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and thou waited, day, anche well knew
Zacharias,' 'when he saw the angel, | filment of the promise, though lie knew though he knew him to be of heavenly the authority of the angel was derived extraction, could not judge the subject from the God of Truth. But as it is the of his mission, and therefore discovered lot of bumanity to err, Zacharias had, tor, a mixture of fear and surprise ; but the that time, forgot that nothing was imposærial ambassador cheered his desponding sible to Omnipotence, as well as that it soul with this kind address ; “ Fear not, was not the first time that the aged were Zacharias,for thy prayer is heard, and caused to conceive, and bear a child. The thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, least reflection would have reminded him, and thou shalt call his name John." that Sarah conceived, and bare Isaac, That he waited, day and night, for the when she was far advanced in years ; and consolation of Israel, he well knew, that Samuel was born of a woman, who which is all we can understand by his bad been long reputed, and even called prayer being heard ; for it was unnatu barren. ral for him to think that he and his wife Elizabeth, who were advanced in years,
His curiosity was, indeed, gratified, should bave a son ; Hey, he intimates
but in a manner that carried with it, at bis doubts concerning it in these words :
once a confirmation of the promise, and 66 Whereby shall I know this, for I am
a punishment of his unbelief. As he had an old man, and my wife well stricken
verbally testified his doubt of the fulfilin years." Besides be was a priest of the
ment of the prediction of the angel, be course of Abiab, whose particular office
was punished with the loss of bis speech, was to pray in behalf of the people, for
which was to continue to the very day, public and national blessings ; so that it
in which the prediction should be acis very reasonable to think, that on all
complished ; " Behold, thou shalt be occasions of public worship, he prayed
dumb, and not able to speak, until the most earnestly for the accomplishment of
day that those things shall be performed, the prophecies relative to the appearance because thou believest not my words, of the long-expected Messiah, who was which shall be fulfilled in their seapromised as a general blessing to all the nations of the eartb.
Zacharias soon received an awful tes· That this was the great subject of his timony of the divinity of the mission of prayer appears from the declaration of Gabriel, who was no sooner departed, Gabriel ; the prayer thou hast directed than he was struck dumb; for when he with sincerity to an Almighty ear, con came to pray in the course of his office, cerning the coming of the Messiah," is during the oblation of bis incense, he heard : and behold thy wife Elizabeth could not utter a word, and was under shall bear thee a son,” who shall prepare the necessity of making signs to the peothe way for the mighty Redeemer of Is ple, that an angel had appeared unto him rael. The old priest, indeed, was as 1 in the temple, and that he was deprived much astonished at the subject of the of the faculty of speech, as a punishment mission, as he was at the appearance of for uis doubting the fulfilment of an event the messenger ; and esteeming it impossi. of wbich he had been foretold concerning ble that his wife, thus advanced in years, him. should conceive a son, weakly demand. ed a sign to confirm his belief, in the ful. Soon after Zacharias departed to his
own house (the days of his ministration i person in heaven was considered as the being accomplished) his wife Elizabeth, Son of the Most High God; to whom according to the prediction of the angel, should be given by his Almighty Father, conceived ; and retired into a private the throne of David his earthly father, on place, where she lived five months in the which he should preside, and wbich, being uninterrupted exercises of piety, devotion, the whole church of Christ, the house of and contemplation on the mysterious Jacob, the spiritual Israel, or the kingprovidences of the Almighty, and his dom of the Messiah, should continue for amazing goodness to the sinful children ever and ever. of men.
The astonished virgin, unmindful hikeWhen Elizabeth was advanced six wise, that Isaiah had long since prophemonths in her pregnancy, the same hea sied, “ That a virgin should conceive and venly ambassador was sent to a poor vir bear a son,” thought her virginity an ingin, called Mary, who lived in obscurity surmountable barrier to the fulfilment in Nazareth, under the care of Joseph, 1 of the prophecy, especially as such an to whom she was espoused. This man and event had never before bappened since woman were both lineally descended from the creation of the world, and therefore the house of David, from whose loins it required of the angel an explanation of was foretold the great Messiah should the manner in which such a circumstance spring
could be effected.
This desiré by no means implies she did not remember, that with God all things were possible, but only serves to prove the weakness of her apprehension on the one hand, or her diffidence and sense of her own unworthiness on the other.
• This virgin being ordained by the
The angel, therefore, perceiving the goodness of her disposition, notwithstanding some little proof of human weakness, and shortness of sight, vouchsafed an immediate answer to her en, quiry, " The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall cover thee ;" or, in other words, this miraculous event shall be brought about by the aid of the Holy Spirit, and wonderful exertion of the power of the Most High. As thy conception is effected by the immediate interposition of the Holy Spirit : “ Therefore that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.” To confirın her faith in the glorious message, the beavenly messenger observed to her that l vity of our Saviour, exclaimed with rapher cousin Elizabeth, notwithstanding her Iture, “ And whence is this to me, that the advanced years and reputed barrenness, Mother of my Lord should come to me ?" was above six months pregnant, assigning | Nor did lier extacy cease with this token this incontestible argument for the mira of humility and joy on the important culous incident; “ For with God nothing event, in the ardour of which she evinshall be impossible.”
ced that prophetic influence, which,
while it amazed the blessed Virgin, could This reply not only removed all her not fail of establishing her belief in what doubts and fears, but filled her with in
the angel had foretold ; for she repeated expressible joy, so that she even antici
the very words expressed by the angel, in pated the promised felicity ; for she with
his salutation of the holy Virgin, “ Blesthe rest of the daughters of Jacob had
sed art thou among women,” together long indulged a hope of being selected
with a quotation from the psalms, and by God to be the honoured Mother of | " Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” the Saviour of Israel; and therefore, on her being assured that such happiness For as Mary conceived the seed long was destined her by the great Disposer
promised, and earnestly desired the seed of all events, she tbus expressed her in whom all the nations of the earth were reliance ou the fulfilment of the divine
to be blessed, he could not but be blespromise, and perfect acquiescence in the
sed himself, according to the words of pleasure of the Almighty; " Behold the
the psalmist; " His name shall contiband-inaid of the Lord, be it unto me
mue as long as the sun; and men shall be according to thy word.”
blessed in bim; all nations shall call bim
blessed." The happy Virgin, catching The angel had no sooner departed,
the holy flame from the aged Elizabeth, than Mary set out for the mountainous broke out into an humble acknowledgcountry of Judea, though at a very re
went of her unworthiness, and the wonmote distance from Nazareth, in order
derfal' grace of the Almighty, in appointto rejoice with her cousin Elizabeth, in ing her to the exalted honour' of bearing the joyful news she had received from | the Redeemer of Israel, as expressed in the angel concerning lier. Tbe rapture those known words, 6 My soul doth magand delight wbieh lilled the minds of nify the Lord,” &c. Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth, on the ocrasion of this salutation, cap alone be Having thus confirmed herself, by this expressed by the affecting description visit, in the belief of the prediction of recorded by the evangelist Luke, who the apgel Gabriel, when the period of is peculiar for the beauty of his style, and Elizabeth's pregnancy approached, she elegance of bis expression. .
returned to Nazareth, having resided in
Judea about three months. That evangelist writes, that the salutation of Mary had such an effect upon Soon after the departure of Mary, Elizabeth, that on her hearing of the mi | Elizabeth brought forth lier son, the apraculous event which had befallen the pointed' harbinger of the King of Glory; Virgin, the babe leaped within her, and and on the eighth day after his birth, acthat she being inspired with a holy delight cording to the Judaical custom, he was on the approaching prospect of the natis circumcised, and called, according to the