Before the and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Temple at Vulgar Era, was Elisabeth.


Year of the

Julian Period, 4708.

few individuals: and he instances the predictions said to have
been delivered by Hillel, Schammai, and Menahem. But there
is no satisfactory evidence to prove this assertion. Josephus,
who repeats them, doubts their truth. Drusius supposes that
the reading in Josephus is corrupt. Gorionides, Abraham ben
Dion, and even Josephus, are not quoted by Vitringa with any
degree of confidence in their authority: and we have no allu-
sion in the New Testament to any instance of the effusion of
the Holy Spirit after the closing of the canon of the Old Tes-
tament. The inspired writers of the New Testament appeal
only to the law and the Prophets, that is, to the Old Testa-
ment in its present form. And they appeal to the miracles and
prophecies of the Apostles and their Master, as novelties in
their own age, affording undeniable witness that God had at
length visited his people.

After a long cessation therefore, then, of miracle and pro-
phecy, the time approaches when the first proof is to be given
that the Creator of the world was still mindful of the favoured
house of Israel, and of the whole human race. The spirit of
prophecy revives an angel descends from Heaven: and, as if
it were more immediately to connect the new dispensation with
that which it was to supersede, this blessed Messenger begins
by foretelling the very same event, in the same words, which
had been used by Malachi in delivering the last prophecy vouch-
ed to the Jewish Church. "Behold I will send you Elijah the
prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the
Lord: and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the chil-
dren, and the hearts of the children to their fathers," Malachi
iv. 5, 6. To Zechariah it is foretold: "And he shall go before
Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the
fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of
the just," Luke i. 17. The first prophecy of the New Testa-
ment is given in the very same language as the last of the Old
Testament: thereby offering to the Jews the strongest evidence
in favour of their long expected Messiah. The birth of John,
the forerunner of the promised Saviour, was announced by the
testimony of an Angelic Vision-the return of the Spirit of Pro-
phecy and the revival of miracles, in the dumbness of his
father, its definite continuance, and its predicted removal. The
attention of the people must have been powerfully excited: and
the beginning of the new dispensation was distinguished by the
same superhuman characteristics, which had proved the divine
origin of that which was now to be done away.

The numbers of each of the twenty-four courses of the priests was so great, that many thousands were in weekly and daily attendance upon the service of the temple. The most solemn of the daily services was that which had been appointed by lot, in the usual manner, to Zacharias. When he entered into the holy place to burn incense, the congregation of Israel stood without in profound silence, offering up their prayers, and waiting till the Priest returned, as was customary, to dismiss them with his blessing. The congregation consisted of the whole course of the Priests, whose weekly turn of attendance was now going on; in addition to which, were the Levites that served under these Priests -the men of the station, as the Rabbis called them, whose office it was to present the whole congregation, by putting their hands on the heads of the sacrifices-and the multitude from the city, whom devotion would now have drawn to their


Before the

6 And they were both righteous before God, walking Temple at Valgar Era, in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord Jerusalem. blameless.


Year of the

Julian Period, 4708.

temple, including of course the Presidents and Overseers of the
temple, and others of the first rank and chief note at Jerusalem.
Lightfoot supposes, from the expression, v. 10. "the whole
multitude," (c) that a larger crowd than usual was then assem-
bled: that it might have been a sabbath; and upon the hypo-
thesis, which he has attempted to defend at length, he calculates
that the course of Abiah served in their turn at this time, in the
eighth week after the Passover, and that the lessons read in the
temple were the law of the Nazarites, Numb. vi. and the con-
ception of Samson. But this, though ingenious, must be in
some degree conjectural.

