The Birth of John Baptist

The Birth of John Baptist

Birth of John Baptist. Benedictus.

(The Gospel History, Section 8)

Now Elisabeth’s time was fulfilled that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, blessing God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judæa. And all that heard them laid them up in their heart, saying, What then shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.

And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
For he hath visited and wrought redemption for his people,
And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of his servant David
(As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began),
Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
To shew mercy towards our fathers,
And to remember his holy covenant;
The oath which he sware unto Abraham our father,
To grant unto us that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies
Should serve him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Yea and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Most High:
For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to make ready his ways;
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people
In the remission of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
Whereby the dayspring from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death;
To guide our feet into the way of peace.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

The Birth of John Baptist

(The Saviour of the World, Vol I Book I Poem XI)

Meanwhile the days of silence were fulfilled
For Zacharias: his wife, Elizabeth,
Bare him the promised son; and all their kin
Rejoiced, for the Lord had magnified
His mercy upon her. The neighbours came
To circumcise the child on the eighth day:
“After his father must the son be called”;
And “Zacharias” they would name him; she,
“Not so, but John shall be his name.” “Why John?
None of his kindred goeth by that strange name!”
And finding the mother wilful, they appealed,
As well they might, to the still speechless sire:
He for his writing-table signed, and wrote
“His name is John”: and, marvel, at the word
His mouth was opened, and his tongue unloosed,
He spake, and blessed his God! The friendly folk,
Marvelling at all the wonders they had seen,
Knew, with the Patriarch, “God Himself is here,
And we, unknowing!” And when they sought their homes
Among the hills, they whispered here and there
What great things had been done; and all who heard
Laid up an expectation in their hearts—
“What then shall this child be, with whom is God?
No prophet hath risen in Israel for many years!”

And his father, Zacharias, being filled
With the Holy Ghost, prophesied and spake:—

“Bless’d be the Lord, the God of Israel,
Who hasteth now His promise to fulfil:
Who hath redemption for His people wrought,
Horn of salvation, of our flesh, hath brought—

“A living refuge, come of David’s line,
(As spake the prophets, adding each his sign)—
Salvation from our enemies, and all
The foes within that most our souls enthral.

“And to our fathers He doth mercy reach,
Remembering His covenant with each,
The oath that unto Abraham He sware,
That we should serve Him henceforth without fear;

“That righteous, holy, should be all our days,
And all our thoughts converted to His praise!
Thou, child, in this, God’s kingdom, hast thy part,
prophet of the Most High, and herald, art,

“To go before the Lord, and make His ways
Ready, His folk, preparèd for His praise;—
Because they know how God salvation brings
And comes to men with healing on His wings,

“The Dayspring from on high, whose gradual light
Shall spread o’er desolate nations of the night;
Shall, shining, bring to captive souls release,
And guide our feet into the way of peace!”

And the child grew; full early was about
His Master’s business; no dalliance for him
Within the kindly precincts of his home;
Stress of the Spirit drave him forth to wastes—
Still, silent places, where the voice of God
Could reach him, undisturbed by fret of life.
Through all the years from infancy to man
God taught this, His last prophet, of His ways,
Who lent his ear obedient to the Word:
Might we but know the lessons, day by day,
Line upon line, imparted!—He was great;
None greater had arisen in Israel:—
For the rest, he was in deserts till the day
Of his showing: his parents, they who loved him,
Let him be.

St. Luke i. 57–68.
Benedictus: St. Luke i. 68–80.