Page images
[blocks in formation]

house of God. Mat. xxi. 12. where incense place.

¶ Into the temple. See The part of the temple was burnt was the holy

refer to all the duties of religion, which cense, and it was not lawful for this comwere made known to them. T Blame-pound to be used elsewhere than in the less. That is, no fault or deficiency could be found in them. They were strict, exact, punctual. Yet this, if it had been mere external observance, might have been no proof of piety. Paul, before his conversion, also kept the law externally blameless. Phil. iii. 6. But in the case of Zachariah and Elisabeth, it seems to have been real love to God, and sincere regard for his law.

7. Well stricken in years. Old, or advanced in life, so as to render the prospect of having children hopeless.

8. Before God. In the temple where God dwelt, by the symbols of his presence. The temple was regarded by the Jews as the house or dwelling of God; and in the first temple there was, in the most holy place a cloud called the Shechinah, or visible sign of the presence of God. It was thus before God, that Zachariah offered incense.

9. According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was. The Jewish writers inform us that it was customary for the priests to divide their daily task by lot. To burn incense. Incense is an aromatic, or white rosin, procured from trees chiefly in Arabia. It is obtained by making incisions in the tree, and the gum flows out. It was distinguished for a peculiarly pleasant smell when burnt, and was therefore used in ancient worship. It was burnt by the priest twice a day, morning and evening. 7 -8. This was the time of the evening incense. The incense used in the temple was made of stacte, onycha, and galbaDum, (Ex. xxx. 34), with pure frankin

10. The whole multitude. This was the regular time of evening prayer, and multitudes came up to the temple to worship. ¶ Praying without. That is, in the courts around the temple; particularly in the court of the women.

11. An angel. An angel is a messenger sent from God. It had now been about four hundred years since the time of Malachi, and since there had been any divine revelation. During that time the nation was looking for the Messiah; but still with nothing more than the ancient prophecies to direct them. Now that he was about to appear, God sent his messenger to announce his coming, to encourage the hearts of his people, and to prepare them to receive him. ¶ On the right side, &c. The altar of incense stood close by the veil which divided the holy place from the most holy. On the north stood the table of shew-bread. On the south the golden candlestick. Zacharias entered, therefore, with his face to the west, the angel would stand on the north, or near the table of shew. bread.


12. He was troubled. This was an unusual appearance. He was alone, in the presence of God. The appearance was sudden, unexpected, and therefore fearful.

13. Thy prayer is heard. That is, thy prayer for offspring. This, among the Jews, was an object of intense desire.

[blocks in formation]



15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and a ver.60,63. b ver.58. c c.7.28. d Nu.6.3.

No prospect was more gloomy to them than that of dying childless, so that their name should perish. Special pains, therefore, had been taken in the law, to keep up the names of families by the law requiring a man to marry his brother's wife. Deut. xxv. 5.

14. At his birth. This does not refer so much to the time of his birth, as to subsequent rejoicing. Such shall be his character, that he shall be an honor to the family, and many shall rejoice that he lived. Or, in other words, he shall be a blessing to mankind.

15. Shall be great. Shall be eminent, or distinguished as a preacher. In the sight of the Lord. Greek: before the Lord. That is, shall be really or truly great. God shall regard him as such. Shall drink neither wine. Wine was the juice of the grape. The kind of wine commonly used in Judea was a light wine, often not stronger than cider in this country. It was the common drink of all classes of the people. The use of wine was forbidden only to the Nazarite. Num. vi. 3. It was because John sustained this character, that he abstained from the use of wine. T Strong drink. It is not easy to ascertain precisely what is meant by this word, but we are certain that it does not mean strong drink in our sense of the term. Distilled spirits were not then known. The art of distilling was discovered by an Arabian chemist, in the ninth or tenth century; but distilled liquors are not used by Arabians. They banished them at once, as if sensible of their pernicious influence. Nor are they used in eastern nations at all. Europe and America have been the places where this poison has been most extensively used; and there it has beggared and ruined millions, and is yearly sweeping thousands unprepared into a wretched eternity. The strong drink among the Jews was pro bably nothing more than fermented liquors, or a drink obtained from fermented dates, figs; and the juice of the palm, or the lees

[blocks in formation]

of wine, mingled with sugar, and having the property of producing intoxication. Many of the Jewish writers say, that by the word here translated strong drink was meant nothing more than old wine, which probably had the power of produ cing intoxication. ¶ Shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, &c. Shall be divinely designated or appointed to this office, and qualified for it by all needful communications of the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, is to be illuminated, sanctified, and guided by his influence. In this place it refers: 1st. To the divine intention that he should be set apart to this work, as God designed that Paul should be an apostle from his mother's womb. Gal. i. 15.-2. It refers to an actual fitting for the work from the birth, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as was the case with Jeremiah (Jer. i. 5), and with David. Ps. xxii. 9, 10.

