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endued from above with " largenefs of
" heart as the fand upon the fea more,"
yet took pains, and thofe no flight ones,
in the invention and difpofition of his
difcourfes. For, " in order to teach the
" people knowlege, he gave good heed,
" and fought out and fet in order many
" proverbs ; yea, the preacher fought
" to find out acceptable words, words
" of uprightnefs and truth b ." And if
Solomon were not exempted from ftudy
and meditation, no other man can have
any title to hope for fuch a privilege.

BUT who mall be able to fix his at-
tention, amidft the hurry and diflipa-
tion of life ? Who can meditate on
wifdom, with the noife of folly found-
ing inceflantly in his ears ? That bleffed
perfon, who could fuffer no diffraction
of thought from the objects around
him, withdrew from the multitude, that
he might teach us to do the fame, who,

a i Pet. i. 10.
k Ecclef. xii. 9.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 43

alas, are often unable, when alone, to SECT.III,
confine our thoughts, for a few minutes
together, to one fubjecl. The world,
like Martha, is " troubled about many
" things," and moft about thofe which
are of leaft concern ; fo that, befides
the profane, the unfeemly, and un-
charitable difcourfes, which they muft
hear who are much converfant with it,
the mind of a man fufTers not a little
from the variety of light and unprofit-
able converfation in which he is fre-
quently engaged. This fcatters the
thoughts, and fo indifpofes them for any
fpeculations that are great and noble,
fublime and facred, that fome time is
required to reduce the wanderers, to
compofe the fpirits, and to reitore that
tranquillity of foul which is indifpen-
fably neceffary for the profecution of
religious enquiries. And although the
general afTertion of a famous reclufe,
" that he always came out of company
" a worfe man than he went into it,"
favoureth too much of the cloifter, yet
whoever, as the world goes, mould di-
ligently note the times when he came
out of company a better man than he
F 2 went

44 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT. ill. went into -it, might, perhaps, find his
diary contained in a lefs compafs, than,
at prefent he is apt to imagine.

CERTAIN, however, it is, that for
the productions of wifdom we are in-
debted to folitude, as the parent of at-
tention. And therefore many, in all
ages, have followed St. John into the
wildernefs, and chofen retirement, not
out of any morofenefs of temper, or
mifanthropy, but that they might give
themfelves, without let or moleftation,
to the purfuit of divine knowlege. In
this Situation, they found themfelves al-
ways at liberty to chufe their compa-
nions. They could converfe at pleafure
with patriarchs and prophets, apoftles,
martyrs, and confefTors, with devout
and learned bimops, and others, who
once adorned the church by their lives,
and have continued, fince their deaths,
through many generations, to edify her
by their writings. Here they could
rally their fcattered thoughts, and fix
them upon fubjecfts, whence they might
extract real profit, and durable pleafure.
For meditations, while employed, in a
general and curfory way, upon a variety


r. vf St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 45

of objects* like the rays of light diffu- SECT. ill.
fed in the air, difcover not the force and
activity which they pofTefs ; it is clofe
attention which collects and unites, and
renders them operative. And an ability
to beflow that clofe attention in a crowd,
is granted to very few among the fons
of men.

A DISPASSIONATE and unprejudiced
ftate of mind is another requifite for the
attainment of true wifdom. And as our
fentiments take the tincture of our com-
pany, perfons continually engaged in
the world are very liable to be corrupt-
ed, as well as diffipated. He who paff-
eth his time with men of bafe and an-
tifcriptural tenets, will infenfibly be-
come one of them, and will find, when
it is too late, that " evil communications
" corrupt" good principles, as well as
' good manners." The understanding
will be blinded, and the heart hardened :
wifdom will be fhut out at every avenue;
and the man will fit down in darknefs
and depravity, for the remainder of his
days, determining with himfelf that
there is no fuch thing as truth, without
ever being at the trouble of making the


46 Conjideratlons on the Life and Death

SECT.III. enquiry. Happy, therefore, is he who,
St. John, fpendeth his early days
in privacy, and there acquainteth him-
felf betimes with the excellencies and
perfections of divine wifdom. For
" Wifdom is glorious, and never fadeth
" away ; yea, me is eafily feen of them
" that love her, and found of fuch as
" feek her. She preventeth them that
" defire her, in making herfelf firft
" known unto them. Whofo feeketh
" her early mail have no great travel,
" for he mall find her fitting at his
" doors 3 ."

UPON the fame principle, we may
account it one of the no fmall advan-
tages which St. Jofai enjoyed by his re-
treat into the wildernefs, that he was
thereby delivered from the vain jang-
lings of the many religious fefts and
factions, at that time in Judea. For
the authors and abettors of fuch are na-
tflrally confined in their views, and ob-
ftrufted in their fearch after truth, by
having afTumed it for a firft principle,
that " they are the men, and that wif-
" dom inuft needs live and die with

a Wifdom. vi. 12.

" them."

.of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 47

" them." Hence they become moreSECT.m.
felicitous about the defence of their own
particularities againft thofe of other fec-
taries, than careful to advance and pro-
pagate the general principles of true re-
ligion. This hath been but too much
the cafe for fome time paft in Chriften-
dom, which, like Jerufalem before it's
deftruction, is crumbled into innumer-
able parties, biting and devouring one
another -, infomuch that it is now diffi-
cult for one writer to lay down a poli-
tion in theology, which another mall
not immediately fet himfelf to contro-
vert with all his might, as heretical and
antichriftian. The difpute foon becomes
a trial of (kill, and the paffions and pre-
judices of the combatants fpread a cloud
over the queftion, in which truth and
charity often vanifh together. Thus
dark and tempeftuous are thefe lower
regions. But, by ftudy and meditation
in folitude, the Chriftian, in heart and
mind, afcendeth to a purer element,
from whence he beholdeth the florins
produced by contending factions far be-
neath him, and expatiateth at pleafure
in thofe fields of light and ferenity,


48 Confederations on the Life

SECT.III. which open themfelves on all fides to
view. He confoleth himfelf by
contemplating the church, as {he for-
merly fubfifted in original purity and
unity, and as me will hereafter exift in
her triumphant ftate above, when her
members of every age and nation mail
all lift up their voices together, and
make their found to be heard as one, in
giving Glory to God, and to the Lamb.
Difencumbered of paffions and preju-
dices, he followeth after the truth which
leadeth to godlinefs, and the wifdom
whofe end is falvation.

Fo R the attainment of that wifdom
a third thing requifite is divine illumi-
nation. Wifdom is one of thofe " good
" and perfect gifts," which " come
" down from the Father of lights," and
muft be fued for, with humility and
fervour, in petitions like thefe-* "Give
" me wifdom that fitteth by thy throne,
"and reject me not from among thy
" children For though a man be
" never fo perfect among the children
" of men, yet if thy wifdom be not
" with him, he mall be nothing re-
" garded O fend her out of thy holy

" heavens,

of St. Jo'HN.t&e BAPTIST. 49

c heavens, and from the throne of
glory, that being prefent fhe may la-
" hour with me, that I may know what
" is pleafmg unto thee. For me know-
" eth and underftandeth all things, and
" me mall lead me foberly in my do-
" ings, and preferve me by her power
" For what man is he that can
" know the counfel of God ; or who
" can think what the will of the Lord
" is, except thou give wifdom, and fend
" thy Holy Spirit from above a ? " Such
gracious promifes are made, and are
ready to be fulfilled to the retired Chrif-
tian. Let but the pollutions and dif-
tradtions of the world be removed, and
the wifdom which " is firft pure, and
" then peaceable," will enter in. To
receive the law, Mofes was called away
from the congregation to the top of the
mount. Ezekiel beheld the vifions of
God, while a folitary captive upon the
banks of Cbebar. Daniel was informed
concerning the reftoration of Jerufalem,
and the advent of Meffiah, on the even-
ing of a day dedicated to retirement,
for the purpofes of fafting and prayer.
a WifH. ix. 4.

G St. John

50 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.UI. St. 'John was an exile in the defolate
*v^ ' Patmos, when the glorious fcenes de-
fcribed in the book of Revelation were
made to pafs before him, and he was
enabled to extend his view, through all
the different revolutions of empires, and
periods of the church, to the end of
time. And although we no more look
for vilions and revelations from heaven,
yet from thence we expect, according
to the mod fure promife of our Mafter,
the gift of the Spirit, to blefs and pro-
fper us in our ftudies, to open to us the
fcriptures, and our underftandings, that
we may underftand them. The fame
Spirit that gave the word, giveth like-
wife the interpretation thereof. And the
latter, as well as the former, is beft re-
ceived in folitude, which appears to be
thus admirably calculated for the attain-
ment of wifdom, as it requireth ftudy
and attention, a difpaffionate and un-
prejudiced mind, and that illumination
which is from on high.

SIN, in the language of fcripture, is
ftyled folly, to intimate to us, that true
ivifdom and holinefs are infeparable
companions. That, therefore, which


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. r x

conduceth to the acquifition of one, SECT. III.
can never bear an unfavourable afpect
towards the other ; and folitude will be
found the beft nurfe of fanftity, more
particularly as it confifteth in the exer-
cife of mortification.

