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24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife :
9th chapters of his prophecy, will perceive We are assured thereby of the condethat, with him, it was a designation which scension of God to man, even in his “low implies positive Deity. For not only im- estate.” The gracious and benevolent mediately after (viii. 8) is the land of conduct of our Lord to mankind, during Judah called Emmanuel's land, and so he his sojourn on earth, was the public visible is held forth as its LORD and Owner; exhibition of the same sympathies and but, with the same course of thought affections which he feels towards us, now in his mind, and with evident reference he has entered into his glory; and, to the child to be born of a virgin, the beside this, it was this peculiar circumprophet exclaims, “For unto us a Child stance, that he was truly God in our nature, is born, unto us a Son is given : and the which gave that grand and boundless congovernment shall be upon his shoulder: sideration to his vicarious sufferings, and his name shall be called Wonderful, which has rendered it “righteous” in Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Ever- God to remit the sins of all who penilasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” Such, tently trust in his merit; whilst his rewith Isaiah, were the glorious and divine maining God and man for ever personally characters of Emmanuel.
united affords us the pledge of that inconThis descriptive title of our Lord, then, ceivable exaltation of human nature which related primarily to the union of the di- shall take place, as to the righteous, at his vine nature with ours; a union so strict as second advent. For then these vile bodies to be pzRSONAL, though without confu- are to be made like unto his glorious sion of the substANCE, which remained, body, and our souls to undergo that vast and must for ever remain, distinct, though change which the New Testament dehypostatically one. This is a mystery scribes by the indefinite, but for that reawhich reason cannot now, and perhaps son the most expressive term which could never may, comprehend ; not because it be used,—“ glorification.” He will thereis contrary to it, but manifestly above it. fore be “God with us,” and we shall be It is no more contrary to it, than the union with him, as the Head of glorified human of our own body and soul, things of a quite nature, for ever. When he shall apdifferent, and even of a contrary essence, pear, we shall be like him; for we shall in one person ; and that it is above reason see him as he is.” arises from this, that we have exceedingly On this whole account it may be reimperfect and inadequate views of human marked, that the birth of Christ of a pure nature itself, much more of the divine. virgin was the commencement of the comNecessarily we must be so acquainted pletion of that series of illustrious predicwith each as to prove that such a union tions which began to be delivered to the as the divine and human natures in the patriarchs, and were proclaimed to the person of the one Christ is contrary to Jewish Church in increasing number and some principle in either, of which we have variety by the Hebrew prophets, until full and adequate knowledge, before we the close of that singular succession of can decide the question on natural prin- inspired men in the person of Malachi. ciples; a presumption of which no rea- That the Christ should be born of a virgin, sonable, not to say modest, man can be was obscurely intimated in that first proguilty. Our faith in these high mysteries mise of grace on which the mercy of God rests therefore upon the testimony of God, permitted guilty and penitent man to hope. as collected from the plain unwarped He was then announced as “the Seed of meaning of his own revelation. But the the woman,”—a singular mode of expresname Emmanuel, God with us, does not sion, which probably from the beginning simply indicate this mysterious fact. The served to awaken attention and inquiry; greatest consequences depend upon it. but it was expressly declared that he
25 And knew her not, till she had brought forth her firstborn Son: and he called his name JESUS.
i The wise men out of the east are directed to Christ by a star. 11 They worship him,
and offer their presents. 14 Joseph fleeth into Egypt, with Jesus and his mother. 16 Herod slayeth the children : 20 Himself dieth. 23 Christ is brought back again into Galilee to Nazareth. 1 Now when • Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in
a Luke ii. 6.
