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INAUGURATION, OR JOHN THE BAPTIST.
Some time before the commencement of Christ's public career, Judea was reduced to the condition of a Roman province. Archelaus, after a weak
a and disastrous reign, as ethnarch, for nine years, was banished into Gaul. The country was subjected to the capricious despotism of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator, who took every opportunity of humbling the Jews, and breaking their national spirit. He was the fifth Roman governor of Judea, and received his appointment from Tiberius Cæsar. He occupied that position about ten years, and distinguished himself by his spasmodic energy and cruelty. He is known in history chiefly in connection with our Savior's death. He introduced, not only into Cæsarea, his ordinary residence, but into Jerusalem itself, the idolatrous standard of the Roman empire, and attempted to suspend certain bucklers, bearing the image of the emperor, in the palace of Herod. The Sanhedrim was still permitted to exercise some jurisdiction, but was sadly checked and degraded. This, as far as possible, they endeavored to conceal both from themselves and the people. Their claims seemed as lofty as ever; and they guarded with an intense jealousy the ancient institutions and usages of the nation. Throughout the country, publicans or tax gatherers, under the appointment of Rome, constantly reminded the people of her subjection to foreign domination. Galling burdens chafed them at every point. Their very religion was subjected to rude, pagan interference.
The high priest was displaced at the pleasure of the Roman procurator, and sometimes with insulting levity and violence. No one could be initiated into that office without the sanction of Rome. Religious sects were inflamed against each other. The Herodians, as they were called, were universally hated. False to their ancient faith, they yielded their necks to the conqueror, and were active in modifying the spirit and institutions of their country. The most fierce and sanguinary fanaticism raged amongst the followers and imitators of Judas, the Gaulonite, the leader of those who attempted to throw off the yoke of Rome. There was something, indeed, noble in their spirit of self-sacrifice, for they contemned suffering and death, and fought only for their country and their religion. Judas and his followers, however, perished miserably. The nation every where was agitated by treasons and tumults, often repressed by the iron hand of Pilate, who more than once mingled the blood of the people with their sacrifices. Indeed, the whole country was in a ferment, resembling a volcano heaving and dashing beneath the thin surface, previous to a violent eruption.
John the Baptist, stern and majestic as a rock of the wilderness, where, in devout meditation, he loved to wander, was commissioned as the messenger or herald of the Messiah. Coming " in the spirit and power of Elias,” according to ancient prediction, it was his office to introduce the Redeemer to the world, and so prepare the way for his public ministry. He made his appearance in the wilderness of Judea, by the banks of the sacred Jordan. As a reformer and preacher of repentance, John, though humble and devout, was severe, and even ascetic. He came to rouse the people from their spiritual slumbers, and announce the approach of the Deliverer. In awful and thrilling tones, like a voice from eternity, he proclaimed his coming and kingdom. In anticipation of this august event, he baptized, in the Jordan, multitudes who repented of their sins, and professed to receive his teaching in reference to the speedy establishment of the new spiritual kingdom of the Messiah. Many, indeed, both among the Sadducees and Pharisees, he rejected, discriminating thus between the sincere and the insincere, the false and the true hearted. His was not siinply a baptism of external form, but of "faith and repentance," a symbol of a true inward change and preparation for the Redeemer, with his higher baptism of fire and of the Holy Spirit.
But few, even of those who listened to the teachings of John, understood the “ spiritual nature of the kingdom of God," and all, with scarcely an exception, were expecting in the Christ a mighty conqueror, a glorious, earthborn king.
That the great body of those who were baptized by John, in anticipation of the Messiah's coming, were sincere in their belief, so far as it went, cannot be doubted. A great and happy reformation of manners was the result. The attention of the whole community was excited. A strange thrill passed through them, as they listened to this new Elijah, recalling the long silent voices of the prophets. Then the way was prepared for the public appearance of the Messiah. The dawn of the new day was visible on the hills. The star, which heralded the approaching sun, shone bright and clear in the horizon.
As it is important to understand the character of John the Baptist, and his relations to Christ, we will enter a little into detail respecting his life and ministry. The son of Zachariah and Elisabeth, of the tribe of Levi, and of the race of the priesthood, he was born a little before Christ, probably at Hebron, or Jutta, a sacerdotal city, situated among the mountains, or “hill country" of Judea. His birth had been foretold to his father, and his name given him, in anticipation, by an angel. He spent his early years, it is presumed, in his native town, far from the tumults of the world. It is said, in the sacred narrative, that he was "in the wilderness of Judea,” (called such because it was a region of less fertility and population than the rest of Palestine,] until the commencement of his ministry, or, as it is expressed, "his showing, or manifestation to Israel." Here, in retirement and humility, he acquired, by grace divine, that purity and force of character necessary to the fulfilment of his mission. His manners were primitive and simple; his fare and his dress humble, and even ascetic. What was his precise education, we are not informed. Some have supposed that he must have received his peculiar views and habits from the Essenes. He has, we admit, somewhat the appearance and manners of those simple-hearted ascetics; he possesses their purity and love of solitude, their energy and dignity of character. And as God works by means in preparing the agents and instrumentalities of his will, it is not absolutely impossible that John may