Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. CHRIST IS TRULY HUMAN. It will be a great mistake if we so conceive of his Divinity as in any way to diminish our idea of his humanity. He was as true a man as if he had not been more than a man. The Divinity in him overflows the humanity, fills it and surrounds it, but does not destroy it. Christ is not a demi-god - half-way between man and God. Perfectly one with his Father on the Divine side of his nature, he is equally one with us on the human.
II. CHRIST HAS CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER MEN. He does not descend out of the sky like an angel, or suddenly appear at our tent-door as the "three men" appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:2). He comes in the line of a known household, and takes his place in the family tree. This family tree suggests kinship. A family is more than a collection of men, women, and children, more or less closely associated together like the grains of sand on the seashore. There is blood-relationship in it The solidarity of the human race makes one man to be the brother of all men. But the family relationship is even closer. Our Lord extends his own closest kinship to all who do the will of God (Matthew 12:50).
III. THE PAST LEADS UP TO CHRIST. He has his roots in the ages. Those dim, sorrowful years did not come and go in vain. They were all laying the foundation on which, in the fulness of time, God would build his glorious temple. Yet the men whose names are immortalized in this list knew not of their high destiny. We live for a future that is beyond our vision.
IV. CHRIST IS NOT ACCOUNTED FOR BY HIS ANCESTRY. Some people are proud of a noble pedigree. Yet it is possible to be the worthless scion of a glorious house, for families often degenerate. On the other hand, many of the best men have emerged out of obscurity. We may believe in "blood" to a certain extent, but heredity will not explain the most striking phenomena of human life. Most assuredly it will not explain the marvellous nature and character of Christ. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" (Job 14:4). Christ is not the product of such lives as those of his ancestors here given. His unique glory is not of this world, as a comparison of his life with his genealogy should show us.
V. CHRIST SUMS UP THE GLORIES OF THE PAST. All that is great and good in his ancestors is contained in Christ and surpassed by him.
1. The Jewish faith. Christ's pedigree goes back to Abraham, the friend of God; and in Christ Abraham's faith and piety are perfected, and the promises to Abraham are fulfilled.
2. The Jewish throne. Christ is David's heir. He inherits David's kingship anti he exceeds it, realizing in fact what David imperfectly foreshadowed in type. - W.F.A.
I. Matthew's purpose is to show that Jesus, after the flesh, was THE HEIR OF DAVID AND OF ABRAHAM, the true Inheritor of the promises and of the liabilities of Israel. At his birth instructed Israelites might exclaim, "Unto us a Son is born!" - one who entered into a family of broken fortune, but was able to redeem its fortunes; who came not to build up a competence for himself, but to accept the obligations of the family, and work out for it a full emancipation. It was also requisite that Jesus should be recognized as the Heir of David, as the promised ideal King of Israel
II. THE THREE TIMES FOURTEEN GENERATIONS, though artificial, did yet appeal to the Jewish mind as a symbol of the fulness of times. Of signs that the time was ripe for the birth of Christ there was no lack. The world had done as much as it was ever likely to do without the new influences Christ brought into it. No government had ever more at command for the regeneration of the world than Rome had. It enlightened policy, bold statesmanship, extensive dominion, could have abolished the world's woes, no more was required than Rome had given to the world. In Greece, culture had done its best; in the further East, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, had done all that human wisdom and purity could do to regulate the life and elevate the thoughts of men. The Jewish Law, Mosaism in all its departments, was also played out. It had yielded the utmost of benefit, and was now running to seed. A general feeling was stealing through many lands that the world needed help from above. Note, too, the preparation for the gospel in the spread of the Jews throughout the commercial world, the general prevalence of the Greek language, and the facility for intercourse afforded by the Roman government.
III. THE REASON OF THE LONG DELAY. At first sight one might suppose many good ends would have been served by Christ's appearing much earlier in the world's history. What prevented Christ from coming two thousand years before he did, and giving the world the advantage of two thousand years' more enjoyment of the best form of religion? Had Christ come as soon as the promise was given, the world would have been found unprepared for the gift, and unable to give it even that moderate welcome it afterwards found. The Law must first do its work, deepening the sense of duty, stirring conscience to an almost morbid activity, revealing the holiness of God, and showing men their lostness. The great gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise by preeminence, would not have been welcomed. God had to educate the world, as parents educate children, by alluring them onwards and by inconsiderable gifts teaching them gradually to long for the highest. He taught them to think of, to know, and to trust him by giving them what suited their condition and tastes; and so they learned by degrees to prize what he most highly esteemed - inward, spiritual prosperity.
IV. In our Lord's genealogy there is THE ORDINARY PROPORTION OF GOOD AND BAD PARENTAGE. Individuals are mentioned who would do no honour to any pedigree. The pride of birth which many of us feel would be abated were the whole ancestry from which we are sprung set down with biographies attached. We have only to go back far enough to find stain. Worse still, who can say what his own children shall be, and to what extent their disgrace is due to their inherited tendencies? Our Lord did not shun the contamination to which he was necessarily exposed by his true entrance into the human family.
1. Grace not hereditary. Fuller says, "Lord, I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely chequered with four remarkable changes in four immediate generations.
(1) Roboam begat Abia: that is, a bad father begat a bad son.
(2) Abia begat Asa: that is, a bad father a good son.
(3) Ass begat Josaphat: that is, a good father a bad son.
(4) Josaphat begat Joram: that is, a good father a good son.
I see, Lord, from hence that my father's piety cannot be entailed: that is bad news for me. But I see also that actual impiety is not always hereditary: that is good news for my son."
