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resolved to do it privately, by putting the bill into her boson before two witnesses only, and without mentioning in the bill the reason of the divorce, which might have exposed her to the punishment of death, Deut. xxii. 20, 21. Besides, he did not choose
to make a public example of her, as there was a possibility that what she alledged might be true, in which case he believed her innocence would, some how or other, be made to appear. He, therefore, thought he was bound in justice to preserve her character as entire as possible, the circumstances alledged entitling her to this lenity, although they were not such as, in his opinion, could justify him if he should retain her. While he was revolving these things in his own mind he fell asleep, and, by an internal light, saw an angel, who explained to him the nature of Mary's pregnancy, banished his fears, and commanded him to take her home. The angel addressed Joseph as the son of David, that, putting him in mind of whom he was descended, he might the more easily be convinced of the truth of what he was about to tell him concerning his wife's pregnancy. Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. Do not scruple to take thy wife home; in doing so thou wilt neither commit sin thyself, nor cloak it in her. For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. She is innocent: her pregnancy is not the effect of any criminal correspondence, it is miraculous, being produced by the operation 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. By the direction which I now give thee thou shalt call the son which thy wife hath miraculously conceived, and will bring forth in due time, Jesus, or Saviour, to intimate that he is the seed promised to Abraham and to David; who, by publishing the new dispensation, and by giving himself a ransom for the sins of many, shall deliver his people, both from the dominion and punishment of sin, and bring them to everlasting life. This remarkable interposition of providence is an illustrious proof of the care which God takes of good men, both in affording them direction, and in keeping them from sin. Now all this was done. The clause, all this, comprehends not only what is mentioned in the preceding verses, but the whole particulars of this transaction; and, among the rest, the circumstance taken notice of in the last verse of the chapter: viz. that Joseph did not know Mary till she was delivered, because that circumstance, as well as her miraculous conception, was necessary to the accomplishment of the prophecy now cited by the Evangelist, that a virgin was to bring forth a son in her virgin state-that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, [Isa. vii. 14.] saying, Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emanuel, which, being interpreted, is, God with us. Mary's miraculous conception of Jesus in her virgin state was an evident accomplishment of the same prophecy, which likewise foretold that the virgin's son should be called Emanuel. This application merits the reader's attention, being a clear proof that the writers of the New Testament, in citing and applying the passages of the Old, considered the sense of those passages rather than the words. Otherwise, how could Matthew have said, that Joseph's naming Mary's son Jesus, was an accomplishment of Isaiah's prophecy, which foretold that the son of the virgin, mentioned by him, should be called Emanuel? Indeed, if the sense of the prophecy is attended to, the application will appear abundantly proper; for the name Jesus, is, upon the whole, of the same import with Emanuel, because none but the Son of God, who is God, could be Jesus, or the Saviour of mankind. And, therefore, the Saviour, appearing on earth in the buman nature, is really God with us. That this is the true design of the application is evident from the evangelist himself; for he has interpreted both the name Jesus, as well as Emanuel, to shew that the prophecy was fulfilled, not in the names, but in the signification of them.
Joseph, when he awoke, must have been sensible that what had happened to him was in a dream; yet he was at no loss to believe the reality of the vision. The strength of the impression, with other proofs usually given in such cases, left him no room to doubt that the vision was from God; and, therefore, he no sooner awoke, than he felt his mind perfectly at ease, upon which he obeyed the heavenly message with joy. He took his wife home, after giving her an account of the revelation that had been made to him of her innocence, assuring her that he was now fully persuaded of it, and of all the extraordinary things she had related. At the same time, in his conversation with her, he observed such chastity as was suitable to so high a mystery. And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son, and he called his name Jesus. This circumstance the evangelist takes particular notice of, lest any reader should have suspected that there was not an exact accomplishment, here, of the prophecy, which foretold not only that a virgin should conceive, but that a virgin should bring forth a son. In those days there went out a decree from Augustus Cæsar, that the whole land of Palestine should be taxed, or enrolled. This was the enrolment of the census, first practised by Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome, who ordained that the Roman people, at certain seasons, should, upon oath, give an account of their names, qualities, employments, wives, children, servants, estates, and places of abode. By this institution, Servius designed to put those who had the administration of public affairs in a condition to understand the strength of every particular part of the community, that is, what men and money might be raised from it; and according to those assessments, or estimates, men and money were levied afterwards, as occasion required.
