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the contention and estrangement for a time of two men, such as St. Paul and St. Barnabas. And, in all else, how great and touching is the pattern set before us. In self-denying love, in charity, in fervent zeal, in meekness, in resigned trust and faith in God, St. Barnabas lived and died an approved servant, as well as a chosen apostle, of his heavenly Master. Doubtless he was not without his faults, but we, Christian brethren, would do well to consider, whether we have within us, in any measure, the graces of his
, character; whether our lives are, in any measure, such as his was.
Otherwise our loss, our danger, is but the greater, if,—with all our privileges, all our means of
grace, and hope of glory, with the example of our Lord Jesus Christ and of His saints before us, and with God's Holy Spirit within us, to bless every sincere effort after holiness,—we fall short in our Christian course, or live or walk unworthy of our high and heavenly calling. From which may God of His infinite mercy keep us, for His dear Son's sake, Jesus Christ.
JOHN HENRY PARKER, OXFORD AND LONDON.
Sermons for the Christian Seasons.
ST. JOHN BAPTIST.
PREPARATION FOR GOD'S WORK.
Isaiah xl. 3. The voice of him that crieth in the wil
derness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
This day the Church hath appointed to be kept holy in memory of the Nativity of St. John Baptist. The days which are appointed to be kept holy in memory of the apostles, are usually not the days of their birth, but of their death,—the days of their martyrdom; and these, too, the ancient Church of Christ used to call (in a high and divine sense) their birth-days : the days, not wherein they were born, as men, into this world of sin and sorrow, but wherein, as martyrs, witnesses for Christ, they were, as it were, born into the joy and peace of a better world. In the words of St. Augustin, “ The disciples of Christ were born, and then, as time went on, and they became of mature years, were taken They in
into the number of Christ's disciples. after years by faith clave unto the Lord, yet did not any of them at his birth do service to the Lord. The prophets, the patriarchs,—they were born as men, and then, in the course of time, were filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied of Christ. They were born, that afterwards they might prophesy. But of St.John Baptist,—his very birth prophesied of Christ the Lord, inasmuch as from his mother's womb he saluted Him yet unborn.” That is, the Church would seem to keep holy the day of St. John Baptist's birth, rather than the day of his death; because the very circumstances of St. John Baptist's birth (as we read them at length in St. Luke's Gospel) were so full of miracle, so full of witness to Christ, that, even yet unborn, he was, as it were, the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
St. John Baptist was the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth, of whom the former was a priest, the latter also of the daughters of Aaron. So that he was, by birth, of the number of God's priests. Of the piety of his father and mother holy Scripture thus speaks : They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Hitherto “they had no child, because
that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.' It was at this time that God was pleased to make known to Zacharias His gracious purpose towards him. The angel Gabriel appeared unto him as he was in the temple, engaged, as priest, in the solemn office of burning incense before God, while the people prayed without ; and made known unto him, not only that he should have a son in his old age, but that that son should be the forerunner and herald of the Messiah ; that in him should be fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi ; that he should be that“ voice crying in the wilderness ;” that “messenger” of God, who should prepare God's way before Him; that presence of Elijalı, “ before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”—“'The angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias : for thy prayer is heard ; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” And when, upon this, Zacharias doubted, and said, “Whereby shall I know this ? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years,” a sign was given him, (which was at once a sign, and a reproof of bis unbelief,) “ Thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believedst not my words.”
It was in the sixth month from this, that the same angel Gabriel was sent unto the Blessed Virgin Mary, to announce unto her God's singular favour towards her, in her miraculous conception. Upon this we read, that “Mary (being now “with child of the Holy Ghost,” bearing within her blessed womb her divine Son and Saviour) arose in those days, and ... entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.” And hereupon was fulfilled the word of the angel concerning St. John Baptist, that he should “be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb." Even within his mother's womb, the holy babe (the future forerunner of Christ) felt and acknowledged his Sa