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to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's uame teas Mary. 28 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. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 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. 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
In this history of our Saviour's miraculous and immaculate conception, we have several things observable, as, 1. The messenger sent from heaven to publish the news of the conception of the Son of God: an angel. An evil angel was the first author of our ruin, a good angel could not be the author of our restoration, but is the joyful reporter of it. Observe, 2. The angel's name: Gabriel, which signifies the power of God. The same angel who had many hundred years before declared to the prophet Daniel the coming of the Messiah. Observe, 3. The place which the angel is sent unto: Nazareth, an obscure place, little taken notice of; yea, a city in Galilee, out of which arises no prophet: even there doth the God of prophets condescend to be conceived. No blind comer of Nazareth can hide the Blessed Virgin from the angel. The favours of God will find out his children wherever they are withdrawn. Observe, 4. The person whom the angel is sent unto, to a virgin espoused, whose name was Mary: for the honour of virginity, Christ chose a virgin for his mother; for the honour of marriage, a virgin espoused to an husband. Observe, 5. The message itself: Hail, Zhou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. Where note, That the angel salutes the Vir
gin as a saint, he doth not pray to her as a goddess. The church of Rome idolatrously uses these words as a prayer to the Holy Virgin, (saying ten Ave Maries for one Pater Noster,) whereas they are only a salutation; declaring that she, above all women, had the honour freely conferred by God upon her to be the motlier of the Messiah. The original word signifies, not full of grace, but freely beloved. Compare Mary with other renowned women, and what had she, besides this favour, more than they. Had she the spirit of prophecy i so had they; had she the spirit of sanctification? so had they: and she had no more immunity and freedom from sin and death than they. Accordingly, says the angel, Blessed art thou among women: he doth not say, Blessed art thou above women. Let the church of Rome be as copious as they will in tUe commendation of the mother, so they do not derogate from the glory of the Son. But how senseless are they, 1. In turning a salutation into a prayer 1 2. In making use of these words upon every occasion, which were spoken by an angel upon a special occasion! 3. In applying these words to her now in heaven, which suited with her only when she was here on earth, saying, full of grace to net who is full of glory; and, the Lord is xoith thee, to her that is with the Lord! Observe, 6. The effect which the sight and salutation of the angel had upon the Holy Virgin: she was afraid. If Zachary before her was amazed at the sight of the angel, much more the Virgin, her sex subjecting her to fear. All passions, but particularly the passion of fear, disquiets the heart, and makes it unfit to receive the messages of God. Therefore the angel instantly says unto her, Fear not: let joy enter into thy heart, out of whose womb shall come salvatiou. Thus the fears of holy persons do end in comfort: joy was the errand which the angel came upon, and not terror. What little cause she had to fear the presence of an angel, who was so highly favoured of him, at whose presence the angels tremble! But we see the holiest person on earth cannot bear the presence of an holy angel, much less the presence of an holy God; nor staud before the manifestation of his favour: Lord! how unable then will the wicked be at the great day to stand before the manifestation of thy fury! If the sight of an holy angel now makes the hestof saints to quake and tremble, what will the sight of an infinitely holy and just God then do, when the wicked shall be slain by thc brightness of his presence? Observe lastly, The character which the angel gives of the person that should be born of the blessed virgin: He shall be great, and called the Son of the Highest. Great in respect of his person; great in respect of his offices; great in respect of his kingdom ; for God would settle upon him a spiritual kingdom, of which David's earthly one was a type, which never shall be abolished: though the administration of it by the word and sacraments shall cease at the day of judgment, when he shall deliver up his kingdom, in that respect to his Father. All other kingdoms have had, or shall have their periods; but the gospel-church, which is Christ's kingdom, shall continue till his kingdom of glory be revealed.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this he, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee ; therefore also that holy thing %vhich shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall he impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Observe here, 1. The Virgin's question; hois shall this be .* This question doth not import her denial of the possihility of the thing, but her wonder at the strangeness of the thing; it proceeded rather from a desire of information, than from a doubt of infidelity. Therefore she doth not say this cannot be, nor, how can this be? but, How shall this be 9 She doth not distrust, but demand how her virginity should become fruitful, and how she, being a virgin, could bring forth a son? Observe, 2. The angel's reply to the Virgin's question; The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee. Where note, The angel declares the author who, but not the manner how: the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, but in wbat way, and after what manner,
