prophet. He could have answered with truth, CHAP. I am Elias, and I am a prophet. But he could V. have also answered in another very true sense, and that he was not Elias, and that he was not come to foretell future events, and the future mysteries of the Messiah, like the prophets ; and he chose this last as most conformable to his humility. The deputies said, “I Who art " thou, that we may give ananswer to those “ who fent us? what layest thou of thyself? " He said, I am the voice of one crying in " the wilderness, Make straight the way of

the Lord, as said the prophet Efaias. Now

they that were fent,' were of the pharisees. 5. And they asked him, and said unto him,

why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that

Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? ac John answered them, saying, I baptize with « water : but there standeth one among you, « whom


know not. He it is, who coming after me, is preferred before me, " whose shoes latchet I am not worthy to 6. unloose.

Is it possible after such answers, fo fimple, fo precise, so "humble, attended with such cir cumstances, and which; without injuring the truth, he could so easily and advantageously have applied to himself; is it possible, I say, that after such proofs of fincerity, we should suspect him of craft and insincerity, he who is so clearly an enemy to such practices?

But I consent for a while to admit him capable thereof, in order to confound incredulity:

I Tohn i. 22, &c. · VOL. III.


PART Why then did not this subtle man accept of
IV. the title of Messiah, which they offered him

without his seeking? why did he not avail
himself of the general disposition of the people,
and the priests and pharisees in his favour?
why did he reserve for another, who had no
right to it, and whose ambition and imposition
he knew, a glory to which he had at least an
equal claim why did not he prevent him
while he was yet concealed in the croud of
people and unknown? what could he fear from
a rival who was in obscurity, and all whose
designs he could have frustrated by an answer
to a question proposed to him?
He knew better than any body, that this

pretended Meffiah had neither mission nor character. He knew that he had concerted with him this whole prelude, and that he only executed the plot, and followed the plan they had agreed upon to deceive the worldHe could not therefore have any sincere esteem for an impostor, whom he could so easily supplant, nor look upon himself as more culpable for substituting himself in his place, than by preparing the way for him. "Why then does he continue to mention him with so much respect, and to speak of himself with so much modesty, when the preference was given to him, and the people were ignorant, whether it was a preference that could be justly contended? what view can he have from such ridiculous humility? what fortune can he expect from an obscure person, whọ perhaps may never be as successful as himself, and who could never

raise him as high as he could raise himself

, ifChap, he had a mind? why does John the Baptist V. act the hypocrite only to favour another's intereft, when he himself could so easily and readily reap the advantage of his own hypocrisy? I maintain, that all this amounts to one of the strongest demonstrations, and I am convinced, that we must use as great a violence to our reason to resist it, as to refuse our affent to any mathematical demonstration.

The sentiments of Saint John with rela-

tion to Christ, whose glory he was
defrous to increase at the expence of

bis own.


UT let us strictly examine this proof,

and see with what funcerity and disintereftedness this admirable man approves of the reputation and glory which Christ daily acquired by his miracles, whilst the high idea the people had conceived of himself daily diminished. His disciples were concerned at it, and being stung with jealousy, one day represented to him, that Christ whom he had mentioned with that reverence “* baptized, and all men

came to him. He answered and faid, A man

can receive nothing, except it be given him " from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me wit

I 2 * John iii, 26, &c.


PART " ness, that I said I am not the Chrift, but IV. " that I am sent before him. He that hath

“ the bride, is the bridegroom: but the friend

of the bridegroom, which standeth and "heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of

the bridegroom's voice: this my joy is therei fore fulfilled. He must increase, but I must * decrease. He that conneth from above, is is above all: he that is of the earth, is earth

ly; and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven, is above all.

Nothing can be more fublime or perfect than such a reply, which contains the most secret, and at the same time the most essential truths of Christianity, and supposes in John the Baptist a supernatural light and wisdom. You seem concerned, fays he to his disciples, that I am not in so great esteem, and that my reputation fades, and is eclipsed by another's glory. But what I have, I have received: I cannot give myself any thing, and all I have comes from heaven. To be displeased with another person's being held in greater esteem than myself, is repining at the dispensation of providence. Since I told you that I was not the Christ, you should have understood that I was only a minister, and not the bridegroom. The church is not mine I am as one of its children in its bosom. But it is not I who render it fruitful : there is none but the Messiah, who is at the same time both its father and bridegroom; and this bridegroom has been long expected. The servants have preceded him, but they could neither supply his place, nor comfort us in

his absence. To day I hear his voice, very CHAP. different from that of Moses and the prophets. V. I hear him with reverence and joy. I hearken to him standing; I should be very much displeased, that whilst he is speaking, any one Thould come to hear me. I have prepared the way for him, and I have only to disappear

, after his coming. I am interested in his glory, and the same reasons which induced me to proclaim him, before he shewed himself, oblige me to retire after his appearance. It would be keeping men in subjection and misery, and continuing therein myself, to attempt to engage them to me. I cannot change them nor render them happy: I am, as they are,

formed of the earth, and my impotent and ini effectual words cannot restore their celestial

origin which they have forfeited. It only belongs to him, who is the creator and above all, to be the object of our faith and hope. God only can save and reform men.

All this is comprized in the words of St. John, which I have only a little paraphrased, in order to convey the sense in a more obvious manner to those, who, perhaps, may have but an imperfect idea of it ; and I ask, of whosoever will give himself the trouble to read this, whether it be possible to arraign a man of such virtue and sincerity, of having concerted, or in a manner designed the character he so worthily maintained, tho', in other respects, every circumstance did not prove the contrary,

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
« VorigeDoorgaan »