Before the arrival of Jesus, John preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
2. His conciliatory introductions: he always strives first to be sure of a common platform with his audience.
3. His skill in dealing with the early histories; which served his purposes in two ways -
(1) by securing the attention of his Jewish audiences, which are to this day always pleased with reviews of the national history; and
(2) by bringing out the preparatory character of the earlier dispensation, and fitting his gospel message to it as a completion.
4. His firm handling of the facts connected with the mission of Jesus of Nazareth: his innocence; his death as a victim of ecclesiastical enmity; his resurrection.
5. His simple offer of pardon and life in the name of the glorified, living Savior. It is not conceivable that the gospel, in its very essence, can be more succinctly expressed than it has been by the Apostle Paul, in his missionary speeches (see especially here vers. 26, 32, 38, 39).
6. His force of passionate pleading and application of the truth to individuals, as shown in vers. 40, 41. It is to be noted that St. Paul always makes his appeal to both the intelligence and the heart, and the verses now before us for consideration show how he offered proofs of his statements which were well within the comprehension of his audience. A sentiment prevailed generally among the Jewish race concerning John the Baptist. St. Paul takes advantage of it, and shows how John gave his indirect and direct witness to the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. It may be true that John's testimony to Jesus was of more value to a Jewish than to a Christian audience, but we question whether sufficient has ever yet been made of it as one of our best evidences to the truth of Christianity. Three things require careful study and efficient illustration.
I. JOHN'S PROPHET-CHARACTER. In fixing attention on John the Baptizer, men have lost sight of his more important relations as John the Prophet. "All men counted John as a prophet," the last of the line of men whom God was pleased to raise up, for a time, as the expounders to men of his will - the voices that spoke to men his message. It was the very essence of the prophet that he had a message from God to deliver, and a right to arrest men and compel them to listen to it. John's message was his mission, and his baptizing rite was but an accident or mode of expressing and sealing his message. We should ask - What did John say to men in the Name of God? not, What rite did John perform?
II. JOHN'S PREPARATORY WORK. This St. Paul dwells on. John never assumed that he had a message complete in itself, or that what he demanded was all, or even, the greatest thing, men needed. He was a herald, but his heralding assumed the close approach of the King. He was a mender of ways, but only to get ready for the royal progress. He demanded repentance, but only that men might be ready to receive the forgiveness and life which the King was coming to bestow. To stop with John is on the face of it absurd. There is no going on from John save to Christ.
III. JOHN'S DIRECT TESTIMONY. There should have been no need for this. And yet it forms a most valuable link, especially to Jews. John witnessed plainly that he had prepared the way for Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Lamb of God to take away sins, and that God had given to him visible and audible testimony that Jesus was the expected Messiah and Savior. Accept John as prophet, we must accept Jesus as Messiah. - R.T.
He raised up David.
Homiletic Monthly.David is one of the grandest men in the Bible, and his character is more fully portrayed than that of any other with one exception. The sweet singer of Israel was royally dowered with charms of the person, with gifts of the mind, and with susceptibilities of the heart; and, from a youth up, he was as one who is well beloved, and therefore rightly named. He was great in all the faculties of his soul, and has not been placed higher in the esteem of the Church than his virtues have warranted. It has been questioned how he could be called a man after God's own heart, and his crimes have been sketched with nauseating fulness. But the Church no more defends them than he did or the Bible.
I. WHY THEN ARE HIS SINS SO FULLY PRESENTED?
1. That we may see how full of infirmity are the best of men.
2. That we may see how efficacious grace is to overcome them.
3. That we may see how bitter is the sorrow of the truly penitent, and how wide is the door of mercy.
II. WHY IS HE CALLED A MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART?
1. David was chosen by God.
2. As thus chosen he would more strictly observe the revealed will of God.
3. David was a man of fervent piety, of swift repentance, and of the deepest spiritual aspirations.
4. He was large-hearted, true as a friend, affectionate as a father, and ever ready to be reconciled with his foes — to forgive and forget. In these attributes of a fatherly heart he resembled God.
