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The Name of Jesus fragrant
THE FIRST NINE CHAPTERS OF
ST. MATTHEW'S GOSPEL. ,
Ver, 1. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the
son of Abraham,
As the bounty of God appears in the furniture and comforts of our natural life, in that he hath not only provided for simple necessity, but enriched it with plentiful variety; thus He hath done likewise towards the spiritual life in the provision of the Holy Scriptures, having in them so rich diversity of the kind of writings, prophecies and histories, poesies and epistles, and of the kind, and expressly on the same subject, four books written by the hands of four several men, but all led by the hand of the same Spirit, and all of them so harmoniously according together, as makes up one song; the four with a delightful variety of notes, but no mistuning, or jarring difference: those that seem to be so, being duly considered, do not only well agree, but there is still some instructive advantage in the diversity ; each recording something, some of them divers things that are not in the other; and what one hath more briefly, is more enlarged in some other : they are not so different as to
• First printed from the original MSS. in Dr. Jerment's edition of the Works, published in 1808, of which this is a corrected reprint.
be discordant, nor so the same as to be superfluous. Their order in the time of their writing, is, with good reason, conceived to be the same with that of their placing as we have them. This of St. Matthew was written first, and very likely in Hebrew, as more particularly for the use of his own nation, though in His purpose who set him on to work (as all the other scriptures) intended for the good of the Church in all succeeding ages. And he begins with the great mysterious point on which hangs our happiness, that which is our grand comfort, as St. Austin speaks, the manhood of God. The chapter hath these two, his genealogy, and his nativity, each particularly intituled; for the first words are the inscription, not of the whole book, nor of the whole chapter, but only of that first part of it. The book, that is, as the Hebrew word signifies,) the roll, or list of the generation, that is, the descent, of Jesus Christ.
The account by ascending, as St. Luke does, or by descending, as this Evangelist, is altogether indifferent; neither need we, with the ancients, seek subtle and mysterious reasons of it, which are too airy to have either certain truth, or profitable use in them. The reckoning of the one only down from Abraham, and the other up to Adam, may have some more solid reason; the one having regard to the particular promise made to Abraham, and the other to the general interest of mankind, and that according to the promise made to our first parents in the garden. And this beginning in Abraham here, relishes somewhat of that we spake, of penning this gospel in Hebrew, with particular respect to the Jews for informing them first: as indeed the gospel was first to be preached to them, so might they have somewhat of the same privilege in the writing of it, He of whom it treats being born among them, and of them. And before entering to branch the lineage, the Evangelist particularly mentions David and Abraham, because of the particular promises made to them of the Messiah to come of their seed.
The great diversity of the names from David to Joseph, (of
them all indeed, save two,) has drawn several persons to take the one for the line of Joseph, the other for the line of Mary, But the diversity of names ariseth not so much from the cys. tom of that nation, of one person having divers names, (which commonly is answered in this, though somewhat of that may be in it; but it is much rather from that, it seems, St. Matthew does deduce the legal succession in government (by Solomon), St. Luke the natural in birth (by Nathan). St. Matthew, to make up the number of his three fourteens, even omits some immediate parents, which alters nothing at all of the true deduction, and nephews are frequently called, and truly are, the sons of their grandfather's, though not immediate. Now, though it is possible that it might be otherwise, yet, the Evangelists take it as a thing then manifest and known when they wrote, that Joseph, according to the appointment and ordinary praetice of his nation, did marry within his tribe and family. So that his extraction, who was but the supposed and nominal father, doth give account of Mary the real mother of Jesus Christ. Other scruples, though it may be to some needful to clear them, yet I name not, as being useless to acquaint those with, who find them not. And some there be altogether needless and curious, which may pass among the vain unprofitable questions of genealogists that the Apostle advises to avoid.
Ver. 18. 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.
ST. LUKE is more large in the history of the conception, but (which the rest have not) this Evangelist acquaints us with Joseph's behaviour in the business. We have 1st. His first doubtful thoughts within himself; 2nd. His right information, and directions from God; 3d. His answerable acquiescence and obedience.
Perceiving Mary, who was espoused to him, to be with child before they came together, and not krowing how this
came to pass, it would certainly perplex him much; yet goes he not in a sudden passion, or rage of jealousy, to take the extremest course, but being a just man, that is, not strict and severe, as taking justice in a strict sense, for so it would seem contrary to the present intendment;-yet, some have taken it so, though he was a just man; but it is indeed rendered as the cause of his purpose mitigating of the law's rigour, and so, just is here a good man, a man of a moderate, mild spirit, averse from rigours, as good men usually are. And as his own temper, so, no doubt Mary's carriage, did incline him to this way; observing her modesty and piety, which undoubtedly was singular, and would appear in her whole deportment; but further than that spake for her, it doth not appear that she spake all this while any thing for herself: she offered not to declare the admirable way of her conception, which would have seemed feigned and incredible from her mouth, but quietly refers the matter to Him who had done it. Thus silent innocency rests satisfied in itself, where it may be inconvenient or fruitless to plead for itself, and loses nothing by doing so, for it is always in due season vindicated and cleared by a better hand. And thus it was here: she is silent, and God speaks for her.
Verse 20.-While he thought on these things, &c.]. The whole matter is opened to him by the angel of God in a dream. This blessed child is owned by his glorious Father; the conception declared to be pure and supernatural by the Holy Ghost; his birth and name, and the reasons of it, are foretold; and upon these, Joseph is ascertained, not only of the spotless innocency, but of the matchless dignity of his espoused Mary in this conception, and the true quality of her Divine Son, and so is furnished with sufficient ground of receiving her as his wife, which accordingly he forth with did.
The last words of the chapter are added for the future clearness concerning the purity of his birth. But denying for the time before, which was to the present purpose, affirms nothing at all for the time after, as is evident by abundant instances of this manner of speech, where until goes no further than the