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of the ministry; like St. John, we are messengers of the Lord. We are charged with tidings of great joy; we have to make known the way of salvation. We have to make it known and bring it home to the hearts and understandings of our people: neither adding to it, nor diminishing from it; neither making it harder, nor less difficult than it really is; but setting it before you, even as we find it in the Gospel, as the way of God in truth."
And how shall we fulfil our office? How (under the help of the Holy Spirit) shall we approve ourselves faithful to Him who hath sent us, better than by taking pattern by what is written of John the Baptist; by preaching as he did, the absolute necessity of repentance; by warning you as he did the Jews, not to misunderstand or abuse the position in which by the mercy of God you have been placed: by representing ever and afresh, that the mere fact of our being baptized into God's church, and made His sons by adoption, (though absolutely necessary at the beginning,) is not in itself sufficient: that with the name, we must put on the character of a Christian; by reminding you continually that ours is a holy and undefiled religion, that a hollow faith, or hypocritical practice, however it may deceive the world, yes, and our own bearts, cannot deceive Him who seeth in secret, and requireth truth in the inward parts; that in the end, all such pretence will
be unveiled; that a day is coming, a day of righteous revelation, when the darkest and most hidden corner of our hearts will be brought to light; and our lives, and conversation, and motives, and every thought, tried in an impartial balance; a day when the Lord in whom we believe, shall come out of His place for judgment,-come, as is written of Him by the prophet Malachi, as a "swift witness" against all who hold the truth in unrighteousness, "against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against the false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and that fear not the Lord of Hosts."
Such, I think, is the method which a minister of Christ will feel bound to pursue in dealing with the Gospel message; and hence is it that you so often hear us reasoning "of righteousness, temperance' and judgment to come."
But this is not all. The Baptist, as we have seen, spoke of One mightier than himself; One who should baptize not only with water unto repentance, but with the Holy Ghost and with fire. And so too must we speak, else our words will profit you but little. While we tell you, as in duty bound, that holiness is necessary to salvation,—that none can expect to "ascend into the hill of the Lord," and to rise up in His holy place, but such as lead an un
corrupt life-we must not forget to inform you how such a life is possible; how, with our sinful and corrupt nature, we may arrive at temperance, and purity, and godliness. We must, in short, lead you to Christ; lead you in conscious weakness to repose on His strength; lead you to have recourse to Him for all things necessary to life and godliness; for wisdom, for righteousness, for sanctification, for redemption.
Hence, my brethren, it comes to pass, that together with such exhortation as I have above described, you hear us inviting you to diligent use of all the means of grace; speaking often of the efficacy of prayer; pressing upon you the duty of public worship; and the importance of receiving the Lord's Supper. And for this reason, because these are the channels through which the Holy Spirit of God and of His Christ, works effectually in the heart of every true believer; moulding it, and shaping it after the good pleasure of His will; contradicting its evil inclinations, rooting out its deadly wickedness, and filling it with His own fruits, "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, charity."
It may be said that the subject we have been considering more concerns the minister than the congregation before whom he serves; that the history of John the Baptist as traced in the Gospel, is written for our learning rather than for yours. But,
my brethren, do not suppose that it is not therefore useful to you also. Though pointing more directly to our office, it has reference to your duties as well. We, as duly appointed ministers of the church of Christ, may well consider that our's truly is a responsible position; seeing that we are messengers of the Lord, sent to prepare His way before Him. And great need have we to labour and pray that we be not found wanting in it.
But when our message is once delivered, the responsibility is then thrown upon the hearers. It is for them to receive it or to reject it. "He that hear eth, let him hear, and he that forbeareth, let him forbear." Therefore, my brethren, let me press upon you the necessity of diligent attention to the message that we deliver. Do not look upon it as a matter in which you have no interest, but as something that concerns you very nearly. "The words that we speak, we speak not of ourselves, but as they are given to us of God;" words, we trust, of truth and soberness; words which, by God's grace carrying them home, are able to build you up, and give you an inheritance amongst them that are sanctified.
Put yourselves therefore within the reach of receiving our message; omit no opportunity of hearing the word preached from those who have authority to
deliver it. But do not let this be all. "Be doers of God's word, and not hearers only," else that word will avail you nothing. Nay, instead of profiting, it will only serve to condemn you. The truths which you hear out of Holy Scripture to do you good, must stay by you, and work in you like leaven, till the whole character is leavened; till you become like-minded with your Lord, "nourished up," (to use the forcible expression of St. Paul in the fourth chapter of his first Epistle to Timothy,) "in the words of faith and of good doctrine,' "" unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."
This happy effect can indeed only be looked for after a long time, and when produced is to be ascribed to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and that influence is, as you know, to be sought for in prayer. Pray then, and that earnestly, that He may rest upon you; that so the words spoken to you in this holy place, be not spoken in vain.
And for all who speak it, pray as well for your own, and for all ministers and stewards of God's mysteries. Pray, my brethren, in the spirit of that beautiful collect which the Church puts into our mouth to-day; that like as John the Baptist did fulfil his ministry, and prepared the way for the first coming of the Redeemer, so we in like manner may in our day, make ready His way, by "turning