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lift up our voice, and cry aloud, we speak with earnestness and fervour. When our own hearts are warmly affected with what we preach, we may hope to affect the hearts of our hearers. Why has God commissioned men rather than angels, to be the preachers and dispensers of his word, but because we can speak to and treat with sinners more feelingly and more affectionately than the angels can 2. This crying of the holy Baptist in his preaching, implies his liberty and boldness, as well as vehemency and earnestness, in delivering of his message. The lifting up of the voice in speaking, argues boldness and courage in the speaker; as, on the contrary, the depressing of the voice showeth timorousness. Learn hence, That the ministers of the word are to use both zeal and earnestness, and also courage and boldness of spirit, in delivering the word and message of God, not forbearing to reprove sin, not concealing any part of God's truth, for fear of men's displeasure. Observe, 3. The sum and substance of what he cried, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his #, straight; that is, “Make ready yourselves, prepare your own hearts, to entertain the doctrine and glad tidings of the gospel.” It is a metaphorical speech, taken from the custom of loyal and dutiful subjects, who, when their prince is coming to lodge in their city, prepare and make ready the way for his coming, by removing every thing that may obstruct or hinder his progress. Learn hence, That man's heart by nature is very unfit to embrace and entertain the Lord Jesus Christ. We have naturally no fitness, no disposition, no inclination, to believe in him, or to submit unto him. 2. If ever we desire to entertain Christ in our hearts, we must first prepare and make fit our hearts for the receiving and embracing of him. For though the preparation of the heart be from the Lord, yet he requires the exercise of our faculties, and the use of our endeavours. He prepares our hearts, by enabling us to the preparation of our own hearts. This is done by getting a sight of the evil of sin, a sense of our misery without Christ, an hungering and thirsting desire after him, a true faith in him. Christ will lodge in no heart that is not thus made ready to receive him.
4 John did baptise in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. *
A twofold account is here given of St. John's execution of his ministry and of.
fice: First, his baptising; secondly, his preaching. John did baptise, that is, admit persons into the church, by washing them with water: John baptised into the name of Christ, who was to come; the apostles baptised into the name of Christ, already come. The second part of his office was preaching. Where note, That preaching of the word, and administration of the sacraments, are to go together, and belong only to the ministers of the word, lawfully called. John did baptise and ach; but where and what did he preach? he place where, was the wilderness, a place not much frequented, though not altogether uninhabited; a solitary, mean, and obscure place. Thither God had called him, and there he contents himself. Learn hence, That the ministers of God must be content to execute their ministry where God calls them, be the place never so mean and obscure, and the people never so rude and barbarous: John was a preacher of great note and fame; Jerusalem the chief city might seem more fit for him; but God had called him to preach in the wilderness, and he would not leave it. . We must not leave our place because it is mean and obscure, nor desert our people, thinking them too base to instruct; but where God has called us we must there abide, till he that called us thither remove us thence. Observe farther, As the place where the Baptist preached, in the wilderness, so the doctrine which he preached, namely, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, that is, the doctrine of Baptism, which sealeth the remission of sins to the party baptized. Learn hence, That the preaching of the doctrine of repentance is absolutely neces. sary, and the indespensable duty of every gospel-minister. John Baptist preached it, our Saviour, preached it, his apostles preached it: They went out preaching where that men should repent. The bar. tism of repentance (says the learned Lightfoot) belongs to children, though they know not what repentance means, because it engages them to repentance when they come to years to understand that engagement. For thus it was with children circumcised, they became debtors to observe that whole law, though they knew, not what the law meant; yet circumcision bound them to it, when they came to years of discretion.
