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ordinance by which they gave or dedicated their infant children to the service of God. And now it became necessary that Elizabeth's infant son should receive the name by which it was hereafter to be called, and her friends endeavoured to persuade her to name it Zacharias after its father. But the mother who had learnt from her husband the message of the angel, replied, "Not so; but he shall be called John." Her friends reminded her that there was, no such name in her family, and they made signs to the father that he should tell them what he wished the child to be called. Then Zacharias called for a writing table and wrote saying, "His name is John," the name which the angel had told him. And immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed, and he spake and praised God. The loss of his speech had been altogether miraculous; and so also was the restoration of it. The hand of God was manifest in both; and by giving back to Zacharias his speech just at this moment, in the midst of his assembled relations, God bore evident witness to the truth of that prediction concerning Christ, to which he was now by the inspiration of God to give utterance. For scarcely had he recovered the use of his lips, when his full heart burst forth in a sublime hymn of praise and prophecy, in which he adored the goodness of the Lord God of Israel in visiting and redeeming His people, and raising up salvation for them in the house of David, in the person of that Saviour, who had been spoken of by the holy prophets ever since the world began, and promised to the patriarchs even from the faithful Abraham. In this holy song too, he rejoiced in the goodness of God which had chosen

him, unworthy as he was, to be parent of the child, who was now sent to be the prophet or messenger of the Highest, to go before the face of his glorious Lord, to prepare his way; to make known to those who were still sitting in the darkness and shadow of death, the great and joyful tidings, that the dayspring from on high was coming to guide their feet into the way of peace. What a joyful declaration was this of the approaching redemption of Israel; the mighty salvation which God was raising up for them in the house of David; the fulfilment of those glorious prophecies which related to the seed of Abraham. Words seemed to fail Zacharias, as he tried to describe the greatness and abundance of those blessings which were about to descend upon the people of God. He calls it redemption, a horn of salvation. It is deliverance from enemies, the accomplishment of mercies and promises made from the beginning of the world, the executing of a holy covenant, the performing of the oath of God. In a word, it is the "Highest" Being in the universe, the Lord Jehovah Himself coming to the help of Israel, and sending His prophet before Him; for John was a prophet and more than a prophet, to declare to a helpless world, sitting in bondage and sin, in the darkness of ignorance and the dread of death, the approach of their Redeemer, the forgiveness of their sins, the rising of a light on high, which should guide their wandering steps into the way of peace. You have often heard this beautiful hymn read or sung in Church, and had its meaning explained to you; and you may if you please learn it by heart that it may dwell the better in your mind.

E. Yes, Mamma, and I shall enjoy it much more now that I know when and where it was spoken Mamma, God seems to look upon unbelief as a very great sin; you remember how He punished it in the unbelieving lord of Samaria.

M. Your remark is a just one, my child, and I hope you will always think thus. The want of faith is too often thought by men a very light matter; but God, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, looks upon it as a very grave offence. In His word we are taught that unbelief is the cause of most of the wickedness we see in the world, and that faith is the first beginning of every thing good, and that without it it is impossible to please God. We see therefore why God has thought fit to punish unbelief very seriously. Not only in the wicked does he notice it, who mock at His word, as did the unbelieving lord of Samaria, but even in his own faithful servants, who, though desirous of pleasing God, yet, by reason of the weakness of their nature, sometimes find their faith fail them. God has our good in view, we may depend upon it, in all his dealings towards us. If He punishes our want of faith, it is because, if we do not believe, we never can obey Him. Besides, is not God very greatly insulted when we refuse to believe His word? How do we feel, in this matter, towards each other? Do we not think ourselves ill used when the truth of what we say is doubted? Or, to put it in another way, still more clearly to you, what do you think papa and I should feel, if you were to doubt the truth of every thing that we told you? We know you to be ignorant, and we instruct you in the best manner we can in all that we know ourselves, and you receive our instruc

tions, as a child ought, with great humility, and with a confidence that what we tell you is, to the best of our knowledge, true.

E. Yes, mamma; I always feel quite sure that what you and papa say is right and true.

M. Well, then, as you feel towards us my child, the great God expects us all to feel far more towards Him; and when we obstinately refuse to believe His words, He is, as you see, most justly displeased. Let it be our constant prayer to Him, that he would give us, not only humble and teachable, but believing hearts faith like every other good thing is His gift, and will be granted to us if we pray for it. Nor can we better begin the study of our blessed Redeemer's life, than with the humble hope that God may give us grace to believe in Him with all our hearts.

We hear but little of John the Baptist during the years of his childhood, nor till he was of a fit age to begin the work appointed for him by God; but we read that the Spirit of God was with him from the first, so that as he advanced in years, he "waxed strong in spirit" also. And, as he was particularly sent to preach repentance, and to teach men, by mortifying all the corruptions of their hearts, to prepare to receive their Saviour, he did not mix, like other persons, in the scenes and employments about him, but spent the chief part of his time in deserts and lonely places, where his thoughts could not be interrupted from the great work which He was soon to begin. Those who heard him preach would be the more ready to listen to him, you know, when they found that he did not call upon them to do more than

he did himself, but that his whole life was one of hardships and self denial.

And here we must leave John the Baptist for the present, that we may hasten to give our whole attention to the glorious event which occurred very shortly after the birth of this great prophet; I mean the nativity of our blessed Redeemer. We cannot, indeed, begin it to-night; but I have a few more words to say to you before we part upon the subject on which we have now been talking. You must observe then, that what we have been dwelling upon this evening is an extraordinary introduction to the history of our Lord. Let us look back for a moment, and consider with what feelings we should depart from such a subject.

Observe the interest excited in the court of Heaven, at the approaching Incarnation of the Messiah; I mean as the time came for his taking upon Him our flesh.

Whilst mankind in general were busied one with his farm, another with his merchandise, buying and selling, or settling, it may be, more important concerns, even the fate of mighty nations; how little did they think that events (how far more important!) were taking place, in what was generally considered an obscure corner of the earth, amongst persons overlooked for their humble circumstances;-overlooked, but not by the Most High. He seeth not as man seeth; He admireth not what we admire; He values not the aid of human greatness, but sheds "His mercy from generation to generation on them that fear Him." Behold the ambassador, or messenger of the Most High sent to foretel the birth not only of Jesus,

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