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same pedigree indeed, but of no higher profession than that of a carpenter. The angel From the beapproaching the pious maid, began to congratulate her with "being highly in the fa- ginning of the vour of God, and blessed above all the rest of her sex; because she should have the Matth. ix. 8. happiness of bearing a son, called by the name of Jesus or Saviour, the long expect- Mark. 23 ed Messiah, to whom God would give the throne of his father David †2, and of whose sovereignty and dominion there should be no end.”

Conscious of her own virtue, and yet surprised at this uncommon appearance and salutation, the Holy Virgin + began to expostulate with the heavenly messenger the possibility of the thing, since she had all along lived in a strict state of virginity ++. But

agreed upon. The manner of performing this espousal was either by a writing or by a piece of silver given to the bride, or by cohabitation. The writing that was prepared on these occasions ran in this form: -"On such a day of such a month, in such a year, A, the son of A, has said to B, the daughter of B, Be thou my spouse according to the law of Moses and the Israelites, and I will give thee for the portion of thy virginity the sum of two hundred zuzims, as it is ordained by the' law.' And the said B has consented to become his spouse, upon these conditions, which the said A has promised to perform upon the day of marriage. To this the said A obliges himself; and for this he engages all his goods, even as far as the cloak which he wears upon his shoulder. Moreover, he promises to perform all that is intended in contracts of marriage in favour of the Israelitish women. Witnesses A, B, C." The promise by a piece of silver, and without writing, was made before witnesses, when the young man said to his mistress, "Receive this piece of silver, as a pledge that you shall become my spouse." Lastly, the engagement by cohabitation (according to the Rabbins) was allowed by law, Deut. xxiv. 1. but it had been wisely forbidden by the ancients, because of the abuses that might happen, and to prevent the inconvenience of clandestine marriages. After such espousal was made, (which was generally when the parties were young) the woman continued with her parents several months, if not some years, (at least till she was arrived at the age of puberty) before she was brought home, and her marriage consummated: for so we find that Samson's wife remained with her parents a considerable time after espousal, Judg. xiv. 8. and that the Blessed Virgin was discernibly with child before she and her intended husband came together, Matt. i. 18. Whether this method of betrothing was at first ordained, or only approved by God, Deut. xx. 7. or whether it be now of any obligation to us Christians, we shall not pretend to determine. It is certain, that it has nothing that is typical, nothing of the carnal ordinance in it, but something very proper and convenient, viz. that the parties contracted may have some intermediate time to think seriously of the great change they are going to make in their conditions; to discourse more freely together about their domestic affairs; and to implore God's blessing and protection over them and theirs, in all the changes and chances of this mortal life. Pool's Annotations, and Calmel's Dictionary under the word Marriage.

We read but of few instances in Scripture,

where men had names determined for them by particular appointment from heaven, and before the time of their birth; and, as such names appear to be very significant, so the persons distinguished by them were always remarkable for some extraordinary qualities or events which their respective names were designed to denote. Our Lord's name, indeed, in sense and substance, is the same with Joshua, that famous leader heretofore, who, after the death of Moses, settled the Israelites in the promised land, and subdued the enemies that opposed their entrance into it. But as that earthly was a figure of the heavenly Canaan, so was the captain of that an eminent type of our salvation; and if he was worthy to be called a saviour, much more is this Jesus what his name imports; for he delivers us from the heaviest of all bondages, and from the most formidable of all enemies, as he, and he only, it is who "saves his people from their sins." Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. i.

The prophets, in their predictions, are very full and express, that the Messiah should be a great king, and descend from the line of David; vid. Psal. x. 16. Isaiah ix. 6, 7. Dan. vii. 14. and Ezek. xxvi. 7. and therefore the angel, in his message to Mary, characterizes him as a successor to that prince's throne, and seems to accommodate himself, in some measure, to the prejudices of the Jews, and perhaps of the virgin mother herself, who, being bred up in the synagogue, might expect that the Messiah should be a temporal' prince as well as they: But our Lord's kingdom (as himself plainly declares)" is not of this world," nor of the like nature with other empires upon earth. His reign is in the hearts and minds of men; and his dominion is in the church, against which "the gates of hell shall not prevail," and in which, " of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, Isa. ix. 7. until the end cometh, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father," 1 Cor. xv. 24. Calmet's Commentary.

The words of her expostulation are, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" Which some look upon as no more than a reply of admiration, and a desire to be further informed in what manner God intended to effect such a wonderful work; though others perceive in them some small indications of diffidence, but what might be more excusable, because there had been no such precedent of the Divine power made in the world, as to cause a "virgin to conceive and bring forth a son." Pool's Annotations.

++ Some are of opinion that Mary, very early in


Ant. Christ.

A. M. 3999, the angel, to satisfy her in this particular, told her, That this wonderful work was to &c. or 5406. be effected by the invisible power and operation of the Holy Ghost †; and to shew her that nothing was impossible to the Almighty, gave her to understand, that her cousin Elizabeth (notwithstanding her old age and former sterility) had been now six months with child: Whereupon the Holy Virgin humbly acquiesced in whatever God had determined to do with her; and as soon as the angel was departed, made preparations for her journey to Hebron +2, where her cousin Elizabeth lived.

1. &c. ant. Fr. Vulg. 5.

As soon as she arrived at Zacharias's house, Elizabeth, upon hearing her first salutation, perceived that the child †3 sprang in her womb, and being inspired with the Holy Ghost, she cried out, "Blessed art thou above thy sex! Blessed is the fruit of thy body! And how vast is my felicity to be visited by the mother of my Lord!" And having by the same prophetic spirit assured Mary of the accomplishment of every thing that the angel had told her, she so transported the blessed Virgin, that she broke out into a rapture of thanksgiving † to God, wherein she recounted his mercies, and the promises

her life, had made a vow of perpetual chastity, and that Joseph was appointed her husband, not to live with her in the ordinary use of marriage, but merely to be the guardian of her virginity: But, besides that no vows of perpetual virginity were ever in use among the Jews, it can hardly be supposed that a Jewish woman, in whom barrenness was reputed a reproach, and looked upon as a curse, would be ever induced to make one. Among the precepts of the law, the Jewish doctors account matrimony to be one, Gen. i. 28. from which none are exempted but they who devote themselves wholly to the study of the law: But since this was not the Blessed Virgin's case, it reflects a dishonour upon her memory to imagine, that, after she had entered into such a vow, she should admit of an espousal to Joseph, which could be for no other end but merely to mock him. Pool's and Whitby's Annotations.

The words in the text are, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee;" wherein, according to the usual modesty of Scripture language, is implied all that action of the Holy Ghost, whereby the Blessed Virgin was enabled to become fruitful, and the place of ordinary generation was in this case supplied. Now when this action is in Scripture represented as entirely the work of God, and yet is attributed to the Holy Ghost in particular, we are not to understand it so peculiarly his, that the two other persons subsisting in the Godhead should have no concern in it: For here that rule of the schools takes place, that the entire union of the Divine nature makes all such actions common to all three, as do not refer to the properties and relations by which they stand distinguished from each other As therefore the Holy Spirit began the first creation by moving (or brooding as it were) upon the face of the waters, so did he here begin the new creation, by conveying a principle or power of fruitfulness into a person otherwise incapable of it: And yet, as there, without the Father and his Divine Word or Son, "not any thing was made that was made," John i. 3. so did he here bring this second, "this creation of a new thing," Jer. xxx. 22. to effect, by the same co operation of the whole undivided trinity, as he had done the former. Stanhope

on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. i.