16. Children of Israel. Jews. Descendants of Israel, or Jacob. ¶ Shall he turn. By repentance. He shall call them from their sins, and persuade them to forsake them, and to seek the Lord their God.

17. Shall go before him. Before the Messiah, or the Lord Jesus. The connexion here leads us to suppose that the word him refers to the "Lord their God," in the previous verse. If so, then it will follow that the Messiah was the Lord God of Israel: a character abundantly given him in other parts of the New Testament. T In the spirit and power of Elias. See note, Mat. xi. 14. T To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. In the time of John the Jews were divided into a number of different sects. They were opposed violently to each other, and pursued their opposition with great animosity. It was impossible but that this opposition should find its way into fami lies, and divide parents and children from each other. John came that he might allay these animosities, and produce better feeling. By directing them all to

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

one Master, the Messiah, he would di- el is made up of two Hebrew words, and vert the attention from the causes of their signifies man of God. This angel is difference, and bring them to union. He mentioned as having been deputed to in would restore peace to their families, and form Daniel that his prayers were heard. reconcile those parents and children who | Dan. viii. 16; ix. 21. That stand in had chosen different sects, and suffered the presence of God. To stand in the their attachment to sect to interrupt the presence of one, is a phrase denoting honharmony of their households. The effect or or favor. To be admitted to the of true religion on a family will always be presence of a king, or to be with him, was to produce harmony. It attaches all the a token of favor. So to stand before God, family to one great Master, and by at- signifies merely that he was honored or tachment to him, all minor causes of dif- favored by God: permitted to come near ference are forgotten. T And the diso- him, and to see much of his glory. Combedient to the wisdom of the just. The pare 1 Kings x. 8; xii. 6; xvii. 1. Prov disobedient here are the unbelieving, and | xxii. 29. And am sent, &c. The hence the impious, the wicked. These he angels are ministering spirits, sent forth would turn to the wisdom of the just, to those who shall be heirs of salvation. or to such wisdom as the just or pious Heb. i. 7, 14. They delight to do the manifested; that is, to true wisdom. | will of God, and one way of doing that ¶ To make ready a people, &c. To will, is by aiding his children here; by prepare them, by announcing that the succoring the afflicted; and by defending Messiah was about to appear, and by those who are in danger. There is no calling them to repentance, that they might more absurdity or impropriety in supposbe prepared for his coming. God has ing that angels may aid men, than there always required men to be pure in a spe- is in supposing that good men may aid cial manner, when he was about to ap- one another. And there can be no doubt pear among them. Thus the Israelites that it affords high pleasure to the angels were required to purify themselves for of God to be permitted to aid those who three days when he was about to come are treading the dangerous and trying down on mount Sinai. And so when path which leads to eternity. Holiness is God the Son was about to appear as the the same as benevolence; and holy beings Redeemer, he required that men should seek and love opportunities to do good to prepare themselves for his coming. So their fellow creatures. In the eye of holy in view of the future judgment-the sec- | beings, all God's creatures are portions of ond coming of the Son of man-he re- one great family; and whenever they can quires that men should repent, believe, and do them good, they rejoice in the opportube pure. 1 Pet. iv. 7. 2 Pet. iii.11, 12. nity, at any sacrifice. I These glad 18. Whereby shall I know this? The tidings. This good news respecting the thing was improbable, and he desired ev- birth of a son. idence that this would take place. The testimony of an angel, and in such a place, should have been proof enough, but men are slow to believe the testimony of heavenly messengers. As a consequence of not believing, he was struck dumb.

19. I am Gabriel. The word Gabri

20. Because thou believest not, &c This was both a sign and a judgment: a sign that he had come from God, and that the thing would be fulfilled, and a judgment for not giving credit to what he had said. There is no sin in the sight of God more aggravated than unbelief. When

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them and remained speechless.

23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid hera Ge.30.23. 18a.1.6. Is.54.1,4. b Mat.1.18. GOD speaks, man should believe. Nor can he that will not believe, escape punishment. God speaks only truth, and we should believe him. God speaks only what is for our good, and it is right that we should suffer if we do not credit what he says.

[blocks in formation]

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,


27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the vir gin's name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art1

1 or, graciously accepted; or, much graced. post. It is the duty of ministers of religion to remain at their work until they are entirely unfitted for it, and unable to serve God in their profession. Then they must retire. But until that time, he that for trifling causes forsakes his post, is guilty of unfaithfulness to his Master.

24. Hid herself. Did not go forth into public, and concealed her condition. This might have been done that she might spend her time more entirely in giving praise to God for his mercies; and that she might have the fullest proof of the ac

21. The people waited. That is, beyond the usual time. T Marvelled. Wondered. The priest, it is said, was not accustom o remain in the temple more than half an hour commonly. Having remained on this occasion a longer time, the people became apprehensive of his safety, and wondered what had hap-complishment of the promise, before she pened to him. appeared in public, or spoke of the mercies of God.

