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HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and I 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.-Luke i. 26-33.
EVERY thing in nature, we have observed, is revelation and discovery, and yet all is mystery inexpli'cable. Every flower of the field, every pebble in the brook, every leaf on the tree, every grain of sand on the sea shore, is a world in miniature, possessed of qualities which a little child is capable of observing and of comprehending; yet at the same time containing hidden treasures which no Solomon can find out unto perfection. One object overwhelms us with its magnitude, the minuteness of another mocks our research. The Creator here, involving himself in clouds and darkness, eludes our pursuit there, arrayed in "light in
accessible and full of glory," He forbids our approach. In all the ways and works of God, there is a simplicity level to the meanest understanding, and a complexness which confounds the most acute and enlarged. If all nature and Providence present this strange mixture, is it any wonder if we find it in the work of redemption? That grand era, called in Scripture "the fulness of time," was now come; even the time for accomplishing ancient predictions and promises; for displaying. and fulfilling the purpose of the Eternal, in the salvation of mankind, by him to whom all the prophets give witness, and in whom all the promises are yea and amen.
In order to introduce him with more than royal state, God shook the Heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; the Gentiles pressed toward the appearing of this great light of the world, and kings to the brightness of his rising. To prepare the way of the Lord, throne was shaken after throne, empire swallowed up empire. Alexander carried his all-conquering arms into the remotest regions of the east; Cæsar extended his conquest as far as to France and Britain in the west; and Augustus gave peace to a troubled world. We are now led to attend to the minuter circumstances of this all-important event.
We perceive from the beginning, what we are never permitted to lose sight of to the end, a magnificence that dazzles, connected with a plainness and simplicity which interest and attract the heart; declaring at once the Son of God and the son of man ; Him whom angels worship, and whom the poorest of mankind consider as one of their kinsmen. Observe the exactness of arrangement in every part of the plan of Providence. Time is settled to a moment, place to a point. No design of heaven can be accelerated or retarded, changed or frustrated. God said unto the serpent in the day that man by transgression fell, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise VOL. IV. H
his heel ;" and it is not an unmeaning, lifeless sentence, filling up space in the sacred page. Lo, it awakens into animation and energy, not one tittle of it shall fail.
To accomplish it behold Gabriel is again on the wing; but not armed with a flaming sword to guard the way of the tree of life, but bearing the olive branch and the message of peace, announcing a new and living way into the holiest of all, into the paradise of God. If there be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, what was the joy of heaven on that day when the great archangel received his commission to revisit the earth, to convey the glad tidings of great joy. The celestial bands adoring, prostrate themselves before the eternal throne; contemplating this new creation of God, the morning stars sing together, and all the sons of God shout for joy. These things they have for ages and generations been looking into, the great mystery of godliness, God made manifest in the flesh: they enjoy the exalted delight of beholding it unfolded, and the time, the set time, to favour a perishing world arrived. Gabriel has received his instructions; he flies with transport, such as angels feel, to execute the will supreme; the flaming portal flies open; myriads of pure spirits celebrate his descent with songs of praise. And whither does he bend his flight? To learned Athens or imperial Rome? To give understanding to the prudent, or to hold the balance of power? No: but to bring to naught the understanding of the prudent, to humble the mighty and confound the proud. He is sent to a country favoured indeed of nature and renowned in story, but sunk in the scale of nations, the skeleton of ancient grandeur, and to a district of that despised country proverbially contemptible, and to one of the least of the cities of that region, and to one of the poorest and meanest of the inhabitants of that cityto a virgin indeed of royal extraction, but fallen into indigence, betrothed to an obscure mechanic, a stranger in a strange place. It is thus that God chooseth
"the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world, and things which are despised, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things which are."
The destinations of the Almighty, stamp a dignity and importance on persons, places, and things, which they possessed not before; to be employed of him is the highest dignity which the creature can acquire; to minister to him, in ministering to the objects of his compassion or of his love, is the glory and joy of angels and archangels. Galilee and Nazareth now possess an eminence unknown to the most illustrious kingdoms and the proudest capitals. He maketh his angels spirits, but we discern, and reason, and converse through the medium of sense. Men cannot rise to the level of angels, but angels are permitted, for wise and gracious purposes, to descend to the level of men, to assume an organized body, to convey their ideas in the accents of the human voice. But can this be a degradation of their superior nature? No: it is its glory and perfection. To descend to those who are below us, to aspire after greater resemblance to those who are above us, in this consists the real excellency of a created being. We cannot imitate angels in their intelligence and elevation, but in their condescension and humility we may, and we ought.
What a contrast have we here between the rank of the messenger and of the person to whom the message is addressed! But the presence and purpose of God, level all distinction. Mary, the mother of our Lord, rises, and Gabriel sinks, for the Son of God himself, the Lord of angels, is about to "take upon him the form of a servant." The evangelists are minutely particular in detailing the circumstances which concurred to impress the characters of truth and importance on this event. This spirit of prophecy had lately and unexpectedly been revived in the persons of Simeon and of Anna, and of others who were waiting for the con
solation of Israel. The extraordinary case of Zacharias and Elizabeth, which was well known to all who attended the worship of the temple, must have excited the public attention and expectation. This is followed, six months after, by a case still more extraordinary, more out of the course of nature, and of still higher moment, and of equal notoriety. Opportunity was thereby afforded to the suspicious and incredulous to inquire and examine; that inquiry must lead to the discovery of a cloud of witnesses, lying dormant in books universally held sacred, but neglected, misunderstood and misapplied: life and substance, meaning and lustre, are in a moment given to them by well known and undeniable facts. No appearance of art or industry is discernable, but a simple, easy, natural transition from one thing to another. The appearances, indeed, are out of the ordinary course of nature; but they are narrated as mere ordinary things; and the descent of an archangel, and his speech and demeanor are described with no more parade of words, no more labour of thought, than the springing of an ear of corn, or the fall of a sparrow to the ground.
This majestic, dignified ease marks the presence of God, with whom nothing can be extraordinary or miraculous; who exhibits persons and events as they really are, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. The angel represents none but objects of the highest interest and importance. He announces the approach of a great prince, who should ascend the throne of David, who was to exercise unbounded authority, and enjoy everlasting dominion; who should be distinguished by the state and title of the Son of the Highest; and that this extraordinary personage should be introduced upon the grand theatre by the Almighty's creating a new thing upon the earth. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called