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SERMON

Preached at the

ROLL

L S,

December 24, 1710.

The Baptift's meffage to Jefus, and Jefus's answer explained.

St. MATTH. xi. 3.

Art thou be that should come? or do we look for another?

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T this time of advent, particularly dedicat ed by the church to a devout commemoration of our Saviour's coming in the flesh, and fet apart to prepare us for a worthy celebration of the approaching feast of his nativity; it may be no anfuitable entertainment to your thoughts, to fuggeft to you some reflexions on this paffage of fcripture, and those others which introduce, ac company, and explain it.

"When John had heard in prifon (fays the evangelift) the works of Chrift he fent two of his

disciples,

difciples, and faid unto him, art thou He that fhould come? or do we look for another?" That is, art thou the meffiah, the great Redeemer of Ifrael, whofe coming was foretold by the prophets, and is now expected with great impatience by the whole body of the Jews, and before whom I am fent, as his forerunner and harbinger? "Jefus answered, and faid unto them, go, and fhew John again those things which ye do hear and fee. The blind receive their fight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleanfed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gofpel preached unto them. And bleffed is he, whofoever fhall not be offended in me !" As if he had faid, "Judge ye yourselves, by the works " which I now perform, whether I am the Mef"fiah or not, or what reafon there can be to " doubt of my divine miffion and authority."

This tranfaction is extremely remarkable, and will afford much ufeful matter to our reflexions, in relation both to the enquiry made by the Baptift, and the anjwer returned by our Lord to that enquiry.

I. And First, as to the enquiry itself, it may be matter of just furprize to us, that the Baptift fhould, fo long after he had continued discharging the office of Chrift's harbinger, put fuch a queftion as this to our Saviour, Art thou He that fhould come? or do we look for another? For could John be ignorant of our Saviour's character? Could he entertain the leaft doubt of it? He, who had formerly baptized Chrift, had feen the Spirit defcend on him in the form of a dove, and heard

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the voice from heaven thus teftifying concerning him, This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleafed? He, who had borne record of our Lord more than once, that he was the Son of God, John i. 34. the Lamb of God, that taketh away the fins of the world? ver. 29. Could He poffibly afterwards be under any degree of hefitancy or doubt, in relation to our Saviour's character? Certainly he could not; and therefore we must look out for fome other reafon of his fending this meffage, befides the defire of fatisfying himself; and that plainly was the procuring fatisfaction to those by whom the meffage was fent, his difciples and followers, who, notwithstanding all the af feverations of John to this purpose, continued ftill incredulous:- We may fuppofe for these reafons:

1. Because they faw their mafter imprisoned, and now likely to be put to death, for preaching up the kingdom of God, and the coming of the Meffiah; and could not apprehend, that, had Jefus been that Meffiah, he fhould have wanted power or will to employ that power for the Baptiff's deliverance. And yet fo far was this from being the cafe, that our Saviour doth not appear once to have made an honourable mention of John, till after the difciples, who came upon this errand, had left him. Then indeed, and not before, the evangelift tells us, Jefus began to fay unto the multitudes, What went ye out into the widerness to fee? Matt ix. 7. and to take that occafion of enlarging on the Baptift's character, and the dignity of his office.

2. They might have obferved, that our Saviour

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had not himself hitherto afferted his right to that title, but declined all occafions that had been given him, of directly and openly owning himfelf to be the Meffiah; which conduct, tho' neceffary, in order to carry on, and complete his miniftry, without interruption from the Roman powers, was yet what the difciples of John, who had heard their mafter preaching up the kingdom of the, Meffiah without any difguife, could not underftand; nor account for it any otherwife, than by fuppofing that Jejus arrogated not that honour to himself, as being conscious, that it did not belong to him. And these fufpicions might be rai fed, by their obferving

3. The manner of our Saviour's life and converfation, which was fo very different from that of their mafter's, and had fo much lefs an outward appearance of fanctity in it. The one came neither eating nor drinking, Matt. xi. 18. delighted in folitude, and lived in the practice of the highest rigours and aufterities; The Other came eating and drinking, lived in the world, and according to all the innocent customs of it; converfing freely and promifcuously with all forts of men, even with publicans and finners. And therefore they were tempted to think, that He, who was fo far beneath their mafter in what they called perfection and holinefs, could not be fo far above him in his character and office, as, if he were the Meffiah, he must have been.

Thefe doubts, it is probable, that John had very often endeavoured to remove: But finding that they still stuck with his followers, he took the last and best way of fatisfying them, by fend

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