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OBSERVATIONS of this kind may certainly be made, to great advantage, on historical portions of Scripture more especially; fince, as the fame incomparable author tells us elsewhere, "Knowlege drawn freshly, and as it "were in our view, out of particulars, "knows the way beft to particulars "again: and it hath much greater life "for practice, when the discourse at"tends upon the example, than when "the example attends upon the dif "courfe; as Machiavel handled mat"ters of policy and government, by "difcourfes of history and example "taken from Livy." The doctrines and duties of Christianity are, in like manner, beft deduced from the facts on which it is founded. The narration furnisheth both matter and method for the difcourfe, which is heard with pleasure, and remembered with ease.
HISTORY and biography are frequently employed in the service of error and vice. They may operate as effectually in the recommendation of truth and virtue. Example fhews truth as it were embodied; and while it displays the excellency of virtue, de monftrates its practicability. The contemplation of faith, as it discovereth itself in the lives of patriarchs and prophets, apostles and faints, inclineth us to believe as they did; and the fight of frail mortals, like ourselves, who, by the divine affiftance, furmounted all obstructions, and continued to walk in the paths of righteoufnefs, naturally fuggefteth, to every beholder, the question What should hinder me from doing the fame?
OPPORTUNITIES for fuch exercises are continually afforded by the return of those days, whereon we commemob 2
rate the heroic piety of ancient worthies, distinguished in the annals of religion; whose story presenteth us with occurrences, not, like those related in fecular histories, of use only to politicians and generals, but univerfally interesting; inftructing us in the art of governing the little kingdom within; of atchieving the greateft conquefts, and gaining the moft glorious victories; fince "Better is he "that ruleth his spirit, than he that "taketh a city;" teaching us how to live the life, and die the death of the righteous; a twofold task, which every man hath upon his hands, and in the performance of which he cannot fail, but at the hazard of fomething more valuable than crowns and fceptres.
THE author of the following Con+ fiderations was directed, in the choice of
of his fubject, by the circumftances of his fituation, fome parts of them having been delivered from the pulpit, as occafion called for them, in the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen College, upon the anniversary of the nativity of St. John the Baptift, before a learned and most respectable audience. The fa vourable manner, in which they were then heard, hath encouraged him to revise, enlarge, and digeft them into their present form. The reader hath now before him a compleat hiftory of the Baptift, extracted from the Evangelifts, and methodized according to the order of time, in which the events appear to have happened, with fuch obfervations and reflections as the feveral parts of it seemed to fuggeft, for the confirmation of faith, and the advancement of holiness.
AN attentive perufal of the subse
quent pages may, it is hoped, be of service to the younger ftudents in
theology, with a view to whom, and to those more particularly of the Society, whose welfare and profperity the author is bound by every tie to confult and promote, as they were at firft composed, so they are now publifhed; that, beholding the glories which display themselves in the exalted character here offered to their infpection, they may be fired with a noble ambition to bear their teftimony to the best of masters, and, from a well spent retirement, come forth bright examples of temperance and purity, zeal and knowlege, integrity and conftancy, to preach Repentance, and proclaim Sal