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his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake and praised God.
And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill-country of Judea.
And all they that had heard them, laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him.
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us, in the house of his servant David;
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began : that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, and to remember his holy covenant:
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear in holiness, and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord,. to prepare his ways ; to give knowledge of the salvation unto his people, by the remission of their sins.
Through the tender mercy of our God : whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desarts till the day of his shewing unto Israel*
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
We here find that the prediction of the Angel wa* fulfilled to Zacharias and Elisabeth by their having a son in their old age. There were so many wonderful circumstances attending the birth of John, that it naturally occasioned great astonishment in the minds of all who heard of them; and as he grew up, it evidently appeared from the early sanctity of his life, that the Spirit of the Lord regulated his childish passions, and taught him betimes True Wisdom.
So much has been already said concerning the Covenant which God made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David, that it is easy to understand the allusions which Zacharias made to them in the prophecy, which he uttered after his son was circumcised; and we shall soon see how exactly his prediction was verified, and that John was the very person whom the Angel had declared would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and whom Malachi * predicted, would turn the heart* of the fathers to the children, &c.
The hymn of Zacharias is very properly introduced into the Church Service; for every Christian has causa to rejoice with him, that the Lord God had visited them, and remembered his everlasting Covenant; and through his tender mercies, caused the Sun of righteousness to arise upon those who, with the rest of the &entile world, were once sitting in darkness and the •hadow of death: let us therefore make it our daily prayer, that the light he hath given us may prove the means of guiding our feet into the way of peace; and let us receive, with thankfulness of heart, the knowledge of salvation!
* S*t Sect. ii.
Prom the time of this transaction, we read no more in the Gospels, of Zacharias and Elisabeth ; and as they were greatly advanced in age at the birth of their son, it is likely they did not live many years afterwards,
John gave early tokens of his courage and piety. As he grew up, he forsook the allurements of the world, and passed his time in religious retirement, preparing himself for the great work he was designed for, and watting the direction of the Lord in respect to his entrance on hit office.
AN ANGEL APPEARETH TO JOSEPH IN A DBSAM— JOSEPH OBEYETH THE DIVINE COMMAND.
From Matthew, Chap. i.
Now Joseph the husband of Mary being a just man, •nd not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
But whilst he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which shall be born of her is of the Holy Ghost. *' And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus : for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold a virgin shall bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God toil A us.
Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the
angel angel of the Loud had bidden him, and took unto him bit wife.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
It would require a particular explanation of the Jewish law respecting divorces to describe the motives which indnced Joseph to resolve on putting away his wife privately; it is therefore sufficient to say, that as he behaved with great prudence, and wished to act with justice and kindness, God graciously interposed to guide and determine his resolution", and to preserve the reputation of Mary, which would have been injured, if her husband had even acted as he proposed to do. This Divine vision, from its agreement with the famous prophecy referred to, perfectly satisfied the mind of Joseph*.
The name Jesus is the same as Joshua. Joshua wa$ the Captain of the Israelites, who conducted them into Canaan. Jesus is called in Scripture the Captain of our Salvation. The name Jesus or Joshua signifies a Saviour. Joshua, under Gon, saved the people from the idolatrous nations; Jesus was to save the world from sin. Our Saviour is synonimous with EmmaNuel; for God With Us, is, Our Saviour, and Oub» Saviour, is, God With Us.
It is very probable that the Angel Gabriel was sent to Joseph; for as God had changed His dispensation, or mode of making His will known to mankind, and was about to manifest Himself in Christ, He did not make His Presence visible by the same glorious appearance as formerly, but either sent His Angels with messages, or communicated to chosen persons, by Divine inspira
* Sec Section ir.
tion, farther information concerning the promised MesSiah, than could be obtained from the writings of Moses and the Prophets alone.
A PREDICTION OF THE PROPHET MICAH.
But thou Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been of old, from everlasting.
ANNOTATIONS And REFLECTIONS.
This prediction evidently relates to the wonderful child who was foretold by the other prophets, and precisely points out the place of His birth; it likewise intimates an union with the Lord Jehovah.
Let us now see where Christ was born.
Jesus Born At Bethlehem, And His Birth Revealed To The Shepherds.
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Ca?sar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyremus was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the eity of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David,