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me? Know ye not that I must go about my Father's business ;” Immediately before, the blessed Virgin had said, “Thy father and I sought thee with heavy hearts.” Wherein, both according to the supposition of the world, she called Joseph the father of Christ, and, according to the fashion of a dutiful wife, she names her Joseph before herself. She well knew that Joseph had nothing but a name in this business ; she knew how God had dignified ber beyond him; yet she says, “Thy father and I sought thee.” The Son of God stands not upon contradiction to his mother, but leading her thoughts from his supposed father to his true, from earth to heaven, be answers, “ Knew ye not that I must go about my Father's business ?” It was honour enough to her, that he had vouchsafed to take flesh of her: it was his eternal honour that he was God of God, the everlasting Son of the heavenly Father. Good reason therefore was it, that the respects to flesh should give place to the God of spirits. How well contented was holy Mary with so just an answer! How doth she now again, in her heart, renew her answer to the angel, “ Behold the servant of the Lord; be it according to thy word !”
We are all the sons of God in another kind. Nature and the world thinks we should attend thein. We are not worthy to say, we have a father in heaven, if we cannot steal away from these earthly distractions, and employ ourselves in the services of our God.
Christ's Baptism. John did every way forerun Christ, not so much in the time of his birth, as in his office. Neither was there more unlikeliness in their disposition and carriage, than similitude in their function. Both did preach and baptize: only John baptized by himself, our Saviour by his disciples: our Saviour wrought miracles by himself, by his disciples : Jolin wrought none by either. Wherein Christ meant to shew himself a Lord, and John a servant: and John meant to approve himself a true servant to him whose harbinger
He that leapt in the womb of his mother, when bis Saviour (then newly conceived) came in presence, bestirred bimself when he was brought forth into the light
of the church: to the honour and service of his Saviour: he did the same before Christ, which Christ charged his disciples to do after him, “Preach and baptize.” The gospel ran always in one tenor, and was never but like itself. So it became the Word of him, in whom there is no shadow of turning, and whose word it is, “I am Jehovah, I change not.”
It was fit that he which had the prophets, the star, the angel, to foretell his coming into the world, should have his usher to go before him, when he would notify himself to the world. John was the voice of a crier; Christ was the Word of his Father; it was fit this voice should make a noise to the world, ere the Word of the Father should speak to it. John's note was still repentance, The axe to the root, the fan to the floor, the chaff to the fire. As his raiment was rough, so was his tongue ; and if his food were wild honey, his speech was stinging locusts. Thus must the way be made for Christ in every heart. Plausibility is no fit preface to regeneration. If the heart of man had continued upright
, God might have been entertained without contradiction; but now violence must be offered to our corruption, ere we can have room for grace. If the great way-maker do not cast down hills, and raise up valleys in the bosoms of men, there is no passage for Christ. Never did Christ come into that soul, where the herald of repentance hath not been before him.
That Saviour of ours, who from eternity lay hid in the counsel of God, who in the fulness of time so came, that he lay hid in the womb of his mother for the space of forty weeks, after he was come, thought fit to lie hid in Nazareth for the space of thirty years, now at last begins to shew himself to the world, and comes from Galilee to Jordan. He that was God always, and might have been perfect man in an instant, would by degrees rise to the perfection both of his manhood, and execution of his Mediatorship, to teach us the necessity of leisure in spiritual proceedings : that many suns and successions of seasons and means must be staid for, ere we can attain our maturity; and that, when we are ripe for the employments of God, we should no less willingly leave our obscurity, than we took the benefit of it for our preparation. He, that was formerly circumcised, would now be baptized. What is baptism but an evangelical circumcision? what was circumcision but a legal baptism? One both supplied and succeeded the other; yet the Author of both will undergo both. He would be circumcised, to sanctify his church that was; and baptized, to sanctify his church that should be; that so, in both testaments, he might open a way into heaven. There was in him neither filthiness, nor foreskin of corruption, that should need either knife or water. He came not to be a Saviour for himself, but for us. We are all uncleanness and uncircumcision : he would therefore have that done to his most pure body, which should be of force to clear our impure souls : thus making himself sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
His baptism gives virtue to ours. His last action, or rather passion, was his baptizing with blood : his first was his baptization with water: both of them wash the world from their sins. Yea, this latter did not only wash the souls of men, but washeth that very water by which we are washed : from hence is that made both clean and holy, and can both cleanse and hallow us. And if the very handkerchief, which touched his apostles, had power of cure, how much more that water, which the sacred body of Christ touched! Christ comes far to seek his baptism, to teach us, for whose sake he was baptized, to wait upon the ordinances of God, and to sue for the favour of spiritual blessings. They are worthless commodities that are not worth seeking for. It is rarely seen, that God is found of any man unsought for. That desire, which only makes us capable of good things, cannot stand with neglect.
