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SECTION IV.

The angel Gabriel is sent to the virgin Mary, to inform her of the con

ception of Christ by her. LUKE i. 26-38.

26

I ,

N the sixth month after Elizabeth had conceived, the angel Ga

27 to a virgin, who was contracted to a man whose name was Joseph, 28 of the house of David ; and the virgin's name was Mary. And

the angel entered in unto her, and said, Hail, O thou favourite !

the Lord is with thee. Thou art blessed among women. 29 Now when she saw [the angel,] she was disturbed at his dis

course, and reasoned with herself what kind of salutation this 30 could be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary ; 'for 31 thou last found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt be

with child, and be delivered of a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High;

and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his father. 33 And he shall rule over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his

kingdom there shall be no end. 34 And Mary replied to the angel, How can this be, since I am as 35 yet a virgin? And the angel, answering, said unto her, The Ho

ly Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High

shall overshadow thee : and therefore that holy Offspring of thine 36 shall be called the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Eliza

beth also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth 37 month with her who hath long been called barren; for nothing will 38 be impossible to God. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of

the Lord; may it be unto me according to thy word! Then the angel departed from her.

REFLECTIONS. Withi what holy wonder and pleasure should we trace this notice of an incarnate Redeemer ? and how thankfully should we adore his condescending goodness, that for us men, and for our salvation, he did not despise the womb of so obscure a virgin ?

We too are ready in our thoughts, with Gabriel, to congratulate her on so distinguished an honour, and to say, as one did to Christ, in the days of his flesh, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, O Lord, and the breasts which thou hast sucked! But let us remember there is yet a nobler blessedness than this attending those, in whose hearts he is so formed by divine grace, that they hear his word, and do it.

Let us hear it, with joy, that he is Jesus the Saviour; brit let us also consider that he is Christ the anointed Sovereign, who is to rule over God's people for ever. Remember, O my soul, that of his kingdom there shall be no end ; and esteem it thine unspeakable honour and happiness to be enrolled among his faithful subjects.

The glories promised to such in the future state are so far beyond experience, or even imagination, that they might, to sense, appear as incredible as the message which Mary received : but let us remember the eternal truth of what Gabriel suggested to her, that no

thing is impossible to God. He can therefore ripen our imperfect souls to all the improvement and pleasures of the heavenly state, as easily as he produces the meanest vegetable on the earth.

Let the temper of the blessed virgin, on this great occasion, be therefore the beautiful model of ours : so, when the purposes of the Divine Love are declared to us, may we resign ourselves unto the Lord; and with such calm tranquillity, firm faith, and joyful acquiescence, may we wait the accomplishment of his gracious promise, and say, Behold the servants of the Lord ! be it unto us according to his word ! So do thou, O Lord, animate and support us! and the weakest of thy children shall not stumble at the greatest of thy promises through unbelief; but, being strong in faith, shall give glory to God.

SECTION V.

Mary visits Elizabeth : her faith is confirmed by it, and she breaks out

into a song of Praise. LUKE i. 39-56.

39

IN those days Mary arose and went with expedition to the Hill40

country, into a city of Judah, and entered into the house of her 41 kinsman Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass

that, as soon as Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant

in her womb did leap. And Elizabeth was filled with the holy 42 Spirit; and crying out with a loud voice she said, Blessed art thou 43 among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this honour done to me, that the mother of my

Lord 44 should come unto me ? For, behold, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the infant leaped in my

womb 45 for joy. And happy is she that believed; for there shall be an

accomplishment of those things which have been spoken to her

from the Lord. 46

Then Mary also said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my 47 spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour ; for he hath looked upon the 48 low estate of his handmaid : for all future generations shall cail 49 me happy. For he who is powerful hath done great things for 50 me; and his name is holy. His mercy also is from generation to 51 generation on them that fear him. He hath wrought strength by

his arm. he hath dispersed the haughty in the imagination of 52 their hearts. He hath brought down inighty potentates from 53 their thrones, and hath exalted the lowly. He hath filled the hun54 gry with good things, and hath sent away the rich empty. He

hath succoured Israel his child, in remembrance of his everlasting 55 mercy, even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his

seed. 56 Then Mary abode with her cousin Elizabet'i, about three months,

and returned to her own house.

REFLECTIONS. How natural is it for those, who have themselves received mercy of the Lord, to communicate their joy to others, and to seek the society of their fellow saints, whom he hath honoured with the sig. nal manifestations of his favour ?—Happy are they, whose friendship is confirmed and heightened by such endearing ties ! And thrice happy the humble and generous souls who can thus, like Elizabeth, lose the thoughts of private honour and interest in a cordial concern for the glory of God and the good of men ; rejoicing to see others, perhaps in some respects their inferiors, raised to stations of service more distinguished than their own!

If this pious matron thought herself so highly honoured in receiving a visit from the mother of our infant Saviour, how much more doth it become us to admire the condescension of our glorious Lord, that he will represent himself as graciously knocking at the door of our hearts, and ready not only to make us a transient visit, but to take up his stated abode with us?

May our faith, like that of the blessed virgin, delightfully rest on all the promises he makes, as firmly believing that there shall be an accomplishment of these things which are spoken! And, while that accomplishment is delayed, may the pleasing expectation of it tune our voice to a song of praise like hers Let our souls also magnify the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in that God whom we hope, through grace, to be our Saviour; whose condescension hath regarded us in such low circumstances; and whose almighty power and everlasting love have done such great things for us.—He hath provided heavenly food, to satisfy our hungry souls; and hath raised us to enjoy the mercies which, in more obscure intimations only, he promised to the pious patriarchs.-His mercy is on all that fear him, through succeeding generations. May such distinguished favours animate our hearts with those sentiments of devotion and zeal which they were so well qualified to excite! Otherwise the joy of the Old Testament saints, in the distant and imperfect prospect of these blessings, will testify against our insensibility in the superior advantages with which we are favoured.

