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named term any way, yea, does rather import the perpetuity of what it speaks; as Gen. xxviii. 15. Until I have done that, &c., and Is. xxii. 14. Till ye die,-- which yet hath not been alleged, for any thing I know, for a purgatory after death.
Ver. 22.-In the narration, the Apostle inserts (as is his custom) the parallel of the thing with a prophecy foretelling all this, of the accommodating of which I will not now insist. It is evident that it looks beyond any thing that those times, or that any time, before this fulness of time, did afford. And this singular Virgin's conception was altogether agreeable to the singular person so conceived and born, both as to the purity of his human, and the dignity of his Divine, nature; that he might be known to be not only a holy, sinless man, but more than a simple man, God-man, God with us, as his name is.
Observation. The book of the generation of Jesus Christ. Many great volumes of history have been written of states and kingdoms of the earth, and lives of particular famous men, and the reading of them may delight and inform the mind; but what are they all, how empty and comfortless stuff in respect of this history! The book of the generation of Jesus Christ. This is the gospel, the alone good tidings to all nations and all ages; still fresh, and equally good news from one generation to another. Had not the Virgin borne this Son, we must say all of us, Good for us we had not been born.
Now, that so many ages were run by, before His coming, His will who chose that point of time, is sufficient reason. But, 1st, we may perceive by this, that the faith of the Church and people of God was exercised in the expectance of this promised seed, in whom all the nations should be blessed.
2dly. And the esteem of this rich gift raised (and well did he deserve to be) the desire and hope of the nations. Thus the Lord hath been pleased in other great favours, to use this way to reveal them in the promise long time before the performance: so, a son to Abraham, and the deliverance from Egypt, and that other from Babylon long before the captivity.
Sdly, He was equally from the beginning, in his Father's
view, for the interest of believers, in all those preceding ages, as if he had already lived and died and rose again, A Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; for He sees through all generations and successions of times, and all things in them are always alike present to His eye. But in the mean time, while the Church was held in prefiguring shadows, this was their grand desire, that he might appear in the flesh ; still looking and waiting when the day should break, and the shadows flee away. And thus in the Song of Solomon may we take that wish, (Ch. viii. ver. 1.) Oh! that thou wast as my brother! And though the time seemed long, yet, the vision was for the set time, and then it spake, and lied not ; and he was coming forward in the succession of time, hastening as a roe on the mountains, skipping from one age, from one hill to another : as here we have it; Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, &c. And this is now the great wish of his spouse, the Church, and of each particular soul espoused to him, that he would come again as he hath promised ; and he will do so. What a sweet echo there, (Rev. xxii. 17.) of Come! The Spirit says, Come, and the Bride says, Come ; and He says, (ver. 20.) Behold I come quickly; and they rësound again, Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus !
Ver. 21. But thou shalt call his name Jesus. That is the name that refreshes the fainting spirits of humbled sinners, that the sweet-smelling balm, that the ointment poured out, that draws the virgins to love him; sweet in the mouth and in the ear, and life in the heart. A Saviour, for he shall save his people from their sins. The Jews were his people once in a particular way, but all Jews and Gentiles that run unto his name as their refuge, are his people, and he hath engaged himself to be their Saviour, whatsoever kind of people they bė, and whatsoever kind of guiltiness of sins they bring with them. And for that reason, as is observed, are named in this his genealogy; persons grossly stained, and the woman too, (ver. 3.) is specified, all under the same blot; and one a straäger, not of the seed of the Jews; signifying him to be a
Saviour of all nations, and even of the vilest sinners. But we know not his riches and our own poverty ; therefore we run not to him. We perceive not that we are lost and perishing ; therefore a Saviour is a word of little relish. Oh, were we convinced of the huge mass of guilt that lies upon us, and the wrath that for it hangs over us, ready to fall on us and sink us, this would be our continual thought, till we were resolved in it, Is this Saviour mine? And to the end we might find him so, we should tread upon all that lies in our way to run to him.
Ver. 1. 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. Ver. 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.
