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that inflicted it. The Almighty had
conftituted the prophet his vicegerent,
and enjoined the elements to fecond him
in the work of reformation. Ahab and
his fubje&s, inftead of confulting //-
jah about the removal of their calami-
ties, regarded him as the occaiion of
them, and the fole " troubler of Ifrael.'*
At the command of God, he prefents
himfelf before the king, and tells him

* See \ Kings xvii, & xviii.


88 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.V. plainly, " Thou art the man." Ifrael is
convened at mount Carmel, and reproved.
" Why halt ye between two opinions ?
" If Jehovah be God, follow him. But
" if Baal, then follow him." The falfe
prophets appear on the fide of Baal and
his kindred idols, to the number of nine
hundred and fifty : on the fide of the
true God, 'Elijah ftands fingle. The
trial is made, and the grand queftion
determined by a vifible token of the di-
vine prefence. The nation returns to
it's duty, idolatry is punilhed in it's vo-
taries, the heaven gives rain, and the
earth brings forth her increafe.

O N the banks of Jordan we behold,
in the perfon of St. John*, another
Elijah, reproving the people of Ifrael,
again departed from the Lord their
God, while fome, as the Pharifees, were
hypocrites, and others, as the Saddu-
cees, were unbelievers. Equally a
ftranger to fear and partiality, and en-
dued with a prophetical power of dif-
cerning that ferpentine fubtlety and ma-
lignity which lurked under a fpecious
outfide, he rebukes them fharply, if by

Sec Matt. iii. /, &c.


Ji^B&%U^ ^/ T> >

of St. JOHN the BAPTIST.

any means he might convince them of SECT. v.
fin, and lead them to true repentance.
" O generation of vipers, who hath
" warned you to flee from the wrath to
" come ? " You, who feem to have
taken porTdfion of the inheritance, as
if Meffiah would never appear to claim
it ; you, who truft in yourfelves that
you are righteous, and defpife others;
come you to me, to be baptized with
publicans and linners ? What can be
the reafon of all this ? What can be
your motive ? The buiinefs in hand is
not one to be trirled with. Hypocrify
has no place here ; nor will the exter-
nal (hew, without the internal work,
in this cafe, avail to any thing, but
condemnation. " Bring forth therefore
" fruits meet for repentance :" be not
barren, but " bring forth ," bring forth
not leaves only, or fair profeffions, pro-
mifes, and defigns, but " fruits," or
good deeds ; and fuch as may be " wor-
" thy" of the tree on which they grow;
fuch as may advance to maturity, and
ripen into holinefs. " And think not
* to fay within yourfelves, We have
" Abraham to our father :" many will
M here-

oo Confiderations on the Life and Death

SECT.V. hereafter fay that, to little purpofe. A
defcent from the loins of Abraham will
profit none, but thofe who are like A-
braham. His true children are reckoned
by faith, not confanguinity. Imagine
not that the favour of heaven is heredi-
tary and indefeaiible in the line of Abra-
ham according to the flefh, or that the
divine promifes mutt fail, if not made
good to you ; " for I fay unto you, that
" God is able of thefe ftones to raife up
'<* children unto Abraham j" by the
power of his grace he can make con-
verts of nations at prefent utterly bar-
ren, unfruitful, obdurate, who mall in-
herit the bleffing which you reject. Nor
let the confideration, that Mefliah has
fo long delayed his coming, induce you
to be carelefs and negligent : " for now


" is the ax laid to the root of the tree:"
believe me, he is at hand j your trial
will foon be over, and your fate deter-
mined ; the decilive and irremediable
ftroke will be itruck, if not prevented
by a timely repentance, a fpeedy and
real change of heart and manners ;
" every tree which bringeth not forth
" good fruit (hall be cut down and caft

