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him to continue in that state. However, it is certainly full of obstacles to salvation, which are with difficulty surmounted. A state, which is generally embraced either out of passion, or libertinism, or through a blind destination of birth, the exercises whereof are so violent and tumultuous, agrees but little with the exercises of Christianity, or the spirit of the Gospel, which is all peace, charity, and meekness. It is notwithstanding just and necessary, that there should be men to defend the state; but it is still more just and necessary, that this should not be done at the expense of salvation. The grace of God can do every thing: this is what ought to comfort those who intend to serve him, in serving their king and country.
One cannot but observe the general agreement and harmony which seem to have prevailed, at this time, among men, otherwise of tempers and dispositions very different from, and opposite to, each other. Jews and Gentiles, Pharisees and publicans, Sadducees and soldiers, all confess their sins, and participate of the same baptism; all struck with apprehensions of some impending evil, all flying from the wrath to come; forgetting their mutual hostilities and antipathies, and, like the creatures in the days of Noah, taking refuge together in the ARK. As if the prophecy of Isaiah had now begun to receive its accomplishment, the publicans, who, before the preaching of John, were ravenous as evening "wolves," became innocent as the "lamb." The soldiers, who
had been formerly fierce and cruel as the " lion," became tame and tractable as the "ox," and submitted their necks to the yoke of the Gospel. Such of the Pharisees likewise, who, before their baptism, had been venomous as the "asp," or "cackatrice," did, by the worthy receiving of this baptism, and the grace which God gave them, become mild and gentle as the "sucking infant," or "weaned child'.
The concord thus produced in Judea by the sermons of St. John, and the tranquillity which the whole earth then enjoyed, sitting quiet, as it were, in expectation of her Lord, betokened the manifestation of the Prince of peace. "Then cometh Jesus from "Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized of "him." After thirty years passed in retirement at Nazareth, the blessed Jesus was now to break forth, like the sun from a cloud, or a stream from the bowels of the earth, to enlighten mankind by his doctrine, and refresh them with the influences of his grace. The mighty concourse of all ranks and degrees of people attending St. John at the river Jordan, rendered that the fittest place where he might first show himself to the world. He who knew no sin, but was to take away the sins of all other men, presented himself in the crowd of sinners, as one of them, and solicited" the baptism of repent"ance," not that water might sanctify him, but that he might "sanctify water to the mystical washing 66 away of sin."
b See the Works of Dr. Thomas Jackson, ii. 522.
Confounded at the thought of the Master being baptized by the servant, St. John at first "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 be"cometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he "suffered him." Jesus Christ, as condescending to stand charged with our sins, and, to that end, being "made under the law," was to fulfil the "righteous"ness" of the law, as it consisted in an obedience to ceremonial rites, as well as moral precepts. In the character and capacity of our substitute, he underwent circumcision, although he had no sin of his own to be cut off; and received baptism, although he had no pollution of his own to be washed away. What Christian can slight the ordinances of the church, when he sees the Redeemer, for his sake, submitting to observe them all?
No sooner was Jesus baptized, but he "came up "straightway" out of the river, like another Joshua, leading his people, through the waters of Jordan, to the land of promise. And as he was "praying,' doubtless for success in the great work he had undertaken, Lo, the heavens were opened, and the 'Spirit of God," encompassed, we may presume, with a blaze of glory, "descended in a bodily shape "like a dove," speaking better things than that of Noah. In this form, emblematical of innocence and purity, it "lighted," settled, and abode upon him ; the Father thus consecrating him to his office, by
Gal. iv. 4.
"anointing him with the Holy Ghost and with "power," as the legal ministers were anointed with oil. And that no doubt might remain, the appearance was farther explained by "a voice from hea"ven," saying, "This is my beloved son, in whom "I am well pleased." Such are the blessings which, in effect, do always attend the divine sacraments, when duly administered, with prayer. For then the heavens are opened, and the Spirit is given, to conform us to the image of a meek and holy Saviour, and, through him, to make us acceptable in the sight of God.
Considerations on the Testimony borne by St. John, at different Times, to the Messiahship of Jesus.
WHEN a servant of God, through the power of divine grace, hath made some proficiency in holiness, and seeth the world and the flesh under his feet, it is not uncommon for his third enemy, the devil, to set upon him, and prevail over him, by puffing him up with a conceit of his own excellency, and so rendering his very attainments an occasion of his falling. The hurt which a man receives, in such a case, is proportionable to the height from which he falls; as
Acts, x. 38.
hell was first prepared for the tempter himself, because he fell from heaven.
It is not, therefore, the least conspicuous part of St. John's character, that a sanctity so extraordinary was not in him accompanied with any degree of pride, a worm which often cankers the fairest fruits. that grow in the garden of God. He heard his own. praise echoed from every quarter, and "all men," struck with admiration at what was about to happen, "mused in their hearts concerning him, whether he "was the Christ." Nay, the Sanhedrim, that they might be resolved in so important a point, sent a formal deputation of "priests and Levites from Je"rusalem, to inquire of him, Who art thou." As the Baptist was, at that time, in high repute among his countrymen, and as secular designs are sometimes covered with spiritual pretences, it is not impossible, but that they might hope to flatter him into an acknowledgement of his being "some great one, and to frame of him a Messiah adapted to their purposes. But John was neither ambitious of an honour which did not belong to him, nor ashamed of a Master, who was about to appear in the form of a servant. He took no glory to himself, but remitted it all where he knew it to be due. "He confessed, "and denied not, but confessed, I am not the Christ. "And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?" that is, Elijah the Tishbite, whom they expected from heaven! "And he saith, I am not." "Art "thou oops, the prophet," meaning probably
f Luke, iii. 15.
John, i. 19, &c.