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straight the way of the Lord, as saith the prophet “ Esaias.” But let us take a view of the whole context, as far as it concerns our present purpose.
Isa. XL. 1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my peo
The future manifestation of Christ's kingdom is represented to the prophet in spirit, with the concomitant signs and circumstances of it. He hears the voice of God directing his servants to comfort his people, by proclaiming certain glad tidings which had been communicated to them. These glad tidings were the tidings of the Gospel. The persons to whom they first came were Zacharias, the blessed Virgin, Simeon, and Anna, who composed sacred songs upon the occasion, and spake of Messiah's advent “to all such as looked for renemption in “ Jerusalem?” The same tidings were afterwards published by the Baptist, then by Christ himself and his apostles, and have been ever since preached by their successors, whose commission still runs“ Comfort ye, comfort ye my people."
2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry
unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned : for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
Good news should be related with a suitable
z John, i. 23.
a Luke, ii. 38.
aspect and accent.
The manner should correspond with the matter. “Speak ye comfortably,” or, as it is in the Hebrew phraseology, " to the heart of
Jerusalem;" let your words be as cordials, to . revive and cheer her in the midst of her sorrows and sufferings. The topics of consolation, to be insisted on, are three. First, “ Her' warfare,” or appointed service, “is accomplished;" the days of her continuance under the yoke of bondage are expired; the fulness of time is come, for her passing from that state into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; she will now be relieved from duty, and dismissed from the station on which she hath so long watched, in expectation of the promised redemption; she will be “ delivered out of the hands of her enemies, to
serve God without fear.” Secondly, “Her iniquity is pardoned ;" the expiation is about to be made, which all her sacrifices and lustrations prefigured, wbich all her prophets foretold ; the blessed person i born, in whom God is well pleased, both granting and accepting repentance unto “salvation by the " remission of sins," that men may be " justified " from all things from which they could not be justi, " fied by the law of Moses," although men were justified under that dispensation, through faith in him that was then to come, according to the Gospel preached before unto Abraham. Thirdly, “She “ hath received of the Lord's hand double for all “ her sins ;" she hath received greater benefits than she had deserved punishments ; mercy hath rejoiced against judgement; where sin abounded, grace hath superabounded.
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilder.
ness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high way for our God.
Isaiah, while reciting the divine injunctions to those whose office it should be to "comfort Jeru- .
salem," seemeth to break off suddenly, as one interrupted in his discourse by the sound of a voice And as if he had listened, and perceived it to be the sound of that voice which so many prophets and kings had desired to hear, and had not heard it, namely, the voice proclaiming the actual incarnation of Messiah, he breaks forth in transport, “The “ voice of him that crieth in the wilderness !"
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers ;
Prepare the way! a God, a God appears. The voice which thus sounded in the prophet's ears, so long before it was really heard upon the earth, was that of the Baptist, who, at the proper season, was sent, to dispose the hearts and affections of men for the reception of their Saviour, when he should make his appearance.
4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every
mountain and hill shall be made low : and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
b" Far from being the Messiah, or Elias, or one of the old
prophets, I am nothing but a voice; a sound, that, as soon “ as it has expressed the thought of which it is the sign, dies into air, and is known no more.”
These are the words of the prophet himself, unfolding the counsels of God concerning the manner in which Messiah's kingdom should be established in the world, and the alterations which must necessarily take place in order to that end. Every valley
shall be exalted ;" to the poor in spirit, the lowly and contrite souls, the Gospel shall be preached, and they shall be exalted in faith and hope" and
every mountain and hill made low;" on the contrary, pride of every kind, and in every shape, exalting itself whether in Judaical pharisaism, or in Gentile philosophy, against the knowledge of God, shall be made low, and subdued to the obedience of Christ: “ and the crooked shall be made straight;" truth and rectitude shall succeed to error and depravity—" and the rough places plain ;" every thing that offendeth shall be removed, and all difficulties and inequalities smoothed, till unanimity and uniformity prevail. Thus shall the way be prepared for the King of Righteousness to visit his people, to dwell in them, and to walk among
5. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together ; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Immediately after the proclamation and preparation made by the Baptist, the Divinity was revealed in human nature, God was manifested in the flesh, seen and conversed with by all ranks and degrees of men, high and low, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and Sadducees, publicans and sinners.
The accomplishment of this part of Isaiah's prophecy is exactly related by St. John the Evangelist, in the following terms ; “The word was made flesh, “ and dwelt among us, and we beheld his GLORY, " the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, “full of grace and truth.”
Thus we have seen under what character the Baptist is held forth to us in the predictions of the prophets concerning him, as one who should go before Messiah in the spirit and power of Elias, to proclaim and prepare the way for the advent of God incarnate. How perfectly, during the course of his ministry, he filled up this character, will appear in the subsequent sections.
Considerations on the Appearance, Doctrine, and
Baptism of St. John.
The days of St. John's retirement were now ended, and he was to exchange the pleasures of contemplation for the far different scenes of an active life; to behold, with grief and indignation, the sins and follies of mankind, the sight of which must needs be more grating and afflicting to his righteous soul, than a garment of camel's hair could be to bis body; to encounter the opposition of a world that would be
© John, i. 14.