Page images
PDF
EPUB

19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.

a woman, he should do it before witnesses, siderate man, appears from his being unand this was called an espousal, or be willing to make her a public example ; but trothing; and when a woman is espoused, it was because he was a just man, that is, although she is not yet married, or has a man who regarded the law, and was entered her husband's house, yet she is observant of moral duties, that he resolved a man's wife.” Six months, and sometimes to put her away, though pricily ; so that a year, intervened between the betroth- here we have the character of this excelment and the nuptials. “No woman,” lent man drawn by a brief but striking says Lightfoot, “is ever married, among touch of the pencil of inspiration. His the Jews, without a previous espousal.” sense of justice prevented his affection The same previous ceremony appears to from stooping to what then appeared to have been customary among other nations. be a disgrace, and yet the mildness of his

Before they came together, 8c.—Before character led him to perform an act of jusshe was removed to her husband's house, tice without severity. Napadequatioai, to and the marriage consummated.

make her a public example, here means, She was found with child of the Holy either to bring her before the magistrate, Ghost.-Εκ πνευματος αγιου. Because of in order to her being punished capitally the absence of the article, Wakefield according to the law, Deut. xxii. 23, 24 ; translates, “ by a holy Spirit,” signifying, or, more probably, as this law required by the divine power. But Bishop Mid- witnesses of the crime, which Joseph dleton has shown that after prepositions could not produce, to divorce her in a anomalous instances of the omission of public manner, and thereby openly expose the article frequently occur. Besides, we her shame. There was, however, a method have no indication of a plurality of beings, of divorce so private as to require to be bearing the appellation of "holy spirits,” done in the presence of only two persons, in the New Testament, and no such by simply giving the woman a bill of diphrase as overmata ayıa. That the human vorce, without assigning any reasons. This nature of our Lord should be thus formed Joseph resolved to adopt; and as this supernaturally by the power of the Holy proceeding illustrates the character of Ghost, was necessary, that he might escape Joseph, so the whole circumstance of the the traduction of original sin, and be born case exhibits that of Mary. She does not and remain perfectly pure and sinless, that appear to have made any communication so the divine nature might, without moral to Joseph of the message of the angel. She degradation, be personally united with the might be forbidden to do this; or she human, and that he might be qualified to might wisely conclude that it would be be a perfect example of holiness, and treated as an idle tale; and so she left the finally “ offer himself without spot to matter in the hands of God, supported only God,” as a sacrifice for the sins of the by her noble faith, and submitting to whole world.

temporary suspicion in patient expectation Verse 19. Then Joseph her husband, being of a divine interposition at the fittest time. a just man, &c.—Avalos is by some taken The idolatrous worship paid to the Virgin to signify merciful, or compassionate, a has perhaps led Protestants too much to sense in which the word is seldom or never overlook those striking illustrations of used; and which, though it appears to her character which incidentally, but harmonize with the moderate conduct powerfully, break forth in the narratives which Joseph purposed to pursue towards of the evangelists. They, however, unite Mary, destroys in fact the force of the to prove her to have been a woman equally passage. That he was a mild and con- eminent in the order of intellect and piety;

20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife : for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

21 And she shall bring forth a son," and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

m Luke i. 31.

retired and humble, but firm, thoughtful, cessary. The use or abuse of this docand singularly qualified to pass through trine will, however, depend upon sobriety that succession of mysterious scenes,

of mind. which could only be opened fully by the Verse 21. And thou shalt call his name resurrection of her glorious Son from the Jesus.—Mary being taken home to be the dead. Never was mother so honoured or wife of Joseph, it belonged to him as the so tried.

father, in the legal construction, to give Verse 20. The angel of the Lord appeared the child a name; and he was directed to to him in a dream. In this mode, as well call him Jesus, which is the Hebrew Joshua as others, God " at sundry times” made in the Greek form, and signifies a Saviour, known his will to the patriarchs and pro- from uw to save. Hence the angel adds, phets ; so that dreams were reckoned by for he shall save his people from their sins. the Jews as one of the modes of prophetic He does not say, according to the expectainspiration. It was the tradition of divine tion of the Jews, he shall save his people revelations being made in this manner,