is not declared. No mother knows the manner of her natural conception; what presumption had it then been, for the mother of the Messiah, to have enquired how tbe Son of God could take flesh and blood of his creature - It is for none but the Almighty to know those works which do immediately concern himself. Observe, 3. The holy and immaculate conception of our blessed Redeemer: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the porier of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God; that is, the Holy Ghost shall prepare and sanctify so much of thy flesh, blood, or seed, as shall constitute the body of Christ. For though it was a work of the whole Trinity, yet it is ascribed particularly to the Holy Ghost, sanclifkatiou being his peculiar work. And the title and epithet of that holt/ thing, showelh the purity and immaculateness of Christ's human nature, and that none was ever born thus holy and immaculate but Christ only; because none had ever such a way and means of conception, but only he: therefore that holy thing shall be colled the Son of God; not constituted and made, but evidenced and declared. Christ was God before he assumed flesh, even from eternity; but his taking flesh in this manner evidences him to be the Son of God. Observe, 4. The argument used by the angel to confirm Mary in the belief of what he had told her: namely, the wonderful conception of her cousin Elisabeth in her old age, who was now six months gone with child. Where observe, 1. What an exact knowledge God has, and what a particular notice he takes of all the children of men; he knoweth not only ourselves, but our relations also: Behold thy cousin Elisabeth. The knowledge which God has of every person, and every action, is a clear and distinct knowledge. Note, 2. How the angel strengthens her faith by a consideration drawn from the almighty power of God: With God nothing shall be impossible, be it never so strange and difficult. There is no such wav to overcome difficulties, as by strengthening our faith in the almighty power of God. Faith will enable us to assent to truth, though seemingly incredible, and to believe the possihility of things, though appearing impossible. Observe lastly, How the Virgin expresses her faith and obedience, her submission and entire resignation, to the divine pleasure, to be disposed of by God as he thought fit: t Si hold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy -word. We hear of no more objections or interrogations, but an humble and submissive silence. Learn hence, That a gracious heart, when once it understands the pleasure of God, argues no farther, but quietly rests in a believing expectation of what God will do. All disputations with God, after his will is made known and understood, arise from infidelity and unbelief. The Virgin having thus consenled, instantly conceived by the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost.
39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill-country w ith haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb: and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Observe here, 1. The visit made by the Virgin Mary to her cousin Elisabeth. The Holy Virgin had understood by the angel, that Elisabeth was no less akin to her in condition than in relation, being both fruitful in conception; she hastens into the hillcountry to visit that holy matron. The two wonders of the world were now met under one roof, to congratulate their mutual happiness ; only the meeting of the saints in heaven can parallel the meeting of these two saints on earth. Observe, 2. The design and intention of this visit; which was partly to communicate their joys to each other, and partly lo strengthen the faith of
each other. Such a soul as has Christ spiritually conceived in it, is restless and cannot be quiet till it has imparted its joy. Observe, 3. The effect of the Virgin's salutation: she had no sooner saluted Elisabeth, but the babe in Elisabeth's womb leaped for joy, doing homage, and paying adoration to his Lord, who was then in presence. If Elisabeth and her holy babe thus rejoiced, when Christ came under their roof, how should our hearts leap within us, when the Son of God vouchsafes to come into the secret of our souls, not to visit us for an hour, but to dwell with us, yea, to dwell in us, and that for ever? Observe, 4. How Elisabeth by an extraordinary spirit of prophecy, confirms what the angel before had told the Holy Virgin: Blessed, says she, art thou among-women, and blessed is the fruit of thy vomb; and what an honour is this, that the mother of my Ijord should come to me! Where note, How Elisabeth acknowledged the incarnation of Christ, and the union of the divine and human nature in the person of the Mediator. She acknowledges Christ her Lord, and Mary to be the mother of the Son of God. Observe lastly, How the Virgin is pronounced blessed; not so much for carrying Christ in her womb by sense, as for bearing him in her heart by faith . Blessed is she that believed. Mary was not so blessed in bringing forth Christ, as believing in him; yet the believing here mentioned I take to be her firm assent to the message which was brought her by toe angel; as if Elisabeth had said, " Dumbness was inflicted on my husband for his unbelief of w hat the angel said," but, "Blessed art thou that didst believe the angel." My husband a man, an aged man, a learned and eminent man, a priest of the most high God, and the message to him of more appearing possihility, yet be disbelieved; but thou, a woman, a mean, unlearned woman, of a private condition, and the message brought most incredible both to nature and reason, and yet it is believed by thee! Blessed therefore is she that believed: and know, that as a reward for thy faith, all things shall certainly be performed that were foretold thee from the Lord." Learn hence, 1. That it is the property of God to do great and wonderful things. Our faith must be great, and our expectation great; great expectations from God honour the greatness of God. 2. That if our faith be great, God's performances will be gracious and full: Blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things -which were told her from the Lord.