2. Relationship to Christ. The honour of being connected with Christ after the flesh. Yet even after he was born and seen among men this honour was not felt as we might expect; and at all events no special saving influence was exerted on the individuals composing his line of descent. Closer than every earthly tie is the spiritual relationship he announces in Matthew 12:50. - D.
biblion, or "book" (Matthew 19:7). So the "book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ" may be understood to describe the single skin on which the words immediately before us were originally written. Vitringa remarks that the expression concerning the "names" in the "book of life," in Revelation 3:5, alludes to the genealogical tables of the Jewish priests (see Ezra 2:62; Nehemiah 7:64), as the "white raiment" mentioned there does to the priestly dress.
I. THIS IS THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS AS THE CHRIST.
1. This is implied in his description. "The Son of David, the Son of Abraham."
(1) David had many sons. So had he very many descendants. Abraham had a still mole numerous posterity. But amidst all the sons of David and of Abraham Jesus is "the Son' (see Bishop Middleton, 'Gr. Art.,' p. 163),. So likewise is he "the Son of man. Here is a mark of surpassing excellence. In the whole human family there is no one to compare with him, personally, officially, relatively.
(2) These titles indicate him to be the Seed" promised in the covenant, and the Seed to whom also the blessings of the covenant are promised. God made his covenant "unto Abraham and his Seed." Mark, "not seeds, as of many; but as of one, which is Christ (Galatians 3:16). In him all the families of the earth are blessed.
2. To assert this is obviously the evangelists intention. So we understand his words, genealogy of Jesus the Christ.
(1) Jesus is the Antitype of all sacredly anointed persons - prophets, priests, kings. He alone united in himself all these offices.
(2) His anointing and Christship were of the Holy Ghost. The oil of anointing typified the Spirit of God.
(a) In its lustre. Hence the unction of the Holy One" is said to convey spiritual teaching and heavenly knowledge (1 John 2:20, 27).
(b) In its softening, mollifying, lubricating influences. So the oil of anointing is put for the graces of the Holy Spirit.
(c) Jesus was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows," viz. not only in the kited, but also in the degree. He received the Spirit "not by measure."
(3) How favoured are the sons of Jesus! They are through him the seed of the covenant (see Galatians 3:29). They are Christians, anointed ones, viz. in a spiritual and very noble sense (2 Corinthians 1:21).
II. THE PEDIGREE IS GIVEN FOR OUR BENEFIT.
1. Jesus had no personal glory from it.
(1) Some of the ancestors were princes of the aristocracy of Virtue - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, Zerubbabel. But Jesus himself was immeasurably superior to the best of them.
(2) Some were persons of sullied fame - Rehoboam, Abijah, Uzziah, Ahaz, Manasseh, Amon, Jechoniah. Note:
(a) Virtue does not run in the blood.
(b) Jesus appeared "in the likeness of sinful flesh."
(c) None are too vile to be saved by him.
2. To us it certifies his Messiahship.
(1) The patriarchs from David upwards were common ancestors of Joseph and Mary. The later patriarchs in this list were ancestors of "Joseph the husband of Mary," therefore here, of Jesus putatively, who was "supposed to be the Son of Joseph." Yet as the reputed or adopted Son of Joseph his title to the throne of David was valid.
(2) But that Jesus was also the Son of David in blood as well as in law is evident from the genealogy in Luke, which carries his line up through Mary. Joseph, whose lather was Jacob according to Matthew, is in Luke called "the son of Heli (viz. jure matrimonii) , in compliance with the Jewish custom of tracing all genealogies through males. Every way, then, whether by law or by blood, Jesus is proved to be the Son of David the king" (ver. 67, and entitled to the throne.
(3) In these genealogies there are difficulties which we are now in no position to solve. These, however, were no difficulties to the contemporaries of the evangelists, familiar with Hebrew customs and having access to the national records. It is too late, now the records are lost, for sceptics to make capital out of these difficulties.
(4) But, on the other hand, the records being lost, no pretender to Messiahship can now establish descent from David. Surely the Jews, who require this mark, should be convinced that Jesus, in whom alone it is found, is very Christ (cf. Matthew 12:23; Matthew 21:9; Matthew 22:447.
(5) He is the "Son of David" in the grandest sense, viz. that of being also David's Lord. Attributes of Divinity are ascribed by King David to the "King's Son" (see e.g. Psalm 72.), which by no pretence of "Oriental hyperbole" can be limited to Solomon. These superhuman claims, in which lie the source and secret of all the blessings of salvation, Jesus asserted for himself and fully vindicated.
3. It encourages the hope of the Gentiles.
(1) Significant of this gracious end, we notice that the seed of the covenant was conveyed through younger sons. Abraham himself was a younger son of Terah; so was Isaac of Abraham; so was Jacob of Isaac; so was Judah of Jacob. Phares and Zara are both mentioned in the genealogy, evidently to emphasize this principle; for here Pharos, the younger of the twins, was chosen. David likewise was a younger son of Jesse. And in the family of David, Solomon the ancestor of Joseph, and Nathan the ancestor of Mary, were both younger sons (cf. Luke 15:11-32; also Romans 9:12, 30).
(2) Note, further, that of the four women, beside the virgin, whose names are introduced, two were Gentiles, viz Rahab and Ruth
(3) "The children of the promise" whether Jew or Gentile, ever have been "counted for the seed." It was so in the family of Abraham. It is so in the family of Jesus (Galatians 3:29). Election is "through faith." The Old Testament begins with "the generation of the heartens and the earth;" the New, with the generation of him by whom they were created. The glory of the gospel exceeds not only that of the Law, but that also of the material world. Jesus, in his incarnation, became "the Beginning of the [new] creation of God." He is "the Firstborn of every creature," viz. the Head and Archetype of that new creation which is to consist of those who are "born again" of him. - J.A.M.
