Only the very best athletes are eligible to participate in the Olympics, and only the winners receive a gold medal. In the Christians' Olympics too, only the winners are decorated with the laurel wreath of victory, but the participants are not the selected best, but are rather the lame and the crippled, the weak and the powerless, people without opportunities. To them God has given His own strength so that "they will run and not get tired, will walk and not become weary" (Is. 40:31). This strength is forgiveness of sins in the name and blood of Jesus. We, the weak, are urged to run our race in God's strength and to follow the example of the victorious athletes: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win" (1 Cor. 9:24). In these spiritual Olympics every Christian is urged to win. Our opponents are not other Christians who threaten to take our prize. A prize has been reserved for every Christian. Our opponent is elsewhere, closer to us. It is our own sinful flesh, which tries to prevent us from believing in Jesus. Paul says: "I run in such a way... as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave" (1 Cor. 9:26,27). The original language pictures a prizefighter who jabs himself under the eye and makes his body his own slave. The Apostle was truly a superb fighter in the spiritual sense. He did not permit his Old Adam to win but conquered it. He kept his flesh in subjection with the fist of God's Law. His God-given body could not serve sin, but was the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle had to fight hard against sin so that he would not be rejected.
In like manner we too must confess that we are such great sinners "that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Rom. 7:18). Our Old Adam will not become good by trying to improve it. It must die every day and our new man must rise up in its place. In daily repentance the Christian appropriates the forgiveness of sins and the strength to lead a godly life, granted to him in Baptism. Living a Christian life means daily using the blessings that were given to us in holy Baptism. These blessings are forgiveness of sins, deliverence from death and the devil and eternal salvation. We receive these blessings through faith.
Our final destination encourages us to fight the good fight of faith. "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable" (1 Cor. 9:25). Everlasting, undisturbed life in heaven awaits Christians. This life is ours already now through faith because of Christ's merit. Now we fight to remain in faith.
Therefore we must be free of everything that would hinder our participation in the race, whether it be false doctrine or some sin that easily besets us, and compete according to the rules. Why don't you also enter these Olympics? The viewing stands are already filled with invited guests, angels and saints who have fallen asleep in the Lord. But there is room on the race track and the supply of gold medals is endless.
A man named Epaphras is mentioned a few times in the Bible. His name does not mean much to many Bible readers. He is, however, a notable hero of faith, a man of God, whose life experiences are intriguing and instructive.
Epaphras lived in the small city of Collossae. None of the Apostles had visited there on their journeys, but God had guided Epaphras so that he had the opportunity to hear Paul, likely at Ephesus. Upon returning to his native city, Epaphras began doing mission work. He preached the Gospel to all people. Through his sermons the Holy Spirit did His work and a congregation was born at Collossae. It was made up of all kinds of people: Slaves and free, Jews, Greeks, barbarians, Scythians, men and women, parents and children, employers and employees, the respected and the despised. A wealthy man by the name of Philemon also belonged to the congregation and had love for "all the saints". Epaphras proclaimed the Gospel faithfully as he had learned to know it.
When the congregation had been in existence for just a few years, it was threatened by the danger of false doctrine. Living in the proximity of the congregation were those who were not satisfied with the doctrine of Epraphas. They demanded the observance of the Sabbath and other Jewish days, they prayed to angels, boasted of their visions and put on a show of humility to win followers.
Epaphras was the pastor of the congregation and saw to it that everything happened in decency and order. However, he felt it necessary to get an apostolic confirmation for his doctrine. Therefore he set out to visit Paul, who at that time was a prisoner in Rome. The long journey was a difficult one. Epaphras became ill and was imprisoned in Rome, but he nevertheless accomplished his mission.
Paul wrote a letter to the congregation at Collossae in which he says: "You heard (of it) and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf" (Col. 1:6,7) The Christians at Collossae had in holy Baptism received the Lord Jesus, in whom "all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9). Their own works and worship services could not add anything to this. In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Salvation is a free gift. The Apostle himself told the Collossians that their faith was the right faith and that they should remain steadfast in it.
The example of Epaphras teaches us how important the purity of the Gospel is. Working diligently to preserve it is a worthy cause. A faithful missionary and shepherd of souls will make sure that he proclaims the "grace of God in truth".
