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§ 37. Relations of John to the People, and to the narrower circle of his own Disciples.

True penitents who came to the Baptist inquiring the way of life found in the severe ascetic a kind and condescending teacher. He gave them no vague and high-sounding words, but adapted his instructions with minute care to their special condition and circumstances. John resembled the austere preachers of repentance who sprung up in the Middle Ages in more than one respect; but especially in the two fold relation which he sustained, to the people generally, and to his disciples in particular. While the latter imitated his own ascetic piety in order to fit themselves for preachers of repentance, he did not demand of the former to abandon their ordinary line of life, even when it was one obnoxious to the prejudices of the Jews; the soldier was not required to leave the ranks, nor the tax-gatherer his office, but only to fulfil their respective duties with honesty and fidelity. All alike were commanded to do good; but only those whose occupations were sinful had to abandon them, and at his command many did so9393   Matt., xxi., 32.


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