And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;
I. THE PREACHER. You can often guess a man's style or the character of his message from his personal appearance and demeanour. I presume it is because of this that Scripture, a book intended for man's salvation, should still find space here and there for notices of the personal appearance of some of its chief actors and characters. John Baptist, like Elijah, was a thorough man. We are told that his raiment was of camel's hair, that he had a leathern girdle round his loins, and that he lived upon the poorest of food; but I wonder why all this is described, unless to show us that there are times and crises in the history of nations and of towns when a true man cannot live in society. God help the towns and communities that drive a John Baptist into the wilderness that he may there live and thrive and gather mental and spiritual strength.
II. HIS MESSAGE.
1. What he preached was a gospel of Divine origin. There can be no other. A human-made gospel is a self-condemned thing. You cannot manufacture a gospel — it comes like the grace of God; it comes like a breath of heaven filling the soul and commanding a rugged, rough man even in the very wilderness to cry out, "I am a preacher." It is inspiration — "the word of the Lord came." If the gospel be not Divine, it is nothing.
2. This gospel is an old-fashioned one. A recent writer has declared that the producers of truth are very few, that the jobbers in truth are many, and that the retailers of truth are numberless. I believe it is precisely the same with the gospel. The originators of the gospel are few — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; I know none other. The jobbers in the gospel are many, alas; and the retailers of the gospel are numberless. But it is the one gospel, and it must be an old-fashioned one, because the thing that called it into existence is as old as the history of mankind. What called the gospel into the world? Man's helplessness and sin.
3. Notice, further, that the gospel according to John Baptist is a self-accredited thing. It has its credentials within itself. It does not need inspiration to tell me that such a verse as "God is love" is inspired: there is the fragrance of heaven upon that thought.
4. This gospel is a simple, intelligible gospel. It is said of Moliere that he would allow no play of his to be published in which there was a single word which his slave did not understand. Simpleness was the secret of his success, as it was of Shakspere, Milton, and John Bunyan. They don't manufacture, as it were, long words, they speak in the language of nature, and that is pre-eminently the great qualification and sign of the gospel of God.
5. Now, let us notice the universal tone of John Baptist's gospel. "All flesh shall see the salvation of God." How unlike a Jew is this style! Let us all — ministers, Sunday-school teachers, &c. — beware of preaching the gospel in a narrow way. Do not cramp it; give it free currency, and be sure that the gospel you preach is not your own, but God's.
6. The subject-matter of the Baptist's gospel is "Repent." When a man's heart is wrung with grief for sin there is not, and there never has been, any gospel that can be preached to him save this. Repentance means atonement; atonement demands love; and the harsh, brassy sound of the call to repentance may bring a man face to face with the more mellow, happier music of the spheres of glory — "God is love."
(J. B. Meharry, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;