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them all indeed, save two,) has drawn several persons to take the one for the line of Joseph, the other for the line of Mary. But the diversity of names ariseth not so much from the custom of that nation, of one person having divers names, (which commonly is answered in this,) though somewhat of that may be in it; but it is much rather from that, it seems, St. Matthew does deduce the legal succession in government (by Solomon), St. Luke the natural in birth (by Nathan). St. Matthew, to make
the number of his three fourteens, even omits some immediate parents, which alters nothing at all of the true deduction, and nephews are frequently called, and truly are, the sons of their grandfather's, though not immediate. Now, though it is possible that it might be otherwise, yet, the Evangelists take it as a thing then manifest and known when they wrote, that Joseph, according to the appointment and ordinary practice of his nation, did marry within his tribe and family. So that his extraction, who was but the supposed and nominal father, doth give account of Mary the real mother of Jesus Christ. Other scruples, though it may be to some needful to clear them, yet I name not, as being useless to acquaint those with, who find them not. And some there be altogether needless and curious, which may pass among the vain unprofitable questions of genealogists that the Apostle advises to avoid.
Ver. 18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: when as his
mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together,
St. LUKE is more large in the history of the conception, but (which the rest have not) this Evangelist acquaints us with Joseph's behaviour in the business. We have 1st. His first doubtful thoughts within himself; 2nd. His right information, and directions from God; 3d. His answerable acquiescence and obedience.
Perceiving Mary, who was espoused to him, to be with child before they came together, and not knowing how this came to pass, it would certainly perplex him much; yet goes he not in a sudden passion, or rage of jealousy, to take the extremest course, but being a just man, that is, not strict and severe, as taking justice in a strict sense, for so it would seem contrary to the present intendment;-yet, some have taken it so, though he was a just man ;-but it is indeed rendered as the cause of his purpose mitigating of the law's rigour, and so, just is here a good man, a man of a moderate, mild spirit, averse from rigours, as good men usually are.
And as his own temper, so, no doubt Mary's carriage, did incline him to this way; observing her modesty and piety, which undoubtedly was singular, and would appear in her whole deportment; but further than that spake for her, it doth not appear that she spake all this while any thing for herself: she offered not to declare the admirable way of her conception, which would have seemed feigned and incredible from her mouth, but quietly refers the matter to Him who had done it. Thus silent innocency rests satisfied in itself, where it may be inconvenient or fruitless to plead for itself, and loses nothing by doing so, for it is always in due season vindicated and cleared by a better hand. And thus it was here: she is silent, and God speaks for her.
Verse 20.--While he thought on these things, &c.] The whole matter is opened to him by the angel of God in a dream. This blessed child is owned by his glorious Father; the conception declared to be pure and supernatural by the Holy Ghost; his birth and name, and the reasons of it, are foretold ; and upon these, Joseph is ascertained, not only of the spotless innocency, but of the matchless dignity of his espoused Mary in this conception, and the true quality of her Divine Son, and so is furnished with sufficient ground of receiving her as his wife, which accordingly he forthwith did.
The last words of the chapter are added for the future clearness concerning the purity of his birth. But denying for the time before, which was to the present purpose, affirms nothing at all for the time after, as is evident by abundant instances of this manner of speech, where until goes no further than the
named term any way, yea, does rather import the perpetuity of what it speaks; as Gen. xxviii. 15. Until I have done that, &c., and Is. xxii. 14. Till ye die-which yet hath not been alleged, for any thing I know, for a purgatory after death.
Ver. 22.-In the narration, the Apostle inserts (as is his custom) the parallel of the thing with a prophecy foretelling all this, of the accommodating of which I will not now insist. It is evident that it looks beyond any thing that those times, or that any time, before this fulness of time, did afford. And this singular Virgin's conception was altogether agreeable to the singular person so conceived and born, both as to the purity of his human, and the dignity of his Divine, nature; that he might be known to be not only a holy, sinless man, but more than a simple man, God-man, God with us, as his name is.