Here we have an account of the success of St. John's ministry; 1. In the general concourse and resort of the people to it, All Judea and Jerusalem; that is, a great many of all degrees and ranks, of all ages and sexes. John was famed for a prophet, and a prophet was now a great rarity. Malachi was the last prophet before John, and he lived about five hundred years before John. Now the excellency of his person, the earnestness of his preaching, the acceptableness of his doctrine, that the Messias was come, and the austerity of his life and conversation, all these caused the people to flock unto him. Learn hence, That it is a great encouragement to the ministers of Christ when people show themselves ready and forward to repair unto the places where the word and sacraments are dispensed to them: All Judea and Jerusalem attended upon John's ministry. The second fruit of John's ministry was, that the people were ready to receive at his hand the sacrament of baptism: They were all baptised of him in Jordan. Learn hence, That the ministers of Christ ought not only to preach the word, but also to dispense the sacraments to their people, even to all that do desire them, and are fit to be partakers of them. A third fruit of John's ministry was, his hearers’ profession of their true repentance, by the confession of their sins; as the profession of repentance is requisite in all that are baptized, so a free and voluntary, an ingenuous and impartial, confession of sin, is a good evidence and testimony of the truth and sincerity of our repentance.
6 And John was clothed with camels' hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins: and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
This verse acquaints us with the strictness and austerity of St. John's life in the wilderness; which is laid down in two things; in his mean and frugal apparel, and in his sober and temperate diet. His apparel was rough and hairy, and his girdie of leather; as Elijah his forerunner was clad before him, 2 Kings i. 8. His dio was coarse and ordinary, locusts and wild honey; that is, such plain and ordinary food as the wilderness afforded. His example teaches us, That the ministers of the gospel are not to effect either bravery in apparel, or delicacy in diet; but both by their habit and diet set an example of gravity and sobriety before their people;
being in these, as well as in other things,
all example unto their flocks.
7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
Observe here, 1. The high opinion that the Baptist had of Christ. He is mightier than I, that is, a Person of greater dignity and excellency by far than myself: whence may be gathered, that though Christ was Man, he was not mere man, but more than man: even very God, equal with his Father; for John Baptist was the greatest of them that were born of woman, Matt. xi. 11. yet, says he, Christ is mightier and greater than 1. How so, but in regard to the dignity of his person, being both God and Man in two distinct natures and one person. Observe, 2. The humble and low estimation that the Baptist had of himself; His shoe latchet I am not worthy to unloose: a proverbial speech, implying that he was unworthy to do the basest and meanest service for Christ. O how well doth humility of mind, an humble apprehension, a low esteem and opinion of themselves and their own gifts and abilities, become the messengers and ministers of Christ' John was a man of eminent abilities, yet of exemplary humility; he thought himself unworthy to unloose Christ's shoe, or do the meanest office for him.
8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
John showed the dignity of Christ's person above his own, in the former verse; in this he declares the excellency of Christ's office, and the meanness of his own; I wash the body with water, but Christ cleanses the soul by the operation of his Holy Spirit. Thence learn, That though the ministers of Christ do by Christ's command dispense the outward ordinance of baptism, yet it is Christ himself, that by the inward work of his Spirit doth make it effectual to such as receive it. I baptize with water, but he with the Holy Ghost.
9 And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. 10 And staightway coming
up out of the water, he saw the hea. vens opened, and the Spirit, like a Move, descending upon him, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I
See the note on Matt. iii. 13. Observe here, 1. The great condescension of Christ, in seeking and submitting to the baptism of John : Christ, though he was John's Lord and Master, yea, Lord of heaven and earth, yet cometh to hear John preach, and will be baptized of his messenger. Thence learn, That the greatest persons should neither think themselves too great, nor too good, to come unto the ministers of God, to hear the word from their mouth, or to receive the sacrament at their hand. Christ the Son of God was content to be baptized of John, a mean person in comparison of himself. How dare then the greatest upon earth despise the ministry of man, being appointed by God? Observe, 2. The solemn investing of Christ with the office of Mediator, by a threefold miracle; namely, the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Holy Ghost, and God the Father's voice or testimony concerning his Son; the heavens were opened, to show, that heaven, which was closed and shut against us for our sins, is now opened to us by Christ's undertaking for us. As Christ opened heaven by his meritorious passion, so he keeps it open by his prevailing intercession. Next, the Holy Ghost descends like a dove upon our Saviour. Here we have a proof and evidence of the Blessed Trinity. The Father speaks from heaven, the Son comes out of the water, and the Holy Ghost decends in the likeness of a dove. But why did the Holy Ghost now descend upon Christ? First, for the designation of his person, to show that he was the Person set apart for his word and office of a mediator. Secondly, for the sanctification of his person for the performance of that office. This was Christ's unction, the day on which he was anointed above his fellows to be the King, Priest, and Prophet, of his church: Isa. lxi. ver. 1. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, he hath anointed me, &c. Observe, 3. The voice of God the Father pronounced, (1.) The nearness of Christ's relation to himself: This is my Son. (2.)The endearedness of his person: This is my beloved Son. (3.)The fruit and benefit of his near and dear relation unto us: In whom I am well pleased. Hence learn, That there is no possibility for a person to please God out of Christ; neither our persons nor our performances can find acceptance but through him, and for his sake;—that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Ground and Cause of all that love which God the Father showeth to the sons of men. In Christ, God is well pleased with us, as a reconciled Father; out of him, a consuming Fire.
