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The preface of St. Luke to his whole gospel. The conception of John the Baptist, and of Christ. The prophesy of Elisabeth, and of Mary concerning Christ. The nativity and circumcision of John. The prophesy of Zacharias concerning both Christ and John.
Year of the world 4004.
Luke 1:1-3. Forasmuch, &c.— Forasmuch as many have undertaken to compose a narrative of those things which have been accomplished amongst us, Luk 1:2 as they who were from the beginning eye witnesses, and afterwards ministers of the word, delivered them to us; Luke 1:3. I have also determined, having exactly traced every thing from the first, to write, &c. "This must refer," says Dr.
Doddridge, "to some histories of the life of Christ which are now lost; for Matthew and Mark, the only evangelists who can be supposed to have written before Luke, could not with any propriety be called many; and of these two, Matthew at least wrote from personal knowledge, not the testimony of others. One must readily conclude, that the books referred to are lost, as none of the apocryphal gospels now extant, published either by Fabricius, in his Cod. Apocryph. Nov. Test. or by Mr. Jones in his History of the Canon, can with any shew of reason pretend to equal antiquity with this of St. Luke; but I cannot suppose with some of the ancient fathers, that the evangelist here intends the gospels of Basilides, Cerinthus, and some other early heretics, since he seems to allow these histories, whatever they were, to have been at least honestly written, according to information received from the most capable judges; and it is strange that Eusebius should imagine the words to be intended as a severe censure on the now-unknown compilers of these histories, whoever they were." This appears to be a fair and candid state of the case: Dr. Macknight however observes upon this preface, that, at first sight of it, one would be apt to think, that Luke speaks here of the other gospels, and their authors; yet the character which he gives of the writers whom he had in view, makes it evident that they were historians of a different kind from the evangelists, properly so called; for theywrote according to the information they had received from the eye-witnesses and ministersoftheword;whereastheevangelists,being eye-witnesses themselves, wrote from their own personal knowledge, improved by inspiration; at least Matthew and John were in both these respects writers of this character; and as for Mark, though he was not an apostle, he was most probably an early disciple, and consequently an eye-witness of the greatest part of the things which he has related. Epiphanius affirms, that he was one of the seventy. But, to set the matter in another light, if we interpret St. Luke's preface of the evangelists, we must allow, that he had none but Matthew and Mark in view, since, by the acknowledgment of all, John did not write his gospel till long after Luke's was published;—but that he should call two historians many, is hard to be conceived. Further, if the gospels of Matthew and Mark were abroad when Luke was writing, we may be assured that he would peruse them; and as he speaks of persons who had composed histories of Christ's life, he could not by any means overlook authors of their character. On this supposition, can it be imagined, that while his own gospel was penned under the direction of the Spirit, according to the information that he had received from those who were eye-witnesses, he would only say, of an eye-witness, and an apostle, on whom the Spirit hath descended, or even of an apostle's companion, that they had taken in hand to give the history of Christ's life, and not rather have mentioned both them and their works with particular approbation. The probability of this opinion is heightened by the following consideration: It makes the gospels appear with a noble and beautiful propriety; for, on a supposition that St. Luke wrote before the rest, we conceive the reason why theyhave passed over in silence the many miraculous circumstances with which the conception, birth, and circumcision both of the Messiah's forerunner, and of the Messiah himself were honoured, together with the prophesies of Simeon and Anna uttered at our Lord's presentation in the temple, as also the history of his childhood and private life: Luke had accurately, and at great length related all these things, without omitting any particular that deserved to be mentioned. On the other hand, if we think that Matthew and Mark wrote before Luke, their gospels will appear defective in these important points, and no reason will offer itself to justify such material omission. Instead of have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration, Heylin, Doddridge, &c. read, have undertaken to compose a history. The word πεπληροφορημενων, Dr. Doddridge renders, confirmed with the fullest evidence: it implies both that fulness of evidence by which any fact is supported, and likewise that confidence, or fulness of assent, by which facts so supported are believed. Compare 2Ti 4:5; 2Ti 4:7 in the Greek.
Luke 1:2. Ministers of the word;— Some have supposed, that by the word, St. Luke meant Christ himself. See John 1:1. Others however underhand by the word, the transactions of our Lord's public life or the gospel; called the word, as being the great subject of the preaching of the apostles, who were eye and ear witnesses of these things. It seems as plain as possible, from this verse, that they could not be false or heretical gospels to which St. Luke alludes.
See commentary on Luk 1:1
Luke 1:3. Having had perfect understanding—from the very first, &c.— By tracing them from their first rise. Παρηκολουθηκοτι πασιν ακριβως, plainly signifies that accuracy of investigation, on which the perfect understanding of his subject was built. To write in order, may signify to give a particular detail, in opposition to an abridgement, or a concise account; and the evangelist may, with great propriety, be said to have given an orderly account of the history of Christ, as the leading facts are in their due series, though some particulars are transposed. The title of most excellent, Κρατιστε, was commonly given to persons in the highest stations of life. Accordingly St. Paul, speaking to the governors Felix and Festus, uses it in his addresses to them; wherefore their opinion seems to be groundless, who, attending to the signification of the Greek wordTheophilus, "beloved of God," imagine that the evangelist does not mean any particular person, but all true Christians, and lovers of God. Theophilus seems to have been a Greek, and a person of high rank. Probably Luke, while in Greece with St. Paul, had received particular civilities from him, and in testimony of his respect, inscribedhis two books to him, bestowing on him thereby a fame which will last while Christianity subsists. St. Luke might have a thorough knowledge of the facts which he here refers to, by intimate conversation with the apostles, and particularly St. Paul; or, he might have been present himself ata number of the transactions which he has recorded. The assurance with which he speaks of his own knowledge of these things, leads us to think that he was an eye-witness of some of them. On this supposition, his reasoning in the preface to his history, will be more conclusive than on any other, and will stand thus: "Seeing many have written from the information of eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word, I, who from the very first have had perfect knowledge of all things, both by conversing with the eye-witnesses, and by being present myself at many of the transactions of Jesus, thought it incumbent on me to write his history, for the more certain information of mankind."
See commentary on Luk 1:1
Luke 1:4. Wherein thou hast been instructed.— Κατηχηθης, the original word, expresses with great accuracy the instructions given to those whowere training up for admission into the Christian church, whose name ofcatechumens was derived hence, and applied without any particular regard to the age of the persons concerned. See Acts 18:25. Rom 2:18 and Doddridge.
Luke 1:5. In the days of Herod, &c.— See on Matthew 2:1. The descendants of Aaron multiplied to such a degree, that they could not all do duty in the temple at once; David therefore divided them into twenty-four courses, who ministered weekly in their turns. The time of their ministration was, called εφημερια, as was likewise the course itself; but the name belonged originally to the Athenian magistrates, called Prytaneis, who, being fifty men chosen by lot out of a tribe, and each man governing the city a single day, the days which any tribe governed, as well as its fifty Prytaneis succeeding one another, were called εφημερια . Hence, because the Jewish courses of priests resembled the Athenian Prytaneis in several respects, they had their name applied to them by those who wrote in Greek. The course of Abia, to which Zacharias belonged, was the eighth in David's regulation; but whether the courses were the same now as at the first institution, it is impossible to determine. Comp. 1 Chronicles 23:6; 1Ch 24:10 and see Potter's Antiquities.
Luke 1:6. In all the commandments and ordinances— The critics are generally agreed that these words signify, the one the moral, the other the ceremonial precepts of the law; butthey are greatly divided in fixing the particular sense of each. The truth is, undoubted examples may be produced, to prove that both words were used promiscuously in both senses; for which reason, to dispute nicely about them is needless. The plain meaning is, that this exemplary couple were faithfully observant both of the moral and ceremonial institutions of the law; so that they were not only of a fair character in their dealings with men, but likewise illustrious for their piety, and sincere in their worship of God. This appears to be St. Luke's meaning. See Bell's Inquiry into the Missions of St. John, &c. p. 46.
Luke 1:9. His lot— Because some parts of the sacred service were more honourable than others, both the priests and Levites divided the whole among them by lot. The Jews tell us, that there were three priests employed about the service of the incense; one carried away the ashes left on the altar at the preceding service; another brought a pan of burning coals from the altar of sacrifice, and, having placed it on the golden altar, departed; a thirdwent in with the incense, sprinkled it on the burning coals, and, while the smoke ascended, made intercession for the people. This was the part that fell to Zacharias, and the most honourable in the whole service. Dr. Heylin renders this verse, According to the custom of distributing the sacerdotal functions, the lot fell upon him to enter into the sanctuary, and offer incense.
