Luke 1:18
"How can I be sure of this?" Zechariah asked the angel. "I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years."
Sermons
The Inauguration of the Dispensation of GraceR.M. Edgar Luke 1:5-25
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.







The hearts of the fathers to the children.
Science tells us that the best defence against lightning in a thunderstorm is found, not in defiance of it, but in a silent discharge of it. Go right towards it fearlessly with a pointed plantina wire, and it will follow a fixed law of harmless dispersion. Is there any way by which the power of one of God's curses can be drawn, so as to avert the terrible stroke of Divine wrath? Let us see. This text refers us directly back to the final utterance of the Old Testament. There are four books in the Bible which end with a curse: Malachi, Lamentations, Isaiah, and Ecclesiastes. The Hebrew scribes were always accustomed to repeat the verse just before the last in these cases, so as to close the reading with something besides a malediction. It is not easy to see how that helps the matter in the present instance, for the preceding prediction seems to have been uttered merely to introduce the warning. And perhaps it is just as profitable to believe that the best way to avoid the judgments of God is to guard carefully against deserving them. After the last seer under the ancient dispensation had spoken the words which the evangelist quotes, the heavens were closed for four hundred years. Jehovah had not another message to send. His people had offended him. Justice comes almost fiercely forth, and bars the gate of revelation, because children are despised. And not until four centuries of silence had given time for repentance, would those bolts be withdrawn. Even then it is a little child who advances to turn the massive key. History wanders sadly in confusion among the captivities and Maccabean usurpations. Only an infant can join the Testaments. Luke is the next man to Malachi. The sternest of all Israel's prophets reappears in the sternest of all heralds to the Church... A wild threat, four hundred years old, is suddenly removed in a flash of benediction. The curse of Malachi is omitted in Luke — the lightning is drawn. The gospel fulfils the law when it accepts children. God receives the fathers into favour and communion again, when their hearts are turned to their offspring... How much are you doing in this day of gospel privilege to bring the hearts of fathers back to their children? Do we need another prophet, with his hairy raiment and his leathern girdle, to come forth from the wilderness?

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Whereas Matthew and Mark introduced John Baptist to the notice of their readers at the advanced period of his preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and his baptising his followers in Jordan, Luke commences with the Baptist's genealogy and birth, and states many particulars relating to his early history, which, though they had been far less remarkable in themselves, would have been interesting in reference to one who afterwards became so conspicuous, but which are peculiarly important as additional evidences of the Divine mission, and additional illustrations of the office both of the Baptist himself, and of that illustrious Deliverer and King before whom he was to proceed as a pioneer to clear the way.

(James Foote, M. A.)

All life is a preparation to meet God. This is the clue of life's labyrinth. Preparations are often confused things. They are times of unsettling, full of noise and disorder, and apparent contradiction; till the end comes, and explains it all. So this world — it is made up of strange things, which move above us and within us, and seem to have little purpose and no concert. They range wildly. There are beginnings without endings; and there are endings without beginnings. A great many things do not fit. It is hard to tell what it all means. It is a pleasant thought to remember that your preparation, as it goes on, day by day, is only a reflection of what is going on in the other world. There, too, it is all preparation. The saints and the angels are all busy preparing. The preparations of earth are to meet the preparations of heaven. He has prepared His mercy, and He has prepared His truth. It is a prepared heaven; it is a prepared kingdom; a prepared city; a prepared throne; a prepared seat. And when both preparations are complete — a prepared soul, and a prepared heaven — what perfectness! what love! what rest! what quietness! What and if the Pure should come, and find impurity? What and if the Holy should come and find irreverence? What and if the Spirit come, and find nothing but flesh? What and if Wisdom come, and find ignorance? What and if Love come, and find selfishness and unkindness? First, you must be prepared to know your Lord when He comes. This John taught very expressly. He placed the people in a position that they should know and recognize Christ when He should arrive. You must have read Him in the prophecies — you must have walked with Him in the gospel — you must have sat with Him in all the manifestations of His grace — you must have traced Him in His reflections about the universe — you must have felt His inward dwelling in you by the Holy Ghost. Then He will be no new, strange Christ to you when He comes. And if you would be "prepared for the Lord," you must have a deep sense of sin. "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." No one must stand there who has not learnt to stoop very low. Thirdly, you must be exact, faithful, diligent in your daily proper duties — doing whatever you do heartily — a man of large charities — a man of unselfish habits — a man of strict integrity in business — a man of self-government — a man of moderation — a man of content — a man of humility. "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise." "Exact no more than that which is appointed you." Fourthly, you must be baptized — not with the baptism of water only, but with the baptism of the Spirit; and not with the baptism of water and of the Spirit only, but with the baptism of shame, of scorn, of suffering, of death — "baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." And fifthly, you must be much in the use of the ordinances — loving the shadows till the substance comes.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The spirit and power of Elijah rested upon the Baptist, and the same gift is needed by us now. For, what is the end and purpose of all the religious activity we see abroad and at home, but to turn people's hearts to wisdom, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord? Let us see, then, what was this spirit and power which made the Baptist so successful? And notice, to begin with, it was nothing wonderful, nothing out of the way. We are expressly told that "John did no miracle." The spirit and power of the Baptist is, therefore, a gift within the reach of every one of us.