As God's children we strive to keep the good conscience we have received through faith in Christ. It is not always easy to maintain a good conscience. The world is deceitful and we are weak. For this reason the Savior gives us this advice: "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16). These words speak about keeping a good conscience in the midst of the deceitful world.
Dr. Luther speaking about this topic says: "It is shrewd teaching and living, if there is no flaw in our conscience when the world and the wolves condemn us and kill us. - Being innocent is teaching and living without a desire for glory or revenge regardless of what people are like, good or bad."
The world seeks to deprive us of a good conscience. First the world tries to get us to fall into sin so that we ourselves will feel that we have lost our good conscience. The other way is more subtle: The world tries to turn us away from God's Word and Commandments by trying to convince us that it is wise to act differently.
In warning us the Savior urges us to be shrewd but to be innocent at the same time. He wants to say: Do not be naive in relation to the world, but be wise. Know where the world is trying to lead you. The world tries to make the innocent guilty in order to cover its own faults. Watch, "beware of men".
But perhaps you ask: Who is wise enough to understand all the wiles of the unbelieving world? We all lack wisdom. For this reason our Savior offers us another word of warning: "Be innocent." When we cling to God's Word and do not engage in scheming, strife or evil, we will be safe.
The exhortation of Jesus, "Be as shrewd as serpents", has often been used in the wrong way. It has been used to defend some sin of neglect, or some activity in the church that is contrary to God's Word. But Jesus' exhortation does not offer support for a defense of sin, for in defending sin innocence is lost. The Apostle Paul writes: "For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you" (2 Cor. 1:12). There is a difference between fleshly wisdom and that wisdom, which when used, permits innocence to survive.
Therefore let us strive with fear and trembling and remember that we have been redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. Our conscience has been cleansed with His blood, and we can cleanse it each day with God's grace. Christ absolves the penitent sinner and grants him the joy of salvation.
God often grants us times of visitation during our lifetime. At such times He especially draws us to Himself. We have a troubled conscience. We know that things are not right between God and us. Fortunate is he who gets proper help during such a time of visitation.
When sin becomes a reality to our conscience, we cannot find peace by artificial means. At such a time trying to convince ourselves that our guilt is not all that great does not help. We feel wretched. We do not want to be comforted by explanations. Fortunate is he who finds comfort in Christ.
A person convinced that he is guilty in God's sight finds it difficult to believe. To him it seems absolutely impossible that God could be merciful to him. He is ready to believe that Jesus' blood covers the sins of all other people. But to believe that his own sins are covered, this is just impossible! But believe, even then! Christ has done everything in your behalf. Your sins were laid on Him. "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world", said John the Baptist pointing to Jesus. You too turn to God's Word and behold the suffering Christ, behold how He has risen from the dead and attained the victory! Do not doubt. Atonement has been made for your sins.
Our sins are indeed great, but do not think that they are greater than Christ. "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom. 5:20).
Matters pertaining to faith will become clear to a person troubled by his sins, if he can speak to an understanding pastor and in addition to receiving counsel, can also hear the comforting words of absolution.
We do not have to depend - nor should we - solely on our own private study of the Bible, but we can make use of the help which the congregation of believers can give us. Jesus has not bound us to unfaithful shepherds, but has warned us concerning them. We can with a good conscience join a congregation where God's Word is proclaimed in its purity. Such proclamation will help us to believe, and the pastor of such a congregation will gladly help troubled souls to know Christ.
"For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things" (1 John 3:20).
Where can I find grace that will cover my sins? Where can I get balm to heal the wounds that my sins have caused in my conscience? Is there help available for me, or must I always bear the burden of a bad conscience and suffer the pain of the wounds caused by my sins.
Are these questions that you are asking?
I can with joy tell you that help is available. Our Savior, speaking to troubled souls like you, says: "Come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
But surely you are not thinking: "This is true when it comes to just ordinary sinners, but my conscience is not clean. It has been tarnished by some especially abhorrent sins. Even though how I try, I cannot forget my transgressions. They always rise up to accuse me." If this is how you feel, you have no reason to despair. Many have had identical thoughts, but have nevertheless found peace when they have come to know God's grace.
A person by nature thinks that he must first cleanse his conscience in order to be able to believe. When his conscience, despite all his efforts to cleanse it, remains unclean and continues to accuse, he despairs. But Christ's Gospel is not a message of despair, but one of joy.
