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Dant, which God, by the prophet Malachi, had promised to spare *.
The sect of the Pharisees, was one of the most an. cient and most considerable sects among the Jews; its origin is not very well known. It was very numerous, and distinguished from other Israelites by a greater appearance of sanctity and strictness of life. The Phari. sees substituted human tradition in the room of God's. written word, and, in our Lord's and John the Baptist's time, they were proud, covetous, unjust, superstitious, and hypocritical : yet they were held in great estima. tion by the common people, on account of their eminent learning and pretensions to piety. The Sadducees was another principal sect of the Jews :
. what chiefly distinguished them was, that they denied the immortality of the soul ; and consequently dishe lieved the doctrine of a future state of rewards and pu. nishments. Notwithstanding these erroneous opinions, the Sadducees were in the chief employments of the nation, and many of them even priests.
The Publicans were a set of men, whose office: it was to collect the taxes which the Romans imposed on the Jews, and to pay them to others, who were called the Chiefs of the Publicans; and these people, being genea rally persons of an infamous character for their injustice and oppression, seem to have applied to Fohn under a sense of guilt.
tid The Baptist's address to the Pharisees and Sadducees implied, that so far from being accepted as the children. of Abraham, they would be rejected as a race at crafty mischievous creatures, unless they became true penitents, and entirely forsook their sins; and that the very
* See Sect. ii.
stones, if God thought proper to animate them, might become, in a much wobler sense of the word, children to Abraham, by imitating his faith and obedience, which would entitle them to be partakers in the promises made to that Patriarch. That the Pharisees and Saddu. cees might be truly sensible of their danger, the Baptist .warned them, in vehement and forcible language, to expect those judgments which had formerly been denounced by the Prophets.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were offended with this address, and refused to be baptized; but the common people were alarmed, and requested John to inform, them how they should escape this dreadful condemna. tion; on which he told them to be careful, not only to observe the ceremonies of religion, but to practise the duties of charity and justice also. ·
John, finding that many began to think him the Messiah, immediately acquainted them he was not so, and proceeded to describe the office of CHRIST; acknowledging that CHRIST would be greatly superior, to himself, as by the baptism of water he could only cleanse the body, whereas Christ would with the Holy Ghost purify the mind; and finally separate the good from the bad, as the husbandman separates the wheat from the chaff; and take the good to heaven, but doom the wicked to a place of everlasting torment..'
The spirit of prophecy, which seenis to have been withheld from the time of Malachi, now openly revived in Fobn; for though his predictions agreed with the ancient prophecies, he mentioned many circumstances, which could only be known by divine revelation to himself, particularly the doctrine of repentance and re. mission of sins, the approach of the Messiah, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. :
When we read the discourses of John the Baptist, we should consider them addressed to ourselves, as well as to the Jews; for we equally stand in need of repent.
The Sacrament of Baptism will prove ineffectual to our salvation, unless we perform the conditions made in our name, and endeavour to live as becomes those who are made children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven.
LA PASSAGE OF
THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH RELAT.'
ING TO THE MESSIAH.
From Isaiah, Chap. xi. And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the spirit of the Lord 'shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the LORD.
And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord : and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his
But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity, for the meek of the earth : and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. This passage of Isaiah's prophecy certainly relates to
the MESSIAH, and intimates, that he would be particu. larly distinguished from all mankind, by the circumstance of the Spirit of the LORD resting upon him; or, in other words, by the constant inspiration of the Holy GHOST.
Under the Mosaic dispensation, we read of the Spirit of the Lord coming upon particular persons, such as Moses, Joshua, Sampson, &c. who by this means were endued with supernatural wisdom, strength, courage, &c. or they were enabled to foretel future events, impene. trable to human reason ; and, compelled by an im. pulse, which they could not resist, to declare the divine Will and Commandments to others. This is what we call divine inspiration, and the men who were thus inspired, de nominated Prophets. The Prophets were mere men, and in common had no guide but human reason; but occa. sional inspiration improved their understandings, and had undoubtedly an influence on their lives, which they willingly devoted to the service of the Lord, who had thus honoured them; and endeavoured to reform the rest of the world, both by their conversation and exam. ple. The MESSIAH was to be eminently distinguished above these : for the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of knowledge, and the fear of the LORD, was to rest on him, or remain constantly with him, that he might be qualified to judge with righteousness, and reprove with equity; which no mere human being could do in all instances, men having no means of forming any judgment of things, but from the sight of their cyes and the hearing of their ears,
Let us now go on with the history, and see whether it was made evident that the Spirit of the Lord rested upon Jesus Christ.
From Matthew, Chap. iii.-- Juhiie Chap. i. Then cometh jesus froin Galilee to jordau unto John, to be baptized of him.
But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be haptized of thee, and comest thou o mu? And JESUS answering, said unto him, Surfer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fuifil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straight. way out of the wa cr: and lo, the heat ens were opened junto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending Jike a dove, and lighting upon him.
And lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my be. loved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This is he of whom I spake. He that comcih after me, is prea ferred before me; for he was before me.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. We must perceive a wonderful difference betwixt the reception which John the Baptist gave to the people wh focked around him from different parks, and io our SAVIOUR. The former he called upon as siner's to Itjeni, and be bap: zed; our Lord he addresed as one from whom te stood in need of bap ism himself, the baptism of the HOLY GHO:T, of which he had adver. tised sin fol. oor was the Bapiist willing form bus vitice cu a person so infinitely his supe.ior, till