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animal frame, or produced by the operations of natural conscience, are temporary, and liable to subside into indifference, or carnal security, or to give place to the influence of those lusts which still have dominion over the soul. And if we regard all as true converts, who have felt such impressions, we shall rank many among the saints, who will perhaps soon undeceive us by their apostacy, or to whom we shall, in the last awful day, hear the Saviour say, “ Depart from me, I never knew you."
5. How necessary the exertion of divine power, in order to change the sinner's heart! In spite of education, of knowledge, of conviction, of the evil of sin, of the fear of punishment, of resolutions of amendment, the heart will love sin, and cleave to it, unless the Spirit of God work in his powerful and irresistible manner.
Reformation will be superficial and temporary when his influence is withheld. Old things will not so pass away, as to be hated and abandoned, unless He who moved on the waters of chaos make all things new. The convinced sinner will relapse, if he is not born of the Spirit, if he is not created anew in Christ Jesus, if he is not made one of the Saviour's willing people in the day of divine power.
6. What an awful thing an awakened conscience, and how dreadful to see our danger, and yet refuse the remedy! If sin is so bitter to the sinner sometimes in this world, how bitter must it be in the latter end! What fruit have we of those things, the end whereof is death ? and what present pleasure in the service of sin can compensate for the agony which the sinner feels, when his conscience rises up to accuse him, and still more when he afterwards eats the fruit of his doings ? If even lowness of spirits can render life intolerable, and make a man extremely miserable, how intolerable must be the
anguish of final despair !
“ The spirit of a man may sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear ?" The sinner who believes the Gospel, may be cast down by a view of his sins, but he is not forsaken : but he who rejects the remedy presented in the Gospel, is, when under the feeling sense of his sin and danger, not only in perplexity, but ready to plunge into despair.
Lastly. What an inestimable blessing is peace of mind, flowing from faith in the atonement ! and how happy they, whatever be their external condition, who enjoy it! Peace of mind, from peace with heaven, is a greater blessing than the possession of all created enjoyments. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, be. cause he trusted in thee.
May God prevent impressions of the evil and danger of sin from wearing off our spirits ! May his Spirit operate on us, not only for deep conviction, but for genuine conversion! May we never reject the comforts of the Gospel, when we feel the terrors of the law! and may it become our happiness to be sprinkled by the blood of Christ from an evil conscience, and to enjoy the peace of God which passeth all understanding, keeping our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus !
FOR THE CHRISTIAN'S MAGAZINE.
The annunciation of the Birth of Character of
John the Baptist, to Zacharias.
(Concluded from page 478.) 5. H E lived under the continual influence of the most honourable motives of action.
Verse 17. To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just ; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
John was a great and popular preacher; but it was a mark of his greatness, not to make popularity or worldly gain the object of his ministry. Elevated minds naturally aspire after things which are sublime; and the steadfast contemplation of grand objects imparts to us a portion of that grandeur. The object of John's ministry is not, therefore, forgotten in the delineation of his character, It is the most honourable that can occupy the attention of man.
This verse contains a quotation from Malachi iv. 6. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.
The establishment of a reciprocal affection and friendship between parents and children, is undoubtedly an object worthy of pious attention : but this phrase is of higher import. It contemplates that mutual understanding which is immediately subservient to making ready a people prepared for the Lord. A people are prepared for the Lord, when their sins are pardoned, their hearts sanctified, VOL. IV.No. X.
their minds enlightened, and their lives reformed. Such will be the preparation of the saints in that day, when “ the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.” It is the work of a Gospel ministry to teach every man, and warn every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. And, hereafter, shall the Holy city, the New Jerusalem, be prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. This is the preparation which John had in view, and accordingly he laboured to prepare Israel for receiving Jesus Christ in his personal ministry on earth. To turn the attention of religious superiors, to the condition of those who had inferior opportunities of knowledge, was a part of the plan, and will always continue an important part of making ready a people for the Lord.
The Jewish Church were as parents to the Gentiles ; so that it might be said of them, “ IV hose are the Fathers?" To remove their prejudices to the calling of the Gentiles, as well as the Gentile opposition to communion with the despised and hated Jew, required much exertion. Even now, it is difficult so to turn the hearts of good men to the condition of destitute sinners, as to employ benevolent and zealous exertions for their eternal welfare. Yet this was one of the principal objects of John's preaching. To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children ; to make the actual Church feel for the condition of others, in hopes of procuring by the grace of God, the conversion of sinners. “Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers," signifies to persuade the young, the weak, the sinner, to love and join the Church of God; to persuade the Heathen to become Israelites indeed. The comment made by the angel upon this quotation from Malachi, isi n these words : " turn the disobe
dient to the wisdom of the just.” “ Disobedient," anubes, requires no explanation. It is the character of the unbelieving, impenitent sinner. wisdom of the just,” is true religion. Wisdom consists in the fear of the Lord, and her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. The just, Asxasw, are the righteous or justified persons. The wisdom of the just, therefore, is the religion of those who are actually justified by the righteousness of Christ, imputed to them, and received by faith. Some critics prefer translating the preposition
s», by. In this case, it would read, " to turn- the disobedient By the wisdom of the just.” This change does not affect our exposition. True religion taught and applied, is, indeed, the means by which the disobedient are turned to God: but it is the great object of the ministry to turn sinners to the true religion, that they may be prepared for the coming of the Lord.
This was the motive which continually influenced the ministry of Christ's immediate forerunner. It is the most honourable one that can be presented to the human mind. He who sits upon the circle of the earth, and, compared with whom, man is as a grasshopper, had respect to it in his eternal counsels. The High Priest within the vail, invested with infinite glory, has respect to it in all his administrations. For this, too, he assumed the form of a servant, and suffered an accursed death. For this, he sends his Spirit upon earth; and for this, he preserves the world. Is it honourable to minister to the necessities of afflicted humanity; to promote 'peace, and science, and prosperity among our fellow-men? Is it honourable to wear a crown, or sway a sceptre for a time on earth ? and shall it not be esteemed as glorious to further the salvation of sinners; to prepare for never-ending joys in heaven,