The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;…
I. THEY ARE THE FULFILMENT OF LONG HOPES. Human nature is ideal; it is a creature of wishes and of hopes, and made for enjoyment. The love of the living God is at the root of all our instincts. Faith is our expression of the sense of this. It begets hope amidst suffering and sorrow, sustains the soul in patience. God seeking man, man in turn seeking God, - this is the secret life of Scripture and of history. History is sacred because it is the reflection of the vast spiritual struggle of man to apprehend God, of God to apprehend his creature. "I will not let thee go except thou bless me!" is the cry of man. "I am found of them that seek me!" is the answer of God.
II. HOPE DIES DOWN IN SIN AND MISERY, AND CAN ONLY BE REMOVED IN REPENTANCE. Pessimism and despondence spring from unfaithfulness. Men are not living the life which begets hope. Palestine was depressed, conquered and unhappy. John proposes no political change, but a moral change. Man can endure outward ills, and seek for their removal, if the hearts are only happy. The inward emancipation, the "remission of sins," is what we all need. No other "franchise "will really do much for us without this. In order to have the kingdom of God, there must be an energy in the soul to grasp it. The nerveless hand cannot raise the food to the lips. "In order to possess God, we must have something that is capable of possessing God." The Possibility of repentance is itself glad tidings, virtually including all others.
III. SERIOUSNESS AND SOLEMNITY THE PROPER MOOD OF EXPECTATION.
1. This typified in the ascetic character of the Baptist. Thought and self-denial, prayer and fasting, low living and lofty aspiration, - this is the ground from which the fairest flowers of joy spring. Not upon any soil barren of thought are they found.
2. In the rite of baptism. It expressed the new will of the people-decision, renunciation of the old, the putting on of the white dress of purity in preparation for the Bridegroom. The confession of sin and the mercy of God are coincident.
3. In the attitude of reverent waiting. A mighty One is at hand. The mission of the Baptist was in itself incomplete. The symbolism of his apparel and way of life had a significance behind it. So had the outward baptism of water. To this mood the gospel would ever bring us. Revelation is inexhaustible. The secrets of history in the nation and the individual have not been all told. Every day is a new day, every morrow will bring its gladness to the soul that believes. - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;