Luke 1:15
What would we give to our beloved? asks one of our poets. What would we ask for our children if we might have our hearts' desire? When the young father or mother looks down on the little child, and then looks on to the future, what is the parental hope concerning him? What is that which, if it could only be assured, would give "joy and gladness"? The history of our race, the chronicles of our own time, even the observation of our own eyes, give abundant proof that the child may rise to the highest distinction, may wield great power, may secure large wealth, may enjoy many and varied pleasures, and yet be a source of sorrow and disappointment. On the other hand, these same authorities abundantly prove that if the parent is only true to his convictions and avails himself of the resources that are open to him, there is every reason to expect that his child will be such an one as to yield to him a pride that is not unholy, a joy that nothing can surpass. Not on the same scale, but alter the same manner, every man's child may become what Gabriel told Zacharias his son should be -

1. ONE TAKING HIGH RANK WITH GOD. "Great in the sight of the Lord." By faith in Jesus Christ our child may become a "son of God" in a sense not only true but high (see John 1:12). "And if children, then heirs, heirs of God" (Romans 8:17). Obedience will ensure the friendship of God (see John 14:23; John 15:14). Earnestness will make him a fellow-laborer with God (1 Corinthians 2:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1). The acceptance of all Christian privilege will make him a "king and priest unto God" (Revelation 1:6). Who can compute how much better it is to be thus "great in the sight of the Lord" than to be honored and even idolized by men?

II. ONE IN WHOM GOD HIMSELF DWELLS. "He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost." God desires to dwell with and in every one of his human children; and if there be purity of heart and prayerfulness of spirit, he will dwell in them continually (Luke 11:13; John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Revelation 3:20).

III. ONE THAT IS MASTER OF HIMSELF. "He shall drink neither wine," etc. By right example and wise discipline any man's child may be trained to control his own appetites, to regulate his tastes, to form temperate and pure habits, to wield the worthiest of all scepters - mastery of himself.

IV. ONE IN WHOM THE BEST AND NOBLEST LIVES AGAIN. "He shall go in the spirit and power of Elijah." In John the Baptist there lived again the great Prophet Elijah - a man of self-denying habit; of dauntless courage, that feared the face of no man, and that rebuked kings without flinching; of strong and scathing utterance; of devoted and heroic life. In any one of our children there may live again that One who "in all things in which John was great and noble, was greater and nobler than he." In the little child who is trained in the truth and led into the love of Christ there may dwell the mind and spirit of the Son of God himself (Romans 8:9; Philippians 2:5).

V. ONE THAT LIVES A LIFE OF HOLY USEFULNESS. What nobler ambition can we cherish for our children than that, in their sphere, they should do as John did in his - spend their life in the service of their kind? Like him, they may:

1. Make many a home holier and happier than it would have been.

2. Prepare the way for others to follow with their higher wisdom and larger influence.

3. Be instrumental in turning disobedient hearts from the way of folly to the path of wisdom.

4. Earn the benediction of" many" whom they have blessed (verse 14). To ensure all this, there must be:

1. Parental example in righteousness and wisdom.

2. Parental training as well as teaching.

3. Parental intercession. - C.

For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord.
What is greatness? Scarcely two persons among us would give the same reply to that question. All would admit that it denotes pre-eminence, but each would have his own preference as to the department in which it was to be manifested. Some would associate it with power, some with courage, some with eloquence, and some, perhaps, with wealth; yet each would think of it as conferring an advantage on its possessor, and so putting others at a corresponding disadvantage. The really great man is he whom holiness and love combine to inspire for the service of his generation by the will of God.

1. He who wins this greatness does not attain it at the expense of others.

2. We may win this greatness anywhere.

3. This greatness is satisfying to its possessor.The highest commendation one can earn is this — "He hath done what he could;" and the noblest life-record is that which comes nearest to His of whom it was said that "He went about doing good." That is fame, though no earthly herald may trumpet it abroad, for Christ shall proclaim it on the day of days before the assembled universe.

(Dr. W. M. Taylor.)

He was no selfish lover of his own soul, too fearful of pollution to touch society, but a magnanimous reformer, great in his love alike of man and of righteousness. He was too much the pupil of Divine freedom and discipline to be the child of any school, the spokesman of any sect. His faith was the fruit of inspiration as opposed to experience. His education made him a preacher who lived as he believed, possessed of the courage to summon men to a like life and faith.

