And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord,…
The Magnificat is recognized, by the judgment and the heart of Christendom, as the noblest of Christian hymns.
1. It is in the third strophe of the hymn that Mary's feeling seems to attain its highest point of elevation. She has already referred in tender, solemn, and reserved language to the great things which God has done for her. And now she is, as it were, looking out across the centuries at the mighty religious revolution which would date from the appearance of her Divine Son on the scene of human history. She uses past tenses, because she reads off what she sees intuitively, as if it were already history. Gibbon felt the power of Mary's words, when, as he tells us in his autobiography, he sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol, while they were chanting the vesper service in what had once beta the Temple of Jupiter; and the idea of writing the Decline and Fall of the city first presented itself to his mind. That which met his eye was a comment on the language of the Magnificat, as it fell upon his ear: "He hath put down the mighty from their thrones." Pagan Rome was succeeded by Christian Europe; and since that astonishing revolution, the last clause of this strophe of Mary's song has been continually fulfilling itself. The old civilizations receive nothing, century after century, from the Master of the feast; while simple and comparatively rude peoples, such as the New Zealanders and the Melanesians, are brought into the fold of Christ, and filled with the good things of the everlasting gospel.
2. But while we may thus with fair probability connect these clauses of the Magnificat with successive stages in the history of the Church, it is unquestionable that they are or may be in course of fulfilment, at any one period and simultaneously; that each and all of them is or may be realized perfectly in every age. The "proud," the "mighty," the "rich" of the Incarnation hymn are always here; to be scattered by the arm of God; to be put down from their thrones; to be sent empty away. This is true in the private and spiritual, as well as in the political and public sphere. And the question arises, why is it true? Why is there this intrinsic antagonism between the revelation of God on the one hand, and so much that is characteristic of human nature and energy on the other? The answer is, that Christianity presupposes in man the existence of an immense want, which it undertakes to satisfy; and further, that this want is so serious and imperative, that all honest natures must crave for its satisfaction. Happy they who in this world experience the sentence of the Magnificat; in whom pride and self-reliance is put down from its seat, and spiritual hunger is rewarded; who discover ere it is too late that they are poor and blind and naked, and who take the Divine counsel to buy raiment and fine gold and eyesalve from the Son of Man.
3. It would be easy to show how intimately our prospects of improvement in all departments of human activity and life must depend upon our faith in the continuous fulfilment of the words of the Magnificat. The temper which is there fore-doomed is in reality the great obstacle to the attainment of our best hopes for the future.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,