should be born of a virgin in that passage his real human nature was, ab origine, from Isaiah which has been already con- spotless and unpolluted, having no seeds sidered. The intimate connexion which of evil in it, nor placed under those penal exists between this important circum- relations to the first Adam, by which all stance and the whole plan of our re- his posterity became separated and alien demption, is at once seen by those who from that life of God which is the princihold the true scriptural doctrine of our ple of all true holiness. Thus was the Lord's sacrificial and vicarious death; and human nature of our Lord "holy, harmevery effort is therefore made to discredit less, and separate from sinners,” in its the doctrine by those who deny Christ's original condition and relations, as well death to be a proper atonement for sin. as by his subsequent practice; and thus For, since they reject the atonement, they was that which was born of Mary called can find no reason for the miraculous con- by the angel, in St. Luke,“ a holy thing." ception; and regarding it, therefore, as an His example was therefore that of a perfect incumbrance to the history of Christ, they man, and his sacrifice that of a “ Lamb have zealously, though vainly, and in op- without spot;” so that he could die position to all evidence, endeavoured to vicariously, that is, in the place of others, prove that those portions of the Gospels the merit of his death being transferable, of St. Matthew and St. Luke which treat in consequence of his not being held to of it are additions of later times. But all that penalty. He died, “the just for the the parts of truth must be consistent with UNJUST, that he might bring us to God.” each other; and as the sacrificial character See note on Luke i. 35. of the death of Christ will be found indeli- Verse 25. Her first-born Son.—The first bly stamped upon a hundred unquestioned son was, among the Jews, called “ the firstpassages, both of the Old and the New born,” whether any more Testaments, it follows that he must have brought forth afterwards or not; so that been “ without spot,” absolutely without nothing can be inferred from this passage, sin, which no human being ever was, or one way or the other, as to the question could be, who came into the world in the whether Mary had any other child. The ordinary manner. By natural generation object of the evangelist was to show that we are connected with Adam, whom St. she had none before Jesus, and that he Paul teaches us to consider as the foun- was born of her, still being a virgin. It tain of sin and death to all his posterity; is for the latter reason that he refers to but the human nature of our Lord came Joseph's continency. The doctrine of not down the stream which issued from Mary's perpetual virginity is a figment of that fountain. By being formed and later times, founded neither upon scripnourished in the womb of the virgin, he ture, nor uniform tradition, nor the reapartook of human nature with as much son of the case. truth, as if he had been begotten of man; but, being conceived of the Holy Ghost, CHAPTER II. Verse 1. Bethlehem of
the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Judea, &c.—About six miles from Jerusa- Aristobulus, who assumed the title of lem, and so called to distinguish it from king, Alexander Janæus, Alexandra his another Bethlehem, in the tribe of Ze- widow, Aristobulus the younger son, bulon.
deposed by Pompey, who restored HyrIn the days of Herod the king.--The canus the elder son, but forbade the use mention of Herod renders it necessary to of the diadem, and made the nation triconnect his history with that of the Jews butary to the Romans. The prime minafter their return from captivity in Baby- ister of this Hyrcanus, the last of the lon. This took place five hundred and Asinonean family, was Antipater, who, thirty-five years before the birth of Christ. having ingratiated himself with the RoThe Jews continued under the protection mans, obtained from them for his son of the kings of Persia for two hundred Herod, afterwards called the Great, the years; in the early part of which period government of Galilee; and Herod, havthey were ruled by governors of their ing married Mariamne, the grandaughter own nation, appointed by the Persian of Hyrcanus, with much opposition and court; and in the latter the High Priests violence, and by the favour of Marc were deputed to that office. The Persian Antony, took possession of the kingdom empire was subverted by Alexander the of Judea, and reigned thirty-four years. Great, on whose death the Selcucidæ He died within two years after the real reigned in Syria, and the Ptolemies in time of the birth of Christ, and soon after Egypt. The