" into

of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 01


" into the fire." Hitherto God hath SECT.V.
born with your errors and iniquities,
but he will do fo no longer. The law
hath been given, and the prophets have
been fent ; but they are not regarded ;
and therefore he is coming, after whom
no other meflenger is to be expected
from above. He will be the Saviour of
all, who, from a fenfe of their fins,
mall be ready to embrace him as fuch.
I am not that perfon, but the leaft and
lowefl of his fervants, fent before to
give notice of his approach, and pre-
pare you to receive him. "I indeed
" baptize you with water unto repent-
" ance ;" but it is he who muft grant
remimon of fins repented of; " he that
" cometh after me is mightier than I,
" whofe fhoes I am not worthy to bear;"
he brings with him almighty power
from on high, to pardon fins, and con-
. fer grace; " he mall baptize you with
" the Holy Ghofl and with fire," to
fanctify your natures, to purify, en-
lighten, and inflame your hearts with
the defire and love of celeftial objects.
At his appearance, he will try and make
manifeft the tempers and difpofitions of
M 2 men.

Q2 Confidemtions on the Life and Death

SECT.V. men. Deceit and hypocrify mall not
and before him. " His fan is in his
" hand, and he will throughly purge
" his floor," fifting and winnowing that
which is good from that which feems
to be fo; " and he will gather his wheat
" into his garner," tranllate to heaven
all that is pure, fubftantial, and fruit-
ful ; " but he will burn up the chaff,"
whatfoever is fallacious, light, empty,
and barren, " with unquenchable fire,"
in hell.

SUCH a difcourfe from fuch a perfon
occafioned great fearchings in the hearts
of the people. They found all the vain
opinions and prefumptions, on which
they had been accuitomed to rely, fud-
denly taken from them, and nothing
left, but to put themfelves forthwith
under the direction of fo holy and hea-
venly a preacher. With fear and trem-
bling they applied to him, as the af-
frighted gaoler afterwards did to Paul
and Silas, faying, " What fhall we do
" then 3 ?" And when a penitent will
aik advice of his fpiritual guide, with
a determined refolution to follow it, he

* Luke ill. 10, &c.


cf St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 93

is not far from the kingdom of God. SECT.V.
He is fenfible of his difeafe -, and that,
in the maladies of the mind, is half the
cure. St. John, in his anfwer, enjoins
not legal, but evangelical facrifices, ex-
horting his converts to mew the fince-
rity of their converfion by loving their
neighbours, and relieving their necem-
ties, as God had loved and relieved
them. " He that hath two coats, le*
" him impart to him that hath none ;
" and he that hath meat let him do
" likewife." Thefe works of feeding
and clothing the poor, including all
other ads of mercy under them, are
mentioned, as being the moft neceflary
and indifpenfable ; and he, fays a pious
writer upon this pafTage, who is not
moved with hisj brother's mifery, de-
ferves to find God unmoved with his

AMONG others that came to be bap-
tized, were fome publicans, or tax-ga-
therers > a fet of men, whofe employ-
ment rendered them odious, as it often
tempted them to court the favour of
thofe who employed them, or to gra-
tify their own avarice, by fleecing the


94 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.V. people. Thefe alfo were importunate
with St. John, faying, And what (hall
" we do ? And he faid unto them,
*' Exact no more than that which is
" appointed you." The reflections of
the writer above-cited, upon this cafe
of the publicans, and the following one
of the foldiersy are fo extremely fen-
fible, judicious, and pertinent, that the
reader will have an obligation to me,
for prefenting him with them, nearly
as I find them. " A wife preacher, like
St. John, mould diftinguim the abufes
of any ftate or condition of life from
the condition itfelf -, he mould be fo far
from difturbing either the peace of pri-
vate confciences, or the public repofe,
by condemning neceflary employments,
that he ought carefully to promote both,
by contenting himfelf with only re-
trenching the diforders and injuftice
of thofe who exercife them. To be
exact in not permitting any abufes in
employments of this nature, is to ferve
the ftate : and thofe loofe cafuifts, who
allow and authorize them, are perni-
cious to governments, by rendering
thefe employments odious to the people,


