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SERM. we opened our ears to receive divine inXIX. struction, and our hearts to give it en
trance, to the amendment of our lives? Have we been so foolish and presumptuous as to cry out upon Christ, in our prayers, to succour and to save us, without any new endeavour on our part to do the will of him that sent him? Those who will not put such questions to themselves, must be content to have them put to them by others; and even if they should still be so confident as to turn a deaf ear to every remonstrance that is made to them here, yet surely they must know, that when our Lord himself comes, “ in his glorious ma
jesty,” they will not be able to evade one enquiry then, or stand mute at the bar of bis tribunal. I fear it is still too true, that those who would preach repentance to a degenerate world, are like the voice of one crying in the wilderness. The Lord's people in general are but indifferently prepared to receive him ; some unfruitful in all good works, and relying on a barren and unprofitable faith. There are many rough places to be made plain, many 3
proud thoughts to be brought low, before SERM. we shall be fit to meet our Saviour and Redeemer-many obstructions of all kinds to be removed, before his saving grace can find its way to our hearts. When John appeared, both Jews and Gentiles were far gone in the ways of darkness; the former misled by their vain traditions, the latter abandoned to all the errors of idolatry, and the mistakes of a vain and abstruse philosophy. The Jews were unfit to receive their King, and the Gentiles their Saviour, without a great and serious reformation of their ways and their principles. But it is well worthy our consideration, that neither the prejudices of the Jew, nor the infatuation of the Gentile, were so unreasonable or so unpardonable as our transgressions.
If the Jew was mistaken in many points, it was partly through a misinterpretation of prophecies unfulfilled, or an unreasonable reliance on traditions, which the majority' at least were taught to think sacred. If the Gentile was gross and absurd, and without any settled principle, it was because huZ
SERM. man reason, unenlightened by revelation, XIX. could not lit upon any settled principle,
to which all men might trust; and if they adopted wild, and even impious rites in their worship, still this arose from their having lost the knowledge of the true God; so that as their gods were of their own invention, their ritual was suitable and correspondent. But we have no need to be blinded by prejudice, or to go astray for want of light and guidance; we depend on nothing that is obscure, nothing that is doubtful; we have a sure and infallible principle to act upon, enforced by such sanctions, and so satisfactory to our reason, that while there are no means of evasion, so there are no grounds to dispute about it. John had to preach repentance to those who knew not in reality what repentance meant; he had to proclaim remission of sins upon repentance, to those who had hitherto imagined that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sins. They had trusted to external rites and ceremonies to save them, without regard to the conditions he came to pro
pose, namely, that of inward purity, and SERM. a sincere reformation of their lives : but XIX. you know the meaning of repentance--you know that it is essential to your salvationyou know that repentance, without a purpose of amendment in future, is vain and ineffectual; and that such purposes are equally vain, if not followed up by a sincere endeavour to correct what is amiss. If you
will not be forwarned, then surely your condemnation will be just. But let me entreat you to remember the great and glorious events we are now about to commernorate. The blessed Saviour and Redeemer of the world is again set before you, as entering on the theatre of mortal life: "
Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord." Christianity cries out to you in a voice powerful as that of the holy Baptist, Make straight the way of the “ Lord!” Turn away
evil deeds, and repent, ere ye presume to meet him face to face, to greet him on his nativity. Wash you, make you clean,
put away the evil of your doings,” that they offend him not when he appeareth.
“ Cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek
judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the
fatherless, plead for the widow !” then will the day of the Lord rise upon you with joy and consolation ; then will you be prepared to meet him at his altar, where, commemorating, as it were, by anticipation, what
all know he came into the world to suffer for your sakes, you may receive remission of your sins. Though they should be “ now as scarlet, o they shall become white as snow ; though
they be red like crimson, they shall be as 66 wool.” There is always some danger of superstition in the use of external ceremonies, and therefore our Church did well when she abolished many, which, in common with the Church of Rome, she once admitted into her services.
But if no such danger was to be apprehended, of substituting the outward form for the inward and spiritual design, it might be made a question whether we had not so far laid them aside as to stand in some need now of such symbols, to awaken our attention more immediately to the particular