Luke 1:12
A very beautiful picture, though on a very small canvas, is here painted; it is a picture of domestic piety. As we think of Zacharias and Elisabeth spending their long life together in the service of Jehovah, attached to one another and held in honor by all their kindred and friends, we feel that we have before our eyes a view of human life which has in it all the elements of an excellent completeness.

I. THE DOMESTIC BOND. Here we have conjugal relationship in its true form; established in mutual respect; justified and beautified by mutual affection; made permanently happy by common affinities and common aims; elevated and consecrated by the presence of another and still nobler bond - that of a strong and immovable attachment to God. A human life is quite incomplete without such tender ties of God's own binding, and these ties are immeasurably short of what they were meant to be if they are not enlarged and ennobled by the sanctities of religion.

II. HUMAN AND DIVINE ESTIMATION. These two godly souls enjoyed the favor of their Divine Father and of their human friends and neighbors: "They were both righteous before God," and they were "blameless" in the sight of men. God accepted them, and man approved them. He to whom they were responsible for all they were and did saw in them, as he sees in all his children, the imperfections which belong to our erring and struggling humanity; but he accepted their reverence and their endeavor to please and to obey him, forgiving their shortcomings. And their kindred and their friends recognized in them those who were regulating their life by God's holy will, and they yielded to them their fullest measure of esteem. No human life is complete without the possession of these two things:

(1) the favor of the living God; and

(2) the esteem of those amongst whom we live.

To walk in the shadow of conscious estrangement from God, to miss the sweet sunshine of his heavenly favor, - this is to darken our life with a continual curse, this is to bereave ourselves of our purest joy and most desirable heritage. And while some of the very noblest of our race, following thus in the footsteps of the Master himself, have borne, in calm and heroic patience, the obloquy of the ignorant and the malice of the evil-minded, yet it is our duty, and it should be our desire and aspiration, so to walk in rectitude and in kindness that men will bless us in their hearts, will esteem us for our integrity, will hold us in their affection. The man who "wears the white flower of a blameless life" is the man who will be a power for good in the circles in which he moves.

III. SACRED SERVICE. It may be questionable whether any distinction is intended between "ordinances" and "commandments;" but there can be no question at all that both together cover religious observances and moral obligations. The Law which these two faithful souls obeyed enjoined the one as well as the other. And no human life is complete which does not include both these elements of piety.

1. The worship of God, in private prayer, in family devotion, in public exercises, is a serious and important part of a good man's experience.

2. And certainly not less so is the regulating of conduct by the revealed will of God; the walking, day by day, in uprightness and integrity, in sobriety and purity, in truth and in love. Beautifully complete, fashioned in spiritual symmetry, attractive and influential, is that human life which is spent in the home of hallowed love, which is bright with the favor of God and man, and which is crowned with the sovereign excellences of piety and virtue. - C.







He was troubled.
Such has usually been the effect of supernatural appearances, even on good men, as is exemplified in Manoah, David, Paul, and others.

1. Man's weakness is incapable of easily bearing the glory of such appearances.

2. His sinfulness naturally makes him afraid that the heavenly messenger may be sent to him in displeasure. Hence appear the wisdom and goodness of God in employing, as the heralds of gospel salvation, not angels but human beings, whose terror does not make us afraid. If, however, we shall be so wise for ourselves as to receive the gospel, and to take the Lord of angels for our Lord, then we shall be prepared without fear to meet, not one angel, or a few angels, but the whole angelic host, with the Lord at their head — that host from which the ungodly will shrink in dismay, but which the ransomed shall gladly join round about the throne, to the number of ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.

(James Foote, M. A.)

It was partly the suddenness, partly the unexpectedness, and partly the glory of the apparition, that affrighted this good man. Glorious and sudden apparitions do affright even the holiest and best of men. We cannot bear the sight and presence of an angel without consternation and fear, in our frail and sinful state. O happy hour when, mortality and sin being taken out of our natures, we shall not only behold the glorified angels without fear, but the glorious God with delight and love I Lord! let me now see Thee by faith, hereafter by sight.

(W. Burkitt, M. A.)

He that had wont to live and serve in the presence of the Master, was now astonished at the presence of the servant; so much difference is there betwixt our faith and our senses that the apprehension of the God of spirits by faith goes down sweetly with us, whereas the sensible apprehension of an angel dismays us. Holy Zachary, that had wont to live by faith, thought he should die, when his sense began to be set on work; it was the weakness of him, that served the altar without horror, to be daunted with the face of his fellow-servant. In vain do we look for such ministers of God as are without infirmities when just Zachary was troubled in his devotions with that wherewith he should have been comforted: it was partly the suddenness and partly the glory of the apparition that affrighted him.

(Bishop Hall.)

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