ACTS OF THE APOSTLES,
CRITICAL, EXPLANATORY, AND PRACTICAL,
DESIGNED FOR BOTH PASTORS AND PEOPLE.
REV. HENRY COWLES, D.D.
"The words that I speak unto you; they are spirit and they are life." JOHN 6: 63.
D. APPLETON & COMPANY,
1, 3,13 BOND STREET. 1881.
COPYRIGHT, 1881, BY HENRY COWLES,
Luke's Gospel History and his Acts of the Apostles are here brought into one volume, forming a continuous history of the rise and early development in our world of the great gospel kingdom of our Lord. It is well to study these two books in their mutual relations, beginning with the life, the labors, the teachings and the death of the Incarnate One, followed by the wonderful development of spiritual and moral forces, under the ministry of the apostles when "filled with the Holy Ghost."
These Notes on Luke, written previously to those on Matthew and Mark, have been held in hand till Matthew and Mark were written in order to facilitate the fullest adjustment of their mutual relations in the Gospel Harmony. Matthew and Mark being now in readiness may be expected to follow the present volume without delay--thus completing my work on the entire sacred volume.
OBERLIN, O., January, 1881.
THE GOSPEL BY SAINT LUKE.
A USEFUL introduction to the study of this gospel should naturally include--
I. The personal history of Luke:
II. The date and surroundings of this writing:
III. Its objects:
IV. Peculiar and noteworthy points in this gospel history:
V. The grounds of its inspired authority.
I. The Personal History of Luke.
It may be assumed on the authority of Eusebius that he was born and bred at Antioch in Syria, where "the disciples were first called Christians." Probably (not certainly) he was converted under Paul's gospel labors in that city, m the early years of his ministry. Assuming (as obviously we may) that in Luke's history of the Acts he uses the words "we" and "us" with grammatical accuracy, we shall find him first at Troas (Acts 16: 10-17) a city of Mysia, Asia Minor, whence Paul embarked for Macedonia on that eventful day which, under the guidance of the Spirit, opened the continent of Europe to his great missionary work. Joining the great Apostle at this point, Luke was with him in the passage by sea to Samothracia, and thence to Philippi. When Paul and Silas were released from prison there and left the city, Luke seems to have remained, apparently to care for that infant church and prosecute gospel labors in that place and vicinity, inasmuch as we meet him next in the narrative (Acts 20: 5) at the same place, after an interval of seven years--(i. e., A. D. 51-58). At this new date, joining Paul again, he is with him continuously on his journey from Philippi, past Ephesus, to Jerusalem, where his first long imprisonment commenced; with him obviously during his nearly two years confinement at Cesarea (A. D. 58-60); in his famous voyage to Rome; and there, during another two years "detention" in his own hired house (A. D. 60-62) to the point where the narrative of the Acts comes to its close.
The notices of Luke by name in Paul's epistles are few but significant. In Col. 4: 14, Paul sends the greetings of Luke to that church, speaking of him as "the beloved physician." We infer from this that Luke was certainly with Paul at the date of this epistle (A. D. 62), during his first imprisonment at Rome; also, that he was a physician and much beloved. His letter to Philemon (v. 24) of the same date, places Luke among his "fellow-laborers."--And, yet again, 2 Tim. 4: 11-written during Paul's second imprisonment and shortly before his death, speaks of Luke as with him there.
In addition to these cases of distinct, explicit mention, we have the somewhat obscure allusion in 2 Cor. 8: 18, 19, 22 and 12: 18, to a brother not named but described as one "whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches," and who was chosen by the churches of Macedonia to take charge of their contributions for the poor saints at Jerusalem. With great probability this unnamed but well described brother was Luke. Seven years of missionary labor in and about Philippi had made him universally known among those churches. An amiable character; decided ability of which we have ample evidence in his writings; coupled with extraordinary modesty--a sweet, retiring, gentle spirit, of which there is no lack of intimations--had won for him universal confidence and esteem.--To his great modesty we must ascribe it that his history of the Acts discloses himself only in the very incidental, not to say, inevitable way of indicating when he was and when he was not one of Paul's company. To Paul's sympathy with his brother's modesty it may be due that, in writing to the Corinthians, he withheld Luke's name and gave only his well-known reputation.--Of his supposable seven years' labor in and near Philippi, we have no historic record; but the fruits of such a good man's work are sweetly manifested in the remarkable stability, purity and affectionate spirit which distinguished that church above any ether to which Paul ever wrote.