Jesus once bore our sins. Everyone's sins! All the sins of all people. He bore even those transgressions that weigh heaviest on your conscience, those that you cannot forget and which always return to accuse you. He also bore those sins which we have not even considered to be sins, and was forsaken by God because of them. He also atoned for those sins that especially trouble your conscience. Specifically for these sins He earned forgiveness.
Your heart cannot by nature know this. That is why it continues to accuse you. But God is greater than your heart and knows all things.
In His sight your sins are many times greater, much more abhorrent, and have deserved a much more severe punishment than you can feel in your conscience. Also in this respect He is greater than your heart and knows all things.
But God also knows what Christ has done for you. He knows that Christ has paid the full price for our sins. He accepted this sacrifice by raising His Son from the dead. God has been appeased in His heart. He does not have to seek atonement from your heart in order to forgive you. He is above your heart. He has been reconciled to you in His own heart for Jesus' sake. This is the basis of your salvation.
Do not therefore seek permission to receive forgiveness from your own heart, but rather go before the highest court of justice, before God Himself. In His own Word He assures us that He is merciful to sinners for Christ's sake. You can be at peace. If your heart condemns you, God is greater. In order to believe, do not listen to the voice of your heart, but rather listen to the voice of God.
Perhaps you still want to know: How can I get a clean conscience?
That which has been done, we cannot undo. We cannot be free of our evil nature in this life. But nevertheless we can attain peace of conscience. We cannot attain it by our own works. We cannot attain it even though how hard we try to improve our life, though how hard we strive and pray. All of these are our own works and cannot bring us peace. But still we can find peace of conscience. Not by our works, but through the forgiveness that Christ has earned for us. Everything is by grace, that wonderful, free gift of God. God tells us in His Word: "Jesus Christ... is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). We can be sure of forgiveness on the basis of this promise. God cannot lie. When God, the highest court, pardons us for Christ's sake, a lower court, our conscience, cannot change this ruling, but must submit to the decision of the higher court.
Do not therefore first seek peace from your own heart in order to believe, but believe in Jesus Christ and you will find peace.
Although your sins have slashed deep wounds into your conscience, remember that Jesus was wounded for your sake. While He was forsaken by God, He suffered in His heart the pain caused by sin, because our sins had been charged to Him. "With His stripes we are healed", says the Bible (Is. 53:5). Peace with God has been earned for us by Jesus once and for all. In order that our hearts can remain at peace, let us cling to the gracious promises of God's Word. Through them we can pacify our conscience, knowing that God is greater than our heart.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. [Luke 2:1-14]
Historical narration in the text invites us to use analysis for the sermon outline. Our text records 1) the imperial decree which compelled Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem; 2) the birth itself in a room containing a manger; 3) the announcement of the angel; 4) the praise ,of the angel host. Loy illustrates this simple analytical type of outline.
The Savior is Born.
Let us dwell
- On tire marvelous fact;
- On the glorious announcement.
- On the angelic praise.
The decree and the birth are placed into one part, so that the sermon appears with only the customary three parts. The formulation of the outline is entirely didactic and commonplace. It would be a pity if the sermon rose to no higher level. I should like to see the preacher on this higher level already in his outline.
Christian Baptism is Baptism in the name of the Triune God. The Apostle Paul tells us that there was a Baptism also during the time of the Old Testament. He calls it a Baptism into Moses. "For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:1,2).
This Baptism sanctified the Israelites, from the oldest to the youngest, to be God's people and to follow Moses, the leader God had given them. The people - among them 600,000 men who were prepared for battle - crossed the Red Sea. Being a rapidly increasing people, there were also many children among them. The cloud and the raging sea constituted the water of Baptism. The people of Israel were saved from Pharaoh's armies. These armies received a baptism by immersion and drowned in the Red Sea.
The Scribes understood the Baptism that Israel received to be a once-and-for-all Baptism, in which future generation of Israelites had been baptized along with their ancestors. Israelites were therefore not baptized. The Gentiles, who were converted to the religion of Israel, were baptized because their ancestors had not been baptized into Moses. This so-called proselyte Baptism was administered to all the members of the family, also to children under the age of eight days. Male proselytes were circumcised after they were baptized. The New Testament does not take a stand concerning this Baptism.
