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(Chapter i. verses 1–17.) The first seventeen verses of this Gospel seem only to contain an uninteresting and unimportant catalogue of names,- some, such as Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and David, and a few others, well known and endeared to us by the records left of them in the Holy Scriptures; but the majority of them are unknown, and not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture. This catalogue is called in the first verse, “ The book of the generations of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”—the record of those ancestors according to the flesh from whom the Saviour of the world descended, and tracing his earthly lineage through the line of Joseph his reputed father. It is no vainglorious record of earthly ancestry. Man loves to rake up the musty annals of his race, and to trace his descent through a long line of illustrious forefathers; but though this list of the human ancestors of Jesus records the names of the various monarchs that sat on the throne of Judah, of what added glory can it be to Him who is Lord of lords, and King of kings? The purpose of this genealogy is of far more importance than simply to record the lineage of the son of David. Its end is to prove, that the Lord Jesus Christ was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and therefore of that family and tribe and nation from whom the Messiah was to spring. The promise of the blessing was made to Abraham and his seed; the promise of the dominion was made to David and his seed. “In thy seed shall
. all the nations of the earth be blessed,” was the promise to Abraham. “I have made a covenant with my chosen. I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations,” was the promise to David. Unless, therefore, Jesus, according to the flesh, be the son of Abraham, he is not the blessing, and the blessed One, promised to Abraham ; unless, too, Jesus be the son of David, he is not the promised inheritor of his throne, the Saviour of the world. It was to establish these facts that this genealogy is here recorded; and at the period when St. Matthew wrote his Gospel, these pedigrees were most carefully preserved, and every Jew might for himself have ascertained that Jesus Christ was indeed the son of David and the son of Abraham. And it is one of the arguments that might be used to a Jew at the present day, who is looking for a Saviour yet to come, that he has no records left, no genealogies extant, by which he could trace the Saviour's line to David or to Abraham. There is not a Jew on all the earth who can tell from what tribe or family he is descended: none assuredly could prove that he is descended from Aaron or from David ; and therefore both the priestly and
the kingly office must be for ever at an end, or in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not, then, say or think that any portion of the Holy Scriptures which the Holy Ghost has indited for our instruction is valueless, or that this is simply a tedious transcript of names, which may be skipped over and left unread. You see that it holds a most important place at the very threshold of the gospel; and independent of this, there is something serious and solemn in reading even the names of those who have once played their allotted part in life, and who have long since gone before God in judgment. It is a common remark, that they are all dead; but it is not so. Though their bodies have long since crumbled into dust, their spirits are even now alive—are living either in the presence of God, or, cast out from his presence, are awaiting the solemn day of account; and it ought to be our earnest desire, our continual prayer, that we may be of the number of those who shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
(Chapter i. verse 18 to the end.) The first point that is most prominently brought before us here, is the name of that holy child which was thus miraculously conceived and brought forth of the blessed Virgin. That name is Jesus, the most precious in all the nomenclature of the Bible.
“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!”
It is the same name as Joshua, in the Old Testament; and the meaning of the name is a
Saviour.” As was said by the angel, “ Thou shalt call his name Jesus : for he shall save his people from their sins.”
There are other names given to Jesus : Emmanuel—“God with us ;' Christ, the “ Anointed” One, from which the name of Christians is derived ; and Messiah, the Sent or Messenger of the Covenant,—all full of sweetness and comfort, but none so sweet as Jesus to the believer's heart and ear. But it is not so much the name, as the purport and meaning of the name, in which we are interested. Jesus is a Saviour, the promised, predicted Sa: viour; but there are no better words to describe his errand of love and mercy to a sinful world than those which the angel of the Lord here employs to Joseph, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: because he shall save his people from their sins.” Take notice of the expression, for it is a very remarkable one, and not only contains a promise of the highest importance and consolation, but it affords, at the same time, a test or proof to ourselves whether we are of the Lord's people. “He shall save his people.” Alas! they
are not all Israel who are of Israel ; nor are all that name the name of Christ, His people. every one," saith the apostle, “that nameth the name of Christ depart from all iniquity;" and we are here told, that the salvation which Jesus came to bring, was a salvation from sin—from its power, its pollution, its dominion, and its bondage. It were no salvation to be saved, if it were possible, in our sins, to be left still exposed to their tyranny and corruption, and their hard slavery. Far more, far beyond this, was the salvation purchased by the blood of Jesus. He “came to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” and abounding in all the fruits of grace and holiness. It is true, sin will strive against us, to cast us down and destroy us; but the promise is, “ Sin shall not have dominion over you.” It may harass, and wound, and sore disquiet you; but it shall be sin prayed against, sin resisted, sin weakened, and sin loosening its hold upon you, till that blessed moment when the Saviour's voice shall call his people to that home where no sin can enter, and where, as the emancipated spirit passes the threshold, it is welcomed with the joyous assurance, “ Come, and sin no more.” The test, then, to us is, Are we hating sin ? Are we seeking, praying to be delivered from it; from its burden and its pollution; groaning beneath its weight, and loathing its impurity ? Or are we calm and indifferent, and though, it may be, using the words for deliverance,