Luke 1:10. The whole multitude, &c.— Because it sometimes happened, that, on ordinary week-days, few or none of the people attended the morning and evening sacrifices, there were four and twenty men employed to attend this service, as representatives of the people of Israel, to lay their hands on the heads of the sacrifice, to pray, and to receive the blessing. These were called, from their office, stationary men. Wherefore the manner in which the evangelist has expressed himself on this occasion—the whole multitude of the people, shews that an unusual concourse was in the temple when Zacharias had this vision. Probably the day on which he burned this incense was a sabbath, or some high festival, when there was always a great multitudeassembled.Zacharias'sremaininginthe temple beyond the usual time, must thus have been taken notice of by many. See Luke 1:21. There were likewise many, who, upon his coming out dumb, conjectured that he had seen a vision, Luke 1:22. Matters of so public a nature, the truth or falsehood whereof so many must have known, would never have been thus openly appealed to by St. Luke, if they had been false. The evangelist adds, that the people were praying without at the time of incense.—As the daily sacrifice represented the sacrifice of Christ, and the incense the prayers of the saints, Rev 8:1-4 the incense was ordered to be burned while the sacrifice was offering, to teach mankind that it was through the sacrifice of Christ they had access to God. Accordingly, the sacrifices and incense both morning and evening were fitly accompanied with the prayers of the people; and that not in the temple only, but every where else; pious men choosing to put up their supplications particularly at the hours of sacrifice, while the ministers of religion interceded for the nation. Hence these hours were called hours of prayer, Acts 3:1. What is above-mentioned was the foundation of that elegant figure by which prayer is so often compared in scripture to incense: perhaps one reason of ordaining incense might be to intimate the acceptableness of those pious prayers which were to accompany it; and indeed burning fragrant perfumes was, and in Eastern nations still is, so important a part of the entertainment of illustrious families, that one might well expect it in the house of God, where so great a part of the worship was of the ceremonial kind. It is so plain that this was only an office of daily ministration, and that Zacharias was one of theordinary priests, that one cannot but be surprised that any should conclude from this circumstance, that Zacharias was sagan, or assistant to the high-priest, and was now performing his grand office on the day of atonement, and so on this foundation should calculate the birth of John the Baptist and of Christ, and all the other feasts which depend upon them; yet this is done in the calendars both of the Roman and Greek churches. See Doddridge and Hammond.
Luke 1:11. There appeared unto him an angel— It is altogether uncertain whether this happened at the morning or evening sacrifice. Grotius thinks it was in the morning; others fancy it was in the evening; but neither opinion is properly supported. It is observable from the rabbinical writings, that these divine appearances used generally to be made at the time of burning incense.
Luke 1:12. He was troubled, &c.— That is, according to the Hebrew idiom, he was exceedingly afraid. The angel's form was such, as shewed him plainly to be a being of a superior nature. See Judges 13:6. But Zacharias knew not on what errand he was come: no wonder then that he was exceedingly terrified.
Luke 1:13. Thy prayer is heard;— We cannot imagine that this holy man, at so advanced an age, and on such an occasion, would pray for the pregnancy of his wife, who was very old. The priests in this office considered themselves as the mouth of the people, and made the welfare of the nation the subject of their prayers. Wherefore, since it is reasonable to suppose that Zacharias now interceded for the coming of the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, we may consider the angel's words as having a reference to such a prayer, thus: "The Messiah, for whose coming thou prayedst, is about to be born; for thy wife shall bring forth his forerunner." Some indeed are of opinion, that those prayers are meant which Zacharias may have put up for offspring when he and his wife were young; yet the time and place of the vision give reason to believe that the object of it was a matter of more general concernment. It was the office of the father to name the child, as appears from Luke 1:62. John, in the Hebrew tongue, signifies The grace of God. Hence it was fitly given to the Messiah's forerunner, who was sent to proclaim the immediateaccomplishmentofGod'smercifulintentionstowardsmen,theexpectation of which had been raised in them by all the preceding dispensations of religion. Αγαλλιασις, which we render gladness, in the next verse, properly answers to the word exultation or leaping for joy. See 1 Peter 1:8; 1Pe 4:13 and Matthew 5:12.
Luke 1:15. He shall be great, &c.— By this some understand that true greatness, whereof God is the sovereign judge, in opposition to that greatness which men acknowledge, who very often err in their opinion of things. "He shall be great in the sight of God, not of man." But great in the sight of God seems to be a Hebrew expression of the same form with αστειος τω Θεω, Act 7:20 fair to God, or exceeding fair, and signifies, he shall be exceeding great; namely, in respect of his character, his office, his inspiration, and the success of his ministry, as it is explained by the angel himself. He was to drink neither wine nor strong drink; that is, to convince mankind that he was separated in a peculiar manner for the service of God. He was to live the life of the Nazarites, Num 6:3 who were esteemed as devoted to God's service in a particular manner. He was to be filled with the Holy Ghost, which, in Scripture, commonly signifies that degree of inspiration by which the prophets anciently spake. Accordingly, in this chapter it is applied to Elizabeth, to Mary, and Zacharias, in cases where they all spake by a particular inspiration.
Luke 1:17. And he shall go before him, &c.— That is, before Jesus Christ, here stiled the Lord their God. The son of Zacharias had the spirit of Elijah, equalling if not exceeding him in severity of manners, in courage, and in sustaining persecutions; for he was clad in a garment of camel's hair, fed on locusts and wild honey, rebuked sinners of the highest distinction with great boldness, and was put to death on that account. He had the power also of Elijah; for though he did no miracle, he was honoured with the like success in restoring the lost spirit of true religion among his countrymen. Nay, he even excelled Elijah in that, which is properly the power of a prophet, and to which all his other gifts were subservient,—the power of converting men; being in this more successful without miracles, than Elijah had been with them. By his preaching he made such a general change in the manners of the nation, that he turned the hearts of the fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their children the Jews, from whom they had been alienated, on account of their wickedness; and the hearts of the children to their fathers, by be-getting in them a love of religion and religious characters, and by so doing prepared a people for the coming of the Lord. See the note on Mal 4:5-6 and on Mark 9:10. Some, however, render the passage, To turn the hearts of the fathers with the children, and the disobedient to a sense of righteousness, &c. Dr. Doddridge translates and paraphrases it thus: "He shall meet with such glorious success in his ministry, as to convert the hearts of the fathers with those of the children; that is, he shall bring many, both of the rising and the declining age, to that real piety towards God, which will be the surest band of their mutual duty towards each other: and many of those who have hitherto been disobedient to the wisdom of the just (that is, insensible of the obligations to real religion, which is the greatest: wisdom,) shall be made ready, as a people prepared for the Lord; their minds being raised to an expectation of the Messiah, and a disposition to welcome him when he shall appear."
Luke 1:18. And Zacharias said, &c.— In the Old Testament there are instances of holy men, who, on occasions like this, spake as Zacharias is said to have done; and who, instead of being reproved, are greatly commended for their faith. (Compare Gen 15:8 with Romans 4:19-20.) Nevertheless, the treatment which he met with, will not appear hard, when it is considered that the dispositions of his mind were very different from those of the persons mentioned. They believed the messages which were brought them, and desired to be confirmed in the faith thereof; consequently the language of their demand was, "Lord, I believe; help mine unbelief." Whereas Zacharias hardly believed at all, or was exceedingly doubtful. This we are expressly told, Luke 1:20. His sin therefore was great, and his punishment just; and the more so, as he could not but often have read the account which the Scripture gives of the births of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, &c. all descended from mothers who had been long barren. The resemblance in circumstances might well have produced a peculiar regard to them, and one would have imagined that he should immediately have recollected the history of the angel's appearance to Manoah in particular. See Judges 13:2-14.
Luke 1:19. I am Gabriel, that stand, &c.— As much as to say, "I am the angel Gabriel, the same servant of God (so the name signifies, being by interpretation vir Dei,—a man or servant of God) who, as the Scripture informs thee, appeared anciently to the prophet Daniel, with a message concerning the Messiah. (See Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21.) The truth of this thou mayest know from the place where I now stand, and from the time at which I appear to thee; for I am now in the presence of God, even in his sanctuary, where no evil spirit, pretending a commission from him, can possibly enter. I, who now stand in the presence of God, am Gabriel (for so the words may be rendered). Moreover, I am not come of myself, but I am sent of God, to tell thee the glad tidings of the near accomplishment of the things which I long ago shewed to Daniel at a great distance. Thou therefore, whose advanced age ought to have been venerable by an advanced knowledge of divine things, as well as by a strong faith in the power of God, art much to blame for calling in question the truth of my message; especially as by the prophesies of Daniel thou mightst have understood that this is the period determined for the coming of the Messiah, and his forerunner."
Luke 1:20. Thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak,— The affirmation of a thing joined with the denial of its contrary, is an idiom peculiar to the Jewish language, and is the strongest affirmation possible. The style of St. John is remarkable for the frequency of this idiom. See on Luke 1:22.
Luke 1:21. The people waited for Zacharias,— They waited for his blessing, and could not imagine what had detained him so much longer than usual. See Numbers 6:0.
23-27. Leviticus 9:22-23. All that is here recorded, might have passed in a few minutes; it seems probable therefore, that, since the people took notice of his continuing so much longer than ordinary in the holy place, he spent some time in secret devotion, where, in the mixture of holy affections arising on so great and extraordinary an occasion, he might easily forget how fast the moments passed away.
Luke 1:22. For he beckoned unto them,— He made signs to them. The word Κωφος, rendered speechless, signifies deaf, as well as dumb, the latter being generallythe consequence of the former; and accordingly it is concluded from Luk 1:62 that Zacharias lost his hearing with his speech during that interval.