This information concerning the baptismal practices of the Scribes casts light on the historical situation prevailing at the time when Christian Baptism was instituted. Because the New Testament does not oppose the Jewish practice of baptizing the children of proselytes and does not forbid Christians to baptize infants, there is here, along with the many direct Biblical proofs, a support for infant Baptism.
Let us return to the Apostle Paul. Of those baptized into Moses he says: "Nevertheless with most of them God was not well pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness" (1 Cor. 10:5). So now too God is not pleased with those who reject Jesus Christ, even though through Baptism they have become partakers of Christ's death and resurrection. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Not all baptized people will be saved, but neither shall they all perish.
We can base our faith on that Covenant which God made with us when we were baptized. "God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able" (1 Cor. 10:13). Because God in Baptism has called us by name, adopted us and made us His own, we can continue our journey with confidence under the protection of the water of Baptism. It saves the believer and drowns his enemies.
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. [John 1:19-28]
The man who knows only homiletical analysis finds this look difficult. He cannot cut it into two or three sections, preaching on each section, in two or three parts of the sermon. The man who knows only homiletical application likewise has difficulty. He will use the pattern: as the Baptist was humble, honest, true, etc., so must we be to-day. He may also compare us with the priests and with the Pharisees also in the text, and teach us not to be like them. Perhaps also may fasten on v. 23, and preach our preparing the way into our. own hearts and then also into the hearts of others, Ilint all of us ought to be people like the Baptist. Yet, I oven this kind of a preacher senses that such an applica-r,► t 13,4'111►11, with such "lessons" from this great text, is weak .1o1 to do justice to its main feature. For the previous already presented the Baptist as a prophet, yes, as "something beyond a prophet," and the obvious fact is that no o►oniv uia 111 anything of the kind. Likewise, in this text he a voice in the wilderness, "as said the prophet and never said anything of the kind about us. II In alltogether incongruous to compare our hearers to the Baptist. The preacher may ignore the incongruity, but that does not remove it. More may be said to the same effect.
The better type of preacher rises higher. One presents: The Preacher in the Wilderness: 1) Who he is, and 2) What he preaches. Another offers: John's Testimony at Bethabara (which should be: at Bethany beyond the Jordan) : 1) Concerning himself; 2) Concerning Christ. Both themes have color. Yet the parts under the first theme are mere categories. The main fault is that in both of these sermons John occupies half of the sermon, and this half becomes either merely historical in telling about John, or when it seeks for more descends again to "lessons" drawn from John. Moreover, it is the Third Sunday in Advent which is intended to deal with the Baptist as the Great Herald of Christ, not the Fourth. It would be strange indeed to have two Sundays' for the same subject.
We are on the eve of the Festival of the Savior's Birth. The object of this text for the last Sunday before Christmas is to impress upon us the Deity of Rim who is Born in Bethlehem, this is why we celebrate his birth as we do. So great is the Savior sent by God into the world, because none less than he could possibly "stand" to perform the work needed for our redemption. In other words, the Messiah had to be the very Son of God, and he was the Son. This is the true burden of the whole text. This is the 1.1aeereeia, "the testimony" of John (v. 19) which John bore when this double committee came to him in the wilderness. It is this "testimony" that the evangelist records, for this testimony stands for all time, for you and for me to this day.
Testimony, true testimony, calls for belief on our part, aims to produce this belief and all its fruits. This is the aim of the entire text. Where faith already exists, this testimony aims to increase, intensify, fortify such faith, lest it decline or grow ineffective. To meet true testimony with unbelief constitutes the most fatal guilt. Such unbelief is unnatural, abnormal, hence damnable (John 3, 18). It ought to be impossible.
This text demands homiletical appropriation, and that not only in one part of the sermon, but in the entire sermon. The sum of the sermon must be: "This is the Testimony" (v. 19) — believe it! Amen. Keep this high level. God knows how necessary this is for our day. The Virgin Birth is ignored, even boldly denied. Divinity is substituted for deity, a noble, divine, godlike man for the Son of God incarnate. Christmas is celebrated in high style without the Son of the Highest. Matthew's and Luke's account of the Nativity are rejected as legendary, as imitations of pagan stories about heathen gods appearing on earth. Who in this whose birth we are about to celebrate on Christmas day? Our very souls depend on the true answer.
