Sermon 2818. Jesus and His Forerunner
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, FEBRUARY 15, 1903.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JUNE 24, 1877.
"Therefore they sought again to take Him: but He escaped out of their hands, and went away again beyond the Jordan to theplace where John at first baptized, and there He abode. And many resorted unto Him and said, John did no miracle: but allthings that John spoke of this Man were true. And many believed on Him there." John 10:39-42.
THE unbelieving and infuriated Jews again and again took up stones to cast at our Lord and here they sought to take Him prisoner,but He escaped from them, apparently with the greatest possible ease. He did this on several occasions. When the men of Nazarethwould have cast Him down, headlong, from the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, He passed through the midst ofthem and went His way. He made His escape, over and over again, in the same wonderful manner, thus proving that He was notin the power of any man. He need not, therefore, at the last, have died unless His death had been in accordance with His ownwill. He might have appealed to His Father and He would have given Him legions of angels for His deliverance. Or He might,as Elijah did, have called for fire from Heaven to destroy those who sought to arrest Him. His Divine power would never havebeen at any loss in providing means for His own protection. He might, readily enough, have slain those who came to take Himin the garden-and He might even have come down from the Cross, if He had pleased thus to prove what power He possessed.
Yet He did not so act, but voluntarily laid down His life, according to His own words, "I lay down My life, that I might takeit again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.This commandment have I received of My Father." Let us, then, bless and praise Him for that wondrous, voluntary, substitutionarydeath upon the tree! It was for our sins that He suffered. There was no reason for His death except that which was found inour dire necessities and in His own great heart of love. Whenever we think of the sufferings of Christ upon the Cross, letus remember how spontaneous was the Sacrifice by which He redeemed us from sin, death and Hell. Blessed, forever blessed,be the name of this willing Friend of guilty men! And let us, in similar fashion, always be ready to serve Him. Let the willingnessof Christ bring forth willingness in us-let us not be as bullocks unaccustomed to the yoke, but cheerfully let us take Hisyoke upon us and learn of Him. May the Lord grant us Grace, not merely to be willing, but even to be eager for His service,as He was eager to serve us, for He could truly say, "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till itis accomplished!"
Another thought is suggested by our Lord's action. When He was driven from one place by the unbelief and malice of His adversaries,He did not, therefore, retire altogether from His service. If He could not speak to the people in the streets of Jerusalem,He would find a place of audience in the desert beyond the Jordan, but, somewhere or other, He would be seeking the welfareof men. He went about doing good. They could not stop His mouth, whatever they might do. When they, again and again, in oneplace, took up stones to stone Him, He saw that His testimony would be useless to them, for it had already only increasedtheir condemnation, so He went off to another place, away from those furious persecutors, that others might listen to themessage of mercy which they had despised and rejected. Jesus was always working, always teaching, always blessing and, tothis day, He is still diligent in His service on behalf of the sons of men. From the highest Throne of Glory He scatters downmercies and favors with both hands, by day and by night, upon us,
His unworthy creatures! As He continues thus to serve us, let us continue to serve Him. And if He is unwearied, let us beunwearied, too. If we can do little or nothing for Him in one place, let us find another spot where we can serve Him, butnever let us lay down our charge till we also lay down our lives-never let us case to work until we cease to live! May thismind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus our Lord!
I. Now to come more closely to the subject of this evening's meditation, the first thing that I see in the text is A FRUITFULPLACE OF MINISTRY-"Beyond the Jordan." Our Savior preached in the place where John at first baptized, "and many believed onHim there."
It is not every place that is fruitful, for there are some portions of the field, which is the world, that are like the wayside,where the birds of the air come and take away the seed as soon as it is sown. There are other parts where the soil is veryshallow-and there the seed springs up only to perish in the heat of the sun. Our Savior had been in many places where He wasunsuccessful as a preacher, where He was absolutely rejected of men and His message altogether despised. For when He spokethe Truth of God, they even called it blasphemy and took up stones that they might stone Him as one unfit to live! Christianministers may have to work in such places, yet they are always glad when they get on the soil that yields a hundred-fold.They are delighted if their Master bids them cast the net where there are great shoals of fish. Our Savior was evidently insuch a spot when He was preaching "beyond the Jordan."
