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L U K E.
The narrative which this evangelist gives us (or rather God by him) of the life of K'ORASMUCH as many have taken in hand to PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS, OF THE GOSPEL
ACCORDING TO We are now entering into the labours of another evangelist; his name Luke, which some take to be a contraction of Lucilius ; born at Antioch, so St. Jerom. Some think that he was the only one of all the penmen of the scripture, that was not of the seed of Israel. He was a Jewish proselyte, and, as some conjecture, converted to Christianity by the ministry of St. Paul at Antioch ; and after his coming into Macedonia, (Acts 16. 10,), he was his constant companion. He had employed him. self in the study and practice of physic: hence Paul calls him Luke the beloved physician, Col. 4. 14. Some of the pretended ancients tell you that he was a painter, and drew a picture of the virgin Mary, But Dr. Whitby thinks that there is nothing certain to the contrary; and that therefore it is probable that he was one of the seventy disciples, and a follower of Christ when he was here upon earth; and if so, he was a native Israelite. I see not what can be objected against this, except some uncertain traditions of the ancients, which we can build nothing upon, and against which may be opposed the testimonies of Origen and Epiphanius, who both say that he was one of the seventy disciples. He is supposed to have written this Gospel when he was associated with St. Paul in his travels, and by direction from him: and some think that this is the brother whom Paul speaks of, (2 Cor. 8. 18,) whose praise is in the Gospel throughout all the churches of Christ ; as if the meaning of it were, that he was celebrated in all the churches for writing this Gospel; and that St. Paul means this when he speaks sometimes of his Gospel, as Rom. 2. 16. But there is no ground at all for that. Dr. Cave observes, that his way and manner of writing are accurate and exact, his style polite and elegant, sublime and lofty, yet perspicuous; and that he expresses himself in a vein of purer Greek than is to be found in the other writers of the holy story. Thus he relates divers things more copiously than the other evangelists; and thus he especially treats of those things which relate to the priestly office of Christ. It is uncertain when, or about what time, this Gospel was written. Some think that it was written in Achaia, during his travels with Paul, seventeen years, (twenty-two years, say others,) after Christ's ascension; others, that it was written at Rome, a little before he wrote his history of the Acts of the Apostles, (which is a continuation of this,) when he was there with Paul, while he was a prisoner, and preaching in his own hired house, with which the history of the Acts concludes; and then Paul saith that only Luke was with him, 2 Tim. 4. 1. When he was under that voluntary confinement with Paul, he had leisure to compile these two histories: (and many excellent writings the church has been indebted to a prison for :) if so, it was written about twenty-seven years after Christ's ascension, and about the fourth year of Nero. Jerom saith, He died when he was eighty-four years of age, and was never married. Some write, that he suffered martyre dom; but if he did, where and when is uncertain. Nor indeed is there much more credit to be given to the Christian tradi
tions concerning the writers of the New Testament than to the Jewish traditions concerning those of the Old Testament. St. Luke's Preface to his Gospel.
Year of the World 3998. CHAPTER I.
P set forth in order a declaration of those things Christ, begins earlier than either Matthew or Mark; we have reason to thank which are most surely believed among us, God for them all, as we have for all the gifts and graces of Christ's ministers, which in one make up what is wanting in the other, while all put together 2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which or his epistle dedicatory to his friend, Theophilus, v.1-111. The prophecy from the beginning 'were eyewitnesses, and minisand history of the conception of John Baptist, who was Christ's forerunner, ters of bthe word; v.5-25. Il. The annunciation of the Virgin Mary, or the notice given to her that she should be the mother of the Messiah, v. 26–38. IV. The interview 3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect between Mary the mother of Jesus and Elisabeth the mother of John, when understanding of all things from the very first, to boch mitered upon that occasion, v. 39-*. . The birth and circumcision of write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophisong of praise, in thankfulness for the birth of John, and in prospect of the birth | lus, of Jesus, v. 67-73. VII. A short account of John Baptist's infancy, v. 80. 4 That thou mightest know othe certainty of And these lo more than give us an entertaining narrative; they will lead us into the understanding of the mystery of golliness, Got manifest in the flesh. those things wherein thou hast been instructed. a John 15. 27. Heb. 2. 3. 1 Pet. 5. 1. 2 Pet. 1. 16. 1 John 1.1.
b Rom. 15. 16. Eph. 3. 7. 4. 11, 12. c Acts 11.4. d Acts 1. 1. e John 20. 31.
to be understood of some particular person, probably a magisV. 1-4. Complimental prefaces and dedications, the lan- trate ; because Luke gives him here the same title of respect guage of Aattery, and the food and fuel of pride, are justly con- which St. Paul gave to Festus the governor, kpáriote, (Acts demned by the wise and good: but it doth not therefore follow, 26. 25,) which we there translate most noble Festus, and here that such as are useful and instructive are to be run down most ercellent Theophilus. Note, Religion does not destroy such is this, in which St. Luke dedicates his Gospel to his friend civility and good manners, but ieaches us, according to the Theophilus, not as to his patron, though he was a man of ho- usages of our country, to give honour to them to whom honour nour, to protect it, but as to his pupil, to learn it, and hold it is due. fast. It is not certain who this Theophilus was; the name sig Now observe here, nifies a friend of God; some think that it does not mean any I. Why St. Luke wrote this Gospel; it is certain that he particular person, but every one that is a lover of God; Dr. was moved by the Holy Ghost, not only to the writing, but in Hammond quotes some of the ancients understanding it so: the writing of it; but in both he was moved as a reasonable and then it teaches us, that those who are truly lovers of God, creature, and not as a mere machine; and he was made to will heartily welcome the Gospel of Christ, the design and consider, tendency of which are, to bring us to God. But it is rather 1. That the things he wrote of were things that were most
NOTES TO CHAPTERI.
