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THE HOLY BIBLE contains the whole Revelation of the will of GOD to the children of men. This sacred book is usually divided into the Old and New Testament. The Old Testament contains the law and the prophets; the writings of the New Testament are either histories or epistles: the histories are the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles; the four Gospels were written by the four Evangelists whose names they bear; of whom St. Matthew and St. John were eye-witnesses of what they wrote, but St. Mark and St. Luke had what they wrote from the relation of others. This Gospel before us, of St. Matthew, contains an history of the birth, life, miracles, death, and resurrection of the holy JESUS; all which are the most stupendous and amazing matters and mysteries, as well as the most necessary truths to be known and believed, in the world: and
This Chapter before us contains the genealogy or pedigree of our Saviour JESUS CHRIST, as he was man, unto verse 17. and then relates the fact of his wonderful incarnation, to the end of the chapter.
That is, the descent of Jesus Christ, who was, according to the flesh, the son of David and the son of Abraham, is on this wise. And his genealogy from Abraham down to his reputed father was thus. Here note, That our Evangelist, designing to write a narrative of our Saviour's life, begins with his pedigree and genealogy, and shews whom he descended from, namely, from David and Abraham. Where observe, 1. That David is named before Abraham, because he being a king, and an illustrious type of the Messias, the Jews expected, and do to this day expect, that the son of David should reign over them; and that they should enjoy a temporal kingdom by him. Observe, 2. The names given to our blessed Saviour, Jesus and Christ; Jesus is his Hebrew name, and signifies, A Saviour; Christ is his Greek name, and signifies, Anointed: from whence some do infer an intimation and encouragement, that both Hebrews and Greeks, both Jews and Gentiles, may alike come unto Christ for life and salvation, he being the common Saviour of both; according to that of St. John, Epist. 1. chap. ii. ver. 2. He is the pro
2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren; 3 And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram; 4 And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naasson; and Naasson begat Salmon;
Both the Evangelists, St. Matthew and St. Luke, make mention of our Saviour's pedigree; the former by his reputed father's side, the latter by his mother's side: the design of both was to present us with a general draught of our Lord's pedigree and descent, and not to be strict and accurate in enumerating every individual person. This should teach us, not to be over-curious in scanning the parts of this genealogy, much less captiously to object against it. For if the Evangelists were not critical and exact in composing this genealogy, why should we shew ourselves so in examining it? Rather let us attend to the design of the Holy Ghost in writing of it, which was two-fold: First, for the honour of our Saviour, as man, shewing who were his noble
and royal progenitors according to the flesh. Secondly, for the confirmation of our faith, touching the reality of our Redeemer's incarnation. The scripture making mention of all his progenitors, from the first man Adam to his reputed father Joseph, will not suffer us to doubt either of the truth of his human nature, or of the certainty of his being the promised Messias.
That the wisdom of God hath taken all necessary care, and used all needful means, for the satisfying the minds of all unprejudiced persons touching the reality of Christ's human nature, and the certainty of his being the promised Messias: for both these ends is our Saviour's genealogy and descent recorded in the holy scriptures.
5 And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 And Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias; 7 And Solomon begat Roboam; and Roboam begat Abia; and Abia begat Asa; 8 And Asa begat Josaphat; and Josaphat begat Joram; and Joram begat Ozias; 9 And Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; 10 And Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias ; 11 And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon; 12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias begat Salathiel ; and Salathiel begat Zorobabel; 13 And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14 And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15 And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are
fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
Observe, Here are several women mentioned in our Saviour's genealogy, and all, or most of them, have a brand of infamy upon them. Thamar was one, with whom her father-in-law Judah committed incest; Moab, whom Lot begat of his own daughRachab is called an harlot; Ruth came of ter; and Bathsheba the wife of Uriah was
one with whom David had committed
adultery. Now the wisdom of God has thought fit to leave all this upon record 1. To defor several ends and purposes. note the freeness of God's grace, which extends itself in the saving effects and benefits of it to them that are most unworthy and ill-deserving. 2. To encourage faith, and seek to be ingrafted into him: the greatest sinners to go unto Christ by. for as Christ by the power of his Godhead did purify our nature from all the pollution' of our ancestors, so he can, by the power of his grace and Spirit, sanctify our persons and natures, how foul and impure soever they either are or have been. 3. Hereby our Lord gives us to understand that he came to save the most notorious sinners, as well as those whose lives have been less scandalous. 4. This is recorded for the support of such as are illegitimate and base born: how vile soever their parents' sin has rendered them in the eyes of men, it is their own sin only which exposes them to contempt in the sight of God. It is not illeobjects of God's wrath. gitimacy, but unregeneracy, that makes us
18 Now the birth of Christ was on this wise: When as his mother
Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
That is, the birth of Christ was not in the Mary was found to be with child by the ordinary and natural way, but his mother extraordinary and miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost. Here note, That the espousal of Mary to Joseph was for the safety of Christ, and for the credit and reputation of the Virgin. It was for our Saviour's safety, because being to fly into take care of him; and it was for the Virgin's Egypt, he has Joseph his reputed father to reputation, lest she should have been accounted unclean. Learn hence, What a special regard Almighty God has to the
fame and reputation of his children: he would have them free from the least suspicion of evil and dishonesty. Mary being espoused to an husband, frees herself from the suspicion of naughtiness, and her son from the imputation of an illegitimate birth. Observe farther, The miraculous conception of the holy Jesus; the Holy Ghost overshadowed the Virgin, and did miraculously cause her conception without the help of an human father. Thus Christ was the Son of God as well in his human as in his divine nature; he must needs be a perfect holy person, who was purely conceived by the Holy Spirit's operation.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
That is, being a holy person, and a strict observer of the rites of his nation, he was unwilling to company with a defiled woman, and therefore minded to put her away by giving a bill of divorce into her hand before two witnesses; but being kind and gentle, he intended to put her away privily, lest she should have been exposed, and stoned to death. Observe here, How early our dear Lord's sufferings began; he and his mother are designed to be put away, even when he was but an embryo in the womb. Observe farther, From the great clemency of Joseph toward the suspected Virgin, that kind and merciful men always presume the best, and prosecute with gentleness, especially where life is concerned. Meek Joseph doth resolve upon the milder course, and chooses rather to put her away privily, than publicly to expose her.