22. Had seen a vision. The word vision means sight, appearance, or spectre, and is commonly applied to spirits, or to beings of another world. When he came out of the temple, it is probable that they suspected that something of this nature had detained him there, and that on inquiry of him he signified by a nod that this was the case. He was unable to speak, and they had no way of "perceiv- | ing" it but by such a sign. ¶ For he beckoned unto them. That is, by beckoning unto them, or by a sign, he informed them of what he had seen.

23. As soon as the days of his ministration, &c. As soon as he had fulfilled the duties of the week. It might have been supposed that the extraordinary occurrence in the temple, together with his own calamity, might have induced him at once to leave his place, and return home. But his duty was in the temple. His piety prompted him to remain there in the service of God. He was not unfitted for burning incense by his dumbness, and it was not proper for him to leave his

25. Thus. In this merciful manner. T To take away my reproach. Among the Jews, a family of children was counted a signal blessing; an evidence of the favor of God. Ps. cxiii. 9; cxxviii. 3. Isa. iv. 1; xliv. 3, 4. Lev. xxvi. 9. To be barren, therefore, or to be destitute of children was considered a reproach, or a disgrace. 1 Sam. i. 6.

26. In the sixth month. The sixth month after Elisabeth's conception. TA city of Galilee, named Nazareth. See Mat. ii. 22, 23.

27. To a virgin espoused, &c. See Mat. i. 18, 19. House of David. Family of David, or descendants of David.

28. Hail. This word of salutation is

equivalent to, Peace be with thee, or, Joy be with thee; a form of speech implying that she was signally favored, and expressing joy at meeting her. ¶ Highly favored. By being the mother of the long expected Messiah: the mother of the Redeemer of mankind. Long had he been predicted; long had the eyes of the

[blocks in formation]

nation been turned to him; and long had his coming been an object of intense desire. To be reckoned among his ancestors, was accounted sufficient honor for even Abraham and David. But now the happy individual was designated who was to be his mother; and on Mary, a poor virgin of Nazareth, was to come this honor, which would have rendered infinitely illustrious any of the daughters of Adam: the honor of giving birth to the world's Redeemer, and the Son of God. The Lord is with thee. The word is is not in the original, and the passage may be rendered either "the Lord is with thee," or "the Lord be with thee," implying the prayer of the angel, that all blessings from God might descend and rest upon her. ¶ Blessed art thou among women. This passage is equivalent to saying, "Thou art the most happy of


29. Troubled at his saying. Disturbed or perplexed at what he said. It was so unexpected, so sudden, so extraordinary, and so high an honor, that she was filled with anxious thoughts, and did not know what to make of it. Cast in her mind. Thought, or revolved in her mind. What manner of salutation. What this salutation could mean.

32. He shall be great. There is undoubted reference in this passage to Isa. ix. 6, 7. By his being great, is meant he shall be distinguished, or illustrious; great in power, in wisdom, in dominion, on earth, and in heaven. Shall be called. This is the same as to say, he shall be the Son, &c. The Hebrews often used this form of speech. See Mat. xxi. 13. ¶ The Highest. God-who

32 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:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of e He.1.2-8. f2Sa.7.11,12 Is.9.6,7. g Da.7.14.27. Mi.4.7.

d Mat.12.42.

is infinitely exalted-called the Highest, because he is exalted over all his creatures on earth and in heaven. See Mark v. 7. ¶ The throne. The kingdom; or shall appoint him as the lineal successor of David in the kingdom. ¶ His father David. David is called his father, because Jesus was lineally descended from him. See Mat. i. 1. The promise to David was, that there should not fail a man to sit on his throne; that his throne should be perpetual; and the promise was fulfilled by exalting Jesus to be a Prince and a Saviour, and the perpetual King of his people.

33. Over the house of Jacob. The house of Jacob means the same thing as the family of Jacob, or the descendants of Jacob; i. e., the children of Israel. This was the name by which the ancient people of God were known, and it is the same as saying that he shall reign over his own church and people forever. This he does by giving them laws, by defending them, by guiding them, and this he will do forever in the kingdom of his glory. Of his kingdom there shall be no end. He shall reign among his people on earth until the end of time, and still be their King in heaven. His is the only kingdom that shall never have an end. He the only King that shall never lay aside his diadem and robes, and that shall never die. He the only King that can defend us from all our enemies, sustain us in death, and reward us in eternity. O how important, then, to have an interest in his kingdom; and how unimportant, compared with his favor, is the favor of all earthly monarchs!

35. The Holy Ghost shall come upon

« PreviousContinue »