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§ 35. John as Baptist and Preacher of Repentance.

While John was thus sighing in solitude over the sins of a degenerate people, and praying that God would soon send the promised Deliverer, the assurance was vouchsafed to him from above that the Messiah should soon be revealed to him. He felt himself called to declare this assurance to the people, and to exhort them to prepare their souls for the approaching epoch. He abandoned the solitude of the desert for the banks of the Jordan,9090   We follow the statement of Luke (iii., 2), which has the advantage in distinguishing from each other the periods in John’s manifestation. gathered the people in hosts about him, and announced to them the coming appearance of both the Messiah and his kingdom, which ideas he never separated. He proclaimed to them that God would sift his people, and that the unworthy should be condemned and excluded from the Theocracy. He denounced as false and treacherous the prevailing idea that theocratic descent and the observance of outward ceremonies were the only 50requisites for admittance into Messiah’s kingdom, and exhorted all to true repentance as the one essential preparation. He made use of baptism as a symbol of preparatory consecration to the Messiah’s kingdom, a course to which he might have been led by the lustrations common among the Jews, and by the intimations of prophecy, such as Mal., iii.; Zach., xiii.; Ezek., xxxvi., 25, even if the baptism of proselytes was not then extant among the Jews. Doubtless the Baptist stood in a special relation to those that flocked about him as followers; although, as preacher of repentance, as the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Isai., xl., 3), whose duty it was to prepare the way for the Messiah amid a people estranged from God, he held a general and common relation to all.

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