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Considerations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist online

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For S. PARKER, in Oxford; Sold by J. and F. RIVINCTOK
in St. Paul's Church -Yard, and T. CADELL (Succcflbr to
Mr Millar) in the Strand, London. M DCC LXIX.



Vice-Can. OXON.

Jan. 5. 1769.


IT is a fine remark of Lord Bacon,
that, " As wines, which, at firft

" preffing, run gently, yield a more
" pleafant tafte than thofe, where the
" wine-prefs is hard wrought, becaufe
cc thofe fomewhat relifh of the ftone
and skin of the grape ; fo thofe ob-
" fervations are moft wholefome and
" fweet, which flow from Scriptures
" gently exprefled, and naturally ex-
u pounded, and are not wrefted or
" drawn afide to common places, or
" controverfies."





OBSERVATIONS of this kind may
certainly be made, to great advantage,
on hiftorical portions of Scripture more
efpecially ; fince, as the fame incom-
parable author tells us elfe where,
" Knowlege drawn frefhly, and as it
" were in our view, out of particulars,
" knows the way beft to particulars
" again : and it hath much greater life
<c for practice, when the difcourfe at-
" tends upon the example, than- when
" the example attends upon the dif-
" courfe ; as Machiavel handled mat-
ters of policy and government, by
" difcourfes of hiftory and example
u taken frpm Livy" The doftrines
and duties of Chriftianity are, in like
manner, beft deduced from the fadl&
on which it is founded. The narration
furniflieth both matter and method for
the difcourfe, which is heard with
pleafure, and remembered with eafe.




HISTORY and biography are fre-
quently employed in the fervice of er-
ror and vice. They may operate as ef-
fedtually in the recommendation of
truth and virtue. Example fhews truth
as it were embodied ; and while it
difplays the excellency of virtue, de
monftrates its practicability. The con-
templation of faith, as it difcovereth
itfelf in the lives of patriarchs and
prophets, apoftles and faints, inclineth
us to believe as they did ; and the fight
of frail mortals, like ourfelves, who,
by the divine affiftance, furmounted
all obftructions, and continued to walk
in the paths of righteoufnefs, naturally
fuggefteth, to every beholder, the
queftion What fhould hinder me
from doing the fame ?

OPPORTUNITIES for fuch exercifes
are continually afforded by the return

f thofe days, whereon we commemo-
* jrn^rci

b 2 rate

iv PR E FA C E.

rate the heroic piety of ancient wor-
thies, diftinguiftied in the annals of
religion ; whofe ftory prefenteth us
with occurrences, not, like thofe re-
lated in fecular hi (lories, of ufe only
to politicians and generals, but uni-
verfally interesting ; inftructing us in
the art of governing the little king-
dom within ; of atchieving the great-
eft conquefts, and gaining the moft
glorious victories ; fince c< Better is he
" that ruleth his fpirit, than he that
" taketh a city ;" teaching us how to
live the life, and die the death of the
righteous ; a twofold task, which every
man hath upon his hands, and in the
performance of which he cannot fail,
but at the hazard of fomething more
valuable than crowns and fceptres.

TH E author of the following Con-
^derations was directed, in the choice,


of his fubjecl:, by the circumftances of
his (ituation, fome parts of them having
been delivered from the pulpit, as oc-
cafion called for them, in the chapel
of St. Mary Magdalen College, upon
the anniverfary of the nativity of St.
yohn the Baptift, before a learned and
mod refpe&able audience. The fa-
vourable manner, in which they were
then heard, hath encouraged him to
revife, enlarge, and digeft them into
their prefent form. The reader hath
now before him a compleat hiftory of
the Baptift, extracted from the Evan-

JL *

gelifts, and methodized according to
the order of time, in which the events
appear to have happened, with fuch
obfervations and reflections as the feve-
ral parts of it feemed to fuggeft, for the
confirmation of faith, and the advance-
ment of holinefs.



AN attentive perufal of the fubfe-
quent pages may, it is hoped, be of
fervice to the younger ftudents in
theology, with a view to whdm> and
to thofe more particularly of the So-
ciety, whofe welfare and prbfperity
the author is bound by every tie to
confult and promote, as they were at
firft compofed, fo they are now ptib-
lifhed ; that, beholding the glories
which difplay themfelves in the exalted
charader here offered to their ififpec-
tion, they may be fired with a noble
ambition to bear their teftimony to the
beft of matters, and, from a well fpent
retirement, come forth bright examples
of temperance and purity, zeal and
knowlege, integrity and conftancy, to
preach Repentance, and proclaim Sal-


B vrA




INSIDERdflONS on the nativity
of Sf. John, and the circumftances that
attended' it* Page I.