Some are of opinion, this enrolment, at the birth of Christ, was only of men's names, not the enrolment of the census, in order to a taxation; because, Herod being then alive, Judea was not become a Roman province. And it must be acknowledged, that the word here translated taxed, is used indifferently, to signify any enrolment whatever. Yet it seems to mean the enrolment of the census in Luke, because, though Judea was not reduced into the form of a province, Herod was really a tributary prince, having been established in his kingdom by the Roman arms. Besides, his subjection very remarkably appeared about this time, in the differences which happened between him and Obodas, prince of Arabia, about a sum of money that Herod had lent to him. For the matter in dispute between the princes was decided by Saturninus and Volumnius, the emperor's officers in Syria and after Obodas, or his successor Syllacus, had broken the stipulations fixed upon, Herod did not dare to move his forces into Arabia, without the consent of the above-mentioned officers. Augustus, indeed, imagining that he had done so, was highly incensed; for Syllacus, who was then at Rome, and had received an account of Herod's inroad, misrepresented the matter to Augustus. The latter, therefore, wrote to Herod, acquainting him, that, whereas he had hitherto treated him as a friend, he should, for the future, treat him as a subject. But if Herod, while a friend of Augustus, was then under command, what could treatment as a subject mean, but his obliging him to submit to the census, according to which, taxes were from that time forth to be levied in his dominions? We have an instance of this among the Cilicians, in the sixteenth book of Tacitus's Annals. Besides, Augustus's displeasure with Herod did not soon end, for he refused to see the ambassadors whom Herod sent to make his peace. Nay, he rejected the presents offered him by a second embassy and though a reconciliation was, at length, effected, by the address of Nicholas of Damascus, whom Herod sent to Rome on purpose, it was far from being perfect; for Antipater, Herod's son, was obliged to defend him, with the emperor, against Syllacus, the year before Herod died, and to support his defence, by distributing large sums of money among the courtiers.
It is probable, therefore, that a census was made in Judea, by order of Augustus, during his displeasure with Herod, whose advanced age and infirmities, together with the ambitious views and divisions which reigned in his family, determined Augustus to reduce this country into the form of a province. But Herod, regaining the emperor's favour, prevailed with him to let things go on in their old channel. It is reasonable to suppose it was at this enrolment that the oath was imposed, which, Josephus tells us, the whole Jewish nation, excepting six thousand Pharisees, took to be faithful to Cæsar, and to the interests of the king. Antiq. xvii. 3. That this oath was imposed at the enrolment is thought probable, because it was the custom of the Romans to require the valuation of every man's substance, to be delivered in upon oath. And as this oath, at the enrolment of the Jews, was taken before commissioners, on the part of Herod and Augustus, it was, probably, represented as an oath of subjection to both kings. Perhaps an article of allegiance was added to the oath of the enrolment; for unless it was on such an occasion, it will be hard to understand how Herod came to require an oath of allegiance from the Jews at the close of his reign; far less, how such an oath could be required from them to Augustus, who had not made Judea a province. Add to this, that the events which followed the oath, of which Josephus speaks, are very like the things which happened after the enrol
The Pharisees who refused to swear, as imagining the law forbade them, [Deut. xvii. 15] were fined: but the wife of Phe:oras, Herod's brother, paid the fine for them, and they, in requital of her kindness, foretold that God, having decreed to put an end to the government of Herod and his race, the kingdom should be transferred to her, and to Pheroras, and to their children. Salome, the king's sister, informing him of these things, it is said, that he put the most guilty of the Pharisees to death, and Bagoas the eunuch, and every one in his own family who adhered to the things which were spoken by the Pharisees. The words of Josephus are, "But Bagoas had been elevated by them, in that he should be called father and benefactor; the king, who was to be appointed according to their prediction, (for all things would be in his power,) being to give him a capacity of marriage, and of having children of his own.” Antiq. xvii. 3, translated by Dr. Lardner, Cred. vol. ii. p. 630. Here we have a