| 12 And immediately the Spirit dri-
Christ; who, as Lord of the creatures, can alter and change the nature of the creature at his pleasure; restraining the most savage and hurtful beasts from hurting either himself or any of his people. Observe lastly, The supply sent in to Christ in the hour of temptation: The angels came and ministered unto him; food to his hungry body, and comfort to his tempted soul. Learn thence, that those who in the hour of temptation do hold out in resisting Satan, shall find that the power and faithfulness of God will not be wanting to them to send in succour and relief at last; Then the deril leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.
In this our Saviour's first beginning to preach the gospel, we have an account of the time when, the place where, and the sum of what, he preached. Observe, 1. The time when our Lord began to preach, and that was after John the Baptist was cast into prison, Where note, 1. The undue reward which the ministers of God do sometimes meet with from a wicked world; they are hated, persecuted, and imprisoned, for their courage in reproving
sin: John for reproving Herod's incest
was put in prison. Note, 2. John was no
sooner in prison, and stopped and hin
dered from preaching, but Christ began
to preach. See the care and kindness of God towards his church, in that he never leaves it wholly destitute of the means of instruction: when some of his faithful
ministers are restrained from preaching,
he stirreth up others in their room, not suffering all their mouths to be stopped at once. Observe, 2. The place where our Lord first preached, in Galilee. The land of Canaan, in our Saviour's time, was divided into three principal provinces: on
the south, Judea; on the north Galilee; in the midst, Samaria. Galilee was divi. ded into the upper and lower Galilee; the higher was called Galilee of the Gentiles, because it was the utmost part of the land, and so next unto the Gentiles. In this upper Galilee, Capernaum was the metropolis, or chief; and Chorazin a lesser city. Now much of our Saviour's time was spent in Galilee; he was conceived and brought up at Nazareth, a city in Ga. lilee; he first preached at Capermaum in
Galilee; he wrought his first miracle at Cana in Galilee; his transfiguration was upon mount Tabor in Galilee; and our Saviour's ordinary residence was in Galilee. He came into Judea, and up to Jerusalem, only at the feasts: and after his resurrection he appoints his disciples to meet him in Galilee. Only his nativity, his passion, and ascension, were proper to Judea. His nativity at Bethlehem, his passion at Jerusalem, and his ascension upon mount Olivet, hard by Jerusalem Now all this demonstrates Christ to be the true and promised Messias; for according to prophecy, the Messias was to have his presence and principal abode in the province of Galilee, Isa. ix. 1, 2, 3, &c. Ye: because he was of Galilee, the Jews would not believe him to be the Messiah, saying in scorn, Can any good thing come out of Galilee 2 Whereas our Saviour's habitation and free conversation there, was a proof unto them, and ought to have persuaded them, that according to the prophecy he was the very Christ. Observe, 3. The sum of what our Lord preached, namely, a doctrine, and an exhortation. His doctrine is, That the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; that is, that the time foretold by the prophets, when the kingdom of the Messiah should begin, was now come. The exhortation is, Therefore repent, and believe the gospel. From the former, note, That the Messiah’s coming, or our Saviour's appearing in the flesh, was exactly at the time foretold by the holy prophets: The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of the Messiah is at hand. Note, 2. That the great doctrines of repentance and faith are taught only in and by the gospel, and accordingly ought in a special manner to be preached and insisted upon by the ministers of the gospel. The doctrine of Christ, and his ambassadors, is and ought to be the same; they both teach the great doctrines of faith and repentance to a lost world: Repent, and believe the gospel.