Notice about this place, first, that it was a place of retreat from persecution. I do not think that we should ever look uponthe most violent opposition to the Gospel as anything to be altogether lamented, for, even in this instance, it is just afterthe Jews have said that Christ blasphemed and have sought to stone or to seize Him, that He is most successful in His preaching!You may regard it as a very safe rule that when the devil roars, it is because he has been hit pretty hard and that wheneverthere is the most rage against the Gospel, it is one evidence of the Gospel's growing power! To go and preach in a town, orvillage, or hamlet and to be scarcely noticed-to deliver your testimony for Christ and yet to produce no visible effect ofany kind-is horrible. But if all the hosts of Hell are stirred up against you and men even begin to act despitefully to thepreacher, you may take courage and rest assured that something is being done! Depend upon it, there would not be all thatstir and uproar unless the Lord's power had gone with His Word to the hearts and consciences of men. We are not to cease ourpreaching because of opposition, but we are then to be more earnest and zealous than ever-possibly, in another place, as itwas in our Lord's case-but still, our testimony for our Lord is to be given somewhere! After the thunderstorm will often bethe very best time for sowing the good seed of the Kingdom. It was so in our Savior's experience for He had, there, a mostfruitful season after He had met with the most violent and bitter opposition.
If I am addressing any servant of God who has been passing through a season of fierce persecution, let him be encouraged!Brother, when the night is over, the day will be all the brighter because of the blackness that preceded it. So, be hopefulthat after the wearing and wearying time of opposition that you have had, you will come into smoother waters and that Godwill bless you yet more abundantly.
Perhaps another reason why that place was so fruitful was because it was a retired spot It was "beyond the Jordan." It wasaway from the noise and strife of Jerusalem. Those who were there had evidently traveled a considerable distance with thedesire to hear the Savior. In the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus preached to many who did not want to hear. And we must do thesame, for we are to preach the Gospel to every creature. But I think we have the best hope of doing good when people taketrouble to come to hear us-when they journey for miles to the place of preaching-when they are removed from their ordinaryassociations and feel that they can, in quiet, listen to the Word. Chrysostom once preached a sermon upon the last verse ofmy text, dwelling especially upon the word, "there"-"many believed on Him there'" Very singularly he accounts for the largernumbers of women who are converted, beyond the number of men, from the fact that women are more at home than men are, andhave more quiet times for reflection and consideration upon the Word. I lay no stress upon that thought, but it has occurredto me, also, and when I met with it in Chrysostom, I thought that there might be some force about it, for we do need quiettimes in which we can think of Divine things.
Some of you men are busy all day long-up early in the morning and then right on till late at night. You are hacking and soaringaway about your worldly business and you do not get time to sit down and calmly calculate this problem, "What shall it profita man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Let me persuade you to sometimes go into the desert and resta while. Surely, Heaven is worth a little thought if it is to be gained! It must be worth-
while to secure the necessary time for thought about how we are to escape from Hell and to be delivered from sin. I thinkthat if you-especially on Sabbath afternoons, between the morning and evening services-I mean, you unconverted people-wouldset apart an hour or even half an hour to really look into your case, to come to close dealings with yourselves and your God,we would preach in the evening with very great hope of blessing because such hearers would have come to us prepared and anxiousto learn the way of salvation. Do you not know that when you go to a place of worship you will generally catch what you fishfor? Some of you come because the preacher is thought to be eccentric-you will, possibly, hear something which will confirmyou in that idea. But, if you come because you want to hear of Jesus Christ and to find salvation, you will get what you comefor! It is the will of the Lord that those who seek shall find. I think there is something very suggestive in the fact thatthis fruitful place was a quiet spot away from the crowds and bustle of Jerusalem.