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 95

by favouring their munnurings, by en- SECT.V.
couraging afts of injuftice, and thereby v ^ v ^
giving occafion to rebellion and revolt.
" And the foldiers demanded of him,
" faying, And what mall we do ? And
" he faid unto them, Do violence to no
" man, neither accufe any falfely, and
" be content with your wages." St.
"John here, in the lail place, regulates
the duties of military perfons, and mews,
that no condition is excluded from fal-
vation. The bufinefs of war is not in
itfelf at all oppofite thereto j fince there
have been not only chriiHanyo/^Vr-r, but
even great faints and generous martyrs
of that profeffion. If all war was con-
trary to the gofpel, St. John would not
have allowed thofe who prefented them-
felves before him to continue in that
ftate. However it is certainly full of
obftacles to falvation, which very few
furmount. A ftate, which is generally
embraced either out of paffion, or li-
bertinifm, or through a blind deftina-
tion of birth, the exercifes whereof are
fo violent and tumultuous, agrees but
little with the exercifes of chriftianity,
or the fpirit of the gofpel, which is all


96 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.V. peace, charity, and meeknefs. It is
notwithstanding juft and neceflary, that
there fhould be men to defend the ftate;
but it is ftill more juft and neceflary,
that this fhould not be done at the ex-
pence of falvation. The grace of God
can do every thing : this is what ought
to comfort thofe who intend to ferve
him in ferving their king and country."
ONE cannot but obferve the general
agreement and harmony which ieem to
have prevailed, at this time among men
otherwife of tempers and difpofitions
very different from, and oppofite to each
other. Jews and Gentiles, Pharifees
and Publicans, Sadducees and Soldiers,
all confefs their fins, and participate of
the fame baptifm, all ftruck with ap-
prehenfions of fome impending evil, all
flying from the wrath to come, forget-
ting their mutual hoflilities and anti-
pathies, and, like the creatures in the
days of Noah, taking refuge together
in the ark. As if the prophecy of Ifaiah
had now begun to receive it's accom-
pliihment, the publicans, who, before
the preaching of John, were ravenous
as evening " wolves," became as in-

of Sit. JOHN the BAPTIST. 97

flocent as the '* lamb." Tfie foldiers, SECT.V.
who had been formerly fierce and cruel ^-^V^V
as the '.' lion," became tame and tract-
able as the " ox," and fubmitted their
necks to the yoke of the gofpel. Such
of the Pharilees likewife, who, before
fheir baptiim, had been venomous as the
" afp," or " cockatrice," did, by the
worthy receiving of this baptifm, and
the grace which God gave them, be-
come mild and gentle as the " fucking
"infant," or " weaned child*."

Tj} E concord thus produced in Ju-
dea by the fermons of St. yohn, and
the tranquillity which the whole earth
jhen enjoyed, fitting quiet as it were in
Expectation of her Lord, betokened the
rnanifeftation of the Prince of peace.
!' Then cometh Jefus from Galilee to
" Jordan to John, to be baptized of
" him V After thirty years part in re-
tirement at Nazareth, the bleiTed Jefus
was now to break forth, like the fun
from a cloud, or a ftream from the
bowels of the earth, to enlighten man-

a See the Works of Dr Thomas Jackfon, ii. 522.
* Matt. iii. 13, &c.

N kind

98 Canfideratlons on the Life and Death

SECT.V. kind by his doctrine, and refrem them
with the influences of his grace. The
mighty concourfe of all ranks and de-
grees of people attending St. John at
the river Jordan, rendered that the fit-
teft place where he might firft mew
himfelf to the world. He who knew
no fin, but was to take away the fins of
all other men, prefented himfelf in the
crowd of iinners, as one of them, and
folicited " the baptifm of repentance,"
not that water might fanftify him, but
that he might " fanctify water to the
" myftical warning away of fin."