20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Two things are here observable; namely, the care that Almighty God takes, 1. For Joseph's satisfaction. 2. For vindicating the Virgin's reputation. For Joseph's satisfaction an angel is despatched, to give assurance that the Virgin was not defiled by man, but overshadowed by the Holy Ghost. Whence note, That Almighty God will certainly find out ways and means for the people's satisfaction, when they are wil
ling, and desirous above all things, to come to the knowledge and right understanding of their duty. Observe, 2. How the angel clears the Virgin's innocency, as well as satisfies Joseph's doubtings, by assuring him, that what was conceived in her was by the Holy Ghost. Learn hence, That God will in his own time clear the innocency of such as suffer in their name and reputation for the sake of Christ, though for the present they may lie under the burden of disgrace and shame.
21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name
JESUS: for he shall save his people
from their sins.
Observe here, 1. A prediction of our Saviour's birth; the Virgin shall bring forth a son. 2. A precept for the imposition of his name; Thou shalt call his name Jesus, that is, a Saviour. 3. The reason why that name was given him; because he should save his people, not temporally, as Joshua did the Israelites from their enemies, but spiritually and eternally, from their sins; not in their sins, but from them: that is, from the guilt and punishment, from the power and dominion, of them. Observe, 4. The peculiar subjects of this privilege; his people: He shall save his people from their sins. Learn, 1. That sin is the evil of evils; or that sin, considered in itself, is comparatively the greatest and worst of evils. 2. That the great end of Christ's coming into the world, was to be a Saviour from this evil. 3. That Christ's own people do want, and stand in need of, a Saviour, as well as others: if he does not save them from their sins, they must die in and for their sins, as well as others. Therefore he saves them from sin three ways; 1. By obtaining pardon for sin, and in reconciling us to God. 2. By weakening the reigning ciple of holiness in the heart. 3. By perpower of sin, and implanting a new prinfecting and accomplishing all these happy beginnings at the end of this life, in heaven. Dr. Hammond's Pract. Catech.
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel; which being interpreted, is, God with us.
Of all the prophets of the Old Testament, the prophet Esay has the honour to be first recited in the New. Here the Evangelist quotes his prophecy of Christ's incarnation, Behold, a virgin shall be with child. Learn thence, That the great mystery
of our Saviour's wonderful incarnation was (though darkly) revealed to the church of God under the Old Testament. Observe farther, The name given to our Saviour under the Old Testament, Emmanuel, that is, God with us: God manifest in our flesh; God appearing in our nature; God reconciling man to himself. O happy and blessed union of two natures in one person: Christ is God and man united, that God and man may be reconciled..
24 Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife :
Joseph is no sooner assured that Mary is with child by the overshadowing power of the Holy Ghost, but he instantly obeys the Lord's command, and takes Mary to him, without farther disputing or delaying. Learn thence, That a gracious person, when once satisfied in God's word of command, disputes no farther, but instantly complies with the will of God, even in the most
hazardous and difficult duties.
25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS.
