« AnteriorContinuar »
and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name B.V. Æ. 6.
J. P. 4708. was Elisabeth.
Temple at Je
rusalem. were vouchsafed to some few individuals: and he instances the prediction said to have been delivered by Hillel, Schammai, and Menahem. But there is no satisfactory evidence to prove this assertion. Josephus, who repeats them, doubts their truth. Drusius supposes that the reading in Josephus is corrupt. Gorionides, Abraham Ben Dion, and even Josephus, are not quoted by Vitringa with any degree of confidence in their authority: and we have no allusion in the New Testament to any instance of the effusion of the Holy Spirit after the closing of the canon of the Old Testament. The inspired writers of the New Testament appeal only to the law and the Prophets, that is, to the Old Testament in its present form. And they appeal to the miracles and prophecies of the Apostles and their Master, as novelties in their own age, affording undeniable witness that God had at length visited his people.
After a long cessation, therefore, of miracle and prophecy, the time approaches when the first proof is to be given that the Creator of the world was still mindful of the favoured house of Israel, and of the whole human race. The spirit of prophecy revives-an angel descends from heaven: and, as if more immediately to connect the new dispensation with that which it was to supersede, this blessed Messenger begins by foretelling the very same event, in the same words, which had been used by Malachi in delivering the last prophecy vouchsafed to the Jewish Church. “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord : and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers," Malachi iv, 5, 6. To Zechariah it is foretold : “ And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” Luke i. 17. The first prophecy of the New Testament is given in the very same language as the last of the Old Testament: thereby offering to the Jews the strongest evidence in favour of their long expected Messiah. The birth of John, the forerunner of the promised Saviour, was announced by the testimony of an angelic vision--the return of the Spirit of prophecy-and the revival of miracles, in the dumbness of his father, its definite continuance, and its predicted removal. The attention of the people must have been powerfully excited by these remarkable circumstances; and the beginning of the new dispensation was distinguished by the same superhuman characteristics which had proved the divine origin of that which was now to be done away.
The number of each of the twenty-four courses of the priests was so great, that many thousands were constantly in attendance upon the service of the temple. The most solemn of the daily services was that which had been appointed by lot, in the usual manner, to Zacharias. When he entered into the holy place to burn incense, the congregation of Israel stood without in profound silence, offering up their prayers, and waiting till the priest should return, as was customary, to dismiss them with his blessing. The congregation consisted of the whole course of the Priests, whose weekly turn of attendance was now going on, and of the Levites that served under these Priests—the men of the station, as the Rabbis called them, whose office it was to present the whole congregation, by putting their hands on the heads of the sacrifice, and of the multitude from
6 And they were both righteous before God, walking
Temple at Je- the city, whom devotion would now have drawn to their temple, including of rusalem.
course the Presidents and Overseers of the temple, and others of the first rank and chief note at Jerusalem.
Lightfoot supposes, from the expression, v. 10. “ the whole multitude," (d) that a larger crowd than usual was then assembled : that it might have been a sabbath ; and upon the hypothesis, which he has attempted to defend at length, he calculates that the course of Abia served in their turn at this time, in the eighth week after the Passover, and that the lessons read in the temple were the law of the Nazarites, Numb. vi. and the conception of Samson. But this, though ingenious, must be in some degree conjectural.
When we remember the scrupulous exactness with which the Jews attended to every part of their ceremonial ritual, and the consequent sensation excited by every thing connected with their divinely appointed worship, we shall be able to represent to ourselves, in some degree, the impression produced by this event. The people, including, we may suppose, the great majority of the men of leisure, education, and eminence, either of Judea, or Jerusalem, were anxiously waiting to learn the cause of Zacharias's unusual delay. The concluding and accustomed blessing had not yet been pronounced. At length their officiating Priest presents himself at the door of the holy place. His countenance now expresses the greatest agitation, and he endeavours in vain to fulfil his unfinished duties. He is unable to give the expected blessing. The congregation, from anxious curiosity and astonishment, we may reasonably suppose, remained for some time in silent suspense--but when they found that Zacharias continued both deaf and speechless, they perceived, as the Evangelist relates, “ that he had seen a vision." His silence was miraculous. The circumstance would be recorded and enrolled in the archives of the temple, and preserved by the Priests of the course of Abia. As his dumbness was not a legal uncleanness, and no law of Moses prescribed the exclusion of a Priest from the temple service on that account, and as St. Luke (i. 23.) mentions, that as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished he departed to his own house, he must have continued in office during his appointed course, and would certainly take his professional station in the temple, although incapable of performing all his ministerial functions ;-—thereby presenting to the Jews, in the very centre of their sanctuary, an undeniable proof of the revival of miracle, and exciting in their minds the strongest expectations of some wonderful occurrence.
As Zacharias had now become both deaf and dumb, it is highly probable that he wrote down an account of the heavenly vision, which must by this means have been well known throughout Judea. The prediction of the Angel was quite consonant to the generally received opinions of the day. Elias was first to appear, and the first revelation therefore of the approaching change in the dispensations of God must have reference to his Messenger, rather than to the Messiah himself. It had been prophesied that the forerunner of Immanuel was to resemble Elias in his spirit and power, in the effects of his mission, in the austerity of his character, in the boldness of his preaching, and in his successful reform of the Jewish Church. He was to be the “ Voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight; to turn
I A., and thane to phe Order of the
in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord B.V. Æ. 6. blameless.
