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they say, We do not know him that is come to be the messenger of the Sovereign: we do not see his credentials? This answer will not avail them, either in law or conscience, if they have refused to examine those credentials, if they have rejected him unheard: still less, if he bore the signs of dignity so manifestly upon him, that all who had eyes to see, might recognize the proofs of his commission.
But what, it might be asked, could induce them to refuse? Could they have any culpable motive, any reason worse than ignorance? Too surely might they have been kept back by pride and hardness of heart: submission requires humility. They might have been actuated by a rebellious unrestrained spirit: disinclined to the rules imposed upon the subjects of the sovereign. And this, we are here told, was the condemnation of the Jews that when light was come into the world, men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Their deeds were evil, their heart was evil; and they would brook no controul, submit to no change of life. On several occasions they display this temper. They contended against Jesus, on this sole ground, that he convicted them of sinfulness. "Master, saying this, thou condemnest us also." "Are we blind also ?"
Here was a proud, unhumbled heart, which would not listen to a message of reconciliation. Reconciliation implied enmity. Mercy implied desert of punishment. Peace required submission.
"Take heed," as St. Paul says,
"lest there be
in any of you an evil heart of unbelief," arising from a like cause. Evil habits present a strong obstacle against reason and conviction. "If I believe in the name of Jesus Christ, (so a man may argue with himself,) I must acknowledge his precepts as my rule of life. I must be poor in spirit. I must be pure in heart. I must be meek and forgiving, I must be temperate and self-denying. A different society must be lived in new habits formed: old habits abandoned." Thus a barrier is raised between a man and serious reflection, when conscience whispers that the result of reflection may make reformation indispensable.
So He has said, who knew the heart of man.
20. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Sincerity and insincerity, are here exactly described. Insincerity hateth the light: sincerity cometh to the light: cometh in language like that of the Psalmist, "Teach me, O God, the way of thy statutes!" "Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law!" "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me!"
We may illustrate this by the different conduct of two kings of Judah. In the time of Josiah, “the book of the law," which had been lost sight of
during the ungodliness of some former reigns, was brought unexpectedly to light, (2 Kings xxii. 11; xxiii. 2). "And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him; and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the peo
ple stood to the covenant.'
Thus it is, that he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.
A few years afterwards, God sent a message to the son of this Josiah, Jehoiakim by name. (Jerem. xxxvi. 21.) It was written on a roll of parchment, and "Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the pen-knife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed." He has left us this awful example, how every one that doeth evil hateth the
light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
Can we wonder that the Almighty hath declared, "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word ?" Or can we hesitate to pray, "From hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word and commandment, Good Lord deliver us."
JOHN THE BAPTIST'S TESTIMONY TO JESUS AS THE CHRIST AND THE AUTHOR OF LIFE ETERNAL.
JOHN iii. 22-36.
22. After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
23. And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.
24. For John was not yet cast into prison.
25. Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26. And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.
3 Is. lxvi. 2.
27. John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
28. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30. He must increase, but I must decrease.
If the spirit of John the Baptist had been of the world, worldly, he would have been distressed and grieved at the intelligence which his disciples brought him. He to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him. He would have partaken of the feeling which in them was natural and pardonable, when they were unwilling that his honour should be diminished : that his star should fade before the light of "the Sun of Righteousness."
But he has the satisfaction of reminding them, that instead of claiming honour, he had uniformly declined it. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. And to this he now adds the beautiful remark, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. What a multitude of heartburnings, and envyings, and jealousies are removed when that sentence has possession of the heart! "For what hast thou which thou hast not received?" Hast thou talents? "Every good and perfect gift cometh from above." Hast thou station or fortune? "God setteth up one and