Page images

scious of his own comparative littleness, he shrank from the high office assigned


him; "I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me1?" But the modest reply of his Saviour, and the gentle admonition that it was his duty, repressed the hesitation. And then was displayed a remarkable evidence of the divine approbation. For "Jesus, when he was baptized, went straightway up out of the water, and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God, descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

The Baptist's task was now, well nigh, finished. He had not only prepared men for the coming of their Saviour, but had even anointed that Saviour for his holy mission. "The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world 2," he knew had, now, arrived, and that, henceforth, that holy Being "must increase,

1 Matt. iii. 14.

2 John i. 29.

while he, himself, must decrease 1." He had, therefore, now, little more to do, but to tarry the Lord's leisure. And he had not long to wait. That persecution, which he might have expected, but which he did not fear, was at hand. The adulterous queen, whom he had, so boldly, reproved, devised his ruin. At her instigation, he was cast into prison; by her persuasions, he was there detained; and at length, by her artifices, he was given up to death; and thus was his soul delivered from its fleshly tabernacle, into the hands of his faithful Creator.

But, before this befell, he had the satisfaction of hearing, that the great work, which he had come into the world to announce, had begun. Even in prison, the fame of the blessed Jesus, and how he was followed by the multitude, reached his ears. And to the message which he sent, upon being made acquainted with these circumstances, was the gracious answer returned. "The blind receive

1 John iii. 30.

their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached unto them; and blessed is he, whoever shall not be offended in me 1."

Such was the office, and such the conduct of John the Baptist. Boldly he spake the truth; firmly he resisted the evil; and thus did he discharge the duty allotted him, who was "the messenger sent before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways."

Unto the blessings of that Gospel, which he came to prepare men for, it has been our privilege to enter. But, for a due participation of its benefits, the same preparations which he commanded men to make, we are bound to make also. These are those of a pure heart, an humble mind, a sincere integrity, and a singleness of purpose. Such is the spirit which we must be of, if we wish rightly to receive the Gospel; and they who have

it not will never be in a fit state of mind to appreciate, truly, that which is so contrary to the perversions of our nature, and so opposed to our general prejudices.

And he, whose Gospel it is, can best give us the grace which will enable us to make this preparation. He, "from whom every good and perfect gift cometh," can endow us with meekness, humility, sincerity, and integrity; for he can bestow on us the gift of his holy Spirit, by whom we may be enabled "to have a right judgment in all things;" from whom we may receive strength where we fail ourselves; by whom, in short, we may advance to holiness, here, and to happiness, hereafter, and thus, finally, obtain admission into his everlasting kingdom.


To whom be ascribed all honor, glory, power, for ever and ever. Amen.




ST. MATTHEW iv. 1.

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

THE space of time from his birth, till the period arrived, when he thought fit to enter on the public offices of his mission, our blessed Saviour spent in private and in retirement. To this line of conduct there was but one exception. It was when he was twelve years old, that his parents first carried him with them to Jerusalem, when they went thither, at the feast of the passover; and that he, then, was found by them in the temple, " sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them

« PreviousContinue »