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appointment of the angel, John alluding, phet of the Highest ; for thou shalt go in the Hebrew tongue, to the gracious before the face of the Lord, to prepare display of the wisdom and goodness bis ways, to give knowledge of salvation God was about to manifest to the world, to his people, by the remission of their by the spreading of the gospel of bis Son, sins, through the tender mercies of our of whom this John was the appointed God, whereby the day spring from on forerunner.
high hath visited us, to give light to
them that sit in darkness, and in tlie shaThis promise being thus fulfilled, the
dow of death, to guide our feet in the aged priest was restored to his speech,
way of peace.” and immediately broke out into praise and rapture at the marvellous works of As Joseph had abstained from all ma
God, in strains which astonished all trimonial intercourse with his wife, he · around him.
was not a little alarmed, when shortly after
her return to Nazareth, she discovered This surprising event greatly alarmed evident signs of pregnancy; nay, so far the people of the adjacent country, who was be wrought on by circumstances, that were divided in their opinions concern he absolutely resolved on a dissolution of ing a child, whose birth
birth was attended the marriage ; but previous to such a with so many extraordinary circumstan rigorous procedure, questioning her conces. Indeed, these incidents were cerning the same, she, to wipe off so thy of general admiration ; that he who foul an aspersion, minutely related to was to be the forerunner of the mighty him the particulars of the vision from the Saviour of Israel, should not make his angel, and the extraordinary event that entrance on life in an obscure and com, had befallen Zacharias and Elizabeth. mon manner, but with particular tokens of the favour of heaven, in order to at Notwithstanding this ingenuous declatract the observation of bis countrymen, ration, Joseph's suspicions continued, and and excite their attention to that minis suggested to him that this might be a detry which he was called to by God, even vice, concerted by the friends of Mary, the preparation of the people for the re
e to exempt her from that disgrace, which ception of the Messiali, who was shortly must attend a divorce on such pretence ;
however, he resolved to execute his pur
pose as privately as possible, without asIt is observable, that the Baptist, from signing a cause for the same, which, unbis in faney, displayed great qualities, der their constitution, would have subboth of mind and body; for such was jected her to the penalty of death. his strength of constitution, through the blessing of the God of Nature, that he But, on cooler reflection, he called to lived till near the thirtieth year of his mind the sovereign power of Omnipoage, when his public ministry began, in tence; for which reason, however oppothe nountains and desart country of site her case might be to the nature of Judea, bereft of almost all the comforts things in general, her vindication might of life. But at length the prophecy of be well grounded. He now thought the good old Zacharias, relating to his bimself bound by every tie of justice and future elevation, was literally fulfilled : duty, to preserve her character inviola“ Thou, O child, shall be called the Pro- ble; though, as he was a just man, and a
most religious observer of the law, the assertions she made did not appear to bim
CHAP. II. sufficient to justify him in retaining her in bis house.
General Decree for Taxation published.
Birth of Christ. Declaration of the While he was thus ruminating on this same to the Shepherds. Circumcision particular event, he was overtaken with a and Presentation of Christ in the Templeasing slumber, and received a commu
ple. The Wise Men of the East wornication from above, which fully reveal ship the holy Child. Flight of Joseph ed the cause and manuer of Mary's preg.
into Egypt. Massacre of Infants at nancy, dispelled his doubts, and encou Bethlehem. Death of Herod. Return raged him to take home his falsely sus of Joseph out of Egypt. pected spouse ; “ Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary
UGUSTUS Cæsar, the Roman einthy wife ; for that which is conceived in peror, having, at this time, issued her is of the Holy Ghost.”
an edict for a general taxation on all the
nations, cities, and towns, subject to the The aged Joseph complied with the empire, king Herod, in consequence of voice of heaven most chearfully; for po
that decree, commanded all under his sooner did the morning dawn
government, to muster in the city of his
appear, than he arose from his couch, and obeyed people, or places of fois descent, that an the cominands of the Most High, by re
estimate might be taken of their persons
and effects, Pursuant to this order, Jolating to his wife bis being assured of her in nocence, and immediately restored ber | seph and Mary, as descendants from the to former favour.