III. THREE INFERENCES FROM HIS HISTORY.
1. This life is not an encouragement to commit sin or to continue in sin, but an encouragement to those struggling to be delivered from their sins.
2. Any one may be called a man after God's own heart, if his life is marked by the same religious fervour, by the same sincere penitence, and by the same deep longings after God by day and by night.
3. We must seek after likeness to God in our moral nature — in our likes and dislikes.
The Sunday School Times.How much easier it is to see defects than to see beauties, in anything at which we look. No art education is requisite to the perceiving of a broken arm or a nose, on an ancient Grecian statue, or of the weather stains on its marble surface; but it does require a trained eye and a cultivated taste to recognise the lines of beauty, and the tokens of power, in a discoloured and a battered fragment of a master work of art. And so it is in the reading of a book, or in the observing of a character: the ability to perceive that which is worthy, and that which is admirable, is higher and rarer than the ability to perceive errors and flaws. No teacher or scholar has been too stupid to see David's faults. Only here and there has one been noble enough, and clear-eyed enough, to recognise the exceptional high qualities, and the transcendent attractions of character, which lift David above his fellows. And so, again, this truth is continually being illustrated. Let him who would have the credit of superior ability be careful not to criticise or to condemn too freely; for that is a sure mark of inferiority. The power to point out beauty and worth, where others would pass it by, is, in itself, a proof of excellence. Why can not all aim at that higher standard?
(The Sunday School Times.)
A man after Mine own heart1. We all know of the frequency with which testimony is given to God's affection for David. Speaking of him to his successors, He always holds him up to their admiration (1 Kings 9:4). And the writer of the Chronicles sums up the life of any monarch who had turned into devious ways in such words as those of 2 Chronicles 28:1.
2. Now, God did not choose the Psalmist-warrior as we choose our friends, by a sort of self-blinding; discerning in them gifts and graces which to all other eyes they obviously lack. God will never prefer a man to hold such a position in His thoughts as David held, without some just cause of esteem. The assertion that God takes an unworthy man into His preeminent affection because He wills to do so tarries in it its own contradiction, God, like man, has to obey the law of His nature, and that law is that He can only choose what is right and good. Even the passage, "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated," must not be interpreted to mean that He loved the less worthy and condemned the better. Otherwise we strip God of His noblest attributes, and make Him inferior to man in the moral equities of reason and conscience; and, in the words of Bacon, "It were better to have no opinion of God at all, than such an opinion as is unworthy of Him, for the one is unbelief and the other is contumely. Plutarch saith well to this purpose: 'Surely,' saith he, 'I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man as Plutarch, than that they should say there was one Plutarch who would eat his children as soon as they were born, as the poets speak of the god Saturn.'"
3. Now, this representation of God's preference for David seems not to be justified when you turn to his life. Of course in estimating the man we must take into account the morality of his age, his moral superiority to the contemporary sovereigns, and the temptations kings were subject to, and we ought not to judge him by the light of these later times, but by the light that was given to him. But our purpose is not to extenuate or minimize David's sins, but to vindicate God's joy in him. Doubtless there were in David's life hours of nearness to God, times of serenest reliance, and trust, and joy in God, and faithful service, and prompt obedience. But there were also in this same man's life depths of infamy. What, then, was this something that dwarfed the glaring defects of the life? We shall understand this if we consider —
I. THE PROPER WAY TO ESTIMATE THE SINS OF THE SAINTS. It is our custom to fix our eyes on any virtuous or vicious action we have found out in a man's life, not caring to inquire whether it is the expression of virtuous or vicious principle. Now, we ought to a great degree to overlook the outward details, be they blemishes or merits, and estimate the man by the principles on which he is deliberately endeavouring to mould his character — by the moral spinal column that in the main holds his life together. Neither Noah's act of drunkenness nor Moses' murder of the Egyptian on the one hand, nor Balaam's truthfulness nor Judas' penitence or remorse on the other, should depreciate or exalt them in our eyes, as neither of these actions or mental states are traceable to vital principle. Now, David's sins, gross and coarse though they were, were accidental; they belied the principle on which he was painfully endeavouring to mould his character; and so God, who looks upon such frailties "with larger, other eyes than ours, making allowance for us all," forgave and overlooked the casual blemishes, the life in the main being faithful and true. His sins brought awful retribution upon him, for God's forgiveness only cancels the alienation between the human and Divine mind. What he sowed, that he reaped; but, when the anguish of penitence filled his spirit, the enmity which the sin had established between his mind and God's became a thing of the past, and David was restored to the grace and favour from which he had temporarily lapsed. For there was in this man a soul that, often plunged in the mire, refused to abide there, and ever strove to rise up and take its flight to a serener and purer atmosphere. If I do the sin I would not, the sin which is not in keeping with the moral habits I am faithfully endeavouring to acquire, then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. And if I delight in the law of God after the inner man, and see another law in my members warring against this law in which I delight, and by which I aspire to live, and leading me into great and grievous sins, then, though with my flesh I serve sin, with my mind I serve God, and I claim to be judged to be what I am in my aspirations and hopes.