And, again, one reason why our Lord was so successful on this occasion when many believed on Him was, no doubt, that He hada large congregation. I t is first said that "many resorted unto Him." And then that "many believed on Him." It is a self-evidentfact that you cannot have many converts if you do not have many hearers. Hence, we delight to see the House of Prayer crowded.We are glad that when we cast the net we cast it among multitudes of fish. If a man can preach the Gospel to half a dozenpeople, he ought to do it with all his might-and if God should give him the souls of that half dozen hearers, it will be anabundant reward for him. But if there are any means by which half a dozen thou-sandsof people can be brought to hear the Word,we may hope that the converts will be multiplied in equal proportion if God the Holy Spirit is pleased to bless the Word!At any rate, the greater the number of the preacher's hearers, the greater is the likelihood of blessing to a large numberof people. This puts an end, I think, to the foolish talk about the finest thought of the age being always delivered to anelite company of very few special individuals. If you preach with great thoughtfulness, especially after the style of themodern school of thought, you cannot expect that the multitude will come to hear you. Very well, then, let us not preach inthat way, for, "the greatest good to the greatest number" should be the motto of every man who loves his race and desiresits highest well-being. Let us endeavor to so adapt our style, if we are preachers of the Word, that the multitude will bewilling to hear and will be able to understand-for then we may hope that with the blessing of God, many will be converted.
But, once more, our Lord had met with a fruitful place because it was a place of fragrant memories. For what was that spot,"beyond the Jordan," already noted? It was "the place where John at first baptized"-where, in fact, Jesus Himself had beenbaptized by John! We believe not in the sacredness of places, but, still, where a good man has labored for the Master, thereoften lingers a holy fragrance which is a means of blessing to others. Many of those people had probably heard John's testimonyof his Lord. And the trees by the river's edge, and the flowing stream would always remind them of the Baptist, who thereurged them to repent of their sins. Now the good man is dead and buried, but the soil which he had plowed is the better preparedfor the Master's seed-sowing. And the Master knows that He will have all the greater harvest in that place because John hasbeen there before Him. O my Brothers and Sisters, it will be a grand thing for us to have so lived that when we are dead andgone, those who come after us will have all the easier task because of our service for the Savior! You Sunday school teachersare often like John the Baptist-you get the youthful minds ready for the preacher's instruction and you who have, perhaps,been preaching for years without success, may, nevertheless, be John the Baptists to others who will come after you and whomay be the means of blessing to those for whom you think you have labored in vain. When I go to some places to preach, I feelthat I am sowing upon stony ground, but if the preacher before me has wept over his hearers, and pleaded with them, and prayedfor them, I find that they are as ready to drink in the Word as the thirsty soil drinks in the rain when the blessed cloudsend the long and terrible drought!
II. Now, secondly, in our text you will see A TESTIMONY TO A DEPARTED MINISTER.
The people said, as they stood where John had preached and baptized, "John did no miracle: but all things that John spokeof this Man were true." Oh, how I hope that you will be able to say this of me when I have gone the way of all flesh! "Hedid no miracle: but all that he said concerning Christ was true." There are some preachers of whom people will say, when theyare gone, "They were not very eloquent. They were not very learned. They were not very refined and they could not do any miracles,but"-oh, that blessed "but"!-"but all things that they spoke concerning Christ were
Notice the character which the people gave to John, three years, or thereabouts, after he was dead. He was still rememberedby them and they bore most satisfactory testimony concerning him. First, they testified that he spoke concerning Christ Itwas John's business-it was allhis business here below, to speak concerning Jesus Christ, and he did it so thoroughly thatthis was the one thing that his hearers recalled after he was gone. He rebuked the Pharisees and Saddu-cees, but his mainwork was to testify concerning Him who was to come after him, whose shoe laces he felt that he was not worthy to unloose.Ah, Brothers, there is no ministry that will stand the testing on a sick-bed, or on our death-bed, except that which has beenfull of testimony to Christ! When there has been a great deal of philosophy and only a homoeopathic dose of Christ in thepreaching-just enough of the latter to give it the name of Christian teaching-may God have mercy upon both preacher and hearer!But to preach Christ first, Christ last, Christ midst, Christ always-this is what John the Baptist did and this is what allpreachers should do. An American gentleman who was here many years ago, came again about 14 or 15 years afterwards and hesaid to me as he went out, "I see you are still on the old tack." "Yes," I replied, "I intend to be like Casablanca on theburning ship, where his father had told him to stand-and where he meant to remain as long as life should last."
