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This dispensation in the case of the Sect.III. Baptist, like many others relative to them prophets, was extraordinary and miraculous; consequently, not to be literally copied by any one, but in fimilar circumstances, and under a supernatural direction. Nor has the monastic scheme the fanction of so great an example; as St. Yohn was under the obligation of no vow, but having finished his preparation in solitude, came forth to act his part upon the theatre of the world. And it is well known, that, even in those ages when mankind stood astonished at the austerities practised by reclufes and eremites, the episcopal or facerdotal character was reckoned as much superior to the other, as charity is better than contemplation. « In folitude," faith a great master of this subject, “à “ 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 likewise the exercise of . “ fewer virtues. Solitude is a good “ school, and the world the best theatre.
Stct.III. « The institution is beft there, the
« practice here. The wildernefs hath « the advantage of difcipline, but fo« ciety furnisheth the opportunities of « perfection.” To confirm this judicious state of the cafe, it may be obferved, that the only perfect life which hath ever been Ted on earth, was a mixture of the folitary and social. Our Lord himfelf paffed thirty years in the privacy of Nazareth, and then appeared in public to exercise his miniftry; but still not without frequent intervals of retirement. « It was in folitude that “ he kept his vigils; the defart places “ heard him pray; in the wildernefs he “ vanquished Satan ; upon a mountain “ apart he was transfigured." But in public he preached the Gospel, and converted fouls; in public he healed the fick, 'and cast out devils ; in public he fuffered, and, while he redeemed the world, set it a pattern of humility, patience, and charity.
From the circumstance of St. Yobn's education in the desarts we may, therefore, venture to draw a conclufion which will be of general use, with regard to
all ministers of the Gospel, viz. that Stcr.III. the folitary way of life is necessary to w qualify them for the offices of the fou cial; or, that he who would serve God acceptably in public, must first prepare himself for that purpose in private. The reason is, because no man is properly qualified to teach wisdom and holinefs, who doth not himself possess them. And a little reflection will convince us, how needful retirement is for the acquisition of both.
- THE toils undergone by all who have ever made any great proficiency in wisdom, plainly prove close application and deep attention to be requisite for it's attainment. And they who imagine themselves to have discovered a shorter way, conducting them to it without ftudy, will find, sooner or later, that they have mistaken their road. “Hardly “ do we guess aright at things that are “ upon earth, and with labour do we de find the things that are before usa :" shall we then expect a knowlege of those which are of a high and spiritual nature, without any labour at all? The
a Wisdom. ix, 16.. i
Sect. III. prophets themselves, “ enquired and
i o searched diligently what things the
“ spirit of Christ, which was in them,
alas, alas, are often unable, when alone, to Sect.III. confine our thoughts, for a few minutes together, to one subject. The world, like 'Martha, is « troubled about many 6 things," and most about those which are of least concern; so that, besides the 'profane, the unfeemly, and uncharitable discourses, which they must hear who are much conversant with it, the mind of a man suffers not a little from the variety of light and unprofitable conversation in which he is frequently engaged. This scatters the thoughts, and so indisposes them for any fpeculations that are great and noble, fublime and sacred, that some time is required to reduce the wanderers, to compose the spirits, and to restore that tranquillity of soul which is indispenfably necessary for the prosecution of religious enquiries. And although the general assertion of a famous recluse, “ that he always came out of company, is a worse' man than he went into it,” favoureth too much of the cloister, yet whoever, as the world goes, should diligently note the times when he came out of company a better man than he