CONFOUNDED at the thought of the
Mafter being baptized by the fervant,
St. John at firft " forbad him, faying, I
" have need to be baptized of thee, and
" comeft thou to me ? And Jefus an-
" fwering faid unto him, Suffer it to be
" fo now, for thus it becometh us to
" fulfil all righteoufnefs. Then he fuf-
" fered him." Jefus Chrift, as con-
defcending to ftand charged with our
fins, and, to that end, being " made
" under the law a ," was to fulfil the
" righteoufnefs" of the law, as it con-

j/flGal. iv. 4.


of Sf. JOHN the BAPTIST. 99

lifted in an obedience to ceremonial SECT.V.
rites, as well as moral precepts. In the
character and capacity of our fubftitute,
he underwent circumcifion , although
he had no fm of his own to be cut off;
and received baptifm, although he had
no pollution of his own to be warned
away. What Chriftian can flight the or-
dinances of the church, when he fees
the Redeemer, for his fake, fubmitting
to obferve them all ?

N o fooner was Jefus baptized, but
he " came up ftraightway" out of the
river, like another Jofljua, leading his
people, through the waters of Jordan,
to the land of promife. And as he was
" praying," doubtlefs for fuccefs in the
great work he had undertaken, " Lo,
" the heavens were opened, and the
" Spirit of God," encompaffed, we may
prefume, with a blaze of glory, " def-
" cended in a bodily mape like a dove,"
fpeaking better things than that of
Noah. In this form, emblematical of
innocence and purity, it " lighted,"
fettled, and abode upon him, the Father
thus confecrating him to his office, by
" anointing him with the Holy Ghoft
N 2 " and

ib'd ConfideYatiom on the Life and

SECT.V. " and with power a ," as the legal mini-
were anointed with oil. And that
no doubt might remain, the appearance
was farther explained by " a voice from
" heaven, faying, " This is my beloved
" Son, in whom I am well pleafed."
Such are the bleflings which, in effect,
do always attend the divine facraments,
when duly adminiftered, with prayer.
For then the heavens are opened, anct
the Spirit is given, to conform us to the
image of a meek and holy Saviour, and,
through him, to make us acceptable in
the fight of God.

* Adb x. 38.


of /. JOHN the BAPTIST. 101


Confederations on the teftimony born by
Sf. John, at different times, to the
MeJ/iahfhip of Jefus.

WHEN a fervant of God, through SECT.VI.
the power of divine grace, hath
made fome proficiency in holihefs, and
feeth the world and the flefli under his
feet, it is not uncommon for his third
grand enemy, the devil, to fet upon
him, and prevail over him, by puffing
him up with a conceit of his own ex-
cellency, and fo rendering his very at-
tainments an occafion of his falling.
The hurt which a man receives, in fuch
a cafe, is proportionable to the height
from which he falls ; as hell was firft
prepared for the tempter himfelf, be-
caufe he fell from heaven.

I T is not, therefore, the leaft con-
fpicuous part of St. John's character,
that a fandtity fo extraordinary was not
in him accompanied with any degree of


IO2 Confiderattons on the Life and Death

SECT. vi. pride, a worm which often cankers
e faireft fruits that grow in the gar-
den of God. He heard his own praife
echoed from every quarter, and " all
" men," ftruck with admiration at what
was about to happen, " mufed in their
" hearts concerning him, whether he
"was the ChriftV Nay, the Sanhe-
drim, that they might be refolved in fo
important a point, fent a formal depu-
tation of " priefts and Levites from Je-
" rufalem, to enquire of him, Who art
" thou b ." As the Baptift was, at that
time, in high repute among his coun-
trymen, and as fecular defigns are fome-
times covered with fpiritual pretences*
it is not impoffible, but that they might
hope to natter him into an acknowledg-
ment of his being " fome great one,"
and to frame of him a Meffiah adapted
to their purpofes. But 'John was neither
ambitious of an honour which did not
belong to him, nor amamed of a Maf-
ter, who was about to appear in the
form of a fervant. He took no glory to
himfelf, but remitted it all where he

"* Luke iii. 15.

b John i. 19, &c. /


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 103

knew it to be due. " He confeffed, and SECT.VI.
" denied not, but confefled, I am not 1 ^^^
"the Chrift. And they afked him,
" What then ? Art thou Elias," that is,
Elijah the Tijhbite t whom they expected
to defcend from heaven ? " And he
" faith, I am not. Art thou o <ts&fy[rr,f 9
" the prophet," meaning probably " Je-
"remias, or one of the prophets,"
whom, as it appears by Matt. xvi. 14.
the Jews looked for to arife from the
dead. " And he anfwered, No."

