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feafon. " Lo, the winter is paft, the
f* rain is over and gone, the flowers ap-
" pear on the earth, the time of th
" finging of birds is come, and the
^ voice of the turtle is heard in our
" land V The advent of Meffiah was
announced, in a fimilar manner, to the
church ; and we may fay of it, in. the
words of the Roman poet, which, like
thofe of Caiaphas, contained much more

* Cant. ii. n.

than



of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 19

than he was aware of who utteredSEcr.il.
them, ^

Afpice> venturo latentur ut omnia faelo !

For now, the bleied virgin " magni-
w fieth the Lord, and her fpirit rejoiceth
" in God her Saviour :" the father of
the Baptift " blefleth the Lord God of
" Ifrael, for having vifited and redeemed
" his people :" the angels themfelves
defcend in full choir, to perform an an*-
theni in honour of their Lord and ours :
and old Simeon clofeth all with his affedt-
ing farewell to the world ; " Lord, now
<* letteft thou thy fervant depart in peace,
" according to thy word -, for mine eyes
" have feen thy falvation." Thus did
all " break forth into joy, and fing to-
" gether, becaufe the Lord had com-
" forted his people, and redeemed Jeru-
" falem ;" becaufe the fun of righteouf-
nefs, by his vifitation of the earth, was
putting a period to a dreary winter, and
introducing, in it's {lead, a new and
more glorious fpring. And as fpring is
' the morning of the year, Cowleys ad-
drefs to the material light, which is

C 2 but



20 Confederations on the. Life and Death

SECT.U. but a faint copy, may be applied to the
^v-v; great original himfelf ;

When thou lift'Jl up thy radiant head
Out of the mornings purple bed,
'Thy choir of birds about thee play,
And all the joyful 'world falutes the
rijing day.

TH E hymn which we are at prefent
to confider, is that of Zacharias. The
occalion on which it was indited, was
the birth of St. John : the fubjecl: is
the covenant of grace in Chrift Jefus :
the language is that of the Old Tefta-
ment, old terms being transferred to
new things : the fpeaker is a prieft and
a prophet, " Full of the Holy Ghoft."

DURING a tedious interval of filence,
gachariqs had beheld the accomplifli-
ment of the divine promife to hirnfelf ;
and he knew likewife, that the Saviour
of mankind would foon be born of his
relation, the virgin Mary. We may
judge, therefore, what pain and grief
he felt, while retrained from uttering
that " good matter," of which his heart
was fo full, that when at length God
jfaw fit to remove the mound, it burft

forth



JOHN 'the BAPTIST. 21

forth at once in an impetuous and irre- SECT.II.
fiftible torrent of thankfgiving ;

i. " BLESSED be the Lord God of
" Ifrael, for he hath vifited and

" redeemed his people V

i

IT was no new thing for " the God
" of Ifrael" to " vifit and redeem his
" people." He had often done it, when
they were in affliction and captivity.
But fo to vifit and redeem, was not all
that he intended to do for his chofen.
Through things temporal he was defirous
that they mould look at things eternal,
and carry on their views from a bodily to
a fpiritual redemption, in which all his
counfels terminated ; a redemption to be
effected by his sifting mankind, dwell-
ing among them in a tabernacle of flefh,
and in that tabernacle offering up the
true propitiatory facrifice -, a redemption,
that mould extend to Gentiles as well
as Jews, and of both make one people,
a new Ifrael, of which he mould be the
Lord God, for evermore. How gracious
this vifitation! How aftonimin thisn?-

J

* Luke i. 68, & f .

demption !



2 Confidtrations on the Life agft Death

cr.iL-Jemption ! " BlefTed be the Lord God
ft o f ifrael, for ha- hath vifited and rc-
" deemed his people,

2. " And hath raifed up an horn of
" falvation for us, in the houfe
" of his fervant David."

