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more righteous. Zacharias, we see, was “righteous before God:” not before men only; it was a real inward righteousness and holiness of heart, as well as an outward obedience to the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. What is it which he looks to as the greatest honour and favour which he could ask of the Lord, the sum and substance of that redemption, the dawning whereof was now being made clear to him by the Holy Spirit of Prophecy? His reward, his notion of redemption, is the being made more righteous; he who had all his life long walked in the Lord's commandments blameless, now, as if all that is past were nothing, rejoices in the new prospect of serving Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him as long as he should live. Such is the quality of true holiness: it makes men ever long to be more holy; it counts all that is gone before as nothing; it forgets those things which are behind, and looks forward to those things which are before.
Such also were the thoughts of the Saints of the Old Testament, when they looked onward by the Spirit of Prophecy to the New. Near as they already were to God, they perceived how much nearer we Christians should be brought by Communion with Him Incarnate. Yet they were truly, inwardly, good and righteous : the Scripture testifies it of them most clearly, saying, Noah was a just man, and walked with God: Abraham was justified, that is, made righteous, by faith, and was the friend of God Moses was faithful in all his house ; David was the man after His own heart; Daniel was greatly beloved; Job was a perfect man and an upright, fearing God and eschewing evil. These were not the opinions of men concerning them; they are the testimonies of Him who knoweth the heart; and these all lived in times before He came who is the LORD our Righteousness; before His regenerating Spirit had come down to dwell in His people's hearts : before His Church was set up, to make and keep us partakers of Him, that is, partakers of the Divine Nature, by the two blessed sacraments. If then it was possible in those days for persons to walk blameless in the commandments and ordinances of the LORD, much more is it possible now; if Job and Noah were perfect and upright, much more may they be so, who are least in the Church : for such is the declaration of the Son of God: St.
John the Baptist was as great as the greatest of the Prophets, but he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.
In thus speaking of the real righteousness and holiness which the new Law of God, the Gospel, both requires and renders possible, do we at all contradict those Scriptures, which tell us so plainly of the frailty of our nature, and the sinfulness of our best deeds ? “There is not a just man that liveth on earth and sinneth not.” The angels are not pure in His sight, how much less man that is a worm ?”—“The just man,” not merely he who is reckoned such by his fellow-men, “falleth seven times a day.” Do we at all deny these sayings, by pressing those other sayings, which tell us so much of baptismal holiness, and of the necessity of really keeping God's commandments ? Far from it; these sayings cannot possibly contradict one another, since the one sort as well as the other are alike taken out of Holy Scripture. Undoubtedly, no man living can be justified in the sight of God, were He extreme to mark what is done amiss : no man living could ever be at all just and holy if left to himself, without the sanctifying SPIRIT. Yet, by His grace and mercy, they who improve that Holy Spirit, much more if they be Christians actually regenerated by Him, may become really just and holy; their falls and slips may be limited to pardonable infirmities, such as Christ's atoning goodness may entirely blot out at the last day.
Let it not, therefore, be doubted, but earnestly believed, that it is possible for those at least of us who have not yet fallen into habitual or deadly transgression, to do as much by the aid of the regenerating Spirit as Zacharias and Elisabeth did by the SPIRIT of sanctification in such measure as He was given under the law. Let it not be doubted that such as have not grieved the SPIRIT whereby they were sealed, may, if they will, walk “ in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Nay, let us be quite sure that no person rightly baptized is excusable if he fall short of this. For if he have not the aid of the good Spirit, it is because he has forfeited it by his own wilful transgression : and that of course makes his sin worse instead of excusing it.
Bearing in mind, then, that the state which the Psalmist, if one may so call Zacharias, describes in this verse, is indeed our own condition, and that of the whole Church of God, let us consider the particulars which he, speaking by the Holy Ghost, has taught us to believe of that condition.
First, it was to be a condition without fear ;” according to the description of it in the Epistle to the Hebrews : that Christ should " deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage:” according again to the saying of the Apostle St. John, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love castęth out fear:” that is, worldly, fleshly, natural fear; all fear but the fear of God. This would be our lot, had we truly kept our vow and covenant made to our God: we should be so accustomed, by His grace blessing our constant devotions, to set our hearts on things eternal, that no fear nor care about things temporal would have power greatly to discompose us : allowing, of course, for mere bodily infirmities, and the effect which they cannot but sometimes produce on the mind.
Now, only just consider what a difference this one circumstance would make in the Christian world; I mean, getting rid of those tormenting fears and anxieties, which now hurry and perplex men so, and drive them a thousand ways at once: think what a change, if, instead of these, people would agree to cast all their burdens on the LORD; and judge from that one thought, how far we in general must be gone from the holy temper, which Zacharias prophesied of as belonging of course to the Church.
