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the baptism of John, there were many good men, who lived, for the most part, agreeably to the light that was vouchsafed them; or who, at least were not roused to Repentance by the stings of conscience, nor the habitual commission of crimes: but all were now called on to renounce error for truth;to exchange the silly prejudices of the times for solid convictions of duty; to renounce the darkness of ignorance and superstition, and to open their eyes to the glorious light of the Gospel of Christ. It was in this enlarged sense, that the call to repentance applied, with singular propriety, to all mankind; and this will likewise enable us to explain, very satisfactorily, a remarkable expression of our blessed Lord; who, on a memorable occasion, said to the Scribes and Pharisees, "Likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance ;" that is, persons who, like many professed Christians at present, need no such radical change of principles and conduct, as wilful sinners do ;persons who are in the right path, though they sometimes deviate from it; or who may, and ought, to advance in it with less loitering, and more alacrity persons whose faith is sound,
though it may not be sufficiently fruitful in good works; and who have little more to do, than to improve what is already good, and to avoid, with increasing vigilance and constancy, whatever they know to be evil. It is in this qualified manner, also, that we must understand the declaration of our heavenly Redeemer in the house of Matthew, when the Pharisees wondered that he should eat with publicans and sinners" I am not come to call the righteous," said he, "but sinners to repentance.
With respect to the singular dress of the holy Baptist, the restriction of his ordinary food to locusts and wild honey,-and the observance of other austerities, we may remark that his office, as the precursor of the Messiah, was altogether extraordinary and new. It had no precedent, and, from the nature of things, it can never have a parallel. Though, therefore, his appearance and manner of life, his rigid sanctity, his abstemiousness, and retirement from the world, were the fulfilment of prophecy, and furnished an example, that was admirably adapted to rouse the thoughtless, slumbering sinner, to stimulate the curious, and to impress the great body of the people with the deepest sense of his zeal and sincerity; yet the same rigorous observances,
and the same painful privations, can never be expected as duties of us; because we can never fill a similar situation: and therefore the venerable Baptist did not require them of any of his followers. He knew that the great scene of man's virtues, as well as the extensive field of his trials, efforts, and temptations must be in society and though John came "neither eating bread, nor drinking wine;" yet we are told, that our holy Redeemer came "both eating and drinking;" that is, sharing with freedom, but with unspotted innocence, in the ordinary intercourses of the world.
John, therefore, invited none to put on the mantle of camel's hair, which was a species of sackcloth,-to give up their daily bread for locusts and wild honey, or to lead a life of seclusion, like him, in the wilderness. On the contrary, when he addressed the soldiers and publicans, two orders of men that were particularly odious to the Jews, he recognised the lawfulness, if not the necessity of both, and only admonished them of their respective duties. To the former he said, "Do violence to no man, neither accusé any falsely; and be content with your wages." The latter were warned of their crying sins of avarice and extortion by his saying to them,
Exact no more than that which is appointed you."
But though we are not called on to practise the austerities of the holy Baptist; yet let us never forget, that there is a wholesome measure of self-denial, and of occasional abstraction from the world, which becomes the duty of every disciple of Christ,-as favorable to thought and meditation, as essentially necessary to spiritual improvement, and as indispensably required of us, for the purposes of prayer, of self-examination, and of holy communion with our heavenly Father. This seems to be the more necessary in our day especially, when pleasure, with all the pomps and vanities of the world" are sought after with unprecedented, and often ruinous avidity.
We come now to an important event in the history of the holy Baptist's short ministry, when Jesus went from Galilee to Bethabara beyond Jordan" to be baptised of him." That divine person, whom he con templated with such reverence and humility, that he deemed himself unworthy to "unloose the latchet of his shoes," or rather, the tie of his sandals, now comes to his baptism. But John, in the true spirit of humi lity, said, "I have need to be baptised of thee,
and comest thou to me?" Jesus answering said unto him, "Suffer it to be so now for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." On this occasion, the Baptist preserved the consistency of his character, and shewed his reverence and humility, by instant submission, and obedience.
Combining the narrative of the holy evangelists, we find that, on Jesus coming out of the water, 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." John, having witnessed this miraculous interposition of divine power, exclaimed, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the word." The holy Baptist had been exhorting men to repentance; but repentance would have been of little avail, unless the means of pardon and reconciliation for past omissions and transgressions had been pointed out. Accordingly, the great doctrines of the Gospel, the mediation and atonement of Christ, were now first proclaimed by John; who, on a subsequent occasion, bore this further testimony to the Messiah's character and office. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath