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Observations of this kind may certainly be made, to great advantage, on historical portions of Scripture more especially ; since, as the same incomparable author tells us elsewhere, “Knowlege drawn freshly, and as it “ were in our view, out of particulars, “ knows the way best to particulars “ again: and it hath much greater life “ for practice, when the discourse ator tends upon the example, than when " the example attends upon the dif" course ; as Machiavel handled mat, " ters of policy and government, by is discourses of history and example “ taken from Livy.” The doctrines and duties of Christianity are, in like manner, best deduced from the facts on which it is founded. The narration, furnisheth both matter and method for the discourse, 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 shews truth as it were embodied ; and while it displays the excellency of virtue, de monstrates 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 assistance, surmounted all obstructions, and continued to walk in the paths of righteousness, naturally fuggefteth, to every beholder, the question - What should hinder me from doing the same ?.
OPPORTUNITIES for such exercises are continually afforded by the return of those days, whereon we commemo
rate the heroic piety of ancient worthies, distinguished in the annals of religion ; whose story presenteth us with occurrences, not, like those related in secular histories, of use only to politicians and generals, but universally interesting ; instructing us in the art of governing the little kingdom within ; of atchieving the greatest conquests, and gaining the moft glorious victories; since “ 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 something more valuable than crowns and sceptres. .
The author of the following Cons fiderations was directed, in the choice of his subject, by the circumstances of his fituation, some parts of them having been delivered from the pulpit, as occasion called for them, in the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen College, upon the anniversary of the nativity of St.
John the Baptist, before a learned and moft respectable audience. The favourable 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 Baptist, extracted from the Evangelists, and methodized according to the order of time, in which the events appear to have happened, with such observations and reflections as the feveral parts of it seemed to fuggeft, for the confirmation of faith, and the advancement of holiness.
An attentive perusal of the subsequent pages may, it is hoped, be of service to the younger students in theology, with a view to whom, and to those more particularly of the Society, whose welfare and prosperity the author is bound by every tie to consult and promote, as they were at first composed, so they are now published; that, beholding the glories which display themselves in the exalted character here offered to their inspection, they may be fired with a noble ambition to bear their testimony to the best of masters, and, from a well spent, retirement, come forth bright examples of temperance and purity, zeal and knowlege, integrity and constancy, to preach Repentance, and proclaim Salvation.