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A. Impartially to condemn the Vices of all Luke 3. Ranks and Orders of Men, and to press upon 7. &c. them the Duties of their particular Places and Relations.
Q. Wby was St. John called the Baptist ?
À. Because those whom he made his Profelytes, he entered into this new Institution of Life by Baptism; a Rite indeed made use of by the Jews, but never before St. Jobn's Time, to figure out to them Repentance and Remission of Sins. Besides he had the great Honour to baptise his Saviour, which tho he modestly declined, yet Mat. 3. our Lord enjoined it, and it was accompanied + 3, Gr. with a miraculous Attestation from Heaven,
Q. Wby was St. John's Baptism called the Baptism of Repentance ?
A. Because it was the first Time Baptism was made use of to shadow out Repentance and Remission of Sins; and that was the main Qualification required of those that became his Disciples, and the fittest to dispose them to receive our Saviour, and to entitle them to that Pardon of Sin which the Gospel brought along with it.
Q. How did St. John bear Testimony of our Saviour ?
A. By ingenuously declaring to the Jews, who had fixed their Minds upon him, as if he were the promised Meffiah, that he was not the Christ, and that there was one to come after him, the Latchet of whose Shoes he was not worthy to unloose. Luke 3And he persisted in his Testimony until his 16. Death ; the Truth of which he was better qualified to attest, in that it was revealed to him by God after a more especial Manner.
Q. But did not St. John doubt towards the End of his Life of the Truth of his Testimony, when Joh. 1.31,
in 3a, 6
Mat. 11. in Prison he sent two of bis Disciples to enquire whe
ther our Saviour was he that should come, or whether they should look for another?
A. St. John could have no Doubt about it himself, who had it confirm’d by Divine Revelation ; but his Disciples were the rather unwilling to acknowledge Jesus for the Meffas, because they thought he did eclipse the Glory of their Master. They believed John the Baptist to be a Prophet, and that he came from God; yet they could not digeft his Testimony of Cbrift, because
that let him above their Master ; which appears Joh. 3.26. from the Complaint they made, He that was with
thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest Witness, behold the same baptizeth, and all Men come to him. Therefore St. John sent this Message for the Conviction of his Disciples, that when he was cut off they might not be shaken in their Belief of Christ, but adhere and cleave fast to him.
Q. How and upon what Occasion was St. John Baptist put to Death?
A. He was beheaded by the Command of Mat. 14. Herod, who was provok'd by his Freedom in 3, &c. reproving him for his Adultery and incestuous
Embraces, that Prince keeping Herodias his Brother Philip's Wife. Though yosephus makes the Motive of it to proceed from Herod's Apprehension of St. John's Popularity, which might occasion fome Innovasion or Insurrection.
Q. How was Herod, who feared the Multitude that counted St. John a Prophet, prevailed upon to put him to Death?
A. By the Arts and Intrigues of Herodias, Ver. 6. whose Daughter dancing before Herod upon his Esco
Birthday, pleased him so extremely, that he promised to give, her what she would ask, and
confirmed it with an Oath. Being instructed by
Q. Why is Herod said to be sorry upon the
A. Because such an Execution was improper
26. mong the Jews?
Ă. We are assured by Josephus, that he was a Pattern of all Virtue ; and that he continually pressed his Countrymen, the Jews, to the Practice of Justice towards Men, and Piety towards God, that he exhorted them to receive his Baptism; assuring them it would be wellpleasing to God, if they not only renounced their Sins, but to the Purity of the Body added that of the Soul. And such was their Opinion of his Sanctity, that they attributed the Overthrow of that Army Herod sent against his Father-in-law Aretas (who fell out with him Antiq. about the Divorce of his Daughter, effected in Jud. lib. order to take Herodias his Brother's Wife) to the 18. c. 7. just Judgment of God, as a Punishment for putting John the Baptist to Death.
Q. What may we learn from the Observation of this Festival ?
A. That true Greatness consists in the Contempt of the World, and that in the midst of
the Enjoyments of it, we can never be really Disciples of Christ without Poverty of Spirit. That the best Means to preserve our Innocence, is to retire, as much as may be, from the Occafions and Temptations of Evil. To set a strict Guard upon our Senses, and by frequent Mortification to keep our Bodies in Subjection to our Minds. That an unlawful Oath no ways obliges him that takes it ; the taking it is a Sin must be repented of, but the breaking of it is a necessary Duty, and a Branch of that Repentance which is due for the former Rashness in making it. That the true Worth of Men ought not to be measured by their outward Circumstances in this World, since the greatest of Prophets suffered the Indignities of a Prison, and fell by the Hands of a common Executioner. To take all prudent Means to reprove the Vices of others, when the Providence of God gives us a fair Opportunity ; which ought always to be managed with great Discretion, if we intend to do good, the only End to be aimed at in it.
Q. Wherein consists the Nature of Reproof?
A. In putting our Neighbour in Mind of his Duty when he transgresses the Laws of God; in representing to him his Faults, with their several Aggravations, and the dangerous Consequences that attend them ; that by a seasonable Warning he may be recovered to a right Sense of Things, and that his Soul may be preserved from that Ruin that otherwise threatens it.
Q. Whence arises the Obligation of a Christian to perform this Duty ?
A. From that Christian Charity and compasfronate Concern he ought to have for the Souls of Men made after the Inage of God, and purchased by the precious Blood of Christ, which run great Hazard of perishing without such faithful Admonitions. · For Self-love is so rooted in our Nature, that we have that Partiality to ourselves, that very often either we do not fee our Miscarriages, or at least not in their true Light; and therefore it is necessary fome charitable Hand should make the Discovery clear to us. And in many Cases, except we perform this Duty, we cannot preserve ourselves from Guilt; for those who are intrusted with any Degree of Authority, as Magistrates, Parents, and Masters, are answerable for those Faults which are owing to their Connivance and Encouragement. Besides, all Profeffion of Friendship without the Use of such Freedoms will be apt to degenerate into Flattery; and it is in vain we pretend to be ready and willing to serve our Friends, when we neglect doing them that folid Good, which the Interest we have in them qualifies us only to administer to them with Advantage.
Q. What makes it so difficult to perform this Duty successfully ?
A. The natural Pride of Men, which makes them fo averfe from hearing of their own Faults with Patience; and the greater Distance there is between the Circumstances and Conditions of Men in this World; many being fit to be reproved, whom yet every Man is not fit to reprove. But in that Case we must get it done by those that are fit; and great Regard must be had for Time and Circumstances, that this Exercise of Piety and Friendship may have its desired Effect. Though there are soine Instances of Reproof, which the Meanest ought to practise