Next, he shows on what this holy confidence, this peace of God, was to depend. His people were to be “ without fear,” because they should be “delivered out of the hand of their enemies." The evil spirits were not to approach to hurt them. The Prince of the power of the air, who worketh his own will in the children of disobedience, the Gentiles, was not to come near them. Their own corrupt natures, being effectually mortified by the power of the Holy Ghost dwelling in them, and by their constant self-denial which they should practise according to their vow in Baptism, would no more get the dominion over them. The example of the wicked world would be nothing to them, whose heart and treasure were with their Saviour in Heaven. In this respect again, deliverance from our enemies, we see clearly that Zacharias' prophecy, glorious as it sounds, and too good almost to be true in this world, is fulfilled in every child who by Baptism is taken out of the power of Satan unto God, and would continue to be fulfilled in every one of us, had we been careful to continue such as God made us at our infant Baptism.
But this fearlessness and deliverance from enemies are what people call merely negative blessings : that is, Christian people, so far, it appears, are to be free from such and such evils ; but where is the positive good, the joy and consolation, which one should naturally expect to belong to the people of God? The next word in the hymn tells us : “it is altogether in serving God;"-serving Him with a religious service; for that is the proper meaning of the word here :---waiting on Him as priests wait in His Temple. Let this again be thoughtfully considered; for it may teach all Christians a great deal, and to the people of this generation I am sure it is particularly necessary.
What I mean is this : Zacharias in the hymn is describing the kingdom of Heaven, the blessed condition into which the Saviour of mankind was to bring His people at His coming. Now the very essence of the blessing, as he relates it, was that people should be left free without fear to serve God as His ministers serve Him in his temple. The worship of God in His Church or Temple, Public Worship, that kind of worship in which Zacharias, as a priest, was regularly employed, and in which, no doubt, he placed his joy and consolation—this was to be the joy and consolation also of the children of God's kingdom to the end of time. Religion, Church Services, Prayers, Psalms, Sacraments, were to be the business of their lives: every thing else, their business, their diversions, their dealings with their neighbours, their ways of ordering their families, the things they did, said, and thought in their daily walk, were to be such as should help to make them worthier for the grand employment and happiness of all-serving God in the congregation, kneeling at His altar, receiving the tokens of His blessed Body and Blood. This was Zacharias' notion, or rather this was the account which the Holy Ghost taught him to give, of the joy and comfort and favourite calling of a Christian :
1:-to be, as St. John the Divine expresses it, a king and priest unto God, a king over himself, his unruly desires and fancies; a priest, by offering himself, and all that belongs to him, a continual sacrifice to God, in union with the one meritorious sacrifice, once for all offered on the Cross.
But now if any person takes delight in thus making his whole life a sacrifice of obedience to God through Christ, he will of course rejoice, whenever the time comes to realize, as it were, and embody that sacrifice more distinctly, by assisting at the public sacrifice of the Church, her prayers and psalms, her alms, and oblations. This being so, whenever we find great lukewarmness in the Church Service, many staying away entirely, very few attending regularly, many of those who do attend showing, by their careless and irreverent ways, that they come not as to a place of sacrifice, but rather to hear something new; whenever this is the truth concerning any place, we must needs think that the people of that place in general are far from the mind of Zacharias, that is, from the mind of the Holy Ghost, of the Ki dom of Heaven. They do not feel it so great a privilege to
serve God without fear," to serve Him as His Church does in His temple.
I wish they would consider in time, what sort of a preparation they are making for that place, the happiness whereof is described in such words, as show that no place on earth is so like it, as the inside of a church in the time of solemn service. The just in heaven are alone before God: they serve Him day and night in His Temple : "they rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, LORD God of Hosts." It is a serious question, which most of us, I apprehend, would do well to put to themselves : “would this really be happiness to me? Have I not reason to fear that it would not, unless I took truer delight in the Church Service, and depended on it more, than I now do ?”
“ But," it will be said, “the service which God requires, is righteousness and holiness of life, as this very sentence of Zacharias shows : and not merely the public service of the Church.” To be sure it is : nor does any one think of denying it. This is the very thing I am trying to teach ; that the deliverance wrought for us all by Jesus Christ is not mere pardon, but sanctificationreal holiness and righteousness of life, every day and all day long ; in the field and in the market, as well as in the Church ; at mealtimes and in business, as well as at the hour of prayer.
But observe; it is a sort of holiness which will always make those who have it fonder of the Church than of any other place. For what does this word, holiness, mean? It means, looking on yourself as sacred; as something belonging to God only and His