+ This very probably was the place where Zacharias and Elizabeth lived, and where John the Baptist was born, because it was not only one of the cities appointed for the priests to dwell in, Josh. xx. 7. but situated likewise in mountains, which, running cross the middle of Judea from south to north, gave to the tract which they run along the name of the hill country. Hebron was ten leagues distant from Jerusalem, and about forty from Nazareth, which made it a long journey for the Blessed Virgin, had not her zeal to go and partake in her cousin's joy (more than to satisfy her curiosity, whether what the angel had told her was true) made her surmount all difficulties. Wells's Geography of the New Testament, and Calmet's Commentary.

+3 3 It is said indeed of the Baptist, that he "should be filled with the holy Ghost from his mother's womb;" and from hence some have thought, that this extraordinary motion of the child in Elizabeth was an act of his own, and proceeded from a sensation of joy which himself felt at the salutation of the Blessed Virgin: But besides that "being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb," means no more than that the power of the Holy Ghost should be discerned to be upon him very early, it is certain that infants in the womb are not capable of any joy them. selves, as having no apprehensions of good to be en.. joyed or evil to be avoided; but as they are sensibly affected with the joy, or grief, or surprize of the parent to whom they are united, the uncommon motion of the child at this conjuncture must be occasioned by the joy which transported his mother. Hammond's and Whitby's Annotations.

+4 It was customary among the Jews, for pious and devout persons, when they found themselves inspired, upon great and solemn occasions, to celebrate the praises of God in songs made on purpose. Several of this kind we meet with in the Old Testament; but this of the Blessed Virgin is the first that occurs in the New, and for the majesty of its style, the nobleness of its sentiments, and that spirit of piety which runs through the whole, is inferior to none. Calmet's Commentary.

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which he had made to the people of Israel, and which, by making her the blessed instru- From the bement of them, he was now about to fulfil.

ginning of the Gospels to

Luke vi. 1

About three months Mary continued with her cousin Elizabeth, and then returned Matth. 5. b home. Elizabeth not long after was delivered of a son; but on the eighth day †, when Mark the child was to be circumcised and named, his relations and friends were not a little surprised to hear that he was to be called John †2, since none of the family bore that name; but their surprise became much greater, when they found that, upon this occasion, his father's speech was immediately restored to him, which he employed in the praises of Almighty God, who had wrought such prodigies among them.

The Holy Virgin being returned to Nazareth, still concealed the mystery which God had wrought in her from her espoused husband, but her pregnant symptoms soon discovered it; and though her deportment had been extremely chaste and modest, yet he might be well assured that she was with child. This raised no little concern in his breast; but being a merciful good man ||, and unwilling either to expose the honour of her family, which he thought she had stained, or to inflict public punishment upon her, (a) according to the sentence of the law, he resolved upon a separation +3 with the utmost

The Jews had a positive command in their law, that no child should be circumcised before the eighth day because the mother for seven days was reputed unclean, and so was the child by touching her, Lev. xii. 1, 2.; but the law appointed no certain place in which circumcision was to be done, nor any certain person that was to perform it; neither did it enjoin that the child should have his name given him at that time, only the custom prevailed of doing it then; because, when God instituted the rite, he changed the names of Abraham and Sarah. Whitby's Annotations.

+ The Jews, from their first beginning, seem to have made it a point of religion to give such names to their children as were significative either of God's mercy to them, or of their duty to God, and the word 'Iwaving-translated John-signifies a person enjoying the Divine favour.] From the whole passage, how ever, before us, including the objections made to this name, it appears to have been a custom which, though certainly not ancient, was introduced at least in the days of Zacharias, to call children by the name of their parents or the nearest relation (as it is usual now among us), if there was no particular reason to the contrary. Pool's Annotations, Calmet's Commentary, and Schleusner's Lexicon.