line of David, departed from Nazareth,
where they then resided, and came to While he related to her the manner of
Bethlehem, a city of Judea, the place of this extraordinary revelation by a mes
the nativity of David, and his ancestors. senger from the heavenly Canaan, he discovered in her a remarkable chastity of
So numerous were the people that reheart, eutirely conformable to so mysteri- paired to this place, on account of the gus an operation, and knew her not, till
general decree, that every dwelling was she had brought forth the great Redeemer
occupied; and Joseph and Mary, though of Israel.
they could not depart thence till after the taxation, were forced to take up their
residence in an humble stable, the spot Thus was fulfilled that which was foretold by the prophets, and particularly the
in which it pleased the Divine Wisdom
should be born the Lord of Life and Gloprediction of Isaiah, which imported, That a Virgin should bring forth a son.-“ Be
ry, who, as a perfect example of humility
to all his followers, was to make bis hold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear
entrance into, and his exit out of the a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,”
lower world, in the same mean and huinwhich, being interpreted, is, God with
ble maoner. Isa. vii. 14,
In this lowly tenement the blessed Virgin brought forth her first born Godlike Son, wrapped him in swaddling-clothes, and laid him (baving no better place) in a manger.
It is remarkable, that all the genera- | choir were heard to resound the praises tions of the intervening spaces, between of the Almighty for this transcendant dis. three of the most remarkable periods, re- play of his goodness to sinful men : “Glory lative to the house of David, and the birth to God in the highest, and on earth peace, of our blessed Saviour, are exactly the good will towards men.” Transported sane; for the Evangelist Matthew in with the happy tidings of the birth forms us, that all the generations, from | of the Redeemer of Israel, the angel no Abraham to David, are fourteen genera sooner departed, than the shepherds bas. tions; and from David unto the Babylonish tened to Bethlehem, in quest of the babe, captivity, are fourteen generations; and whom, according to the information of from the Babylonish captivity unto the | the sacred missionary, they found wrap. birth of Christ, are also fourteen genera- | ped in “swaddling clothes, and lying in tions. The same evangelist also traces a manger. This event, so exactly conhis genealogy from Abraham, and proves formable to the angel's prediction, equally his lineal descent from that father of the delighted and amazed them ; nor could faithful, through the line of David, from they conceal the purport of his mission, but race to race, to that of the humble Vir. published abroad all they had seen and gin, and the aged Josephı..But to return I heard. to the immediate subject of our history.
Having viewed with praise and wonder The humble manner in which the bles. | their long-expected Saipur, and offered sed Jesus made his appearance in the their grateful praises to God, for the ma. world, did not long eclipse the glory of nifestation of his goodness to mankind, they his descent ; a heavenly messenger being departed with hearts filled with love and dispatched from above to apprize man gratitude, still glorifying the Almighty kind of their Saviour's incarnation. It | Parent of universal nature, pleased the wise Disposer of all things, by this holy angel, first to make known After the expiration of eight days, froin to some honest shepherds, who were the birth of the holy Infant, he was cirwatching their flocks by night, in the cumcised, according to the Mosaic instineighbouring fields, the birth of the long
tation, anii his name was called Jesus ; promised, long-expected Messiah. The
that appellation being given him by the radiance which slone around them terri- angel, who appeared to the Virgin, before fied the astonished peasants: but to dis..
her conception. It was requisite be should sipate their fears, and confirm their joys,
conforın to this custom ; a ceremony which the divine messenger interposed, and characterized the Jewish nation, and was thus addressed them; “ Fear not: for
one of the principal injunctions of the behold, I bring you good tidings of great Mosaic law under which he was made, in joy, which shall be to all people. For unto
order to fulfil all that is spoken of him in you is born, this day, in the city of David,
the scriptures. a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the
Besides, as all the pronises made to babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in
Abraham were to be fulfilled in the a inanger.”
Messiah, it was necessary he should re
ceive the seal of circuncision, in order The glorious news was no sooner pro to prove his descent from the patriarch, claimed, than a number of the celestial concerning whom it was foretold, « In