Fecundity of Elizabeth, who was old

and barren. Speech restored to
Zacharias. Evident prediction of
the future ministry of bis fon.
Am willing

should suspend our judgment in respect to what passed in the temple. But behold, Zacharias is dumb, and he became so at the time he was offering a facrifice to God. The signs which he made to shew that he had seen an heavenly vision, will be explained by the event.

At prefett I am content with a single fact, attested by the whole people.

Elizabeth growing pregnant in her old age, conceals her condition about five months, whilst the admired the grace of God bestowed on her, in taking away the reproach of her sterility; and when she brought forth a fon, her neighbours came to rejoice with her, because the Lord had shewn great compassion on her. On the eighth day, which was that of circumcision, of ? they called him Zacharias, " after the name of his father. And his mo“ther answered and said, Not so, but he shall “ be called John. And they said unto her, “ There is none of thy kindred that is called

by this name. And they made signs to his “ father, how he would have him called, “ And he asked for a writing-table, and wrote, H 4

fay+ Ver. 24, 25, 57.

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Part“ saying, His name is John. And they mar

IV. “ velled all. And his mouth was opened imma mediately, and his tongue loosed, and he

{pake and praised God. And he was filled “ with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, say

ing, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for “ he hath visited and redeemed his people. « The fame of these wonders were noised " throughout all the hill-country of Judea. “ And all they || that heard them, laid them

up in their hearts, saying, What manner of « child shall this be? for the hand of the Lord « is visible in the prodigies which accompanied « his birth.

Was not the admiration of these people well grounded? and were not the prodigies which astonished them, manifest ? does not Zacharias, who was dumb for the space of nine months, and on a sudden received the faculty of his speech, merit to be believed


what happened to him in the temple ? does not the birth of a son in his old


when Elizabeth, as well as Sarah, on account of fterility and age, was no longer capable to conceive, justify the angel's promise ? could Zacharias have any view in publishing his own incredulity ? and was it not in his power to attribute his silence to some other cause ? what could be more extraordinary and miraculous to render men attentive to the birth of the forerunner of the Messiah ? and if prodigies of so Striking and public a nature are not sufficient


“ All they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be for the hand of the • Lord was with him. Ver. 66.

of peace.”

to render him respectable to all Israel, I know CHAP. not what incredulity can require more. But V. let us hearken to Zacharias ; and in his song and which is certainly very mysterious and profound, let us only consider what he says of his fon, when he addresses himself thus : ** And 6 thou child shalt be called the prophet of the

Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of “ the Lord to prepare his ways; To give

knowledge of salvation unto his people, by “ the remission of their fins, Through the " tender mercies of our God; whereby the Day-spring from on high hath of visited us,

to give light to them that fit in darkness, “ and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the

way Upon what grounds could Zacharias attribute to his son the quality of fore-runner of the Messiah, and very plainly proclaim his approaching nativity? what knowledge could he have of things só secret and unknown, if they had not been revealed to him in the temple ? they who deny this revelation, cannot say, that he had learnt from Mary the incarnation of the Word, or that he had been apprized by Elizabeth of the supernatural leaping of John in her womb. Those I am now disputing with, are not so happy as to believe these mysteries in a firm and resolute manner: for if they were convinced of them, they would likewise be persuaded of the truth of

Zacha* Luke i. 76.

+ Εν οίς έπεσκέψατο ημάς ανατολή εξ ύψος. Lukci. 78.

* 'Tis Christ, and not Saint John, that is called the Day. “pring: the prophets thus ftile the Mesiaḥ.” Luke i. 79.


PART Zacharias's heavenly vision. Upon what then
IV. could two such predictions be grounded, that

'were so astonishing and improbable, and were
nevertheless advanced so positively, and in so
plain and precise terms? did not the event
justify them? and could this event have been
foreseen by human conjectures ? therefore the
apparition of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias,
must necessarily be acknowledged, and then
the whole is granted. Christ is the most High,
whose prophet is John the Baptist: he is the
Day-spring, whose Aurora is John: he is the
Saviour who remits the fins of mankind, and
John prepares the way for him by repent-


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John being concealed in the desart un-

til the hour of his manifestation, and
proclaiming when he appeared, that
the Messiah was come, tho' he had no
distinɛt knowledge of him, was cer-
tainly inspired with a divine light.

FTER so wonderful an event, which

rendered the whole world attentive to
the extraordinary graces God had bestowed on
the first years of a child * destined to a facred
function, John disappears, and God conceals


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*“ The child grew, and waxed strong in fpirit, and was in “ the desarts till the day of his shewing unto Israel,” Lukei. 80,


him in the defart till the time he resolved to CHAP. shew him to all Ifrael.

V. This fact cannot be contested. We know nothing of John from his birth, till he comes preaching repentance upon the banks of Jordan, being then about thirty years of age ; and the astonishment which the world was in on account of his manner of life, of his zeal, and of his discourse, proves that he was unknown till that time.

God, by separating him thus from human converse, intended to exempt him from the flightest faults, which in this converse are inevitable even to the justest of men ; to prepare him, by a great fanctity, to be the fore-runner of the Holy of Holies; and to gain him a great respect and authority by so long a retreat, when he should come out publishing,

<< that “ the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and " that the Meffiah was come.”

But besides these motives, God designed to prevent all our doubts, and to divest us of eve. ry pretext for our distrusts, by taking away the prophet of the Messiah in his most tender infancy; and of concealing him in the defart till he should coinmand him to prepare the way before him, and proclaim to Ifrael

, that he was come, altho’ he was yet unknown. For there could not be the least room for suspicion, to behold a man coming out of a desart, whose nativity had been attended with so



cles, + “ John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Ju"dea, saying, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at

66 hand.”

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