Luke 1:24-25. And hid herself five months,— The meaning is, either that she saw no company, judging it proper to spend most of her time in the duties of devotion, and in meditating silently on the wonderful goodness of God; or that she concealed her pregnancy for awhile, lest she should expose herself to ridicule. That barrenness was a reproach among the Jews, appears from Genesis 30:23. 1 Samuel 1:11.Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 54:1; Isa 54:4 and many other passages. That a branch of the family of Aaron should fail, would also be looked upon as a particular calamity, and might, by ignorant and uncharitable people, be interpreted as a judgment; and so much the rather, considering the many promises which God had made to increase the families of his obedient people. See Exodus 32:13.Leviticus 26:9; Leviticus 26:9. Deu 7:13 and Psalms 127:3-5. It may not be improper here just to observe, that considering how the whole Jewish policy was interwoven withthose acts of religion which were to be performed by the priests alone, it might seem wonderful that no provision at all should be made for entailing the priesthood on any other family, if that of Aaron should happen to be extinct. Leaving this contingency unprovided for, was in effect resting the whole credit of the Jewish religion upon the perpetual continuance of the male branches of that family; an issue, on which no man of Moses's prudence, nor indeed of common sense, would have rested his legislation, if he had not been truly conscious of its divine original; especially after two of Aaron's four sons had been cut off in one day, for a rash act in the execution of their office as soon as they were initiated into it, and died without any children.
Luke 1:26. In the sixth month— Namely, of Elisabeth's pregnancy. Galilee was the most northern part of Palestine. It was bounded on the north by Lebanon and Syria, on the west by Phoenicia, on the south by Samaria, and on the east, according to Josephus, by Jordan and the sea of Tiberias; yet from the gospel it appears, that a part of the country north of the sea, and eastward of Jordan, was reckoned Galilee. Galilee therefore comprehended the possessions of the tribes of Issachar, Zebulun, Naphtali, and Asher. It was divided into upper and lower Galilee, whereof the former was called Galilee of the Gentiles, (Matthew 4:15.) because it bordered upon the Gentile nations, and was partly inhabited by them. Josephus tells us (Bel. L. 3. 100: 2.) that the whole country was exceeding populous and veryfruitful; that the number of its towns and villages was great; and that even in the lesser towns there were no less than fifteen thousand inhabitants.
Luke 1:27. To a virgin espoused, &c.— I should render the verse thus: to a virgin of the house of David, betrothed to a man, whose name was Joseph; and the virgin's name was Mary. The original will bear this translation: and what makes for this interpretation is, that this and the preceding verse refer wholly to the virgin; who is described by the place of her residence, Nazareth; by her relation to Joseph, being espoused to him; by her lineage and descent, of the house of David; and by her name, Mary. See Whitby and others.
Luke 1:28. Hail, thou that art highly favoured,— Thou who hast found favour, or mercy with God, as it is expounded, Luke 1:38. It follows, Blessed art thou among women: so it is said of Jael, Jdg 5:24 of Ruth 3:10. See also 1 Samuel 25:33. Again, the Lord is with thee, is said to Gideon, Jdg 6:12 and the words, Luke 1:30 thou hast found favour with God, are said of Noah, Gen 6:8 of Joseph, Gen 39:4 and of David, Acts 7:46. So that here is nothing said of the blessed virgin in this salutation, which was not before said of others. Instead of among women, some read above women; which appears a just translation: for the Jews do not express their degrees of comparison by any change at the end of the words, like other nations, but by doubling or trebling the positive, or by adding a preposition, such as with, or among; and accordingly, this salutation, which is expressed in the Hebrew idiom, signifies, that she was superlatively blessed. Dr. Campbell renders it, thou happiest of women. But this salutation gives no room for any pretence of paying adoration to the virgin, as having no appearance of a prayer, or of worship offered to her.
Luke 1:29. She was troubled, &c.— She was disturbed at his discourse, and reasoned with herself, or revolved in her mind, what this salutation should mean. Heylin, and Doddridge.
Luke 1:33. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.— So the prophet Isaiah 9:6-7. Unto us a child is born, &c. of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. The kingdom of Christ is twofold. 1. His spiritual kingdom, or the dominion of righteousness in the minds of men. 2. His temporal kingdom, or the outward dispensation of the Gospel, together with an exercise of government over the world, by which all events are managed so as to promote the empire of righteousness in the hearts of believers. This distinction removes the difficulty arising from 1 Corinthians 15:0.
28.—where we are told, that after the worlds are judged, Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to God the Father;—compared with what Gabriel said to Mary on this occasion, and with the other passages of Scripture, which affirm that our Lord's kingdom shall beeverlasting. His temporal kingdom, or the gospel dispensation, will end with the world, being of no farther use. But his spiritual kingdom, or the dominion of righteousness in the minds of intellectual beings, which he came down to establish, will continue to all eternity. See my Annotations on 1 Corinthians 15:0.
Luke 1:34-35. Then said Mary unto the angel, &c.— When Mary heard Gabriel say that she was to conceive the Messiah, being conscious of her virginity, she found the matter above her comprehension, and therefore desired him to explain it. Being young and unexperienced, it was not to be expected that she could have a comprehension of mind and strength of faith equal to that which the old priest Zacharias ought to have possessed. Besides, this was a thing supernatural, and altogether without example. For though it is not distinctly mentioned by the evangelist, it is plain from Mary's answer that the angel had informed her that the whole would be perfectly supernatural. These seem to have been the reasons why Gabriel, who had struck Zacharias dumb for presuming to ask a sign in proof of his wife's future pregnancy, bore with the virgin when she desired to know how her's could be brought about. In the mean time it should be observed, that Mary did not, like Zacharias, insinuate that she would not believe till a miracle was wrought to convince her, but only that she did not understand how her pregnancy could be effected in her virgin state, and desired him to explain it to her, not doubting but it was possible. Wherefore the weakness of her apprehension being consistent with faith, and her request being conceived with modesty and humility, the angel told her that the wonderful event should be accomplished by the interposition of the Holy Spirit, and special energy of the power of God, who would preserve her reputation entire, at least in the opinion of impartial judges, and protect her from any inquiry to which this mystery might expose her; for, by the Jewish law, a severe punishment was inflicted on women betrothed, who proved with child before they lived with their husbands. This protection, perhaps, may be implied in the phrase, overshadow thee. To be under the shadow of wings, is a phrase used in the Psalms to express the tender affection with which God preserves his servants. But if the passage be only exegetical of the preceding clause, there may be a reference perhaps to Gen 1:2 where the spirit of God is represented, as brooding or hovering over chaos; which Milton expresses thus:
——Thou from the first Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread, Dove-like, sat'st brooding on the vast abyss, And mad'st it pregnant. Par. Lost, B. 1: Luke 1:19.
It is added, That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called—that is, shall be, the Son of God; because thou shalt conceive him by the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost, causing him to exist in thy womb. The term, Το γεννωμενον, in the neuter gender, denotes the human nature of Christ derived from his virgin mother:—born of thee.
Luke 1:36. Thy cousin Elisabeth,— Mary and Elisabeth might be cousins, as the text affirms, although the former was a descendant of David, and the latter a daughter of Aaron: because the law, Num 36:6 forbidding women to marry out of their own tribes, related only to heiresses, and consequently did not include the tribe of Levi, which had no particular heritable possessions that could be alienated by such marriages. Accordingly, in Lev 22:12 it is supposed as a common case, that a priest's daughter might be married to a stranger. It is remarkable, that Gabriel does not refer the virgin to Sarah or Rebekah, examples in former ages, but to a present one; and to magnify and heighten the miracle, he adds, that Elisabeth was advanced in years, and, what was more, never had a child.
Luke 1:38. Behold the handmaid, &c.— Mary expressed in this answer both great faith and great resignation. She believed what the angel had told her concerning her conception, and wished for it, not regarding the inconveniences to which she might be exposed thereby; as well knowing that the power of God could easily protect her. It is worthy of our remark, that Mary, though a young virgin, should so readily believe an event, in itself so much more wonderful than that which Zacharias, thoughan aged priest, had found it so difficult to credit; and it may be observed, that the sacred writers are particularly careful to record instances of this kind, in which God does as it were out of the mouths of babes and sucklings perfect his praise.
Luke 1:39. Went into the hill country— This was a very wise determination, as it was very probable that by communicating the vision she had seen, and perhaps also describing the form in which the angel appeared, she might convince Zacharias and Elisabeth that there was something singular in her case, and so bring in the reputation of such worthy and eminent persons to establish her own, in a circumstance which might otherwise expose her to great suspicion and censure. The city of Judah, where Zacharias and Elisabeth lived, is thought to have been Hebron; because Hebron was not only one of the cities appointed for the priests to dwell in, Jos 20:7 but was situated in the mountains of Judah, Jos 11:21 which, running from south to north, gave the name of the hill country to that part of Judea. Hebron lay south from Jerusalem, at the distance of about twenty-four miles, and was about seventy miles distant from Nazareth.
Luke 1:42. Blessed art thou among women,— It is remarkable, that this is the salutation wherewith Gabriel had addressed Mary. The words, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, probably allude to the child's being the promised Seed, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, and who for that reason was blessed himself: see Psalms 72:17.
Luke 1:43. That the mother of my Lord should come, &c.— If Elisabeth had not spoken by inspiration, as we are told, Luk 1:41 she could not so much as have suspected that Mary was to be mother of the Messiah; but it being revealed to her, she was greatly struck with the honour that was done her, and expressed her sense thereof by asking, in a rapture of astonishment, how it came to be conferred upon her? "How have I deserved this honour, that the mother of the Messiah, my Lord and Saviour, should deign to visit me?"
Luke 1:45. And blessed is she that believed, &c.— Dr. Heylin, in agreement with the margin of our English version, renders it, And blessed is she who believed that there shall be, &c. Elisabeth in these words plainly commended the faith and humility which Mary had expressed when the angel assured her that she should become pregnant in her virgin state; with an oblique reference to the behaviour of Zacharias, who probably had informed her by writing of all that had happened; or, as is more likely, she might attain the knowledge of the whole by revelation.
Luke 1:46. And Mary said, &c.— The virgin, having heard Elisabeth speak thus, was likewise filled with the Holy Ghost; so that being inspired she expressed the deepest sense of her own unworthiness, and of the infinite goodness of God, in choosing her to the high honour of being the Messiah's mother. This she did in a hymn, which, though uttered extempore, is remarkable forthe beauty of its style, the sublimity of its sentiments, and the spirit of piety which runs through the whole. It is a proof how conversant the virgin was in the books of the Old Testament; for most of the expressions in this hymn are borrowed thence, especially from the song of Hannah, in which there are many passages remarkably suitable to her own case. See 1Sa 2:1-10 and the passages in the margin.
Luke 1:47. My spirit hath rejoiced— When a person, speaking of himself, mentions his soul or spirit as doinga thing, it is the strongest expression in human language, and intimates his doing the thing mentioned with the utmost energy of all his faculties: Mary, therefore, by saying, that her soul magnified the Lord, and that her spirit rejoiced in God, meant to declare, that she exerted the utmost vigour of all her faculties in setting forth the perfections of God, which constitute his greatness: and that the consideration of his goodness towards her, filled her withjoy, to the utmost extent of her capacity.
Luke 1:48. For he hath regarded— 'Επεβλεψεν ; "he hath looked with a distinguishing regard, and wonderful condescension. Though I am a person in the lowest station, and had not the least reason to expect that any thing extraordinary should arise from me; yet God hath put such honour on my condition, as to make me the instrument of bringing into the world the Messiah, the desire of all nations; for which reason all generations shall esteem me peculiarly happy."
Luke 1:49. Hath done to me great things;— Μεγαλεια, miracles. So Μεγαλα and Μεγαλεια often signify in the Old Testament, being often applied to the miracles wrought in Egypt, and in the wilderness. See Deuteronomy 10:21; Deuteronomy 11:7; Deuteronomy 34:12. Doubtless, Mary had now in her thoughts the miraculous conception of the Messiah. She adds, and holy is his name, making this remark to signify her humble faith in God's wisdom and goodness. She was astonished that God should have chosen her, a person of the meanest condition, to be the mother of the Messiah; yet, from her belief of the divine perfections, she was convinced that all was done in wisdom and truth.
Luke 1:50. His mercy is on them that fear him— "So great is the goodness of God, that he rewards the piety of his servants upon their posterity to the thousandth generation." Exodus 20:6. By making this observation, the virgin modestly insinuated, that she imputed the great honour that was done her, not to any piety of her own, but to the piety of her ancestors, Abraham and David, which God thus rewarded upon their latest posterity.
Luke 1:51. He hath shewed strength, &c.— It is an observation of Grotius, that God's great power is represented by his finger; his greater, by his hand; and his greatest by his arm. The production of lice was the finger of God, Exo 8:19 and the other miracles in Egypt were done by his hand, Exo 3:20 but the destruction of Pharaoh and his host in the Red-Sea was brought to pass by his arm, Exodus 15:16. Wherefore the virgin's meaning is, that in this dispensation of his providence, God mightily manifested his sovereign power. He hath scattered the proud, &c. means theproudgreatwomen,whoindulgedmanyfondimaginationsconcerningthe honour that should accrue to them from giving birth to the Messiah. "He hath filled them with shame, to such a degree, that they have scattered and hid themselves;"—in allusion to an army of cowards, who breaking their ranks run off in despair. See Eccl'us, Luke 10:15. Dr. Doddridge explains the passage, "He hath often dispersed the haughty sinners who exalt themselves against him, and confounded them in those schemes which were the most laboured imaginations of their own hearts." These words, says he, are thus peculiarly applicable to the gospel, in which God doth not only cast down imaginations, and every high thing, 2Co 10:5 by the humbling scheme of his recovering grace, but hath remarkably confounded his most insolent enemies in their own most elaborate projects, and established his sacred cause by the violent attempts which they have made to suppress it. Compare Psalms 2:1-3. The version of 1729 renders it, He hath confounded the proud by the devices of their own hearts.
Luke 1:52. He hath put down the mighty, &c.— Δυναστας απο θρονων, the rulers from their thrones. The kings who sprung from David had, no doubt, one after another expected to be the parents of the Messiah; and when the kingdom was taken from them, such of the royal progeny as were in the highest station would reckon this as their certain and greatest privilege: but now their hope was wholly overthrown; they were brought down by God from that height of dignity, to which in their own imagination they had exalted themselves; while a person in the meanest condition of all the royal seed was raised to it.
Luke 1:53. He hath filled the hungry, &c.— Both the poor and the rich are here beautifullyrepresented as waiting at God's gate in the condition of beggars; the rich, in expectation to receive the honour of giving birth to the Messiah; the poor, in expectation, not of that blessing, but of such small favours as suited their condition. While they are thus waiting, God, by an exercise of his sovereignty, bestows the favour so much coveted by the rich, on a poor family, to its unspeakable satisfaction; and sends away the rich, disappointed, and discontented; for such is the force of the original word εξαπεστειλε .
Luke 1:54-55. He hath holpen— 'Αντελαβετο, here translated He hath holpen, signifies properly "supporting a thing that is falling, by taking hold of it on the falling side." The virgin's meaning therefore was, that God had now remarkably supported the Jewish nation, andhindered it from utterly falling, by raising up the Messiah among them, the matchless renown of whose undertaking would reflect infinite honour on the nation which gave him birth. Or rather, by his servant Israel, she meant, or at least the Holy Ghost meant, all those who are spiritually so called. It is indeed in remembrance of his mercy. When men remember things which they want to perform, they commonly perform them, if no object lies in their way. For some such reason as this, the Scriptures say that God remembers his attributes, when he exerts them in a signal manner; and his promises, when he fulfils them in spite of all opposition. So he is said to forget a thing, when he acts outwardly as men do when they have forgotten; yet, properly speaking, forgetting and remembering are both of them absolutely inconsistent with the perfection of God, to whose view all things past, present, and to come are ever open. Mary adds, Luk 1:55 as he spake or promised to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed, that is to say, to all his seed, Gentiles as well as Jews: for though the virgin might not have a distinct conception of what she uttered, understood in this extensive view; yet as she spoke by inspiration, there is nothing to hinder us from affixing such a meaning to her words, especially as the construction of the sentence will scarcely admit of any other. It might therefore be better translated thus: In remembrance of his mercy to Abraham, and to his seed for ever, as he spake to our fathers.
Luke 1:59. And they called him Zacharias,— The law did not enjoin that the child should have his name given him at circumcision; it was an incidental circumstance, which custom had added; possibly because at the institution of the rite God changed the names of Abraham and Sarah, Genesis 17:5; Genesis 17:15.
Luke 1:63. And he asked for a writing-table— Πινακιδιον, a writing-tablet, or little book.
Luke 1:64-66. And his tongue loosed, &c.— And his tongue also spake, praising God. Elsner. Zacharias had no sooner done writing than he recovered his speech, the angel's prediction being then fully accomplished. Accordingly, with an audible articulate voice, he praised God; probably, by acknowledging the justice of the punishment which had been inflicted upon him, and the greatness of that sin which had procured it. By this open affectionate confession, he impressed all his neighbours and acquaintance with fear; (Luke 1:65.) that is to say, with religious awe and fear of offending God; and all these sayings, or rather things, (see ch. Luke 2:15.) were noised abroad: being very extraordinary events, they were much talked of in that country; and people formed many conjectures concerning the child, with whom was the hand of the Lord, Luk 1:66 that is, (as it is explained Luke 1:80.) he was remarkable, even from his infancy, for the qualities both of his body and mind. He had an eminent degree of the protection, blessing, and assistance of God, visibly bestowed upon him. It should be observed, that the extraordinary circumstances recorded in this chapter, which attended the birth of the Baptist, were all wisely ordered by Providence; that he who was the Messiah's forerunner, might not seem an obscure and ordinary man. He was introduced into the world in this magnificent manner, that the attention of his countrymen being awakened, and high expectations of him raised, he might execute the duties of his ministry with greater advantage, and effectually prepare the people for receiving the Messiah himself, who was soon to appear in person. But see more on this subject in Jortin's Discourses, p. 184 and Bell's Inquiry into the Divine Missions of John, &c.
Luke 1:67. Zacharias—prophesied,— Some imagine that by Zacharias's prophesying, St. Luke means only that he celebrated the praises of God with great elevation and affection of soul. And it must be acknowledged, that the word has this sense in other passages of Scripture, particularly 1Ch 25:1 where Asaph and Jeduthun are said to prophesy with the harp and cymbal, which is explained Luk 1:3 by their giving praise and thanks to God. However, as Zacharias is said on this occasion to have been filled with the Holy Ghost, and to have uttered a prophesy concerning his son, the ordinary sense of the word may very well be admitted here.