I. THE COMMON MISSION OF GENEALOGIES. Everybody does not jealously guard the family records. But some do. They are felt to be important:
1. When there is family property. This is illustrated in the case of the Israelites. The land of Canaan was divinely allotted to the families, and it was inalienable (see the year of jubilee, and Naboth's refusal to give up his garden). Any one claiming land in Canaan was bound to show the family register.
2. When there were class privileges. Illustrate by the inability of some, in the time of the restoration, to prove their priestly or Levitical connections. See the jealousy with which membership in Indian castes is preserved.
3. When any one becomes famous. At once we want to know who he is; what are his belongings; who are his "forbears. An idea that no man is a distinct and separate individual. We are all products. We all belong to the past. Those who have been live over again in their sons. So in a biography we always want to know a man's ancestry. Show that there is this common interest in Jesus, and it is fully met, and met in such a way as to secure a supreme interest in him.
II. THE SACRED MISSION OF GENEALOGIES. They become proofs of the Messiahship of Jesus. Prophecy fixed one condition. Messiah would belong to the royal house of David. Now, observe that during Christ's life this was never once disputed. The Sanhedrin kept the public archives; and though Herod the Great sought out and burnt all the family registers he could, the enemies of Christ never attempted to disprove his claim to belong to the royal race. Evidently the public genealogies confronted them and served this sacred purpose. Ulla, a rabbi of the third century, says, Jesus was treated in an exceptional way, because he was of the royal race." - R.T.
ἐν υἱῷ)." Sonship declaring Fatherhood in God is the very essence of the revelation in Christ. That point is illustrated in the genealogies in a very striking way. Jesus is set forth as the Son of David; he is more, he is the Son of Abraham; he is more, he is the Son of Adam; he is more, he is even the Son of God. If this seems to be less prominent in Matthew's descending genealogy, it is very prominent in Luke's ascending one. Putting all these Sonships together, we get the following impressions concerning the claims of Jesus.
I. HE WAS TRUE KING. "Son of David;" lineal descendant of King David. With actual, natural, legitimate right to the sovereignty of David's land. In our Lord's time there was no other claimant to David's throne. Herod would have made short work in dealing with any such claimant. He tried to destroy the Child-King Jesus. Jesus was David's legitimate and only Heir.
II. HE WAS TRUE JEW. "Son of Abraham." This was indeed involved in his being "Son of David," since David was a son of Abraham; but for the satisfaction of the Jews the Abrahamic descent is assured. "Salvation is of the Jews." Messiah must come in the Abrahamic line. He must be the "Seed of Abraham," in whom all nations of the earth are to be blessed.
III. HE WAS TRUE MAN. "Son of Adam." Luke, writing for Gentiles, goes beyond all Jewish limitations, and sets forth the true, proper, common humanity of Christ, and the interest of all humanity in him. For if "salvation is of the Jew," it is salvation for the whole world. "God so loved the world." Jesus belongs to the Jewish race, and that is important. He is the Crown and Flowering of that race. But Jesus belongs to humanity, and that is more important. He is the Hope of the human race; the "Life and Light of men."
IV. HE WAS DIVINE MAN. "Son of God." There is a sense in which this may be said of every man; there is a special sense in which it is said of Christ. He brings a new force of Divine life to start a new spiritual race, even as Adam had a special Divine life to start a human race. "In him was life." - R.T.
I. MAN'S WILFULNESS IS NOT ALLOWED TO HINDER. GOD'S PURPOSES. Marriage of Jews beyond the limits of the nation was strictly forbidden; and such marriages were a fruitful source of evil, as, is illustrated in the times of Balaam and of Nehemiah. We can clearly see man's wilfulness in the marriages of Rahab and Ruth, who were both foreigners, and worse than wilfulness in David's marrying Bathsheba. Such wilfulness we might expect would thwart the Divine purpose for the race; but instead, it was overruled. God's thought cannot be frustrated. If man resists, he will simply be borne along on the current of God's outworking purpose.
II. GOD LETS CHARACTER TRIUMPH OVER MERE RACE-DISABILITIES. This is illustrated in the cases of Rahab and Ruth, the fine illustrations of faith in God and of the loyalty of sincere love. That faith ennobled a Canaanite in the sight of God. That loyalty of love beautified a Moabite in the sight of God. And so our Lord taught that the humbled, penitent, believing "publicans and harlots' entered his kingdom rather than Abraham-born Jews, who had nothing to boast of but a pedigree.
III. GENTILES HAVE A CLEAR CLAIM TO THE BENEFITS OF MESSIAH'S WORK. They have an actual part in him. The blood of two Gentile mothers is in the Saviour of the world. The Gentiles need rest in no mere permission to share Jewish privilege: they can claim their rights in Jesus. He is "a Light to lighten the Gentiles." - R.T.
I. SUPERNATURAL ORIGIN OF THE HUMAN NATURE OF OUR LORD. He who came to be a new Head and Source of life to humanity could scarcely be the product of the old stock. All other men have sprung from Adam; all that has appeared in humanity is the evolution of what was in the first man. No new blood has been infused into the race. But in Christ a new beginning is made. As a matter of fact, he has never been accounted for by natural causes. His distinctive character among men requires an unusual, exceptional origin. "If by close historical scrutiny or critical questioning we fail to resolve the miraculous character of Jesus - the ultimate fact of Christianity - into the common, known elements of our human nature; if the laws of heredity prove insufficient to explain his generation; then the further question will at once arise whether there may not be other than natural elements present in human history which come to their perfect flower in Jesus of Nazareth? whether we may not find in the laws and forces of a supernatural evolution the sufficient explanation of his miraculous Person?" Expand by showing how neither Hebrew nor Gentile influences account for Jesus, and by showing the originality of the character and plan of Jesus, his sinlessness, his authority, his self-assertion.
II. THE TRUE HUMANITY OF JESUS. The Son of God did not come and assume for a year or two the appearance of a man in his prime. He was born a human Child, as truly human as any of us, with all human appetites, necessary emotions, and liabilities. Human birth ushers human beings into an existence out of which they cannot retire. So it was with our Lord. He lived under the limitations and restrictions which necessarily attend human nature. His was a real humanity. "He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one." We think of him as for the most part a spectator marking the conduct of others and caring for them, but having no righteousness of his own to maintain and continue. We are very conscious of the difficulties of the sanctified, but are apt to forget that he who sanctifies had the same temptations and the same difficulties. He as well as they had to watch and pray, to cry for aid and for relief, to put from him the views of the world which tempted him to abandon his high purpose. Miraculous birth is not necessarily an incarnation of God. But no miraculous birth recorded in the Bible was produced similarly to this. And the preparation thus made for the Incarnation is obvious. The mode of the Incarnation, as well as much else regarding it, is obscure; but it rosy be right to point here to one or two of its chief lessons or results.
1. Jesus is a Divine Person. That self which has ever been the same in all its acts is Divine. He may act now through his human nature - eating, sleeping, dying - or he may act through his Divine nature; but he who does so is not a man, but God the Son. What we find in Christ is God furnishing himself with a human body, mind, and soul, through and in which he as truly lives and works as through and in his Divine nature. Being the same Person after his incarnation as before, he took our nature "that he might taste death for every man;" that he might, that is, he who was already existing before he became Man. His Divine nature could not die, but he means to taste death, and therefore takes a nature which can suffer death. In that death on the cross no person died but the Son of God.
2. Another lesson of the Incarnation, if not of the Nativity, is too important to overlook. If we would learn how to benefit our fellow-men, we must study our Lord's method. Looking upon us who were infinitely beneath him, and desiring to bring us up more nearly to his level, he saw that the way to do so was to become one of us; to come among us and share with us in all but sin. There is probably more in this example than we are always willing to admit. We speak of raising the masses. One would take Christ's way of doing so who should himself become a sharer in their condition; who should give up his own pleasant, healthy residence and live among those he desires to benefit; who should give up his own lucrative profession and engage in the same kind of labour they are engaged in; who should put himself, with his education, his right views of what life should and might be, at their disposal; and should thus be among them a continua[ example and help. He would thus make their wrongs his own wrongs, and as he raised himself raise his class. - D.
I. THAT JOSEPH IS A CREDIBLE WITNESS.
1. He was a righteous man.
(1) This is the character claimed for him by Matthew at a time when, if it were not a fact, it might have been challenged; for Joseph was well known (see Matthew 13:55; Luke 4:22; John 6:42). According to Eusebius, this Gospel was written in the third year of Caligula, i.e. A.D. 41, when many of Joseph's contemporaries were still living.
(2) Everything recorded of Joseph is consistent with this character. It is in particular well sustained by his conduct towards Mary, under the trying circumstances detailed in the text. He might have prosecuted her for adultery (see Deuteronomy 22:23, 24). But he had an option of mercy, which he preferred. He resolved accordingly "to put her away privily," viz. by giving her, in presence of two witnesses, a bill of divorcement, without assigning any cause (see Deuteronomy 24:1). Thus her life would be spared. Note:
(a) True righteousness is merciful. Of this the gospel of our salvation furnishes glorious illustration.
(b) Leniency devoid of justice is not true mercy. The terrors of the Lord," as well as those of the Law, are necessary to the public good of the universe.
(3) As a righteous man Joseph could not be guilty of falsehood. This must hold under ordinary conditions, but especially in this case, where the subject of testimony is momentous, involving everlasting issues.
2. He was a sensible man.
(1) He certainly was not over-credulous, else he might have listened without demurrer to Mary's story. There is no mention here of Gabriel's message to Mary (see Luke 1:26-38). The omission suggests that Matthew's design was to bring out prominently the evidence of Joseph. Yet that Mary had communicated these things to Joseph may be reasonably presumed. She made no secret of them (see Luke 1:46-55).
(2) There were not wanting good reasons by which he might have been inclined to listen to this wonderful story.
(a) He had sufficient knowledge of Mary's previous piety to have disposed him to credit her testimony; but the circumstances are unprecedented, and he is not satisfied.
(b) He had the testimony of Elisabeth (see Luke 1:39-56), which was weighty when taken in connection with the vision of Zacharias, the remarkable event of the Baptist's birth, and Zacharias's prophecy (see Luke 1:67-79). Still, he was not satisfied. Note: Never was mother so honoured and so tried as Mary. Let not those who aspire to honours think to escape trials. As Mary suffered with Christ and for his sake, so shall we if Christ be formed in us (cf. Acts 5:41; Acts 9:16; Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29).
3. He had the best opportunities of knowledge.
(1) As espoused to Mary he was in the best position to be acquainted with the matter of her testimony.
(2) He was therefore in the best position to he convinced by the complementary evidence furnished in the vision vouchsafed to himself.
(3) Of this vision he was, of course, a first-rate witness, for he was himself the subject of it.
II. THAT HIS TESTIMONY IS VERY VALUABLE.
1. Because of the importance of the subject.
(1) The subject is stupendous. The incarnation of Deity in human nature. "Immanuel."
(2) Such an event must be of the utmost moment to humanity. It presages the beatification of humanity. In this all "partakers of flesh and blood" must have the deepest interest.
(3) This is wonderful news for sinners. And such are we all. Note: Not only was the incarnation of Jehovah necessary for redemption, but faith in Jesus as Jehovah is necessary for salvation. The very name of Jesus associates Jehovah and salvation (cf. Acts 3:16; Acts 4:10; Acts 9:14; Romans 10:13).
2. Because of the nature of its authentication.
(1) An angel appeared to Joseph. Superhuman intelligence alone could reveal the subject.
(2) He appeared to him in a dream. Not an ordinary, but a Divine, dream. Such dreams carried with them convincing evidence. Else they could not serve their purpose (cf. Numbers 12:6; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; 1 Samuel 28:6, 15; Joel 2:28). The evidence was convincing to Joseph. It reassured him of the innocence of Mary, and certified the truth of her wonderful story. It let in also the evidence of Elisabeth in its full force. The whole was confirmed by the correspondence of prophetic times, which had now awakened a general expectation.
(3) The sequel proved that Joseph was not misled.
(a) He had the "sign" that Mary should "bring forth a Son." God alone could certainly forecast this.
(b) That Son was to support the character of a Divine Saviour of sinners. Who but God could have foreseen that this Child would ever claim to be such a Saviour, much less that he should behave miraculously consistently with that most difficult and lofty claim?
3. Because of its consistency with Scripture.
(1) The miracle of the virgin-mother was a prominent subject of ancient prophecy.
(a) It dawned in the first promise (Genesis 3:15), that the "Seed of the woman," viz. without the man - the issue therefore of a virgin - should "bruise the serpent's head."
(b) It is explicitly set forth by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) in the passage cited in the text. Here we note the definite article - not "a virgin," but "the virgin (העלמה)." One only such occurrence was ever to take place.
(2) Another notable circumstance is that, according to Isaiah, the house of David was not to fair until this wonder should be accomplished. The sign was given expressly to reassure that house, now fearing extinction, when, after the slaughter perpetrated by Pekah, Judah was again invaded by Rezin. But, excepting in Jesus, the family of David is now difficult to trace. Surely this ought to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ. The certainty of our faith is established by many infallible proofs. Unreasonableness is with unbelief.
III. THE HAND OF GOD IS EVIDENT IN THE HISTORY.
1. Wisely ordered was the espousal of Mary to Joseph, not only to give value to his testimony, but also to shield the reputation of the virgin, and to afford her and her infant a needful earthly guardianship. Note: A providence that is equal to all emergencies may well be trusted by Christians.
2. It is also a significant circumstance that Jesus received his name at the time of his circumcision. To give the name at such a time was the common custom (Luke 1:59, 60). But in this case the name of Jesus was most appropriately given when that blood was first shed without which there is no remission of sins. The sign of circumcision had its perfect accomplishment in the shedding of the blood of the covenant upon the cross.
3. This Name, with its reason, are a blessed revelation. There is no salvation but from sin. Sin carries its own punishment. The removal of sin is the remission of punishment. Infinite mercy can only save sinners from punishment by saving them from sin.
4. Jesus becomes incarnate again in every regenerate spirit. The reconciliation of the human to the Divine was first effected in the Person of Christ. As Christ is formed in us we become reconciled to God. Christ grows up in us as we grow up into him. The life of faith is a life of miracle. - J.A.M.
how these things were done, but the mystery eludes all human explanations. In the whole circle of causes yet searched out by man, there are none which help us to trace the mystery. We ask why, and then for us the mystery of wisdom and grace is allowed to unfold a little. Two influences affected the truth of the Incarnation in the time of the apostles - Judaism tended to overpress the mere humanity of Christ; Gnosticism tended to dissipate the humanity into a mere appearance.
I. ON WHAT PRINCIPLE is THE INCARNATION FOUNDED. It is essentially a revelation, and it rests upon the principle that man can only be taught the truth concerning God, and saved from his sins, by a revelation. Man is made a moral being by receiving a revelation of the will of God. Man is redeemed by receiving a revelation of the-mercy of God. What man precisely needs is a revelation of God's character; it must be shown to him in human spheres. That is the Incarnation, "God manifest in the flesh."
II. WHAT FORM DID THE INCARNATION TAKE? We may gain the best ideas by noticing what it was not.
1. God did not put on the mere appearance of humanity. This was the error of the Docetae. To correct this the evangelists give details of our Lord's birth into veritable humanity.
2. God did not assume to himself a human body. That is, he did not find a human body, and come into it, as the hermit-crab will find, and enter into, an empty shell. Scripture says he was made man.
3. God did not take any particular class or kind of humanity. He was just the world's Babe, the world's Man. - R.T.
within things, out of sight, in the spheres of thought and feeling, he is spoken of as God the Spirit, or God the Ghostly. The Old Testament is full of statements concerning the working of God's Spirit in creation; in the antediluvians; in the kings; in the prophets. God works in the created spheres in two ways.
1. In external spheres, and in modes apprehensible by human senses.
2. In internal spheres, and in modes apprehensible by the feeling, the mind, and the will. God's secret workings are to be regarded as the operations of his Spirit. So the mysterious putting forth of Divine power in the case of Mary is properly presented as the working of the Holy Ghost.
I. GOD WORKING IN THE MINDS OF MEN IS THE UNIVERSAL TRUTH OF. THE HOLY GHOST. This belongs exclusively to no one age, to no one dispensation, to no one race. To the heathen God is the "great Spirit." "Moved by thee, the prophets wrote and spoke." There is this "inspiration of the Almighty which giveth understanding," as the common heritage of the race; and special forms it takes, within Jewish lines, only illustrate the universal forms it takes for all humanity.
II. GOD USING, AS HIS AGENCY, THE LIFE AND WORDS AND WORKS OF JESUS, IS THE SPECIAL CHRISTIAN TRUTH OF THE HOLY GHOST. So Jesus said, "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you;" "He shall... bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." The Holy Ghost of the early Church is the Holy Spirit of the Church of all the ages, only his instruments are precise; his agency is limited. He works through the outer revelation which has been brought to men by Christ, and is given to men in Christ. - R.T.
privily his espoused wife rather than at once make a public example of what would too probably soon become a public scandal. And again, whether his intention to do this privily savoured most of regard for public advantage, or of self regard, or of regard for the supposed erring woman. From our point of view, any approach to the casuistical may be safely dispensed with. But in place thereof, we may fitly make this verse the occasion for inquiring what are some of the determining or guiding considerations which may be held to justify the disposition to shield human fault, sin, fall, rather than to expose it. We are on the safe side -
I. WHEN WE SEEK TO SHIELD A PERSON, THE SINNER, FROM PUBLIC EXPOSURE RATHER THAN SAY A WORD, EITHER TO HIMSELF OR TO THE PUBLIC, IN THE NATURE OF EXTENUATING THE SIN.
II. WHEN WE SEEK TO SHIELD ANOTHER RATHER THAN ONE'S SELF.
III. WHEN WE SEEK TO SHIELD THE PERSON WHO, EITHER BY NATURE OR BY INDIVIDUAL TEMPERAMENT, WOULD TAKE DISPROPORTIONATE SUFFERING; as, e.g.:
1. A woman, in anything that especially concerns the nature of woman.
2. Or any one whose known sensitiveness would render him liable to abnormal suffering.
IV. WHEN WE SEEK TO SHIELD FROM EXPOSURE CERTAIN KINDS OF SIN, VIZ. THOSE WHICH UNIVERSAL OBSERVATION TELLS US DO IN THE VERY ANNOUNCEMENT OF THEM SERVE TO EXCITE UNHEALTHY INTEREST, PRURIENT CURIOSITY. In not a few cases, notoriety undoubtedly attracts instead of deterring. It attracts also not in mere morbid and exceptional cases, but in virtue of a fascination not indeed otherwise explainable, but very easily explained when some of the radical vice of human nature is confessed. In the present instance, it is to be understood by the reverent reader of the history that Joseph, as a just man," felt he had no choice but
(1) to put away the woman who seemed to have erred;
(2) to put her away privily, in order to avoid both public scandal as far as possible and unadvisable aggravation of her and his own feelings. The justifiableness of qualifications of this kind is amply illustrated by the conduct of Christ himself, alike in the instance of the woman "taken in adultery," and in that of Mary Magdalene. - B.
I. THE JUST MAN WANTS TO DO THE RIGHT. But it is always difficult to decide what is right when other people are affected by our decision. When we have to judge the conduct of others we easily make mistakes. We judge as if persons acted from the motives which decide our action. It was easy for Joseph to explain Mary's conduct, and see quite sufficient ground for refusing any further relations with her. And in forming judgment on such grounds, he would have been altogether wrong, and he would have unworthily dealt with Mary. She was no wilful sinner; she had only come into the sovereign power and grace of God. In trying to be just there is grave danger of our becoming most unjust. See Eli's suspicion of Hannah.
II. THE JUST MAN WANTS TO DO THE KIND. Noble-minded men let mercy tone judgment. Ignoble-minded men love to persecute, and call it punishment. Charity hideth sin; is jealous concerning imperilled reputation; and suffers most deeply when punishment must be inflicted. So God's mercy loves to rejoice over judgment. - R.T.
Genesis 20:3-7), of Laban (Genesis 31:24), of Pharaoh's butler and baker (Genesis 40:5-19), of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:1 7), of the Midianite (Judges 7:13-15), of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1, 31; Daniel 4:5, 8), of the Wise Men (Matthew 2:11, 12), of Pilate's wife (Matthew 27:19). But it is not true of Jacob (Genesis 28:12; Genesis 31:10), of Joseph (Genesis 37:5-9), of Solomon (1 Kings 3:5-15), of Daniel (Daniel 7.), or of Joseph (Matthew 1:20, 21; Matthew 2:13, 19, 20). It is said that communication by dreams is the lowest form of revelation, because it deals with man when the senses and the will are asleep, and the panorama of the contents of the mind keeps passing, and there is no intelligent selection and arrangement of them. Dreams are much regarded in heathen religions. They are very sparingly used in the Jehovah-religion; and all Divine directions, whether by dreams or otherwise, are dependent upon the inward earnestness and sincerity of the heart. Perhaps it may be said that God used dreams in revealing his will to those who were not specially sensitive to spiritual things. Poets, prophets, mystics, see visions. Common men, or men in ordinary moods and conditions of mind, dream dreams, which God fills with meaning. See how far this is illustrated in the several cases mentioned above. Note that Joseph takes no place as a prophet or specially gifted or spiritual man; and therefore what may be called the commonplace mode of Divine communication was employed in his case.
I. DREAMS ARE USUALLY WITHOUT SIGNIFICANCE. They represent the workings of the mind apart from the control of the will. They may or may not be connected. They may or may not be remembered. They bear no relation to character or culture. They can only nourish superstition if unduly regarded.
II. DREAMS ARE SOMETIMES FULL OF DIVINE SIGNIFICANCE. NO sphere of man's life can be thought of as beyond God's control and use. He can be the will that guides, shapes, arranges, our dreams, so that they shall convey to us some message from him. He has done this. He still does this. Though his working in us, by the movings and guidings of the Holy Ghost, makes special and external forms of revelation seldom, if ever, necessary. - R.T.
I. THE MAIN MISSION OF CHRIST IS TO SAVE. His work may be regarded in many lights, fie is the great Teacher. His kingly throne is set up, and he has come to rule over us. In daily life he is the "Friend that sticketh closer than a brother." But before all he is the Saviour. This comes first, as the personal name "Jesus" comes before the official title "Christ." It is of his very nature to save. He cannot teach or rule or cheer us effectually until he has saved us. Now, this is the unique glory of Christ. Nature destroys the weak and cherishes the strong. Christ has pity on failure; he comes to rescue from ruin. Wherever there is distress or danger there he finds his peculiar sphere of activity.
II. THE GREAT EVIL FROM WHICH CHRIST SAVES IS SIN. Other evils are also removed. But they are of but a secondary character, and are not worthy to be named in comparison with this dark and direful curse of mankind. When once sin is mastered and cast out, it will be an easy work to expel the secondary troubles of life. For the most part they are the consequences of this monstrous evil, and will depart with it. At all events, we shall be stronger to bear those that remain when the heart-paralysis of moral evil is cured. The last thing that many people want from Christ is to be saved from their sin. They would be glad to be delivered from its pains and penalties, but the thing itself they love and have no wish to abandon. For them there is no salvation. Christ aims at the sin first of all. He treats it as man's deadly foe. For those who feel its weight, here is the very essence of the gospel - What we cannot do for ourselves by resolution and effort he can do for us, if we will open our hearts and let him in. Take this literally. He can save us from our own sins - our defects of character, evil habits, bad temper, vices.
III. THIS SALVATION IS FOR CHRIST'S PEOPLE. Here is a limitation. It must not be forgotten that the Gospel of St. Matthew was written for Jews. Christ's first mission was to "save the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Yet no one who reads the New Testament throughout can doubt that the limitation is not final. The Jew was only to have the first offer of salvation. He was to be invited in to the feast that he might afterwards go out and introduce others. Now the message is that Christ "is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him" (Hebrews 7:25). Yet the specification of "his people" has still an important meaning. Christ is not only the Saviour at the entrance of the Christian life, but throughout its course. The people of God are not perfect; daily they commit new sins, and Christ is their daily Saviour. Not only at the moment of regeneration, but through the long and often sadly stained Christian life, we need Christ to save from sins that still beset us. - W.F.A.
first, in foreguarding Israel and, so to say, the world so early from mistake as to the character of their coming Saviour, Hope, King; and, secondly, in guiding Israel from the very first to understand that whatever breadth, height, scope, might belong to the salvation of the Saviour who was to be, it could in the first instance only be attained through men becoming extricated from sin. The keynote of the mission and of the very character of the Christ was ordained to be sounded in his Name. It is sounded in this name Jesus. It was announced before his appearance. It was wonderfully illustrated during some years preceding his disappearance from earth. And from that to this, the most significant of the world's history has been a constantly accumulating testimony to the truthfulness of the Name. Notice now this Name under the following simple aspects.
I. FOR THE LARGE PROFESSION THAT LIES IN IT IN CHALLENGING THE TEST OF WHAT IT WOULD PRACTICALLY DO. The Name challenges universal observation, but also universal judgment. And the facilities for exercising and pronouncing that judgment are great. They are ready to hand. The Name says that he who owns it wills to be judged by what he shall do.
II. FOR THE LARGE PROFESSION THAT LIES IN IT IN RESPECT OF THE UNLIMITED ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE SAVING. The saving in question, whatever it be, does not save itself by any qualification of the direction, the extent, the length of time, in which its efficacy should be found good. "Thou shalt call his Name Jesus. Although it is added, for he shall save his people from their sins," we know that statement to be as broad, comprehensive, unlimited as the Name itself - Savior.
III. FOR THE LARGE PROFESSION THAT LIES IN IT OF UNSELFISHNESS. To save is to do something for others, at all events, as the word applies here. And to "spend and be spent" thus, unasking anything for self, is the essence of unselfishness.
IV. FOR THE NOVELTY AND UNIQUENESS OF IT, THE ABOVE THREE THINGS BEING GRANTED. Nothing had approached it before in the world's whole history.
V. FOR THE CONSISTENT, UNDEVIATING, AND UNCEASING ILLUSTRATION GIVEN TO IT BY THE WHOLE EARTHLY LIFE OF CHRIST. All of it spoke the Saviour, and not least so certainly when it spoke the destroyer of destruction, the forerunning of the destruction of the destroyer.
VI. FOR THE YET MORE WONDERFUL ILLUSTRATION GIVEN TO IT IN THE LONG, THE CALM, THE STILL-LASTING, THE EVERLASTING LEGACY OF THAT LIFE. That legacy is ever speaking:
1. Pre-eminently the Saviour, as compared with everything else either great or good. such as the Teacher, or the Example.
2. The Saviour, as distinguished from one who does, yet does but little.
3. The Saviour, as one all of whose workings are those of light, of advance, and of enduring good. - B.
I. THE MESSIANIC NAMES TREATED AS TWO.
1. Take the prophetic name "'Immanuel," or "Emmanuel." The secondary reference of the prophecy in Isaiah is to the Messiah; the first reference is to some one who should deliver the nation from its immediate troubles (see Commentary on Isaiah 7:14). The name carried the assurance "God is with us." But that assurance involved more than the fact of Divine presence. If God is near, he is near to help. If God manifests himself, he manifests himself to deliver and to save. Christ, then, is "God with us," sensibly present, manifest in the flesh. With us he is active to help and save.
2. Take the angel-given name "Jesus." This is a common Jewish name. It is the Greek form of the familiar "Joshua;" but it has a significance and a history. It is really Hoshea, or Hoshua, "the Helper," with the name of God added as a prefix, Je-hoshua, shortened to Joshua. So it means in full, "God our Helper. But, in the dream, a very full translation of the name was given. It was said to declare Messiah's mission to be saving the people from their sins," and "from their sins" is designedly set in contrast with "from their troubles," so that the moral and spiritual character of the mission should be made quite plain.
II. THE MESSIANIC NAMES TREATED AS ONE. Take the simple meaning of "Jesus," Je-hoshua; it is "God with us helping." But that is precisely the thought embodied in "Emmanuel," which is "God with us," and the connection declares that God is thought of as with us to help us. Then the same mission is declared in both names. It is the fact that our supreme need arises out of our sins that decides the sphere of the Divine helping. - R.T.
I. AN INDEPENDENT REVELATION IS INCONCEIVABLE. If God is pleased to work by revelations, we may be quite sure that those revelations are related; and we expect them to be given in an ascending scale; the roots of all later revelations are sure to be found in the earlier ones. An independent revelation is at once stamped with suspicion. If its connections cannot be shown, its trustworthiness may be denied. True revelations had been given to the Jews. New revelations must confirm their truth, and be their unfolding. Conceive what would have been said if Jesus had appeared making independent claim as Messiah, heedless of all connection between his revelation and preceding ones. Without hesitation we say that, in such a case, his claim could not have been justified. "The Scripture must be fulfilled."
II. AN ANTAGONISTIC REVELATION MUST BE REJECTED. It would have been the all-sufficing answer for the Pharisees, if only they could have given it - Scripture is opposed to the claims of this Jesus of Nazareth. But they never dared attempt to prove antagonism between his revelation and the previous one. Disciples and apostles, and even our Lord himself in his teachings, fully combat the idea of antagonism. He came "not to destroy the Law and the prophets, but to fulfil." He was able, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets," to expound "in all the Scripture the things concerning himself." "To him give all the prophets witness." - R.T.
Isaiah 7:14); but the fitness of their application to Christ, now that he has come to fill in their meaning, makes the first use of them of small moment to us. For us they are a description of the birth and nature of our Lord.
I. THE VIRGIN-BIRTH. We may be sure that it was not in order to throw any discredit on the sanctity of marriage that God so ordered it that his Son should be born from a virgin, The New Testament honours marriage as truly as the Old Testament; and St. Paul, who is sometimes regarded as unfriendly to it, describes it as like the union of Christ with his Church. What, then, is the significance of the virgin-birth?
1. A mystery. It is right and reasonable that he who comes from the bosom of the Father should enter this world under circumstances that we cannot understand. Nevertheless, we may see to some extent what this means.
2. A miracle. Men of science have pointed out that this miracle is not so difficult to believe in as many others, because parthenogenesis is known in nature, though it is not found among men. Here, then, is something beyond the range of what happens in human experience, yet according to the known working of God in other spheres.
3. A holy birth. This is not the case because virginity is in any way more holy than marriage. Nevertheless, it has occurred to many that possibly the transmission of seeds of evil may have been avoided by this miracle. At all events, we know the fact that Christ was perfectly pure and stainless from his birth.
II. THE DIVINE NATURE. The human name of our Lord is "Jesus" - a name that describes his work on earth. His prophetic name is "Immanuel," one that reveals the deeper mystery of his mission.
1. The fact. In Jesus Christ we see the union of God and man. God is no longer a distant Being seated on his throne above the heavens. He has descended to this earth. It is difficult to think of God as the Infinite One who inhabits eternity; the very idea is so vast that it seems to melt away into vagueness. It is intangible; we cannot lay hold of it. But Christ we can see and understand. In Christ God looks at us with human eyes, speaks to us in an earthly tongue, touches us with a brother's hand. That this is so we can believe, not because we are informed of the doctrine of the Incarnation on authority, but just because, when we come to know Christ for ourselves, we can see God in him.
2. The grace. This great truth lies at the foundation of the gospel. All Christianity is built on the Incarnation. Although men may deliver one another from minor ills, only God can save from sin. Therefore, if Jesus is a Saviour in the deepest sense of the word, he must be God as well as man. But this is only one side of the subject, he must be also "God with us" - as the Fathers represented it, the hand of God outstretched. He saves us by bringing God into us. - W.F.A.
immediate future of both itself and of the other predicted Name - their main truth, their minute accuracy. The reminiscence of prophecy, and the quotation of prophetic language now before us, are the appropriate, the natural sequel of the historic announcement of the incarnation and superhuman origin of Christ; and they are the appropriate anticipation of the illustrious career of the Saviour-Christ. Notice -
I. THE CONNECTION PRECLUDES THE EXPLANATION OF A MERE METAPHORIC OR A MERE SPIRITUAL MEANING AS THAT WHICH SHOULD JUSTLY ATTACH TO THIS DESCRIPTION' OF CHRIST. The Name is given clearly in closest connection with the statement that one who was still a virgin should conceive and bring forth a son. Truly enough, there are a hundred things in which God shall be said to be "with man." But it is no one of those hundred ways now. It is one that takes precedence of them all.
II. THAT THE FACT ONCE GRANTED OF THE MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION OF CHRIST OFFERS FOR OUR THOUGHT THE DEEP NECESSITY OF SUCH KIND OF UNION, SUCH REALITY OF UNION OF "GOD WITH MAN" FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE REDEMPTION OF MAN. There must be a certain kind of presence of God with man. The nature of that presence is all-important. All that is most distinctive in what we may call the revelation and the genius of the New Testament really hinges hereupon. Though probably all figures ought to be ruled incompetent to this great, this astounding fact, yet perhaps we shall not stray if we put it thus - that the Incarnation was a literal and a veritable graft of the Divine upon the human nature. Its object was at least twofold.
1. To bring a literal Presence into this world, and partly of this world, which otherwise would certainly in no course of things be here; One which should be a certain incomparable Sight, a certain incomparable Sound, a certain paramount Example among men. From that Presence would come, and come in streams, forces of new impression, of light, of conviction, of surprise, otherwise unattainable; no comet of heavenly bodies in the sky a millionth part so fruitful of impression and so intrinsically attracting, as this unsurpassed comet of real Divine nature within earth's humble range.
2. To bring that Presence into this world to execute one supreme, incomparable task. The motto, nay, the very key-note of the new song of this whole world is heard in the word "atonement." And though this be not the place to go beyond the statement of the fact, that fact is that "God with man" alone found "the proper Man" (Luther's hymn) able, willing, to meet the crisis, to suffer the suffering, to master the problem, and to atone. - B.