« הקודםהמשך »
in the then corrupt state of their minds. His exhortation was therefore, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was on this principle he reproved with so much severity the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism, whom one would think he should rather have encouraged and commended, and received with open arms. “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ? Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance*.” Till you have done this, till you have purified your hearts and abandoned your sins, my baptism will be of no use to you, and all the reasoning in the world will have no effect upon you. In perfect conformity to this, Josephus informs us that John exhorted the Jews not to come to his baptism, without first preparing themselves for it by the practice of virtue, by a strict adherence to the rules of equity and justice in their dealings with one another, and by manifesting a sincere piety towards God.
This is the preparation he required : and thus it is that we also must prepare men for the reception of divine truth. We must first * Matth iri: 7,8.
reform, and then convince them. It is not in general the want of evidence, but the want of virtue that makes men infidels ; let them cease to be wicked, and they will soon cease to be unbelievers. “It is with the heart," says St. Paul (not'with the head) “ that man believeth unto righteousness*.” Correct the heart and all will go right. Unless the soil is good, all the seed you cast upon it will be wasted in vain. In the parable of the sower we find, that the only seed which came to perfection was that which fell on good ground, on an honest and a good heart. This is the first and most essential requisite to belief. Unbelievers complain of the mysteries of Revelation ; but we have the highest authority for saying, that in general the only mystery which prevents them from receiving it, is the mystery of iniquity.
We hear, indeed, a great deal of the good nature, the benevolence, the generosity, the humanity, the honour, and the other innumerable good qualitics of those that reject the Gospel; and they may possibly possess some ostentatious and popular virtues, and may . * Rom. x. 20.
keep clear from flagrant and disreputable vices. But whether some gross depravity, some inveterate prejudice, or some leaven of vanity and self-conceit, does not commonly lurk in their hearts, and influence both their opinions and their practices, they who have an extensive acquaintance with the writings and the conduct of that class of men will find no difficulty in deciding. If however this was the decision of man only, the justness of it might be controverted, and the competency of the judge denied. It might be said, that it is unbecoming and presumptuous in any human being to pass severe censures on large bodies of men; and that without being able to look into the heart of man, it is impossible to form a right judgment of his moral character. This we do not deny. But if he who actually has that power of looking into the heart of man, if he who is perfectly well acquainted with human nature, and all the various characters of men; if he has declared that men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil*, who will controvert the truth of that decision ? On this authority then we may * John iii. 19.
, securely rely, and may rest assured, that whatz
ever pretences may be set up for rejecting Revelation, the grand obstacles to it are, indolence, indifference, vice, passion, prejudice, self-conceit, pride, vanity, love of singularity, a disdain to think with the vulgar, and an ambition to be considered as superior to the rest of mankind in genius, penetration, and discernment. It is by removing these impediments in the first place, that we must prepare men, as St. John did, for embracing the religion of Christ. These (to make use of prophetic language) are the mountains that must be made low; these the crooked paths that must be made straight; these the rough places that must be made plain. Then all difficulties will be removed, and there will be A HIGIIWAY FOR OUR GOD. Then there will be a smooth and easy approach for the Gospel to the understanding, as well as to the heart; there will be nothing to oppose its conquest over the soul. The GLORY OF THE LORD SHALL FULLY BE REVEALED, AND ALL FLESH SHALL SEE IT *.
* Isajah xl. 56
LECTURE IV. 1.*
Matthew iv.-former part.
THE fourth chapter of St. Matthew, at
1 which we are no'v arrived, opens with an account of that most singular and extraordinary transaction, THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS. The detail of it is as follows: i.
“ Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil ; and when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterwards an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: Vol. I.