Moreover, if our hypothesis as to the authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews may be reasonably accepted, then we may assign his deep Christian modesty as the reason why he gives no whisper of his gospel labors in planting that Hebrew church at Cesarea while his dear friend was held there almost two years in duress, and why his own personality is so nearly concealed in the historical allusions which appear in the epistle to that Hebrew church. A key that moves through all the complicated wards of a lock with not the least obstruction and only the least possible friction, fitting itself to each with perfect adjustment, is doubtless the right one, made for its place and its work. So a series of hypotheses which fulfills all known historical conditions and reveals at every point the same peculiar and strongly marked traits of personal character, may be regarded as sufficiently probable to justify acceptance, although it may lack the most direct historic evidence.--So much and so much only do we seem authorized to say of Luke, the author of this gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles.
That Luke was the author of this gospel is sustained by the concurrent testimony of all the most reliable early church historians. It may suffice to name the Muratorian fragments; Justin Martyr; Ireneus; Eusebius, and Jerome. (See Smith's Bible Dictionary, p. 1694.)
II. The Date and Surroundings of this Writing.
We approximate this date when we compare the facts that the gospel was written before the Acts (Acts 1: 1); that the Acts was certainly not finished earlier than the close of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, A. D. 62: (Acts 28: 30, 31), and with great probability, not much later. How long an interval lay between the writing of the Gospel and of the Acts must remain uncertain. Ample opportunity for it to be written under the eye of Paul must have existed either during his two years' confinement at Rome or his confinement of nearly the same time at Cesarea. At Rome Paul, we know, devoted some time to the writing of epistles. Correspondingly, at Cesarea, his abundant leisure may have been employed in connection with Luke upon the compilation of this gospel history. In the nature of the case the history should stand first in the order of time. We may therefore assume it to have been written (probably) at Cesarea.
III. Its Objects.
For these, we have not the least occasion to go beyond Luke's own account in his introduction (1: 1-4), viz., that many persons had undertaken to record the events of Christ's history; that these records, though prepared by eye-witnesses, were more or less imperfect, no one of them being in his view sufficiently complete and certain; that consequently, he saw and felt the importance of making a compilation which should embody the vital points in an entirely reliable form--"that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou bast been instructed"--that is, things concerning the life, the deeds and the words of the Lord Jesus.
This Theophilus for whom Luke specially prepares this gospel narrative may supposably be an ideal character, standing for any lover of God (the significance of the name)--any man whose soul thirsted for the knowledge of Jesus; but more probably, he was a real historic man-a pupil of Luke and of Paul, for whose special use both these books of Luke were written, yet who is to be considered a representative man-one of the grand and noble class of inquiring, thoughtful Christian minds who loved and sought to know the whole truth relating to Jesus.
IV. The peculiar and noteworthy points of this Gospel History.
Luke does not claim to have been an eye-witness of Christ's deeds or a personal bearer of his discourses. Rather he assumes that he was not. He was neither one of the twelve nor an associate of that goodly brotherhood. Some whisperings of tradition would make him one of the seventy whom he speaks of (chap. 10) as sent forth by Christ; but the authority for this is too slender and its improbability too great for credit.
It is reasonably certain that Luke wrote this gospel before he had seen either the gospel of Matthew or of Mark, and long before the gospel by John was written. Matthew is reasonably supposed to have been written not far from the same time; but this by no means proves that Luke had seen it. If he had seen it, he could scarcely have described it, as his introduction characterizes those annals which had been under his eye. Moreover, if he bad seen it, he would surely have avoided those discrepancies--slight indeed and comparatively unimportant-yet such as no writer allows to exist between his own productions and any thing else known to him of recognized authority. Again, neither Matthew, nor Mark and Peter, moved in the same group of Christian workers with Luke and Paul. It will be remembered that Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians takes pains to show that he had spent very little time with Peter, the well known associate of Mark in his gospel writing, nor with James, nor indeed with any of the original disciples of the Lord. The same was obviously true of Luke.
Luke must, therefore, be regarded as an independent gospel witness. His sources of information were quite distinct from those of either of the other three gospel historians.
Again; it is abundantly manifest that Luke wrote specially, not for Jewish but for Gentile readers. This fact, made probable by the circumstance that his friend and associate, Paul, labored chiefly among Gentiles, is made reasonably certain by the fact that he carefully explains what Gentile readers would need to have explained, and forbears to explain points with which they were familiar. Very prominent is the circumstance that, compared with Matthew, he very rarely appeals to Old Testament prophecy as being fulfilled in Christ.--This feature of his history admits of almost countless verifications.
Moreover, the exceedingly minute accuracy of his numerous historic allusions to matters of Greek and Roman history shows that both himself and his contemplated readers were entirely at home in those fields of knowledge.
In these points of view it may be suggested that even if the gospel histories of Matthew and Mark had been extant then and known to both Luke and Paul, there would still have been good reason for a gospel history compiled specially for Gentile readers. It was of the wisdom of God that such a gospel history was provided for the Gentile world of that age in this book of Luke.
