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In John, the precursor of the Messiah, we discern many strong features of resemblance to Elijah. The one was known by the appellation of the · Baptist; the administration of baptism, and the invitation to repentance, being within his immediate department. The other was called the · Tishbite, not so much from the place of his birth, as from the singularity of his character, the · Converter,' the • Reformer.'
“ Behold I will send unto you Elijah the Prophet, Before the great and terrible day of Jehovah
come ; That he may convert the heart of the fathers
together with the children, And the heart of the children together with
the fathers.” Elijah turned many of the sons of Israel to their God. And the angel foretold, concerning John, that he should turn muny of the children of Israel to the Lord.
Elijah, unlike the priests of Baal, who were clad in linen robes with silver hemmed, is
represented as a hairy man; wearing a hairy garment, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. John also, both as a Prophet and as a Nazarite, had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins. They were both likewise, in a humble condition of life.
In what manner these two beloved servants of God spent their earlier years, the sacred historians do not inform us. It is highly probable, that they both led a sequestered life in the wilderness. Suddenly emerging into public, they delivered to their countrymen the mandates of heaven. But their examples cannot surely be urged, as countenancing that state of monastic severity, which was
so industriously recommended in former ages of the Church.
They were both great in the sight of the Lord. Elijah is compared by an apocryphal writer to a fire, and his word is said to burn like a lamp :*
* The whole passage, indeed, contains a compendium of the history of Elijah. Then stood up Elias the Prophet as fire ; and his word burnt like a lamp. He brought a sore famine upon them, and by his zeal he diminished their number : by the word of the Lord he shut up the heaven, and also three times brought down fire. O Elias ! how wast thou honoured in thy wondrous deeds! and who may glory like unto thee; who did'st raise up a dead man from death, and his soul from the place of the dead, by the word of the Most High ; who broughtest Kings to destruction, and horourable men from their bed ; who heardest the rebuke of the Lord in Sinai, and in Horeb the judgement of vengeance : who anointed'st Kings to take revenge, and Prophets to succeed after him : who wast taken up in a whirlwind of fire, and in a chariot of fiery horses : who wast ordained for reproof in their times to pacify the wrath of the Lord's judgement, before
and our blessed Lord has denominated his harbinger a burning and a shining light.
They were both born at a time, when the vital spirit of religion was nearly extinguished. In the reign of Ahab, the corruptions of the Jews required a severe chastisement. Of their depravity in the days of the Baptist, the page of history affords a circumstantial narrative.
At the commencement of their mission, they were both under the immediate direction of the Almighty : The word of the Lord came unto Elijah, 1 Kings, vii. 2. The word of God came unto John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness, John iii, 2.
Both, as preachers of righteousness, were undismayed by the arrogance and the capriciousness of those, whose vices they reprimanded.
- I have not troubled Israel,” said Elijah to Ahab, “ but thou and thy father's house, in that ye
have forsaken the commandments of the Lord.” The language of John is equally plain and energetic. He displayed at all times, in his conversation and his preaching, an undaunted spirit. How emphatically did he enforce the necessity of repentance ! When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, with whose character he was well acquainted, he said unto them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?” He boldly reproached Herod, also, with the criminality of his conduct : “ It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.”
forth into fury, and turn the heart of the father unto the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob. Blessed are they, that san thee, and slept in love ; for we shall surely live! (Ecclesiasticus.)
They both sustained the most cruel treatment from their enemies. By the subtilty of the mother of Herodias, the Baptist was committed to prison, and at length beheaded. The menaces of Jezebel drove Elijah into the depths of the wilderness, to conceal himself from her resentment.
Elijah, when left alone in the desert, felt his soul cast down and disquieted within him. And it has been suggested that the Baptist, finding no interposition in his favour, was in great dejection of spirit, when he sent two of his disciples unto Christ, saying unto him; “ Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?”
By both, an exemplary temperance was displayed. Of one of them it was declared, that he should drink neither wine, nor strong drink. While of the other, contented with the simple beverage of water, it seems highly probable that like the Rechabites he never tasted wine.
Ahab, however tyrannical in his disposition, appears to have entertained a respect for Elijah, and attentively to have listened to his instructions. And Herod, though grossly licentious, feared John, knowing that he was a just and an holy man, and observed him ; and did many things, and heard him gladly. Elijah thus accosts his idolatrous enemy :
• Let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee." The language of John is not dissimilar : “ Every tree, which bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cast into the fire.” Both of them foretel the calamities awaiting their impenitent brethren. Lastly, Elijah was miraculously carried up alive into heaven : John followed in a way more agreeable to the spirit of the Gospel, “the way of martyrdom.'
The answers given by John to the questions, which the Priests and Levites proposed, were strictly consistent with truth. When they asked him, “Who he was?' he decidedly affirmed, that he was not the Messiah : “What then ?” they proceeded to inquire : “ Art thou Elijah ?” He replied in the negative. Though prefigured under that name by Malachi, he was not the Tishbite come down from heaven, as they expected : nor, lastly, was he that Prophet; one of the Prophets, which was to rise from the dead. When required farther to disclose himself, he stated the completion of a celebrated prediction in his own person: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, . Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the Prophet Esaias.”
But a more powerful evidence of the tran