Observation. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ. Many great volumes of history have been written of states and kingdoms of the earth, and lives of particular famous men, and the reading of them may delight and inform the mind; but what are they all, how empty and comfortless stuff in respect of this history! The book of the generation of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel, the alone good tidings to all nations and all ages ; still fresh, and equally good news from one generation to another. Had not the Virgin borne this Son, we must say all of us, Good for us we had not been born.
Now, that so many ages were run by, before His coming, His will who chose that point of time, is sufficient reason. But, 1st, we may perceive by this, that the faith of the Church and people of God was exercised in the expectance of this promised seed, in whom all the nations should be blessed.
2dly. And the esteem of this rich gift raised (and well did he deserve to be the desire and hope of the nations. Thus the Lord hath been pleased in other great favours, to use this way to reveal them in the promise long time before the performance: so, a son to Abraham, and the deliverance from Egypt, and that other from Babylon long before the captivity.
3dly, He was equally from the beginning, in his Father's
view, for the interest of believers, in all those preceding ages, as if he had already lived and died and rose again, A Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; for He sees through all generations and successions of times, and all things in them are always alike present to His eye. But in the mean time, while the Church was held in prefiguring shadows, this was their grand desire, that he might appear in the flesh ; still looking and waiting when the day should break, and the shadows flee away. And thus in the Song of Solomon may we take that wish, (Ch. vii. ver. 1.) Oh! that thou wast as my brother ! And though the time seemed long, yet, the vision was for the set time, and then it spake, and lied not; and he was coming forward in the succession of time, hastening as a roe on the mountains, skipping from one age, from one hill to another: as here we have it, Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, &c. And this is now the great wish of his spouse, the Church, and of each particular soul espoused to him, that he would come again as he hath promised; and he will do so.
What a sweet echo there, (Rev. xxii. 17.) of Come! The Spirit says, Come, and the Bride says, and He says, (ver. 20.) Behold I come quickly ; and they resound again, Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus !
Ver. 21. But thou shalt call his name Jesus. That is the name that refreshes the fainting spirits of humbled sinners, that the sweet-smelling balm, that the ointment poured out, that draws the virgins to love him; sweet in the mouth and in the ear, and life in the heart. A Saviour, for he shall save his people from their sins. The Jews were his people once in a particular way, but all Jews and Gentiles that run unto his name as their refuge, are his people, and he hath engaged himself to be their Saviour, whatsoever kind of people they be, and whatsoever kind of guiltiness of sins they bring with them. And for that reason, as is observed, are named in this his genealogy, persons grossly stained, and the woman too, (ver. 3.) is specified, all under the same blot; and one a stranger, not of the seed of the Jews; signifying him to be a
Come; Saviour of all nations, and even of the vilest sinners. But we know not his riches and our own poverty ; therefore we run not to him. We perceive not that we are lost and perishing ; therefore a Saviour is a word of little relish. Oh, were we convinced of the huge mass of guilt that lies upon us, and the wrath that for it hangs over us, ready to fall on us and sink us, this would be our continual thought, till we were resolved in it, Is this Saviour mine? And to the end we might find him so, we should tread upon all that lies in our way to run to him.
Ver. l. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days
of Herou the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to
Jerusalem. Ver. 2. Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews ? for we have
seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
The blessed Son now born, hath for part of his name, in the prophet foretelling, or rather telling his birth, (Isa. ix. 6.) Wonderful. He is so in his birth; that we have seen in the former chapter. He is so in his life and death, particularly in that part of his life which is ordinarily scarce at all remarkable, his infancy. The history of that, we have in this chapter. So, as in that place of the prophet, wonderful is the beginning of his name, he is wonderful in the beginning of his life.
That wonder that goes along throughout all his life and death, is in the passages here recorded, very legible, a strong contemperature of majesty and meanness; yea, these two, só far distant in notion, yet meet in him, the meanness of Man and the majesty of God. So obscurely born and so poorly lodged, yet, that birth marked, and that lodging pointed out, by a star that seems to have no other work nor. motion, but to tell of