I. OBSERVE, FIRST, HIS DECISION FOR GOD. No halting between two opinions. The Baptist was not " a reed shaken with the wind," but one who had considered matters well, and comes to a firm decision respecting the salvation of God.

II. NOTICE, NEXT, HIS SEPARATION FROM THE WORLD. He lived as much as possible in retirement, communing with his own soul and with God, While in the world, he was never of the world.

III. CONSIDER, ONCE MORE, HIS BOLD, CONSISTENT TESTIMONY TO THE TRUTH.

1. Before all classes of his countrymen, from the lowest to the highest.

2. In spite of opposition and persecution. Conclusion: Such qualities as these made the Baptist a power for good, and thus was he in the spirit and power of Elias.Are we following in his steps? There must be found in us these same qualities, if our life is to be as grand a moral success as was his.

1. The same decision. Half-heartedness is of no use at all in what concerns the soul.

2. The same unworldliness. Not necessarily separation from the world — that is for the few; but (what is found by many to be a far harder thing) living in the world, doing its duties faithfully and well, and at the same time living the higher life that is hidden with Christ in God, and looking for the new heaven and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.

3. The same stedfast witnessing to the truth.

(1)In heart.

(2)In word.

(3)In action.An upright and honest life is the best testimony to the spirit and power in which we move, and it will carry us triumphantly over every obstacle and difficulty that we encounter, until we reach the peaceful haven where we would be, and bask in the perpetual sunshine of the presence of God.

(George Low, M. A.)

Let us try the wisdom of the religious choice by the happiness which follows.

I. There is a content and satisfaction in the mind, from the very consciousness and remembrance of our having listened to the voice from heaven.

II. I next observe, that the gospel brings happiness to every sincere believer, by giving him the blessing of peace in the assurance of pardon.

III. The wisdom of the just, however it may be called in question, however reviled, by unconverted or ungodly men, who cannot possibly appreciate or understand it, is manifested through the whole course of the believer's life. "He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely." "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble: " they are continually encompassed with evil, without ascertaining the cause or the cure. "But the path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

IV. But the wisdom of the just is not to be fully known on this side the grave There will come a day, when it will appear even to the slowest of belief, without a shadow and without a doubt. "When the Lord comes to make up His jewels," the preciousness of those jewels, and the joy of being gathered amongst them, will be perfectly manifest, both to friends and foes; to the one, by their admission into His heavenly kingdom; to the other, by their being cast away.

(J. Slade, M. A.)

whom John closely resembled in —

1. The endowments of his mind.

2. The habits of his life.

3. The exercise of his ministry.

(C. Simeon.)How, and in what sense, was Malachi's prediction of the Messenger fulfilled in John the Baptist? To this question the New Testament furnishes a singularly full and abundant reply. It really seems as though, not only the mind of the Baptist, but also the minds of all who speak of him, were steeped in the prophecy of Malachi, and saturated with it. There is hardly a word said of or by him which does not take new meaning and force so soon as we read it in the light of Malachi's lamp. In St. Matthew's Gospel (chap. Matthew 3.), we have our fullest account of the Baptist's appearance and ministry. We are there told that his first word, his master-word, was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"; that is, "Take a new view; get a new mind; think; think back on your habits and ways, and mend them; for the King, long promised to your fathers, is about to appear." This was the very mission which Malachi ascribed to the messenger of the Lord. John's peculiar mode of life, as described in the same chapter, tends to the same conclusion (Matthew 3:4). Doubtless John assumed these outward marks of resemblance to the great Tishbite, in order to call attention to the inward resemblance between them as a sign that he had come "in the spirit and power of Elijah." The same reason for a sad and austere life existed in both cases. The "preacher of repentance" should himself be a penitent. Elijah and John, each in his turn, came forth as a personification of repentance, showing the people, in his own conduct, what their conduct should be. Both these austere voices from the wilderness called men to repent, both sought to "turn the hearts of men back again" to God.

(Samuel Cox, D. D.)

A mother in New York whose son had got into dissipated and abandoned habits, after repeated remonstrances and threats, was turned out of doors by his father, and he left vowing he would never return unless his father asked him, which the father said would never be. Grief over her son soon laid the mother on her dying bed, and when her husband asked if there was nothing he could do for her ere she departed this life, she said, "Yes, you can send for my boy." The father was at first unwilling, but at length, seeing her so near her end, he sent for his son. The young man came, and as he entered the sick-room his father turned his back upon him. As the mother was sinking rapidly, the two stood on opposite sides of her bed, all love and sorrow for her, but not exchanging a word with each other. She asked the father to forgive the boy; no, he wouldn't until the son asked it. Turning to him, she begged of him to ask his father's forgiveness; no, his proud heart would not let him take the first step. After repeated attempts she failed, but as she was just expiring, with one last effort she got hold of the father's hand in one hand, and her son's in the other, and exerting all her feeble strength, she joined their hands, and, with one last appealing look, she was gone. Over her dead body they were reconciled, but it took the mother's death to bring it about. So, has not God made a great sacrifice that we might be reconciled — even the death of His own dear Son?

(D. L. Moody.)

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