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any means he might convince them of Sect. V. fin, and lead them to true repentance. m "O generation of vipers, who hath “ warned you to flee from the wrath to “ come ?” You, who seem to have taken poffeffion of the inheritance, as if Messiah would never appear to claim it; you, who trust in yourselves that you are righteous, and despise others; come you to me, to be baptized with publicans and finners? What can be the reason of all this? What can be your motive? The business in hand is not one to be trifled with. Hypocrisy has no place here; nor will the external shew, without the internal work, in this case, avail to any thing, but condemnation. “ Bring forth therefore “ fruits meet for repentance :" be not barren, but “ bring forth ;” bring forth not leaves only, or fair professions, promises, and designs, but “ fruits," or good deeds ; and such as may be « wor“thy” of the tree on which they grow; such as may advance to maturity, and ripen into holiness. " And think not “ to say within yourselves, We have “ Abraham to our father :" many will
Secr.v. hereafter fay that, to little purpose. A m descent from the loins of Abraham will
profit none, but those who are like A-
* into the fire.” Hitherto God hath Sect.V. born with your errors and iniquities, m but he will do so no longer. The law hath been given, and the prophets have been sent; but they are not regarded ; and therefore he is coming, after whom no other mellenger is to be expected from above, He will be the Saviour of all, who, from a sense of their fins, Ihall be ready to embrace him as such. I am not that person, but the least and lowest of his servants, sent before to give notice of his approach, and prepare you to receive him, “ I indeed s baptize you with water unto repentsance;" but it is he who must grant remifsion of fins repented of; "he that 5 cometh after me is mightier than I, “ whose fhoes I am not worthy to bear;" he brings with him almighty power from on high, to pardon fins, and confer grace; “ he shall baptize you with “ the Holy Ghost and with fire,” to fanctify your natures, to purify, enlighten, and inflame your hearts with the desire and love of celestial objects. At his appearance, he will try and make manifest the tempers and dispositions of
M 2 men.
Sect.V. men. Deceit and hypocrisy fhall not
f tand before him. “ His fán is in his • hand, and he will throughly purge « his floor,” fifting and winnowing that which is good from that which seems to be so; “ and he will gather his wheat “ into his garner,” translate to heaven all that is pure, substantial, and fruitful; “ but he will burn up the chaff," whatsoever is fallacious, light, empty, and barren, “ with unquenchable fire,” in hell.
Such a discourse from such a person occasioned great searchings in the hearts of the people. They found all the vain opinions and presumptions, on which they had been accustomed to rely, suddenly taken from them, and nothing left, but to put themselves forthwith under the direction of so holy and heavenly a preacher. With fear and trembling they applied to him, as the affrighted gaoler afterwards did to Paul and Silas, saying, “ What shall we do “ then ^?” And when a penitent will ask advice of his spiritual guide, with a determined resolution to follow it, he
* Luke iii. 10, &c.
is not far from the kingdom of God. Sect.V. He is sensible of his disease; and that, in the maladies of the mind, is half the cure. St. John, in his answer, enjoins not legal, but evangelical sacrifices, exhorting his converts to Thew the fincerity of their conversion by loving their neighbours, and relieving their neceffities, as God had loved and relieved them. “ He that hath two coats, let “ him impart to him that hath none; “ and he that hath meat let him do “ likewise.” These works of feeding and clothing the poor, including all other acts of mercy under them, are mentioned, as being the most necessary and indispensable ; and he, says a pious writer upon this passage, who is not moved with his brother's misery, deserves to find God unmoved with his own.
Among others that came to be baptized, were some publicans, or tax-gatherers; a set of men, whose employment rendered them odious, as it often tempted them to court the favour of those who employed them, or to gratify their own avarice, by fleecing the