Luke 1:68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel;— "Let all honour and glory be ascribed to the Possessor and Governor of the world, the God of Israel, because he hath visited and redeemed his people." For God to visit his people, is a metaphorical expression, signifying to shew them great favour: it is taken from the custom of princes, who commonly visit the provinces of their kingdom, in order to redress grievances, and to confer benefits. The great benefits accruing to the people of God from the visitation which this holy man speaks of here, is their redemption or deliverance from all their spiritual enemies, by the coming of the Messiah, the horn of salvation; that is to say, the power which works or brings salvation. See on Psalms 18:2. &c. &c.
Luke 1:70. Which have been since the world began:— 'Απ αιωνος : "from the beginning of the world." By the world, in this passage, some understand the Jewish dispensation, because, before the giving of the law, no prophet spake either of God's raising up a Horn of Salvation in the house of David, or of performing his covenant with Abraham. And to these promises they suppose Zacharias now alluded, because the general strain of his discourse seems to respect the temporal deliverance which the Jews imagined the Messiah would accomplish for the Israelites. Nevertheless, if we carefullyattend to the text, we shall be sensible that this 70th verse is connected, not with the verse which precedes, but with that which follows it, in this manner: "He hath raised up an Horn of Salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, &c. as the accomplishment of a promise which he made by the prophets from the beginning of the world; which promise was, that we, the spiritual Israel, should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us." Accordingly we find that a promise of this sort was made to the parents of mankind immediately after the fall, and by them handed down to their posterity, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. This sense renders Zacharias's words more consistent than the other, which can never shew how a horn of salvation in the house of David was promised by the prophets from the beginning of the Jewish dispensation. And though it should be granted, that Zacharias had not now in his eye the general spiritual deliverance of the people of God, yet, as he spake by inspiration, the meaning of the Holy Ghost here, as in many other prophesies, is much more extensive than the ideas of the prophet by whom he spake, and who often did not understand what he uttered; as St. Peter informs us, 1 Ephesians 1:10-11.
Luke 1:71. That we should be saved from, &c.— Salvation from, &c.
Luke 1:74. Without fear,— Αφοβως,— without a slavish fear, or that spirit of bondage, mentioned Romans 8:15. For the whole of this promise, both as it was originally made to Abraham, and as it is here applied to the coming of the Messiah, respected a spiritual deliverance; though the Jews generally understood it of a deliverance from their enemies on earth, as possibly Zacharias also did.
Luke 1:75. And the days of our life.— Serving God in holiness and righteousness, as well as deliverance from enemies, being spoken of as in the merciful grant of God, we may reasonably conclude that it refers to those passages, in which God promised to pour out extraordinary degrees of a pious spirit on his people, under the reign of the Messiah. Compare Isaiah 44:1-5. Jer 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27.
Luke 1:76. And thou, child,— Zacharias here either pointed to John, or took him in his arms: the messenger or forerunner in Malachi was to be a prophet; Zacharias says of his son, Thou shalt be called the prophet of the Most High; and our Saviour declares, that John was more than a prophet; that is, he was a great preacher of righteousness, who called aloud unto the people torepent that they might be forgiven, and declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. See Malachi 3:1; Malachi 4:5. Isa 40:3 and Sharpe's Second Argument.
Luke 1:78. The tender mercy— Σπλαγχνα ελεους, the bowels of mercy. These two words are often used in Scripture both jointly and separately. They signify pity, because that passion is commonly attended with a motion in the bowels, especially when the object of it is one we have an interest in. See Isaiah 63:15.Philippians 2:1; Philippians 2:1. Col 3:12 where the bowels of mercy signify the most tender mercy. The phrase used by itself signifies any strong affection whatever. Thus Philemon 1:7. The bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother. The day-spring from on high, is in the original Ανατολη εξ υψους . As the phrase, Ανατολη σεληνης, the rising of the moon, (Isaiah 60:19.) signifies the moon itself; so ανατολη, the elliptical expression here used for ανατολη ηλιου, may signify the sun. For Zacharias is alluding to those passages in the prophetic writings, which describe the Messiah by the metaphors of the light and the sun; particularly Mal 4:2 where he is called the sun of righteousness, both on account of the light of his doctrine, and of the joy produced by his appearing. See also Isaiah 60:1-2; Isaiah 60:19. Indeed, no figure was ever more happily imagined, or more naturally applied, than this, which represents the promised seed under the notion of the sun. For most aptly may Jesus be likened to the rising sun; his doctrine being to the souls of men what light is to their bodies. It is altogether necessary for directing our steps in the paths of truth and righteousness; it is exceedingly pleasant to the spiritual taste, by discovering the most important and delightful truths; nay, like the light, it throws a beauty and pleasantness upon everything in this lower world, which, without the assurance of God's reconcileableness, would be but a dark and dreary scene to sinners, however noble and beautiful in itself. Dr. Doddridge renders Ανατολη by the dawning of the day; for it is well known, says he, that the word properly signifies that part of the heavens where the light begins toarise,—and the first shining of that light. The dawning of the day, seems therefore a very literal version; and I apprehend it more beautifully describes the state of things just at this interval, than if the sun had been represented as actually risen.
Luke 1:79. Them that sit in darkness, &c.— These phrases, with peculiar propriety, describe the ignorant and miserable state of the Gentile world, and perhaps the former part of the verse may refer to them. But as Christ's preaching to the Jews in Galilee; (for it was almost entirely to Jews that he preached) is said, Mat 4:14-16 to be an accomplishment of Isa 9:1-2 to which Zacharias here probably refers, we are not to confine the sense to the Gentiles only; for indeed the sad character and circumstances of the Jews at this time, as described by Josephus, do well suit the representation here made.
Luke 1:80. And was in the deserts— Though the mother of Jesus was related to Elisabeth, the mother of John; though she visited her in the hill-country about the time of her own conception, and before the birth of John; it does not appear, nor is it probable, that there was any intimacy, or any correspondence between Jesus and his forerunner: on the contrary, it is expressly said that John was in the deserts till the time of his shewing unto Israel. The desert here mentioned is generally thought to have been that of Ziph, or Maon, where Saul pursued David: though there were several country towns and villages in these deserts, as we have heretofore observed; yet, as they were but thinly peopled, they were in the Jewish idiom called deserts. Now it was wisely ordered, to prevent a personal acquaintance between them, that John should continue in one of these deserts, at the distance of at least a hundred miles from Nazareth, till the time of his entering upon his ministry. See John 1:31. He went not into any of the great cities, but when he left the place where his father lived, withdrew from mankind, retired into the wilderness, and lived an austere life, that his character might be suited to his office,—the preaching of repentance. The Levites could not serve nor be numbered, according to the law of Moses, and the example of David, till they were thirty years old. The Jews therefore would not perhaps have received any doctrines from John, if he had entered sooner than he did upon his ministry. From what has been said, it is evident that there could be no collusion, no contrivance, no familiarity between the first and second messenger;—the messenger who was to prepare the way, and the great messenger of the covenant. Elsner has shewn that the word 'Αναδειξις, rendered shewing, often signifies the inauguration of a public officer. See his Observations, Guyse, Sharpe, and Be
Inferences drawn from the angel's appearance to Zacharias.—The state of the Jewish church was extremely corrupt immediately before the news of the Gospel; yet, bad as it was, not only the priesthood, but the courses of attendance continued, even from David to Christ. Judea passed through many troubles and alterations; yet this oeconomy lasted about eleven hundred years. A settled good will not easily be defeated, but in the change of persons will remain unchanged; and if it be forced to give way, leave memorable footsteps behind it.
The successive turns of the legal ministration held on in an uninterrupted line; but how little were the Jews better for this, when they had lost the urim and thummim,—sincerity of doctrine and manners! It is a succession of truth and holiness, that makes or institutes a church, whatever may become of the persons: never times were so barren, as not to yield some good; the greatest dearth affords some few good ears to the gleaners. Christ would not come into the world without having some faithful to entertain him; there would have been no equality, if all had either preceded or followed, and none had attended him.
Zacharias and Elisabeth are just, both of Aaron's blood, and John the Baptist of their's. It is not in the power of parents to transmit holiness to their children; but though there is no certainty, there is a likelihood of a holy generation, when the parents are such. If the stock and the graft be not both good, there is much danger of the fruit. It is observable, that the New Testament affords greater store of good women than the Old; Elisabeth leads the number, whose barrenness ended in a miraculous fruit, both of the body, and of her time. Among the Jews, barrenness was not a defect only, but a reproach: (Luke 1:25.) yet while this good woman was fruitful in obedience, she was barren of children: a just soul and a barren womb may well agree together.
As Zacharias had a course in God's house, so he carefully observed it; the favour of these respites doubled his diligence. The more high and sacred our calling is, the more dangerous is neglect. Woe be to us, if we slacken those duties, wherein God honours us more than we can honour him!
The lot of this day called Zacharias to offer incense in the outer temple. We do not find any prescription which the sons of Aaron had from God for this particular manner of designation; whence we learn that matters of good order in holy affairs may be ruled by the wise institution of men, according to reason and expedience. It fell out happily that Zacharias was chosen by lot to this ministration, that God's immediate hand might be seen in all the passages which concerned his great prophet; and that as the person, so the occasion might be of God's own choosing.
Every morning and evening their law called the Jews to offer incense to God, that both parts of the day might be consecrated to the author of time. Nothing can better resemble our faithful prayers than sweet perfumes, and these God expects his whole church should send up to him morning and evening. The elevations of our hearts should be perpetual; but if twice in the day we do not present God with our solemn invocations, we make the Gospel less dutiful than the law.