Israel from their Gentile ENEMIES; but carried into the heathen world, which led indefinitely, his people, all who believe on to the common notion of the significancy him, whether Jew or Gentile; and that not of dreams; and thus by abuse it became, from temporal calamity or degradation, and still continues, a fruitful source of but from their sins : thus, from the begin. superstition. The prophetic dreams of ning, was the notion of a political Messiah sacred writ were not, however, common excluded from the minds of Joseph and dreams;

and as they were supernaturally Mary. The very name of our Lord, given induced, and were admonitory, directive, by divine command, lays a firm foundaor predictive, they were accompanied with tion for the trust of the guilty; and opens an internal evidence; of what kind we can- the most glorious hope to man, even that not say, but such as distinguished them of Salvation from the guilt and penalty, from the ordinary rovings of the mind in from the power and pollution, of sin in sleep, and afforded sufficient conviction of this life, and beyond it a resurrection from their supernatural character. And although the dead, immortality, and eternal felicity. this method of communication was more Verse 22. Now all this was done, that it frequent and longer continued under those might be fulfilled, &c.-By this we are not dispensations of which preceded to understand that the end of Christ's Christianity, yet they were probably some- being born of a virgin was to fulfil the times vouchsafed to pious Gentiles; and prediction; but that the event exactly coreven now the phenomenon of dreaming, a responded to the prophecy, and was invery powerful instrument of working upon tended to fulfil it, with reference to the the mind of man, may occasionally be em- great purpose of our salvation, anciently ployed to warn the wicked and direct the promised by the prophets, and in the mode good, although as the medium of revealing which had been revealed to them. The religious truth dreams are no longer ne- prediction declares that a certain event

23 "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring

n Isaiah vii. 14.

would take place; and the evangelist as- is not so, for the supposed examples of this sures us, that the very event spoken of practice which have been adduced will not by the prophet Isaiah, that“ a virgin shall support themselves. Dr. Campbell inconceive and shall bring forth a Son,” was stances, “Out of Egypt have I called my the birth of Jesus Christ of the Virgin Son,” which will be considered in its Mary : in other words, that not only did place, and the conclusion drawn from it an event take place, to which the words of refuted. His second instance, when exthe prophet might be applied, by way of amined, will be found against him. It is parallel or accommodation, but that the taken from the directions as to the paschal prophecy was now fulfilled in a strict and lamb, Exodus xii. 46: “None of his literal sense. Some of those commentators bones shall be broken ;” which he

says who contend that the quotations adduced is a mere law, not a prophecy; and yet from the prophets, by St. Matthew and St. John, after speaking of our Lord's other writers of the New Testament, are legs not being broken upon the cross, used as apposite illustrations, in the same says, “For these things were done, that manner as passages from the Greek and the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone Latin classics by modern writers, will not of him shall not be broken.” But, if this even except those instances which, like law as to the paschal lamb was designed the above, are introduced by the strong to constitute it a type, then, from the first, formula, wa wampwon to pnger, that it might that law looked forward to the circumbe fulfilled which was spoken. They there- stance which accomplished the type ; and fore soften the import of window, to "ful that very circumstance being of a remarkfil,” into the occurrence of an event bearing able character was designed to mark out some resemblance to another. Michaëlis, Christ's sacrifice as the true and spiritual however, who adopts this doctrine in part, passover. Thus the law, though simply makes an exception of those passages in itself a ceremonial direction, had the which are introduced with this form of nature of a prophecy, and prefigured an expression. The fact is, that none of event which was literally fulfilled in the those quotations which appear with this antitype to the Jewish paschal sacrifice. or any other form expressive of fulfilment Dr. Sykes, indeed, who strongly contends of any part of the Old Testament, can be for the principle of accommodation in taken in any other sense than as specified these cases, urges that it was customary accomplishments of predictions, the sense with the Jewish Rabbins to apply passages of which indeed might not in many