I N the Old Teflament, we read con-
tinually of Saviours and Deliverers
" raifed up" by God, to refcue his peo-
ple, from time to time, out of the hands
of their oppreflbrs. But of them we
may fay, as the Apoftle does of the
Levitical priefts, " They were not fuf-
" fered to continue, by reafon of death 3 ."
And therefore, we may argue in one
cafe, as he doth in the other, that none
of them could be the true Saviour of
Ifrae/y the fubjecl: of the promifes.
Neither Mofes, who brought them out
of Egypt, nor Joflma who fettled them
in Canaan, was " He that fhould come,"
but they were ftill to " look for ano-
" then." And fo on, through the whole
calendar of temporal faviours, who,
like the legal minifters, " ferved only,"

Heb. vii. 23.

by



23

by their wars and victories, " to the SECT. If.
" example and fhadow of heavenly
" things." The body, or fubftance, ia
either inftance, " was of Chrift." For
he who arofe " a Prieft for ever," arofe
alfo " a King immortal $" a mighty
born, or power of falvation ; a Mofes, to
deliver us from this prefent evil world ;
a jfo/hua, to put us in pofleflion of the
heavenly Canaan ; in fhort, every thing,
to fill up every prefigurative character.
This mighty Saviour, this omnipotent
king of Ifrael God raifed up " in the
" houfe of his fervant David," as he
had promifed, " that of the fruit of his
" body according to the flefh, he would
" raife up Chrift to fit on his throne V*
And to this agree the words of the an-
gel, at the annuntiation, " The Lord
< God mall give unto him the throne
" of his father David, and he fhali
" reign for ever and ever over the houfe
" of Jacob, and of his kingdom there
" fhall be no end 11 ,"



a Pfalm cxxxii. 1 1, Aits ii. 30.
Luke i. a.



"As



24 Confiderations on the Life Mi Death

SECT. II.

3. "As he promifed by the mouth
. " of his holy prophets, which
" have been fmce the world
' began "

I N a matter of fo great confequence
as man's redemption, God left not the
world without information, from the
beginning : fo that wherever we find
ignorance, it muft be charged to the
account of man, as having rejected, and
not to that of his Maker, as having
denied the neceffary means of inftruc-
tion. We fee the chriftian church now
fupported, in her belief of Meffiah's
fecond advent, on which all her hopes
are fixed, by the -difcourfes of the
Apoftles, as the antient church was
fupported in her belief of his firft ad-
vent, by the difcourfes of the prophets.
There is no more difficulty in one cafe
than in the other. The ancients lived in
faith, and fo do we. They died in faith,
" not having received the promifes,"
and fo muft we : for though fome pro-
mifes are fulfilled, yet others are not,
nor can .be, in this world. Our know-

lege



the BAPTIST. 25

lege is not the lefs certain, nor our faith, SECT. ir.
built upon it, the lefs firm, becaufe we u
have not exaft and adequate notions of
the manner of (Thrift's coming, the cir-
cumftances of the laft judgment, and
the glory that is to follow. The fatts
are fufficiently predicted ; for an idea of
the mode we muft be contented to wait,
till faith (hall give place to fight. And
let the fame obfervation be applied to
the patriarchs and Ifraefites.

4. " That we mould be faved
" from our enemies, and from
" the hand of all that hate us."

THE enemies and the fafoation, here
intended by Zachariaf, are, without
doubt, fpiritual. Such a falvation
therefore, from fuch enemies, God
" promifed by the mouth of his holy
" prophets which have been fince the
" world began." When he faved his
people of old from their enemies, and
from the hand of all that hated them*
his mercy fo difplayed was a figure for
the time then prefent, a pledge and
earneft of eternal redemption ; as if he
D had



26 Conjiderations on the Life and Death

SECT. II. had faid, " Ye (hall fee greater things
J " than thefe." And the pfalms, formerly
compofed to celebrate the deliverance of
Ifrael from Egyptian and Babylonian cap-
tivities, are now ufed by the church
Chriftian to praife God for falvation
from fin, death, and Satan : they are
fung new in the kingdom of Mef-
fiah. " Old things are pafled away, be-
" hold all things are become new :"
legal figures are vanifhed, and the terms
employed to defcribe them are transfer-
red to Evangelical truths. When the
'prophets compofed pfalms on occafion of
temporal deliverances, they looked for-
/ -ward to a future fpiritual falvation ; as
Zacharids, in his hymn, the fubject of
which is a fpiritual falvation, looks
back, and has a reference to paft tem-
poral deliverances.

