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The History of the Conception of Jesus.
WHEN the fullness of time was come, after the frequent repetition of promises, the expectation of the Jewish nation, the longings and tedious waitings of all holy persons, the departure of the "sceptre from Judah, and the lawgiver from between his feet;" when the number of Daniel's years was accomplished, and the Egyptian and Syrian kingdoms had their period; God, having great compassion towards mankind, remembering his promises, and our great necessities, sent his Son into the world, to take upon him our nature, and all that guilt of sin, which stuck close to our nature, and all that punishment, which was consequent to our sin: which came to pass after this manner.
In the days of Herod the king, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a holy maid, called Mary, espoused to Joseph, and found her in a capacity and excellent disposition to receive the greatest honor, that ever was done to the daughters of men. She was full of grace and excellencies; and God poured upon her a full measure of honor, in making her the mother of the Messias.
That which shines brightest presents itself first to the eye; and the devout soul, in the chain of excellent and precious things, which are represented in the counsel, design, and first beginnings of the work of our redemption, hath not leisure to attend to the twinkling of the lesser stars, till it hath stood and admired the glory and eminences of the Divine love, manifested in the incarnation of the Word eternal. God had no necessity, in order to the conservation or the heightening his own felicity, but out of mere and perfect charity, and the bowels of compassion, sent into the world his only Son, for remedy to human miseries, to ennoble our nature by a union with Divinity, to sanctify it with his justice, to enrich it with his grace, to instruct it with his doctrine, to fortify it with his example, to rescue it from servitude, to assert it into the liberty of the sons of God, and at last to make it partaker of a beatifical resurrection.
God, who, in the infinite treasures of his wisdom and providence, could have found out many other ways for our redemption, than the incarnation of his eternal Son, was pleased to choose this, not only that the remedy by man might have proportion to the causes of our ruin, whose introduction and intromission was by the prevarication of man; but also, that we might with free dispensation receive the influences of a Savior, with whom we communicate in nature. Although Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, were of greater name and current, yet they were not so salutary as the waters of Jordan, to cure Naaman's leprosy. And if God had made the remedy of human nature to have come all the way clothed in prodigy, and every instant of its execution had been as terrible, affrighting, and as full of majesty, as the apparitions upon
Mount Sinai; yet it had not been so useful and complying to human necessities, as was the descent of God to the susception of human nature, whereby (as in all medicaments) the cure is best wrought by those instruments, which have the fewest dissonances to our temper, and are the nearest to our constitution. For thus the Savior of the world became human, alluring, full of invitation and the sweetnesses of love, exemplary, humble and medicinal.
And, if we consider the reasonableness of the thing, what can be given more excellent for the redemption of man, than the blood of the Son of God? And what can more ennoble our nature, than that by the means of his holy humanity it was taken up into the cabinet of the mysterious Trinity? What better advocate could we have for us, than he that is appointed to be our Judge? And what greater hopes of reconciliation can be imagined, than that God, in whose power it is to give an absolute pardon, hath taken a new nature, entertained an office, and undergone a life of poverty, with a purpose to procure our pardon? For, now, though, as the righteous Judge, he will judge the nations righteously; yet, by the susception of our nature, and its appendant crimes, he is become a party; and, having obliged himself as man, as he is God he will satisfy, by putting the value of an infinite merit to the actions and sufferings of his humanity. And if he had not been God, he could not have given us remedy; if he had not been man, we should have wanted the excellency of example.
And till now, human nature was less than that of angels; but, by the incarnation of the Word, was to be exalted above the cherubim: yet the archangel Gabriel, being dispatched in embassy to represent the joy and exaltation of his inferior, instantly trims his wings with love and obedience, and hastens with