The Baptist’s Immortal Testimony to the Deity of Christ at Bethany beyond the Jordan.
- This Testimony faces us to-day, because it is immortal,
- Given to the official committees of the Jews by the Baptist.
- Transmitted to us by God through his evangelist.
- Declaring the Deity of Jesus, whose sandals even the great Baptist is not worthy to untie.
- Declaring that Jesus, the Godman, "stands" to begin the work of our redemption.
- Justifying the Baptist's work, as the Voice in the wilderness, bringing Israel to Baptism.
- Destroying all false notions about Jesus and his forerunner the Baptist.
- We face this Testimony to-day, because it is immortal.
- As true to-day as the day it was uttered.
- Demanding faith in the Deity of Jesus and in his redemption which only he could begin and finish.
- Producing faith by its power' of truth.
- Destroying all false notions we and others may still have about Jesus and his redemption.
- Warning us away from the guilt of disbelieving.
- By all this preparing us for rightly celebrating the Godman's Nativity.
It is not pleasant to speak of divorce. Divorce always involves the shipwreck of the joint life of two people, and often affects children in a most painful way. Nevertheless we must speak about it, because it is a reality.
If a husband and wife do not agree to live together, no one else can force them to do so. Even the best laws do not help. Moses already had to permit divorce because of the hardness of people's hearts (Matt. 19:8). This did not mean that he approved of divorce morally. It only meant the acknowledgment of what had already happened. Society must also do this constantly. Nevertheless it must not enact laws that have a weakening effect on the estate of marriage.
On the other hand experience indicates that even very serious disagreements in the marriage relationship have in time been solved. When husband and wife have understood the permanent nature of marriage, their convictions have given them strength to endure in difficult times, and often their faith in God has been a great source of strength. In this way the marriage has been saved and husband and wife have, as it were, discovered each other anew. To the children, father has been a father and mother has been a mother despite the problems between husband and wife. When father and mother have remained together the children have had a home. This is how it should be and should continue to be.
According to the Bible unfaithfulness dissolves the marriage and the innocent party has the right to get a divorce. The guilty, unfaithful spouse does not have the moral right to remarry for "whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery" (Matt. 19:9). On the other hand the innocent spouse is free to marry again, as the Lutheran Confessions state in explaining this Bible passage. However, reconciliation and the saving of the marriage if at all possible, should be the goal of every couple.
Our Savior mentions those who are not fit for marriage. Some are unfit from birth, others have made themselves unfit, and some are unfit because of what others have done. "He who is able to accept this let him accept it" (Matt. 19:12). If a person, who is unfit for marriage, marries he deceives the other person. Lutheran theologians have taught that in such cases no real marriage has taken place and that a false promise annuls the marriage. If one spouse becomes unfit during the marriage, the other must bear this as his cross.
Those who have done wrong must be granted the opportunity to receive forgiveness for their sins. In our society there are tens of thousands whose marriages have ended in divorce. To many of them this is matter of conscience and affects their relationship to God, if not at the time of the divorce, then at a later time. It is important that the matter be settled before God. An understanding pastor can often be of great help in a matter of this type.
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. [Matthew 11:2-10]
The remarks introductory to the exegesis are vital for the contents of the sermon. I have not read a single sermon that consists of application made from John's character or his actions that I would approve. If I were to sit in the pew, as I have now done for many years, and were to hear the preacher preach that we must not doubt like John doubted, and must not grow weak in faith as John grew weak, or if he blamed John's dis-ciples for such doubt and weakness, I would be tempted to throw my hymn-book at the preacher and to leave the church. The sermon books and the collections of sermon outlines that I have seen contain too many of these misguided attempts.
In your introduction to the sermon you may tell the true story as to how John came to direct his question to Jesus. Do it in a clean-cut; interesting, yet brief manner. It leads straight to the theme:
The Important Question which John from his Prison Directed to Jesus.
Simple analysis supplies the parts:
- The answer which this question elicited from Jesus in regard to Jesus' Work
Part two, like part one, glorifies Jesus, for he is the Messiah so great that a prophesied prophet ushered in his Coming in Grace. This type of sermon, so simple and to the point, will strike the hearers: Here is all this work of Jesus' grace before our hearts to-day, and here is the prophesied prophet who prepared the way for Jesus, what is our response? Only a passing interest, ending in indifference?