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 speakin
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
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