Conjiderations on the hymn of Zacharia's. 18..

V 1


G&nfiderations on Sf. John'j education in
the defarts. *


Conjiderations on the prophecies relative to
St. John in the Old 'fejiamnt. 57.

n ni




Conjideratlons on the appearance, doftrine,
and baptifm of St. John. Page 74



Confederations on the tejlimony born by St.
John, at different times, to the MeJJiah-
Jlrip of Jefus. 101.


Confederations on the imprifonment of St.
John, the meffage fent by him to Chrife,
and the anfiver returned to it. 1 18.


Confederations on the circumftances of St.
John's Death. 134.






Conjiderations on the nativity of St. John,
and the circumjlances that attended it.

THE lights of the intellectual, SECT. I.
like thofe of the natural fyftem,
are not all of equal magnitude
and luftre. In the church, as in the
firmament, " one ftar differeth from
A ano-

2 Confiderations on the Life and Death

SECT. i. (t another flar in glory." Each contri-
buteth it's mare towards difiipating the
darknefs with which we are furrounded ;
but fome, by their fuperior fplendor,
immediately attract and dazzle the eye
of the beholder. Confpicuous, above
others, is the character of St. John the
Baptift, that bright precurfor of the
fun, and harbinger of the morning, who
arofe to give notice of Mefliah's approach,
and to prepare the world for his recep-
tion : burning, and mining, he ran his
courfe, proclaiming to the inhabitants
of the earth, " Repent, for the kingdom
" of heaven is at hand;" in other words,
" The night is far fpent, the day is at
" hand ; caft off therefore the works
" of darknefs, and put on the armour
of light a . Awake, thou that fleep-
" eft, and arife from the dead, and
" Chrift mall give thee light b ."

PRAISE is ever valuable in propor-
tion to the judgment and integrity of
him who beftoweth it ; and the pane-
gyric is truly honourable, when the pa-
negyrift is one who will not flatter, and

* Xtm. xiii. 12^
, b Epncf. v. 14.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 3

who cannot be deceived. How then mall SECT. i.

we raife our thoughts to conceive ade- ^
quately of a perfon, whofe encomium
was fpoken by the Son of God, and
concerning whom that Son of God de-
clared, " Among them that are born of
" women there hath not arifen a greater
" than John the Baptift V After this
declaration made by the matter, the
difciples cannot well be hyperbolical in
their praifes of St. yohn, as the great
pattern of repentance ; the relation of
Chrifl j the friend of the bridegroom ;
the herald of the king immortal -, the
glory of faints, and the joy of the world.
IT is obfervable, that the Baptift's
nativity is the only one (that of Chrift
excepted) which the church has thought
proper to celebrate. The days appointed
for the commemoration of other faints
are generally thofe on which they re-
fpectively ceafed from their labours, and
entered into their everlafting reft ; the
day of a good man's death being indeed
the day of his birth, and this world no
more than the womb in which he is
formed and matured for his admifiion

a Matt. xi. ii.

A 2 into

4 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT. T. into a better, where there is neither
crying nor pain. But the nativity of St.
John being defigned, by the remarkable
incidents that accompanied it, to turn
the eyes of men towards one who was far
greater j one, the latchet of whofe (hoes
he confeffed himfelf not worthy to un-
loofe ; the church keeps a day facred to
it, and directs us to begin our medita-
tions by confidering, as all Judea did
when it happened, " what manner of
child a " that mould be, which was fo
wonderfully born.

H E whofe works are all wrought in
number, weight, and meafure, bring-
eth every event to pafs in it's proper
feafon. The time approached which had
been decreed in the counfels of the
Moft High, foretold by the Prophets,
and ardently defired by holy men of
old, when the Son of God mould be
manifelled, to redeem his people from
death, and to lead them in the path of
life. As this redemption was not to be
effected by flefhly might and power, the
fpiritual king of Ifrael chofe to make
his appearance, when the houfe of Da-

