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many such instances in Scripture. So he does not advise those who questioned him, to abandon their vocation; but he cautions them against its particular dangers. Their manner of life might make them rude and unfeeling. Therefore he says, Do violence to no man. They might be induced to lay unjust informations, for the sake of private gain. Against this he also warns them: neither accuse any falsely. They might be prone to discontent and mutiny. It must not be. Be content with your wages.
These things, indeed, are not required of one person more than another. Charity, honesty, peaceableness, and content, are duties binding upon all men, in all stations. False witness, extortion, the doing to other men what in our own case we should condemn as unjust, are alike forbidden to every one. But particular situations, particular habits, particular dispositions, are more liable than others to particular transgressions : and therefore need especial warning. For of these Satan takes advantage. And John was not a false prophet, who, in order to please his hearers, might shun the mention of their peculiar sin, or peculiar duty. But, like St. Paul afterwards, he “ kept back nothing that was profitable for them, but showed them, and taught them publicly," how to keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards men.
Two things must be observed, before we conclude this subject. First, that the abandonment of sin, and the practice of righteousness, are not the procuring cause of salvation. It is not repentance, but the “ blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin.” Secondly, that the abandonment of sin, and the practice of righteousness, are necessary to salvation, though they are not its procuring cause. Every one of those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, will ask the same question which we read here: what shall we do then? How shall I show my abhorrence of that, for which my Redeemer died ? How shall I prove my repentance of a course which would have brought my soul to ruin? How shall I show myself a follower of him in whom 1 trust? How shall I make it evident, that “ the life which I live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me?"
And to all who thus inquire, there is one answer, Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance. For “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.”
4 2 Tim. ü. 19.
JOHN DIRECTS THE PEOPLE TO JESUS, WHO
15. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not;
16. John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose : he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire :
17. Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner : but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
18. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.
19. But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done,
20. Added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison.'
The office for which John was commissioned, was to “prepare the way of the Lord, to make his paths straight.” But while he performed this office, he never forgot that he was but a messenger, sent to direct his countrymen to “the Lamb of God, which
St. Luke, as he was speaking of John, introduces this fact here, and does not notice it afterwards in the order of time.
taketh away the sin of the world.” He
came for a witness. He was not that light, but he came to bear witness of that light.” And the words of John in this passage of his exhortation were well suited to rouse their minds, and awaken their expectations. One cometh, who is not, like me, the labourer, but the “ lord of the harvest :” who will act as one having authority: who shall fulfil the prophecy,
Behold, the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple. But who may abide the day of his coming ? and who shall stand when he appeareth?”2
John intimates that he could not enable his hearers to abide his coming.
“ I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance."
I show that you have need “to be sprinkled from an evil conscience,” and cleansed from your iniquities: but he who cometh after me must complete the work, and renew your hearts in righteousness and true holiness. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. He shall pour out his Spirit upon you, and its effect shall be like the effect of fire.
It is thus that what relates to the divine nature is set before us in Scripture. It is described by its effects. We cannot comprehend the nature of the Holy Spirit. But we are well acquainted with the power of fire: how it breaks, how it melts, how it changes the things which it lays hold of: how it enlightens, cheers, and nourishes. The same sort
, of power has the Holy Spirit on the heart : produces the same effect; works the like change. And therefore the Scriptures compare it to fire.
2 Mal. iii. 1.
He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. And we are told that on the day of Pentecost “ there appeared unto the apostles cloven-tongues like as of a fire, and sat upon each of them.” And St. John, in the Revelation, describes “ seven lamps of fire burning before the heavenly throne, which are the seven spirits of God.”
Did then the Baptist in the spirit foresee the day of Pentecost ? Certainly, if he bad perceived it, he could not have expressed more clearly the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles. Its effect was not merely shown by the fiery tongues, which enabled “every man to hear them speak in his own language." But it appeared in the change wrought upon their hearts and understandings. We know how faint had been their notion of the purpose of Christ's coming in the flesh, or of the nature of his kingdom. Had they rightly apprehended this, they would have perceived that his death was needful, and have looked for his resurrection, as surely about to follow. Whereas the first effect of his death was to bury with him all their hopes. Had their understanding been more opened, they would have learnt that his “ kingdom was not of this world.” But their question, at the very moment of his ascension, showed that they looked still towards this world. “ Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom unto Israel?”
Then, however, was the promise given, which was to explain the words of John: “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Accordingly, within ten days afterwards, “ There came a sound from heaven as of a rushing