페이지 이미지

it to arise in their hearts to stir them up to inquire after him. And when they need direction and seek it, He will furnish it even where it would be least expected. If they be driven to attend it at their hands who go not to Christ themselves, even under a ministry that hath little life in it, that is formal and spiritless in itself, yet, if God hath cast thy lot there, even there, I say, shall a soul seeking after Jesus Christ find direction and confirmation, and the word shall be made lively to it by a higher Hand; and though they go not to Christ, yet shall they give thee His true address, and direct thee right to Him, as here the scribes and priests did these inquirers.

Again, observe, how God takes hold of men by suitable ways. His call does not lie wholly in the congruity of the means, but He makes it effectual ; yet, He carries that efficacy so sweetly, that there is not any violence at all. Often in the means, that sweetness consists in the particular aptness of them. These were star-gazers, and He gives them notice according to their faculty by a star. Thus, some are taken with some accessary qualification of a minister, baited by this to give ear and take liking to his doctrine. Thus, St. Augustine confesses he was caught in hearing St. Ambrose, through delight in his eloquence ; for though he looked no further, yet, together with the words he loved, the things that he loved not, did likewise slide in and gain upon him. Again, they undertake a long and hard journey, and resolve to go on, and, missing him at Jerusalem, they inquire there concerning him, and will not leave off till they find him. A soul that hath once seen a light pointing out Christ to it, and stirring it up to seek after him, will not be driven back, nor called off from going to him, by any discouragements and difficulties; yea, they sharpen it, and set an edge on it, and make them so much the more earnest. Others can speak of him, and lie still, and not stir to go to him, as here the priests; but such a soul must have him, and will not take rest without him; will still inquire where he is, where and how I may find my Christ. A man may possibly meet with some formal minister, that knows little of


Christ, and loves him less, who yet can tell such an inquirer, that by believing he shall find him, and instruct him somewhat about the notion of faith, and inseparable repentance, and leaving off sin, which things he himself who directs, makes no use of, hath no experience of at all; yet may his information be useful to the soul seeking Christ, and in following them it may find him. And as it is in the first inquiry and journey to Christ, so, in after seeking, upon his withdrawments: as Cant. iii. and v. Though the watchmen that should direct thee, deride and mock thee, yea, though they smite and wound thee, yet, if once thou hast found the sweetness of his love, or but heard his voice speaking to thy heart and desiring it to open to him, thou wilt not leave off thy search day nor night, till thou hast found him, in how mean a condition and outward appearance soever : thou wilt see through that, and behold him thy king, thy beloved Lord, and see him beautiful, all beauty and loveliness, and wilt be forced to declare him so, that he outvies all creature loves, as not worthy to be compared : yea, that their enjoyments have not near so much sweetness as the very seekings and mournings after Jesus Christ.

Ver. 11. Fell down and worshipped him.] When a soul is busy asking after Jesus Christ, if it be inquired what would you do with him, Why this is my purpose, will it say,

I would worship him. I would not only be saved by him, but I would fall down and adore him, and acknowledge him my king; and if I had any thing better than another, I would offer it him. But what hast thou ? Hast thou rich presents for him ? Alas!

These are called wise men, and were, it seems, rich; had rich gifts. I am a foolish and a poor creature, and I have nothing to offer.- Nothing. Hast thou a heart? Yes: heart I have; but, alas ! there can be nothing more unfit for him, and unworthy of him : it is dark, and foul, and hard, all disorder and filthiness. Yet, wilt thou give it him as it is, and be willing that he use and dispose of it as it pleases him? Oh, that he would accept of it, that he would take it upon any terms! Here it is : if it would fly out from this offer, I would


: a

he would lay hold of it. Oh! that it were once received by him, that it were in his hand; and then let him do with it what seems him good. Sayest thou so ? Then it is done. Give it really and freely, and he will take, and make it better at its worst, than all the gold, and frankincense, and myrrh of all those rich countries where they abound, and will purify, rectify, and make it quite another thing than it is. And it shall never repent thee to have made a gift of it to him. He shall frame it to his own likeness, and in return will give thee himself, and be thine for ever.