While the minister of God sends up his incense within the temple, the people must send up their prayers without. Their vows, and that incense, though remote in their first rising, met ere they went up to heaven. The people might no more go into the holy place to offer up the incense of prayer to God, than Zacharias might go into the holy of holies. But now every man is a priest unto God;—every believer, since the veil was rent, prays within the temple. What are we the better for our greater freedom of access to God under the Gospel, if we do not make use of our privilege?
While they were praying to God, he sees an angel of God. As Gideon's angel went up in the smoke of the sacrifice, so did Zacharias's descend, as it were, in the fragrant smoke of his incense. The presence of angels is no novelty, but their appearance is; they are always with us, but rarely seen, that we may awefully respect their messages when they are seen. In the mean time, our faith may see them, though our senses do not; their assumed shapes do not make them more present, but visible only.
There is an order in that heavenly hierarchy, though we know it not. This angel that appeared to Zacharias, was not with him in the ordinary course of his attendances, but was purposely sent from God with this message. When could it be more fit for the angel to appear to Zacharias, than when prayers and incense were offered by him? and in the temple,—and at the altar of incense,—and on the right side of the altar? Those glorious spirits, as they are always with us, so most in our devotions; and as in all places, so most of all in God's house. They rejoice to be with us, while we are with God; as, on the contrary, they turn their faces from us, when we go about to commit sin.
He who was accustomed to live and serve in the presence of the Master, was now astonished at the presence of the servant; so much difference is there between our faith and our senses, that the apprehension of the presence of the God of spirits by faith, goes down sweetly with us; whereas the sensible apprehension of an angel dismays.
The good angel was both apprehensive and compassionate of the good old man's weakness, and presently encourages him with a cheerful excitation,—fear not Zacharias; thy prayer is heard.
There was not more fear in the human face, than comfort in the angelic speech. Many good suits had Zacharias made, and, among the rest, for a son. Doubtless it was now some years since he had urged that request; for he was now stricken in age, and had ceased to hope;—and yet had the All-wise laid it up all the while in remembrance, and, when no longer thought of, brought it forth into effect: Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son. Thus does the mercy of God deal with his patient and faithful suppliants; and, it may be, he has long granted our suit, ere we shall know of his grant.
Many a father repents him of his fruitfulness, and has such sons as he wishes unborn; but to have so gracious and happy a son as the angel foretold, could not be a less comfort than honour to the age of Zacharias. To hear he should have such a son;—a son whose birth should concern the joy of many;—a son who should be great in the sight of the Lord;—a son who should be sacred to God, filled with God, beneficial to man,—was news enough to anticipate the angel's sentence to take away that tongue with amazement, which was soon after lost by incredulity.
The speech was so good that it found not a sudden belief: he mistrusts the message, and asks, How shall I know? Luke 1:18. Nature was at his side, and alleged the impossibility of the event; and reason, with mis-timed hesitation, joined in to mislead him.—I am old,—and my wife also is of a great age. Faith and reason have their limits; but if reason will be encroaching upon the bounds of faith, no wonder if she is soon taken captive by infidelity. The authority of the reporter makes way for belief in things otherwise hard to credit. The angel condescendingly tells his name, place, office, unasked, that Zacharias might not think any news impossible which was brought him by so heavenly a messenger; but lest he should no less doubt of the style of the messenger than of the errand itself, he is at once confirmed and punished with dumbness. He shall ask no more questions for forty weeks, who has adventured to ask this one distrustfully.
Neither did Zacharias lose his tongue only for the time, but his ears also; for otherwise, when they came to ask his allowance for his son's name, they needed not to have demanded it by signs, Luke 1:62. How striking the reflection!—It is not our previous holy union with God which can bear us out in the least sin; yea, rather, the more acquaintance we have with his Majesty, the more sure we are of correction when we offend.
Zacharias stayed, the people waited, (Luke 1:21.) The multitude thought him long; yet they would not depart, till he returned to bless them. How does their patient attendance without, shame many of us, who are hardly persuaded to attend within the holy place.
At last Zacharias comes out, speechless; (Luke 1:22.) and more amazes them with his presence, than with his delay. The eyes of the multitude, which were not worthy to behold his vision, yet see the signs of the vision, that the world might be put in expectation of some extraordinary sequel. Zacharias's speech could not have said so much as this dumbness. He would fain have spoken, and could not:—with us how many are dumb, and need not be so! how many mouths are stopped by negligence, fear, partiality, which shall one day say, "woe is me, because I held my peace!" Zacharias's hand speaks that, which he cannot utter with his tongue; and he makes them by signs understand: those powers which we have, we ought to use.
But though he had ceased to speak, yet he ceases not to minister: he takes not this dumbness for a dismission, but stays out the eight days of his course, (Luke 1:23.) as one who knew that the eyes, the hands, the heart, would be accepted of that God, who had bereaved him of his tongue: we are not hastily to take occasions of withdrawing ourselves from the public services of God,—especially under the Gospel. The law, which stood much upon bodily perfection, dispensed with age for attendance: the Gospel, which is all for the soul, regards those inward powers, which, while they are vigorous, exclude all excuses of absence from our ministration.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Dedications are usually but the feather with which flattery tickles the pride of the great; but here is one, whose simplicity bespeaks the Christian spirit of the author, and recommends the book not to the patronage of his noble friend, as needing his countenance, but to the consideration of his pupil, in order to instruct his conscience, and direct his practice.
The evangelist opens his divine history with his reason for writing. Because many had undertaken to publish narratives of the birth, life, doctrines, miracles, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who, though probably well-meaning disciples, wrote under no infallible guidance of the Spirit; it appeared therefore to be the will of God, and highly proper, that he should compose a connected history and particular account of all things from the beginning, to prevent the errors and mistakes which might arise from uninspired writings.
1. He professes to confine himself to the things most surely believed among the faithful,—not matters of doubtful disputation, but facts established by the most indubitable evidence of those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word; heard the doctrines, and saw the miracles of Jesus, and were divinely commissioned by him to go forth and preach the Gospel which he had delivered to them.
2. He was fully qualified for the work that he undertook, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first; and this not merely received by tradition from the best attested reports, but as the words (παρηκολουθηκοτι ανωθεν ) may be rendered, having attained to the exact understanding of all things from above; which inspiration he had diligently sought, and sacredly followed.
3. The end which he proposed was, that Theophilus, whom he addressed with the respectable title of most excellent, being, it seems, a man of rank, might know the certainty of those things wherein he had been instructed, or catechised. Probably St. Luke had been the means of his conversion, and had taught him by word of mouth the great principles of the Christian religion; and therefore, that his memory might be afflicted, his knowledge increased, and his faith more firmly established in the truths of the Gospel, he drew up the following history: though the holy Spirit of God, and St. Luke also, had much higher things in view,—more extensive advantages in contemplation, in the composition of this history. Note; (l.) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a cunningly-devised fable, but contains facts supported by the most incontestable evidence, and truths the most sure and certain, whereon our faith may stand unshaken. (2.) Catechising was the ancient method of communicating to the youth, and newly-converted persons, the knowledge of the great doctrines of religion; and perhaps our present deplorable ignorance is owing to no one cause more than to the perfunctory discharge or total neglect of this most useful method of instruction. (3.) Christianity, though it forbids to give flattering titles, enjoins us to pay honour to whom honour is due; it teaches us politeness without falsehood; simplicity without rudeness; respect without servility; and courtesy without cringing.
2nd, The other evangelists commenced their history from the conception and birth of Jesus; St. Luke begins farther back, with that of John the Baptist, his forerunner, which was attended with extraordinary circumstances well deserving our regard.
1. We have an account of his parents. They lived in the reign of Herod, an Idumean, who held his kingdom under the Roman emperor. Both Zacharias and Elisabeth were of the sacerdotal family: he was of the course of Abia, the eighth of those four-and-twenty into which the priests were divided, (1 Chronicles 24:7-19.) To the honour of this aged pair it is recorded, that their piety was most exemplary; they approved themselves to God in a holy blameless conversation, living by faith in the expected Messiah, whom they regarded in the use of all the divine institutions, and were sincerely observant of all the ordinances of worship, and duties of morality. But notwithstanding the distinguished excellence of their characters, it was their infelicity to be destitute of children, Elisabeth being barren, and both of them now so advanced in years, as in the common course of nature to be deprived of the hope of issue. Note; Our mercies are often long deferred, to make them at last the more welcome.
2. An angel appeared to Zacharias as he was discharging his ministry in the temple. The services to be performed by the course in waiting were determined by lot: his office was to burn incense in the sanctuary; and while this was performing, the holy worshippers without in silent aspirations lifted up their prayers to God, expecting acceptance through the intercession of the Messiah, which the smoke of the incense offered by the priest represented, see Revelation 8:1-4. And while Zacharias was thus employed, an angel of the Lord appeared to him on the right side of the altar of incense. Struck with the glorious sight and unusual appearance, Zacharias trembled, and feared greatly what such a vision might portend. Note; (1.) Prayer is the service which the truly pious never neglect; and herein their care is to lift up their hearts to God, not so solicitous about the choice of words, as that internal fervent desires may speak the language of their souls. (2.) All our services and prayers must be offered through the mediation of Jesus, for then only can they be acceptable unto God.
