms the connecting link between the Old Testament and the New. Besides the emphatic prediction of his coming and office contained in Isaiah, the volume of prophecy, and therewith the sacred canon of the Old Testament, closes with two remarkable announce
ments respecting him, as the envoy of Christ, by Malachi, the last of the Jewish prophets, who flourished about four hundred years before the Christian
He thus describes the coming of the Lord and his precursor : Behold I will send my messenger, And he shall prepare the way before me : And the Lord, whom ye seek, Shall suddenly come to his temple ; Even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight
Behold He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
But unto you that fear my name
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord; and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the chil. dren, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
These are the last words of the inspired volume of the Old Testament. The New opens with a history of the events which compose the fulfilment of these predictions by the mission of John Baptist. The Gospel according to St. Mark commences, as does the third chapter of that according to St. Matthew, by a direct reference to Isaiah's prophecy, and a narrative of its fulfilment in the person of John.
proaching fulfilment of the predictions of Malachi is recorded in the first chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, where the angel Gabriel announces to the father of the Baptist the wonderful and preternatural birth of the promised child, who shall go before the incarnate God “in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just ; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Now Elias, or Elijah, (for the former name, which occurs in the New Testament, is the Greek method of writing the latter, which, as being the Hebrew form, is retained in our translation of the Old Testament,)* was one of the most celebrated of the Jewish prophets, and was esteemed by the Jews themselves as second to none but Moses.
On a reference to his history, in the books of Kings, we find, that in the performance of the sacred office which God commissioned him to fill, he was conspicuous for the plainness of his way of life, of his appearance, and apparel ; an abstemious man, dwelling in the wilderness, clad in raiment of hair, with a girdle of leather about his loins. He was remarkable for the severe simplicity of his manners, as well as for his ardent zeal and indefatigable activity. It is needless to point out the striking simi. larity in the mode of life, the simple garb, and the austere character, of John the Baptist.
The Spirit of God rested upon Elijah: the Baptist was with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb. Elijah's office was to withdraw the Jews from their idolatry and wickedness to the worship of the true God: the Baptist's was to reprove, exhort, and persuade the descendants of the same Jews, that they should forsake their sins, and prepare themselves, by repentance and reformation, for the coming of the Lord. Elijah was commissioned to denounce the vengeance of heaven upon his perverse countrymen, unless they speedily repented: John was to warn them to flee from the impending wrath of God, which was about to overtake them with a swift destruction, except they should repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance. The persecutions of Ahab, and the lawless proceedings of the idolatrous Jezebel, could not, until they forced hiin to flee for his life, quench the ardour or stifle the rebukes of Elijah : the cruelty of Herod, and the malice of his paramour, Herodias, availed not, till they caused his imprisonment and murder, to check the stern reproofs of the Baptist.
* Thus also Esaias is written for Isaiah, and Eliseus for Elisha.
But what then are we to make of his own well known reply to the express question, " Art thou Elias ?” and how are we to reconcile it with the not less express declaration of our Lord, that the Baptist was the promised prophet who was to precede, and to prepare for, the Messiah's coming ? The question is thus answered by a distinguished prelate, whose life and works continue to adorn and edify our Church :
“ The Jews, misunderstanding the prediction of Malachi which foretold the coming of the Lor and supposing that He was to come in power and majesty, to confer on the sons of Jacob dominion over the Gentiles, and make Jerusalem the metropolis of the world, expected that Elijah the Tishbite would, in his own person, return from heaven, as the Lord's
messenger and forerunner.
In answer, therefore, to their question, John denied that he was that very Elijah whose actions are recorded in the books of Kings; and whom, according to their erroneous interpretation of Scripture, the Jews supposed him to be. At the same time, by his reply to their ensuing question, 'Who art thou ? What sayest thou of thyself?' he pointed out the way to a correct in. terpretation of the words, and, in fact, asserted to himself the character subsequently attributed to him by our Lord. 'I am,' said he,' the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.' The messenger of the Lord had been foretold by Isaiah and by Malachi under different appellations, but with an identity of office and performances. By Isaiah he had been described as the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness ;' by Malachi * Elijah the prophet ;' by both as engaged in the same employment of ' preparing the way of the Lord. To assume one of these appellations was by consequence to assume the other : so that when John expressly affirmed of himself, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way
of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias, it was in substance and effect as if he had also affirmed, I am the messenger of the Lord, sent prepare
the way before him,' as said the prophet Malachi ; the predicted Elijah, not in sameness of person indeed, as you erroneously expect him, but in similarity of spirit and of power.”'