ALTHOUGH the enemies of Jesus Christ, and, for a time, even his friends and followers, mistook the nature of his kingdom, yet he is a king. This being questioned, he himself avowed it before the Roman judge; and even in his low estate on earth, yet were there intermixed signs and characters of royalty. To instance here no more, the former chapter hath the history of one of them, and this of another. In that was the hornage done to him a little after his entering into the world by birth In this, we have his harbinger preparing his way a little before his coming forth into the world, to manifest himself in his words and works.

This chapter, you see, contains the history of John Baptist -Ist. the nature of his office; 2dly. the exercise of his office ; and that both generally to the multitude of the Jews that resorted to his baptism, and particularly, to some of more eminent note amongst them, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and singularly on the person of Jesus Christ.

Ver. 1. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.] This relates not to the history that goes before, but to that which follows to be recorded, as the usual style of the Hebrew bears. It is clear that many

Vol. III.


years fell betwixt even the greatest part both of Christ's life and of John Baptist's. In both which, from the birth to the coming forth to preach, all the intervening time is past over in silence, not only here, but in all the other evangelists, saving one act of Christ's appearing in public about the age of twelve years, recorded by St. Luke, which was but a glance of this jewel, that lay locked up a long time after.

John the Baptist, an extraordinary person in his birth and calling, holy from the womb, a prophet, and more than a prophet; and Jesus Christ himself far more than he, his Lord and Master, the Prince of Prophets; and yet, neither of them came abroad in his ministry till about the age of thirty years, the time specified in the law for the service of the house of God. But our ignorance makes us bold and fool-hardy: we rush forward not knowing ourselves nor this calling, its excellency and holiness, and our own meanness and unholiness. This I say, not that I think measure doth punctually and literally tie us, especially the necessity of some times and the scarcity of faithful labourers being considered, upon which some may lawfully, yea, ought to be drawn forth, if unwilling and yet able.

But surely, the consideration of these examples, should give a due check and curb to our usual precipitate hearts, which in these times had need of some restraint, even in some who possibly have some competency both of abilities and true piety. Good fruit may be plucked too green, which, let alone awhile to ripen, would prove much more pleasant and profitable.

In these two, their lorg lying hid is so much the more remarkable, inasmuch as besides their singular fitness for appearing much sooner, they had so short a time allotted for their

the Forerunner but about one year, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself but about three years and a half. But this was the assigned time in the Divine wisdom, which was found sufficient for the work committed to them; and what needs more? Let not any grudge for themselves, or for any other, their speedy removal, upon this conceit, that they


might, in nature's course, continue much longer, and, in appearance, through their labour be still more serviceable. Let all rather study for themselves, and wish unto others, that they may be diligent in their work while their day lasts, be it short or long, faithful and fruitful in their generation, and the shorter their day is like to be, work the faster; for certainly the good of life is not in the length of it, but in the use of it.

There are betwixt our Saviour and this his messenger or forerunner, divers notable agreements: their being near of kindred; their births taking place in one year, and both foretold by an angel; and as Christ was the son of a virgin, John the son of aged parents, and a mother so long barren; little odds in the time of both their appearing to the world, and abiding in it; both sealing their doctrine with their blood. But as in these, in all, the Lord hath the pre-eminence beyond his servant, so, this faithful servant did always most willingly acknowledge it, yea, his very business was to abase himself and exalt his master; and this he did, as we find throughout his history. And those of the servants of Christ that are most honoured to be nearest him, are always the greatest abasers of themselves, the most desirous to have him honoured.

John's office, we have briefly expressed in the first verse, partly in his name John Baptist, a minister of baptism, and partly in the word joined with it, preaching. Preaching of the word was joined with baptism: John the baptist preaching in the wilderness.

I will not here speak of the nature of Baptism, the combinement of preaching with it, their aspect each to the other, and concurrence to one excellent end; the word unfolding the sacrament, and the sacrament sealing the word; the word, as a light, informing and clearing the sense of the seal, and it again, as a seal, confirming and ratifying the truth of the word: as you see some significant seals or signets engraven, have a word about them expressing their sense.

But truly, the word is a light, and the sacraments have in them of the same light illuminating them; and this of Baptism,

« 이전계속 »