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Sect.II. of a limb, severe but falutary, separaoting them at once from the world, shall
oblige them to converse first with themselves, and then with God. Thus was Babylon's haughty monarch driven, in an extraordinary manner, from society, to learn humility in the fields and woods, until he acknowledged the power and the righteousness of the King of heaven. And thus the idolatrous and fuperlatively wicked Manasseb became a fincere and hearty penitent in the folitude of a Chaldean prison. Nor can we but admire, upon this occasion, the wisdom and goodness of God in sending fickness, as a preparative for death. Sickness takes a man, as it were, out of this scene of things, to fit him for another. It draws the curtain between him and the world, shutting out all it's cares, and all it's pleasures. It puts away his idle and noisy acquaintance far from 'him ; and having thus secured 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 stranger.
Now appear to him, in their proper Sect.III. colours and natural deformity, the diam bolical nature of pride and envy, the brutality of intemperance, the folly and torment of lasciviousness, the wretchedness of avarice, and the stupidity of sloth. Now he hath no longer any unlawful desires, and grieves that he ever had such. Now he is what he always ought to have been, and what retirement, at proper seasons, should and would have made him.
In morality, as in husbandry, the preparation of the soil is a great step towards the production of a plentiful harvest. If carnal desires are dead in us, all things belonging to the Spirit will live and grow in us. If the affections are disengaged from things on earth, the difficulty of the work is over ; they will readily and eagerly lay hold on things above, when proposed to them, If the snare of concupiscence be broken, and the soul be delivered out of it, she will presently fly away, on the wings of faith and charity, towards heaven. They who have duly practised mortification in the school of retirement, will,
Secr.III. at their appearance in the world, afford
i t the brightest examples of every thing that is “ honest, just, pure, lovely, and “ of good report.”
We may, therefore, conclude, that he who desires to undertake the office of guiding others in the ways of wifdom and holiness, will best qualify himself for that purpose by first paffing fome time in a state of sequestration from the world; where anxious cares and delufive pleasures may not break in upon him, to dissipate his attention; where no sceptical or sectarian spirit may blind his understanding, and nothing may obstruct the illumination from above ; where every vicious inclination may be mortified through grace, by a prudent application of the proper means; and every fresh bud of virtue, sheltered from noxious blasts, may be gradually reared up into strength, beauty, and fragrance; where, in a word, “ he may grow and “ wax strong in spirit, until the day of “ his Thewing unto Ifrael.”
Confiderations on the Prophecies relative
to St. John in the Old Testament.
D EFORE we proceed to view the Sect.IV.
D Baptist in the exercise of his ministry, it will be proper to look back to the predictions in the Scriptures of the Old Testament, concerning his office and character. We shall begin with that remarkable one, “ Behold, I “ will send you Elijah the prophet, be“ fore the coming of the great and “ dreadful day of the Lord. And he “ shall turn the heart of the fathers to “ the children, and the heart of the “ children to their fathers, left I come, 6 and smite the earth with a curse a.”
A's there was amongst the Jews a general expectation of Messiah's appearance, at the time when he did appear, so an opinion likewise prevailed, that the world should be first prepared for his reception, in some extraordinary
* Mal. iv. 5,6. Η
Sect.iv. manner. But wrong ideas of his ap
pearance and kingdom introduced mistakes with regard to the person who should precede and proclaim him. According to the notions then current, occasioned by applying to his first advent the prophecies which belonged to his fecond, Meffiah was to come in power and majesty, to confer on the sons of
Facob dominion over the Gentiles, and make Jerusalem the metropolis of the world. And by misunderstanding this prediction of Malachi, they had imagined, that Elijah the Tisbite should return from heaven, as his precursor. For this reason it was, that when the sanhedrim fent a message to St. John, defiring to know, whether he were Elias ? he answered, “I am not :" not the Elias by them intended and expected. But that St. John was the person foretold by Malachi under the name of Elias, we have the declarations of our Lord himself to his own disciples, “ Elias is indeed come ^ ;” and to the Jews, “ If ye will receive it, this is, “ Elias which was for to come. He · Mark ix. 13.