PHERE was in the days of Herod the king was barren, and they both were now well stricken
of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, in years. of the course of Abia :: and his wife was of the 8 And it came to pass, that while he executed daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. the priest's office before God in the order of his
6° And they were both righteous abefore God, course, walking in all the commandments and ordinancesi 9 According to the custom of the priest's office, of the Lord, blameless.
his lot wask to burn incense when he went into the 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth temple of the Lord. Matt. 2. 1. &1 Chr. 24. 10. Neh. 12. 4, 17.
h Gon. 7. 1. I Kiugs 9. 4. 2 Kings 20. 3. i 1 Cor. 11. 2. Phil. 3.6. k Ex. 30. 7, 8. surely believed among all Christians, and therefore things which from above, it seemed good to me to communicate it;" for such they ought to be instructed in, that they may know what they a talent as this ought not to be buried. believe; and things which ought to be transmitted to posterity, II. Observe why he sent it to Theophilus ; "I wrote unto thee (who are as much concerned in them as we are,) and, in order these things in order, not that thou mayest give reputation to the lo that, to be committed to writing, which is the surest way of work, but that thou mayest be edified by it; (v. 4,) That thou conveyance to the ages to come. He will not write about mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been things of doubtful disputations, things about which Christians instructed.” 1. It is implied, that he had been instructed in these may safely differ from one another, and hesitate within them- things either before his baptism, or since, or both, according to selves; but the things which are, and ought to be, most surely the rule, Matt. 28. 19, 20." Probably, Luke had baptized him, believed, spáypara reflmpo popopeva-the things which were per- and knew how well instructed he was; repl úv karnxhins-conformed. (so some,) which Christ and his apostles did, and did cerning which thou hast been catechized; so the word is; the most with such circumstances as gave a full assurance that they were knowing Christians began with being catechized. Theophilus really done, so that they have gained an established lasting was a person of quality, perhaps of noble birth; and so much the credit. Note, Though it is not the foundation of our faith, yet more pains should be taken with such when they are young, to it is a support to it, that the articles of our creed are things teach them the principles of the oracles of God, that they may that have been long most surely believed. The doctrine of Christ be fortified against the temptations, and furnished for the opis what thousands of the wisest and best of men have ventured portunities, of a high condition in the world. 2. It was intended their souls upon with the greatest assurance and satisfaction. ihat he should know the certainty of those things, should under
2. That it was requisite there should be a declaration made stand them more clearly, and believe them more firmly. There in order of those things; that the history of the life of Christ is a certainty in the Gospel of Christ, there is that therein which should be methorlized, and committed to writing, for the greater we may build upon; and those who have been well instructed in certainty of the conveyance. When things are put in order, the things of God when they were young, should afterward givo We know the better where to find them for our own use, and how diligence to know the certainty of those things; to know not only to keep them for the benefit of others,
what we believe, but why we believe it, that we may be able to 3. That there were many who had undertaken to publish nar- give a reason of the hope that is in us. ratives of the life of Christ ; many well-meaning people, who V. 5–25. The two preceding evangelists had agreed to designed well, and did well, and what they published had done begin the Gospel with the baptism of John, and his ministry, goal, though not done by divine inspiration, nor so well done which commenced about six months before our Saviour's public as might be, nor intended for perpetuity. Note, (1.) The ministry; (and now, things being near a crisis, six months was a labours of others in the Gospel of Christ, if faithful and honest, deal of time, which before was but a little ;) and therefore, this we ought to commend and encourage, and not to despise, though evangelist, designing to give a more particular account than had chargeable with many deficiencies. (2.) Others' services to been given of our Saviour's conception and birth, determines to Christ must not be reckoned to supersede ours, but rather to do so of John Baptist, who in both was his harbinger and forequicken them.
