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signed them both to the divine care and protection; but, being desirous of conferring with Elisabeth, to whom the Angel had referred her, she went to the city where her cousin dwelt. The congratulation which Mary received from Elisabeth was so exactly similar to that which the Angel pronounced, that she was satisfied the SF I RIT of the Lord had dictated it; and, in a transport of holy joy, she acknowledged her sense of God’s wonderful condescension, in that beautiful hymn we have just read; in which there is great resemblance to the song of Hannah, and other passages in the Old Tesfame???. o Mary, on account of her being the Mother of our JLoRD, is usually styled the blessed Virgin; and she certainly deserves the epithet, for a greater honour and blessing she could not receive in this world: but this circumstance could only inerease her earthly happiness in proportion to her faith; her future beatitude in heaven depended, like that of other Christians, on her obedience to the will of GoD, and belief in the MEs's IAH ; therefore paying divine honours to the Virgin Mary is as great idolatry, as that practised by the Jews of old, who were so severely reproved by the Prophet Jeremiah for worshipping the Queen of

Heaven. But we certainly should regard the blessed Virgin as a woman of most exemplary character, and hold her in the highest estimation short of adoration, on account of her having been made so instrumental to the happiness of mankind; and we should follow her example of humility, piety, and faith, on every occasion that admits of our doing so. Nothing could be more unlikely, according to the common course of nature, than that the Pirgin

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Mary should be the mother of the Mess IAH ; yet she believed that she should have this distinguished honour, because it was graciously promised; and afterwards, when her faith was farther confirmed by the prophetic exclamation of her cousin Elisabeth, she entertained no proud or arrogant thoughts of her own merits, but ascribed all the glory to GoD, and regarded the choice He had made of one in her humble station, as a fulfilment of those divine promises given so many years before to Abraham; and indeed it must be regarded in this light by all who carefully compare the one with the other *.

SECTION VI.

THE BIRTH AND c1 R cu Mc Is I on of John THE b Aptist.

** From Luke, Chap. i.

AND Elisabeth brought forth a son; and her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lo RD had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 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: and his mother answered and said, Not so ; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name; and they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked + for a writing-table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all: And

* See a Comment upon Mary's Hymn, in my Companion to the Book of Common Prayer. + By sign".

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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 Lo RD 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, tha 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 o' our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the fage of the Lo Rd, 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.

i. - ANNOTATIONS

ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS,

We here find that the prediction of the Angel was fulfilled to Zacharias and Elisabeth by their having a son in their old age. There were so many wonderful eircumstances attending the birth of Żohn, 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 SP 1 RIT of the LoRD regulated his childish passions, and taught him betimes TRUE wisdom.

So much has already been 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 hearts of the fathers to the children, &c.

The hymn of Zacharias is very properly introduced into the Church Service; for every Christian has cause 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 Gentile world, were once sitting in darkness and the shadow 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 |

* See Sect, ii. * * * * From

From 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.

.70%m 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 waiting the direction of the Lord in respect to his entrance on his office.

SECTION VII.

an ANG eL APPEAR eth to Joseph IN A DREAM Jos EPH o B EY ETH THE DIVINE comm AND.

From Matthew, Chap. i.

Now Joseph the husband of Mary being a just man, and 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, Goe with us. . . Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the ange!

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