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CH A P. XXVI.

The Nativity of St. John Baptist,

June 24.

W

HAT Festival doth the Church celebrate

this Day? A. The Nativity of St. Jobn Baptift. vity by dotb. the Church celebrate bis Nati.

A. Because his Birth was wonderful in itself,

as being foretold by an Angel sent on purpose Luke 1.7, to deliver this joyful Message, when his Mother II, 13. Elizabeth was barren, and both his Parents well

stricken in Years; and in that his Father Zachary

had the Assurance of it confirmed to him by a Ver. 20: miraculous Dumbness till it was made good. Be

sides, it brought great Jay to all those that ex

pected the Meffiab, it being predicted by the Ver. 14. Angel, that many should rejoice thereat.

Q. What was foretold of bim by the Angel ?

A. That he should be great in the Sight of

the Lord, and should neither drink Wine nor Ver. 15. strong Drink; that be should be filled with the

Holy Ghost, even from his Mother's Womb ; that he should convert many of the Jews, and prepare the Way of the Lord, and consequently be the Forerunner of our Saviour, and the greatest of all the Prophets.

Q. What mean you by St. John's being the Forerunner of our Saviour ?

A. That

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A. That his whole Ministry tended to prepare the way for the Reception of our Saviour and his Doctrine : For which he was qualified, by adding to the Grace of his Birth an extraordinary Innocence of Life, which he preserved by withdrawing from all the Occasions and Temptations to Evil, and by a strict and severe Mortification, whereby he kept his Body in Subjection to his Mind.

Q. How did he prepare the way for our Saviour's Reception ?

A. By proclaiming to the Jews the Approach Mat. 3. 2. of the Messias ; that he whom they had so long expected was nigh at Hand, and that his Kingdom was ready to appear; and that therefore they should do well to break off their Sins by Repentance, and by Reformation of Life' ft themselves to receive the glad Tidings of the Gospel

Q. Was this Forerunner of our Saviour foretold by the Prophets ?

A. Yes ; Isaiab calls him, The Voice of him Ifai. 40.3.
that crieth in the Wilderness, Prepare ye the Way
of the Lord, and make strait in the Desert a
Way for our God: And Malachi styles him, Mal. 3. 1.
The Messenger that was to prepare the Way of
the Lord : And farther describes him under
the Character of Elijab the Prophet, that was Ch.4.5,66
to turn the Hearts of the Fathers to the Chil-
dren, and the Hearts of the Children to their Mat. 11.
Fatbers.

Q. But how is St. John the Baptist's being the John 1.21.
Elias, that was to come, reconcileable with his own
Denial of it?

A. It being the general Persuasion of that
Age, as it had been all along the prevailing

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Notion among the Jews, that Elias should, in his own Person, come to prepare the Way for the Meffias; St. John the Baptif might very well, as he did, deny himself to be that very Elias who had lived in the Time of King Abah, of whose second coming into the World the

Sanhedrim then enquired, according to their misCh.4.5,6.taken Construction of the Prophecy of Malachi.

Now this no ways contradičts our Saviour's affirming him to be the Person foretold under the Name and Character of Elias, in the true Signification of that Prophecy ; which all Christian Interpreters think very applicable to St. John the Baptif, so like Elias in Temper, Office, and other Circumstances, that the Resemblance might be a sufficient Ground for the calling him by that Name. The Business of

both was to promote a general Reformation James 5.

of Manners among those who should receive 17, 18. their Doctrine. They were both eminent Pro1 Kings phets, fuperior to those of the fame Character

in their own Age. Both of fingular Abstinence Mat. II.

and Austerity, retired from the World, and 1 Kings distinguished from the Fashions of it by a 17. 4, 16. particular Habit. They are both couragious 19.6,7,8. and zealous in opposing the prevailing Corrup2 Kings itions of their own Times, though the Great Luke 1. and the Powerful were the Supporters of them,

All this plainly proves that the Baptist came in Mat.

3.4. the Spirit and Power of Elias. Which Sense is : Kings 18

abundantly confirmed by all those ApplicaLuke i. tions that are made of Malacki's Prophecy in 15,16,17, the New Testament to St. John the Baptist. Matit. And by returning Answer to that Demand, Who

he was ? That he was the Voice crying in the Wil10, &c. derness prophesied of by Esaias, he did in Effect, John!.23.

and

17. 1.

11.

80.

Mat. 3.

10, &

Mat. 17.

2, 3, 4

and by necessary Consequence, affirm himself to be Malachi's Elias, thought not that Elias they erroneously expected ; because that Prophecy of Efaias was acknowledged to point at the same Mark 1.1, Person with the other in Malachi.

Q. What was St. John's Education and Manner of living till be entered upon bis Office ?

A. After he had providentially escaped the Executioners of Herod in his Childhood, he retired early into the Deserts, where he led a folitary and mortified Life; his Habit was a rough Garment made of Camels Hair, and a lea-Mat. 3. 4, thern Girdle; his Food was Locufts and wild Honey. By Locusts fome understand Grass-hoppers, others the Tops of Plants and Herbs ; though there may be no great Necessity for the Change of the Word, if we consider that some Locusts Lev. 11. are counted clean Meat in Scripture ; and that 22. they were a common Meat not only in the Eastern and Southern Parts, but even in Palestine itself, is proved by Boçhartus and Ludolphus in his Hieroz.. Ethiopick History. The wild Honey is conceived par. 2.1.42 to be such as the Bees had stored up in hallow Trees or Caverns, and ordinary Provision to be found in Woods.

Q. What Chara£ter doth our Saviour give of St. John Baptist ?

A. That among them that are born of Wo-Mat. II. men there hath not risen a greater than John 11. the Baptist, and that he came neither eating nor drinking, which implies a Way of living more than ordinarily rigorous and austere.

Q. Wherein did St. John the Baptist exceed those Prophets that went before him?

A. In the Excellency of his Ofice, which was to fit and prepare the Minds of the People for

the

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Luke 3.2.

the immediate Reception of Christ and his John 1. 7. Doctrine ; both which were attested by St. John 29,32,33. in a plainer Manner than by any of the old Pro

phets. In that he was honoured with more Mat . 3.5, lignal Revelations, and his Doctrine attended

with greater Success and Efficacy, almost the whole Nation flowing in to his Baptism, and confefsing their Sins.

Q. How was St. John Baptist called to his Office ?

A. The Word of God came to him; which Phrase, as used in the Scriptures, implies the Prophetick Spirit communicated to those that were to be extraordinary Preachers to the People; but whether imparted to him by Vision or Dream, or any other Way, is not so material to enquire as difficult to resolve; only we may observe, that whereas the Spirit of Prophecy seemed to be ceased among the Jews since the Death of Malachi, it was now revived in Jobn the Baptist, and was to be continued by the great Prophet and his Apostles.

Q. What Success had St. John's Ministry?

A. His resolute Preaching, joined with the

Severity of his Life, drew to him many Hearers Mat. 3 5, from Jerusalem and Judæa, and from the Region

round about Jordan; and great was the Number
of his Profelytes, who were baptised of him,
confesing their Sins. For his first Preaching was
in the Wilderness of Judæa, the Towns and
Cities that were about the Place of his Educa-
tion: And from thence he made Converts round
about Jordan, the River whereof supplied him
with a Conveniency of baptising the great Num-
ber of his Followers.
Q. What was the Manner of bis Preaching ?

6.

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