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That John, my love, was to precede the Lord, and preach the way that all sinners would be saved, by faith in Jesus Christ: he therefore declared, that he had come, according to the prophets, to prepare the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight.
What was the meaning, Mamma, of making his paths straight?
A sinner's heart, my love, is called crooked and perverse in all its ways, and filthy and unclean. While, therefore, the heart was in that state, the Lord could not enter. So that the meaning of the words of John was, that God was about to renew the soul of man, by the washing of his Holy Spirit. John was, therefore," one crying in the wilderness;" that is, in this world, this wilderness of sin, where there is neither soil, cultivation, growth, nor fruit of that which is good; but is as barren as the wilderness in which God fed the children of Israel with the bread of heaven. On John's attaining the proper age, therefore, he set forth, clothed in the humble dress of camel's hair, with a simple girdle of skin round his loins ; and he had not wherewith to eat, saving locusts and wild honey; but wherever he could meet an assembly of people, whether in fields, market places, or public streets, there he preached. His language was very beautiful: talking
of our beloved Jesus, be exclaimed: "There cometh one mightier than I, after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water; but he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
How, Mamma? • Baptism means, my love, a washing of water; without which, our Saviour has said, that we cannot be saved. It alludes, my love, to the beautiful summons of the prophet, inviting all to the fountain without price; that is to say, we must come as beggars. This is typical of the state of Adam: when he lost the Holy Spirit, he was turned out of paradise. When he had that Spirit, he was clean and righteous; but when he lost it, he was unclean and unrighteous.
Water typifies the Spirit, because it alone cleanses or baptizes, and quenches thirst. So is the Holy Spirit; it cleanses from sin, and the more we thirst for it, that is, pray for it, the more we desire of it. So that without this Spirit, neither faith, repentance, nor works will avail.
I thought you said, Mamma, if we repented, and had faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, all men would be saved.
Only by that faith, and repentance, and works, which are the fruits of the Spirit: because the apostle James says, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." The apostle Paul also says, in his letter to the Romans, " For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."" If by grace," (the Spirit,) says the apostle, " then it is no more of works."
So that you perceive, my dear child, that we can neither have real faith, repentance, nor works, without the Spirit. It is true, men have faith, so have the devils; men have repentance, that is., they often feel sorry for their sins; but they never wholly turn from them. Men have works, but they are not void of vanity, pride, selfishness, &c. So that there were a number of such men who come to John to be baptized, who had works, as they are called; that is, they prayed, gave to the poor ; but they were proud and vindictive. John thus addressed them: "O ye generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring, therefore, fruits meet for repentance. And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up. children unto Abraham. And now, also, the axe in laid unto the root of the trees: therefore, every tree which bringeth Hot forth good fruit, is hewn down."
Does not good fruit, Mamma, mean works?
Of course, my dear child; no man can be saved unless his works be good, or without works. But the above Pharisees had works; that is, they looked honest and good men; but they were proud and bigotted, and thought, because they were Jews, descended from Abraham, they alone would be saved. It is mentioned in the Scriptures, that two went to Jerusalem to pray; one was a Pharisee, (a Jew,) the other a man who much despised himself, because he was aware that he was a great sinner, and a Gentile.
The Pharisee stood, and prayed thus with himself: "God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican, (alluding to the sinner.) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."
You perceive, my dear child, what a great person I was: he gave no glory to God; on the contrary, he glorified himself. Indeed, he had no occasion, in his opinion, for the fountain; for he had purchased his redemption by his own works; and, therefore, he considered himself justified before God. How different, my love, to the prayer of the holy Psalmist! "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgression. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee only have I sinned. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Hide thy face from my sins. Create inme a clean heart; renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence,and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Uphold me with thy free Spirit. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back. They are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth. good, no, not one. As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me: evening and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud, and he shall hear me. Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? I wait for the Lord; my soul doth wait. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips; incline not my