Or, 3dly, He might, according to the law, have
brought her upon her trial, whether in the matter of
her pregnancy she had suffered a rape, or was herself
consenting, Deut. xxii. 23, 24. Had therefore Jo-
seph done the first of these, he must have acted coun-
ter to his own honour, and have incurred the common
reproach, that he "who retained an adulteress is a
fool." Had he done the last of these, he was not sure
of convicting her; because, upon examination, it might
appear that she had been forced; and in that case the
man that did it was to die, Deut. xxii. 25 or she
might have been with child before her betrothing, and
in that case she was only obliged to marry the person
that had abused her, Ver. 28, 29. Upon the whole,
therefore, Joseph thought it the best and justest way
to proceed upon the foot of a divorce. Mary's being
visibly with child was reason sufficient to authorise
his parting with her; but he did not know for certain
that she was guilty of adultery, or that consequently
she deserved to die; and therefore he did not think
it right, by bringing her upon her trial, to expose her.
Pool's Annotations, and Calmet's Commentary, and
Spanheim's Dub. Evang part i. Dub. 31.
(a) Deut. xxii. 23.

+3 The common way of separation among the Jews The words in the text, as we translate them, are was, by the man's giving the woman a letter of di-Joseph her husband being a just man:" But if vorce. This in their language is called gheth, and he was a just man, and was satisfied that his intended the substance of it is to this effect:-" On such a wife had, some way or other, violated her chastity, day, month, and year, and at such a place, I A, di(as he knew nothing to the contrary at that time), vorce you voluntarily, put you away, and restore you instead of screening her crime, he ought to have to your liberty, even you B, who was heretofore my brought her to punishment, Deut. xxii. 20, 21 Now wife, and I permit you to marry whom you please.' it is to be observed, that, upon the discovery of his When the day of divorce comes, the Rabbi that atwife's pregnancy, Joseph had the choice of three tends, having strictly examined both parties, and things; 1st, Either he might (notwithstanding this) finding that they are resolved to part, bids the woman have taken her to his house as his wife, because the open her hands; and when she has received the deed, law of divorce laid none under an obligation, but gave to close them both together, lest it should chance to a permission only (in case of some discovered unclean- fall to the ground. The man, when he gives her the ness) to put away the wife: Or, 2dly, He might give parchment, (for on parchment the bill of divorce was her a bill of divorcement, either in public or in pri- to be wrote, in the presence of two rabbins, and with vate, (for that was left to his option), either before many other trifling circumstances) tells her, "here is two or three witnesses, or before a proper magistrate, thy divorce. I put thee away from me. and leave and that without specifying any crime against her: thee at liberty to marry whom thou pleasest;" and

Ant. Chris. 1, &e.

ant. Er. Vulg. 5.

A. M. 3999, privacy: but before he came to put it to execution, an angel from heaven † appear&c. or 5406. ed to him in a vision, informing him, "That his wife's conception was the immediate work of the Holy Ghost, and that she should bear a son, the same person (a) whom the prophet had foretold under the name of Emanuel, or God with us :" Whereupon Joseph was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but taking the Holy Virgin home to him, he lived with her, to all outward apppearance, in conjugal love, though he certainly had no carnal knowledge of her +2 till she was delivered of her first-born son, who, by a lineal descent, was true heir to the kingdom of Israel, as sprung from the house of David.

Some time before this, Augustus Cæsar had issued out a general edict, that all persons in the Roman empire, with their estates and conditions, should be registered at certain appointed places, according to their respective provinces, cities, and families. By virtue of this edict, Joseph and his wife Mary, being both of the tribe of Judah, and family of David, were obliged to go as far as Bethlehem †3, which was the mother-city

when the woman has taken it, and the Rabbi read it over once more, she is entirely free. There is in this ceremony, however, to be remarked, that they always endeavour to have ten or twelve persons at it, besides the two witnesses who sign the deed. When therefore Joseph intended to dismiss Mary privately, it could not be by having no witnesses at all, but as few as the nature of the thing would bear, and by giving her the letter of divorcement into her own hand, which she might suppress if she thought fit, or by inserting no accusation against her in it, in case it came to be read before the company. Calmet's Dictionary, under the word Divorce. Whitby's and Beausobre's Annotations.

