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Now the birth of Jesus 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. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 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. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 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.) Then Joseph being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not, till she had brought forth her first-born son.
We see here, in Joseph, an excellent pattern of gentleness and prudence. In an affair which appeared dubious, he chose, as we should always do, rather to err on the favourable, than on the severe extreme. He was careful to avoid any precipitate steps; and in the moments of deliberation, God interposes to guide and determine his resolves.
With what wonder and pleasure did Joseph receive these glad tidings! With what pleasure should we also receive them! For we too are informed of Jesus who came to save his people from their sins. An important and glorious salvation indeed! Hosanna to him that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed Jesus! answer thy character in delivering us, not only from sin's condemning, but from its reigning power!
Let our souls bow to Emmanuel, our incarnate God; and, while with holy wonder we survey the various scenes of his humiliation, let us remember too his native dignity and his
divine glory. By him God hath fulfilled his ancient promises in the most ample and glorious manner, in the fulness of time sending forth his Son, made of a woman, and sprung like a tender shoot from the decayed stock of David his servant.
While we study the oracles of the Old Testament, let us with pleasure trace the notices of the great Messiah there, even of Jesus, to whom all the prophets give witness. May his name be ever inscribed upon our hearts. In that name may we lift up our banners, and judge those reproaches a glory which we may meet with in his sacred cause !
LUKE i. 57-66.
Now Elisabeth's full time came, that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son. And her neigbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writingtable, and wrote, saying, His name is John, and they marvelled all.-And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill-country of Judea. And all they that heard them, laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be? And the hand of the Lord was with him.
So sure are the promises of God, and so certainly will the full accomplishment of them another day shame our suspicious unbelieving hearts, and awaken the tongues of servants to songs of praise! Happy the souls who, by a lively faith in them, are anticipating that blessed day, and whose minds, kept in tune by these pleasing views, are opening themselves to the most tender sympathy with others, and like the
kindred of this pious pair, are making the religious joys of others their own; so sharing, rather than envying the superior favours bestowed upon them!
Let us learn, with them, wisely to observe what God is doing around us and to lay up remarkable occurrences in our hearts that, by comparing one step of divine conduct with another, we may the better understand the loving-kindness of the Lord, and be engaged to act with more regular obedience in a holy subserviency to his gracious purposes.
When, like good Zacharias and Elisabeth, we have the pleasure to see our infant offspring growing up in safety and cheerfulness, with healthy constitutions of body and towardly dispositions of mind too, let us ascribe it to the hand of the Lord, which is upon them for good. Let us remember that we are at best but the instruments of the divine care and favour to them: and that our families would soon become scenes of desolation, did not God watch over them in a thousand circumstances of danger and distress, which no prudence of ours could have foreseen, and which no care of ours could have been able to provide against.
AND his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up a horn of salvation for us, in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us. To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou child shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord, to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby
the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
With what sacred joy should we join in this hymn of praise! The blessings celebrated in it were not peculiar to the family of Zacharias or to the house of Israel; but we, through Divine goodness, have our share in them: the Lord God of Israel hath visited and redeemed us. He hath remembered his covenant with the pious patriarchs in favour of millions who are their seed only as heirs of the faith of Abraham. To us hath he accomplished the words he had spoken by his holy prophets, and through his tender mercies hath caused the Sun of Righteousness to arise upon us; upon us who were once indeed sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death; and whose ancestors, for many succeeding generations, were lost in ignorance, idolatry, and wickedness. Let us bless the Lord who hath given us light, and make it our daily prayer that it may be the happy means of guiding our feet into the way of peace. Let us, with pleasure and thankfulness, receive the knowledge of salvation by the remission of our sins without which we shall never see it but at an unapproachable distance.
Let us repose our cheerful confidence in this almighty Saviour, this Horn of Salvation, which God's own right-hand hath raised up for us; through him let us seek the pardon of our sins, and deliverance from all the enemies of our souls. And let a grateful sense of his redeeming love engage us resolutely to walk in the strictest holiness and righteousness, as in the presence of God, and carefully to maintain before him a conscience void of offence all the days of our lives.
May we carry this temper along with us into solitude and retirement: may it animate us in the busiest scenes of life; and, in every particular instance, may it determine us in our choice of either and regulate our conduct in both!
LUKE ii. 1-21.
AND it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made
to them and our longing for that blessed world where we and they shall surround our dearest Redeemer, not in such a form of abasement as that in which he here appeared, but clothed in that celestial lustre with which God hath rewarded the humiliations of the manger and the cross.
In the mean time let our more intimate concern in this great salvation engage us more cordially to join with these blessed angels in their hallelujahs; ascribing glory to God in the highest for this peace on earth, this good-will towards men, the great fountain of our present tranquility and future hope! Above all, if Divine Grace hath conquered all the foolish prejudices of our hearts against Christ, and taught us with humble faith to apply to him, let us, with the shepherds, bless God for the things which have been shewn us, and make it our care to spread abroad the savour of his name, that others may join with us in paying their homage and their praises to him!
MATTHEW I. 1-17.
(The Genealogy relating to Joseph.)
THE book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat Judas and his brethren. And Judas begat Pharez and Zara of Thamar, and Pharez begat Esrom, and Esrom begat Aram, and Aram begat Aminadab, and Aminadab begat Naasson, and Naasson begat Salmon. And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab, and Booz begat Obed of Ruth, and Obed begat Jesse. And Jesse begat David the king, and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begat Roboam, and Roboam begat Abia, and Abia begat Asa. And Asa begat Josaphat, and Josaphat begat Joram, and Joram begat Ozias. And Ozias begat Joatham, and Joatham begat Achaz, and Achaz begat Ezekias. And Ezekias begat Manasses, and Manasses begat Amon, and Amon begat Josias. And Josias begat Jechonias and his brethren, about the time they were carried away to Babylon. And after they were brought to Babylon, Jechonias