provinces of Cælo-Syria and the slaughter of the innocents at Beth. Palestine were wrested from the Ptole- lehem. The distribution of his kingdom mies by Antiochus the Great, king of by his will was confirmed by Augustus Syria. His son Antiochus Epiphanes con- Cæsar. Archelaus had Judea ; Herod quered Egypt, and then made a furious at- Antipas the tetrarchy of Iturea and Tratack upon the Jews, 170 years before chonitis. Herod Philip appears to have Christ, plundered Jerusalem, polluted the been left in a private station. The names temple, destroyed forty thousand of the of these princes appear in the Gospels. inhabitants, and a short time afterwards Archelaus was reigning when Joseph and renewed his atrocities, and, being a bitter Mary returned from Egypt. Herod Anpersecuting pagan, he abolished, as far as tipas the tetrarch, or, by courtesy, the he was able, the worship of God, and con- king of Galilee, is several times mensecrated the temple to Jupiter Olympus. tioned ; (Matthew xiv. 1, 3, 6; Mark vi. These acts of outrage and cruelty called 14; Luke iii. 1, 19;) and to him our forth the pious patriotism of the celebrated Lord was sent by Pilate. Philip is menfamily of the Maccabees, who, after the tioned Luke iii. 1. Herodias was the wife most severe and noble struggles, in which of Herod Philip, and was married to they were well supported by the devoted Herod Antipas during the lifetime of her heroism of the Jews, succeeded in ex- husband; which proved the occasion of pelling the Syrians. This was the rise the murder of John the Baptist, Matthew of the Asmonean family, as the Macca- xiv. 3—10. The Herod Agrippa menbees were also called, from an ancestor of tioned in the Acts of the Apostles was a the name of Asmoneus; and Judas Mac- grandson of Herod the Great, and brocabæus, who united the High Priesthood ther of Herodias. The emperor Caligula with the supreme government, formed an made him tetrarch of Trachonitis and Abialliance with the Romans, the better to lene, to which Claudius added the kingdefend the new commonwealth which dom of Judea. He it was that put James his valour had founded. The successors the Apostle to death, Acts xii. 1, 2; and of Judas were Jonathan, Simon, John was mortally smitten of God, in the Hyrcanus, who subdued the Idumæans, height of his pride, at Cæsarta, Acts
2 Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
xü. 20. On his death, a Roman governor as the precious gums, though natives of was again appointed to Judea. His son, Arabia, were used throughout the east, Agrippa the second, succeeded to the as presents of honour to distinguished tetrarchies of Trachonitis and Abilene. personages. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Before this Agrippa St. Paul delivered and Epiphanius, think that they came his reasons for becoming a Christian. from Arabia, which is called “the east,"
Wise men from the east.—Mayol ano ava- in Judges vi. 3, Job i. 3 ; whereas ChalTodw, Magi from the east; which word, dea, the country assigned to them by as being descriptive of a certain class of others, is somewhat to the north of Judea. eastern sages, ought to have been retained Of whatever country they were, they are in the translation. It was the title given injured by being supposed to be astroloby the ancient Persians to their philoso- gers. They were manifestly holy men phers. They chiefly cultivated theology and worshippers of the true God, and and politics according to Aristotle ; but favoured with special revelations from Philo describes them also as diligent in- him. That the east was celebrated for quirers into nature, and given up to con- wisdom in ancient times, appears from templation. They anciently admitted the Solomon's wisdom being said to excel dualistic system, or the doctrine of two “ the wisdomn of the children of the east principles, one the author of good, the country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.” other of evil, which were represented by i Kings iv. 30. light and darkness. They abhorred im- Verse 2. His star in the east.