runner, the morning-star to the Sun of righteousness. The 4. That the truth of the things he had to write, was confirmed evangelist determines thus, not only because it is commonly by the concurring testimony of those who were competent and reckoned a satisfaction and entertainment to know something of unexceptionable witnesses of them; what had been published in the original extraction and early days of those who afterward writing already, and what he was now about to publish, agreed prove great men, but because in the beginning of these there with that which had been delivered by word of mouth, over were many things miraculous, and presages of what they afterand over, by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses, ward proved; in these verses our inspired historian begins as and ministers of the word, v. 2. Note, (1.) The apostles were early as the conception of John Baptist. Now observe here, ministers of the word of Christ, who is the Word, (so some un I. The account given of his parents ; (v. 5,) They lived in the derstand it,) or of the doctrine of Christ; they, having
received days of Herod the king, who was a foreigner, and a deputy for it themselves, ministered it to others, I 'John 1.1. They had the Romans, who had lately made Judea a province of the emBX a Gospel to make as masters, but a Gosp to preach as pire. This is taken notice of, to show that the sceptre was ministers. (2.) The ministers of the word were eyewitnesses quite departed from Judah, and therefore that now was the time of the things which they preached, and, which is also included, for Shiloh to come, according to Jacob's prophecy, Gen. 49. 10. ex-reatnesses. They did themselves hear the doctrine of Christ, The family of David was now sunk, when it was to rise, and and see his miracles, and had them not by report, at second flourish again, in the Messiah. Note, None ought to despair hand; and therefore they could not but speak, with the great of the reviving and flourishing of religion, even then when civil est assuranco, the things they had seen and heard, Acts 4. 20. liberties are lost. Israel is enslaved, yet then comes the Glory (3.) They were so from the beginning of Christ's ministry, of Israel. e. 1. He had his disciples with him, when he wrought his Now the father of John Baptist was a priest, a son of Aaron; first miracle, John 2. 11. They companied with him all the his name Zacharias. No families in the world were ever so time that he went in and out among them, (Acts 1.21,) so that honoured of God as those of Aaron and David; with one was they got only heard and saw all that which was sufficient to made the covenant of priesthood, with the other that of royalty; confirm their faith, but, if there had been any thing to shock they had both forfeited their honour, yet the Gospel again puts it. they had opportunity to discover it. (4.) The written Gos- honour upon both in their latter days, on that of Aaron in John pl, which we have to this day, exactly agrees with the Gospel Baptist, on that of David in Christ, and then they were both exWasch was preachel in the first days of the church. (5.) That tinguished and lost. Christ was of David's house, his forerunbe himself bad a perfect understanding of the things he wrote ner of Aaron's, for his priestly agency and influence opened the of, from the first, v. 3. Some think that here is a tacit reflec- way to his kingly authority and dignity. This Zacharias was ton upon those who had written before him, that they had not of the course of Abia; when in David's time the family of Aaron a perfect understanding of what they wrote, and therefore, was multiplied, he divided them into twenty-four courses, for Here am I, send me; (facil indignatio versum-my wrath ima the more regular performance of their office, that it might never pele my pen;) or rather, without reflecting on them, he asserts be either neglected for want of hands, or engrossed by a few. his own ability for this undertaking ; " It seemed good to me, The eighth of those was that of Abia, (1 Chr. 24. 10,) who was having attained to the exact knowledge of all things, avwisdescended from Eleazar, Aaron's eldest son: but Dr. Lightfoot from above; so I think it should be rendered; for if he meant suggests, that many of the families of the priests were lost in the same with from the beginning, (v.2,) as our translation inti- the captivily, so that after their return they took in those of mates, he would have used the same word. (1.) He had dili- other familjes, retaining the names of the heads of the respective ratly searched into these things, had followed after them; (so courses. The wife of this Zacharias was of the daughters of the word is ;) as the Old-Testament prophets are said to have Aaron too, and her name was Elisabeth, the very same name inquired and searched diligently, 1 Pet. 1. 10. He had not with Elisheba the wife of Aaron, Ex. 6. 23. The priests taken things so easily and superficially as others who had writ- (Josephus saith) were very careful to marry within their own ten before him, but made it his business to inform himself con- family, that they might maintain the dignity of the priesthood, serning particulars. (2.) He had received his intelligence, and keep it without mixture. not only by tradition, as others had done, but by revelation, Now that which is observed concerning Zacharias and Eliconfirming that tradition, and securing him from any error or sabeth, is, mistake in the recording of it. He sought it from above, (so 1. That they were a very religious couple ; (v. 6,) They were the word intimates,) and from thence he had it; thus, like both righteous before God; they were so in his sight, whose Blibu, he fetched his knowledge from afar. He wrote his his- judgment we are sure, is according to truth; they were sinbory as Moses wrote his, of things, reported by tradition, but cerely and really so. They are righteous indeed, that are so rodited by inspiration. (3.) He could therefore say, that he before God, as Noah in his generation, Gen. 7.1. They apbad a perfect understanding of these things. He knew them, proved themselves to him, and he was graciously pleased to ac sambos-arcurately, exactly. “Now, having received this cept thom. It is a happy thing when those that are joined to Vol. III.--39
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I Lev. 16. 17.
10 And the whole multitude of the people were 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zachapraying without,' at the time of incense.
rias : for thy prayer is heard ; and thy wife Elisabeth 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name Lord, standing on the right side of the altar mof John. incense.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled," many shall rejoicer at his birth. and fear fell upon him.
