Imágenes de páginas

with fire. Instead of taking advantage of the zeal of the assembled multitude, which, had any concert existed, the Messiah and his forerunner would scarcely have neglected to do, our Saviour wanders forth alone, without waiting to receive their homage, and lingers for six weeks in the depths of the adjoining wilderness. On His return, though again hailed by the Baptist as the Lamb of God, He resumes no intercourse with him ; each proceeds on his course of laborious preaching, of painful wandering, but our Lord alone, of blessed and most mighty miracles; the one laying claim to an existence and authority eternal, supreme, and infinite; the other, even in bonds and death, rejoicing in the success of the younger prophet, and cheerfully sacrificing his own importance and supremacy to His superior claim on whom the hopes of Israel rested, and of whom all the prophets of ancient time had spoken.

It is plain that St. John, while acting thus, could have no motive for deceiving others. But might he be himself deceived? Was he an honest but visionary enthusiast? Many reasons may be urged against our entertaining such an opinion of him.

In the first place, the character of an enthusiast is almost always strongly marked by pride. Such a person is extremely unlikely to descend, as St. John did, to take the second place, or to rejoice so consistently and unaffectedly in the decay of his own popularity.

Secondly, the practical ienor of John's preaching, the repentance which he inculcated, and which he made, as we see in his answers to the soldiers and publicans, to consist not in superstitious forms, not in abstraction and contemplation, but in the discharge by every man of the plain and appropriate duties of his condition, is of a character too honest, too sensible, and sound, for a heated temper or a diseased imagination.

And, above all, the coincidence of his choice with the circumstances and character of Jesus, is a decisive proof that such a choice was not determined by chance, nor built on the dictates of a capricious and casual fancy.

If men drew lots for a king, it would be strange indeed if, out of a mighty and promiscuous multitude, the lot should ac

[ocr errors]

tually fall on one of royal blood, of unexceptionable character, with every private and every public quality which could fit him for a ruler or a conqueror. But what are the qualifications of an earthly king, to those marks which were to distinguish the Messiah, who was not only to be a descendant of David, but the son of a virgin; who was not only to speak as never man spake, but to do the works which never man did ; to heal the sick, to cleanse the leper, to cast out deyils, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to raise the dead, yea, and Himself to arise from the dead, having first poured forth His soul to death, and made His life an offering for many ? Was it a casual or enthusiastic choice which rested on a Man, whose bidding the waves obeyed? Was the fig-tree in the plot, which dried up at the word of Jesus? Or were the earth and moon and sun confederates in the forgery, which quaked, and became dim, and hid their glories in the hour when the Lord was crucified ? Verily “ John did no miracle ; but all things that John spake of this Man were true:"* and the truth and the life is in Him.

A confirmation, then, of our faith, is the first and most obvious lesson which we are to learn from the Baptist's history. But there are other circumstances in which the son of Zacharias was sent for the instruction of the world, and in which he was given as a sign for many. I sign and not a pattern, inasmuch as, for the particular austerities which he practised, we have no warrant in the example of our Lord, nor in the earlier days of the Church, nor could such austerities be usually practised without a neglect of more important duties. But when we see the son of Zacharias in the wilderness, a mournful solitary man, can we refrain from observing, how insignificant in the sight of God are the advantages of worldly wealth and greatness, since the most illustrious of His saints and His only Son Himself, had of this world's goods so extremely small a pittance? Or, can we avoid observing, that, as St. John, the reprover of sin, preceded Jesus, the messenger of pardon; so Christ, it is plain, can be only effectually approached by the gate of repentance, while repentance is of no avail, unless, like St. John, it leads us to Christ?

say a

* St. John 8. 41.

Some days yet remain of that season which the Church has devoted to the consideration of our Saviour's advent, and a preparation for the feast of His nativity. In those days, let St. John be in your thoughts; during those days let the Son of God be the object of your devotions; and intreat His grace that you may be so prepared to partake in His sacraments, that at His second coming in might and majesty ye may be found fit to enter into His joy. Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when He returneih shall find thus doing !



[Preached at Trichinopoly, April 2, 1826.]

1 Sr. John v. 6-8. This is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood, and these three agree

in one.

To understand the meaning of these difficult words of St. John, it will be necessary to consider the tendency of his general argument, and for that purpose to go back to the former part of the chapter whence they are taken, in which he is at once enforcing the practical duties of a Christian, and the motives and principles and gracious aids from which those duties must proceed, and by which alone our weakness is enabled to perform them. We are called

upon, he first tells us, to prove our love of God by the active discharge of our duty; and this duty is rendered easy to us by the change which is wrought by God's grace in every one who truly seeks His mercy through the merits of His Son, which, to express the total alteration caused by it in our desires and habits, is called regeneration, or being

he tells us,


born afresh, and, to signify the degree of God's power to which we are thereby admitted, is here called by St. John, the being “born of God.” “ This is the love of God,"

“ that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous; for whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world."* As if he had said, the love of God can only be proved either to God or man, by our keeping those commandments, which God Himself hath given us. But how are these commandments to be kept? How is it that, weak as we are, the lovers and servants of sin, we shall be enabled to do all which God requires at our hands as proofs of our love? How shall we be able to deny ourselves and our sinful lusts, to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil ; to give up our sins, though those sins be dearer to us than a right hand or a right eye ; to bear with cheerfulness the scorn and persecution of men; to be contented to incur the name of fool and hypocrite and madman, rather than do those things which God has forbidden? The world and its temptations are set against the kingdom of Christ, and who are we that we should be able to struggle with the world ? Be not afraid of your own weakness, or the world's terror. In yourselves you have no power, but through Christ's merits power shall be given you; and he that is born of God, we have God's own word for it, shall be able to overcome the world. But wherewith are we to be thus enabled ? What shall be ur weapon in this great battle? Through what feelings, what hopes, what inward power, shall we be able to resist such enticements, to withstand such terrors? The objection is foreseen, the answer is ready ; “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith ; who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”In other words, our knowledge and belief in Christ and in His promises, our hopes of Heaven, our fears of hell, our deep and unaffected thankfulness towards Him by whose merits Heaven is opened to us, and by whose sufferings we are redeemed from everlasting misery; these hopes, this fear, this love, are so much

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »