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from the condescension and compassion of our most adorable Redeemer may be bestowed upon
St. Matthew records, 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 details more particularly the circumstances which attended this event. He says that the angel Gabriel was sent from God to Nazareth, and came to Mary, and said to her, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. This salutation astonished and disturbed her. She could not conceive the meaning of it. He proceeded to ease her troubled mind by saying, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast favour with God.1 The greatest favour, the highest honour that was ever conferred upon woman, was to be granted to her; an honour of which she had not the slightest idea that it could have been allotted to her in the counsels of Divine wisdom. How great then must have been her surprise, when the angel added, 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
1 Luke i. 28, 30.
David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Having heard with surprise, and doubtless with delight also, that she was to be the highly-favoured mother of the long-expected Messiah, she ventured to ask the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? and therefore it could not take place in the common course of nature, unless she should first be married to the person to whom she was betrothed. 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. When this wonderful intelligence had been communicated to her, Mary meekly replied, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.
Shortly afterwards she went into Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; where she remained about three months before she returned home. It is to be presumed that Joseph was not acquainted with what had happened, until Mary returned to Nazareth; when she appeared to be in a state that was unbecoming the character of a pure virgin. Our Evangelist relates that then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to
2 Luke i. 31-35, 38.
Lord appeared to him in
make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. As he was a just man, his regard for his own character compelled him to separate himself from a person, who, he had reason to suppose, had acted unfaithfully towards him. But as he was a humane man, and had a kindness for her as his intended wife, he was unwilling to expose her to the world as one who had broken her promise of fidelity to him. His mind was greatly perplexed on the subject, whether to believe the account which she gave him of the circumstances that had taken place, or not. But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the 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. This Divine admonition silenced all his doubts and fears, and raised in his estimation the character of the person to whom he had been espoused. She had been doubtless assured in her own mind previously, that He who had so highly favoured her, would vindicate her honour in the sight of her future husband. And she found that in due time this was done effectually. And it may be observed that the wisdom of God appeared in providing a person of Joseph's upright character to be the protector of His servant Mary in her peculiar condition. This
prevented all kind of malicious surmises which evil-disposed persons might have circulated respecting her. Those who were unacquainted with her, did not know but that her first-born son was the son of Joseph, for so He was afterwards called. And he, after this Divine admonition, did not fear to take her in due time to be his wife; which it appears he did, as they were living together when Jesus was twelve years of age.
When the angel had mentioned to Joseph the cause of Mary's being with child, the same direction was given respecting the name whereby He was to be called, when He should be born, as had been before given to Mary; She shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS. And here the reason of this name being given to Him was added; for He shall save His people from their sins. This is a most important declaration, as it makes known to us the purpose for which our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world; which led the Apostle to say, This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.3
The Evangelist, having related the Divine admonition given to Joseph, shows that a prophecy of the Old Testament was accomplished by the
31 Timothy i. 15.
birth of Jesus. 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. This prophecy is taken from the seventh chapter of Isaiah, the first Lesson for the Evening's Service on Christmas day. Here we learn that JESUS and EMMANUEL are words of the same import. As the latter means God with us; the former means JAH, OF JEHOVAH, the Saviour. If Joseph had hesitated, before this vision appeared to him, with regard to the manner in which he should act towards her to whom he had been betrothed, his mind was now relieved from all its cause of anxiety. Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. He now conceived it to be an honour to be united to one who had been
so highly favoured of God. But though she had the human protection and countenance of this just man to shield her from malice and misrepresentation, he acted towards her as it became a just man to act in her circumstances; he knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born Son. He considered her until that time to be a sacred vessel, which was to be