king described, in whose power all things would be, which is evidently Messiah's character. The disturbances which happened in Jerusalem after this, and the slaughter made in Herod's family and court, were all on account of the birth of this new king. It is thought that this is the perplexity of Herod and Jerusalem described by Matthew. And as for the slaughter of the infants in Bethlehem, though Josephus has passed it over in silence, Herod's other cruelties, related by that historian, render it abundantly probable. The persons who predicted the birth of the king were the Pharisees, according to Josephus. In the gospel they are called the chief priests and scribes, who, from the antient prophecies, told Herod that this rival king was to be born in Bethlehem, and so are said, by Josephus, to have predicted his birth. Indeed ne whole of the affair is very slightly handled: but it must be remembered, that Josephus, being a Jew, would consult the reputation of his country, and conceal the taxing, or, at least, give it a favourable turn. Being also an enemy to Christianity, he would not willingly relate many particulars which had a strong tendency to support it. It is on all hands agreed, that our translation of Luke ii. 2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) is not to be admitted. But if it be rendered, this is the first enrolment of Cyrenius, governor of Syria, or that this enrolment was first earried into effect by Cyrenius, governor of Syria, the difficulty will be removed, as
Cyrenius did not tax the country in his own name, till after that Archelaus had been deposed from the government.
When the census was made in any country, the inhabitants were obliged to attend in the cities to which they belonged. The reason was, without a precaution of this kind, the census would have been excessively tedious, and people who were abroad might have been omitted or set down among the inhabitants of other cities, where they would not have been found afterwards; or they might have been enrolled twice, which would have bred confusion in the registers. Herod, who, it is probable, executed the census in his own dominions, by appointment of Augustus, seems to have made a small alteration in the method of it. For instead of ordering the people to appear, as usual, in the cities where they resided, or to whose jurisdictions the place of their abode belonged, he ordered them to appear according to their families; perhaps, because it was the ordinary way of classing the Jewish people, or because he desired to know the number and strength of the dependents of the great families in his dominions. In obedience to Herod's order, Joseph and Mary repaired to Bethlehem, the city of their family, where, some have supposed, they might have a small estate. Bethlehem was town of great antiquity, for we read of it in Jacob's days when it was called Ephrath. Gen. xxxv. 19: in later times it was called Bethlehem Judah, to distinguish it from ' another Bethlehem which was in Galilee, and belonged to the tribe of Zabulon. Josh. xix. 15. Anciently Bethlehem of Judah was but a village, though afterwards it obtained the title of a city, being enlarged and fortified by Rehoboam. [2 Chron. xi. 6.] Yet it continued to be a small place even after that reparation, as may be gathered from Micah's prophecy, quoted Matt. ii. 6, which is the reason that it is called a village, John vii. 42. Eusebius, in his book of Hebrew places, tells us, that it stood six miles to the south of Jerusalem, on the road to Hebron, and, upon his authority, it is so placed in all the maps. Here they found every place so crowded, that they were obliged to take up their lodging in a stable, where Mary was delivered of the holy child, and laid him in a recess in the wall, which our translation calls a manger, though mangers are not used in the east
Through the whole course of his life, Jesus despised the things most esteemed by men; for though he was the Son of God, when he became man, he chose to be born of parents in the meanest condition of life. Though he was heir of all things, he chose to be born in an inn, nay, in the stable of an inn, where, instead of a cradle, he was laid in a manger. The angels reported the good news of his birth, not to the Rabbies and great men, but to shepherds, who, being plain, honest people, were, unquestionably, good witnesses of what they heard and saw. When he grew up he wrought with his father as a carpenter; and afterwards, while he executed the duties of his ministry, he was so poor that he had not a place where to lay his head, but lived on the bounty of his friends. Thus, by going before men in the thorny path of poverty and affliction, he has taught them to be contented with their lot in life, however humble it may be.