This vision was in a dream and while he was asleep; and dreams, we know, were one way whereby God revealed his mind to people formerly, Job vii. 14. whereby he made himself known to his prophets, Numb. xii. 6. and not to prophets only, but to pagan princes sometimes, as appears by the instances both of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar, Gen. xli. 1. Dan. ii. 1. But how to distinguish Divine from natural dreams it is difficult to say, unless it be by the clear and distinct series of their representation, and the forcible impression which they leave upon mens spirits; whereas natural dreams, for the most part, are rambling and inconsistent, and "whoso regardeth them (says the wise son of Sirach) is like him who catcheth at a shadow, or followeth after the wind," Ecclus xxxiv. 2. Pool's Annotations. Why God reveals himself by dreams and in the night-time. Vid. Spanheim's Dub. Evang. part ii. Dub. 59. (a) Isaiah ix. 6.

The word first-born, in Scripture, admits of various significations. Sometimes (and most commonly indeed) it denotes the eldest of two or more children, as Eliab is called the first-born of Jesse, 1 Sam. xvii. 13.; at others, the first that is born, without regard to any else, as when God says to "Moses, sanctify me all the first-born, Exod. xiii. 2. In some places it imports figuratively what is most dearly beloved by us; in which sense God frequently calls the Israelites his first-born; and in others, what is most remarkable for greatness or excellency, as God promises David, (who was but a younger brother of the family) to "make him the first-born of the kings of the earth,"

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Psl. lxxxix. 27. In any of these three last senses our Saviour might very properly be called his mother's first-born son, for as much as he was really her first child; her most and only beloved; and the most illustrious of his race: but then Joseph's not knowing his wife until she was delivered of her firstborn son, seems to imply, that he knew her afterwards. Those who maintain the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother, tell us, that so, which we render until, in several places in Scripture, has rela tion only to the time which precedes, and not to that which follows any event; so that "he knew her not until," may be taken in the same sense, as Samuel came not to see Saul till the day of his death," 1 Sam. xv. 35. i. e. he never came to see him: but, (besides that most of the passages which are produced to this purpose, are far from coming up to the case in hand) since the angel commanded Joseph "to take Mary as his wife," without any intimation that he should not perform the duty of an husband to her, it is not easy to conceive, why he should live twelve years with her, and all that while deny that duty which both the law and the canons of the Jews command the husband to pay his wife, Exod. xxi. 10. If we imagine, that our Saviour would have been dishonoured in any other's lying in the same bed after him, we seem to forget how much he humbled and debased himself in lying in that bed first, and then in a stable, and a manger. But leaving this question to those who affect to be curious beyond what is written, we may safely, conclude with St Basil,-" That though it was necessary for the completion of the prophecy, that the mother of our Lord should continue a virgin until she had brought forth her first born; yet what she was afterwards, it is idle to discuss, because it is of no manner of concern to the mystery." Howell's History, in the Notes, Fool's and Whitby's Annotations, and Spanheim's Dub. Evang. part i. Dub. 28.

+3 Bethlehem, where our Saviour was born (for there was another city of the same name in the tribe of Zebulon) is situate on the declivity of an hill, in the tribe of Judah, two leagues distant from Jerusalem, and near thirty from Nazareth; so that we might justly wonder how the Blessed Virgin, big with child as she was, could be able to take so long a journey on foot, (for we hear of no other voiture that she had)

Gospels to

Luke vi. 1.

of their tribe, there to have their names and estates enrolled. The great conflux of peo- From the beple upon this occasion had already filled all the inns † and houses of reception, so that ginning of the no better place could be found for their lodging than a stable, where they had not been Matth. ix. 8. long before the Blessed Virgin was delivered of a son, whom (herself performing the of- Mark ii. 23. fice of a midwife +2) she bound in swaddling clothes, and laid down to rest in a manger. But notwithstanding this obscurity of our Saviour's birth, God was pleased, that very night, by the message of an angel, with a radiant light surrounding him, to make a pompous revelation of it to certain poor shepherds who were attending their flocks on the plains of Bethlehem; and after one angel had delivered the joyful tidings, an innumerable company, of the same celestial choir, broke out all together into this triumphant doxology, " Glory be to God on high, peace on earth, and good-will towards men *!