When we remember the scrupulous exactness with which the
Jews attended to every part of their ceremonial ritual, and the
consequent sensation excited by every thing connected with
their divinely appointed worship, we shall be able to represent
to ourselves, in some degree, the impression produced by this
event. The people including, we may suppose, the great
majority of the men of leisure, education, and eminence, either
of Judea or Jerusalem, were anxiously waiting to learn the
cause of Zachariah's unusual delay. The concluding and accus-
tomed blessing had 'not yet been pronounced. At length their
officiating Priest presents himself at the door of the holy place.
His before tranquil countenance now expresses the greatest
agitation, and he endeavours in vain to fulfil his unfinished
duties. He is unable to give the expected blessing. The con-
gregation, from anxious curiosity and astonishment, would
have remained for some time in silent suspense-but when they
found that Zacharias continued both deaf and speechless, they
perceived, as the Evangelist relates, "that he had seen a
vision." His silence was miraculous. The circumstance would
be recorded and enrolled in the archives of the temple, and
preserved by the Priests of the course of Abia. As his dumbness
was not a legal uncleanness, and no law of Moses prescribed
the exclusion of a Priest from the temple service on that
account, and as St. Luke (i. 23.) mentions, that as soon as the
days of his ministration were accomplished he departed to his
own house; he must have continued in office during his ap-
pointed course, and would certainly take his professional
station in the temple, although incapable of performing all his
ministerial functions-thereby presenting to the Jews, in the
very centre of their sanctuary, an undeniable proof of the re-
vival of miracle; and exciting in their minds the strongest
expectations of some wonderful occurrence.

As Zacharias had now become both deaf and dumb, it is highly probable that he wrote down an account of the heavenly vision, which must by this means have been well known throughout Judea. The prediction of the Angel was quite consonant to the generally received opinions of the day. Elias was first to appear, and the first revelation therefore of the approaching change in the dispensations of God must have reference to his Messenger, rather than to the Messiah himself. It had been prophesied that the forerunner of Immanuel was to resemble Elias in his spirit and power, in the effects of his mission; in the austerity of his character; the boldness of his preaching, and in his successful reform in the Jewish Church. He was to be the "Voice of one crying in the wilderness,

Before the 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was Temple at Vulgar Ara, barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.


Year of the

Julian Pe

riod, 4708.

8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the
priest's office before God in the order of his course,
9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot
was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the

10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying
without at the time of incense.

11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

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16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.

19 And the angel answering, said unto him, I am Ga

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths strait; to turn
the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to
the wisdom of the just."

Many things worthy of remark occur in considering the
dumbness of Zachariah. It was at once a proof of the severity
and of the mercy of God. Of severity, on account of his un-
belief; of mercy, in rendering his punishment temporary; and
of causing it to be the means of making others rejoice in the
events predicted by the Angel. His condemnation and crime
were most appropriate and merciful warnings to the Jewish
nation, and seem almost to prefigure the general unbelief that
was so soon to prevail, as well as to foreshew the approaching dumb-
ness, or dissolution, of the Levitical Priesthood. Vide Witsius
de Vita Johannis Baptistæ, and the opinion of Isidorus Pelu-
siota on the dumbness of Zachariah, there quoted: Miscell.
Sacra. 4to. vol. ii. p. 500.

(a) On Simon the Just, vide Prideaux Connection, vol. ii. p. 816, 8vo. edit. 1729. Lightfoot, vol. i. p. 2008; and vol. ii. p. 381; arrangement of the Old Testament, vol. ii. p. 854, note. (b) Vitringa, in his Observ. Sacræ, vol. i. b. vi. p. 294, &c. (c) Hãv rò rλñ¤oç r8 λaz.-Lightfoot, vol. i. p. 407.


Before the briel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to Temple at Vulgar Era, speak unto thee; and to shew thee these glad tidings.


Year of the 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to Jalian Pe- speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, riod, 4708. because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.

22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.

23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,

25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.


Julian Pe



The Annunciation 8.

LUKE I. 26-38.

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was Nazareth. riod, 4709. sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

Before the

Vulgar Era,

5, early in

the year.


