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Sr. MATTHEW iii. 16, 17. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, and lo! the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo! a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
In my last address to you, my friends and brethren, I told you, that in the country where our Saviour lived, while he was on earth, there appeared a most holy and excellent man, named John, that his office was to prepare men for the kingdom of Christ, and that his cry to the people who flocked to hear him, was, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. In order to make ready a people fit for the Lord, he baptized, or as we now call it, christened them, with water, unto repentance. As water cleanses the body, so baptism or christening, cleansed their souls, washed them of all their stains and filthiness, and prepared them for hearing and obeying the blessed Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. Numbers came to John to be baptized; and he told them all what their sins had been, and advised them to repent and to shake off those sins, and to lead new lives, to flee from the wrath to come, and to bring forth fruits meet for repentance. As every tree is known by its fruit, so their true repentance is to be known by their good be. haviour. He then told them, my brethren, that now the axe was laid to the root of the trees; and therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire. He means, that the world in which he lived was like a forest of trees, that our Saviour was come to prove and to try men, the good, like trees bearing good fruit, would be preserved and kept; the bad, like trees bear. ing bad fruit or none at all, would be cut down and burnt; that holy and religious people would believe in the Saviour and live for ever in heaven, that wicked and ungodly people would spurn at their Saviour, and be cast into hell fire. He tells them also, I baptize with water unto repentance, but be, (that is, Jesus Christ,) who cometh after me, is mightier than I: whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, He shall baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire: He shall give men power from on high, that they may do the will of God, and inherit the kingdom of Heaven: His fan is in his band, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Just as the chaff is blown by the wind from the corn, and the corn stored away, so Jesus Christ will gather his holy and believing people into his kingdom in Heaven, into his own gar
ner, and will send the wicked away into a place, where the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever. While John was thus busy in preparing men for the preaching of Jesus, behold, Jesus himself appears before him, and requests to be baptized-John at first refused, knowing how inferior he was to the Saviour of the world: but that blessed Saviour insists upon it for the present, telling John, that since he appeared on earth as a man, he thought it right to do all the things, which men were called upon to do in order to become righteous. Though he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, though his soul had no stains to be washed away, yet for our sakes and for an example to us, he went into the water, and was baptized. And then, my friends and brethren, that glorious sight was seen, of which I read an account to you from the Bible, when I began. The heavens were opened; a heavenly appearance came down, in its flight resembling the flight of a dove, and settled on the head of Jesus Christ. A voice too, glorious, grand, and awfal, was heard from Heaven, thus saying of our Saviour, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. What a sight for the eyes, and what a sound for the ears of mortal men! What a proof and what a sign, that Jesus Christ had power from Heaven to do all that he promised, to teach us the way to Heaven, and to give us the power of getting there. No wonder, the men who saw such a sight, were ready to die, and did some of them really die, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Sooner than that they would give him up for their Lord and Master, they were satisfied to bear poverty, stripes, distress, and at last death itself.