Page images

Julian Pe- 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and sa. Hebron.
riod, 4709. luted Elizabeth.
Before Val-
gar Æra, 5. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard

the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb ";
and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost :

42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said,
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb.

43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

sacrifice. If it was time, the answer was, “it is light.” Those
in the court replied, “ Is the light come so far, that thine eyes
may see Hebron?”

How far this tradition may be received I do not venture to
decide ; it is certain that Hebron was always regarded with
particular attention by the people of Israel, and if this tradition
be correct, it must doubtless have been typical of some predicted
and expected event. What place, then, in the land of Israel,
could have been so appropriate for the true light first to dawo
before the perfect sacrifice could be offered, as tho city of He-
bron. Here John the Baptist was born-aud here the rays of
truth first shone; when, through the inspiration of the Holy
Ghost, the appointed Saviour was hailed for the first time near
this place, as the Lamb of God, the true Sacrifice, who should
take away the sins of the world.

Can these remarkable and wonderful events be regarded only as coincidences ? To me they appear to point out the beautiful connexion and harmony in minute points of the two dispensations, and to prove that nothing has come to pass, but what was ordained of old.

If the account of Josephus (Bell. Jud. lib. 5. c. 7.) may be depended upon, Hebron was not only celebrated for the great events which had there taken place, but was renowned for its antiquity, and considered of more ancient date than Memphis, in Egypt. Jerome and Eusebius likewise mention that there still remained at Mamre, near Hebron, the oak under which Abraham entertained his angelic visitors; and that the surrounding Gentiles held it in great veneration.

(a) See Witsius de Vitâ Johan. Bapt. Misc. Sacra, vol. ii. p. 495. (6) Lightfoot's Chorographical Centary-Works, folio, vol. ii. p. 46.

11 The native Jew who reads in St. Luke's Gospel this ex-
pression, would be reminded of a tradition of their fathers,
that when the Israelites came to the red sea the children in the
womb leaped for joy.

: , ?
embryones, qui in utero matris erant, viderunt id, et Deum
8. B. celebrarunt. Possibly it was in allusion to this tra-
dition that the phrase is bere used. Elizabeth may be sup-
posed to express the greatness of her joy at the sight of her
cousin, which so agitated her as to produce this effoct. Eli-
zabeth compared her bappiness, in beholding the mother of the
expected Messiah, to that of lier countrymen when they saw
before them, for the first time, the earnest of their long wished
for deliverance from Egypt. Fol. 25. col. 99. apud Zohar Exod.
fol. 32. col. 91, apud Schoetgen. Hor. Heb. vol. i. p. 257.

imo etiam ואפילו ואיכון עוברין במעי אמהון הוו, ומשבחן לליבה:

gar Æra, 5. joy.

Jalian Pe. 44 For, lo! as soon as the voice of thy salutation Hebron. riod, 4709. sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for Before Val

45 And blessed is she that believed : for there shall be
a performance of those things which were told her from
the Lord.

46 And Mary said ", My soul doth magnify the Lord,
47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his hand-
maiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall
call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things ; and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance

of his mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

56 And M: abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.


The Birth and Naming of John the Baptist.

LUKE i. 57. to the end. Julian Pe

57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be Hebron. riod, 4709. Before Vul

delivered ; and she brought forth a son. gar Æra, 5, 58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the

in the spring of the


12 This speech of Mary is evidently the offspring of a mind thoroughly embued with the language and sentiments of the antient Scriptures. A learned modern author has selected the original of this verse as an instance of the adoption in the New Testament of the parallel couplet, so usual in the Old Testament. It certainly may be considered as one collateral proof that the New Testament is from the same spirit of inspiration as the old, that these singular parallelisms and forms of composition are found in each. In the present instance, however, and no doubt in the great majority of others, the composition of the speech appears to have been evidently unstudied. The effusion of those who were actually inspired, did not require any laboured arrangement, according to the laws of studied composition:- Bishop Jebb's Sacred Literature, p. 210.

Before Vul joiced with her. gar Æra, 5,

Julian Pe Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they re- Hebron. riod, 4709.

59 And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they in the spring came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zaof the year. charias, after the name of his father.

60 And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.

61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.

62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.

63 And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.

64 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea.

66 And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel ; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,

69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began :

71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;

72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant ;

73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,

74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear",

13 The Jews divide the worship of God into that which is offered nannn from love, and that which is offered 1873 from fear. In allusion to which distinction, St. Paul, one of the most learned Jews of bis time, uses the expression, Rom. viii. 15. iveõua dolcias. In the Old Testament dispensation the laws of Moses were delivered under circumstances calculated to excite the strongest fear and apprehension-the most rigid obedience was required; and the people were anxiously alarmed lest any thing should be done by them, whereby they might become polluted, and incur the anger of their God. This law was a yoke which neither they, nor their fathers, were able to bear. But in the law which was now to be 'ushered in by the Messiah, Zachariah announces, in this sublime prophecy, the introduction of a new worship ; not from slavish fear, but from

of the year.