The doctrines, both in the Old and New Testaments, would be utterly incredible, if they were not confirmed by the most unquestionable and convincing evidence; and if they were not also so interwoven together that they must all be received, or all be rejected. They are so involved with the history of the world, that the latter alternative is impossible to a rational mind; and the various absurdities and inconsistent conclusions to which men have been uniformly betrayed, when they have endeavoured to believe one part of the system of Revelation and to reject another, are almost sufficient reasons of themselves to compel us to receive the whole of what is revealed to us. The doctrine of the miraculous conception, which contains so much that contradicts experience, and seems at first sight so incredible, is founded upon evidence the most complete and satisfactory. It is intimately blended with the whole system of Revelation. The fabric would not be complete without it. It is supported by the general interpretation of the first promise, and is repeated and corroborated by the ancient prophets of the Old, and the positive assertions of the writers of the New, Testament.

In what manner mind acts upon body, and body upon mind, we are totally ignorant. We know only from daily experience, that the will of the mind gives an impulse at pleasure to the limbs and body. We know also, by observation, that the mind of an individual, which thus controuls or directs the body, is

Julian Period, 4709. Before the Vulgar Æra, 5, early in the year.

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Nazareth,

often biassed in the very same manner as the mind of his pro-
genitor. One earthly bias, or tendency, seems to be impressed
upon the human race, which compels or induces one generation
of men to be the same as the generation which preceded them.
Man, since the fall of Adam, has never, with any one exception,
been born with a spiritual bias-the innate tendency which
always shews itself is uniformly directed towards earthly, or na-
tural, or merely animal objects; that is, to objects which have
their origin, connexion, progress, and end, in this life only.
This bias, or tendency, is what Divines call original sin. It is
that disposition (a) which is born with us; which was entailed
upon us by our first parents, and has reduced us to a state little
superior to the animal creation below us. When originally
created, the mind of man was not thus biassed to earth. The
spiritual prevailed over the inferior, or carnal nature. The fall
was the triumph of the animal nature of man, and to restore
the human race to its original spirituality, is the great object
of that one religion, which has been gradually revealed to man-
kind, under its three forms, the Patriarchal, Levitical, and
Christian dispensations.

When man had fallen, we read that Adam begat a son in his
own likeness, after his image; whereas Adam had been formed in
the image of God. The son of Adam was born therefore after a dif-
ferent image from that in which his father was originally created.
The first man Adam had been created spiritual; but he became
earthly. His sons, and his sons sons, and all their descend-
ants, from that moment even to this day, partook of a nature
earthly, inferior, and animal. In the same way as a beast of
the field can only produce an offspring of the same nature as
itself (b): as the dog produces the dog; the horse the horse;
so did, and so does the fallen man Adam produce creatures of
a similar nature to himself. "That which is born of the flesh
is flesh."

Such being the law of animal life, impressed upon matter by the will of the Supreme Being; it becomes evident that no creature can be free from the inferior nature in which he is begotten. "Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," Ps. li. 5. No mere man can be exempt from the laws of his kind. If then a long succession of prophecies foretold that a Being should come into the world to perform certain works, which necessarily implied perfection, and therefore an exemption from the universal law of human nature; our reason tells us that his birth must take place in some peculiar or miraculous manner, differing from that which is entailed on the imperfect beings around him: or, in other words, an immaculate conception was the only mode in which a sinless or spiritual Being could be born into a sinful or animal world, without partaking of its common nature.

If it be said, that our Lord partook of this inferior nature as the Son of the Virgin, as much as if he were the offspring also of Joseph: we answer.-In the same way as Adam, when he was created in the image of God, and therefore sinless; received from the hands of his Maker a body formed from the dust of the ground, so likewise did the second Adam receive from the Virgin an earthly body, as free from sin as that with which the first Adam sprang from the ground, yet like that subjected to all the weakness, infirmities, and sufferings of humanity. When we can comprehend in what manner the inanimate dust became an organized being at the first creation,

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