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selves received of his fulness! May an abundance of grace be communicated from him to us! We are not straitened in him; oh, may we not be straitened in ourselves; but daily renewing our application to him as our Living Head, may vital influences be continually imparted to our souls from him!
With pleasure let us compare the dispensation of Jesus with that of Moses, and observe the excellency of its superior grace and of its brighter truth; but let us remember, as a necessary consequence of this, that if the despisers of Moses's law died without mercy, they shall be thought worthy of a much sorer punishment and a more aggravated condemnation who tread under foot the Son of God. Heb. x. 28, 29.
May we ever regard him as the Only-Begotten of the Father; and, since he hath condescended so far as to come down from his very bosom to instruct us in his nature and will, let us with all humility receive his dictates and earnestly pray, that under his revelations and teachings, we may so know God as faithfully to serve him now, and at length, eternally to enjoy him.
MATT. III. 1-4.-MARK I. 2—4.—Luke III. 1—6. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip, tetrarch of Iturea, and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness of Judea. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. As it is written in the prophets, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a girdle of a skin about his loins, and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
It is surely matter of unspeakable thankfulness that the kingdom of heaven should be erected among men! that the great God should condescend so far as to take to himself a people from our mean and sinful world, and appoint his own Son to be the governor of that kingdom! How happy are we that it is preached among us and we are called into it! Let it be our great care that we be not only nominal but real members of it.
For this purpose let us remember and consider that, to become the subjects of this kingdom, we are to enter it by the way of repentance; humbly confessing our sins, and resolutely forsaking them, if we do indeed desire to find mercy.
Let us bless God, both for the promises of pardon and for the appointment of the seals of it, particularly of baptismal washing; always remembering the obligation it brings upon us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Cor. vii. 1.
And, being ourselves become members of Christ's kingdom, let us pray that it may be every where extended. May Divine Grace remove every obstruction, and make a free course for his gospel, that it may every where run and be glorified, so that all flesh may see the salvation of God!
MATT. III. 5-12-MARK 1. 7-8.-LUKE III. 7-20. THEN went out to him Jerusalem, and all the land of Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance. And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root
of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth, and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner: but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people. But Herod the tetrarch being reproved by John for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.
What an excellent pattern of ministerial service does John exhibit in the passage before us! Blessed is that gospel preacher who, like him, seeks not his own ease and pleasure and indulges not too luxurious and sensual inclinations, but cheerfully accommodates himself to the state and circumstances which Providence hath assigned him, as infinitely more intent on the success of his ministry than on any little interest of his own that can interfere with it!-Happy the man who, imitating the impartiality of this faithful servant of God, giveth to every one his portion of meat in due season,
and abhors the thoughts of flattering men in their vices or buoying them up with delusive hopes in their birth and profession, while they are destitute of real and vital religion!
May this plain and awakening address be felt by every soul that hears it! And, in particular, let the children of religious parents, let those that enjoy the most eminent privileges and that make even the strictest profession, weigh themselves in this balance of the sanctuary, lest they be found wanting in the awful decisive day. And if the warnings of the gospel have alarmed our hearts, and puts us upon fleeing from the wrath to come, oh, let the terrors of the Lord engage us not only to confess but to forsake our sins, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance!
Let all, to whom the gospel message comes, most attentively and seriously consider in what alarming circumstances of danger and extremity impenitent sinners are here represented. The gospel is the last dispensation we must ever expect; the axe is at the root of the unfruitful tree, and it must ere long be cut down and burnt, be its branches ever so diffusive and its leaves ever so green.
Christ hath a fan in his hand to winnow us, as well as the Jews. O that we may stand the trial! And O that, as his wheat, we may be laid up in the store-house of heaven when that day cometh which shall burn as an oven, and when all that do wickedly shall be consumed as stubble, and be burnt up as chaff! Mal. iv. 1.
And to conclude: that we may be prepared for that final trial, let us be earnest in our applications to our gracious Redeemer, that as we are baptized with water in his name, he would also baptize us with the Holy Ghost and with fire; that, by the operations of his Holy Spirit on our cold and stupid hearts, he would enkindle and quicken that Divine life, that sacred love, that flaming, yet well-governed zeal for his glory, which distinguishes the true Christian from the hypocritical professor, and is indeed the seal of God set upon the heart to mark it for eternal happiness.
MATTHEW III. 13-17.-MARK 1. 9-11.-LUKE III. 21-23.
It came to pass in those days, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be
baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And he was baptized of John in Jordan. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and praying. And lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God, in a bodily shape, descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And lo, a voice came from heaven, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age.
Let our Lord's submitting himself to baptism teach us a holy exactness and care in the observance of those positive institutions which owe their obligations merely to a Divine command; for thus it also becometh us to fulfil all righteousness; lest by breaking one of the least of Christ's commandments, and teaching others to do it, we become unworthy of a part in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. v. 19.)
Jesus had no sin to confess or wash away, yet he was baptized; and God owned that ordinance so far as to make it the season of pouring forth the Spirit upon him. And where can we expect this sacred effusion, but in a conscientious and humble attendance on Divine appointments?
Let us remember in how distinguishing a sense Jesus is the Christ, the anointed of God, to whom the Father hath not given the Spirit by measure, but hath poured it out upon him in the most abundant degree. Let us trace the workings of this Spirit in Jesus, not only as a Spirit of miraculous power, but of the richest grace and holiness; earnestly praying that this holy unction may, from Christ our head, descend upon our souls! May his enlivening Spirit kindle its sacred flame there with such vigour that many waters may not be able to quench it, nor floods of temptation and corruption to drown it.
Behold God's beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased? As such let us honour and love him; and, as such, let our souls acquiesce in him, as, in every respect, such a Saviour as our wishes might have asked and our necessities required.
With what amazement should we reflect upon it that the blessed Jesus, though so early ripened for the most extensive services, should live in retirement even till his thirtieth year! That he deferred his ministry so long should teach us not to thrust ourselves forward to public stations till we are qualified for them, and plainly discover a Divine call: that he deferred