THE LAMP AND THE LIGHT
Of John the Baptist several things are said which have never been said of any other man. John is the only man - apart from Christ and Antichrist - who was personally foretold in the Old Testament. John is the only man of whom it has ever been said that he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mothers womb. John is the only man who - so far as we know - has ever seen the Holy Ghost upon the earth. John is the only man whom our Lord ever called great, and Jesus declared that no greater had ever been born. John was one of the most wonderful men who ever lived.
One consequence is obvious. We might ransack the ages, and search through
all nations, and find no witness to Christ so extraordinarily competent. The Levites, Gods appointed teachers of
John's first direct testimony to Christ springs out of the challenge of the Levites. Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ? It is most remarkable that the Levites did not object to the Baptism: they objected to the Baptizer. Johns answer is profound. This is the answer that he implies. Isaiah, and other prophets, predicted two baptisms: one of water wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings (Isa. 1: 16) - a baptism of repentance; and one of spirit I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed (Isa. 44: 3). Now men can wash thernselves - the water baptism is human: but no man can immerse himself, or others, in the Spirit of God - the Spirit baptism is Divine. John could baptize in water, and did; but the Baptizer in the Spirit must be God. The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high way for our God.
What did the Voice next say? No sooner had the Voice ealed Who had come than he revealed why; though he goes back again to the Who, because the Why is valuable, or worthless, entirely according to the Who. This is He of whom I said, after me cometh a man which is become before me: for He was before me. Jesus ranked above John because Jesus had come out of eternity. This alone justifies and establishes the Atonement. The North American Indians asked Brainerd,- How can one man alone die for a world? Brainerd answered,- A sovereign is a solitary gold coin; but it equals in value 240 pence, because its quality is so much greater: so Who Christ was makes all the difference to what He did. Weigh God against the world, and which outweighs the other? Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
What does the Voice mean by the Lamb? Once a year the
Mohammedans of Calcutta - though Islam is no believer in Sacrifice - offer up
an annual lamb or kid. The person - who
presents the offering lays his hand on the animals head, saying, - For my head I give thine. Then he touches the ears, mouth, eyes, etc.,
each time repeating, For my ears, thy ears; for my
mouth, thy mouth; for my eyes, thy eyes. Lastly, the priest, or moulvie, takes a knife,
and, as the offerer says, - For my life, thy life, he plunges it into the heart of the lamb or
kid; and then absolves the offerer from sin. The blood of Christ is efficient in all
believers, but it is also sufficient for the whole world. Behold the Lamb of
taketh away the sin of the world. John does not see the
blobd, he only sees the Lamb: God says, When I see the blood - the blood is visible only after a lamb is killed I will pass over you (Ex. 12: 13). John saw
What is the next utterance of the Voice? John now reveals how he recognized Jesus. I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, He said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, is the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost. Jesus so veiled Himself by taking flesh, and the flesh He took was so much that of a common man - He came not with the beauty of an Absolom or a Saul - that He could not be recognized as Messiah by bodily sight. Jewish tradition said that Messiah was to remain unknown until Elijah, as forerunner, should anoint him, and so make him known. Now our Lord Himself says that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1: 17); and though John did not baptize Him with the Spirit - God is the sole Baptizer with the Spirit - John saw the Dove descend, and abide on Christ. How exquisitely this reveals the spirit of the Gospel! Humility - that the Persons of the Godhead should stoop to be pictured by animals: sacrifice - both the Lamb and the Dove were sacrificial animals: harmlessness - probably the two most defenceless animals in the world: an earthly and a heavenly - the incarnate Christ upon the earth and the heavenly Dove alighting for a time upon the world: the Lamb to die, the Spirit to give life: - what a picture of Gods love!
Johns last testimony is the most pathetic, and in some respects the most important, of all. I have seen, and have borne witness, that this is the Son of God. I have lived: the purpose of my life is over: the lamps go out one by one - the Light is extinguishable for ever. A man once heard two ministers on one Sunday. In the morning, he said, I could not see the Master for the man: in the evening I could not see the man for the Master. So John had said, - He must increase, but I must decrease; and the Voice, which had been foretold for centuies, dies at thirty because the Word has come, and so he closes his testimony on the climax of revelation. For Who is the Son of God? Let God answer. Of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God (Heb. 1: 8). Here is the apex of revelation, the touchstone of conversion, the guarantee of salvation; for WHOSOEVER SHALL CONFESS THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD, GOD DWELLETH IN HIM AND HE IN GOD (1 John 4: 15).