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votion. They were now told to raise their eyes
above the mere ritual of worship, and to fix them on that Father of Mercies, who is ever accessible to the humble and penitent. Upon his eternal clemency, not on “ the blood of bulls or “ of goats,” they were now invited to fix their hopes; and, abandoning the sins which polluted them, to offer up
their hearts to him as “ true and living sacri“ fices.”
It was impossible that any more suitable preparation could have been, at that time, made for leading the minds of men into the illumination of the Gospel-and the efficacy of this method of instruction, however little it may be attended to, still, my brethren, remains the same.-The first step to a true sense of the importance of Christianity, is to feel the value of purity and holiness, and to throw off those delusions of the world, which vitiate the soundness of our hearts. Whenever we can be brought to confess our sins, and to apply for the baptism of repentance, then, and then only, are we prepared to recognise the approaching Saviour, and to open our souls to that greater baptism, which conveys to them the influences of the Spirit of God.
It would be well, indeed, if both the preachers and the hearers of the Gospel were to keep steadily in mind the nature of that doctrine which was preached by John, when he came to make straight the paths of the Lord.” He did not teach that the forms and observances of
any particular sect of religion could possibly effect that regeneration of the human heart, by which it may be rendered acceptable to its Maker. Neither did he teach his disciples that the repentance, which he preached, was effected by any sudden impulse of conversion, or could be manifested by any other signs than
the plain testimony of an upright life. No doctrine, in truth, could be more remote either from bigotry or enthusiasm. To all men his language was the same,
Bring forth fruits, meet for repentance." -To the proud doctors of the law, he said, “ Think not to say within yourselves, we “ have Abraham to our father.”_TO the multitude, who are ever prone to extravagant illusions, he taught only the simplest and most practical doctrines. When in the agitation of their troubled consciences, they asked him, “ What shall 6 we do then ?” he took occasion to instruct them in their duty, not in mysticism or experiences. 6. He answered, and said “ unto them, (as we are informed by St
Luke), He that hath two coats, let him
impart to him that hath none; and he * that hath meat, let him do likewise. “ Then came also the publicans to be bap« tized, and said unto him, Master, what
“ shall we do ? And he said unto them, “ Exact no more than that which is ap
pointed you. And the soldiers likewise * demanded of him, saying, And what shall 66 we do? And he said unto them, Do vio“ lence to noman, neither accuse any false• ly, and be content with your wages. ' If these words had been written with the express design of affording a contrast to that stupid and degrading fanaticism, with which the multitude have so often been misled, by men who look upon themselves as infinitely more Evangelicals. I suppose, than he who was sent as a messenger before the Lord, “ to prepare 66 his way before him,”--they could not have been rendered more striking and appropriate.
Did the Baptist then, my brethren, teach his followers, that, by their own exertions alone, they could obtain the remission of sins, and the salvation of
their souls ? No; but he taught them that their own practical efforts of amendment and of righteousness were all that depended upon them, that to these it was their business to direct their aim, and that no methods of
would ever be unfolded to mankind which would supersede the toils and the honours of virtue.He taught them that, before the hopes or assistance of Heaven could be afforded them, they must themselves endeavour to perform their duty, that they only who sought to “bring forth fruits “ meet for repentance” were prepared to receive the author of their salvation-and that those hearts alone, which had been purified in the waters of penitence, could hope to glow with the fire of the Holy Ghost.
- It is in this manner that, in the very opening of the Gospel, the great Preacher of repentance and of righteousness guard