I will preach new doctrine when I find it in the Bible-till then, I will keep to the old! The State of Massachusetts passeda resolution declaring that it would be governed by the laws of God until there was time to make better ones- and I have passeda resolution that I will preach Christ's Gospel until I have time to find out something better-and that can never be, forit is the only Gospel that can ever meet the needs of the human race! There was no bite from any of the fiery serpents whicha look at the bronze serpent could not cure-and this Gospel of God's Grace is the one remedy for all the spiritual diseasesto which mankind is heir and, therefore, we will cling to it as long as we live.
John the Baptist spoke concerning Christ and what he said about Christ was true. That is the important point, for it is possiblefor Christ to be preached and yet for the truth about Christ notto be preached. His Humanity may be left out, or His Deitymay be kept in the background, or there may be lisping and hesitancy with regard to the doctrine of His atoning Sacrifice.And if this is the case, then the ministry will be without power. It used to be said of a certain noted preacher that hisdoctrine of the Atonement was that Jesus Christ did something or other, which, in some way or other, was connected with oursalvation. That cloudy sort of teaching is not preaching Christ in truth! But to declare that He was made a curse for us-thatthe Lord caused to meet upon Him the iniquity of all who believe in Him. That He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, thatwe might be made the righteousness of God in Him-to clearly preach the definite Substitution of Christ on our behalf-thisis to tell the truth about Christ! And I pray that all of us, whether preachers or teachers, may not only speak about Christ,but also, like John the Baptist, speak the truth about Him.
One other thing about John was that all he said about Christ was the Truth of God." All things that John spoke of this Manwere true." Not merely some things, but "all things." Any part of Christ is precious, but a whole Christ is what the sinnerneeds. As far as we know Him, we are bound honestly to make Him known to others. And even if we have to do it with but smallability and if, when we die, we have to regret that we had such slender powers, yet shall it be a sweet thought to us if weknow that those we leave behind will be able to say, "All things that he spoke concerning this Man were true."
There was one thing which the people did not say, and which they had no need to say, because it was self-evident- that isthat John the Baptist had so preached Christ that they could not forget it. He had been dead some years, yet they rememberedwhat he had preached about while he was with them. They remembered how he preached it, too-that he preached Christ in truthand that all he said about Christ was the Truth-so that, when the Messiah Himself stood before them, the savor of John's ministrywas still fresh upon them. Oh, that it might be our lot, and the lot of all God's servants, to make the Gospel arrows stickas well as strike-and to cause men to carry with them, for many a year, the remembrance of the things which we have spokenunto them while we were yet present with them!
III. Now, thirdly, I am going away from the text in order to notice WHAT THE DEPARTED MINISTER'S TESTIMONY REALLY WAS. Whatdid John say concerning Christ?
Well, first of all, John said that Jesus was the Son of God. His testimony was, "I saw, and bare record that this is the Sonof God." John delighted to extol his Lord-he felt that he was not worthy to take the place of the slave who took off his master'ssandals-it was too great an honor for him to be the body-servant of Christ. How sweetly did John speak about Jesus as, "theonly-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father"! Do you all believe that blessed Truth of
God of the Sonship of Christ? Do you all believe that the Man of Nazareth was, "very God of very God"? If you do, then trustHim to be your Savior and, doing so, you shall be saved by Him! Let the testimony of John be accepted by you, for it is nowborne out by the life of Christ and a thousand proofs besides. Jesus of Nazareth is God in human flesh-trust yourselves withHim and you shall be eternally saved!