5. " To perform the mercy promi-
" fed to our fathers, and to re-

" member his holy covenant "
o:

TH E " mercy promifed to our fa-
" thers" was, therefore, a fpiritual mer-
cy ; and the " covenant" made with

them



> of St. JOHN the BAPTIST.

them was a gofpel covenant ; for other- SECT. u.
wife, Gqd could not be faid, by raifmg
up Chrift, to have " performed that
" mercy," and " remembered that co-
" venant." Accordingly, we are elfe-
where told, " the Gofpel was preached
" to Abraham a ;" and the covenant
made with him is ftyled " the covenant
" of God in Chrift b ." The Gofpel,
then, was prior to the law, and was the
patrimony of all the children of Abra-
ham. " The law, which was four hun-
" dred and thirty years after," whatever
might be it's intention, could not dif-
poffefs them of this their inheritance ;
it could not " difannul the covenant,
" and make the promife of none effect."
But if, on the contrary, it was defigned
to keep up, and further the knowlege
of them , if it was a ftanding prophecy ;
if it was " a fchoolmafter," by it's ele-
ments training up and conducting it's
fcholars " to Chrift;" then certainly no-
thing was wanting on the part of God.
The Jews minded earthly things -, but to
infer from thence, that they were never

a Gal. iii. 8.
k Ibid. 17.

D 2 taught



28 Confederations en the Lij'e and

SECT. II. taught the knowlege of things heavenly,
would be a method of arguing too hazar-
dous to be ventured upon ; fmce, from
the behaviour of many, who profefs the
Chriftian religion, it might as fairly be
concluded, that their Matter promifed
nothing but " loaves and fifties." yrael*-
ites might fet their hearts too much on
'* fields and vineyards," forgetting or
neglecting better things, as men are apt
to do, who are blefled with profperity
in this prefent world. But when they
did fo, they did wrong : prophets were
fent to reprove the error, and judgments
to convince them, that Canaan was not
the end of the "covenant," nor a plen-
tiful harveft " the mercy promifed."

6. "TnE oath which he fware to
ft our forefather Abraham "

TH E amazing condefcenfion of God
in vouchfafing, for man's fatisfadtion
and affurance, to confirm his promife
by an oath, is finely touched upon in
the epiftle to the Hebrews. " When
^ God made promife to Abraham, be-
' caufe he could fwear by no greater, he

fware



of St. JOHN tbe BAPTIST.

" fware by himfelf, faying, furely blefT-
'* ing I will blefs thee, and multiplying
*< I will multiply thee For men
" verily fwear by a greater, and an oath
" for confirmation is to them an end of
" all- ftrife. Wherein God, willing to
" (hew to the heirs of promife the.im-
" mutability of his counfel, confirmed
" it by &n oath ; that by two immuta-
" ble things, in which it was impof-
t( fible for God 'to lie, we might have
ff ft ftrong confolation, who have fled
" for refuge, to lay hold upon the hope
" fet before us a ." O the goodnefs of
God, who hath given his creatures the
afTu-rance of an oath ! O the infidelity
of his creatures, who diftruil that aflu-
ranee b !

7. " That he would grant unto
" us, that we being delivered
" out of the hands of our ene-
" mies, might ferve him with-
** out fear,

a Heb. vi. 13.

b O beqtos nos, quorum caufa Deus jurat ! O mlferri-
moj, J: r.ec jurar.ti D:m:n: crcdimiu ! Tertull.

8. In



4



30 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT. II.

8. " IN holinefs and righteoufnefs
" before him, all the days of
" our life."

TH E promife, made with an oath to
Abraham, was made, after the inten-
tional facrifice of Ifaac, in the follow-
ing terms ; " By myfelf have I fworn
" that in blefling I will blefs thee,
" and in multiplying I will multiply
" thy feed as the ftars of heaven, and
" as the fand which i$ upon the fea
" more j and thy feed {hall pofTefs the
" gate of his enemies j and in thy feed
" mall all the nations of the earth be
" blefled V The objects of the bleff-
ing here promifed are the faithful child-
ren of Abraham, whether Jews or Gen-
tiles ; the " feed," in whom they are
bleffed, is Chrift ; the manner in which
he obtains the blefling, is by " poflefT-
*' ing the gate of his enemies," that is,
by fubduing them, and feizing their
ftrong holds; the blefiing itfelf confift-
eth in a redemption from bondage un-
der thofe enemies, and an admiflion into

a Gen. xxii. 16.

the



. cf St. JOHN *& BAPTIST. 31

the fervice of God. Such is the fub- SECT.IJ.
ftance and intention of the promife
made with an oath to Abraham, as ex-
plained by Zacharias, and fulfilled un-
der the gofpel. In the mean time, be-
tween the promife and it's accomplish-
ment it pleafed God to interpofe a dif-
penfation, which exhibited a vifible
reprefentation of this great and impor-
tant tranfaction , in the cafe of the
children of Ifrael, or the pofterity of
Abraham according to the flefh, who,
after having been long detained in cruel
bondage by Pharaoh and the Egyptians,
were " delivered out of the hands of
" their enemies ;" and delivered for this
purpofe, that they might ferve God
with a prefigurative fervice, calculated
to laft " till the feed mould come, to
" whom the promife was made." For
thus Jehovah faith to Mofes, " When
" thou haft brought forth the people
" out of Egypt, they mall Jerve God
" upon this mountain'." So that when,
at the transfiguration of our Lord upon
mount Tabor, Mofes difcourfed with
him on the fubject of "his deceafe,"

8 Exod. iii, 12.

or,



32 Confiderations on the Life and Death

SECT. ii. or, as it is in the original, his EXODUS,
" which he mould accomplish at Jeru-
" falem," may we not imagine to our-
felves the deliverer of Ifrael addreffing the
world's Redeemer in fome fuch words as
thefe By my hand the Lord God of
Ifrael did once vouchfafe to bring forth
his people from the afflicting bondage
of Egypt -, but thou malt turn the mul-
titude of the Gentiles from the power
of Satan to God. I faw the Lord make
a path through the waters, for his re-
deemed to pafs over ; but thou (halt
find a more wonderful way through the
waves of death > and though the floods
mail compafs thee about, yet mail thy
life be brought up from corruption. I
beheld the chariots of Pharaoh and the
mighty hoft of Egypt plunging in the
deep, when the morning appeared ; but
thou malt triumph over principalities
and powers, and fee them overwhelmed
in the lake of fire. I led my people
through the wildernefs, and gave them
a law which had " the madow of good
" things to come ;" but thou malt con-
duct thine through the world, and
teach them to " worfhip in fpirit and

" in



of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 33

" in truth." I went before Ifrael to SECT. II.
the borders of the promifed land ; but ^^"^
thou art the true fhepherd of fouls, and
they who follow thee {hall ' pafs from
death unto life."

Zacharlas concludes his divine fong
with an apoftrophe to the infant Bap-
tift, as one who was defigned by provi-
dence to be the precurfor of fuch a
Saviour, and the publifher of fuch fal-
vation.

9. " And thou child fhalt be called
" the prophet of the Higheft,
" for thou fhalt go before the
" face of the Lord, to prepare
" his ways ;



10. " To give knowlege of falvation
" unto his people for the remif-
*' iion of their fins "

"THE law prophefied until John,"
who fucceeded it in it's office of point-
ing out the MefTiah, and fpake the lan-
guage of it's inftitutions, when he faid,
" Behold the Lamb of God, which
" taketh away' the fin of the world/'
E Re-



34 Conjiderations on the Life and Death

SECT. II." Remimon of fins" is the doctrine in
"V^ which the Chriftian religion juftly glo-
rieth, as that moft neceffary and funda-
mental point, in which every other re-
ligion fails. The heathen confefTeth
himfelf to be in the dark j he guefTeth
only what is the will of God, whom
he knoweth not. He hath not ftrength
to perform what he imagineth to be
fuch ; and he underftandeth not the
meaning of the facrifices and luftrations
derived to him by tradition. The blood
of bulls and goats cannot wa(h away
the fins of the Jew -, and his oblations,
lince the truth is come, which they
were intended to prefigure, are pre-
pofterous, and impious. The Maho-
metan hath no evidence for the miffion
of his prophet, no argument for his re-
ligion but the fword, and no heaven
but fenfe. The doctrine of " falvation
" by the remiffion of fins," through
faith in a Redeemer, was, from the be-
ginning, the fum and fubftance of true
religion, which fubfifted in promife,
prophecy, and figure, till John preached
their accomplifhment in the perfon of
Jejiis. Paganifm was a corruption of it

before



of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 35

before that time, as Mahometifm hath SECT.H.
been fince ; and modern Judaifm is an
apoftafy from it. And will Chriftians
go away, and forfake their Redeemer ?
To whom can they go ? He hath the
words of eternal life : he only can give
" falvation by the remiffion of fins." It
is this religion which enlightens the un-
derftanding with true knowlege, and
warms the heart with true charity : it
is this which alone brings confidence,
and. comfort, and joy, and bids fear and
defpondency fly away : it is this which
raifes the foiil, as it were, from the
dead, puts new vigour into all her
powers and faculties, and animates her
to duty, by the powerful motives it
fuggefteth : it is this which is a coun-
terbalance to the temptations of fenfe,
by the promifes made to our faith ;
which fupports the infirmity of nature
by the glorious objects propofed to our
hope ; and which triumphs over the
oppofition of the world, by the love of
God med abroad in our hearts : it pro-
cures us the only folid happinefs there
is in this world, and opens a way to the
felicities of the next : it holds him out
E 2 to



3 6 Confiderations on the Life and Death

SECT. II. to us, who is our " fhield" on earth, and
will be our " exceeding great reward" in
heaven ; who " guides us with his
<c counfel, and will, after that, receive
" us to glory Whom have we in
" heaven, O Lord, but thee ; and there
" is none upon earth we can defire in
" companion of thee a ! "

11. " Through the tender mercy
" of our God; whereby the day-
" fpring from on high hath vi-
" fited us,

12. " To give light to them that fit
" in darknefs, and in the fhadow
" of death, to guide our feet
" into the way of peace."

St. yobn was the morning-ftar, that
preceded the fun of righteoufnefs at his
rifing - y an event, the glory of which is
due to " the tender mercy of our God,"
fince towards the production of it man
could do no more than he can do towards
caufing the natural fun to rife upon the
earth. The blefled effects of the day-

* Pfalin Ixxiii. 24.

fpring



of St. JOHN Afc BAPTIST. 37

fpring which then dawned from on SECT. II.
high, and gradually increafed more and
more unto the perfect day, were the
difperfion of ignorance, which is the
darknefs of the intellectual world ; the
awakening of men from fin, which is
the lleep of the foul ; and the conver-
fion and direction of their hearts and
inclinations into " the way of peace,"
that is, of reconciliation to God by the
blood of Chrift, to themfelves by the
anfwer of a confcience cleanfed from
lin, and to one another by mutual love.
" Happy is the people that is in fuch a
" cafe j yea, happy is the people, whofe
" God is the Lord. They are the
" children of the light and of the
" day. Their fun mall no more go
" down, neither (hall their moon \vith-
" draw itielf ; for the Lord {hall be un-
" to them an everlafting light, and the
" days of their mourning fliall be
" ended."



SEC-



38 Confederations on the Life and Death






SECTION III.