* Luke i. 66.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 5

vid was like a root buried in the earth j SECT, r,
and therefore his forerunner was born
" in the days of Herod the king * 5"
days, when his countrymen were under
a foreign jurifdi&ion, and the profpeft
on all fides was gloomy. True indeed
it is, that the facred lamp went not out
in the temple, where the good old Si-
meon and the devout Anna ferved God
inftantly with fallings and prayers, and
waited, as many others did, with ear-
neft expectation, for the confolation of
IfraeL They were not difcouraged by
the grofs darknefs which then covered
the earth, but rather concluded from
thence, that the dawn of day could not
be far off; as the mercies of heaven
generally come when man moil wants,
and, humanly fpeaking, has leaft ground
to hope for them ; to the end that he
may with thankfulnefs receive the be-
nefit, and with humility give God the
glory. And this may be an ufeful leflbn
to thofe who mall live in the latter days
of the Gentile church, which are to
precede the fecond advent of Chrift,
when they will behold the religion of

8 Luke i. 5.


6 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT. I. Chriftians degenerated into an empty
form, and their zeal and love frozen at
the fountain ; when daily multiplying
herefies, like the frogs in Egypt, mall
infeft and contaminate all things ; when
infidelity mail rage and fwell, and ini-
quity of every kind mall abound. Sights
like thefe may confound and ftagger
thofe who (hall then be ignorant of the
fcriptures, and weak in faith. But an
acquaintance with the divine difpenfa-
tions will turn them into fo many argu-
ments for the truth of revelation, and
the approach of the day of God.
" When thefe things begin to come to
" pafs j then look up, and lift up your
" heads, for your redemption draweth
" nigh a :" then be found, with Simeon
and Anna, in the temple, waiting for
the confolation of Ifrael.

WH E N we read of men who have
done good in their generations, and
fhone as lights in the world, curiofity
naturally leads us to enquire after their
connections and relations, and efpecially
after the happy perfons chofen to be the
inftruments of conveying fuch blefiings

a Luke xxi. 28.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST.
to the church. The fcripture account SECT


of Zacharias and Elizabeth is concife,
but comprehenfive. He was " a prieft
of the courfe of Abia y " me was " of
" the daughters of Aaron" and " they
" were both righteous before God,
" walking in all the commandments
" and ordinances of the Lord, blame-
" lefs a . The courfe of Abia was the
eighth in order of the twenty four cour-
fes of priefts appointed to relieve each
other in the fervice of the temple,
where, during their miniftration, they
reiided in the chambers allotted them
for that purpofe ; that fo, being fequef-
tered from the cares and pollutions of
the world, they might " wait on the
" Lord without diffraction," perform-
ing the outward ceremonies of the law,
and exercifing their faith in the con-
templation of thofe heavenly things
fhadowed out by them. This holy office
Zacharias , in the worft of times, adorn-
ed and beautified with a correfpondent
holinefs of life. The fpirit of the fanc-
tuary refted upon him, and manifefted
itfelf in the fruit of righteoufnefs ; a

a Luke i. 5, 6.


8 Cpitfiderattons on the Life and Death

SECT. I. righteoufnefs, which exceeded that of
^ the Scribes and Pbarifees, approving it-
felf in the fight of God, to whom are
known the fecrets of the heart, as well
as in that of men, who are witneffes
only of the external deportment. Thro*
the flrength of this fpirit, he walked
in the path of an uniform obedience,
an invariable obferver of thofe ordinan-
ces which were at that time the facra-
mental means and pledges of pardon and
acceptance, through faith in him, of
whofe advent he was a devout expectant.
From fuch a father, and a mother wor-
thy of him, who graced the line of
Aaron by a like inviolable fandlity of
manners, was the Baptifl to defcend ;
that the Jews might have no pofiible
objection againft him j that he might
be a proper forerunner of one who was
to make all the world in love with the
beauty of holinefs -, that it might ap-
pear wherein true nobility of birth con-
fifleth, 'viz. in a defcent from perfons
confecrated to the fervice of God, and
of an exemplary piety ; and laflly, to
allure us, that on the heads of thofe,
who to a holy profeflion add a holy life,


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 9

will, fooner or later, defcend the choi- SECT. I.
ceft blefllngs which heaven hath to be-
flow on the fens of men.

BUT let not fuch be impatient, be-
caufe thofe bleffings are for a while de-
ferred. He, who fends them, beft
knows the proper time of fending them,
and often fees it neceflary, for many
reafons, to exercife the faith and patience
of his fervants, who may always reft
fatisfied, that in due feafon he will bring
every thing to pafs, which will con-
duce to their true welfare. The fcrip-
ture, having witnefled of Zacharias and
Elizabeth, that " they were both right-
" eous before God, walking in all the
" commandments and ordinances of the
" Lord blamelefs," proceedeth, in the
very next words, to inform us, that
" they had no child, becaufe that Eli-
" zabeth was barren, and they were both
' will flricken in years V They who
ftand higheft in the favour of God, may,
therefore, during the greateft part of
their lives, want the external and vifible
marks of it, and lie under the burden