John also bore witness to another grand Truth about his Lord and Master, namely, that He was the Lamb of God. How plainlyhe cried to all the people, and afterwards to his own disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God!" Had John the paschal lamb in hismind's eye? Very likely he had. "This," he said, "is the Lamb of God, whose blood is to be shed to preserve His people, justas the blood of the paschal lamb, when it was sprinkled upon the lintel and the two side-posts of the houses in Egypt, savedthe Israelites when the destroying angel had unsheathed his terrible sword." O dear Hearers, I would that you would all receiveChrist as the great Sin-Offering-the only Preserver and Defender against the destroying angel in the day of God's wrath!
But did John, do you think, have that passage in the 53rd of Isaiah in his mind, "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opens not His mouth"? When he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takesaway the sin of the world," do you not think that he had in his mind that passage, "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquityof us all"? It is extremely likely that this was the case. This was a choice topic for John to dilate upon-and we would dilateupon it, too, if we had the time. But, as we have only a few minutes left, we cry to you, "Behold the Lamb of God!" That Jesus,who is now reigning in Heaven at His Father's right hand, suffered in the place of all who will believe in Him. Behold Him!Look unto Him and be you saved. If you trust in Him, you will thereby prove that your sin was laid upon Him-and if so, allthat sin of yours has been put away by His Sacrifice of Himself. Why do you not trust Him? May the Holy Spirit bring you todo so, for John's testimony was true when he said that Jesus was the Lamb of God!
John also bore witness, concerning Christ, as the Baptizer with the Hoy Spirit and with fire. And this, too, is true. Anyof you who have trusted Christ, know into what sacred fire He plunges your spirit, so that it refines and purifies your souland burns up all the dross. He immerses us into the Holy Spirit, so that we are-
"Plunged in the Godhead's deepest sea, And lost in His immensity."
And, once more, John called Jesus the Bridegroom. That is one of His sweetest names. John spoke of himself as the Bridegroom'sFriend, or best man. He was that, but nothing more, so his work was done when the Bridegroom came. O Beloved, the Lord JesusChrist, by His love to His Church, has proved Himself to be her true Bridegroom! Out of His side was she taken when He fellasleep, even as Eve was taken out of the side of Adam, and to her His love always goes forth, for He says to her, "You arebone of My bone, and flesh of My flesh." For this purpose did He leave His Father, that He might cleave unto His Church, thatthey two might be one. Truly does Paul write, "Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctifyand cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spotor wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." This is another grand Truth of God for usto talk about-the union of Christ with His Church-the blessed bonds that bind Him to us, and us to Him, so that we are ableto defy the whole universe to "separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
IV. I have thus given you a summary of what John's testimony concerning Jesus was and of which the people said, "All thingsthat John spoke of this Man were true." Now, the last thing I have to speak upon is THE BLESSED RESULT. Our Lord was preachingin a fruitful place. He was following a man who had left a precious memory behind him and that memory was all about Himself.What was the result?
First, the people standing on that spot, where John had stood, began to consider ' 'John said such-and-such about the promisedMessiah-this Man exactly answers to the description that John gave. All men acknowledge that John was a Prophet, so what hesaid concerning Jesus is clearly true and He must, therefore, be the Christ whom God has sent into the world. He must be theSon of God, the Lamb of God, the One who is to baptize us with the Hoy Spirit and with fire" and, therefore, after carefulconsideration, they believed in Him!
Beloved Hearers, have you ever given due consideration to Divine things? It would be worthwhile for you, who are unsaved,not to do any more business until you are saved. You are very "cute" and clever about worldly things, but I tell
you solemnly, that you are great fools with regard to your immortal souls. I am certain that if the life of any one of youwere, at this moment, in peril from some very dreadful disease, you would not wait long before seeking the best advice concerningit that you could afford. If you were told, while I am preaching, that your house was on fire, you would not stay till I hadfinished the sermon-you would be off to your home at once, so concerned are you, and rightly so, about your earthly things.Yet your souls are even now abiding under the wrath of God! You dare not say you do not believe that-yet you do not reallybelieve it, or you act in a way which implies that you do not! Suppose your breath were to stop for one minute, where wouldyou be? Where would you be if you had to ask in vain for a drop of water to cool your parched tongue? Every instant life isin jeopardy-let only one of the ten thousand strings of this poor harp but snap- and harp strings often do snap-and the soulmust appear before its God-unready, unwashed, unclothed, forever lost!