TH i s is a work which no man can
fet about, until he knoweth what thofe
failings are, to which he is fubjedt. And
fuch is the power of felf-love, that the
perfon concerned is generally the laft
who comes to a knowlege of this moft
important point. If neither the fidelity
of his friends nor the malice of his ene-
mies let him into the fecret, there is
only a third way in which it is poflible
for him to become matter of it, which
is felf-examination, conftantly, fincerely,
and thoroughly practifed. And this re-
quireth ftated feafons of retirement ;
for want of which, we fee thofe, who
are engaged in a circle of bufinefs, or
pleafures, living entire ftrangers to them-
felves and their own infirmities, though
intimately acquainted with the follies
and foibles of all around them. " In
" the night," the pfalmift tells us, he
t " communed with his own heart, and
G 2 " his

52 Conjiderations on the Life and Death

SECT.III. " his fpirit made diligent fearch V
Then filence and folitude afforded him
an opportunity of fcrutinizing the tem-
pers of his foul, of difcovering the ma-
ladies to which he was inclined, and of
applying the proper remedies to each.

THAT medicines may be admini-
ftered with fuccefs, it is necefTary to cut
off the provifions, which nourim and
increafe the diforder. The world, in
the cafe before us, is full of fuch pro-
vifions ; and therefore the patient muft
withdraw, for a while, from the in-
fluence of it's temptations. " Where
"no wood is, the fire goeth out b ."
Remove the object, and the paflion will
by degrees die away. In folitude, the
pleafures and glories of the world no
longer ilrike upon the fenfes, and foli-
cit the affections. The foul, therefore,
In this fituation, like one efcaped out of
a battle to a place of fecurity, hath
leifure to reflect upon her condition, and
to provide for her future fafety. By
looking into herfelf, me perceiveth how
much me flandeth in need of mercy

Pf. lxxvii.6.
b Prov. xxvi, 20.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 53

and grace; and then me is naturally SECT.IU.
led to look up to heaven, as the onl"
place from whence they are to be ob-
tained. The former of thefe profpects
filleth her with compunction, and caufeth
her to mourn for her fins with that
godly forrow which worketh a repent-
ance never to be repented of j the latter
encourageth her to pour forth herfelf in
continual prayer to the God of her fal-
vation, until he have mercy upon her.
St. Peter, when reminded of his offence
by the crowing of the cock, and the
affectionate look of an abjured Matter,
went out from the high prieft's hall
where he was, and in folitude, with
ftrong crying and tears, made fupplica-
tion for pardon and peace. In retire-
ment it is, that we find ourfelves beft
able to practife all the holy arts of ab-
ftinence and felf-denial, fo needful for
the perfecting repentance by mortifying
the whole body of lin.

WH E N men cannot be induced vo-
luntarily to take this courfe, they are
often forced into it by Providence vifit-
ing them with fome heavy calamity,
which by a ilroke, like the amputation


54 Confederations on the Life and Death

.of a limb, fevere but falutary, fepara-
J ting them at once from the world, mall
oblige them to converfe firft with them-
felves, and then with God. Thus was
Babylon 's haughty monarch driven, in an
extraordinary manner, from fociety, to
learn humility in the fields and woods,
until he acknowledged the power and
the righteoufnefs f the King of heaven.
And thus the idolatrous and fuperla-
tively wicked Manajfeh became a fincere
and hearty penitent in the folitude of a
Chaldean -prifon. Nor can we but ad-
mire, upon this occafion, the wifdom
and goodnefs of God in fending fick-
nefs, as a preparative for death. Sick-
nefs takes a man, as it were, out of
this fcene of things, to fit him for an-
other. It draws the curtain between
him and the world, {hutting out all it's
cares, and all it's pleafures. It puts
away his idle and noify acquaintance
far from him ; and having thus fecured
his attention to the one thing needful,
gives him ideas of the nature of fin, and
the importance of death, the vanities
of time, and the glories of eternity, to
which he was before an utter ftranger.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 55

Now appear to him, in their proper SECT. nr.
colours and natural deformity, the dia-
bolical nature of pride and envy, the
brutality of intemperance, the folly and
torment of lafcivioufnefs, the wretched-
nefs of avarice, and the ftupidity of
iloth. Now he hath no longer any un-
lawful defires, and grieves that he ever
had fuch. Now he is what he always
ought to have been, and what retire-
ment, at proper feafons, mould and
would have made him.

IN morality, as in hufbandry, the
preparation of the foil is a great ftep
towards the production of a plentiful
harveft. If carnal defires are dead in
us, all things belonging to the Spirit
will live and grow in us. If the affec-
tions are difengaged from things on
earth, the difficulty of the work is over ;
they will readily and eagerly lay hold on
things above, when propofed to them.
If the fnare of concupifcence be broken,
and the foul be delivered out of it, me
will prefently fly away, on the wings
of faith and charity, towards heaven.
They who have duly praftifed mortifi-
cation in the fchool of retirement, will,

at '

56 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.III. at their appearance in the world, afford
it the brighter! examples of every thing
that is " honeft, juft, pure, lovely, and
" of good report."

WE may, therefore, conclude, that
he who defires to undertake the office
of guiding others in the ways of ivif-
dom and bolinefs, will beft qualify him-
felf for that purpofe by firft pafling fome
time in a flate of fequeftration from the
world -, where anxious cares and delu-
five pleafures may not break in upon
him, to diflipate his attention \ where
no fceptical or feftarian fpirit may blind
his understanding, and nothing may
obftrucl: the illumination from above ;
where every vicious inclination may be
mortified through grace, by a prudent
application of the proper means ; and
every frem bud of virtue, fheltered from
noxious blafts, may be gradually reared
up into ftrength, beauty, and fragrance;
where, in a word, " he may grow and
" wax ftrong in fpirit, until the day of
" his fhewing unto Ifrael."




Conjiderations on the Prophecies relcftive
to St. John in the Old Teftament.

E FORE we proceed to view theSEcr.iv.
Baptift in the exercife of his mi-
ni ftry, it will be proper to look back
to the predictions in the Scriptures of
the Old Teftament, concerning his of-
fice and character. We mall begin
with that remarkable one, " Behold, I
ft will fend you Elijah the prophet, be-
" fore the coming of the great and
" dreadful- day of the Lord. And he
" ill all turn the heart of the fathers to
*' the children, and the heart of the
" children to their fathers, left I come,
" and fmite the earth with a curfe V

A s there was amongft the Jews a
general expectation of Memah's appear-
ance, at the time when he did appear,
fo an opinion likewife prevailed, that
the world mould be firft prepared for
his reception, in ibmc extraordinary
8 Mai. iv. 5, 6.

H manner.

r8 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.IV. manner. But wrong ideas of his ap-
earance and kingdom introduced mif-
takes with regard to the perfon who
mould precede and proclaim him. Ac-
cording to the notions then current, oc-
cafioned by applying to his firft advent
the prophecies which belonged to his
fecond, Meffiah was to come in power
and majefty, to confer on the fons of
'Jacob dominion over the Gentiles, and
make Jerufalem the metropolis of the
world. And by mifunderftanding this
prediction of Malacbi y they had ima-
gined, that Elijah the T^ijhbite mould
return from heaven, as his precurfor.
For this reafon it was, that when the
fanhedrim fent a mefTage to St. John,
deliring to know, whether he were
Elias ? he anfwered, " I am not :" not
the Elias by them intended and expect-
ed. But that St. John was the perfon
foretold by Malachi under the name of
Elias, we have the declarations of our
Lord himfelf to his own difciples,
" Elias is indeed come 3 /' and to the
Jews, " If ye will receive it, this is
'* Elias which was for to come. He

* Mark ix.

" that

of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 59

" that hath ears to hear, let him hear*." SECT.IY.
By thefe expreffions it was evidently
(Thrift's intention to put his hearers up-
on the fearch after fomething more than
the words, in the bare letter of them,
might feem to contain. He directed
them to go deeper into things, to ftudy
with attention the mimon of the Bap-
tift, his office and character; to com-
pare together perfons, times, and events;
and fo to difcover, in what fenfe John
was Ellas, and why Malachi had given
him that appellation. But if they did
this, and were once brought, in the
perfon of John, to acknowledge Ellas _
who was to precede the Median, they
muft necefTarily, in the perfon of Jefus,
acknowledge the Mem ah whom Ellas
was to precede. And therefore, as they
were obftinately refolved not to own the
Matter, Chriil knew they would not
recognize the fervant, or receive this
faying concerning him. Thus when
the chief priefts and elders interrogated
our Lord in the temple, " By what au-.
" thority doft thou thefe things , or
' who gave thee this authority ? I will

a Matt. xi. 14.