J.P. 4708. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was Temple at de barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. rusalem
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
10 * And the whole multitude of the people were praying Exod. XXX. without at the time of incense.
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias : for thy prayer is heard ; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
16 9 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to y Mal. iv. 6. the Lord their God.
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient * to the wisdom of the just; to make ready #Or, by. a people prepared for the Lord.
'18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Ga
the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just."
Many things worthy of remark occur in considering the dumbness of Zacharias. It was at once a proof of the severity and of the mercy of God. Of severity, on account of his unbelief; of mercy, in rendering his punishment temporary, and in causing it to be the means of making others rejoice in the events predicted by the Angel. His condemnation and crime were most appropriate and merciful warnings to the Jewish nation, and seem almost to prefigure the general unbelief that was so soon to prevail, as well as to foreshew the approaching dumbness, or dissolution, of the Levitical Priesthood.-Vide Witsius de Vita Johannis Baptistæ, and the opinion of Isidorus Pelusiota on the dumbness of Zacharias, there quoted: Miscell. Sacra. 4to. vol. ii. p. 500.
B.V. Æ.6. briel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to J. P. 4708.
& speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. Temple at je 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to
speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them : and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
LUKE i. 26–39. B.V. Æ. 6. 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent J. P. 4709. from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, Nazareth.
ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION. 6 The doctrines, both in the Old and New Testaments, would be utterly incredible, if they were not confirmed by the most unquestionable and convincing evidence; and if they were not also so interwoven together that they must all be received, or all be rejected. They are so involved with the history of the world, that the latter alternative is impossible to a rational mind; and the various absurdities and inconsistent conclusions to which men have been uniformly betrayed, when they have endeavoured to believe one part of the system of Revelation, and to reject another, are almost sufficient reasons of themselves to compel us to receive the whole of what is revealed to us. The doctrine of the miraculous conception, which contains so much that contradicts experience, and seems at first sight so incredible, is founded upon evidence the most complete and satisfactory. It is intimately blended with the whole system of Revelation. The fabric would not be complete without it. It is supported by the general interpretation of the first promise, and is repeated and corroborated by the ancient prophets of the Old, and the positive assertions of the writers of the New, Testament.
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was B.V. Æ. 5.
J. P. 4709.
In what manner mind acts upon body, and body upon mind, we are totally Nazareth. ignorant. We know only from daily experience, that the will gives an impulse at pleasure to the limbs and body. We know also, by observation, that the mind of an individual, which thus controls or directs the body, is often biassed in the very same manner as the mind of his progenitor. One earthly bias, or tendency, seems to be impressed upon the human race, which compels or induces one generation of men to be the same as the generation which preceded them. · Man, since the fall of Adam, has never, with any one exception, been born with a spiritual bias ;-the innate tendency which always shews itself is uniformly directed towards earthly, or natural, or merely animal objects; that is, to objects which have their origin, connexion, progress, and end, in this life only. This bias, or tendency, is what Divines call original sin. It is that disposition (e) which is born with us; which was entailed upon us by our first parents, and has reduced us to a state little superior to the animal creation below us. When originally created, the mind of man was not thus biassed to earth. The spiritual prevailed over the inferior, or carnal nature. The fall was the triumph of the animal nature of man ; and to restore the human race to its ori. ginal spirituality, is the great object of that one religion, which has been gradually revealed to mankind, under its three forms, the Patriarchal, Levitical, and Christian dispensations.
When man had fallen, we read that Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; whereas Adam had been formed in the image of God. The son of Adam was born therefore after a different image from that in which his father was originally created. The first man Adam had been created spiritual ; but he became earthly. His sons, and his sons' sons, and all their descendants, from that moment even to this day, partook of a nature, earthly, inferior, and animal. The fallen man Adam ever did, and ever will, produce creatures of a similar nature to himself (f). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
Such being the law of animal life, impressed upon matter by the will of the Supreme Being, it becomes evident that no creature can be free from the inferior nature in which he is begotten. “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," Ps. li. 5. No mere man can be exempt from the laws of his kind. If then a long succession of prophecies foretold that a Being should come into the world to perform certain works, which necessarily implied
(e) The infection of our nature, the opórnua gaprós, spoken of in the 9th Article of the Church of England. (f)" Moses acquaints us that Adam begat Seth IN HIS OWN LIKENESS AFTER HIS IMAGE, Gen, v. 3. can it be supposed that an accurate writer as Moses is, when he had said, that God created man, in his own likeness after his image, Gen. i. 26, 27. and here he says, that Adam begat Seth IN HIS OWN LIKENESS AFTER HIS IMAGE, did not set this expression in opposition to the other ? Nothing else appears from the words being so exactly repeated. He must therefore design to acquaint us that Adam, having lost the image and likeness of God, could not for that reason beget Seth after the image and likeness in which himself had been created; but in his own likeness after his image, a miserable mortal man like himself, an heir of his toil, care, sorrow, and death." Extracted from a manuscript letter from the first Lord Viscount Barrington (author of the Essay on the Dispensations,) to the celebrated Dr. Lardner, See also on the same subject Jones's figurative Language of Scripture.