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will, sooner or later, descend the choi- Sect. I. cest bleffings which heaven hath to bem ftow on the sons of men.

But let not such be impatient, because those blessings are for a while deferred. He, who sends them, best knows the proper time of sending them, and often fees it neceflarý, for many reasons, to exercise the faith and patience of his servants, who may always rest fatisfied, that in due season he will bring every thing to pass, which will conduce to their true welfare. The fcripture, having witnessed of Zacharias and Elizabeth, that “ they were both right“ eous before God, walking in all the “ commandments and ordinances of the “Lord blameless,” proceedeth, in the very next words, to inform us, that " they had no child, because that Eli"zabeth was barren, and they were both " will stricken in years a." They who stand highest in the favour of God, may, therefore, during the greatest part of their lives, want the external and visible marks of it, and lie under the burden

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Sect. I. of " reproach among men ?,” as was

the case of childless women in Judea.
But these two pious persons, when their
condition, in this respect, seemed def-
perate, were upon the eve of felicity.
For of parents at their time of life John
was to be born ; that so the miraculous
manner of his birth might excite the
attention of mankind, and dispose them
to listen to his voice, when it should be
heard in the wilderness ; and also, that
it might prepare them for that great
event which was taking place, as the
prophet Isaiah had foretold ; “ A vir-
“gin thall.conceive, and bear a fon.”
In circumstances parallel with those of
St. John, were born, of old, Isaac, and
Foseph, and Samson, and Samuel, all of
them illustrious forerunners of Meffiah,
in one or other of his three characters,
prophetical, facerdotal, or regal. And
did not God intend, by so often causing
“ the barren woman to keep house, and
" and to become a joyful mother of
“ children,” to make that power known,
by which the incarnation of the Re-
deemer and the fruitfulness of his church

2 Luke i. 25.


were to be effected in the latter days, Sect. I. when, according to St. Paul, the pro- m phetical injunction of Isaiah was obeyed, « Sing, O. barren, thou that didft not « bear ; break forth into finging, and « cry aloud, thou that didft not travel " with child " !".. .

: He who is employed in discharging with fidelity the duties of his calling, takes the surest way to obtain the continuation and increase of his heavenly Master's favours. A fon was promised to Zacharias, “ While he executed the "s priest's office before God,” as the ritual of the church enjoined, “In the s order of his course, and according to “the custom b." The reflection of a pious writer upon this circumstance is no less just than beautiful. “ One priest “ alone,” says he,“ intent on his duty, "who diffuses the sweet favour of “ Christ, and is constant in prayer, " draws down on the people more bless« ings than a great number of negligent o priests. A man ought,” continues he, " to discharge all the ecclesiastical func

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Sect. I. ' tions with the spirit of the facred mi.

u niftry, as before God; and under his

« immediate infpection ; to perform
6 them in order, in his proper station,
6 without ambitiously feeking an high-; to do nothing merely of his own
“ will, but to observe the well esta
6 blifhed customs, as being the necessary
“ securities of peace. This is the truth
« which these Thadows prefigured, and
of these the difpofitions worthy a mini-
“ ster of the true temple, which is the
w church.”

The annuntiation of the Baptist's conception happened at the time of incenfe, when his father, having put on the robe of honour, and being clothed, like the great Mediator whom he perfonated, with the garments of glory and beauty, entered into the temple, while the whole congregation of the people, assembled without, fent up their united prayers to be accepted at the throne of grace, through the interceffion which was then making for them by the levitical priest, acting in the name of him who was to “ arise after the order of $ Melchisedek, and not to be called

« after

« after the order of Aaron,” While Sect. I. the joint prayers of priest and people were thus offered up with the blood of fprinkling, and the sweet-smelling favour of the holy incense, an angel suddenly appeared to Zacharias, as he was executing his office in the temple; that being the place to which those blessed spirits, when they visit these lower regions, ever delight to resort, as bearing the nearest refemblance to the happy mansions from which they defcend.

But whether it be, that the glory of celestial spirits overpowers the faculties of human nature, or that man, confcious of having finned against heaven, naturally trembles at the fight of a mefsenger from thence, we find, the appearance of an angel had the same effect upon Zacharias, the blessed virgin, and the shepherds: they were all “ fore « afraid." Their minds must be first composed, and put into a capacity of receiving the heavenly tidings brought them by the good angels, who, like good men, manifest themselves by the gracious and encouraging manner of a Heb. vii. 11.

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