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titles, which could belong to one alone; and that his kingdom would be of universal extent and eternal duration. Our first business is to enquire whether He, whom we regard as our Lord and Saviour, was born in the miraculous manner foretold by the prophet.
SECTION V. i
AN ANGEL SENT TO THE VIRGIN MARY, TO FORETEL THE BIRTH OF CHRIST.
From Luke, Chap. i.
And in the sixth month after Elisabeth was assured that she should have a son, the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God, and behold, thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this thing
be? And the angel answered and said unto her, The
Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of
B 6 the the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.
And behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she also will bear a sou in her old age, for with God nothing shall be impossible.
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah, and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
And it came to pass that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, she was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou amongst women.
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? and blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those thing* which were told her from the Lord.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Loud, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviouh; for he hath regarded the low estate of his hand-maiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things, ,for holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm, he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his
servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever.
And Mary abode with her cousin about three months, and returned to her own house.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
It was customary for the Jewish women to be betrothed or engaged to their husbands, some time before they were actually married. The Virgin Mary wag under this kind of engagement to Joseph, and had not lived with him as his wife when the heavenly messenger appeared to her. The agreement between the prediction of the angel and that of the prophets in the last Section, is too obvious to need a comment.
The manner in which Mary received the Angel's salutation shews, that she had great modesty and humility of mind, and did not think herself worthy of such applause and congratulation; but she soon understood from the Angel's discourse, thatshe was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, and that his birth would be miraculously effected by the immediate power of God, in a way which had hitherto been unknown, and which would distinguish this Child from all that had ever been born. It was expressly declared to her, that he should be called the Son Of The Highest: and to confirm her faith, the Angel assured her, that her cousin Elisabeth would also have a child, though her advanced age rendered such an event, according to the usual course of things, incredible. Mary, convinced that nothing was impossible with God, joyfully accepted the honour appointed her; and though she knew, that having a child before she was married would endanger the loss of her reputation, and even her life, she humbly re
signed them both to the divine care and protection; but, being desirous of conferring with Elisabeth to whom the Angel had referred her, she went to the city where her cousin dwelt. The congratulation which Mary received from Elisabeth was so exactly similar to that which the Angel pronounced, that she was satisfied the Spirit of the Lord had dictated it; and, in a transport of holy joy, she acknowledged her sense of God's wonderful condescension, in that beautiful hymn we have just read; in which there is great resemblance to the song of Hannah, and other passages in the Old Testament.
Mary, on account of her being the Mother of our Lord, is usually styled the blessed Virgin ; and she certainly deserves the epithet, for a greater honour and blessing she could not receive in this world: but this circumstance could only increase her earthly happiness in proportion to her faith; her future beatitude in heaven depended, like that of other Christians, on her obedience to the will of God, and belief in the MesSiah; therefore paying divine honours to the Virgin Mary is as great idolatry as that practised by the Jews of old, who were so severely reproved by the Prophet Jeremiah * for worshipping the Queen of Heaven.
But we certainly should regard the blessed Virgin as a woman of most exemplary character, ana hold her in the highest estimation short of adoration, on account of her having been made so instrumental to the happiness of mankind; and we should follow her example of humility, piety, and faith, on every occasion that admits of our doing so. Nothing could be more unlikely, according to the common course of nature, than that the Virgin
Mary should be the mother of the Messiah; yet she believed that she should have this distinguished honour, because it was graciously promised; and afterwards, when her faith was farther confirmed by the prophetic exclamation of her cousin Elisabeth, she entertained no proud or arrogant thoughts of her own merits, but ascribed all the glory to God, and regarded the choice He had made of one in her humble station, a* a fulfilment of those divine promises given so many years before to Abraham; and indeed it must be regarded in this light by all who carefully compare the one with other *.
THE BIRTH AND CIRCUMCISION OF JOHN THB
From Luke, Chap. i.
And Elisabeth brought forth a son ; and her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child ; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father: and his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name; and they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
And he asked f for a writing-table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all: And
* See a Comment upon Mary's Hymn, in my Companion to the
Book of Common Prayer.
t By jigns.