To all thefe enquiries, made by the
priefts and Levites deputed from the
Sanhedrim, St. John returned anfwers
which were true, but concife as pof-
fible, that they might take no advan-
tage of his words, being aware that
they grew envious of his fame, jealous
for their own authority, and fearful of
a Meffiah, who would not anfwer their
hopes, by gratifying their avarice and
ambition. " Then faid they to him,
" Who art thou, that we may give an
" anfwer to them that fent us ? What
' fayeft thou of thyfelf ? He faid, I am
" the voice of one crying in the wilder-
" nefs, Make flraight the way of the

" Lord,

I 04 Confederations on the Life and Death

SECT.VI. " Lord, as faid the prophet Efaias."
his was informing them plainly
enough, that the prophecies were foon
to be accomplimed by the manifestation
of Meffiah, and that repentance, ac-
cording to his doctrine and baptifm, was
the only preparation fit and neceflary to
be made, for t^e reception of their

" They wjio were fent were of the
'.? Pharifees," and confequently could
not relifh tidings which put an end to
all their fchemes of temporal dominion,
and earthly grandeur, inculcating, in-
(lead of them, the duties of mortifica-
tion and felf-denial. This was not their
fyftem ; and many, in every age fince,
have been of the fame opinion, not
caring to receive Chrift, unlefs he carne
to them with the world in his hand.
Finding, therefore, that John had no
vanity to be worked upon, they had re-
courfe to other meaiurcs, and began to
difpute his ccmmirilon to baptize ;
*' They alked him, and faid unto him,
" Why baptizell thou then, if thou be
" not that Chriit, nor Elias, neither
that prophet ? "


of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 105

St. John's reply mews his own HU-SECT.VI.
mility, and, at the fame time, bears tef-
timony to the dignity of Jefus. " I in-
" deed baptize you with water j" my
baptifm, like my preaching, is prepa-
ratory only, leading to another baptifm
of the Spirit, which mail cleanfe the
fouls of penitents from every thing that
defileth, through faith in Meffiah and his
heavenly doctrine. And this Meffiahis not
afar off, as you may imagine him to be;
" there ftandeth one among you, whom
" ye know not ;" he appears like other
men, lowly, unattended, undiftinguifh-
ed 3 he doth not, as yet, think proper
to manifeft his power and glory ; but
hereafter you will find him to be far
other than he feerns. As to myfelf, of
whom fome are pleafed to entertain an
high opinion, I am nothing : " This is
" he, who, coming after me, is pre-
" ferred before me," as much as the
greateil mafler is before the meaneft of
his fervants, deemed unworthy to per-
form the lead office about his perfon ;
" the latchet of whofe fhoes I am not
" worthy to unloofe." This teftimony
did St. John give to the Saviour of the
O world,

1 06 Confiderations on the Lift and Death

SBCT.VL world, in the audience of the priefts,
and Levites, and the people, " at Betha-
" bara beyond Jordan, where he was
" baptizing." Intent upon humbling
himfelf, that his great Lord and Mafter
might be exalted, he declared himfelf a
meffenger only, fent to prepare his ways ;
and every thing in him, and about him,
fpoke the fame language.

