And many other things in his exhortation preached he to the people.…
The life of John the Baptist divides itself into three distinct periods. Of the first, we are told that he was in the deserts until his showing unto Israel. This period lasted thirty years. The second is a shorter one. It comprises the few months of his public ministry. In the third we are to consider him as the tenant of a compelled solitude, in the dungeon of a capricious tyrant. A rare man, one of God's heroic ones, a true conqueror; one whose life and motives it is hard to understand without feeling warmly and enthusiastically about them. One of the very highest characters, rightly understood, of all the Bible. In the verse which is to serve us for our guidance on this subject there are two branches which will afford us fruit of contemplation.
I. THE TRUTHFULNESS OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. "Herod being reproved by John for Herodias." There are three things we remark in this truthfulness of John.
1. Its straightforwardness.
2. Its unconsciousness.
3. Its unselfishness.
II. THE APPARENT FAILURE OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. "Shut up John in prison." The first thought which suggests itself is that a magnificent career is cut short too soon. At the very outset of ripe and experienced manhood the whole thing ends in failure. John's day of active usefulness is over. The crowds that listened to his voice, we hear of them no more. Herod heard John gladly, did much good by reason of his influence. What was all that worth? The prophet comes to himself in a dungeon, and wakes to the conviction, that his influence had told much in the way of commanding attention, and even winning reverence, but very little in the way of gaining souls-the bitterest, the most crushing discovery in the whole circle of ministerial experience. All this was seeming failure. And this, brethren, is the picture of almost all human life. In the isolation of John's dying hour there appears failure again. The martyr of truth dies privately in Herod's dungeon. We have no record of his last words. There were no crowds to look on. We cannot describe how he received his sentence. Was he calm? Was he agitated? Did he bless his murderer? Did he give utterance to any deep reflections on human life? All that is shrouded in silence. He bowed his head, and the sharp stroke fell flashing down. We know that, we know no more — apparently a noble life abortive. And now —
III. Let us ask the question — WAS ALL THIS INDEED FAILURE? NO, it was sublimest victory. John's work was no failure. He left behind him no sect to which he had given his name, but his disciples passed into the service of Christ, and were absorbed in the Christian Church. Words from John had made impressions, and men forgot in after years where the impressions first came from, but the day of judgment will not forget. John laid the foundations of a temple, and others built upon it. He laid it in struggle, in martyrdom. It was covered up like the rough masonry below ground, but when we look round on the vast Christian Church, we are looking at the superstructure of John's toil. There is a lesson for us all in that, if we will learn it. Work, true work, done honestly and manfully for Christ, never can be a failure. We are treading upon a bridge of martyrs. The suffering was theirs — the victory is ours.
IV. In conclusion, we make three remarks.
1. Let young and ardent minds, under the first impressions of religion, beware how they pledge themselves by any open profession to more than they can perform.
2. We get from this subject the doctrine of a resurrection. John's life was hardness, his end was agony. Be content to feel that this world is not your home. Homeless upon earth; try more and more to make your home in heaven, above with Christ.
3. Devotedness to Christ is our only blessedness.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.