June 25th On the lessons we are to learn from St John the Baptist
Consider first, that the design of keeping the festivals of the saints is not only to honour God in his saints, and to give him thanks for the grace and glory bestowed upon them through Jesus Christ, but also to encourage the faithful to an imitation of their virtues, in hopes of arriving one day at their blessed company, by walking in their footsteps. If then we desire to keep the festival of St. John in a suitable manner, we must endeavour to learn the lessons he teaches by his great example. His whole life in the desert was one continued exercise of prayer and mortification; these are the lessons that all Christians must, in some measure, learn, that desire to come to the eternal society of the saints. If our daily occupations, if human frailty will not allow us to have that continual attention to God which St. John had, at least we must frequently and fervently aspire after him, in the midst of all our other employment, and give every day a regular and competent time to the holy exercise of prayer. If we cannot think of bringing ourselves to such hard diet, clothing, and lodging as his was, at least we must daily retrench superfluities in eating, drinking, clothing, sleep, and unnecessary diversions; we must mortify our vanity, curiosity, and sensuality, and learn on many occasions to renounce our own will, to give up our own humours, and to contradict our darling inclinations.
Consider 2ndly, the humility of St. John, how mean an opinion he had of himself, how little regard he had for the esteem and applause of the world; how he freely and openly professed to the people, who had the highest opinion of him, that he was neither Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet, but only ‘a voice of one crying in the wilderness,’ &c., and unworthy of doing the meanest office for him that was to follow him; how glad he was when he saw himself decrease in the opinion of the world, and his glory eclipsed by the preaching and miracles of Jesus Christ. O blessed humility which alone art capable of making any one great before the Lord! All other virtues are grounded on thee – without thee they degenerate into vices. Christians, let us study well this most necessary lesson.
Consider 3rdly, the zeal of St. John for the glory of God, and his constancy in maintaining justice and truth, without respect of persons, even to the laying down his life in the cause. He was not ‘a reed shaken with the wind:’ he knew not what it was to flatter worldlings in their evil ways, or to comply through human respects, with anything contrary to conscience; he would not call evil good nor good evil. He zealously preached to sinners, of all degrees and conditions, the necessity of effectually renouncing their evil ways, and bringing forth worthy fruits of penance; he denounced the heavy judgments of God to the impenitent, and encouraged the penitent with the prospect of mercy. Christians, let us attend to these lessons which the Baptist so strongly inculcated both by word and work. The God whom we worship is the sovereign justice and the sovereign truth. If then we would be Christians indeed, we ought, like St. John, be willing to lay down our very lives rather than to offend against justice and truth.
Conclude to walk in the footsteps of St. John, and they will bring thee to Christ. He was sent to prepare the people for him, and to direct them to him; attend to his preaching and to his example, and he will do this good office for thee.