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the “honour and glory of God, through Jesus « Christ our Lord.
We moreover implore “grace" that we may always use the gifts which God bestows on us to His honour and glory. O what a humiliating view of the human heart doth this petition of our collect present, since it supposes that we are liable to employ God's own gifts to His dishonour! That it is not a libel, awful matter of fact demonstrates. For, Oh! how many have no concern for the promotion of the Divine glory, though they must know that all they have proceeds from God. They seek their “ own, and not the things which are Jesus “ Christ's.” They forget that they are placed in the church for the fulfilment of duties which they owe to it and its Lord; and the language of their daily conduct is, “We are our own.
But among those persons who know that they are intrusted with talents for the purpose of promoting the Divine glory, how needful is an importunate use of the prayer before us! For how faint and interrupted is our pursuit of that object which we have in view! How defective in humility, charity, and zeal, do we prove ourselves to be! And how often do secular interests bias our minds, diverting our aim from the interests of God and His church ! Surely every pious minister must feel the necessity of praying for a large measure of God's “manifold “ gifts," when he considers the work in which he is embarked; and for grace to use what he possesses, or may yet be conferred on him, to the Divine honour, when he contemplates the selfishness and worldliness of his own heart. And surely every pious layman also, considering that while he is a recipient of blessing he is also
to be a channel of conveying it to others in his sphere of action, in his family and in the church, must perceive the necessity of concurring heartily with his minister in this important prayer. The present state of religion among us affords a comment on its propriety which cannot be misunderstood.
ST. JOHN BAPTIST's DAY.
Almighty God, by whose providence thy servant John Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of thy Son our Saviour by preaching of repentance; make us so to follow his doctrine and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and after his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
T is observable, that the Baptist's nativity is
the only one that of Christ excepted) which the church has thought proper to celebrate. The days appointed for the commemoration of other saints, are generally those on which they respectively ceased from their labours, and entered into their everlasting rest; the day of a good man's death being indeed the day of his birth, and this world no more than the womb in which he is formed and matured for his admission into a better where there is neither crying nor pain. But the nativity of St. John being designed, by the remarkable incidents that accompanied it, to turn the eyes of men towards one who was far greater-one, the latchet of whose shoes he confessed himself not worthy to unloose~the church keeps a day sacred to it, and directs us to begin our meditations by considering, as all Judea did when it happened, “what manner " of child” that should be, which was so wonderfully born. (Luke i. 66.)
The Scripture account of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of the Baptist, is concise but comprehensive. He was “a priest of the course « of Abia; she was of the daughters of Aaron;" and “they were both righteous before God,
walking in all the commandments and ordi“nances of the Lord, blameless.” (Luke i. 5, 6.) Zacharias adorned the holy office of the priesthood in most degenerate times by a corresponding holiness of life. From such a father, and a mother worthy of him, who graced the line of Aaron by a like sanctity of manners, the Baptist descended; that the Jews might have no possible objection against him, and that he might be a forerunner of one who was to exhibit the beauty of holiness to all the world.
The evangelical history having stated the character of Zacharias and Elizabeth, proceeds in the very next words to inform us that “they “ had no child, because that Elizabeth was
barren, and they were both well stricken in “ years." John was to be born of parents, from whom, according to the usual course of nature, no issue was to be expected; that the miraculous manner of his birth might excite the attention of mankind, and dispose them to listen to his voice when it should be heard in the wilderness; and also that it might prepare them for that great event which was taking place, as the prophet Isaiah had foretold; “A virgin shall conceive - and bear a son. In circumstances parallel with those of St. John were born of old Isaac and Joseph, Sampson and Samuel, all of them illustrious forerunners of the Messiah, in one or other of His three characters, prophetical, sacerdotal, or regal. And, no doubt, God intended, by so often causing the barren “wo
“ man to keep house and to be a joyful mother “ of children,” to make that power known, by which the incarnation of the Redeemer and the fruitfulness of the church were to be effected in the latter days; when, according to St. Paul, the prophetical injunction of Isaiah was obeyed,
Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; “ break forth into singing, and cry aloud, 'thou os that didst not travel with child.” (Is. liv. 1. Gal. iv. 27.)
A son was promised to Zacharias “while he “ executed the priest's office before God,” as the ritual of the church enjoined, “in the order s of his course, and according to the custom.” (Luke i. 8, 9.) The annunciation of the Baptist's conception happened at the time of incense, when his father, having put on the robe of honour, and being clothed like the great Mediator whom he personated with the garments of glory and beauty, entered into the temple; while the whole congregation of the people, assembled without, sent up their united prayers to be accepted at the throne of grace, through the intercession which was then making for them hy the levitical priest, acting in the name of Him who was to arise after the order of Melchize• deck, and not to be called after the order of “ Aaron.” (Heb. vii. 11.) While the joint prayers of priest and people were thus offered up with the blood of sprinkling and the sweetsmelling savour of the holy incense, an angel suddenly appeared to Zacharias as he was executing his office in the temple; that being the place to which those blessed spirits, when they visit these lower regions, ever delight to resort, as being the nearest resemblance to the happy
ansions from which they descend.