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where the young child was, discovered to them, “ the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world;" who declares himself to be “ the root and offspring of David and the bright and morning Star. *"
The evangelical prophet, describing the blessed effects of the birth of the Messiah in respect to the heathens, expresses himself thus: “ The people that walked in darkness t have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” And, in two subsequent passages, c. xlii. 6, xlix. 6, to which Simeon evidently refers, he stiles him, “A light to the Gențiles.” And the following part of the description is no less characteristical of this august person than the former; for, as he was to be " a light to lighten the Gentiles," so wąs he, to be " the glory of his people, Israel." Which expression manifestly alludes to the divine Shechinah, or mani, festation of the presence of God, attending the ark both in the tabernacle and the temple, and is in sundry places of Scripture called the glory of the Lord,,or, rather, of Jehovah. In Exodus, c. xl. 34, we read that the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle; and, in 1 Kings, c. viii. 11, that, upon the introduction of the ark into the temple, the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord. Whence St Paul, Rom. ix. 4, recounting the privileges belonging to the Israelites, saith, " To whom pertaineth the adoption and the glory:1!” But it is very observable, that, when the second temple was building after the return of the Israelites from the Babylonish captivity, and they were greatly dismayed in not having the appearance of the glory, Haggai is sent to
. * Stella splendida et matutina; h. e. “ Instar Luciferi prænuntius propinquantis solis, seu vitæ et gloriæ æternæ; fons omnis lucis et consolationis; cujus luce tenebræ errorum et peccatorum fugantur; et quam sequi debetis ducem in tota vita.” Paræus, &c. .
In tenebris. ( Tenebras autem hic intellige spirituales ignorantiæ, idololatriæ et peccatorum, ut tum e loco parallelo, Esa. Ix. 1, 2; tum Matthæi explicatione." Calovius. i Israel. !" Messias gloria Israelis, quia, ex Israelitis natus, inter ipsos vixit, et gentes vocavit ad religionem Israelis, a quo salus ad omnes gentes dimanârit.” Grotius, &c.
Il Et gloria; i. e. “ 77d'Iw, Shechinah, quæ erat majestas Dei, quâ habitabat in templo, vel habitatio Dei saper arcam."! Lud. de Dieu; see, also, Whitby and Taylor.
the rulers and the rest of the Jews, to encourage them in their unders taking by promising them, c. ii. 7, 9, that God would fill this house with glory, and that the glory of this latter house should be greater than that of the former. Which remarkable prediction of the prophet was eminently fulfilled in the manifestation of Christ in the temple, who was the true Shechinah, or glory of his people, Israel, as St John most emphatically illustrates in the 1st chapter of his Gospel: " The word was made flesh and dwelt among us* (and we beheld his glory; the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” We see, then, that these words of Simeon declare the accomplishment of some of the most illustrious prophecies of the advent of the Messiah; well therefore might he say, in full assurance of faith, “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I t is
From the foregoing observations I shall take occasion to 'shew, first of all, the obstinate incredulity of the Jews, both antient and modern; and, in the next place, the inestimable blessings we enjoy through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the day-spring from on high hath visited us.
.. Had the Jews of old attended to the miraculous circumstances only which accompanied the birth of the blessed Jesus, they must have been convinced that he was the very Christ. That the Messiah was to be born about that time of a virgin, t and at Bethlehem, were points
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j!, ' which
* Et habitarit in nobis. “Notandum voce cunues (quæ eadem est, sono et significatu, cum Heb. yow) alludi ad conspicuam Divinæ Majestatis præsentiam, quæ Chald. paraph, etiam dota* aut ad operationem singularem; quorum utrumque per zyw (unde n'av) significari notant Hebræo, rum magistri.” Grotius, &c. ...s
+ The first prediction concerning the Messiah is that remarkable one, Gen, ii. 15, where he is emphatically stiled, the seed of the woman. And, as Bishop Sherlock observes, “Since this prophecy has been plainly fulfilled in Christ, and by the event appropriated to him only, I would fain know how it comes to be conceived to be so ridiculous a thing in us, to suppose that God, to whom, the whole event was known from the beginning, should make choice of such expressions as naturally conveyed so much knowledge as he intended to convey to our first parents, and yet should appear, in the fulness of time, to have been peculiarly adapted to the event which he, from the
which few, if any, of them were ignorant of. When, therefore, they were acquainted with the extraordinary conception of the Virgin Mary; when all Jerusalem knew that wise men came from the East, by the direction of a star, to worship him who was born King of the Jews; and, being sent by Herod to Bethlehem, were conducted by the same star to the very place where the young child was; when he was shortly after presented by Simeon to the Lord in the temple, and expressly declared to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people, Israel; they must be fools indeed, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets had spoken. But, their eyes being blinded with the dazzling glare of temporal grandeur, they wholly lost sight of the spiritual meaning of the prophecies, and could not discern the Re
beginning, saw, and which he intended the world should one day see; and which, when they should see, they might more easily acknowledge to be the work of his hand, by the secret evidence which he had enclosed from the day of old in the word of prophecy. - View this prophecy, then, with respect to those to whom it was given, it answered their want and the immediate end proposed by God; view it with respect to ourselves, and it answers ours.” And the apostle, Galat. iv. 4, evidently alludes to the fulfilling of this prediction in these words; “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman ;"'" nempe sola ex Maria Virgine, absque virili complexu, sed operatione Spiritus S. formatum.”. Estius. But, in order to prepare the way for the belief of this wonderful event, several extraordinary circumstances occurred, which naturally led men to the more easy reception of this important truth. The seed of the woman, which was to confer this great blessing upon mankind, was to be conveyed through the loins of Abraham; for to Abraham and his seed were the promises made: and it is expressly said to him by God, “ In Isaac shall thy seed be called;" who was born of Sarah, after it had ceased to be with her after the manner of women; it was therefore almost as miraculous as being born of a virgin. And, besides the express predictions of Isai. c. vii. 14, Jerem. c. xxxi. 22, that the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, there is another instance, of a more recent date, which greatly corroborates the credibility of this fact, and seems particularly intended for that purpose; and, in this respect, John the 'Buptist fülly verified the prediction of Malachi'; “Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me." . For, being born of Elisabeth, who was barren, and she and her husband Zacharias were now well stricken in years, (and, as Grotius observes; " Duplicavit miraculum ad vetus vitium accedens impedimentum ætatis,”) he was the proper forerunner of Christ, who was to be born of a virgin, and actually proclaimed his coming before he himself was yet born: for, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, who told her all that had been done to her as well as herself, the babe leaped in her womb for joy. " Noverat Elizabetha filium suum præ'cursorem fore Messiæ: "At non novit adhuc quânam fæminâ nascendus Messias, donec hæc exsultatio infantis 'in utero indicium daret." Lightfoot."
