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II. In what is here described by the prophet as the office of John the Baptist, who was to prepare his countrymen for the coming of Christ, we learn how we are to receive the Gospel, who are likely to embrace, and who to reject it. —“ Prepare ye
way of the Lord. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low ; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth."
The immediate allusion of the prophets is to pioneers sent before a great army, to remove every thing that might obstruct it in its march.
In this beautiful figurative language, says an ancient writer, doth the prophet teach us that weare to be raised above the low and mean pursuits of sordid avarice and vicious pleasures ; and that the lofty towering thoughts of selfish ambitious men, and their violent disturbing passions, are to be brought down and subdued, before they can have any taste or relish for the Gospel, or listen to that gentle voice which calls them from the ways of vice and ·
misery ; and says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden ; and I will give you rest.
The Baptist's call to repentance, to prepare them for the kingdom of the Messiah, which was what he chiefly preached to his countrymen, would give offence, because it plainly indicated that that kingdom for which it was to prepare them, was not what they looked for, and that it was a dignity, and dominion, for which true piety and virtue and becevolence were the only qualifications.
This disgusted many who desired not to be reformed, whowould not relinquish their worldly ambitious pursuits; and thus refusing to comply with the terms proposed, of qualifying themselves for the kingdom of God, disdained to belong to Christ its king, when he offered himself to them.
This holy man of God, John, taught them, and he teaches us, that there is a certain disposition of mind and heart necessary for the reception of the divine truth of the Gospel ; and that worldly dispositions and vicious practices will make us averse to it, and to resist the strongest evidence in its favour. One would hardly, for instance, think it
possible for a man to have seen Christ raise a dead man to life, under the most awful circumstances, and upon an appeal to God, as hearing him and answering his prayer by enabling him to do it; and yet having seen this, and believing the miracle, should nevertheless go away with a malicious design to inform his enemies against him. Yet this was the case with some who were witnesses of his raising Lazarus to life, that had been four days buried. For the history, informing us afterwards of the effects of this miracle, says; (John xi. 15.)
of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen these things which Jesus did, believed on him, But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.'
Where interest and worldly fears prevail, men will give wrong turns to the plainest facts, and blind and harden themselves against conviction.
In some instances, high conceit of themselves, and their own superiority of parts and · learning, and false systems of philosophy, will make men disrelish the plain truths of the Gospel, and set them against the strong evi
dence for it, as much as those vicious pursuits which are incompatible with the high standard of purity which it lays down and requires of all.
This vain turn of mind is finely touched and refuted by St. Paul, in the beginning of his first epistle to the Corinthians, in reply to some philosophers who ridiculed the Gospel, because its founder, the holy Jesus, was put to death (though most unjustly) on the infamous cross of wood, after the manner of slaves. “ For the preaching of the cross (says he) is to them that perish, foolishness; but, unto us that are saved, it is the power of God :” i. e. the plain insisting on the death of a crucified Saviour, who was iniquitously put to death for his attestation to the truth of God, is, by those who reject it, received as a foolish contemptible thing; though by us who believe it, and have seen the salutary effects of 'preaching it, and the miracles accompanying it, it appeared nothing less than the
of God. Soon after he adds, (ver. 21.) “ For, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God; it pleased him by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe : " i. c. since mankind, by their natural
abilities and improvements, in what with them passed for wisdom, acknowledged not the one only true God; it pleased him by the plain, and (as the world esteems it) the foolish doctrine of the Gospel, to make these truths known to men, and to save those who receive and obey it.
After dwelling on this subject, and the meanness of the instruments, in men's estimation, by whom and amongst whom this doctrine of the cross, by which men were taught the true God and eternal life, was propagated; he concludes with observing, that human wisdom and abilities, could never have pointed out or reached this way to happiness. It was to God's wisdom alone that we owe the contrivance of it; and in our being the followers of Christ, by whom he hath revealed it to us, is all the dignity and preeminence that is of any value. Ver. 30, 31 ; “ But of him are ye in Christ Jesus; who, of God, is inade unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification, and redemption :" i, e. Christ is made the author of these blessings to us ; that, according as it is written, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
Some men's prejudices against the Gospel