Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 1:17 - 1:17

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 1:17 - 1:17

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Luk_1:17. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

THE Mosaic dispensation may be called the age of prophecy; for under it was foretold every thing which should be accomplished to the end of time. The nearer the prophets arrived to the commencement of the Christian era, the more minute and circumstantial were their predictions respecting it. Other prophets had spoken largely of the Messiah; but Malachi, the last of them, points out his harbinger; and closes the prophetic canon with announcing the mission of one, who should prepare the world for his reception [Note: Mal_4:5-6.]. Accordingly, about the time that Christ was to come, it was expected that Elijah, or at least some prophet like unto him, should first appear [Note: Hence those questions put to the Baptist, Joh_1:21 and to our Lord, Mat_17:10-13.]. Hence, when the angel was sent to Zacharias to inform him, that he in his old age should have a son, who was destined by God to the office of introducing the Messiah; he cited that very prophecy of Malachi, and cast the true light upon it: he told him, that this son of his should go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elias, and have the honour of announcing to the world the Messiah’s advent.

Respecting this person, thus solemnly foretold, and thus miraculously born, we shall be led to notice two things;

I.       His character—

It is in a comparative view that the text requires us to consider this:

He came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” whom he closely resembled—

[The resemblance may be seen in the endowments of their mind [Note: They were both men of eminent piety. Compare 1Ki_17:24 and Jam_5:17 and 2Ki_2:9; 2Ki_2:11. with Luk_1:15. Joh_5:35. Mat_11:9; Mat_11:11.] — — — the habits of their life [Note: They were self-denied and dead to the world. Compare 1Ki_17:3-6; 1Ki_17:10 and 2Ki_1:8. with Mat_3:4 and Luk_1:80.] — — — the exercise of their ministry [Note: They were bold reprovers and successful reformers. Compare 1Ki_18:17-40; 1Ki_21:19-24 and 2Ki_1:3-4. with Luk_3:7-14; Luk_3:16-19 and Mat_21:32.] — — —]

In this view, John is said to be “great in the sight of the Lord”—

[Such a character will not be admired amongst men: but with God it is in the highest estimation. We grant that, in some respects, it is not so much suited to us, as it was to John, and the particular office he sustained: but, for the most part, it is proper for every person in every age, and most of all for ministers. It is proper that we be “filled with the Holy Ghost;” and if we be so “even from our mother’s womb,” happy are we. We ought also to shew a holy superiority to the world, to sit loose to its cares and pleasures, and to be regardless of its frowns or favours. We should dare to serve our God, even though the whole nation have departed from him: and bear our testimony against sin, by whomsoever it be committed. We should shew ourselves determinately on the Lord’s side, and “shine as lights in a dark world.”]

Suited to his august character Was,

II.      His office—

This was peculiar to himself; he alone of all the sons of men was appointed to be the forerunner of his Lord—

[It was customary for great personages to send messengers before them to prepare their way: and such a messenger was John the Baptist [Note: Mal_3:1. with Mat_11:10; Mat_11:14.]. It was highly proper that so glorious a person as the Messiah should not even appear to come in a surreptitious or clandestine manner; but that the minds of men should be directed to him, and his arrival be made the subject of general expectation. Hence we find, that the great argument by which John excited men to repentance, was this, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He continually disclaimed all pretensions to the Messiahship himself, and directed them to One, who was speedily to arise among them, “whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose.” As the Messiah’s harbinger, he strove to prepare the hearts of men for his reception. Men of all ages and descriptions were warned by him; and “fathers with their children were turned by him unto the Lord their God.” The most “disobedient” among them “were converted by him to the wisdom of the just,” even to that adorable Jesus, whom all the righteous love, and in the love of whom true wisdom consists. This was the end and aim of his whole ministry, even to point men to that “Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world:” and, having succeeded in this according to his father’s prediction [Note: ver. 76, 77.], he was glad himself to “decrease,” that “the Messiah might increase” and be glorified [Note: Joh_3:30.].]

But similar to his, is the office of every minister—

[The minds of the generality are as regardless of Christ as if he had never come into the world; they take his name indeed into their lips, but have no desire after his salvation in their hearts. Hence arises the necessity of crying to them continually, “Behold the Lamb of God,” “behold him, behold him [Note: Isa_65:1.]!” Him we must exalt as the only Saviour of the world; and account our lives well spent, if we be the favoured instruments of converting but a few to him — — —]

We cannot but observe from this subject,

1.       How great a person Christ must be—

[From the preparations which were made for his reception, we are led to expect that he was possessed of more than human dignity: and accordingly we find him identified with Jehovah [Note: Compare Mal_3:1. with Mat_11:10.], and designated as the “Lord our God [Note: ver. 16.].” Yes: he was “Emmanuel, God with us,” or, as he is elsewhere called, “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ [Note: Tit_2:13.].” While therefore we contemplate his advent, let us think of it with the profoundest admiration, and the most lively gratitude.]

2.       How important must be the knowledge of him—

[The very end for which John was miraculously given to the world, was to bear witness to Christ, and to commend him to the Jewish nation. Was then the knowledge of Christ of such importance to the Jews? Surely it is no less so to us: our salvation depends upon it, as well as theirs: and therefore we should all ask ourselves, ‘What think I of Christ? What am I the better for him? What hope have I in him?’ In him alone can we find acceptance, and “by him alone can we, be justified.” To him then let us direct our most assiduous attention, and “count all things but as dross and dung” for the excellency of the knowledge of him.”]