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The objects proposed by the ministry of John the Baptist are stated in the text. He was the messenger of the Lord of hosts, sent to alarm a careless world, and to call upon men to prepare to meet their God. He was to go before the face of the Lord Jesus Christ; and to prepare the way before Him, that mankind might be ready to welcome the Saviour at the time of His appearing. For the accomplishment of this object he announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand; and preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. The effect produced by his preaching was conviction of sin. Many repented of their sins, and, in token of their desire to be delivered from the guilt and dominion of sin, applied to him for baptism. These he directed to believe on Him that should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus;5 who, he said, should baptise them with the Holy Ghost. Thus he prepared the way of the Lord ; so that when the Saviour appeared, there were many to be found who were looking for redemption in Israel. But he also specifically went before the face of the Lord. He not only foretold His coming, but pointed Him out as having come to be the Redeemer of mankind. This the Evangelist St. John particularly states. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. And he added, in order that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptising with water. Thus he pointed out the Lord Jesus as the long promised Messiah, who was to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself:8 And he saw and bare record that this is the Son of God.
4 Mark i. 4.
5 Acts xix. 4.
Matthew iii. 11.
The effect produced by the ministry of John the Baptist, and the object proposed by it, are left on record in the holy Scriptures for our instruction. They should lead us to ask, Are we prepared for the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? The same preparation that was required for His first advent, is needful in order to be ready for His second coming. Unless we repent us truly of our sins past, and seek for pardon through the Lamb of God; unless we are reconciled to God through faith in His beloved Son, as the propitiation for our sins, we are not prepared for death; we are not prepared for judgment; we shall not be able to stand before the Son of man when He shall appear with power and great glory, as the Judge of quick and dead. If we would hail Him then with joy, we must now celebrate with gratitude of heart His incarnation and His obedience unto death, whereby He fulfilled all righteousness and
7 John i. 29, 31, 34.
8 Hebrews ix, 26.
made an atonement for sin. Let us then receive the testimony of John the Baptist respecting our blessed Saviour, that putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Mediator, we may enjoy peace with God; and regarding Him as our reconciled Father, may walk humbly with Him; seeking the direction and guidance of His Holy Spirit to enable us to live in obedience to His blessed will in all things. And thus, serving Him truly all the days of our life, may have a good hope through grace that we shall partake of His salvation for evermore.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
THE CONFESSION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST.
John i. 26, 27.
JOHN ANSWERED THEM, SAYING, I BAPTISE WITH WATER; BUT THERE STANDETH ONE AMONG YOU WHOM YE KNOW NOT; HE IT IS, WHO COMING AFTER ME, IS PREFERRED BEFORE ME, WHOSE SHOES' LATCHET I AM NOT WORTHY TO UNLOOSE.
Our attention was directed last Sunday morning to the character of John the Baptist, as it was delineated by our Lord Jesus Christ. In the Gospel for this day we have a description given by this greatest among the prophets, of the office to which he was himself appointed ; and of the exalted idea he entertained of the Person whose forerunner he was, together with his low
opinion of himself, in comparison with Him who was to come after him.
The Evangelist informs us, at the close of this account, that the things here recorded were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptising.9 It appears then that while he was fulfilling his course, preaching the baptism of repentance, and baptising those who professed to receive his doctrine; the supreme council at Jerusalem, having heard of the attention which was excited among the people by his ministry, resolved to send a deputation to him at Bethabara, which was instructed to inquire from himself what was the character which he assumed, whether or not he laid claim to that of the longexpected Messiah, whose coming was foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The Evangelist relates the conduct of the Baptist on this occasion. This is the record of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? In this Gospel, when the Jews are mentioned, the term commonly denotes those who were in authority. The ministry of the Baptist must have excited great attention before it would have attracted their notice. St. Matthew informs us it had such an effect, that although John dwelt chiefly in the country, in its thinly inhabited parts, called the wilderness, yet
9 John i. 28.