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Prepare ye the way of the Lord, &c., which suits well with the foregoing sum of his preaching, is in effect the same with it. Repent is, prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight. Repentance levels the heart to God, makes it a plain for Christ to walk in, casts down the mountains of pride, and raises the soul from base, low, earthly ways and affections, smooths the rugged passions, and straights the crooked deceit of the heart, makes it sincere and straight both towards God and man. And then the reason, The kingdom of God is at hand, is implied in that, Prepare his way; that says, He is coming, is upon his way, and therefore sends his harbinger to make it fit for him. And this is our business, to be dealing with our hearts, levelling, smoothing, and straightening them for our Lord, that he may take delight to dwell and walk in them, and refresh them with his presence; and, certainly, the more holy diligence is used in suiting the heart to his holy will, the more of his sweet presence shall we enjoy.
Ver. 4. And the same John had his raiment of camels' hair.] He is further described from his habit and course of life, suiting the nature of his calling, and the strain of his preaching. A preacher of repentance, not willingly resorting to courts and cities, but keeping in the wilderness; that was not a place altogether uninhabited, but a less peopled, mountainous soil, the very place of his birth; who had his habit and diet like the place, and like the employment. Though his solitude and rough garments are a slender hold for the hermetical way magnified in the Romish church, when that of Zechariah fits better, and their clothes are sooner shaped to that pattern, where he speaks of those false tongues that wear a rough garment to deceive, Zech. xiii. 4;-yet, certainly, besides, somewhat extraordinary and singular in him and his calling, to which this was consonant, there is this for the example of all the messengers of God, to live as much as may be in their condition and station, disengaged from the world, not following the vain delights and ways of it; not bathing in the solaces
and pleasures of earth, and entangling themselves in the cares of it, but, sober, aad modest, and mortified in their way of living; making it their main business not to please the flesh, but to do service to their Lord, to walk in his ways, and prepare his way for him in the hearts of his people. Further, this was implied in this mean way of life, that the less of human grandeur, the more of Divine power, and of the majesty of God, might appear in his ministry.
Ver. 5. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan.] That is, great multitudes flocked to him, to hear him, and be baptized. For though Baptism, in the way he used it, was not usual, yet, their accustomed use of legal washing, made it the less strange, and the more acceptable to them. And being accompanied with the doctrine of repentance, remission of sins, and the news of the kingdom of heaven approaching, it could not choose but find some reverence and attention. But certainly, of multitudes that will run to the word, and, possibly, particularly flock after the ministry of some for a time, there may be many, as doubtless were there, that are but light stuff, carried with the stream as corks and straws are. Men should examine well even such things as seem to speak some love to religion in them, whether they be real or not. This, John does not spare to tell home to the seemingly best of those that came to him, that esteemed themselves, and were esteemed by others, more religious than the multitude. Yea, the Spirit of God directed him to deal more sharply with them than with others that came to him; they being of all others commonly most confident of self-righteousness, and therefore furthest from the true work of repentance, which humbles the soul to the dust, and lays it low in its own eyes: these sects being beyond the multitude, swelled with conceit of their own estate, he spares the rest, and pricks them sharply that the tumour may fall. It may seem somewhat strange that he entertains so roughly those that came respectfully to him, and with others were will ing and desirous to hear his doctrine, and partake of his bap
tism. Was not this the way to beat them back, and make them distaste both?
There is indeed much prudence required in the ministers of the word, to know to attemper their admonitions and reproofs, that by too much rigour they discourage not weak beginners who are inquiring after the ways of God; but withal they should be no less wary that by too much credulity and lenity, they sooth not any in their formality and carnal confidence. And the most we have to deal withal, commonly are in most hazard upon this hand; there is too little heart humbling. And many are ready to take up some piece of reformation of their ways, and the externals of religion, and deem themselves presently good Christians. Oh! the deceit and slothfulness of our hearts! How ready are we to lay hold upon an easy guise of our own, and think what some further press, is but melancholy and needless preciseness!
Ver. 8. Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.] Though he wonders at their coming, and fairly tells them so, yet, he rejects them not, despairs not of them; he gives them sound advice, which implies always some hopes of prevailing. Give none up for desperate; catch hold of what they do, to drive them to what further they ought to do. You profess to flee from the wrath to come: bring forth fruits then. You say you are Christians and believers: Oh! let your ways and lives say so. Let Christ dwell in your hearts, and be shewn in your lives.
Ver. 9. Think not to say, We have Abraham to our father.] The foolish heart is still leaning to this fancy of external relations and privileges. Beware; rest not on these, the reformed religion, pure ordinances, or a place of esteem possibly amongst the strictest sort of reformed professors. And do not think you put an obligation on religion, and that it is indebted to you; but pray take heed. God can leave you, and deliver you up to these vain thoughts, and provide Himself without you. He can draw the remotest and unlikeliest to Himself, and let you go,
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ALTHOUGH the enemies of Jesus Christ, and, for a time, even his friends and followers, mistook the nature of his kingdom, yet he is a king. This being questioned, he himself avowed it before the Roman judge; and even in his low estate on earth, yet were there intermixed signs and characters of royalty. To instance here no more, the former chapter hath the history of one of them, and this of another. In that was the hoinage done to him a little after his entering into the world by birth In this, we have his harbinger preparing his way a little before his coming forth into the world, to manifest himself in his words and works.
This chapter, you see, contains the history of John Baptist -1st. the nature of his office; 2dly. the exercise of his office; and that both generally to the multitude of the Jews that resorted to his baptism, and particularly, to some of more eminent note amongst them, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and singularly on the person of Jesus Christ.
Ver. 1. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.] This relates not to the history that goes before, but to that which follows to be recorded, as the usual style of the Hebrew bears. It is clear that many VOL. III.