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call mc blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things: and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things ; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54 He hath liolpen his servant Israel in remembrance of Aw mercy; 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
This is the first canticle, or song of praise, recorded in the New Testament, composed by the Blessed Virgin with unspeakable joy, for designing her to be the instrument of the conception and hirth of the Saviour of the world. Where observe, 1. Tbe manner of her praise: her soul and spirit bear their part in the work of thanksgiving, My soul doth magnify, my spirit hath rejoiced. As the sweetest music is made in the belly of the instrument, so the most delightful praise arises from the bottom of the heart. Observe, 2. The object of her praise: she doth not magnify herself, but the Lord; yea, she doth not rejoice so much in her son, as in her Saviour. Where note, 1. That she doth implicitly own and confess herself a sinner; for none need a Saviour but a sinner. And, 2. By rejoicing in Christ as her Saviour, she declares how she values herself, rather by her spiritual relation to Christ as his member, than by her natural relation to him as his mother; according to that of St. Austin, Reatior fuit Maria percipiendo Christi fidem, quam concipiendo carnem; she might have been miserable notwithstanding she bore him as her son,
had she not believed in him as her Saviour: therefore she sings, My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Observe, 3. How she admires and magnifies God's peculiar favour towards herself, in casting an eye upon her poverty and lowly condition; that she, a poor obscure maid, unknown to the world, should be looked upon with an eye of regard by him that dwells in the highest heavens. Where note, That as God magnified her, she magnified him, ascrihing all honour and glory to him that had thus dignified and exalted her: He that is mighty hath done for me great things, and glorified be his name. Observe, 4. She thankfully takes notice, that it was not only an high honour, but a lasting honour, which was conferred upon her: All generations shall call me biessed. She beholds an infinite, lasting honour prepared for her, as being the mother of an universal and everlasting Blessing, which all former ages had desired, and all succeeding ages should rejoice in, and proclaim her happy for being the instrument of. Observe, 5. How the Holy Virgin passes from the consideration of her personal privileges to the universal goodness of God: showing us that the mercies and favours of God were not confined and limited to herself, but his mercy is on all them that foar him throughout all generations. She declares the general providence of God towards all persons: his mercy to the pious, his mercy is on all them that fear him: his justice on the proud, he hath put down the mighty from their seat, and scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts: his bounty to the poor, he fills the hungry with good things. Learn hence, The excellency and advantageous usefulness of the grace of humility; how good it is to be meek and lowly in heart. This will render us lovely in God's eye; and though the world trample upon us, he will exalt us to the admiration of ourselves, and the envy of our despisers. Observe lastly, How she magnifies the special grace of God in our redemption: He hath ho!pen his servant Israel; that is, blessed them with a Saviour, who lived in the faith, hope, and expectation, of the promised Messiah: and this blessing he declares was, 1. The result of great mercy j He remembering his mercy, hath holpen his servant Israel. 2. The effect of his truth and faithfulness in his promises, As he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever. Learn hence, That the appearance of the promised Messiah in the fulness of lime, in order to the redemption and salvation of a lost world, was the fruit of God's tender love, and the effect of his faithfulness in the promises made of old lo his church and children: He hath ho!pen his servant Israel in remembrance of his mercy, as he spake to our forefathers, lo Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. 57 Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered ; and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
Two things are here observable, 1. The civil courtesy of the Virgin Mary towards her cousin Elisabeth. She stays with her three months, probably till she was delivered and brought to bed, not leaving her just at the time of her travail; for the angel told Mary, ver. 36. that it was then the sixth month with Elisabeth, after which Mary stays with her three months, which made up the full time. To visit and accompany our friends in the time of their distress, is not only an act of civil courtesy, but of religion and piety; not a matter of indifference, but of duly: James i. 27. Pure religion and unde filed is this, to visit in affliction; lhat is, this is an eminent act and exercise of religion, the evidence and fruit of sincere religion; and the Virgin's doing this, was an act and instance of her piety, as well as of her civil courtesy. Observe, 2. The religious joy, and spiritual rejoicing, which the neighbours and kindred expressed at the lying-in of Elisabeth. They did not meet together upon that great occasion only to cat and drink and make merry; but they rejoiced that the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her. Oh, how rarely is this example followed in our age! At the delivery of the mother, and at the hirth of the child, how 1 if tie is God taken notice of! How little is his power magnified, and his goodness celebrated, in opening the womb, in giving strenglh to bring forth! And how rarely is this the subject of discourse at the woman's labour! Verily, if the mercy of a child, and the safe deli
very of the mother, be not the first and principal things taken notice of at such rejoicing meetings, they look more like Pagan than christian rejoicings.
59 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. 60 And his mother answered and said. Not so; but he shall be called John. 61 And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62 And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 64 And he asked for a writing-table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 54 And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65 And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these things were noised abroad throughout all the hill-country of Judea: 66 And all they that had heard them laid I hem up in their hearts, saying. What manner of child shall this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him.
Observe here, 1. The circumcision of the child at eight days old, according lo the commandment, Gen. xvii. Where note, first, The act, circumcising. Secondly, the time, At eight days old. God commanded every male child to be circumcised, because the males by the foreskin propagate sin, and convey original impurity. By this ordinance God gave his people to understand the exceeding filthiness of siu, and that man brings something into the world with him, which ought presently to be cut off. Note also. The time of circumcising the child, At eight days old: not before, lest the child should be too weak to bear the pain; and it must not be deferred longer, lest God interpret the delay to be a contempt of the ordinance. Hence by the way we may learn, That God did not tie salvation to the outward sacrament; for if the child had perished that died uncircumcised, it had been an hard thing to defer circumcision eight hours. 'Tis not the want, but the contempt and neglect, of the sacrament that damns: // came to pass on the eighth day