15 For he shall be great sin the sight of the Lord, m Ex. 30. 1. Rev. 8.3, 4. n Judg. 13. 22. ver. 29.
over. 60, 63. P ver. 58. 9 c. 7. 28. each other in marriage, are both joined to the Lord: and it is present at the service of God; and those would make up a great especially requisite that the priests, the Lord's ministers, multitude, especially on sabbaths and feast days : now these all should with their yokefellows be righteous before God, that they addressed themselves to their devotions, (in mental prayer, for may be examples to the flock, and rejoice their hearts. They their voice was not heard,) when by the tinkling of a bell they walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, had notice that the priest was gone in to burn incense. Now blameless. (1.) Their being righteous before God was evi- observe here, (1.) That the true Israel of God always were a denced by the course and tenor of their conversations; they praying people ; and prayer is the great and principal piece of showed it, not by their talk, but by their works ; by the way they service by which we give honour to God, fetch in tavours from walked in, and the rule they walked by. (2.) They were of a him, and keep up our communion with him. (2.) Thai then, piece with themselves; for their devotions and their conversa when ritual and ceremonial appointments were in full force, as tions agreed. They walked not only in the ordinances of the this of burning incense, yet moral and spiritual duties were rea Lord, which related to divine worship, but in the commandments quired to go along with them, and were principally looked at. of the Lord, which have reference to all the instances of a good David knew that when he was at a distance from the altar, his conversation, and must be regarded. (3.) They were universal prayer might be heard without incenze, for it might be directed in their obedience; not that they never did in any thing come before God as incense, Ps. 141. 2. But when he was compass. short of their duty, but it was their constant care and endeavour ing the altar, the incense could not be accepted without prayer, to come up to it. (4.) Herein, though they were not sinless, any more than the shell without the kernel. (3.) Thal it is pot yet they were blameless; nobody could charge them with any enough for us to be where God is worshipped, if our hearts do open scandalous sin; they lived honestly and inoffensively, as not join in the worship, and go along with the minister, in all ministers and their families are in a special manner concerned the parts of it. If he burn the incense ever so well in the most to do, that the ministry be not blamed in their blame.
pertinent judicious lively prayer, if we be not at the same time 2. That they had been long childless, v.7. Children are a praying in concurrence with him, what will it avail us? heritage of the Lord. But there are many of his heirs in a mar- | (4.) All the prayers we offer up to God here in his courts, are ried state, that yet are denied this heritage; they are valuable acceptable and successful only in virtue of the incense of desirable blessings; yet many there are, who are righteous be- | Christ's intercession in the temple of God above. To this fore God, and, if they had children, would bring them up in his usage in the temple service there seems to be an allusion, (Rev. fear, who yet are not thus blessed, while the men of this world are 8.1, 3, 4,) where we find that there was silence in heaven, as there
full of children, (Ps. 17. 14,) and send forth their little ones like was in the temple, for half an hour, while the people were sia flock, John 21. 11. Elisabeth was barren, and they began to lently lifting up their hearts to God in prayer; and that there despair of ever having children, for they were both now well was an angel, the angel of the covenant, who offered up much stricken in years, when the women that have been most fruitful incense with the prayers of all saints before the throne. We leave off bearing. Many eminent persons were born of mothers cannot expect an interest in Christ's intercession, if we do not that had been long childless, as Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, pray, and pray with our spints, and continue instant in prayer. Samuel, and so here John Baptist-to make their birth the more Nor can we expect that the best of our prayer should gain acremarkable, and the blessing of it the more valuable to their ceptance, and bring in an answer of peace, but through the meparents; and to show that when God keeps his people long diation of Christ, who ever lives, making intercession. waiting for mercy, he sometimes is pleased to recompense them 2. How, when he was thus employed, he was honoured with for their patience, by doubling the worth of it when it comes. a messenger, a special messenger sent from heaven to him;
II. The appearing of an angel to his father Zacharias, as he (v. 11,) There appeared unto him an angel of the Lord. Some was ministering in the temple, v. 8, 11. Zacharias the prophet observe, that we never read of an angel appearing in the temple, was the last of the Old Testament that was conversant with with a message from God, but only this one to Zacharias, beangels; and Zacharias the priest the first in the New Testa- cause there God had other ways of making known his mind, as ment. Observe,
the Urim and Thummim, and by a still small voice from be1. How Zacharias was employed in the service of God; tween the cherubims; but the ark and the oracle were wanting (v. 8,) He erecuted the priest's office, before God, in the order of in the second temple, and therefore when an express is to be his course ; it was his week of waiting, and he was upon duty. sent to a priest in the temple, an angel was to be employed in Though his family was not built up, or made to grow, yet he it, and thereby the Gospel was to be introduced, for that, as the made conscience of doing the work of his own place and day. law was given at first very much by the ministry of angels, the Though we have not desired mercies, yet we must keep close to appearance of which we often read of in the Gospels and the enjoined services; and in our diligent and constant attendance on Acts; though the design both of the law and of ihe Gospel, them, we may hope that mercy and comfort will come at last. when brought to perfection, was to settle another way of corNow it fell to Zacharias's lot to burn incense morning and respondence, more spiritual, between God and man. This evening for that week of his waiting, as other services fell to angel stood on the right side of the altar of incense, the north side other priests by lot likewise. The services were directed by of it, saith Dr. Lightfoot, on Zacharias's right hand; compare lot, that some might not decline them, and others engross them; this with Zech. 3. 1, where Satan stands at the right hand of and that, the disposal of the lot being from the Lord, they might Joshua the priest, to resist him ; but Zacharias had a good angel have the satisfaction of a divine call to the work. This was standing at his right hand, to encourage him. Some think that not the high priest's burning incense on the day of atonement, this angel appeared coming out of the most holy place, which led as some have fondly imagined, who have thought by that to find him to stand at the right side of the altar. out the time of our Saviour's birth; but it is plain that
