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SERM. “ Israel came out of Egypt," says the Psalm
« and the house of Jacob from among “ strange people, Juda was bis sanctuary, 6 and Israel bis dominion. The sea saw that “ and fled; Jordan was driven back.-Trem“ ble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, “ at the presence of the God of Jacob!” And in the 68th Psalm, alluding to the same event, “ O God, when thou wentest forth be“fore thy people; when thou wentest through “ the wilderness, the earth sbook, and the “ heavens dropped at the presence of God.” In these passages, it is true, there is as much of fact as poetry.
“ The sea" really fled” at the command of God, and “ For" dan was driven back :” “ the earth" did “ shake” when the Law was given from Mount Sinai, and “the beavens dropped” manna to feed the people of God: however, in both these instances, and many others that might be referred to, we always find the presence of God described as operating the most stupendous effects, and occasioning the greatest revolutions. When the forerunner of the blessed Jesus appeared, a revolution was to be effected,
the most important and stupendous that serM. could be thought of ; not the subversion XIX. of lofty hills, but the conversion of mens' hearts; not the levelling of mountains, or raising of vallies, but the bringing low the proud thoughts of man, and comforting the meek and humble. He came to preach repentance, and to foretel the remission of sins, through Christ. His office was preparatory to the actual appearance of the Redeemer, and his doctrines were all applied to procure him that reception, which, in the gracious purposes and designs of his divine will, he most desired. No pomp or pageantry was necessary; the kingdom of heaven indeed was at hand, but then it was a spiritual kingdom ; its ensigns of royalty were peace and pardon; it required not the homage of shouts and acclamations, but that all men would prepare to receive it, by submitting to the baptism of repentance, This was the mark by which they were to be distinguished, when he that was mightier than John should come. The holy Baptist had many strong prejudices to combat peculiar to the times; the Jews
SERM. had a very erroneous notion of the coming
of the Messiah, and even in their attention to the Law, they had fallen into many corruptions, the most opposite to the true spirit of Christianity that can well be conceived. So that in “preparing the way of
the Lord,” and “ making ready the people” for the reception of the Gospel, he had more to do of a spiritual tendency, than the most rapturous flights of prophetic language could adequately describe. But it is a hard task, at all times, to “ turn the “ hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the
just." And it is to be doubted, whether we, who are obviously free from the prejudices of the Jews, and have long been taught to worship God in spirit and in truth, (not relying on any mere ritual services), are better disposed to receive our Saviour as we should do, than the multitudes who flocked in crowds to the baptism of John. The cases are parallel, and the comparison is exceedingly worth your attending to. Christ is at hand, to fulfil all that John foretold. And though indeed he had much of mercy and loving
kindness to proclaim ; though he had to SERM. tell the world in general, that upon certain XIX. conditions “ their warfare was about to be
accomplished, and their iniquities pardoned," yet it will be but wise in us to look to the other parts of his prediction, which represent the Messiah in his judicial capacity. Among the numbers that came out to him, “ from Jerusalem, and Judea, and all “ the region round about Jordan," (Mark i. 5.) there were many of the two Jewish sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees; the former of whom contented themselves entirely with the form of godliness, without the power thereof, being noted for their vain pretences of religion and hypocritical devotions; the latter denied two of the most fundamental articles of all religion—the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, and the ex· istence of spirits. To such as these John had nothing comfortable to proclaim, except they also should not only be willing to receive his baptism of repentance, but be ready to bring forth fruits corresponding. He reminded them, therefore, that the kingdom of God was at hand, in terms
SERM. most awful and alarming.
Now, says XIX. he, you must no longer think of trusting
to your own vain and hypocritical pretences ; you must no longer depend upon an empty shew of religion, or upon any false persuasions of there being no future state of retribution ; you must no longer think to compass the joys of heaven, or avoid the pains of hell, upon any easier terms than that of an exact and thorough reformation of your hearts; for he who is coming, “ bis fan in his band, and be will thoroughly
purge his floor, but the chaff he will burn “ with fire unquenchable :" “ and now also “ the axe is laid unto the root of the trees;
therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth fruit, is hewn down and cast into the ' fire.” In such terms did the holy Baptist, who otherwise was the harbinger of peace and pardon, address those who were not duly prepared for the Advent of our Lord ; and we cannot in the least doubt but that the warning is of the same importance at all times and seasons. The first appearance of our Lord was close at hand undoubtedly when John preached ; but can any of us tell whether his second coming