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Judah; “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.” Finally, it pleased God to reveal that Christ, or the Messiah, should be of the house and family of David; “the Lord hath sworn in truth unto David, he will not turn from it; of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.”
We have thus seen that the family from which the Redeemer of mankind should spring was clearly foretold by the prophets, and we shall soon see that the place and time of his appearance were not less clearly predicted. The prophet Micah specially pointed out the place of Christ's birth, saying, “and thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come
a Governor that shall rule my people Israel.”
Several prophecies unite in fixing the time of Christ's appearance. Daniel foretold that he would come at the end of seventy weeks of years after the Babylonish captivity; Haggai declared that he should renderthe Second Temple more honourable than the First; Jacob, as has been already mentioned, predicted that Christ should appear when the sceptre had departed from Judah. Now the Gospel history shows us that all these prophecies were exactly fulfilled ; the time mentioned by Daniel was expired; the Second Temple was standing; and the Sceptre had departed from Judah, for Herod, an Idumean, and consequently a foreigner, had obtained the title of King of the Jews.
There was another prophecy still more remarkable, which accurately fixed the time of Christ's birth; it was foretold that another prophet should appear, in the spirit and with the power of Elijah, “to prepare the way” for the Messiah. The prophet Malachi declared, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord : and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. This prophecy was fulfiled by the appearance of John the Baptist, whose birth was miraculously foretold to his father. almost in the very words of Malachi. When Zacharias, who was a priest, went to burn incense in the temple, an angel appeared and said unto him “ Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard ; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 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. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 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 a people prepared for the Lord.
Zacharias was at first incredulous, and the angel declared that he should continue dumb until the prediction was accomplished. In process of time Elizabeth the wife of Zacharias had a son, and on the eighth day, when the child was to be named, her neighbours and friends wished that he should be called after his father. Zacharias, who still continued dumb, made signs for writing materials, and when they were brought he wrote down “His name is John."
While the neighbours marvelled at this occurrence, a new miracle was wrought before their eyes, the mouth of Zacharias " was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake and praised God." These events were noised throughout the country, and fear came upon all who heard them; they began thenceforth earnestly to observe the
child, anxious to know what would be the character of a person thus miraculously ushered into the world. The fore-runner of the Messiah was now come, and the unerring word of truth had declared that the advent of the Messiah himself would not be long delayed.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST.
When the fulness of the time foretold by the prophets was come, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, a virgin of Nazareth, a town in Galilee, who was betrothed, but not married, to a carpenter named Joseph, a man pursuing a humble trade, but lineally descended from the royal house of David. “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 conceive in thy womb, and 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."
Joseph and Mary at this time resided in Nazareth, but the Scriptures had foretold that Christ should be born in Bethlehem. The Providence of God, which rules all the actions of men, effected the completion of the prophecy. A decree was issued by the Roman Emperor, Augustus Cæsar, that an account should be taken of all his subjects, and Joseph went to his native city, Bethlehem, to be regularly enrolled according to law. As all the places of public entertainment were crowded on the occasion, Joseph was compelled to lodge with his wife in a stable, and in this humble abode the Saviour of the World was born.
But though to all earthly appearance the birth of Christ was mean and humble, God, who judges not with man's judgment, sent his angels to announce the great event. There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks to guard them