3. What impression this made upon Zacharias; (v. 12,) the burning of the daily incense at the altar of incense, (v. 11,) When Zacharias saw him, it was a surprise upon him, even to which was in the temple, (v. 9,) not in the most holy place, into a degree of terror, for he was troubled, and fear fell upon him, which the high priest entered. The Jews say that one and v. 12. Though he was righteous before God, and blameless in the same priest burned not incense twice in all his days, (there his conversation, yet he could not be without some apprehenwere such a multitude of them,) at least never more than one sions at the sight of one whose visage and surrounding lustre week. It is very probable that this was upon the sabbath day, bespoke him more than human. Ever since man sinned, his because there was a multitude of people attending, (v. 10,) mind has been unable to bear the glory of such revelations, which ordinarily was not on a week day; and thus God usually and his conscience afraid of evil tidings brought by them; even puts honour upon his own day. And then if Dr. Lightfoot Daniel himself could not bear it, Dan. 10. 8. And for this reckon, with the help of the Jewish calendars, that this course reason God chooses to speak to us by men like ourselves, of Abia fell on the seventeenth day of the third month, the whose terror shall not make us afraid. month Sivan, answering to part of May and part of June, it is III. The message which the angel had to deliver to him, v. worth observing, that the portions of the law and the prophets, 13. He began his message, as angels generally did, with, Fear which were read this day in the synagogues, were very agree-not. Perhaps it had never been Zacharias's lot to burn incense able to that which was doing in the temple; namely, the law of before ; and, being a very serious conscientious man, we may the Nazarites, (Num. 6.) and the conception of Samson, suppose him full of care to do it well, and perhaps when he Judg. 13.
saw the angel, he was afraid lest he came to rebuke him for While Zacharias was burning incense in the temple, the whole some mistake or miscarriage; "No," saith the angel, " fear multitude of the people were praying without, v. 10.' Dr. Light- not; I have no ill tidings to bring thee from heaven. Fear not, foot says that there were constantly in the temple, at the hour but compose thyself, that thou mayest with a sedate and even of prayer, the priests of that course that then served, and if it spirit receive the message I have to deliver to thee." were the sabbath day, those of that course also that had been in Let us see what that is. waiting the week before, and the Levites that served under the 1. The prayers he has often made shall now receive an anpriests, and the men of the station, as the Rabbins call them, swer of peace : Fear not, Zacharias, for thy prayer is heard. who were the representatives of the people, in putting their (1.) If he means his particular prayer for a son to build up his hands upon the head of the sacrifices, and many besides, who, family, it must be the prayers he had formerly made for that moved by devotion, left their employments, for that timo, to be mercy, when he was likely to have children; but we may sup
and shall rdrink neither wine nor strong drink; and the children, and the disobedient* to the wisdom“ he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from of the just; to make ready a people "prepared for his mother's womb.
the Lord. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he 18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby turn to the Lord their God.
shall I know this ? for 'I am an old man, and my 17 And 'he shall go before him in the spirit and wife well stricken in years. power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am
pose, now that he and wife were both well stricken in years, as cipline of the Nazarites; Samuel and John Baptist were; they had done expecting it, so they had done praying for it: which intimates that those that would be eminent servants of like Moses, it sufficeth them, and they speak no more to God of God, and employed in eminent services, must learn to live a life that matter, Deut. 3. 26. But God will now, in giving this of self-denial and mortification, must be dead to the pleasures of mercy, look a great way back to the prayers that he had made sense, and keep their minds from every thing that is darkening long since for and with his wife, as Isaac for and with his, Gen. and disturbing to them. 25. 21. Note, Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are (3.) He shall be abundantly fitted and qualified for those not forgotten, though the thing prayed for is not presently given great and eminent services to which in due time he shall be in. Prayers made when we were young and coming into the called; He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his world, may be answered when we are old and going out of the mother's womb, and as soon as it is possible he shall appear to world. But, (2.) If he means the prayers he was now making, have been so.' Observe, (1.) Those that would be filled with and offering up with his incense, we may suppose that those the Holy Ghost, must be sober and temperate, and very modewere according to the duty of his place, for the Israel of God rate in the use of wine and strong drink; for that is it that fits and their welfare, and the performance of the promises made him for this. Be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the to them concerning the Messiah and the coming of his king- Spirit, with which that is not consistent, Eph. 5. 18. (2.) It dom; “This prayer of thine is now heard; for thy wife shall is possible that infants may be wrought upon by the Holy now shortly conceive him that is to be the Messiah's fore- Ghost, even from their mother's womb; for John Baptist even runner. Some of the Jewish writers themselves say that the then was filled with the Holy Ghost, who took possession of his priest, when he burned incense, prayed for the salvation of the heart betimes; and an early specimen was given of it, when whole world ; and now that prayer shall be heard. Or, (3.) In he leaped in his mother's womb for joy, at the approach of the general, “ The prayers thou now makest, and all thy prayers, Saviour; and afterward it appeared very early that he was are accepted of God, and come up for a memorial before him;" sanctified. God has promised to pour out his Špirit upon the (as the angel said to Cornelius, when he visited him at prayer, seed of believers, (Is. 44. 3,) and their first springing up in a Acts 10. 30, 31,) " and this shall be the sign that thou art ac- dedication of themselves betimes to God is the fruit of it, v. 4, cepted of God, Elisabeth shall bear thee a son. Note, It is 5. Who then can forbid water, that they should not be bapvery comfortable to praying people, to know that their prayers tized, who for aught we know (and we can say no more of the are heard ; and those mercies are doubly sweet, that are given adult, witness Simon Magus) have received the Holy Ghost in answer to prayer.