—Many ages, but adored fire as emblematical of conjectures have been offered as to this the beneficent deity. Many of them, or appearance; as, that it was the glory of of those who passed under that name, the Shechinah; the Holy Spirit; an were greatly addicted also to astrology and angel; a new star in the heavens; or a divination. During the captivity of the comet. It appears to have been a meteor, Jews in Babylon, the Persian sages who bearing the appearance of a bright star, came into that country with Cyrus proba- and was manifestly supernatural, and conbly became acquainted with the sacred nected as to its import with some revelabooks of the Hebrews; and, under the tion made to them of the birth of the influence of Zoroaster, it is supposed that Messiah. How otherwise should it have the Magian religion was greatly reformed, guided them to the very house where and brought nearer to the Jewish. The “the young child was ?” and how without Zendavesta, their sacred book, is full of a revelation should they have known its passages from the writings of Moses. significancy as indicating the birth of The term Magi was, however, at length “the King of the Jews ? ” The sign was, generally used, not only in Persia, but in however, appropriate, as among the anciChaldea, Armenia, Arabia, and different ents the appearance of a star was conparts of Asia, to distinguish philosophers; sidered the forerunner of the birth of and their religious system, no doubt, great princes. By them also, bright megreatly varied in all these countries, and teors, having a stellar appearance, were at different periods. Attempts have been denominated stars. So Homer uses the made to fix the country from which the word asepa in Iliad a 75, and Virgil stella, Magi mentioned in the text came, from Æneid. II. 693. the kind of gifts they presented; but Verse 3. When Herod the king had heard this affords no satisfactory illustration, these things, he was troubled.--Herod was
4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa : for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the
b Micah v. 2; John vii. 41.
not only by nature a suspicious man, but
sense of that important prophecy in he knew that he was abhorred of the Jews Micah, which they adduce in answer to as a foreigner; and was therefore moved Herod's inquiry, where the Christ should with strong apprehension lest this re
be born. It follows from Herod's question cently-born child, thus publicly an
and the answer of the council, that it was nounced as the King of the Jews, and the at that time received among the Jews, Heir of David's throne, should excite a
that the Christ should not make his sedition which might deprive him of his
appearance among them by a descent kingdom. And all Jerusalem with him, from heaven, but be born of woman; as knowing his fierce and cruel temper, which they were probably led the more and fearing that his rage might break fully to expect, from the prophecy of forth, as it had done on several former Isaiah above-noticed. occasions, in of indiscriminate
Verse 5. In Bethlehem of Judea.cruelty.
The residence of Joseph was at Nazareth, The chief priests and scribes.—He con- more than fifty miles distant; and, Mary venes a solemn assembly of the chief being far advanced in pregnancy, nothing priests, including the high priest, his
was more unlikely than that our Lord deputy, and the heads of the twenty-four should be born at Bethlehem, and especourses of priests. The Hebrew word for cially as no private business called them scribe, 700, is derived from a root which thither. This event was brought about signifies to number, from which probably through means over which they had no comes our word cypher. The rendering control. The emperor Augustus ordered in Greek is γραμματευς, from γραμμα, a a census of his empire to be taken, inletter; so that the scribes were employed cluding such nominally independent states in writings, numbers, accounts, and in as Judea ; and this laid Joseph and Mary transcribing and interpreting the books under the necessity of repairing without of the law; and the word is used both delay to Bethlehem, because they were for those who were employed about any both“ of the house and lineage of David,” kind of civil writings or records, or those and the enrolments of Judea were made whose business it was to transcribe, study, of every one according to his tribe, and and explain the Scriptures. The scribes city, and family. So remarkably does God mentioned in the New Testament were all accomplish his purposes, without interof the latter class, and are the same as the ference with the free agency of man;
and voulkol, “lawyers,” sometimes also men
so strikingly does this, and many
similar tioned. They were students and teachers events, display the depth of that wisdom of the law, and were particularly skilled of God which “sweetly ordereth all in the traditions which at that time were things." Events work at greater disheld in such reverence. (See note on tances from each other than human chap. v. 20.) The assembly convened by knowledge can discern; and although no Herod was therefore one of the greatest human power can establish a connexion authority ; and Divine Providence so between them, yet they infallibly co-opeordered it, that they should give the rate to accomplish the purposes of God. opinion of the Jewish church as to the Verse 6. And thou Bethlehem, in the land