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in the recommendation of truth and virtue. Example shows truth as it were embodied; and, while it displays the excellency of virtue, demonstrates its practicability. The contemplation of faith, as it discovereth itself in the lives of patriarchs and prophets, apostles and saints, inclineth us to believe as they did; and the sight of frail mortals, like ourselves, who, by the divine assistance, surmounted all obstructions, and continued to walk in the paths of righteousness, naturally suggesteth to every beholder the question-What should hinder me from doing the same?

Opportunities for such exercises are continually afforded by the return of those days whereon we commemorate the heroic piety of ancient worthies, distinguished in the annals of religion; whose story presenteth us with occurrences, not like those related in secular histories, of use only to politicians and generals, but universally interesting; instructing us in the art of governing the little kingdom within; of achieving the greatest conquests, and gaining the most glorious victories; since "Better is he that ruleth his spirit, 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 something more valuable than crowns and sceptres.

The author of the following Considerations was directed, in the choice of his subject, by the circumstances of his situation; some parts of them having been delivered from the pulpit, as occasion called for them, in the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen College, upon the anniversary of the nativity of St. John the Baptist, before a learned and most respectable audience. The favourable manner in which they were then heard, hath encouraged him to revise, enlarge, and digest them into their present form. The reader hath now before him a complete history of the Baptist, extracted from the Evangelists, and methodized according to the order of time, in which the events appear to have

happened; with such observations and reflections as the several parts of it seemed to suggest, for the confirmation of faith, and the advancement of holiness.

An attentive perusal of the subsequent pages may, it is hoped, be of service, to the younger students in theology with a view to whom, and to those more particularly of the Society whose welfare and prosperity the author is bound by every tie to consult and promote, as they were at first composed, so they are now published; that, beholding the glories which display themselves in the exalted character here offered to their inspection, they may be fired with a noble ambition to bear their testimony to the best of masters, and, from a well-spent retirement, come forth bright examples of temperance and purity, zeal and knowledge, integrity and constancy, to preach repentance and proclaim salvation.

CONSIDERATIONS, &c.

SECTION 1.

Considerations on the Nativity of St. Jolin, and the Circumstances that attended it.

THE lights of the intellectual, like those of the natural system, are not all of equal magnitude and lustre. In the church, as in the firmament, "one "star differeth from another star in glory." Each contributeth its share towards dissipating the darkness with which we are surrounded; but some, by their superior splendour, immediately attract and dazzle the eye of the beholder. Conspicuous, above others, is the character of St. John the Baptist, that bright precursor of the sun and harbinger of the morning, who arose to give notice of Messiah's approach, and to prepare the world for his reception. Burning and shining, he ran his course, proclaiming to the inhabitants of the earth, "Repent, for "the kingdom of heaven is at hand;" in other words, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand; cast off "therefore the works of darkness, and put on the "armour of light"." "Awake, thou that sleepest, and

a Rom. xiii. 12.

"arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee "light"."

Praise is ever valuable in proportion to the judgement and integrity of him who bestoweth it; and the panegyric is truly honourable, when the panegyrist is one who will not flatter, and who cannot be deceived. How then shall we raise our thoughts to conceive adequately of a person, whose encomium was spoken by the Son of God, and concerning whom that Son of God declared, " Among them

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66

"that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist"." After this declaration made by the Master, the disciples cannot well be hyperbolical in their praises of St. John, as the great pattern of repentance; the relation of Christ; the friend of the bridegroom; the herald of the King immortal; the glory of saints, and the joy of the world.

It is observable that the Baptist's nativity is the only one (that of Christ excepted) which the church has thought proper to celebrate. The days appointed for the commemoration of other saints are generally those on which they respectively ceased from their labours, and entered into their everlasting rest; 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 admission into a better, where there is neither crying nor pain. But the nativity of St. John being designed, by the remarkable incidents that accompanied it, to turn the eyes of men towards one who was far greater; b Ephes. v. 14.

© Matt. xi. 11.

one, the latchet of whose shoes he confessed himself not worthy to unloose; the church keeps a day sacred to it, and directs us to begin our meditations by considering, as all Judea did when it happened, "what manner of child" that should be, which was so wonderfully born.

He whose works are all wrought in number, weight, and measure, bringeth every event to pass in its proper season. The time approached which had been decreed in the counsels of the Most High, foretold by the prophets, and ardently desired by holy men of old, when the Son of God should be manifested, to redeem his people from death, and to lead them in the path of life. As this redemption was not to be effected by fleshly might and power, the spiritual king of Israel chose to make his appearance when the house of David was like a root buried in the earth; and therefore his forerunner was born"in the days of Herod the king;" days, when his countrymen were under a foreign jurisdiction, and the prospect on all sides was gloomy. True, indeed, it is, that the sacred lamp went not out in the temple, where the good old Simeón and the devout Anna served God instantly with fastings and prayers, and waited, as many others did, with earnest expectation, for the consolation of Israel. They were not discouraged by the gross darkness 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 most wants, and, humanly speaking, has least ground to hope for d Luke, i. 66. Luke, i, 5.

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