John the Baptist, the herald of Messiah's approach, presents several good lessons as to preaching. Consider (1) His fearlessness. The Pharisees and Sadducees represented the culture and wealth, the best social respectability and religious reputation of the time, and yet when their conduct demanded it, he boldly called them a 'brood of vipers.' He was braver than Elijah, who faced Ahab but was so frightened by one threatening message from Jezebel that he ran the whole length of the land, and a day's journey into the desert, and wanted to die; while the new Elijah declared Herodias an adulteress, though he knew her character and must have foreseen her relentless wrath. (2) His humility - always turning attention away from himself to the Coming One, testifying of him on every occasion, willing to decrease that he might
increase. (3) His practicalness. He brought a grand and thrilling announcement, but brought also a practical injunction, for which it was to be the motive. "The reign of heaven has come near - therefore repent." And you have noticed his remarkable directions in Luke iii, to the people at large, to the publicans, to the soldiers, indicating to each class its characteristic fault, hitting the nail on the head at every blow. (4) His striving after immediate results. He did not say, go off and think about it, and in the course of time you may come to repentance; he said, repent now, profess it now, and show it henceforth, by fruit worthy of repentance. (5) His use of a ceremony to reinforce his preaching, and exhibit its results - a ceremony so solemn to those receiving it, so impressive to the spectators. Many a prophet had preached that men should repent, i.e., should turn from their sins, many had enforced the exhortation by predicting the coming of Messiah (though they could not declare it to be certainly near), but here was a striking novelty; this prophet bade them receive, and at his hands, a most thorough purification, in token that they did repent, and
did wish to be subjects of the kingdom of God. This striking and novel ceremony gave name, among all the people, to the man and his ministry. John the Baptizer, he was universally called, as we see from the fact that he is so named in the Gospels and Acts, and in Josephus too. And when Jesus in the last week of his ministry asked the chief priests and scribes a question about John, he did not say, the preaching of John - nor, the ministry of John - nor, the work of John - but, "the baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?" That represented to the people his whole mission. Now apart from all its significance in other respects, we can see that this ceremony had an important bearing on his preaching, as picturing what the preaching demanded, and as an appropriate action by which the people promptly set forth the effect which the preaching had produced on them. Many of the measures employed now, by which hearers may show that they are impressed, and profess their purposes, are but appeals, more or less wise, to these same principles of human nature to which John's baptism appealed.
[From John A Broadus, Lectures on the History of Preaching, 1902, pp. 19-21. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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