Beloved, do as these people "beyond the Jordan" did-begin to consider, see whether Christ is not the Son of God, and theLamb of God-and if He is, believe in Him! Trust Him with your souls and so find eternal salvation!
Further, having considered, these people did believe on Jesus. That is to say, they did accept Him as the Lamb of God andthe Son of God. They did receive Him as the Bridegroom of their hearts, they did believe that He would baptize them with theHoy Spirit and with fire-and so they were saved. Will not the same result follow this service? Will not some of you believeon the Lord Jesus Christ, who is so worthy of confidence-yes, who demandsthat we believe in Him, for this is what He says,"He that believes not shall be damned"? It is said, in our text, "Many believed on Him." I will be thankful if only two orthree believe on Jesus Christ, yet I cannot be content unless manybelieve on Him. He is so true that it is a grievous crimeto doubt Him! He is so abundantly able to save that it is the greatest folly not to trust Him!
It sometimes puzzles me how God can have such patience with unbelievers. When He has given His only-begotten Son to bleedand die for the guilty, and He says, "This is My well-beloved Son, bleeding and dying for you, only trust Him"-if men saythat they will not-what can be conceived more horrible than that? And what clearer proof can there be of the desperate malignityof the human heart that it will not even accept the Son of God, Himself, when He comes dressed in robes of love to save mankind?
I finish with the last word of my text-"Many believed on Him there," that is, on the spot where He then stood and preached.I would to God that many would believe on Jesus Christ in this Tabernacle-there in that area, or in that aisle, or up in thegalleries. Alas, many say, "We will go home and think about it." Do not do that! Believe on Him there.
1 know how apt you are to indulge in idle chat on your way home. I know how, at the supper table, too often the Word whichyou have heard is driven away by the foolish talk which is unfit for the Sabbath. The devil only wants you to wait, for heknows that he can then come and steal away the good Seed of the Kingdom. But if the Lord should give you the Grace to decidefor Him at once-if you were to believe on Jesus now-what joy there would be among the angels and the spirits of just men madeperfect! They would "ring the bells of Heaven" and rejoice over lost ones found! What peace there would be in your own heartand what thankfulness and delight there would be among the people of God when they heard of it! You Christians, try to havea quiet, earnest talk with the unconverted, if you can, before they get away from this building. It may be that they willbe led by you to believe on Jesus here and now. God grant that it may be so, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: MATTHEW3:1-12; JOHN 1:15-37;3:22-36.
We are going to read three passages relating to John the Baptist's testimony concerning Christ.
Matthew 3:1-4. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, andsaying, Repent you: for the Kingdom of Heavenis at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepareyou the way of the Lord, make his paths straight And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leather girdle abouthis loins; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Everything connected with John the Baptist was in harmony with his message.He was the preacher of repentance, so the place where he preached was most suitable-it was in the wilderness where there wasnothing to distract his hearers' attention, as there would have been in crowded cities. His dress was striking and everythingabout him, even down to the food that he ate, went to show that he was the rough pioneer preacher preparing the way for hisMaster. John did not teach the fullness of joy and
peace-that was left for our Lord Jesus to proclaim-but John came to prepare the way of the Lord by preaching repentance.
5. Then went out to him, Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region roundabout Jordan, There seems to have been, about thattime, a widespread anticipation of the coming of the Messiah, so, no sooner did the news come that a Prophet was preachingin the desert, than great multitudes went out to hear him.
6-8. And were baptized of him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sad-ducees cometo his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth,therefore, fruits meet for repentance. Did he not speak after the style of the Prophet Elijah? Yet those bold speeches ofhis were not at all stronger than the evils of the age required. When the self-righteous Pharisees and the skeptical Sadducees,the Ritualists and the "modern thought" men of that day, came to him to be baptized, he welcomed them not, but bade them,"bring forth fruits meet for repentance," evidences of a change of heart and life.