(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

The child was to be great in the sight of the Lord. According to the verdict of our Lord passed afterwards, he was the greatest of those born of women until His time. Yet what a strange greatness! A poor man, living in the wilderness the life of an anchorite, and at length beheaded by a wicked king, buried by his disciples, and nothing more heard of him! There is another person mentioned in this chapter who was also called great. Herod the king, mentioned in the fifth verse, is commonly known as Herod the Great, but he was not great in the sight of the Lord, only great in the sight of himself and of his court, and of those who admired his skill in adding to his kingdom. Which was the really great man? Which will appear to be great when the magnitude of men is tested by God, and when men are weighed in the righteous balances of God's judgment?

(Bishop Goodwin.)

We are what we are in God's sight, not what men think us, not what we think ourselves, but what He sees and knows that we are, nothing more, nothing less.

(Dean Church.)

His drink was water of the river. He lived on locusts and wild honey. Men felt in him that power of mastery which is always granted to perfect self-denial.

(Archdeacon Farrar.)

Take it as a broad fact in nature that there is no such thing as emptiness. If any corner of the world is vacated even for an instant, something else will come in instantaneously to fill up the empty space. So by the constitution of human nature there is no possibility of emptiness in the soul of man. The spiritual nature " abhors a vacuum." If a man will not let good into his life, evil must and will possess it. If he would eject evil from his life, he can only do so by letting good into it. The most striking recognition of the principle occurs in Paul's letter to the Christians at Ephesus. He is taking them to" task with reference to certain abuses which had crept into their Church. Prominent among these was drunkenness. "Be not drunk with wine," says the apostle, "but be filled with the Spirit." Wine versus the Spirit! The disease was not drunkenness. The drunkenness was a casual episode. The souls of these men had an empty chamber which must be filled. Their legitimate food was God. This was rejected or neglected. But the void remained. That could not be neglected. It must be filled with God or with a substitute. We may choose this substitute for ourselves, but we cannot not-choose it, for nature abhors a vacuum. The Ephesians had made their choice — it was wine. This was what Paul saw. To cure it how was he to proceed? He could not enjoin abstinence. The problem was not the drink, but the vacuum. He must make some proposal, therefore, about the vacuum. "Fill yourselves," he says, "with the Spirit of God." There is a valid relation between the stimulus of intoxicants and the stimulus of religion. Either, so far, will carry out the law of filling the vacuum. But merely to adjure a man not to be filled with wine is to command an impossibility. You must give him another stimulus equally absorbing, intenser, richer, and when the sensual passion is high and strong your substitute must be supreme. There is only one thing which will absorb it quite — the more abundant life of God.

(Professor Drummond.)The choice is not between God and an empty heart. Man is like a house situated between two winds. On the one side comes the wind from a dreary, bleak desert, laden with fog and disease, blowing across things foul and rotten. The other side of the house fronts the sunlight, and winds that blow from the wide, fresh sea, and over gardens, orchards, and blooming fields. Every one must decide to which side he is going to open. Both doors cannot be shut. You can only get the dismal, fatal door shut by opening wide the door that looks to the sea of eternity, and the sunshine of God. The wind blowing in through this open door keeps that door of ruin shut.

(Dr. Joseph Leckie.)

I. To be "children of Israel" not necessarily equivalent to being spiritually "sons of Abraham" (John 8:39).

II. As a historical fact the children of Israel over and over again turned from the Lord, and at the beginning of the Baptist's ministry nearly the whole nation had sunk into religious formalism.

III. But repentance was still possible to Israel after ages of unfaithfulness. Still they might turn to the Lord their God. John's message was "Repent!" and his preaching produced the effects here foretold (see Luke 3:7-14).

IV. "He shall turn." Recognition of human instrumentality in the doing of the work which only the Spirit of God can do — the production of conviction leading to conversion.

(J. R. Bailey.)

"Nothing can make a man truly great, but being truly good, and a partaker of God's holiness." "A dram of goodness is worth more than all worldly greatness." Wealth, honour, power, may constitute a person great in the estimation of man; but faith, love, and true holiness are necessary to secure for us God's approbation.

(Henry R. Burton.)

Christian Chronicle.
When General Grant was in command of the army before Vicksburg, a number of officers were gathered at his headquarters. One of them invited the party to join in a social glass; all but one accepted. He asked to be excused, saying that he "never drank." The hour passed, and each went his way to his respective command. A few days after this the officer who declined to drink received a note from General Grant to report at headquarters. He obeyed the order, and Grant said to him, "You are the officer, I believe, who remarked the other day that you never drank?" The officer modestly answered that he was. "Then," continued the General, "you are the man I have been looking for to take charge of the Commissary Department, and I order that you be detailed to that duty." He served all through the war in that responsible department, and afterwards, when General Grant became President, the officer who never drank was again in request. The President, needing a man on whom he could rely for some important business, gave him the appointment.