as well as we, and have the seeds of grace sown in their hearts ? 2. He shall have a son in his old age, by Elisabeth his wife, Acts 10. 47. who had been long barren, that by his birth, which was next (4.) He shall be instrumental for the conversion of many to miraculous, people might be prepared to receive and believe souls to God, and the preparing of them to receive and entera virgin's bringing forth of a son, which was perfectly miracu- tain the Gospel of Christ, v. 16, 17. lous. He is directed what name to give his son ; Call him [..] He shall be sent to the children of Israel, to the nation John; in Hebrew, Johanan, a name we often meet with in the of the Jews, to whom the Messiah also was first sent, and not Old Testament; it signifies gracious. The priests must beseech to the Gentiles; to the whole nation, and not to the family of God that he will be gracious, (Mal. 1. 9,) and must so bless the the priests only, with which, though he was himself of that fapeople, Num. 6. 25. Zacharias was now praying thus, and mily, we do not find he had any particular intimacy or inthe angel tells him that his prayer is heard, and he shall have fluence. a son, whom, in token of an answer to his prayer, he shall call [2.) He shall go before the Lord their God, that is, before the Gracious, or, The Lord will be gracious, Is. 30. 18, 19.
they must expect to be, not their King, in the 3. This son shall be the joy of his family and of all his re sense wherein they commonly take it, a temporal prince to their lations, (v. 14.) He shall be another Isaac, thy laughter; and nation, but their Lord and their God, to rule and defend, and some think that is partly intended in his name, John; He shall serve them in a spiritual way by his influence on their hearts. be a welcome child. Thou for thy part shall have joy and glad- Thomas knew this, when he said to Christ, My Lord and my ness. Note, Mercies that have been long waited for, when they God, better than Nathanael did, when he said, Rabbi, thou art come at last, are the more acceptable. “He shall be such a the King of Israel. John shall go before him, a little before son as thou shalt have reason to rejoice in; many parents, if him, to give notice of his approach, and to prepare people to they could foresee what their children will prove, instead of receive him. rejoicing at their birth, would wish they had never been; but I [3.) He shall go in the spirit and power of Elias. That is, will tell thee what thy son will be ; and then thou wilt not need First, He shall be such a man as Elias was, and do such work to rejoice with trembling at his birth, as the best must do, but as Elias did; shall, like him, wear a hairy garment and a leamayest rejoice with triumph at it. Nay, and many shall re-thern girdle, and live retired from the world; shall, like him, joice at his birth; all the relations of the family will rejoice in preach the necessity of repentance and reformation to a very it, and all its well-wishers, because it is for the honour and corrupt and degenerate age; shall
, like him, be bold and zealcomfort of the family," v. 58. All good people will rejoice that ous in reproving sin, and witnessing against it even in the such a religious couple as Zachary and Elisabeth have a son, greatest ; and be hated and persecuted for it by a Herod and because they will give him a good education, such as, it may his Herodias, as Elijah was by an Ahab and his Jezebel. He be hoped, will make him a public blessing to his generation shall be carried on in his work, as Elijah was, by a divine spirit Yea, and perhaps many shall rejoice by an unaccountable in- and power, which shall crown his ministry with wonderful sucstinct, as a presage of the joyous days the Gospel will intro- cess. As Elias went before the writing prophets of the Old duce.
Testament, and did as it were usher in that signal period of the 4. This son shall be a distinguished favourite of Heaven, and Old Testament dispensation, by a little writing of his own, (2 a distinguished blessing to the earth. The honour of having a son Chr. 21. 12,) so John Baptist went before Christ and his is nothing to the honour of having such a son.
apostles, and introduced the Gospel dispensation by preaching (1.) He shall be great in the sight of the Lord; those are great the substance of the Gospel doctrine and duty, Repent, with an indeed, that are so in God's sight, not those that are so in the eye to the kingdom of heaven. Secondly, He shall be that very eye of a vain and carnal world. God will set him before his face person who was prophesied of by Malachi under the name of continually, will employ him in his work, and send him on his Elijah, (Mal. 4. 5,) who should be sent before the coming of errands; and that shall make him truly great and honourable. the day of the Lord. Behold! I send you a prophet, even Elias; He shall be a prophet, yea more than a prophet, and upon that not Elias the Tishbite, (as the LXX have corruptly read it, account as great as any ihai ever were born of women, Matt. to favour the Jews' traditions, but a prophet in the spirit and 11. 11. He shall live very much retired from the world, out of power of Elius, as the angel here expounds it. men's sight, and when he makes a public appearance, it will be [4.]
