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from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man." The law of the purification of women after child-birth is set forth in Leviticus xii. All women were ordered to continue in a state called unclean for forty days after child-birth, if they had borne a man-child; and for eighty days, if they had borne a female; during which days they were bidden to touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary; at the end of this time, when the days of her purifying were fulfilled, the woman was to "bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt-offering, and a young pigeon or a turtle-dove for a sin-offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation unto the priest; who shall offer it before the Lord, and make an atonement for her, and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood . . . and if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles or two young pigeons, the one for the burnt-offering, the other for a sin-offering." And this rite of purification after childbirth, under the law, would seem to set forth the corruption of the nature of all men since the fall of Adam; whereby all men are conceived and born in sin, and so are, by nature, children of God's wrath; are, by their very conception and
birth, impure and unclean; in token of which, both the male child was circumcised and the mother cleansed by a sin-offering from her uncleanness.
Now it may seem strange to us that this was done in the case of the birth of our Saviour, for, in that our Lord Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and so was conceived without spot of sin; and in that she, in whom He was conceived, and of whom He was brought forth, His blessed mother, could have incurred no pollution from the pure and sinless fruit of her womb, or from her childbirth, wherein the mother of the holy Child Jesus was at once a mother and a virgin,—it is most certain that she needed not to offer a sin-offering, nor to seek to be purified, inasmuch as she had incurred no pollution by the immaculate conception and birth of the Son of God: yet, as being born under the law, it became our Saviour to fulfil all righteousness, not only in His own person, by the ordinance of circumcision, and by being presented in the temple, but also in the person of His mother, by the ordinance of purification. And further, as the circumstances of the miraculous conception were unknown to the world, the blessed Virgin would seem to them to
be included in the law; and her great lowliness also would no doubt lead her rather to hide and veil her singular privilege. Thus duty, and reverence, and humility, and care not to offend others, would all concur to lead the blessed Virgin to the temple of God, there to offer her sacrifice, and to seek the purification which yet she needed not. And surely herein the mother of our Lord is a pattern to us all; a pattern of lowliness and meekness, of quiet and retiring ways, of a a proper regard for the feelings and opinions of others, and of dutiful zeal for God's ordinances.
A young pigeon, or turtle-dove, for a sinoffering, was required of all, whether rich or poor; but, whereas the charge of a lamb might be too burdensome on poor persons, no more was required of them than two pigeons or two turtles, one for the sin-offering, the other for a burnt-offering, in place of the lamb. As the wife of a poor carpenter, the blessed Virgin made the offering appointed for the poor; hence St. Luke here gives that part of the law which refers to the offerings of the poor. Such mean and low estate did our blessed Saviour choose, when He came into the world for the work of our redemption; such was His great condescension and kindness, that, "though He was rich, yet for our
sakes He became poor; that we through His poverty, might be rich." Even from His birth in the stable at Bethlehem unto His death upon the cross, He chose the low estate of the poor; He hungered and thirsted, was worn and weary; He had not where to lay His head; and thus, by partaking of it Himself, He blessed and sanctified that which man despises, the low estate of the poor; and shews to the poor, when they perhaps think that none feel for them or sympathize with them, that their Lord and Saviour can do so, because He Himself went through all their trials, for He was a poor man Himself and the child of the poor.
The second event which we on this day commemorate is the Presentation of Christ in the temple, wherein was fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi, ... the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple; even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts.' A most wonderful fulfilment of so august a prophecy; which we might have supposed referred to some great and glorious outward triumphal coming of the Lord whom they sought; but He came suddenly, unexpectedly, and they knew Him not. This also was done in obedience to the law;
although our Saviour is the Son of God, He is presented to His Father as the Son of man.
Not only was the mother required by the law to be purified after child-birth, but the first-born also was to be offered unto the Lord. "Sanctify unto Me all the first-born; whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast, it is Mine." These are God's own words, when, at the first, He slew the firstborn of Egypt, and passed over and spared the first-born of the children of Israel: and it was in memory of that night of judgment and of mercy -of judgment on His enemies, of mercy on His own people that God claimed as His own all the first-born both of man and of beast: the first-born of clean beasts to be offered in sacrifice, the first-born of man to minister before the Lord, unless redeemed, as God allowed in the case of the first-born of man, and required in the case of the first-born of unclean beasts. In aftertime God took the tribe of Levi to minister before Him in place of the first-born, yet still so much of the old law remained, that the firstborn of man was still presented before God in the temple, and redeemed at a fixed price, five shekels, the same for all, rich or poor, to set forth, it may be, the solemn truth, that all are