a Luke i. 7,

B of

i o Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT. I. of " reproach among men %" as was
the cafe of childlefs women in Judea.
But thefe two pious perfons, when their
condition, in this refpecT:, feemed def-
perate, were upon the eve of felicity.
For of parents at their time of life John
was to be born ; that fo the miraculous
manner of his birth might excite the
attention of mankind, and difpofe them
to liften to his voice, when it mould be
heard in the wildernefs ; and alfo, that
it might prepare them for that great
event which was taking place, as the
prophet IJalah had foretold ; " A vir-
" gin mail conceive, and bear a fon."
In circumftances parallel with thofe of
St. Jobn> were born, of old, Ifaac, and
Jofeph, and Samfon, and Samuel, all of
them illuftrious forerunners of Meffiah,
in one or other of his three characters,
prophetical, facerdotal, or regal. And
did not God intend, by fo often caufing
" the barren woman to keep houfe, and
" and to become a joyful mother of
" children," to make that power known,
by which the incarnation of the Re-
deemer and the fruitfulnefs of his church

* Luke i. 25.


of St. JOHN f/je BAPTIST, n

were to be effected in the latter days, SECT. r.

when, according to St. Paul, the pro- ^ x ^^

phetical injunction of Ifaiab was obeyed,

" Sing, O barren, thou that didft not

" bear ; break forth into linging, and

" cry aloud, thou that didft not travel

" with child 8 !"

HE who is employed in difcharging
with fidelity the duties of his calling,
takes the fureft way to obtain the con-
tinuation and increafe of his heavenly
Mafter's favours. A fon was promifed
to Zacbarias, " While he executed the
" prieft's office before God," as the ri-
tual of the church enjoined, " In the
" order of his courfe, and according to
" the cuftom b ." The reflection of a
pious writer upon this circumftance is
no lefs juft than beautiful. ' One prieli:
" alone," fays he, ' intent on his duty,
" who diffufes the fvveet favour of
" Chrift, and is conftant in prayer,
' draws down on the people more bleff-
" ings than a great number of negligent
" priefts. A man ought," continues he,
" to difcharge all the eccleiiaftical func-

a Ifai. liv. I. Gal. iv. 27.
b Luke i. 8, 9.

B 2 " tions

1 2 Confederations on the Life and Dvatb

SECT. I. " tions with the fpirit of the fecred mi-
niftry, as before God, and under his.-
" immediate infpedtion ; to perform
" them in order, in his proper ftation,
" without ambitioufly feeking an high-
" er ; to do nothing merely of his own
" will, but to obferve the well efta-
" blifhed cujloms, as being the neceffary
" fecurities of peace. This is the truth
" which thefe fhadows prefigured, and
" thefe the difpofitions worthy a mini-
" fter of the true temple, which is the
" church."

THE annuntiation of the Baptift's
conception happened at the time of in-
cenfe, when his father, having put on
the robe of honour, and being clothed,
like the great Mediator whom he per-
fonated, with the garments of glory and
beauty, entered into the temple, while
the whole congregation of the people,
aflembled without, fent up their united
prayers to be accepted at the throne of
grace, through the interceflion which
was then making for them by the levi-
tical prieft, acting in the name of him
who was to ' arife after the order of
f< Melchifedek, and not to be called

" after

of St. JOHN /&? BAPTIST. 13

<* after the order of Aaron*." While SECT. r.
the joint prayers of prieft and people
were thus offered up with the blood of
fprinkling, and the fweet-fmelling fa-
vour of the holy incenfe, an angel fud-
denly appeared to Zacharias y as he was
executing his office in the temple ; that
being the place to which thofe bleffed
fpirits, when they vint thefe lower re-
gions, ever delight to refort, as bearing
the neareft refemblance to the happy
manfions from which they defcend.

BUT whether it be, that the glory
of eeleftial fpirits overpowers the facul-
ties of human nature, or that man, con-
fcious of having finned againft heaven,
naturally trembles at the fight of a mef-
fenger from thence, we find, the ap-
pearance of an angel had the fame ef-
fect upon Zacbariasy the bleffed virgin,
and the fhepherds : they were all " fore
" afraid." Their minds mufl be firfl
compofed, and put into a capacity of
receiving the heavenly tidings brought
them by the good angels, who, like
good men, manifeft themfelves by the
gracious and encouraging manner of

a Heb. vii. u.