(Christian Chronicle.)

Before I became an abstainer I was much subject to fainting fits. I even fainted in the pulpit, and my life was a burden; and when I had made up my mind to abstain my medical man came from London and said, "If you do you will probably die. You want the 'whip' for your constitution." I did not believe him, and I said, "Very well, doctor, then I'll die, and there's an end of it." But I have not died. And when I met that medical man in London three days since I said, "Now, doctor, what do you think of it?" He said, "You beat me altogether. I was never more mistaken in any case in my life. And now let me tell you that if there was no such thing as alcohol I should have to put up my shutters. Nearly all the illnesses that come before me have, in one sense or another, come from that; not always from the personal indulgence of the patients, but because this is hereditary."

(Canon Basil Wilberforce.)

A man who can be satisfied with nothing less than that which is real and right; who is content to count all things loss for the attainment of a spiritual aim, and to fight for it against all enemies; who deems truth the bread of life and makes its pursuit his daily labour — he is a great man.

Dr. Tyng, speaking of personal influence, mentions a young lady whom no storms of snow or rain ever kept from her class. One after another of her scholars, he says, would come to him, and when he would ask the question, "What has led you to seek a Saviour's love?" they would mention her name, until, he says, " I traced twenty.five, at least, of my young people who were converted through her prayers and labours, and among them that beloved son of mine, at whose bedside I sat for sixteen long hours, wondering why God had taken him and left me behind. This was the character of that girl. Nothing kept her back."

When Henry VIII. had determined to make himself head of the English Church, he insisted upon it that Convocation should accept his headship without limiting and modifying clauses. He refused to entertain any compromises, and vowed that "he would have no tantrums," as he called them. Thus when a sinner parleys with his Saviour he would fain have a little of the honour of his salvation, he would save alive some favourite sin, he would fain amend the humbling terms of grace; but there is no help for it, Jesus will be all in all, and the sinner must be nothing at all. The surrender must be complete, there must be no tantrums, but the heart must without reserve submit to the sovereignty of the Redeemer.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is impossible to overrate the importance of the conversion of one soul to Christ, or of the hardening of one heart in sin An old Puritan doctor writes a book more than two hundred years ago, called "The Bruised Reed," which falls into the hands of Richard Baxter, and leads his penitent spirit to its trust in Christ. Baxter's ministry is like that of a giant in his strength, and when he dies his "Call to the Unconverted" goes preaching on to thousands to whom Baxter himself had never spoken with human tongue. Philip Doddridge, prepared by his pious mother's teaching, hears this piercing "Call," devotes the summer of his life to God, and becomes a "burning and a shining light." Doddridge's "Rise and Progress" fell into the hands of Wilberforce, and led him to thought and to prayer. Wilberforce's "Practical View" cleared the faith and fired the zeal of a clergyman in the sunny South, and he wrote the simple annal of a Methodist girl, which has borne fruit of blessing in every quarter of the globe; for who has not heard of Legh Richmond and "The Dairyman!s Daughter"? And then the same book had a ministry in the bleak North, and in a country parish found out a Scottish clergyman who was preaching a gospel which he did not know, and he embraced the fulness of the glad tidings, and came forth a champion for the truth, "furnished in all things and ready," until all Scotland rang with the eloquence of Thomas Chalmers.

(W. M. Punshon, D,D.)

Much of the wisdom of Providence appears in fitting the instrument to the work. The work appointed to John was to reclaim the nation from its departure from God, to rouse a people sunk in insensibility and impenitence, to preach repentance, to proclaim the approach of the kingdom of heaven, to usher in a higher economy, a new dispensation; and for all this he was admirably qualified. He was endued with the spirit and power of Elias. His spirit was undaunted and unyielding; he rebuked the pride of kings. He was indifferent and insensible alike to the charms of pleasure, the allurement of pomp, the smiles of power, and the frowns of greatness. His whole soul was concentrated in his object. He was superior to the world; its forms and fashions made no impression on his mind, and left no traces. He was austere in his manner, abstemious in his food, rustic in his apparel; he partook of the wildness of the wilderness in which he first made his appearance.

(Robert Hall.)

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