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Written by R. Anna Phillips   

 

The Gospel Messenger--1899

“Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of woman, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”—Matt. xi. 11.

This was spoken of John in a representative sense; who, as such, stands intermediate between Moses and Jesus, or the law and gospel. For the law and the prophets were until John.— Luke xvi. 16. And when John had “fulfilled his course,” he gave place to him (Jesus) that cometh after.—Acts xiii. 12; Mark i. 15. For though John and Jesus were, personally, cotemporary, and worked together, in a sense, preparing the way for the kingdom of God; yet their special mission work was separate, and one was “before,” the other “after.”

And so as Moses represents, or answers to the law; so John does to repentance and Jesus to faith. And faith attained, not only admits into the kingdom, but is also a seal of satisfaction to Moses and John, as “accomplished by the death of Jesus at Jerusalem.”
Moses or the law, as a school-master, brings on to Christ, but always by way of, and hand in hand with John, or repentance an a principle of necessary preparation, necessarily preceding faith; for as to the order of coming to Christ or the kingdom, remember that in the specification of gospel requirements, that “repentance toward God” comes before “faith in our Lord Jesus Christ;” and that those demands are directly made only on such as have learned from Moses the “exceeding sinfulness of sin.”

In the preceding verses, and as concerning John, Jesus said to the multitude, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” No, indeed; John did not represent a principle so weak and insignificant as to be stirred, or shaken, or moved in demand by earthly powers. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? They that wear soft clothing are in king’s houses.” Those already in the kingdom are so clothed upon. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face which shall prepare thy way before thee.”

Thus we see that John represents a principle of preparation that is not only fixed, immovable, not to be evaded, but also that must be met and fulfilled out in the barren wilderness of hunger and nakedness, guilt and need, toward Sinai. For Jesus says to all as to those who, referring to some whom they supposed had perished as greater sinners, “except ye repent ye shall all likewise-perish.” And while inexorable, the habiliments of repentance are not soft clothing, but sackcloth and ashes, so to speak. For although the messenger of Christ—the forerunner of faith—yet we, like the disciples of old, do not know John as Elias at the time, or that this is gospel repentance; nor yet Jesus as Redeemer, though present preparing the way for himself as such, else our-mourning would turn to joy.

Not only a prophet, but more than a prophet. As much as to say that repentance is not only obedience, but more than legal or ceremonial obedience; not only a good work, but more, as bringing nearer the kingdom of God, than the best deed done in the name of Moses; more acceptable to God than the best deed of law. For a repentant, contrite spirit is more than all whole burnt offerings.

In accordance Jesus continues, “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of woman, there bath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Born of woman, signifies in this connection, done of man, or human efforts. The above is as much as to say of all works done of man looking to salvation, none is greater than repentance; none so essential; none so potentially appeasing; none so acceptable to God as repentance.

“Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” That is, notwithstanding repentance is greater than any work in the wilderness beyond Jordan—done outside the kingdom of God—the least work done in the kingdom, and inevitably in faith, is greater than repentance. For a work done in the kingdom is done in the faith, and name, and Spirit of Jesus Christ, than which none can be so great, in earth or heaven. The least work done in faith is greater than repentance. The least one in the kingdom of God, as empowered with the name of Jesus, has power with God, and prevails, and overcomes the world.

Now, for the truth of my position, take your experience. You had known Moses a time; then John and Jesus came though you knew them not properly. You were baptized unto repentance in the wilderness or overwhelmed with grief and mourning for your sins. After a time you were led of Jesus, or Spirit, up into a high mountain, or, as it were, away from all earthly hope and help; and there saw more clearly the power, and grandeur, and glory of God, and your immergency of fear and trembling. You saw Moses, and Elms, and Jesus, and thought you must make them tabernacles, one to each, too; that is, you must keep the law and repent; then with these, looking to the death of Jesus at Jerusalem, or Christ crucified, was your hope of salvation. But when the cloud lifted, and the voice saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear him” was past, and Jesus touched and lifted you up you “saw no man save Jesus only,” and you ascribed salvation to Jesus only.

Eld. A. V. Simms requested my views on the above text, and they are submitted as above.

R. ANNA PHILLIPS

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 September 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.