deemer of Israel, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a man. ger.* From not duly considering the gracious purpose of Christ's coming into the world, to save all the descendants of Adam by conquering Sin and Satan, and triumphing over them on the cross, they could not reconcile the seeming contradictions in the character of this great personage; nor, from comparing the several predictions together, rationally conclude, as they should, that Christ ought first to have suffered these things, and then to enter into his glory. And that the Jews were guilty of an inexcusable crime in denying the Lord that bought them, and in crucifying this King of Glory, is incontestibly evident from the sudden and unparalleled destruction which came upon the whole Jewish nation; but particularly on the temple at Jerusalem, the foundations of which were ploughed up, agreeably to that prediction of our blessed Saviour, “ There shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Which marvellous event renders the infidelity of those Jews who have lived since more blameable, if possible, than that of their forefathers: for, as Shiloh, whom they themselves understood to be the Messiah, was to come before the sceptre departed from Judah and the lawgiver from Israel, and the glory of the second temple was to exceed that of the former by the appearance of God manifested in the flesh, Christ must be already come, or he never can come at all. I Behold then, ye despisers, and wonder, lest ye perish; for ye can no longer say, “ The temple of the
* “ Hac ratione Deus testatum fecit filium hunc Davidis filium esse, paremque cum eo fortunam sortitum atque expertum fuisse. Enimvero pastor erat David, qui vitam suam in stabulo forte, -forte, inquam, hoc ipso in loco ubi Jesum Maria peperit, egerat, et quando ad regiam dignitatem vocabatur gregem patris sui pascebat. Vide Ps. Ixxviii. 70, 71, 72. In stabulo itaque cum nasceretur filius ejus, an non patrem suum refert?" Episcopius.
t“ Maimonides Taanith, cap. 5. Nono, inquit, isto die mensis Ab, ob vindictas fatali. Turnus Rufus impius aratro templum fudit, et circumjacentia, ut illud adimpleretur, Sion ut ager arabitur. Jerem, sxyi. 18. Mic. ii. 2.” Lightfoot, &c. ..
" Sceptrun non recedet a Juda, &ç. dopec Shilo venerit. Hæc prædictio impleta sub Tito, in excidio reip. Judaicæ. Hanc veram esse applicationem hujus prædictionis non solum ostendit eventus, sed docet Christus in prædictione ruinæ Judaicæ reipublicæ, Matt. xxiv. 14, quam Deus ante dissolvi noluit, quâm novam inter gentes erexisset.” Medus.
Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord:" but, looking up to Jesus with the eye of faith, ye may join in that devout hymn of Zacharias : " Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people."
But, whilst we pity and lament the unhappy obdurateness of the Jews, let us be truly sensible of the blessings we enjoy through the tender mercy of our God, whereby the Day-spring from on high bath visited us. And, to set a just value upon the signal favours which heaven has vouchsafed us, we should take a transient view of the deplorable state of ignorance and error in which we, with the rest of the heathen nations, lay for many ages, having no hope and without God in the world. But, no sooner did the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, than his light was diffused over all the dark corners of the earth, and the door of faith was opened unto the Gentiles ; so that, in the space of forty years, the Gospel of Christ was preached to every nation under heaven,* and the first Christian emperor, Constantine, was crowned in this island. i But, the churches of the Gentiles did not long continue stedfast in the faith; for, in a few centuries, they were over-run with heresy and superstition, the man of sin, the son of perdition, being revealed ; and gross darkness covered the face of the Christian world till the dawn of the reformation, which, from the faintest glimmerings, gradually increased into a shining light, which shined more and more unto the perfect day; and this happy isle may exult in the language of the prophet; -“ Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." As, then, we are blessed, above all other nations, with a superior degree of illumination, we should let our light so shine before men, that they may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in heaven. Enjoying the glorious Gospel of Christ in its fullest puri
*.“ Hierosolymæ non vastapdæ erant ante perlatum per totum orbem Evangelium, sic providente Deo, ut Catechumeno priùs in doctrina Christi terrarum orbị insigne tandem testimonium de Christo exhiberetur; cum iram tam diram audirent omnes effùsam in urbem gentemque istam, à qua ile crucifixus est." Lightfoot.