3. The angel delivers to him the message with which he was sent. Having first kindly quieted his fears, he assures him of gracious acceptance with God, and an answer to his prayers. Probably at that time he had particularly been crying for the coming of the promised Messiah, as he had formerly often asked for a son, and both are now granted him; the latter first, in order to introduce the former. Thy wife Elisabeth, so long barren, and now aged, shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John, which signifies The grace of God, and was most admirably suited for him who should be so great in spiritual gifts and graces, and the harbinger of the Messiah and his kingdom. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; not only in him, as a welcome child given after so long waiting, but in the view of the high character and office which he is ordained to bear: and many shall rejoice at his birth; congratulating his parents on such an unexpected blessing. And it will afford yet farther cause of joy to multitudes, who afterwards shall be blessed with his ministry and labours; for he shall be great in the sight of the Lord; highly honoured of God, and blessed with singular endowments from him: and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; a Nazarite from his birth: it becomes those designed for eminent services, to live a life of eminent self-denial, and deadness to sensual delights. He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb; sanctified, set apart, and qualified fully for the ministry to which he was appointed: and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God, the Messiah, their incarnate God, then ready to appear: and he shall go before him, as his messenger and harbinger, the morning-star that ushers in the rising sun; in the spirit and power of Elias; endued with the zeal of that eminent reformer, and in austerity of manners nearly resembling him: to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children; either the Jews to the Gentiles, removing their prejudices and enmity against them; or with the children, converting young and old by his preaching; (see the Annotations;) and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, convincing the most rebellious sinners, and leading them to Christ for justification, even to the Wisdom that maketh wise unto salvation; and thus to make ready a people prepared for the Lord; raising their expectations of him, removing their prejudices, and pointing him personally out to them as their Lord and Saviour. Note; (1.) Though our requests be long delayed, they are not therefore denied; and the mercy at last comes perhaps enhanced in value, as the answer of many prayers. (2.) True greatness is not to be estimated by outward grandeur or wealth; God's favour, and the possession of the gifts and graces of his Spirit, these alone make a man great in his eyes who is the fountain of honour. (3.) The great end of the zealous ministers of God's word is to convert the souls of men, and turn them to the Lord Jesus; nor must they despair of the most disobedient sinners.
4. Zacharias, looking at human probabilities, staggered at the promise through unbelief, and wanted some further sign to remove his doubts. He and his wife being now grown old, the age as well as barrenness of Elisabeth made him regard the event as incredible.—Very unlike a son of Abraham? Romans 4:19-20.
5. The angel gives him the sign that he asked, and therewith the just punishment of his unbelief. I am Gabriel; my very appearance to you should have been sufficient to beget confidence in my word; because that I stand in the presence of God, attentive to his orders, and employed in his service; and am sent expressly to thee with this message, and to shew thee these glad tidings, which should have been received with thankfulness and joy: but since thou askest a sign, behold thou shalt be dumb, and no more able to object to the truth of what I say, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, as a punishment upon thee, because thou hast not believed my words, which, notwithstanding all the obstacles that unbelief suggests, shall be fulfilled in their season. Note; Our unbelief is very dishonourable and displeasing to God.
6. Zacharias returns to the people, who wondered at the length of his stay in the temple, and were waiting for the usual benediction before they retired. And their wonder increased, when coming forth he was unable to speak a word; and by his signs they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple. The Aaronical priesthood was now about to be silenced, and the dumb signs of typical institutions to be set aside, by the clear voice of gospel grace.
7. The angelic message quickly received its accomplishment. Zacharias, having stayed out the days of his ministration in the temple, returned home with his wife, who immediately conceived by him; and thereupon, perhaps because she was to bring forth a Nazarite, kept herself for five months close retired from all company, that she might contract no ceremonial uncleanness; spending the time in thankfulness, praise, and devotion; blessing God for this singular mercy, in removing the reproach of barrenness from her, under which she had so long laboured, and at last bestowing on her, in so extraordinary a way, that son who should be the harbinger of the Messiah. Note; In all our mercies God is ever to be acknowledged; and particularly we are assured, that children and the fruit of the womb are a heritage and gift that cometh from the Lord.
3rdly, Six months after the former miraculous conception of Elisabeth, the same angel Gabriel is sent on a more important message, to foretel the conception and birth of the Lord's Christ. We have,
1. The person from whom the human nature of the Son of God was to be taken. Her name was Mary; of the royal race of David, but now reduced to very mean circumstances; a virgin unspotted, espoused to Joseph of the same royal line; dwelling in a remote corner of the land, and in a place despicable almost to a proverb. See John 1:46.
2. The angel's address and salutation. Hail, thou that art highly favoured, &c. He wishes her all peace, prosperity, and joy; assures her of the favour of the Most High; that his gracious presence was with her; and that she of all others was singled out to be distinguished with peculiar honour, and to be called blessed in all generations, as the mother of the adored Messiah. The popish plea for the adoration of the Virgin Mary, drawn from this passage, is absurd, and utterly unsupported; these words in no wise implying prayer or worship, but merely a friendly salutation.
3. Mary's surprise on the angel's appearance and address. She was greatly astonished at such an unexpected visit, and the respect paid to her, a woman so unknown and unnoticed; and, much perplexed, reasoned with herself what this blessedness should mean, which was pronounced with such solemnity.
4. The angel, to remove the perplexity and confusion under which she appeared, proceeds with his message. Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God; and when this is the case, all disquieting fears are groundless: and behold, astonishing as the tidings are, yet true, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, though a virgin immaculate, (Isaiah 7:14.) and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus, the same as Joshua, or Saviour, of whom the former deliverers of Israel were types and figures. He shall be great, in dignity, person, offices, and works; and shall be called the Son of the Highest; shall really be so, partaking of the same Divine Nature: and the Lord God shall give unto him, as the Messiah, the throne of his father David, from whom, as man, he descended, and whose kingdom was typical of that spiritual dominion which Jesus should erect in the hearts of believers, sitting as a king upon his holy hill of Sion, the church of the faithful: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob, the true Israel of God, whether Jews or Gentiles brought to the obedience of the faith, and his throne shall be established for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end; enduring as the days of time, and subject to none of the vicissitudes and changes which attend earthly sovereignty; and, when time shall end, this kingdom shall be continued in a more glorious form, coeval with the ages of eternity.
5. The Virgin, not distrusting the truth, or questioning the possibility of what he said, humbly desires to be informed by what means this should be brought to pass, seeing that she was conscious of her own virginity.
6. He accordingly informs her of as much as she need wish to know. The Holy Ghost, the power of the Highest, exerting his almighty influence, will by his immediate agency, as he moved upon the face of the waters in the first creation, enable her to conceive; and therefore, because in this miraculous manner the body of the child Jesus should be formed, he shall be a holy thing, from his conception not partaking of the taint of human corruption, as all flesh do in the ordinary course of generation; and shall be called the Son of God, being, as such, now manifested in the human nature; and that which she conceived, henceforward indissolubly subsisting in personal union with the Second Person of the sacred Trinity, should henceforth bear his name. And he adds, as an encouragement to strengthen her faith in his word, that her cousin Elizabeth, who was by one of her parents allied it seems to the house of David, as by the other descended from Aaron, was now with child, though so stricken in years, and in the sixth month of her pregnancy, who had before been barren. The same power therefore which had wrought this miracle, would work the greater one of which he assured her; for with God nothing is impossible; however it exceed human power or comprehension, what he promises he can and will surely perform.
7. Mary, with deep humility and submission, yields herself up to the Lord, as his handmaid, desiring him to do with her whatever he pleased; utterly unworthy of so great an honour, yet, since such was his promise, begging it might be fulfilled, and faithfully depending upon the Lord's almighty power and grace. Hereupon the angel departed, having finished the work the Lord had given him to do. Note; (1.) However wonderful and surpassing great God's promises are, it becomes us to credit his word, and rest our everlasting hopes thereon; then we glorify him. (2.) Angelic visions here below were always transient; shortly these blessed spirits will be our companions to eternity.
4thly, Quickly after the angel's departure we are informed,
1. Of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth in haste, to confer with her on these strange events, that they may confirm each other's faith, and rejoice in these singular mercies. The journey was long from Galilee to the hill-country of Judea, probably to Hebron, a city of the priests; but the converse of such a friend as Elizabeth, would repay all her pains. Note; Nothing is more encouraging, comforting, and quickening, than when believers communicate their mutual experiences.
2. Their meeting was accompanied with circumstances very remarkable. No sooner had Mary entered the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth, than the babe, as under a divine impulse, leaped in her womb, seeming to congratulate the blessed Virgin's arrival: and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost; with the extraordinary afflatus of the divine Spirit, revealing to her mind the Messiah's conception, the message of the angel to Mary, her faith therein, and the sure performance of what was then promised: and addressing her welcome and highly honoured guest, she spake aloud, with a transport of holy joy, as the Spirit gave her utterance, saying, Blessed art thou among women; distinguished above all others with peculiar marks of divine favour; and, far from envying, Elizabeth warmly congratulated her on the honour: and blessed is the fruit of thy womb; that divine Messiah being there conceived, in whom all nations of the world should be blessed, and who is in himself, in the glory of the divine nature, God over all, blessed for ever. And whence is this to me? how great the condescension, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? that she should honour me with her company, from whom a body is preparing for the great Lord of all, to appear in the human nature. For lo! with wonder hear what with wonder I relate; as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy, as if conscious of the nearness of his Lord, and welcoming her who should bring forth that Messiah, whose harbinger he is appointed to be. And blessed is she that believed; not staggering at the promise, but acquiescing in the divine word, which shall infallibly be accomplished; for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. Note; (1.) True grace makes us thankful for our own mercies, and rejoice without envy in other's greater attainments. (2.) When the gospel's joyful sound reaches our ears, and the sweet name of Jesus is proclaimed; then should our hearts leap as this babe, and bless the God of our salvation. (3.) Believing souls are truly blessed, for Christ is formed in their hearts the hope of glory.