SECTION VI.

The birth and circumcision of John the Baptist.

Luke i. 57–66.

57 N

OW when the full time for Elizabeth's delivery was come, 58 she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her re

lations heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy to her, and 59 congratulated her on the occasion. And it came to pass that on

the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they

would have called him Zacharias, after the name of his father*. 60 But his mother answered and said, Nay, but he shall be called 61 John. And they said unto her, None of thy kindred is called by 62 this name. And they made signs to his father to know what he 63 would have him called. And he by signs asked for a writing tab

* The giving a name was no more a part of the original intent of Circumcision than of Baptism; it was an incidental circumstance which custom had added. The Father among the Ancients used to name the children.

64 let, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they were all

amazed. And his mouth was immediately opened, and his tongue

(loosed) and he spake praising God. 65 And a dread fell on all that dwelt near them : and all these

things were published over the whole Hill-country of Judea. 66 And all that heard [them] laid them up in their hearts, saying,

What kind of a child will this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him. Through the divine blessing he appeared a healthful and hopeful child.

REFLECTIONS. So sure are the promises of God, and so certainly will the full accomplishment of them another day shame our suspicious, unbelieving hearts, and awaken the tongues of his servants to songs of praise ! Happy the souls who, by a lively faith in them, are anticipating that blessed day, and whose minds, kept in tune by these pleasing views, are opening themselves to the most tender sympathy with others, and, like the kindred of this pious pair, are making the religious joys of others their own ; so sharing, rather than envying, the superior favours bestowed upon them!

Let us learn, with them, wisely to observe what God is doing around us, and to lay up remarkable occurrences in our hearts : that, by comparing one step of divine conduct with another, we may the better understand the loving-kindness of the Lord, and be engaged to act with more regular obedience in a holy subserviency to his gracious purposes.

When, like good Zacharias and Elizabeth, we have the pleasure to see our infant offspring growing up in safety and cheerfulness, with healthy constitutions of body, and towardly dispositions of mind too, let us ascribe it to the hand of the Lord, which is upon them for good. Let us remember that we are at best but the instruments of the divine care and favour to them; and that our families would soon become scenes of desolation, did not God watch over them in a thousand circumstances of danger and distress, which no prudence of ours could have foreseen, and which no care of ours could have been able to provide against.

SECTION VII.

Zacharias, on the birth of his son, breaks out into a sublime anthem of

praise. Luke i. 67, &c.

67 68

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OW John being born, Zacharias his father was filled with

the holy Spirit and prophesied saying, Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, because he hath graciously looked upon his 69 people, and wrought out redemption, and hath

raised up for us a 70 horn* of salvation, in the family of his servant David ; as he hath

* A horn being the ornament and defence of the creature that wears it, is often used to express strength and dignity, and sometimes with a peculiar reference to the Messiah. Psalm cxxxii. 17. Sam, ü. 10, &c.

spoken by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been from 71 the beginning of time; that we may obtain salvation from our 72 enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us : that he may per

form the mercy (promised] to our fathers, and be mindful of his 73 holy covenant: the oath which he sware unto Abraham our father 74 (Gen. xxii. 16, 17,) to grant us to serve him without fear, being 75 delivered out of the hand of our enemies, [and to walk] before

him all the days of our life, in holiness and righteousness. 76 Then turning to his new-born child, he added, And thou, child,

shalt be called The prophet of the Most High, for thou (accord

ing to the prediction, Isa. xl. 3.) shalt go before the face of the 77 Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation to his 78 people in the forgiveness of their sins ; through the tender com

passions of our God, by which the dawning of the day hath visited 79 us from on high : to enlighten those that sit in darkness, and in

the shadow of death, to direct our feet into the way of peace. 80 And the child grew up, and became strong in spirit ; and

was in desert places till the day of his being manifested to Israel, under his prophetic character.

US.

REFLECTIONS. With what sacred joy should we join in this hymn of praise ! The blessings celebrated in it were not peculiar to the family of Zacharias or to the house of Israel; but we, through the divine goodness, have our share in them: the Lord God of Israci hath visited and redeemed

He hath remembered his covenant with the pious patriarchs in favour of millions who are their seed only as heirs of the faith of Abraham. To us hath he accomplished the words he had spoken by his holy prophets, and through his tender mercies hath caused the Sun of Righteousness to arise upon us; upon us who were once indeed sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death ; and whose ancestors, for many succeeding generations, were lost in ignorance, idolatry, and wickedness. Let us bless the Lord, who hath given us light ; and make it our daily prayer that it may be the happy means of guiding our feet into the way of peace. Let us, with pleasure and thankfulness, receive the knowledge of salvation by the remission of our sins, without which we shall never see it but at an unapproachable distance.

Let us repose our cheerful confidence in this Almighty Saviour, this Horn of Salvation, which God's own right-hand hath raised up for us: through him let us seek the pardon of our sins, and deliverance from all the enemies of our souls. And let a grateful sense of his redeeming love engage us resolutely to walk in the strictest holiness and righteousness, as in the presence of God, and carefully to maintain before him a conscience void of offence all the days of our lives.-May we carry this temper along with us into solitude and retirement: may it animate us in the busiest scenes of life ; and, in every particular instance, may it determine us in our choice of either, and regulate our conduct in both!

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