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SECTION V.

Considerations on the appearance, doétrine,

and baptism of St. John.

Sect.V: THE days of St. John's retirement

1 were now ended, and he was to exchange the pleasures of contemplation for the far different scenes of an active life ; to behold, with grief and indignation, the fins and follies of mankind, the sight of which must needs be more grating and afflicting to his righteous soul, than a garment of camel's hair could be to his body; to encounter the opposition of a world that would be fure to take arms against him, from the moment in which he ftood forth a preacher of repentance and reformation. But no good could be done to others in folitude, no converts could be made in the desarts; and he must therefore quit even the most refined and exalted of intellectual enjoyments, as every minister of Christ should be ready to do,

when

when charity dictates an attendance on Sect.V. the necessities of his fellow creatures. · Yet let it be observed, that St. John was thirty years of age, when “ the “ word of God came to him in the wil“ derness a,” and commissioned him to enter upon his ministry; and the holy Jesus likewise was of the same age, when inaugurated to his office, by the visible descent of the Spirit upon him at his baptism; to intimate, perhaps, that neither the exigences of mankind, nor a consciousness of abilities for the work, can be pleaded as a sufficient warrant for a man to run before he is fent, and take the facred office upon himself, without a regular and lawful call. The institutions of God are not without a reason, and he will not be served by the breach of his come mandments.

The place to which the Baptist first repaired is styled “the wilderness of “ Judea ,” a country not like the vast and uninhabited desarts in which he was educated, but one thinly peopled, a

.a Luke iii. 2. .
b Matt. iii. 1. Luke iij. 3.

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Sect.V. comparative wilderness, chosen by him

o n account of it's bordering on the river.
Hither the inhabitants of the neigh-
bouring cities and villages presently
flocked in great numbers, attracted by
the uncommon sanctity of the new
preacher, who thus came forth, ona
sudden, from the defarts, like one from
another world, without any connections
in this, that no attachment might take
him off from the duties of his high
calling, or any way impede him in the
exercise of it; since a man's worst foes:
have often been those of his own hous-
hold, and the ties of flesh and blood
have been known to prevail, where ty-
rants have threatened and inflicted tor-
tures, without effect. And as there is
nothing so directly opposite to the pro-
fession of a prophet, nothing which fo
soon or fo effectually sullies his reputa-
tion, as a tendency to indulgence and
sensuality ; in him, who was “ more
“ than a propheta," we must expect to
find a perfect crucifixion of the flesh,
with it's affections and luits.“ What
went ye out into the wilderness to
a Matt. xi. 9.

66 fee?

fee? A man clothed in soft raimenta?” Sect.V. No, the very reverse ; a man, like his m predecessor Elijah, coarlly attired; "his “ raiment of camel's hair, with a lea“thern girdle about his loins ;” and content with the plainest food that nature could provide for him; “his meat, « locusts, and wild honey b;" a man, whose perfon, habit, and manner of life, were themselves a fermon, and the beit illustration of the doctrine he was about to teach; a proper perion to prepare the way for Christ, and introduce the law to the gofpel; to Thew men what effect the one ought to have upon them, in order to dispose them for the blessings of the other ; that mercy might fave from the wrath which justice had denounced, and Jesus comfort those whom Moses had caused to mourn. ;

The actions of a prophet, who appears, like the Baptist, with an extraordinary mission, though they are not to be imitated by us according to the letter, may yet convey a moral of general use. There is no obligation upon

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Sect.V. us to be clothed with camel's hair, and

to eat locusts and wild honey, nor are we
commanded to abstain wholly from wine,
as St. John did, according to the pre-
diction of the angel concerning him,
delivered at the annuntiation of his
birth, “He shall drink neither wine nor
« strong drink, and shall be filled with
“ the Holy Ghost even from his mo-
“ thers womb a.” But who doth not
here perceive, evidently marked out,
the opposition between sensuality and
the spirit of holiness, and the impoffi-
bility of their dwelling together under
the same roof? “Into a malicious soul
o wisdom shall not enter, nor dwell
« in a body that is subject to fin. For
“ the holy spirit of discipline will flee
“ deceit, and remove from thoughts
“ that are without understanding, and
“ will not abide when unrighteousness
“ cometh in b.” As, therefore, “ no
“ man can say that Jesus is the Lord,
“ but by the Holy Ghost," who speaks
in the scriptures, who enlightens our

a Luke i. 15. b Wisd. i. 4. ci Cor. xii. 3.

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