The Preacher





I contend that John the Baptist must have been one of the grandest

preachers this world has ever had. Almost any man can get a hearing

nowadays in a town or a city, where the people live close together;

especially if he speaks in a fine building where there is a splendid

choir, and if the meetings have been advertised and worked up for

weeks or months beforehand. In such circumstances any man who has a

gift for speaking will get a good audience. But it was very

different with John. He drew the people out of the towns and cities

away into the wilderness. There were no ministers to back him; no

business men interested in Christ's cause to work with him; no

newspaper reporters to take his sermons down and send them out. He

was an unknown man, without any title to his name. He was not the

Right-Rev. John the Baptist, D. D., or anything of the kind, but

plain John the Baptist. When the people went to inquire of him if he

were Elias or Jeremiah come back to life, he said he was not.



"Who are you then?"



"I am the Voice of one crying in the wilderness."



He was nothing but a voice--to be heard and not seen; he was Mr.

Nobody. He regarded himself as a messenger who had received his

commission from the eternal world.



How he began his ministry, and how he gathered the crowds together

we are not informed. I can imagine that one day this strange man

makes his appearance in the valley of the Jordan, where he finds a

few shepherds tending their flocks. They bring together their

scattered sheep, and the man begins to preach to these shepherds.

The kingdom of heaven, he says, is about to be set up on the earth;

and he urges them to set their houses in order--to repent and turn

away from their sins. Having delivered his message, he tells them

that he will come back the next day and speak again.



When he had disappeared in the desert, I can suppose one of the

shepherds saying to another:



"Was he not a strange man? Did you ever hear a man speak like that?

He did not talk as the rabbis or the Pharisees or the Sadducees do.

I really think he must be one of the old prophets. Did you notice

that his coat was made of camel's hair, and that he had a leathern

girdle round his loins? Don't the Scriptures say that Elijah was

clothed like that?"



Says another: "You remember how Malachi says that before the great

and dreadful day of the Lord, Elijah should come? I really believe

this man is the old prophet of Carmel."



What could stir the heart of the Jewish people more than the name of

Elijah?



The tidings of John's appearance spread up and down the valley of

the Jordan, and when he returned the next day, there was great

excitement and expectation as the people listened to the strange

preacher. Perhaps till Christ came he had only that





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