9. And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham for our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones.-Inthe bed of Jordan, where he was baptizing-
9. To raise up children unto Abraham. John bade them boast not of their descent from Abraham, yet that was the great thingin which they did glory! They despised the Gentiles as so many do outside the true fold. Note how John the Baptist reallypreaches the Gospel to us indirectly while he is denouncing these people's confidence in their carnal descent. Regenerationis "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
10. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewndown and cast into the fire. Other teachers came, as it were, only to lop and prune the trees, but the time had come for thefelling of those that were fruitless. John did this and so did our Lord Jesus Christ, for his preaching dug up the very rootsof sin, superstition and evil of every kind.
11. 12. Iindeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am notworthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Hoy Spirit, and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughlypurge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Now let us turnto the Gospel according to John where we have another account of the ministry of John the Baptist.
John 1:15. John bore witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spoke, He that comes after me is preferred before me:for He was before me. He was not before John in the order of human birth, yet He was truly before John, for He had an eternalpre-existence, as He was none other than the uncreated Son of God!
16-21. And of His fullness have all we received, and Grace for Grace. For the Law was given by Moses, but Grace and Truthcame by Jesus Christ No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declaredHim. And this is the record of John, when the Jews sentpriests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you? Andhe confessed,and deniednot; but confessed, Iam not the Christ And they asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? And he said, Iam not Are youthat Prophet? And he answered; No. As they meant, "Are you, literally, the Prophet Elijah risen from the dead? "John said,""I am not." "Are you that Prophet of who Moses foretold?" "And he answered, No." John gave short, sharp answers to these cavilers.He was not a man of dainty words and polished periods, especially in dealing with such people as they were.
22, 23. Then said they unto him, who are you that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What say you of yourself? Hesaid, Iam the voice. Not, "the Word"-Christ is that, but John was "the voice."
23-37. Of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Prophet Isaiah. And they which weresent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why do you baptize, then, if you are not that Christ, norElijah, neither that Prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there stands One among you, whom you knownot; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe laces Iam not worthy to unloose. These things were donein Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming unto him, and said, Behold, theLamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said, After me comes a Man which ispreferred beforeme: for He was before me. AndIknewHim not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come t3o baptizewith water And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And Iknew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending,and remaining on Him, the same is He
which baptizes with the Hoy Spirit And I saw, and bear record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day John stood withtwo of his disciples, and looking upon Jesus as He walked by, he said, Behold the lamb of God! And the two disciples heardHim speak, and they followed Jesus. In the third chapter of the same Gospel, we have yet another testimony by John the Baptistconcerning Christ.
John 3:22-29 After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judea, and there He tarried with them, and baptized. AndJohn was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. For Johnwas not yet cast into prison. Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification.And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, behold,the same baptizes, and all men come to Him. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing except it be given him fromHeaven. You yourselves bare me witness that I said I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. He that has the brideis the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom'svoice: therefore is this, my joy, fulfilled.' 'I have introduced the Bridegroom and, henceforth, it will be my part to graduallydisappear from the scene."
30. He must increase, but Imust decrease. As fades the morning star when the sun itself arises, so was it the joy of the heraldof Christ to lose himself in the supreme radiance of his Lord's appearing!
31-34. He that comes from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaks of the earth: He that comes fromHeaven is above all And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no man receives His testimony. He that has receivedHis testimony has set to his seal that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God: for God gives not theSpirit by measure unto Him. Did not the Holy Spirit descend and remain upon Him-and that without measure or limit?
35, 36. The Father loves the Son, and hasgiven all things into His hand. He who believes on the Son has everlasting life.He has it now and he can never lose it, or else it would not be everlasting. He has a life that must exist forever and ever.
36. And he that believes not the Son shall not see life. He shall not even know what spiritual life is! He shall not be ableto understand it, or to form any idea of it. While he is an unbeliever, he is blind to spiritual things. What a dreadful sentencethat is-"He shall not see life."-
36. But the wrath of God abides on him. God is always angry with him because he has rejected God's own Son and refuses thegreat salvation.