It is piously believed, though not positively in scripture asserted, that the Virgin had no other child but our Saviour; it is a very probable opinion, though not an infallible article of faith, as the church of Rome would make it for the word until signifies in scripture, as much as never. So Gen. xxviii. 15. I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have promised! that is, I will never leave thee. So the words following, her first-born son, do not imply that she had any child after, but that she had none before. That child which first openeth the womb, is usually in scripture called the first-born, though there was no other born after. Thus, Josh. xvii. 1. Machir is called the first-born of Manasseh, though he had no more children. So that Christ not only as God, but also as he was man, was the first-born and only son. St. Austin expounds and applies Ezek. xliv. 2. to the Virgin Mary; This gate shall be shut, and it shall not
be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord God of Israel hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut. And others of the ancients say, That as Christ lay in a tomb, in which none lay before himself, so he lodged in a womb, in which none ever lay, either before or after himself. But he said, Quid post partum secutum erat curiosè non est quærendum: What the Virgin was afterwards, is of small concern to the mystery; therefore not to be enquired after. And yet it is now passed by some into a matter of faith, that the Virgin Mary was ever a virgin, and it hath been styled an heresy to hold the contrary; but how it is consistent with good divinity to make that an article of divine faith, which is founded on no to be believed, which confessedly is not divine revelation, or to make that necessary contained in the holy scripture, let the church of Rome answer.
Our Saviour's miraculous conception, by the power of the Holy Ghost, being recorded in the first chapter, several remarkable circumstances relating to his birth are set down in this: as, namely, The place of his birth, Beth-lehem; and the time, In the days of Herod the king.
NOW when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold,
there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
Observe here, 1. The place of our Lord's birth, Bethlehem: he was born, not at Athens, not at Rome, not at Jerusalem, not in any opulent or magnificent city, but in the meanest of the cities of Judah; thereby shewing us, that his kingdom was not of this world, and that he little regarded pomp and outward greatness. O how can we be abased enough for Christ, that thus neglected himself for us! Observe, 2. The time of our Lord's birth, In the days of Herod the king. This Herod being a foreigner, and made king by the Romans which now reigned over the Jews; in him was fulfilled Jacob's prophecy, Gen. xlix. 10. That the sceptre should not depart from Judah, that is, the Jews should have governors of their own nation, until Shiloh come; that is, until Christ, the promised Messiah, come in the flesh. So that, considering the circumstances of time and place, where and when Christ was born, it was and is wilful obstinacy, in the Jews, to deny that the Messiah is come in the flesh. Observe, 3. That tribute of honour which
was paid unto our Saviour at his birth: the wise men of the east came and worshipped him; that is, the Chaldean, Arabian, or Persian astronomers, who, as the first-fruits of the Gentiles, seek after Christ; whilst the Jews, his own people, rejected him. Oh, how will their coming so far as the east to seek Christ, rise up another day in judgment against us, if we refuse to be found by Christ, who came from heaven to seek us!
2 Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Observe here, 1. The inquiry that they make after Christ: they do not ask whether he was born, but where he was born; not doubting of the fact, but ignorant of the place. Observe, 2. The ground of their inquiry, For we have seen his star: they had seen a star, but how did they know it was his star? Probably by divine revelation; they had a light within, as well as a star without, or they had never found Christ. It is likely the Holy Spirit's illumination accompanied the star's apparition. As God made known the birth of Christ to the Jews by an angel, so he manifested the same to the Gentiles by a new-created star. Observe, 3. The end of their journey: We are come to worship him; that is, to pay all that honour and homage which is due to a great and mighty prince; all that adoration and worship which belongs to the promised Messiah, the Redeemer of the world. All honour and homage, all glory and worship, is due to Christ from the sons of men, and will be given him by those that know him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Observe here, That when Christ came into the world to save men, it cast the world into a consternation, and caused wonderful disturbance. Herod is first concerned, and next all Jerusalem with him: Herod, for fear of losing his kingdom; Jerusalem, for fear of new commotions. Thus Christ, who was the angel's song, the wise men's joy, Israel's consolation, becomes Herod's fear, and Jerusalem's terror. But why was Herod thus disturbed? 'Tis true, a king is born, but one whose kingdom is not of this world; 'twas Herod's false apprehension
that was the cause of this perturbation. Hence we see that the greatest enmities, and the bitterest animosities, have arisen from causeless fears, and groundless jealousies.
all the chief priests and scribes of 4 And when he had gathered the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the shall come a Governor, that shall princes of Juda: for out of thee rule
my people Israel.
Herod, being in great perplexity, convened a council of the chief priests and scribes, and demands of them the place where Christ the promised Messiah was to be born: they readily reply, out of the prophet Micah, chap. v. 2. that Beth-lehem was the place; this was the city of David's birth, and of Christ's the son of David. Bethlehem signifies the house of bread, and was so called from its fertility and fruitfulness, and, as some think, with reference to Christ, the true bread of life, born there. Bethlehem was a mean and contemptible place in itself; but being honoured with Christ's presence, how great is it! Learn thence, That the presence of Christ dignifies and exalts a place, how mean soever in itself. Bethlehem, though a little city in itself, yet is not the least among the cities of Judah, because Christ is born there.
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem; and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Observe here, 1. How Herod cloaks his intended cruelty with disguised hypocrisy ; he had a murder in his heart, when he pretended to worship Christ with his mouth. There is no villany so great, but will mask itself under a pretence and show of piety. Herod veils his intent to kill Christ with a pretence to worship him.