H 2 " alfo,"

60 Conf derations on the Life and Death

SFCT.IV. alfo," faid he, " afk you one queftion,
The bapti-in of John, tarts it from
" heaven, or of men ?" They perceived
the dilemma, and having considered
confequences, made the only Jlife an-
fwer, " We cannot tell a $" an anfwer
which did honour to their prudence and
their caution, but certainly at the ex-
pence either of their wifdom, or their
honefly. As fitting in the chair of
Mofes, they ought to have known whence
the baptifm of John was ; and if they
did know, they ought not to have been
my of declaring it.

THAT St. John was the EKas pre-
dicted by Malachiy we have alfo the tef-
timony of the angel b , at the annuntia-
tion of his birth, who cites the very
words of the prophet ; " He mall go
" before him in the fpirit and power of
" Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers
" to the children" &c. And if this be
the cafe, it follows by necerTary infe-
rence, that by " the great and dreadful
" day of the Lord," before the coming
of which Elijah is promiicd, Malachi

a Matt. xxi. 23.
" Luke i. -.


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 61

intends, primarily and immediately, theSEcr.lV.
day, not of the world's, but of Jem-
fa/em's deftruclion. For want of advert-
ing to this, an opinion hath prevailed
among Chriftian interpreters, that the
whole prophecy relateth principally to
the day of judgment, and to the appear-
ance of an Elias, who (hall then pre-
cede Chrift. Whether there will be
fuch an Elias at that time, and fo the
fecond advent will fymbolize with the
firft in the circumftance of being pre-
vioufly proclaimed by a harbinger, like
St. John, fent for that purpofe, is a fpe-
culation with which we fhail not at pre-
fent concern ourfelves, reding fatisfied
with the application of the prophecy,
upon infallible grounds, to the perfon
of the Baptift, the undoubted forerun-
ner of our Lord, when he came to vilit
us in great humility.

GOD punifheth not finners, till he
hath nrft invited them to repentance.
He giveth fair warning before he ftrik-
eth ; and a day of grace, in which mercy
may be fought, and pardon found, al-
ways goeth before a day of vengeance
and extermination. Elias was fent " be-

" fore

6 2 Conjiderations on the Life and Death

SECT.IV. fore the coming of the great and
d read f u ] day of the Lord;" John call-
ed his countrymen to turn from their
fins, and believe in their Meffiah, e'er
yet the defolations of Jertifalem exhibit-
ed to the wondering nations a fpecimen
of that almighty power and inflexible
juftice, which mall one day lay the
world itfelf in ruins.

TH E third chapter of Malachi con-
taineth a moft evident and clear pre-
diction of Meffiah's advent, with that
of his precurfor St. ''John. " Behold, I
ff will lend my meflenger, and he (hall
" prepare the way before me ; and the
" Lord whom ye feek ihall fuddenly
" come to his temple, even the meffen-
" ger of the covenant whom ye delight
" in : behold he mall come, faith the
" Lord of hofts." The prophet goes
on to foretell the effects of (Thrift's ad-
vent in the feleclion of a peculiar peo-
ple, and the purification of a new prieft-
hood, to offer new and acceptable of-
ferings. " But who may abide the day
" of his coming, and who (hall ftand,
" when he appeareth ? For he is like a
" refiner's fire, and like fuller's foap.


cf St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 63

" And he fhall fit as a refiner and puri- SBCT.IV*
" fier of filver ; and he fhall purify the
" fons of Levi, and purge them as gold
" and filver, that they may offer unto
" 'the Lord an offering in righteoufnefs.
" Then mall the offering of Judah and
*' Jerufalem be pleafant unto the Lord,
" as in the days of old, and as in for-
" mer years;" pleafant as in the days
when their fathers offered in faith, and
the defire of Meffiah's appearance was
the ruling paffion of their fouls. The
reft of the chapter is employed in re-
proving the rebellion, facrilege, and in-
fidelity of the Jews ; and the fourth
chapter opens with a defcription of the
day fatal to Jerufalem " Behold the
" day cometh that fhall burn as an oven,
" and all the proud, yea and all that do
" wickedly mall be ftubble, and the day
" that cometh fhall burn them up, faith
" the Lord of hofts, that it fhall leave
" them neither root nor branch." For
the confolation of the faithful, God by
his prophet again foretelleth Mefiiah's
advent, with the increafe, victory, and
triumph of the church "But unto
" you that fear my name, fhall the SUN


64 Cotifiderations on the Life


f ^^ " healing in his wings ; and ye fhall go
" forth, and grow up as the firftlings
*' of bullocks : and ye fhall tread down
" the wicked, for they fhall be aflies
" under the foles of your feet, in the

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