Confederations on St. John'j education in
the defarts.




we have con-

cerning St. John, from the time
of his birth to that of his public ap-
pearance, is contained in the few fol-
lowing words " And the child grew,
" and waxed ftrong in fpirit, and was
" in the defarts till the day of his (hew-
" ing unto Ifrael a ." There, apart from
the world, and under the tuition of
heaven, he was catechized in the prin-
ciples of divine wifdom, initiated into
the myftery of a holy life, and perfected
in the difcipline of felf-denial -,

'The mofs his bed, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the chryftalwell :
Remote from man, with God he pafs'd the days,

Prafr all his bus'nefs, all his pleafure praife.



PA R N E L L.

Lujce i. 80.

THIS



cf St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 39

TH i s difpenfation in the cafe of theSecrJlL
Baptift, like many others relative to the - / ~v~* J
prophets, was extraordinary and mira-
culous ; confequently, not to be literally
copied by any one, but in fimilar cir-
cumftances, and under a fupernatural
direction. Nor has the monadic fcheme
the fanction of fo great an example ; as
St. "John was under the obligation of no
vow, but having linimed his preparation
in folitude, came forth to a<5l his part
upon the theatre of the world. And it
is well known, that, even in thofe ages
when mankind flood aftonimed at the
auiterities pradtifed by reclufes and ere-
mites , the epifcopal or facerdotal
character was reckoned as much fupe-
rjor to the other, as charity is better
than contemplation. " In folitude,"
faith a great mafter of this fubjecl:, " a
" man may go to heaven by the way of
" prayer and devotion ; but in fociety
" he carries others with him by the
" way of mercy and charity. In foli-
" tude there are fewer temptations, but
" then there is likewife the exercife of
" fewer virtues. Solitude is a good
" fchool, and the world the befl theatre.

" The



4.0 Confederations on the Life and T)eath

SECT.III. " The inflitution is beft there, the
practice here. The wildernefs hath
" the advantage of difcipline, but fo-
" ciety furnimeth the opportunities of
" perfection." To confirm this judi-
cious Hate of the cafe, it may be ob-
ferved, that the only perfect life which
hath ever been led on earth, was a
mixture of the folitary and focial. Our
Lord himfelf pafTed thirty years in the
privacy of Nazaretb t and then appeared
in public to exercife his miniftry ,- but
ftill not without frequent intervals of
retirement. *' It was in folitude that
" he kept his vigils ~, the defart places
" heard him pray 5 in the wildernefs he
" vanquimed Satan ; upon a mountain
*' apart he was transfigured." But in
public he preached the Gofpel, ami
converted fouls; in public he healed
the fick, and caft out devils ; in public
he fuffered, and, while he redeemed the
world, fet it a pattern of humility, pa-
tience, and charity.

FROM the circumftance of St. yobns
education in the defarts we may, there-
fore, venture to draw a conclofion which
will be of general ufe, with regard to

all



6/ St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 41

all minifters of the Gofpel, viz. thatSEc-r.iir.
the folitary way of life is neceffary
^qualify them for the offices of the fo-
cial y or, that he who would ferve God
acceptably in public, muft firft prepare
himfelf for that purpofe in private.
The reafon is, becaufe no man is pro-
perly qualified to teach ivifdom and holi-
ncfs y who doth not himfelf poflefs them.
And a little reflection will convince us,
how needful retirement is for the ac-
quifition of both.

THE toils undergone by all who
have ever made any great proficiency in
wijdom, plainly prove clofe application
and deep attention to be requifite for
it's attainment. And they who imagine
themfelves to have difcovered a morter
way, conducting them to it without
ftudy, will find, fooner or later, that
they have miilaken their road. " Hardly
" do we guefs aright at things that are
" upon earth, and with labour do we
" find the things that are before us a :"
mall we then expect a knowlege of
thofe which are of a high and fpiritual
nature, without any labour at all ? The

Wifdom. ix. 16.

F pro-



A 2 Confederations on the Life and Dtath

SECT.III. prophets themfelves " enquired and
" fearched diligently what things the
" fpirit of Chrift, which was in them,,
" did fignifyV The royal Preacher,


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Online LibraryGeorge HorneConsiderations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist → online text (page 2 of 7)