in

of the Old Testament in a sense very restances be obvious before they were point- mote from that of the original author; ed out by the Spirit of inspiration, and but Dr. Marsh makes a sufficient reply, which, in some few instances, even then, when he says that he has produced no may be somewhat difficult to trace; but passages from the Talmud, or from any if, as Dr. Owen justly observes, “the Jewish commentator, where similar exsame Spirit which dictated the prophecies pressions to those above-mentioned,in the Old Testament, dictated also their “that it might be fulfilled,” &c.,—are used interpretation in the New, he surely could to introduce instances of mere accombest ascertain to whom or to what they modation. In the case of St. Matthew, were meant to be ultimately applied.” If especially, this theory is in the highest indeed it were the practice with St. Mat- degree absurd; since he wrote more immethew and the evangelists to introduce an diately for the conviction of the Jews, apposite application of the moral sentences and therefore more frequently than the and weighty sayings of the Old Testament, other evangelists quotes the prophecies where it is manifest that no prediction is of the Old Testament, and shows their involved, the case would be altered ; but it fulfilment. Had he, therefore, applied the

forth a son, and othey shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Or, His name shall be called.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

same form of introduction with respect invasion of the confederated kings of to such prophecies, and to mere rhetorical Israel and Syria. God by the prophet allusions, he would have defeated his own promises deliverance to Ahaz, who appurpose, by perplexing his readers. That

pears to have been utterly distrustful in which appears to have misled many com- the

message of God, and in this spirit mentators on this point, is the difficulty of to have refused to ask a sign from God, discovering, in several of these quotations, “either in the depth, or in the height a direct prediction of what related to Mes- above,” that is, any natural prodigy within siah in the scope and context of the pro- the compass of observation. This he did, phetic discourse from which it was taken. secretly trusting in the help of his ally, But this objection has proceeded upon a the king of Assyria, rather than in God; faulty view of the character and genius of but covering his unbelief with a pretence the Hebrew system of prophecy itself. It of not being willing to “tempt the Lord.” ought to be remembered, that, in the de- Upon this the prophet, losing sight of clarations of the prophets, as Dr. Owen Ahaz, and the sign he had refused to ask, again remarks, there was “a grand and turns to the people, “the house of David,” extensive scheme, formed by Providence and says to them, not to Ahaz, “ The from the first, which consists of different Lord himself shall give you a sign ; parts, some respecting the temporal, and Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear others the spiritual, benefit of mankind; a Son, and shall call his name Emman. and yet there is a close and intimate uel.” This was a sign” to them, as it connexion between them, and upon this was the utterance of a new prophecy and are founded the reasons of those abrupt ASSURANCE respecting the coming of transitions to remote subjects, and quick Messiah, made under special inspiration; changes of numbers and persons, &c., so

a sign” or pledge, also, that frequent in the prophecies, so that tem. the house of David, and the kingdom of poral is often introductory to, and signi. Judah, should not be destroyed, for they ficant of, the spiritual. For as every tem- all knew that Messiah was to be the heir poral blessing, favour, and deliverance, and possessor of David's throne, as his which the Jews obtained, sprang from the descendant; and thus it had in it the mercies of God through Christ; so they nature of “a sign,” encouraging for the became not only preludes to, but also occasion, although the Messiah was not types and pledges of, that future deliver- to be born till a distant period, beside ance and blessing which he was finally to that the prophecy was a new disclosure procure by his birth, actions, and suffer- respecting him, and unveiled the most ings, for the whole human race.” Hence important particulars concerning him : it is, that some prophecies singly and lite- as, 1. That he should be born of a virgin, rally apply to Christ ; and others in a more then for the first time explicitly announced, spiritual manner are completed in and by although intimated in the first promise, him, than in those personal and historical where he is called the seed of the woman. types of him and the affairs of his king- 2. That he should be a divine person, acdom, with which the Jewish scriptures cording to his name, “ Emmanuel, God and history abound.