John durst not baptize unbidden: bis Master sent him to do this service; and, behold, the Master comes to his servant, to call for the participation of that privilege, which he himself had instituted and enjoined. How willingly should we come to our spiritual superiors, for our part in those mysteries which God hath left in their keeping ! Yea, how gladly should we come to that Christ who gives us these blessings, who is given to us in them!
This seemed too great an honour for the modesty of John to receive. If his mother could say, when her blessed cousin, the virgin Mary, came to visit her, “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” how much more might he say so, when the divine Son of that mother came to call for a favour from him! “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? O holy Baptist! if there were not a greater born of woman than thou, yet thou couldst not be born of a woman, and not need to be baptized of thy Saviour. He baptized with fire, thou with water. Little would thy water have availed thee, without his fire. If he had not baptized thee, how wert thou sanctified from the womb? There can be no flesh without filthiness : neither thy supernatural conception, nor thy austere life, could exempt thee from the need of baptism. Even those that have not lived to sin after the similitude of Adam, yet are they so tainted with Adam, that, unless the second Adam cleanse them by his baptism, they are hopeless. There is no less use of baptism unto all, than there is certainty of the need of baptism. John baptized without, Christ within. The more holy a man is, the more sensible he is of his unholiness. No carnal man could have said, “I have need to be baptized of thee;” neither can be find what he is the better for a little font-water. The sense of our wretchedness, and the valuation of our spiritual helps, is the best trial of our regeneration. Our Saviour doth not deny, that either John hath need to be baptized of him, or that it is strange that he should come to be baptized of John; but he will need thus far both honour John, and disparage himself, to be baptized of his messenger. He, that would take flesh of the virgin, education from his parents, sustenance from his creatures, will take baptism from John. It is the praise of his mercy, that he will stoop so low as to be beholden to his creatures, which from him receive their being, and power both
to take and give.
Yet not so much respect to John, as obedience to bis Father, drew him to this point of humiliation : “ Thus it behoves us to fulfil all righteousness.” The counsels and appointments of God are righteousness itself. There needs no other motive, either to the servant or the Son, than the knowledge of those righteous purposes. This was enough to lead a faithful man through all difficulties and inconveniencies ; neither will it admit of any reply, or any demur. John yieldeth to this honour which his Saviour puts upon him, in giving baptism to the Author of it. He baptized others to the remission of their sins : now he baptizes him, by whom they are remitted, both to the baptizer and to others.
No sooner is Christ baptized, than he comes forth of the
water. The element is of force but during the use : it turns common when that is past : neither is the water sooner poured on his head, than the heavens are opened, and the Holy Ghost descendeth upon that head which was baptized. The heavens are never shut while either of the sacraments is duly administered and received : neither do the heavens ever thus open without the descent of the Holy Ghost. But now that the God of heaven is baptized they open unto him, which are opened to all the faithful by him : and that Holy Ghost which proceeded from him, together with the Father, joins with the Father in a sensible testimony of him; that now the world might see what interest he had in the heavens, in the Father, in the Holy Spirit, and might expect nothing but divine from the entrance of such a Mediator.
Christ Tempted. No sooner is Christ come out of the water of baptism, than he enters into the fire of temptation. No sooner is the Holy Spirit descended upon his head in the form of a dove, than he is led by the Spirit to be tempted. No sooner doth God say, “This is my Son,” than Satan says, “ If thou be the Son of God.” It is not in the power either of the gift or seals of grace to deliver us from the assaults of Satan ; they may have the force to repel evil suggestions, they have none to prevent them : yea, the more we are engaged unto God by our public vows and his pledges of favour, so much more busy and violent is the rage of that evil one to encounter us. We are no sooner stept forth into the field of God, than he labours to wrest our weapons out of our hands, or to turn them against us.
The voice from heaven acknowledged Christ to be the Son of God. This divine testimony did not allay the malice of Satan, but exasperate it: now that venomous serpent swells, with inward poison, and hastes to assail hiin whom God hath honoured from heaven. (God, how should I look to escape the suggestions of that wicked one, when the Son of thy love cannot be free; when even grace itself draws on enmity, that enmity that spared not to strike at the Head, will he forbear the weakest and remotest limb? Arm thou me