The blessed Son now born, hath for part of his name, in the prophet foretelling, or rather telling his birth, (Isa. ix. 6.) Wonderful. He is so in his birth ; that we have seen in the former chapter. He is so in his life and death, particularly in that part of his life which is ordinarily scarce at all remarkable, his infancy. The history of that, we have in this chapter. So, as in that place of the prophet, wonderful is the beginning of his name, he is wonderful in the beginning of his life.
That wonder that goes along throughout all his life and death, is in the passages here recorded, very legible, a strong contemperature of majesty and meanness; yea, these two, so får distant in notion, yet meet in him, the meanness of Man and the majesty of God. So obscurely born and so poorly lodged, yet, that birth marked, and that lodging pointed out, by a star that seems to have no other work nor motion, but to tell of
him and lead to him; and by it wise men are led from far, to offer rich presents to a poor babe, and to do homage to him as a king, and to worship him !
Then, afterwards, he is put to flee for his life in his swaddling clothes. He who came to give life to dead man, is in hazard of a cruel death at the entry of his life, and escapes
it by the obscure and hasty flight of his parents with him; yet, even in that flight there is a track of majesty, that they flee, stay, and return with him, all upon Divine warnings. Thus was this Sun of righteousness veiled and clouded in human flesh, and a low kind of human life, and yet, some rays of Deity are still breaking through and telling, Here dwells the Godhead bodily.
In this chapter, these two things of him are remarkable. First, He is marvellously witnessed and worshipped. Secondly, persecuted and preserved.
He is witnessed, 1st, By a star stirring up strangers from far, to seek him, and leading them to find him.
2dly, By those strangers coming and declaring this to be their errand, and inquiring after the place of his birth.
3dly, By the chief priests and scribes, from a clear prophecy, resolving them.
Of these, and other like points in the following history, what questions are moved more curious than useful, I shall either pass wholly in silence, or only name them to pass them, to put them out of our way, that they may notstop us in what may be useful. And textual difficulties that call for clearing, I shall endeavour to open with as much briefness as may well consist with clearness, and to serve for that end of clearing them. For this star, what shall we see the better into the end and person whom it served, by deciding, if we could, much less by debating what we cannot decide, whether it was a star or a comet ? Called a star for its resemblance, as the Scripture often gives things the vulgar names, it seems to have been temporary, and made for this singular service only. However, it was a star that led to the sun.
After men have pleased themselves in the employ of all their reading and wit, to find what the Magi were, further than the text comes, they can assuredly inform us nothing. They were Magi, (wise men,) and of the east ; but whether from Chaldea, or Persia, or Arabia, neither that name they bear, nor the presents they bring, can certainly conclude. It cannot be denied, that all these nations called their astrologers, and generally their philosophers, by that name; and they might bring the same presents from any of those, and from divers other eastern countries: nor is there any more evidence that they were Balaam's posterity, or of his school, though the prophecy of a star arising in Jacob, seems to suit somewhat well with this kind of notice given them by a star, and with their observing it, and following it. And truly, besides the uncertainty, the inutility of this may save us a labour; for what shall we be really the wiser, to know particularly what these wise men were, or whence they were ? Sure I am, to make them three to fit their number to their presents, and to make kings of them, and give them names, and then to wrangle about their burial-place, is to play the fool about the wise men.
If you ask, how the star could speak this, that there was a great king born, and born in Judea, and speak it so as to persuade them to come and see; I conceive, all their skill in astronomy, and Balaam's prophecy of the star in Jacob, and the tradition of the Messiah, and his star, and Sibyl's prophesying of them, could not make the language of this star thus clear and intelligible to them. There was no doubt an extraordinary darting in of a higher light into their minds, clearer than that of the star, to make its meaning clear to them, and to draw them forth to this journey. The star appeared to them in the east, but it does not appear that it led them all the way, though commonly it be so conceived: on the contrary, after their setting forth, it seems not to have appeared to them till they came from Jerusalem, whither they went as likeliest either to find him they sought, or notice of him at least. this likewise was by a Divine hand ordered, that both there