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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 111. 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
it no longer should be an engagement to us to avoid unnecessary delays, and to give God the prime and vigour of our life.
Our Great Master attained not, as it seems, to the conclusion of his thirty-fifth year, if he so much as entered upon it; yet what glorious achievements did he accomplish within these narrow limits of time! Happy that servant who, with any proportionable zeal, dispatches the great business of life! so much the more happy if his sun go down at noon; for the space that is taken from the labours of time will be added to the rewards of eternity.
MATT. IV. 1-11.-MARK I. 12, 13.-LUKE IV. 1-13. AND Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And he was there in the wilderness with the wild beasts, being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter, the devil, came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee to keep thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, in a moment of time: and saith unto him, All these things, and all this power, and the glory of them, will I give
thee; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt fall down and worship me, all these things will I give thee, and all shall be thine. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then when the devil had ended all the temptation, he leaveth him, and departed from him for a season. And behold, angels came
and ministered unto him.
Who can read this account without amazement, when he compares the insolence and malice of the prince of darkness with the condescension and grace of the Son of God!
What was it that animated and emboldened Satan to undertake such a work? Was it the easy victory he had obtained over the first Adam in Paradise! or was it the remembrance of his own fall, from whence he arrogantly concluded that no heart could stand against the temptations of pride and ambition? Could he, who afterwards proclaimed Christ to be the Son of the Most High God, and had perhaps but lately heard him owned as such by a voice from heaven, make any doubt of his Divinity? Or, if he actually believed it, could he expect to vanquish him? We may rather conclude that he did not expect it; but, mad with rage and despair, he was determined at least to worry that Lamb of God which he knew he could not devour; and to vex with his hellish suggestions, that innocent and holy soul which he knew he could never seduce. Wretched degeneracy! How art thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of of the morning! to be thus eagerly driving on thine own repulse and disgrace!
But, on the other hand, how highly are we obliged to our Great Deliverer, who hath brought forth meat out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong! who can sufficiently adore thy condescension, O blessed Jesus? who wouldst permit thyself to be thus assaulted and led from place to place by an infernal spirit, whom thou couldest in a moment have remanded back to hell to be bound in chains of darkness and overwhelmed with flaming ruin!
The apostle tells us why he permitted this: it was that, having himself suffered, being tempted, he might by this experience that he had of Satan's subtilty, and of the strength of his temptations, contract an additional tenderness and be the more inclined, as well as better able, to succour us when we are tempted. (Heb. ii. 18.) Let this embolden us to come