He shall turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord very mean; but he shall be much, he shall be great in the sight their God, shall incline their hearts to receive the Messiah, and of the Lord.
bid him welcome, by awakening them to a sense of sin and a (2.) He shall be a Nazarite, set apart to God from every desire of righteousness. Whatever has a tendency to turn us thing that is polluting; in token of that, according to the law of from iniquity, as John's preaching and baptism had, will turn Nazariteship, he shall drink neither wine nor strong drink, or us to Christ as our Lord and our God: for those who through rather, neither old wine nor new ; for most think that the word grace are wrought upon to shake off the yoke of sin, that is, here translated strong drink, signifies some sort of wine; per- the dominion of the world and the flesh, will soon be persuaded haps those that we call made wines, or any thing that is intori- to take upon them the yoke of the Lord Jesus. cating. He shall be, as Samson was by the divine precept, (5.) Hereby he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the chil. (Judg. 1 3.7,) and Samuel by his mother's vow, (1 Sam. 1.11,) dren, that is, of the Jews to the Gentiles; shall help to conquer à Nazarite for life. It is spoken of as a great instance of God's the rooted prejudices which the Jews have against the Genfavour to his people, that he raised up of their sons for prophets, tiles, which was done by the Gospel, as far as it prevailed, and and their young men for Nazarites, (Am. 2. 11,) as if those was begun to be done by John Baptist, who came for a wilness; that were designed for prophets, were trained up under the dis- l that all through him might believe, who baptized and taught
5 Dan. 8. 16. ver. 26.
Gabriel,- that stand in the presence of God; and am 21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and sent yto speak unto thee, and to show thee these marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. glad tidings.
22 And when he came out, he could not speak 20 And, behold, thou shalt be "dumb, and not unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a able to speak, until the day that these things shall vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, be performed, because thou believest not iny words, and remained speechless. which shall be fulfilled in their season.
23 And it came to pass, that as soon as the days
y Heb. 1. 14. • EL. 3. 28. Roman soldiers as well as Jewish Pharisees, and who cured is impossible, which we ought not only to know, but to teach the pride and confidence of those Jews who gloried in their others, was enough to silence all objections; yei, considering having Abraham to their father, and told them that God would his own body and his wife's, too much unlike a Son of Abraham, out of stones raise up children unto Abraham, (Matt. 3. 9) he staggered at the promise, Rom. 4. 19, 20. which would tend to cure their enmity to the Gentiles. Dr. 2. How his unbelief was silenced, and he silenced for it. Lightfoot observes, It is the constant usage of the prophets to (1.) The angel stops his mouth by asserting his authority. speak of the church of the Gentiles as children to the Jewish Doth he ask, Whereby shall I know this ? Let him know it hy this, church, Is. 54. 5, 6, 13.-60. 4, 9.-62. 5.-66, 12. When the I am Gabriel, v. 19. He puts his name to his prophecy, doth Jews that embraced the faith of Christ, were brought to join as it were sign it with his own hand, leste meipso-lake my in communion with the Gentiles that did so too, then the heart word for it. Angels bave sometimes refused to tell their names, of the fathers was turned to the children. And he shall turn as to Manoah and his wife; but this angel readily saith, I am the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that is, he shall intro- Gabriel, which signifies the power of God, or, the mighty one duce the Gospel, by which the Gentiles, who are now disobe- of God, intimating that the God who bid him say this was dient, shall be turned, not so much to their fathers the Jews, able to make it good. He also makes himself known by this but, to the faith of Christ, here called the wisdom of the just, in name, to put him in mind of the notices of the Messiah's comcommunion with the believing Jews; or thus, He shall turn ing, sent to Daniel by the man Gabriel, Dan. 8. 16.–9. 21. the hearts of the fathers with the children, that is, the hearts of “I am the same that was sent then, and am sent now in purold and young; shall be instrumental to bring some of every suance of the same intention." He is Gabriel who stands in age to be religious, to work a great reformation in the Jewish the presence of God, an immediate attendant upon the throne of nation, to bring them off from a ritual traditional religion, God. The prime ministers of state in the Persian court are which they had rested in, and to bring them up to substantial described by this, that they saw the king's face, Esth. 1. 14. serious godliness: and the effect of this will be, that enmilies “ Though I am now talking with thee here, yet I stand in the will be slain, and discord made to cease ; and they that are at presence of God. I know his eye is upon me, and I dare not variance, being united in his baptism, will be better reconciled say any more than I have warrant to say. But I declare l um sent one to another. This agrees with the account Josephus gives to speak to thee, sent on purpose to show thee these glad tidings, of John Baptist, Antiq. lib. 18, cap. 7, " That he was a good which, being so well worthy of all acceptation, thou oughtest to man, and taught the Jews the exercise of virtue, in piety to- have received cheerfully.” ward God, and righteousness toward one another, and that
(2.) The angel stops his mouth indeed, by exerting his power ; they should convene and knit together in baptism.” And he “That thou mayest object no more, behold, thou shalt be dumb, saith, “The people flocked after him, and were exceedingly v. 20.