Jalian Pe- 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the Hebron. riod, 4709. Before Val

days of our life. gu Æra, 5, 76 And thou, child, shalt be called the Prophet of the in the spring Highest : for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare


77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by
the remission of their sins.

78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby
the dayspring from on high hath visited us.

79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.


An Angel appears to Joseph.

Matt, i. 18—25.

Julian Pe

(18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise : riad, 4709. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, be- Nazareth. Before Val-fore they came together", she was found with child of the

Holy Ghost.

[ocr errors]

pure love to God, which is inconsistent with, and casteth out
fear. He was singing the death song of the Jewish Church. He
prophesied the overthrow of the system of ceremonies, rites,
and all their burthensome minutiæ; and the establishment in
their place of a holy and perfect system, wherein God should be
served and honoured as with the love and worship of children.
Both this, and the phrases (ver. 79.), as well as others, can only
be fully understood by thus keeping in view the opinions of the
Jews, in the days of our Lord and his Apostles. Vide Schoetgen.
vol. i. p. 261. and Faber's Horæ Mosaicæ on the prophecy of

14 It was the custom among the Jows to allow some interval
between the uni", the espousals and the puptials, and non, the
bringing of the espoused into the husband's house. See Deut.
xx. 7. The words (v. 18.) #piv ñ ouvelOeiv ávras, may apply
to either of these. The object of the law was to satisfy the
husband of his wife's chastity. In this probationary period,
after her return from her cousin Elisabeth, we are told that the
Virgin Mary was found with child.

Had the Virgin been espoused, under these circumstances, to any other than a just and humane man, such as Joseph, she would in all probability have been immediately exposed, with inconsiderate rashness, to public scorn and derision : but, as it was, we find that she was treated with kindness and indulgence: and that Joseph listened to her defence. Her vindication, we may infer from tho narrative, was received by her espoused husband with much surprise and incredulity; but we may suppose that he was too well acquainted with the prophecies of his Scriptures, to doubt the impossibility of this eyent. In addition to which be must have been informed

Julian Pe- 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and Nazareth. riod, 4709. Before Val

not willing to make her a public example, was minded to gar Æra, 5. put her away privily,

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream", saya


of the object of Mary's journey into the bill country, of
the vision, and consequent events in the temple. He pon-
dered, he hesitated-be know not what to decide-still hoping
that bis unsuspected and beloved spouse was in truth the
clected and favoured Virgin Mother of the Holy One of Israel.
But while be thought on tbese things, and had at last resolved
(perhaps from fear of ridicule) to put her away privily, Behold
the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, and at
once dispelled all his doubts and fears, by revealing the gracious
designs of Providence, and assuring him of the innocence of his
spotless wife.

15 The occasion seems to call for the next merciful interven-
tion of divine power that was vouchsafed, at the dawning of the
day of the Messiah. The approach of the kingdom of the
Messiah had been already announced by the appearance of
angels and the return of the spirit of prophecy to two of the
kindred of Mary, and now likewise to herself. It is more than
probable that Joseph knew this, but, as he was still uncon-
vinced, a peculiar demonstration was given to him, in the re-
vival of prophetic dreams; another way in which God had
formerly made known his will to mankind.

In the antient and purer times of patriarcbism, as well as in the earlier ages of Judaism, the Deity frequently revealed his will in this manner, both to his own people, and to some individuals of other nations. Not only were Joseph, Abraham, and Jacob, thus favoured; but Laban, Abimelech, Pharaoh, and even Nebuchadnezzar, received similar communications from on high. This, with every other miraculous evidence of God's superintendance over the Jewish Church, had been dow long discontioued; and the Jews, who placed the greatest dependance on dreams, and bad even formed rules and a regular system for their interpretation, had particularly regretteå the loss of this medium of divine communication.

The revival therefore of this antient mode of revealing the will of God, must have convinced the pious Joseph that the anxiously anticipated event, the birth of the Messiah was near; and that his betrothed spouse, who was of the family of David, from whom the Messiab was to descend, was certainly the virgin upon whom the honour of his birth was to be conferred. As in the structure of a flower, and the eye of an insect, we admire the peculiar adaptation of means to the end, and thus infer the superintendance of an all powerful Creator; so in the moral world revealed in Scripture, we are led to admire the peculiar propriety of the events recorded and ordained by an all gracious Providence; and learn to believe while we adore. Under all the circumstances of the Incarnation, it appears that the Virgin was espoused to one wbo was more likely than any other to secure her from scorn-to protect her in danger--to relate the truth to the believing Jews; and by affirming that another distinct branch of evidence had been afforded him; to strengthen the conviction tbat would now begin to obtain some influence, that God had visited his people.

Philo, in his tract περί τα θεοπέμπτος είναι όνειρους, has described at length the difference between propbetical and monitory dreams.

« PreviousContinue »