On the night in which the Son of God was born, a multitude of angels, dispatched from the seats of the blessed, found the shepherds, who were honoured with the news of his nativity, watching their flocks by turns in the fields near Bethlehem. An inexpressible splendor surrounding these heavenly beings, terrified the shepherds exceedingly, at the same time that it gave them notice of their arrival. Therefore, to calm their fears, one of the angels bade them take courage, because he was come on a friendly errand,namely, to inform them that the Messiah, who should bless all nations, was born in Bethlehem. Moreover, he mentioned the particular place where they should find him, and gave them marks to distinguish him by. And suddenly there was with
the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men. Glory to God in the highest heavens, or among the highest orders of beings. Let the praises of God (so the word glory signifies, Psalm 1. 23, whoso offereth praise glorifieth me,) be eternally celebrated by the highest orders of beings, notwithstanding they are not the immediate objects of this instance of his infinite goodness.-and on earth peace among men. On earth let all manner of happiness (so peace signifies in the Hebrew language,) from henceforth prevail among men for ever, because the designs of the devil against them are utterly overthrown. And as they departed they shouted in the sweetest, most sonorous, and most seraphic strains, BENEVOLENCE; expressing the highest admiration of the goodness of God, which now began to shine with brighter lustre than ever, on the arrival of his Son to save the world. As soon as the celestial choir had ended their hymn, the shepherds went in quest of the Saviour of mankind. Though it is not mentioned, it looks as if the angel had described to them the particular inn in Bethlehem where Messiah was born: and found the child lying where the angel had said, they were, by that sign, fully confirmed in their belief, and with boldness declared both the vision which they had seen, and the things which they had heard pronounced by the angel and the heavenly host with him. And when they had seen the child, they made known abroad, they declared, without reserve, to all present, and to all their acquaintance afterward, the saying which was told them concerning this child, namely, that he was Christ the Lord, and the Saviour of the Jews; that a vision of angels had given this information; and that they had heard the heavenly host praising God on account of his birth. And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. Joseph and Mary, with the people of the inn who attended them, and such of their relations as were come up to Bethlehem to be taxed, and happened to be with them on this occasion, were exceedingly astonished at the things which the shepherds openly declared; and the rather, because they could not understand how one born of such mean parents could be Messiah. In the mean time, Mary was greatly affected with, and thought upon, the shepherds' words, the sense of which she was enabled to fathom, by what had been revealed to herself. She said nothing, however, being more disposed to think than to speak, which was an excellent instance of modesty and humility in so great a conjecture.
The shepherds now returned home, and, by the way, praised God, expressing their gratitude for him, for having condescended, by a particular revelation, to inform them of so great an event as the birth of Messiah, and because they had seen the signs by which the angel in the vision pointed him out to them.
As it became our Lord to fulfil all righteousness, so he was circumcised on the eighth day, and received the name of Jesus by divine appointment. And when the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called Holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. This was the offering appointed for the poorer sort. It is evident, therefore, that although Joseph and Mary were both of the seed royal, they were in very mean circumstances. The evangelist mentions the presentation of the child to the Lord, before the offering of the sacrifice for the mother's purification; but, in fact, this preceded the presentation, because, till it was performed, the mother could not enter the temple; accordingly Luke himself introduces both the parents presenting Jesus, v. 27.
The service of Mary's purification, therefore, being ended she went, with her son