with us.” 3. That he should also be truly Verse 23. Behold, a virgin shall con- a man, being fed from a state of childceire, &c.—This illustrious prophecy was hood with the common meats of the land, delivered by Isaiah, (chap. vii.,) in the until he attained maturity,-“Butter and reign of Ahaz, king of Judah, when he and honey shall he eat, that he may know,” his people were under great apprehensions or till he shall know, “to refuse the evil, that the state would be subverted by the and choose the good ;” that is, in the

and it was

وو

Hebrew mode of speaking, till he is grown prophecy, and that the child now spoken up to the age of discernment. Some sup- of and pointed to was the prophet's own pose that this allusion to butter and honey son, whom he was commanded to take was an assurance that the land should re- with him to meet Ahaz, Isaiah vii. 3. For main cultivated, and yield food for its in- why this child was taken by the prophet, habitants, till the time of his birth. But by express command, on such an occasion, I am inclined to think, that this part of as Dr. Kennicott observes, but that somethe prediction is to be taken as an indica- thing remarkable was to be said of him, tion of the lowly state in which this won- does not otherwise appear. drous personage was to pass

his youth.

To so striking a fulfilment of this proButter, the hemah of Scripture, is proba phecy in our Lord, the Jews object, that bly the same as the haymak of the Arabs," the word 795y is not to be strictly transwhich is cream produced by simmering lated a virgin ; to which the answer is sheep's milk over a slow fire, which with conclusive, that it is so rendered in their wild honey was the common food of per- own Septuagint, which translation was sons in humble life; and, as it is noticed made three hundred years before St. of John the Baptist that his food was Matthew wrote ; and, although it is ren“ locusts and wild honey,” to indicate dered veavis, a young girl, and not wapthat he spent his early life in desert soli- bevos, a virgin, by the Jews Aquila, Symtudes, so of Emmanuel it is thus predicted, machus, and Theodotion, this was subsethat he should spend his childhood and quently to the Christian era, and to serve youth in obscurity among a rural and the cause of their own unbelief. They poor people, and not in the palaces of the al o interpret the prophecy, as the modern great, which was the fact. This view re- Socinians, of a young woman then a virceives confirmation from the 22d verse of gin being married, and bringing forth a the same chapter, where for the people child in the ordinary way; which could be to eat butter and honey is placed among no such extraordinary matter, as to be inthe effects of a desolated and wasted state troduced so emphatically : Behold, a of the country, which no longer afforded virgin shall conceive!” &c. : and could them luxuries. So many important par- be no sign,or miracle, denoting a suticulars respecting the Messiah did this pernatural interposition, to confirm the explicit prophecy contain. What man but hope of “the house of David.” a prophet inspired of God could have fore- They shall call his name Emmanuel, &c. seen an event not only so improbable, but — This is not a proper name, but a name apparently impossible, and that seven of description; and the phrase, “they hundred years before it took place ? Here shall call his name,” is the same as “he is the express prophecy recorded in the shall be called,” as it is expressed in some sacred books of the Jews; and no one has of the earlier versions; and to be called ever pretended that it was fulfilled in the is in the Hebrew idiom to be; as my case of any human being, but in “ the house shall be called a house of prayer;" man Christ Jesus.” The verse which that is, it shall be so. Christ is therefore follows,—" For before the child,” or this God, and God with us,” otherwise he child, “shall know to refuse the evil, or could not be Jesus, the Saviour; and so to choose the good, the land which thou the real name which was given to our abhorrest,” that is, Israel and Syria, Lord implies all that is expressed by his “shall be forsaken of both her kings,” prophetic designation. may be understood to signify, that within The high import of the term Emmanuel that period of time in which this or any is attempted to be sunk, by the Unitariother child comes to years of understand- ans, into a mere intimation that ing, the two invading kings should be would be with the Jews,” to deliver them destroyed, as they were soon afterwards, from their enemies; but whoever follows by the king of Assyria ; or, with others, those sections of Isaiah's prophecies which we may understand it to be a distinct succeed each other in the 7th, 8th, and

66

ور

« God

« PreviousContinue »