14 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT. I. their -addrefs, and having removed all
mifconceived apprehenfions, proceed to
inftrud: and comfort thofe to whom they
are fent. "Fear not, Zacharias, for
" thy prayer is heard, and thy wife
" Elizabeth mail bear thee a fon V
Zacharias had prayed for the redemp-
tion of Ifrael by Meffiah, and therefore
was honoured by being made, in a won-
derful manner, the father of his illuf-
trious forerunner. The prieft was anxi-
ous for the welfare of the church, and
the man was blefTed in his own private
concerns. He fought " firil the king-
" dom of God, and his righteoufnefs,"
and the bleffing of a fon was " added
" unto him." " Thy wife Elizabeth
" mall bear thee a fon, and thou malt
" call his name Jo H N," that is, being
interpreted, the grace, or gift -, " and
" many mall rejoice at his birth :" not
only thou malt rejoice, and Elizabeth
with thee, at the birth of a fon fo long
defpaired of, and fuch a fon too, but it
mall be matter of joy, at the time, to
all who look for redemption ; and after-
wards, thoufands and millions mall re-

3 Luke i. 13.


*. - of"St. JOHN the- BAPTIST. 15

joice at the remembrance of it ; the day SECT. I.
{hall be kept as a feftival throughout all ^"^
generations; with joy and gladnefs fhall
it be kept, thankfgiving and the voice
of melody*. Encouraged by the ex-
ample of Zacharias, let the priefts, the
minifters of the Lord, be never weary
of waiting for his loving kindnefs in the
midfl of his temple. Let it be the de-
light of their lives to execute their office,
every one in that order, and fration in
which he is placed. So will God make
them to hear of joy and gladnefs, and
grant them to behold the fuccefs of their
labours for the converfion of finners,
and the edification of his people. The
church, like Elizabeth, fhall bring forth
fruit in her old age, and her friends (hall
rejoice greatly, when they hear that the
Lord hath fhevved mercy on her 8 .

DISTRUST of Providence, and the
accomplifliment of it's defigns, when
appearances are on the other fide, will
fometimes invade the hearts of the beft
of men ; and Zacharias himfelf fo far
partook of the incredulous fpirit which
at that period had pofTefTed the fyna-

a Luke i. 58.


16 Conjideratwm on the Life and Death

SECT. r. gogue, that he " fought after a fign."
r " Whereby fhall I know this ? For
" I am an old man, and my wife well
" flricken in years." How different, in
a parallel cafe, was the behaviour of his
father Abraham, of which St. Paul has
left us the following exalted defcription.
Who againft hope believed in hope,
" that he might become the father of
" many nations, according to that which
" was fpoken, So mall thy feed be
" And being not weak in faith, he con-
" fidered not his own body now dead,
" neither yet the deadnefs of Sarah's
" womb. He ftaggered not at the pro-
" mife of God through unbelief, but
" was ftrong in faith, giving glory to
'* God, and being fully perfuaded, that
" what he had promifed he was able alfo
<f to perform 3 ." The demand of Zacba-
rias, however, was complied with, and
a fign was granted him in the punifh-
rnent of his unbelief. The ufe of that
tongue, which, inflead of giving glory
to God, had been employed in railing
objections, was taken from him, and a

* Rom. iv. 1 8.


' f St. JOHN the BAPTIST. \j

filence of fome months was impofed as SECT. i.
a penance for the abufe of fpeech.

BUT when the wonderful child was
born, who, even before his birth, en-
tered upon his prophetical office, and
gave teftimony to his Saviour in the
womb, then declaring, by his exulta-
tion, what he afterward did by words,
" Behold the Lamb of God ;" and Za-
cbdrias had acknowledged the GIFT of
God, by directing that his name mould
be JOHN j then the mouth of the father
was opened -, and, to mew us the pro-
per employment of the tongue, when
heaven grants the ufe of it, he " praifed
" God." Faith reftored what incredu-
lity had taken away; " he believed, and
" therefore he fpake." And his heart
having been prepared, by filence and re-
tirement, for the reception of celeftial
influences, he was now " filled with the
" Holy GhorV' and brake forth into
that divine hymn, which mail be the
fubjecl: of the next fedtion.


T " A cl *-.

1 8 Confidcrations on the Life and Death


Confiderations on the hymn of Zacharias.

i/ if *S


SECT. n. \ MONO the alterations in na-
ture, which notify the return of
fpring, no one is more pleating, than
the exchange of a long and melancholy
filence, for that melody which then re-
foundeth on every fide of us, in the
woods and fields. Solomon hath not for-
gotten this circumftance, in his fhort
but lovely defcription of that delightful

1 3 4 5 6 7

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