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After this short history of the doctrines, the life, and the death of this extraordinary man, I beg leave to offer in conclusion a few remarks upon it to your serious consideration. And in the first place, in the testimony of John the Baptist, we have an additional and powerful evidence to the truth and the divine authority of Christ and his religion. If the account given of John in the Gospels be true, the history given there of Jesus must be equally so, for they are plainly parts of one and the same plan, and are so connected and interwoven with each other, that they must either stand or fall together. Now that in the first place there did really exist such a person as John the Baptist, at the time specified by the evangelists, there cannot be the smallest doubt; for he is mentioned by the Jewish historian Josephus, and all the circumstances he relates of him, as far as they go, perfectly correspond with the description
given of him by the sacred historians. He represents him as using the ceremony of baptism. He says that multitudes flocked to him, for they were greatly delighted with his discourses, and ready to observe all his directions. He asserts that he was a good man: and that he exhorted the Jews not to come to his baptism without first preparing themselves for it by the practice of virtue; that is, in the language of the Gospels, without repentance. He relates his being inhumanly murdered by Herod; and adds, that the Jews in general entertained so high an opinion of the innocence, virtue, and sanctity of John, as to be persuaded that the destruction of Herod's army, which happened not long after, was a divine judgment inflicted on him for his barbarity to so excellent a man *. It appears then that St. John was a person, of whose virtue, integrity, and piety, we have the most ample testimony from an historian of unquestionable
- veracity, * Joseph. Antiq.1. xviii. c.6. s. 2. Ed. Huds.
veracity, and we may therefore rely with perfect confidence on every thing he tells us. He was the very man foretold both by Isaiah and Malachi, as the forerunner of that divine personage, whom the Jews expected under the name of the Messiah. He declared that Jesus Christ was this divine person, and that he himself was
sent into the world on purpose to prepare the way before him, by exhorting men to repentance and reformation of life. If then this record of John (as the evangelists call it) be true, the divine mission of Christ is at once established, because the Baptist expressly asserts that he was the Son of God, and that whoever believed on him should have everlasting life *. Now that this record is true, we have every reason in the world to believe, not only because a man so eminently distinguished for every moral virtue as St. John confessedly was, cannot be thought capable of publicly proclaiming a deliberate falsehood; but because had his character been of a totally different complexion, had he for instance been influenced only by views of interest, ambition, vanity, popularity, this very falsehood must have completely counteracted and overset every project of this nature. For every thing he said of Jesus, instead of aggrandizing and exalting himself, tended to lower and to debase him in the eyes of all the world; he assured the multitude who followed him, that there was another person much more worthy to be followed; that there was one coming after him of far greater dignity and consequence than himself; one whose shoes latchet he was not worthy to unloose”; one so infinitely superior to him in rank, authority, and wisdom, that he was not fit to perform for him even the most servile offices. He himself was only come as a humble messenger to announce the arrival of his Lord, and smooth the way before him. But the great personage to whom they were to direct their eyes, and in whom they were to center all their hopes, was Jesus CHRist. Is this now the language of a man who sought only for honour, emolument, or fame, or was actuated only by the fond ambition of being at the head of a sect? No one can think so. It is not very usual surely for men of any character; much less for men of the best character, to invent and to utter a string of falsehoods with the professed design of degrading themselves and exalting some other person. Yet this was the plain tendency and avowed object of John's declarations, and the effect was exactly what might be expected, and what he wished and intended, namely, that great numbers deserted him and followed Christ”. But besides bearing this honest and disinterested testimony to Christ, the Baptist hazarded a measure which no impostor or enthusiast ever ventured upon, without being immediately detected and exposed. He ventured to deliver two prophecies concerning * John, iii. 26. 30; iv. 1.
his * John, iii. 6; i. 34.