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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 mother's womb. 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 wisdom 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 tidings. And behold thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he 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 ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among
How amiable is the character of this pious pair, who were found walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless! May our behaviour be thus unblameable, and our obedience thus sincere and universal! And let those, whose office leads them nearer to God than others, remember the peculiar obligation to imitate such an example.
Let us observe, with pleasure, that the prayers which such worshippers offer come up with acceptance before God; to whom no costly perfume is so sweet as the fragrance of a
character like this.-An answer of peace was here returned when the case seemed to be most helpless. Let us learn to wait patiently for the Lord, and leave it to his own infinite wisdom to choose the time and manner in which he shall appear for us.
Zacharias, accustomed as he was to converse with the God of heaven, was, nevertheless, as we see, thrown into great consternation at the appearance of his angelic messenger. And may we not regard it, therefore, as an instance of the goodness as well as wisdom of God, that he determines that the services which these heavenly spirits render us should be generally invisible?—It is delightful to observe that amiable condescension with which Gabriel, the courtier of heaven, behaved on this occasion. Let it teach us with pleasure to pursue the humblest offices of duty and love which God may assign us towards any of our fellow servants, even in the lowest station.
Happy was the holy Baptist in being employed in this blessed work of preparing men's hearts to receive a Saviour, and reducing the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. May we be inspired with some degree of zeal like his, in our proper sphere, to pursue so noble a design.
We see, in the instance of Zacharias, that some remainders of unbelief may be found even in a faithful heart: let us guard against them, as remembering they will be displeasing to God, and hurtful to ourselves.-And, to conclude, when Providence favours us with any peculiarly gracious interpositions, let us attentively remark the hand of God in them; and let religious retirement leave room for serious recollection and devout acknowledgements.
LUKE 1. 26-38.
AND in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her and said, Hail! thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind, what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her Fear
not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God. And behold thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
With what holy wonder and pleasure should we trace this notice of an incarnate Redeemer! and how thankfully should we adore his condescending goodness, that for us men, and for our salvation, he did not despise the womb of so obscure a virgin?
We too are ready in our thoughts, with Gabriel, to congratulate her on so distinguished an honour, and to say, as one did to Christ in the days of his flesh, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, O Lord, and the breasts which thou hast sucked! (Luke xi. 27.) But let us remember there is yet a nobler blessedness than this attending those, in whose hearts he is so formed by divine grace, that they hear his word and do it.
Let us hear with joy, that he is Jesus the Saviour; but let us also consider that he is Christ the anointed Sovereign, who is to rule over God's people for ever. Remember, O my soul that of his kingdom there shall be no end; and esteem it thine unspeakable honour and happiness to be enrolled amongst his faithful subjects.
The glories promised to such in the future state are so far beyond experience, or even imagination, that they might, to sense, appear as incredible as the message which Mary received but let us remember the eternal truth of what Gabriel suggested to her, that nothing is impossible to God. He can
therefore ripen our imperfect souls to all the improvement and pleasures of the heavenly state, as easily as he produces the meanest vegetable on the earth.
Let the temper of the blessed virgin, on this great occasion, be therefore the beautiful model of ours: so, when the purposes of the Divine Love are declared to us, we may resign ourselves unto the Lord; and with such calm tranquillity, firm faith and joyful acquiescence, may wait the accomplishment of his gracious promise, and say, Behold the servants of the Lord! be it unto us according to his word! So do thou, O Lord, animate and support us! and the weakest of thy children shall not stumble at the greatest of thy promises through unbelief; but, being strong in faith, shall give glory to God.
LUKE I. 39-56.
AND Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill-country with haste, into a city of Juda, and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm, he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and
exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her three months, and returned to her own house.
How natural is it for those, who have themselves received mercy of the Lord, to communicate their joy to others, and to seek the society of their fellow saints, whom he hath honoured with the signal manifestations of his favour ?— Happy are they, whose friendship is confirmed and heightened by such endearing ties ! And thrice happy the humble and generous souls, who can thus, like Elisabeth, lose the thoughts of private honour and interest in a cordial concern for the glory of God and the good of men; rejoicing to see others, perhaps in some respects their inferiors, raised to stations of service more distinguished than their own!
If this pious matron thought herself so highly honoured in receiving a visit from the mother of our infant Saviour, how much more doth it become us to admire the condescension of our glorious Lord, that he will represent himself as graciously knocking at the door of our hearts, and ready not only to make us a transient visit, but to take up his stated abode with us?
May our faith, like that of the blessed virgin, delightfully rest on all the promises he makes, as firmly believing that there shall be an accomplishment of these things which are spoken! And, while that accomplishment is delayed, may the pleasing expectation of it tune our voice to a song of praise like her's. Let our souls also magnify the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in that God whom we hope, through grace, to be our Saviour; whose condescension hath regarded us in such low circumstances; and whose almighty power and everlasting love have done such great things for us.-He hath provided heavenly food, to satisfy our hungry souls; and hath raised us to enjoy the mercies which, in more obscure intimations only, he promised to the pious patriarchs.-His mercy is on all that fear him, through succeeding generations.-May such distinguished favours animate our hearts with those sentiments of devotion and zeal which they are so well qualified to excite ! otherwise the joy of the Old Testament Saints, in the distant and imperfect prospect of these blessings, will testify against our insensibility in the superíor advantages with which we are favoured.