3. Mary, deeply affected with the words of Elizabeth, and moved with the same divine inspiration, echoes back her praises, and foresees and foretels the great salvation of the Messiah now in her womb.
[1.] She rejoices in God for the distinguished honour conferred upon her. My soul doth magnify the Lord, exalting his great and glorious name, and admiring and adoring the wonders of his goodness; and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour: and justly was it a greater cause of joy to her, that the knew herself interested in his salvation, than that after the flesh she should be honoured as his mother; for without the former, the latter could have profited her nothing. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; though in outward circumstances contemptible and mean, he has been pleased to honour me so highly: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; as distinguished with this singular mark of his favour; as interested through faith in the salvation of Jesus; and as the happy instrument chosen to bring forth that Redeemer, who should be the great blessing of mankind. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things, displaying his power beyond all conception, in the incarnation of his Son, and in his grace to me, appointed to bring him forth; and holy is his name, as all his works and ways declare; therefore from men and angels to him all praise is due; and may it be for ever ascribed to him by all the hosts of earth and heaven! Note; (1.) When Christ is known as our God and Saviour, then shall we rejoice in him, and magnify his name. (2.) The lower we are in our own eyes, the more admiring thoughts shall we have of the grace and goodness of our Lord.
[2.] She praises him for the wonders he doth for his people in the ways of his providence and grace. His mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation; not to me only, but to all who with filial reverence and godly fear worship and serve him. His mercy to such is rich and gracious; and now more eminently displayed than ever in the incarnation of his Son; in whom, from generation to generation, whoever trusts, will find mercy. He hath shewed strength with his arm; choosing the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; raising up so glorious a Redeemer from a birth so obscure: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts; disappointing their schemes, and humbling them in the dust. Both in the dispensations of his providence and grace, he hath put down the mighty from their seats; the proud oppressors of his people of old, as Pharaoh, Sennacherib, &c. and the spiritually proud, the lofty Pharisees, and all self-righteous sinners; these he hurls from their fancied dignity, destroys their vain confidences, and casts them down as contemptible and vile: and exalted them of low degree; he hath done so, and continues so to do, raising up by his providence the oppressed, as Joseph from the prison, to sit among the princes; and by his grace reviving the hearts of poor and contrite sinners, exalting them to his favour, and delighting to honour them. He hath filled the hungry, those that hunger after righteousness, and feel their utter need of Jesus, with good things, satisfying their souls out of his fulness; and the rich, rich in their own opinion, self-confident, and satisfied with themselves without a Saviour; those he hath sent empty away, destitute of all true grace, without the least mark of his favour, and given up to their own delusions. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in all past ages, by extraordinary interpositions on their behalf; and now more eminently, in raising them up a Saviour from their most dangerous spiritual enemies; in remembrance of his mercy, which at sundry times he revealed to them; as he spake to our fathers, Abraham and his seed for ever; to whom he had promised, that in his seed all nations of the world should be blessed, which promise God was now about to fulfil. Note; (1.) Pride will surely have a fall. No height of station or self-confidence can protect those whom God abhors. (2.) There is help laid on One mighty to save; and all the poor, the weak, and helpless, may come to him, and be holpen. (3.) All God's promises to his faithful people, will, sooner or later, receive their accomplishment; and blessed are they who wait for him.
4. Mary, after a visit of three months, returned to Nazareth, satisfied now of her own conception, and thereby perfectly assured of the truth of the angel's and Elizabeth's predictions.
5thly, Elizabeth's full time being come, we have,
1. The birth of her son, and the great joy attending it. Tidings of so extraordinary an event were soon spread among her relations and neighbours, and they could not but magnify the Lord for so signal a mercy vouchsafed to her, who was both barren and aged; and they came to congratulate her on the occasion, and rejoice with her. Note; A gracious heart takes pleasure in the comforts which others enjoy, and rejoices with those that rejoice.
2. On the eighth day, when the child was to be circumcised, as it was usual at that time to give him a name after some of his ancestors, the friends and relations, who met on that occasion, would have called him Zacharias, after his father; but Elizabeth, informed by writing from her husband, or by revelation, objected, insisting that the child should be called John. They who were present expressed their surprise at this, and objected against what was so unusual, none of her relations bearing that name: the matter therefore was referred to the father for his decision; who being deaf and dumb, they made signs to him that he would fix the child's name; and he making signs for a writing-table, to the astonishment of the company, wrote, His name is John. Note; (1.) The first concern that we owe our children is, early to dedicate them to God. (2.) Every John should remember the import of his name, and shew himself truly gracious.
3. Zacharias immediately thereupon recovered his speech, and, as the first and best use of his tongue, offered up his praises and thanksgivings to the God of his mercies.
4. These extraordinary events, which now were spread, and in every body's mouth, filled the people with astonishment and reverential fear, in awful expectation of what would be the issue, treasuring up in their memories, and often pondering in their minds, the wonderful circumstances attending the birth of this extraordinary child: and from his earliest infancy something amazingly great, and gracious was seen in him, which farther engaged their attention; it evidently appearing that the hand of the Lord was with him, and that he was taken under the care and guidance of his peculiar providence and grace. Note; God has ways that we know not of, to communicate his grace to the souls of infants, and make them partakers of the Holy Ghost, even before they are partakers of reason: who then can say, why such should not be baptized?
6thly, Zacharias, filled with the Holy Ghost, among his other ascriptions of praise to the Lord, when his tongue was loosed, uttered the following prophetic song, relative to the Messiah's incarnation and redemption, and the fulfilment of the covenant of grace.
1. He blesses, adores, and praises the God of Israel for the salvation to be obtained by the Messiah; who hath visited and redeemed his people; has often done it before, but now more signally than ever, by that redemption which his incarnate Son was about to obtain for all the faithful: and both raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; one able to save to the uttermost and before whom all his foes must fall; sprung from the royal race of David, according to his faithful promises, as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began; from the promise made to fallen man in Paradise, had this Saviour been the constant subject of the prophetic word, as the seed of the woman, the descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, and the family of David; and lo! the event verifies all the predictions. The expected Saviour is now incarnate, and ready to appear, that we should be saved from our enemies, the worst of enemies, sin, Satan, death, and hell; and from the hand of all that hate us; from this present evil world, and all the wicked who inhabit it; not a temporal, but, what is infinitely better, a spiritual salvation from all the powers of darkness and corruption: to perform the mercy promised to our fathers; that mercy of all mercies, the sending of the Messiah; and to remember his holy covenant, which is now about to be fulfilled by the obedience of Jesus to the death of the cross; whereby all our forfeited mercies may be restored, and our title to glory be recovered, according to the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, the father of all the faithful, both Jews and Gentiles; that he would grant unto us, in virtue of our divine Redeemer's undertaking, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies; (those spiritual enemies by whom we were enslaved, and to whom we must for ever continue under bondage, unless the Son make us free;) might serve him without fear; no longer in the spirit of a slave, but under the influence of that free Spirit of adoption, where love casteth out servile fear, and enables us to walk willingly and cheerfully, in holiness and righteousness before him; in the universal discharge of the duties of piety towards God, and justice towards men; with ceaseless prayer for divine assistance, all the days of our life, faithful and persevering until death in his blessed service. Blessed are they who are in such a state! But such is the state of all the faithful, and none else.
2. He blesses God for the particular mercy shewn to himself in giving him such a son, whose office and dignity he in spirit foresees. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; of that divine Immanuel, who is God over all, blessed for ever: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, as the harbinger of the King of Glory, to prepare his ways, by preaching repentance, and directing sinners to him, as the only Saviour of lost souls; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, of a spiritual salvation; a salvation not obtained as a matter of desert, but freely bestowed on them by the remission their sins through the tender mercy of our God, the original fountain whence all the great salvation flows; whereby the day-spring, or rising Sun of righteousness, from on high hath visited us, with his reviving and refreshing beams of grace, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; to those who before through a vail darkly in types and figures caught the glimmering day; to diffuse his bright influences amid the heathen world, covered with thickest darkness of idolatry and ignorance; and to shine into the minds of blind, stupid, and hardened sinners, dispelling the mists of error, and chasing the clouds of sin away, enlightening the conscience, and softening the heart, in order to guide our feet into the way of peace; to peace with God through the atoning Blood; to peace within, through the application of it to our souls; and to peace with men, through the spirit of universal love.
3. The younger years of the Baptist strongly corroborated this prediction concerning him. He grew, and waxed strong in spirit; his parts and capacity increased wonderfully with his stature, and his soul was filled with uncommon wisdom, fortitude, and grace; and he was in the desarts till the day of his shewing unto Israel; living in solitude, retirement, and devotion, till the time appointed for his entering upon his prophetic office. Note; They who most carefully improve their younger days in the school of true wisdom, will in general be best qualified to appear, and most likely to be successful, when they are called forth to minister in public.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent