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St. John i. 29-31. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Be^ — hold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said. After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me : for He was before me. And I knew Him not : but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. It was not without a purpose that the Baptist's testimony to the Lord Jesus was so distinctly giren. He clears himself at once of all collusion by declaring that he knew not Christ until he had baptised Him. Then, and not till then, he learnt whose forerunner he was. By divine appointment the two cousins were kept apart— one dwelling in the desert of Judea, the other living privately in azareth of Galilee ; so that it would seem that the Baptist did not know the Lord Jesus by sight, until God revealed Him to His servant by the vision of the Holy Ghost descending and remaining on Him at His baptism by John in the river Jordan. Then he saw and hare record that this is the Son of God. Then he was able to point
SERMO VIIL 51 Him out to others, and say. Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of ike world. Then he told them, Thi% is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me — behind me in time, before me in authority. Though perhaps he knew much of Jesus by reputation, he knew Him not as the Christ of God till now. And that He should be made
manifest imto Israel as the messenger of the covenant, therefore was the forerunner come baptising with water. He did not baptise of his own accord ; it was no mere whim of a fanatic ; but he was sent to prepare Christ^s way by the baptism of repentance, and in the course of his baptising to manifest unto the Jewish people which among them all was indeed the Christ of God. This manifestation of Christ at His baptism as that Beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased, is commemorated by Christians at this season of the year, no less than the manifestation of the infant Jesus by a star to the Wise Men of the East, and the manifestation of the wonder-working Lord to His disciples at Cana of Galilee. In the ancient and what we call classic world there was a general belief in the appearance of ^ods among men. Many a legend told of such epiphanies. Many a poet sang of the praises of superhuman beings who were thought to have visited the haunts of men. You remember how, when Paul had healed the impotent man at Lystra, the people lifted up their voices, £ 2,
52 SERMO vni. sa}dng^ in the speech of Lycaonia^ Tke Gods are come down to us in the likeness of men ; and at Melita^ when he received no hurt from the bite of a venomous snake^ the barbarous people said he was a god. Mankind^ in the civilised world, seem instinctively to expect and desire sensible manifestations of God. We suppose that our first parents had them in the garden of Eden, and afterwards in the land of their exile. We read of them in the early records of patriarchal times, among the chosen people; while the other nations of the world, left to their own imaginations,
tried to satisfy the cravings of the heart by the vain devices of credulity and superstition. We, my brethren, in the mercy of God, can look back upon those ages of darkness, and rejoice in the light of Him who lighteth every nuin that cometi into the world. For unto us has the Lord Jesus been made manifest in the Gospel, unto us has been made known the Desire of all nations. Our longings are not in vain; our hopes are not delusive; our needs can be set at rest ; for to us, as Christians, there is verily and indeed an Epiphany; a manifestation of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily s and in Him is gathered up all that is great, and noble, and excellent, and true in human nature ; so that we may find in Him a Saviour able to save to the uttermost them that come to Rim by faith, and a pattern of life
SERMO vin, 63 which should altogether disabuse us of that so-called hero-worship which the vanity of modem times has set up. When some great one of the earth visits a place, how do men do their best to prepare for his coming ! how they greet him with their compliments I how, when he is gone, do they think over what he said and did while with them ; and, it may be, sometimes commemorate his visit among them by stated days of rejoicing ! What we do for men shall we not much rather do for Christ, my brethren? Is it not our wisdom, to bear in glad memory His blessed visit to mankind on earth ? Is it not a fit season for rejoicing in the spirit, when we are called to hear of His manifestation, to us Gentiles ; of His manifestation to His own people ; of His manifestation to His chosen few ?
Truly it cannot he said of the Lord Jesus that He was exclusive, as the princes of this world and their nobles are exclusive. For it was not only to Israel that Christ was manifested. He was made known to the Eastern sages by the leading of a star. Yea, it is written of Him, / was found of them that sought Me mtj I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me, His was a world-wide Epiphany. All mankind had need of Him ; therefore io all mankind in their representatives has He made Himself manifest. His was an universal Epiphany ; therefore not to the rich and mighty, not to the great and wise only, but to
54 SERMO VIII. the poor and lowly^ to the mean and simple He has made Himself manifest. All of us have a part in the universal rejoicing. Each of us should do his best to keep up within himself the memory of Christ^s Epiphany in the holiness of spiritual joy. That baptism of Jesus^ wherein He was made manifest to His forerunner the Baptist^ and through him to His own people, should be to you and me no common act. Therein did God the Father seal His Son by the Spirit to be the Redeemer of the world; anointed Him with tl^e oil of spiritual gladness above His fellows, to be the Source of comfort, and strength, and health, and life to every one that believes; thereby did the blessed Jesus, according to His own word, undertake to fulfil all rightecmmess ; thereby did He set Himself forth as the Minister of Reconciliation between God and man, the Prophet of the ew Testament, the Head of the new dispensation, the Sanctifier of His people ; thereby did He for alt after ages and generations of mankind ^ sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin.' Therein did the Holy Ghost complete His marvellous work, com-
menced at the conception in Mary's womb, and fill the choice vessel of Christ's human nature with the fulness of all heavenly graces; and of His fulness have all we receivedy and grace for grace, for God giveth not the Sjdrit by measiire unto Him, as it must needs be with all of us, because of our incapacity.
SEBMO yui. 55 O, my brethren, that baptism of Christ has a great tneaning for you and me I We have a deep interest in it. It is no mere isolated fact of history dead and gone i it lives on for ns. You and I may still, in the retrospect of faith, look back upon that baptism and see the Anointed of the Lord, receiving the fulness of His Father's Spirit for our sakes, and hear the voice still crying ia the wilderness. Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. That baptism of Christ is to us, as it were, the guiding star in our heavens. We see who our Saviour is ; we know whom we are to believe and trust ; we learn where the God is whom we long to behold ; we are assured that God has been made manifest in the flesh. There is, therefore, no excuse for ignorance, or doubtings, or unbelief. The worldling cannot have a pretence for sajdng, ^^ I love the world because I cannot find out God;'' the sinner cannot say, " I follow my sins because there is no help ;'' the mourner may not weep as they that have no hope; the poor may not murmur as though God had not chosen them to be ficA in faith ; the rich may not worship their riches, while they see how God, for their sakes, became poor; the sick may not despair, since Christ is the Saviour of the body ; the dying need not fear the grave, for the grave has known a conqueror. The manifestation of God in our nature to men of all ages, and times, and countries, and capacities! What
56 SERMO vin. mind of man is able to fathom the deep things of that mighty work ? What heart of man can love the great love of God by any adequate return ? What tongue of man can utter praises that shall not be worse than silence in so glorious a deed ? Of a truths Great is the mystery of godliness. God manifest in ike flesh! Heaven and earth rejoice in it; earthy for man's hope is rooted upon it; heaven, for there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. May joy upon joy be added in heaven and in earth, by the hope of the righteous in their death, and the turning of sinners into the way of life ! Amen.
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