If thou wilt have a sign for the support of thy faith, it delighted in his doctrine." Thus he turned the hearts of fathers shall be such a one as shall be also the punishment of thine and children to God and one another, by turning the disobedient unbelief; thou shall not be able to speak till the day that these to the wisdom of the just. Observe, First, True religion is the things shall be performed," v. 20. Thou shalt be both dumb and wisdom of just men, in distinction from the wisdom of this world. deaf; the same word signifies both; and it is plain that he lost It is both our wisdom and our duty to be religious, there is both his hearing as well as his speech, for his friends moule signs to equity and prudence in it. Secondly, It is not impossible but him, (v. 62,), as well as he to them, v. 22. Now in striking that those who have been unbelieving and disobedient, may be him dumb, (1.) God dealt justly with him, because he had turned to the wisdom of the just; divine grace can conquer the objected against God's word. Hence we may take occasion to greatest ignorance and prejudice. Thirdly, The great design admire the patience of God and his forbearance toward us, of the Gospel is to bring people home to God, and to bring them that we, who have so often spoken to his dishonour, have not nearer to one another; and on this errand John Baptist is sent. been struck dumb, as Zacharias was, and as we had been, if In the mention that is twice made of his turning people, there God had dealt with us according to our sins. (2.) God dealt seems to be an allusion to the name of the 'Tishbite, which is kindly with him, and very tenderly and graciously. For, First, given to Elijah, which, some think, does not denote the country Thus he prevented his speaking any more such distrusiful una or city he was of, but has an appellative signification, and believing words. If he have thought evil, and will not himself therefore they render it Elijah the converter; one that was lay his hands upon his mouth, nor keep it as with a bridle, God much employed, and very successful, in conversion work. The will. It is better not to speak at all than to speak wickedly. Elias of the New Testament is therefore said to turn or convert Secondly, Thus he confirmed his faith ; and by his being dis many to the Lord their God.
abled to speak, he is enabled to think the better. If by the 16.) Hereby he shall make rearly a people prepared for the rebukes we are under for our sin we be brought to give more Lord; shall dispose the minds of people to receive the doctrine credit to the word of God, we have no reason to complain of of Christ, that thereby they may be prepared for the comforts them. Thirdly, Thus he was kept from divulging the vision, of his coming. Note, First, All that are to be devoted to the and boasting of it, which otherwise he would have been apt to Lord and made happy in him, must first be prepared and made do, whereas it was designed for the present to be lodged as a ready for him. We must be prepared by grace in this world secret with him. Fourthly, It was a great mercy, that God's for glory in the other; by the terrors of the law for the comforts words should be fulfilled in their season, notwithstanding his of the Gospel; by the spirit of bondage for the Spirit of adop- sinful distrust. The unbelief of man shall not make the protion. Seconlly, Nothing has a more direct tendency to pre- mises of God of no cffect, they shall be fulfilled in their season, pare people for Christ than the doctrine of repentance received and he shall not be for ever dumb, but only till the day that these and submitted to. When sin is there by made grievous, Christ things shall be performed, and then thy lips shall be opened, that will become very precious.
thy mouth may show forth God's praise. Thus, though God IV. Zacharias's unbelief of the angel's prediction, and the chasten the iniquity of his people with the rod, yet bis loving rebuke he was laid under for that unbelief. "He heard all that kindness he will not take away. the angel had to say, and should have bowed his head, and wor V. The return of Zacharias to the people, and at length to shipped the Lord, saying, Be it unto thy servant according to his family, and the conception of this child of promise, the son the word which thou hast spoken; but it was not so. We are of his old age. here told,
1. The people stayed, expecting Zacharias to come out of the 1. What his unbelief spake, v. 18. He said to the angel, temple, because he was to pronounce the blessing upon them Whereby shall I know this? This was not a humble petition in the name of the Lord; and though he stayed beyond the for the confirming of his faith, but a peevish objection against usual time, yet they did not, as is too common in Christian conwhat was said to him as altogether incredible; as if he should gregations, hurry away without the blessing, but waited for say, "I can never be made to believe this." He could not but him, marvelling ihat he larried so long in the temple, and afraid perceive that it was an angel that spake to him; the message lest something was amiss, o. 21, delivered, having reference to the Old Testament prophecies, 2. When he came out, he was speechless, v. 22. He was carried much of its own evidence along with it.
now to have dismissed the congregation with a blessing, but is many instances in the Old Testament of those that had chil- dumb, and not able to do it; that the people may be minded to dren when they were old, yet he cannot believe that he shall expect the Messiah, who can command the blessing, who blesshave this child of promise;" For I am an old man, and my wife eth indeed, and in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed. hath not only been all her days barren, but is now well stricken Aaron's priesthood is now shortly to be silenced, and set aside, in years, and not likely ever to have children;" therefore he to make way for the bringing in of a better hope. must have a sign given him, or he will not believe. Though 3. He made a shift to give them to understand that he had the appearance of an angel, which had been long disused in seen a vision, by some awful signs he made, for he beckoned to the church, was sign enough; though he had this notice given them, and remainel speechless, v. 22. This represents to us the him in the temple, the place of God's oracles, where ho had weakness and deficiency of the Levitical priesthool, in comreason to think no evil angel would be permitted to come ; parison with Christ's priesthood and the dispensation of the though it was given him when he was praying, and burning Gospel. The Old Testament speaks by signs, gives us some incense; and though a firm belief of that great principle of re-intimations of divine and heavenly things, but imperfect and ligion, that God has an almighty power, and with him nothing uncertain; it beckons to us, but remains speechless ; it is the