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tiem. Was not this the way to beat them back, and make them distaste both ?

There is indeed much prudence required in the ministers of the word, to know to attemper their admonitions and reproofs, that by too much rigour they discourage not weak beginners who are inquiring after the ways of God; but withal they should be no less wary that by too much credulity and lenity, they sooth not any in their formality and carnal confidence. And the most we have to deal withal, commonly are in most hazard upon this hand; there is too little heart humbling. And many are ready to take up some piece of reformation of their ways, and the externals of religion, and deem themselves presently good Christians. Oh! the deceit and slothfulness of our hearts! How ready are we to lay hold upon an easy guise of our own, and think what some further press, is but melancholy and needless preciseness!

Ver. 8. Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.] Though he wonders at their coming, and fairly tells them so, yet, he rejects them not, despairs not of them; he gives them sound advice, which implies always some hopes of prevailing. Give

up

for desperate; catch hold of what they do, to drive them to what further they ought to do. You profess to flee from the wrath to come: bring forth fruits then. You say you are Christians and believers : Oh! let your ways and lives say so. Let Christ dwell in your hearts, and be shewn in your lives.

Ver. 9. Think not to say, We have Abraham to our father.] The foolish heart is still leaning to this fancy of external relations and privileges. Beware; rest not on these,--the reformed religion, pure ordinances, or a place of esteem possibly amongst the strictest sort of reformed professors. And do not think you put an obligation on religion, and that it is indebted to you; but pray take heed. God can leave you, and deliver you up to these vain thoughts, and provide Himself without you. He can draw the remotest and unlikeliest to Himself,

.

none

and let you go

Ver. 10. And this is a sifting, trying time. He comes, who will unmask your hypocrisies and search you to the bottom; who will lay his axe to the root of the trees, and cut up the fruitless. Where the Gospel comes in greatest power, there is the certainest and saddest weight of judgment on the unbelieving and impenitent, the formal and fruitless.

Ver. 11. I indeed baptize you with water.] The true badge of a messenger of Jesus Christ, is, to abase himself and to magnify his master. Baptism with the Holy Ghost, and with fire, may, possibly, have some aspect to the singular sending of the Holy Ghost in fiery tongues. That purifying virtue, that flame of love, Oh that we found it !

Ver. 12. And only they, the wheat, are for the garner, they that are pure and spiritual: the chaff, light and vain hearts, are fuel for the fire. No middle class : we must be either baptized in that fire, or burnt in this.

Ver. 13-15. In the baptism of Christ, observe the exemplary humility both of the master and of the servant: of the master, in subjecting himself to this ordinance; of the servant in administering it, first, in his modest question and declining it, and secondly, in his quiet yielding and obedience. He that was so pure and spotless, had no need of that, or any other washing ; He, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, as this John testified; He, the fountain opened for sin and iniquity, and therefore, well says he, I have need of thy baptism. Yet here he humbles himself to be baptized. Oh! that we who are baptized, had more of his likeness in this humble reverence for Divine ordinances, looking on them as his in every warranted hand. What though he that teaches be less knowing and less spiritual than thou that hearest, one that might rather learn of thee, yet the appointment of God obliges thee to attend as humbly and regardfully to his ministry as if he were an angel.

John recoils a little. Thus, truly, as he in regard to the person, so will every humbled, self-knowing minister, even in reference to the ordinances themselves, wonder often, and be some

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times at the point of forbearing. Oh! who am I, to handle such holy things, to stand in so high a service, to convey life, I that am dead; to administer so high, so pure and purifying ordinances, myself so impure! But again being commanded and engaged of God's own hand, that overcomes and silences; and in the continuing in the work upon that consideration, there is no less, yea, the greater humility, than in the other thoughts of unfitness; a submissive resignation of a man to his Lord. However the matter seem to me, and truly I deem myself unworthy of the lowest employment without thee, yet, Thou, ap, pointing, I have no more to say: good reason Thy will stand, and not mine.

Ver. 16, 17. Now in the Baptism, the humility of both is richly rewarded with so glorious a vision and voice. The thing is mean and low in the common form of it; baptized in the common river. Oh! what transcendent glory in such a manifestation of that blessed Trinity on earth, that is the perpetual wonder and happiness of Heaven. Oh, that we had eyes to see it, and that our hearts were more taken with this glance here, and the hopes of full vision ere long! Like a dove. Oh! that that Spirit were more abundant in us, flowing from our Head, on whose head it here rested.

My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.] In this word lies all the comfort of a Christian. No pleasingness, nor acceptance, indeed, out of him; but in him, all acceptance of all who are in him. Nothing delights the Father but in this view. All the world is as nothing in his eye, and all men hateful and abominable by sin. Thou, with all thy goodnature, and good-breeding, and good-carriage, art vile and detestable out of Christ. But if thou get under the robe of Jesus, thou and all thy guiltiness and vileness, then art thou lovely in the Father's eye. Oh! that we could absolutely take up in him, whatsoever we are, yet shrouded under him! Constant, fixed believing is all. Let not the Father then see us but in the Son, and all is well.

CHAPTER IV.

Ver. 1. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be

tempted of the devil.

The Apostle doth fitly style our Lord Jesus, the captain, or leader, of our salvation. He marches, leads all the way, puts us on nothing that he hath not first encountered. And in his going before, there is that decorum there marked, Heb. xii. 10. It was meet he should be made perfect by sufferings. So particularly by this kind, that is the sharpest sensation, by these he was entered into his calling ; initiated or consecrated, as the word there is. Let none, therefore, of his followers think to go free. If you mean to follow Christ, reckon for temptations, to meet them even at first, and so in all the way. We readily misreckon, though warned; we count as we would have it; write up such ease and joys, 8c., and think not on afflictions without, and temptations within, which yet are much our portion here. Unwise, to put to sea and expect no storms, nothing but fair weather ! Let this be our warning, that we be not secure; we shall meet temptations. But let this be our comfort, that we be not dismayed, that in this we do follow him, He went before us in this conflict, and overcame before us, and for us; and we likewise, in his strength, shall overcome.

Then.When? Look backward. Then-presently after he was baptized, and not simply by the water of Jordan, but by the Spirit from Heaven, and was singularly replenished, full of the Holy Ghost, as St. Luke hath it, Luke iv. 1. Thus shalt thou be sure to be assaulted when thou hast received the greatest enlargements from Heaven, either at the sacrament or in prayer, or in any other way; then look for an onset. This arch-pirate lets the empty ships pass, but lays wait for them when they return richest laden.

Then.--Again, look forward. Then when he was to enter

1

on his work, his public ministry. Thus look to be assailed, when thou art to engage in any special service. Each according to his place will find this: when he is upon some purpose of honouring God in any particular undertaking or course, and is nearest the performance, then shall the strength of hell be mustered up against him. Now, knowing it to be thus, this ought rather to embolden than discourage us in any such way. This expert enemy knows his interest well, and does not thus bestir himself lightly, but feels that his kingdom is in danger, and that he shall certainly be a loser.

Now, as this is incident to every Christian, and particularly, according to the eminency of their service, to ministers of Jesus Christ, as here to him when towards entering on his own ministry, so, in this, they should reinforce themselves in him; should follow him on, and apply and employ him for the victory.

This (Temptation) was one of Luther's schoolmasters, and so it is to all the servants of Christ, and so are all the three, Prayer, Meditation, and Temptation. And this is very needful, that both with the more skill, and with the more compassion, they may be helpful to them that are tempted. Certainly in all things, experience gives the deepest sense and the readiest faculties. He who was here tempted, could know more by speculation than ever any man; yet was it found meet, that even He should be trained by the experience of these things, as in that cited place, Heb. ii. 10.perfected as captain, made a complete commander by hard services, sufferings, and temptations. So, Heb. iv. 15, and y. 2–8. Men expert in war, laugh at the learnedest discourse of pedants, as is reported of Hannibal.

Oh! heart feeling is a main thing in this. It is going to the wrong hand, for a troubled or tempted Christian to go to an untroubled, untempted minister, who never knew what that meant. Their errand takes not: they find little ease in complaining of their grief to him that never felt such a thing; as Nazianzen observes, that they who are stung with a serpent, cannot endure to bemoan themselves to any but some that

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