" TH E next day," an opportunity
offered itfelf of pointing out the perfon
of Jefus to the people ; t( John feeth
" Jefus coming unto him," probably, to
acknowledge him as his friend, relation,
and precurfor -, " and faith, Behold the
" Lamb of God, which taketh away
" the fin of the world :" Behold that
blefled perfon prefigured in the law, and
foretold by the prophets ; one that is
all meeknefs and innocence, patience
and refignation, without offence in his
mouth, without guile or malice in his
heart, without fpot or blemifh in foul
or body ; the Lamb which Abraham
told his fon IJaac, that God would in
time provide ; the Lamb, by the fprink-
ling of whofe blood, true Ifraelites are
preferved from the deftroyer; the fa-


of St. JOHN -the BAPTIST. 207

crifice on which are laid the iniquities SECT. vj.
of us all ; the Saviour who, by expia-
ting, taketh away the iin of the world,
and conferreth righteoufnefs on them
that will believe in him, and accept it
from him, being conformed to his ex-
ample of meeknefs and lowlinefs. This,
O all ye that behold him, " this is he
" of whom I faid, after me cometh
" a man which is preferred before me,
" for he was," he exifted, ages " before
" me," even from the beginning ; he is
fairer than the children of men, full of
grace and truth, of divine glory, and
celeftial beauty.

T o guard againfl any fufpicion of
collufion 3 between two perfons, who,
as relations, might be fuppofed to act in
concert, and favour each other's pre-
teniions, St. yobn adds, " And I knew
" him not, but he that fent me to bap-
" tize with water, the fame faid unto
" me, Upon whom thou malt fee the
" Spirit defcending and remaining on

a See the impoffibility of any fuch collufion fully
demonftrated by the Reverend Mr. Be//, in his txaft
and elaborate Enquiry into tbe Divine Mijfions ef "John
tbe Baptifi and Jefus Cbrift.

O 2 "him,

io8 Confiderations on the Life and Death

SECT.VI. " him, the fame is he which baptizeth
.with the Holy Ghoft."
FROM this paflage we learn, that the
vifible defcent of the Spirit was the lign
given to St. "John, whereby he was to
know the JVleffiah. Jefus was brought
up at Nazareth -, and St.Jo/m was edu-
cated 'in the defarts ; and it feems to
have been fo ordered by Providence,
that no interview had pafled between
them, after they had arrived to years of
maturity. When Jefus, therefore, came
to be baptized, St. 'John had no know-
lege of his perfon. But, probably, on
making the enquiries, ufual at baptifm,
into his profeffion, name, and place of
abode, and finding likewife, that he
had no fins to confefs% as all others had,
he faw reafon fufficient to conclude, that
this was the Chrift ; which might oc-
caiion his apology, " I have need to be
"baptized of thee," &c. And then,
when Jefus came up out of the water,
the Spirit defcended, and put the mat-
ter beyond all doubt. I faw, and bare

a Sec Annotations on St. John's Go/pel, by the Rev.
Mr. Merrick, Part II. p. 50. and the Works of Dr.
Jackfon, by him referred to, Vol. II. p. 518.

" record,

of St. JOHN the BAPTIST. 109

record, that this is the Son of God." SECT.VI.
So little account did thefe two wonder- v-/ * > '
ful perfonages make of their relation
according to the flem. From their in-
fancy they had not converfed together ;
and when they met, it was in public,
that "John might bear his testimony ;
foon after which, he was caft into pri-
fon, and faw Jefus no more. An higher,
more important, and durable connec-
tion, than any formed by confanguini-
ty, engaged his attention, as it mould
do that of all Chriil's difciples, accord-
ing to thofe deep and divine (trains of
St. Paul-, "The love of Chrift con-
" ftraineth us, becaufe we thus judge,
" that if one died for all, then were all
" dead ; and that he died for all, that
" they which live mould not henceforth
" live unto themfelves, but unto him
<' which died for them, and rofe again.
" Wherefore henceforth know we no
" man after the flem, yea, though we
" have known Chrift after the flem, yet
" now henceforth know we him no
" more. Therefore if any man be in
" Chrift, he is a new creature : old

" things

Confederations on the Life and Death

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Online LibraryGeorge HorneConsiderations on the life and death of St. John the Baptist → online text (page 5 of 7)