II. WE SHALL UNDERSTAND GOD'S LOVE AND PRAISE OF DAVID IF WE REFLECT THAT LOVE AND PRAISE ARE DUE, NOT NECESSARILY TO THE MAN WHO LIVES MOST VIRTUOUSLY, BUT TO THE MAN IN WHOSE LIFE THE MORAL STRUGGLE HAS BEEN MOST FAITHFULLY MAINTAINED. There are many men virtuous because it is constitutionally easier for them to be virtuous than not. Purity that springs from a heart that keeps pure because it never warms, can lay no claim either to human or Divine admiration. There is nothing meritorious in automatic goodness. But there is something great and heroic in the life of the man who has had all his days to fight with moral infirmities and passions, and who, though often conquered and crushed, has risen again with resistance in his heart and defiance on his lips to renew the contest. This is what I find in God's love for David, and in the way Scripture always refers to him. No more difficult life problem has been given to mere man than was given to him to solve. Look under what trying conditions he contrived to keep his heart subject to the fear of God. One day we find him a shepherd lad, the next the hero of Israel, and in rapid succession court musician, king's son-in-law, the freebooter of the wilderness, the leader of outlaws, the mercenary soldier, the monarch, the exile, and finally the monarch again. And this leads me to conclude with a question which has often perplexed us — the unequal distribution of moral natures, one man receiving from God a nature prone to goodness, another a nature prone to evil. We have men with constitutional infirmities saying, "God has given me a nature that prevents me ever being a saint; why should God punish me for not being that which the rigorous necessities of the nature He has given me makes it impossible for me to be? I am not responsible for my nature. It is my fate." Yes; and David's life was lived and is written to be your answer, and throw light upon your case. There is your nature: easy to be brought within the power of goodness or difficult, it is your work. Others with a milder task set before them may march from moral victory to moral victory. But if you have not left the evil within you to govern you, but have resolutely essayed to drive it out, and subject your lower nature to the sovereignty of your higher, God will pronounce His "Well done" upon you. Failure is no sin, faithlessness is; and, judged by this standard, there may be more of the grace of God, more of the divinest moral energy, more conscience, reason, and love admitted into the heart, and shaping the life of a man fighting, like David, against the infirmities of his flesh and the savage bias of his nature, though the fighting be unsuccessful, than in the heart and life of many a saint to whom goodness comes easy.
Of this man's seed hath God...raised...JesusI. ACCORDING TO HIS SPIRITUAL DISPOSITION.
1. David a man according to God's own heart to do all His will (ver. 22).
2. Christ, God's own Son, fulfilling in perfect obedience His Father's work.
II. ACCORDING TO HIS CAREER.
1. David ascended the throne through lowliness and hardships.
2. Christ humbled to death on the Cross, exalted to the Father's right hand (vers. 27-31).
III. ACCORDING TO THE SPHERE OF HIS WORK.
1. David as king over Israel, a shepherd of his people, and a terror to his enemies.
2. Christ as the Saviour of the world, an Eternal Prince of Peace to His people, and a terrible Judge to the despisers (vers. 38-41).
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