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Ilijah, to introduce the MESSIAH, and begin a new and everlasting dispensation.
We shall soon see this prediction concerning the forc. runner of the MESSIAH fulfilled.
THE BIRTH O
IN ANGEL SENT TO ZACHARIAS.
From Luke, Chap. i. THERE was, in the days of Herod the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD, blameless. And they had no child, and they were both now well stricken in years.
And it came to pass, that while Zacharias executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the LORD.
And the whole multitude of the people were praying without, at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the LORD, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias : for thy prayer is heard ; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his birth.
* Dr. Smith's Summary View.
And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wis. dom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this ? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tid. ings.
And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be per. formed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that ke tarried so long in the temple.
And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple ; for he beckoned unto them and remained speechless.
And it came to pass that as soon as the days of his administration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
And when his wife Elisabeth found that she should bear a son, she said, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
There were twenty-four families of Priests, who de.. scended from Eleazar and Ithamar, the sons of Aaron these, by the appointment of David, were to officiate in the Temple in their turns, a week at a time. Abia (or Abijah, as he is called in the book of Chronicles) was the eighth in rank. It was customary for the Priests to burn incense on the golden altar every morning; whilst the people, who assembled in the courts of the Temple, offered their private devotions. At the time when Zacharias had his wonderful vision, Israel suffered great oppression from the Remans, and Herod governed very tyrannically ; it is therefore likely that both Priest and
; People were intreating the LORD to send them deliver ance, and hasten the kingdom of the Messiah,
From the Prophecy of Malacbi* the Jews supposed that Elijah would be restored to life before the coming of the MESSIAH ; but the angel who appeared to Zacha. rias explained this prediction to signify, one inspired with the spirit and invested with the power of Elijah; animated with the same zeal for reformation, and greatly resembling this famous prophet of the Jews, not only in his office but in his manner of life.
Malachi also foretold, and the Angel confirmed the prediction, that the Harbinger of the Messias should have such success in his ministry, as to convert many both of the rising and declining age, to that real piety which would endear and bind them to each other, and prevent the disagreements which frequently arose in families from the various religious sects amongst the Jews: and that it should be his peculiar business to
* See Section ii.
raise in their minds an expectation of the MESSIAH, and a disposition to welcome him when he should appear.
When Zacharias returned to his own house, he and his wife Elisabeth passed their time in religious retire. ment, waiting for the completion of the divine pro. mise,
Zacharias was a man of such an exemplary character as to be styled righteous by the Evangelist; yet he of. fended God, and brought a heavy punishment upon him. self. His tongue was struck dumb, for requiring a farther proof of the truth of the divine promises, when an Angel was sent from heaven to deliver them to him. From this instance, Christians should learn to receive with faith all the promises of the Gospel, and in par. ticular to believe what was said by the Angel to Zacha. rias concerning John the Baptist.
BASSAGES OF THE PROPHECIES, RELATING TO THS
From Jeremiah, Chap. xxiii.--Isaiah, vii. ix. I. BEHOLD, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a rigliteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is the name by which he shall. be called, The LORD OUR RIGHTEOUsness.
- II. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
III. Unto us a child is born, unto us a' son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and B 5
his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end ; upon the throne of David, and
; upon his kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment, henceforth and for ever; the zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS. When the diadem and crown were taken from the king of Judah, they were, according to the prophet Ezekiel *, only laid aside till he should come, whose right they were, that is to say, a righteous prince of the house of David; and the expectation of such a prince was kept up by various predictions; the first extract in this section is one of them, taken from the book of Jeremiah. We here find that salvation was promised to the house of Judah by this prince ; and that he was to be to them a
MEDIATOR for whose sake they should be esteemed righteous.
That no impostor might obtrude himself on the world as this king and mediator, a variety of circumstances were foretold which would distinguish him from all mankind. These, as we shall have occasion to observe, were all fulfilled in our LORD Jesus CHRIST.
The second extract foretold the birth of a child in such a miraculous manner, as 'would plainly point him out to the world as the promised seed of the woman, who had been hoped for from the Fall.
The third extract mentions further particulars con. eerning this extraordinary child, and shews that he would be distinguished from all mankind by various * Ch. xxi. 25, 26, 27,