16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers; 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men, 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. 19 And when he had gone a little farther thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their
nets. 20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
In this history of our Saviour's calling the four disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, observe these particulars. 1. The meanness of the persons whom he calls, illiterate fishermen: Christ took hereby effectual care that his gospel should be known to be the power of God, and not the wisdom and device of man; and that the instruments should not carry away the glory of the work. Observe, 2. Christ called his apostles by couples, two and two ; first Peter and Andrew, then James and John : thereby signifying to us, that the work of the ministry requires the concurrence of all hands that are called to it. All the ministers of God should join their hearts and hands, and set their shoulders as one man to this great work; and all little enough, God knows, to carry it on with advantage and success. Observe, 3. The work which they are called from, and called to : from being fishermen, to be fishers of men; from catching fish with the labour of their hands, to catch men with the labour of their tongues. Observe, 4. Our Saviour's command, first to follow him, before they be sent out by him : Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. We must be Christ's disciples before we are his ministers; his followers, before we are his ambassadors: we must learn Christ before we preach him ; otherwise we may fish for a livelihood, but not for souls. Observe, 5. The gracious promise which Christ gives his apostles for their encouragement; namely, to qualify them for, and to succeed them in, their office: I will make you fishers of men. Faithfulness and care, diligence and endeavour, is our part; but the blessing and success is Christ's : our labour is only in the cast; Christ's power is wholly in the draught. Some fish cleave to the rocks, others play upon the sands, more wallow in mud; and verily we shall labour all our days and catch nothing, if Christ do not bring our fish to the net, and enclose them in it, as well as assist us in the throwing and casting of it. Observe, 6. The apostles' ready compliance with our Saviour's call. Straightway they forsook their father and friends, ship and nets, and followed Jesus. Whom Christ calls, he calls effectually: and draws whom he calls and works their hearts to a ready compliance with their duty. Observe, 7. That upon their call to the ministry they leave off
their trade, they forsake their ship and nets, and lie close to their ministerial employment. Teaching us, That the ministers of the gospel should wholly give themselves up to their great work, and not encumber themselves with secular affairs and wordly business. Nothing but an indispensable necessity, in providing for a family, can excuse a minister's incumbering himself with worldly concerns and business.
21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath-day he entered into the synagogue, and taught, 22 And they were astonished at his doctrine : for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
Our Saviour having called his disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to follow him, in order to their preaching of the gospel; here we may observe how he went himself along with them, teaching personally in the synagogues wherever he came : he did not send his apostles forth as his curates, and lie at home himself upon his couch of ease. What shall we say to those lazy fishermen that set others to the drag, but care only to feed themselves with the fish ; not willing to wet their hands with the net, or take any pains themselves 4 Our Saviour did not thus; but when he sent forth his apostles, he still preached himself: he went into their synagogues and taught. Observe farther, the success of his preaching; the people were astonished at his doctrine, struck with admiration, apprehending and believing him to be an extraordinary prophet sent from God. Learn thence, That such is the efficacy of Christ's doctrine, especially when accompanied with the energy and operation of his Holy Spirit, that it makes all his auditors admirers; eausing astonishment in their minds, and reformation in their manners. Observe lastly, the reason of our Lord's success in preaching: He taught as one having authority. He taught in his own name, as being Lord of his doctrine; not saying with the prophets, Thus saith the Lord: but I say unto you. And he wrought powerful miracles, which accompanied his doctrine. As Christ was careful to preserve the authority of his person and doctrine with the people; so is it the duty of his ministers to demean themselves amongst their people, that neither their authority may be contemned, nor their persons despised, but their doctrine and themselves reverenced and obeyed.