were it not presumable that the child which she conceived without loss of her virginity, she might be enabled to carry without the sense of any load or uneasiness. What might possibly be the motive of her taking such a journey, is not so well accounted for, by pretending that she was an heiress, and the sole relick of her family, which, upon this occasion, she was obliged to represent; as it is by saying, that this was done by the especial Providence and appointment of God, who ordered this enrolment (which Agustus intended to have had done before) to be delayed to this very time, and then instigated the Blessed Virgin to accompany her husband, that so Christ might be born in Bethlehem, according to the prediction of the prophet, Micah v. 2. and that his lineage and family might at that time be known and preserved in the public tables. The birth indeed of our Blessed Saviour (more than its extent or riches) has made Bethlehem ever since a place of high renown, which is generally visited by pilgrims, and at present is furnished not only with a convent of the Latins, but also with one of the Greeks, and another of the Armenians. Here are shewn you the very place where our Saviour was born; the manger in which he was laid, and the cave or grot in which the Blessed Virgin hid herself and her Divine babe from the malice of Herod, for some time before their departure into Egypt. Here are shewn you likewise the chapel of St Joseph, the supposed father of our Lord; the chapel of the Innocents; as also those of St Jerom, St Paula, and Eustochium. About half a mile eastward from the town, you see the field where the shepherds were watching their flocks when they received the glad tidings of the birth of Christ, and not far from the field, the village where they dwelt. Whitby's Annotations, Calmet's Commentary, and Wells's Geography of the New Testament.

The inns in the East are, even to this day, large square buildings, but generally no more than one story high, with a spacious court in the middle of them. Into this court you enter in at a wide gate, and on the right and left-hand meet with rooms that are appointed for travellers to lodge in. Those that come first take the rooms they like best, but must be mindful to provide themselves both with bedding and victuals, because the rooms are perfectly naked, and have no furniture in them. It is some VOL. III.

comfort, however, that for this lodging (such as it is)
you will pay nothing, only a small toll to the town as
you pass along; and have no reason to fear the loss
of any thing you bring with you, because the master
of the inn takes great care of the gate at night, and
is indeed responsible for the safety of whatever bag-
gage you carry into your lodging. Calmet's Com-

+ Which she could not have done, to be sure, had
she been delivered in the common manner of other
women: but it was always the opinion of the church,
from the days of Gregory Nazianzen until now,
(though before his days there were some opinions to
the contrary) that, as there was no sin in the con-
ception, so neither had the virgin any pains in the
production; for to her alone the punishment of Eve,
that "in sorrow she should bring forth children,"
did not extend; because, where nothing of sin was
the ingredient, there nothing of misery could coha-
bit. Taylor's Life of Christ.

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[It is from the birth of our Saviour that the Christian era is supposed to be dated, but that era was nowhere thought of until towards the middle of the sixth century, when it was invented by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian by birth, but a Roman abbot, who flourished in the reign of Justinian. It did not, however, come into immediate use; for, according to Dr Hales, it was not sanctioned by any public acts or rescripts till the middle of the eighth century, when the first German synod, in the time of Carolomannus, duke of the Franks, was said to be assembled " Anno ab incarnatione Domini 742, 11 Calendas Maii. In the year 1431, it was ordered, by pope Eugenius IV. to be used in all public registers through the Christian world.

Dionysius placed the epoch of our Lord's incarna, tion and birth in the year of Rome 753, as Panodorus an Egyptian monk, who flourished under the emperor Arcadius, had likewise done before him; and they appear to have been led to this date of it by St Luke, who says that John the Baptist began his ministry " in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar," and that


Jesus, at his baptism, was beginning to be about thirty years of age." Now Tiberius succeeded Augustus at his death, August 19. U. C. 767, and therefore his fifteenth year was U. C. 782; from which subtracting U. C. 753, the assumed year of the nativity B

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