Yet one more point, apparently peculiar to Luke's gospel, compared with the other three, is this;-tbat he found his materials to a considerable extent in written and not merely oral tradition. The other three wrote, we may suppose, largely from personal memory, coupled with oral tradition. Luke, on the other band, more than either of the others, found and used material then extant in written memoirs of those events. There are some obvious traces of this in his gospel. His own introduction, as we shall see, assumes written narratives "set forth in order," corresponding to which he also thought it good to write out his narrative. This circumstance heightens the credibility of his recorded facts, written tradition being more reliable than oral.
V. The Grounds on which we may rest its inspired Authority.
On the external side, these grounds, are twofold; (1) The unquestioned inspiration of. Paul under whose eye Luke wrote; . and (2) Its early reception by the primitive churches as inspired.
These points scarcely need argument.--The personal history of Luke shows him to have been long and intimately associated with Paul. Ancient church historians are careful to affirm and sustain this fact. Writing under the eye of Paul, his book has all the sanction of Paul's own inspiration, whatever may or may not have been true as to the personal inspiration of Luke himself.
Of the early reception of this gospel as a part of the inspired gospel record, there remains no manner of doubt.
Luke's own introductory preface (vs. 1-4); the nativity of John the Baptist ; his parentage; the antecedent annunciation of his birth and life (vs. 5-25); the corresponding announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus (vs. 26-38); Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth and their inspired song of praise (vs. 39-56); the birth of John, with some attendant circumstances and his father's exultant song (vs. 57-80).
1. Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2. Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word;
3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4. That thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed.
This introduction has been briefly noticed in our General Introduction above. Its great importance justifies the most careful attention to its significance and bearing. In his time Luke found already extant somewhat numerous memoirs of the great events of Christ's life and ministry, prepared by original eye--witnesses and gospel ministers of Christ's word. Yet none of them fully met his own views of what was desirable for such men as his friend and pupil Theophilus. There was therefore a pressing demand for another history which should be at once comprehensive, embracing all the vital points from the very beginning; and thoroughly reliable, that his reader "might know the certainty of the things" which had been taught him concerning the world's great Redeemer. This is Luke's own account of the objects he had in view in this gospel history, and of the circumstances antecedent to its writing which induced him to compile and prepare it.
5. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
6. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
7. And they had no child, because that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
This entire chapter is found in Luke only, and is therefore the only record which comes down to us of these events connected with the birth of John and of Jesus.
This Herod, king of Judea, commonly distinguished as "Herod the Great," had been on the throne of Judea. by grant of authority from Rome, since B. C. 37, and was at this time near the close of his reign and life. This reference to him serves to fix proximately the chronology of the Savior's birth.
" The course of Abia" (v. 5), and " the order of his course" (v. 8) are explained by the fact that the priests were set off into twenty-four classes, having their specified services in the temple worship and performing their respective functions for one week at a time in rotation.
Zacharias and Elizabeth, it should be noted, bad a most exemplary record for sincere piety and faithful obedience in all known duty. Such parents are usually chosen of God to be eminently honored and blessed in godly and useful sons. The testimony (in v. 6) is obviously here for the purpose of suggesting this common law of God's administration in the household.--They had long been childless-a circumstance which served to heighten the parental interest awakened in their bosoms by the birth of this late born and probably only Son. The case of Elizabeth in this respect is that of Sarah and of Hannah as related to the birth of Isaac, the distinguished child of promise, and of Samuel, another child of many foregone prayers. It can not be amiss at this point to suggest that in the eye of God and in the light of Scripture, sanctified parental sympathy, and not least, the sanctified motherly instincts of our being are among the most beautiful and precious manifestations of the true nobility of human nature. That Jehovah should honor this parental feeling by making it the basis of his great covenant- I will be a God to thee to thy children after thee "-testifies his appreciation 't as one of the best elements of our nature that has survived the fall. It the more deserves our recognition here and now because the degeneracy of our sad human depravity has wrought so fearfully to dishonor and override these parental feelings and to disown the true dignity of the sanctified sympathies of fathers and mothers. The time was when "children were an heritage from the Lord," and a godly seed were the honest glory of the Christian household. Alas! if those times must recede before the imperious demands of fashion, or a false estimate of the real glory of the family relation 1
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 Lord.
10. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time o£ incense.
This was the hour of the evening sacrifice, commencing about three P. Al., when it fell his turn to bear the burning incense into the outer apartment (not the inner) of the temple, while the assembled worshipers were in prayer without. Noticeably, the burning of incense and its fragrance ascending before God, symbolized the uplifted prayers of humble souls, acceptable to God as sweet odors.
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 Elizabeth shall hear 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 be 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.
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.
This hour of prayer and of incense was the fit moment for angelic manifestation. He came to Zacharias to apprise him prophetically of the birth of an honored son in whom he should have joy; who should be great before God above any human prophet of all who had gone before; who should be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb (a fact which proves the possibility of this blessing), and especially, who should go before the Lord Jesus in the mighty spirit of Elijah to call. men to repentance; to turn them from their sins, and to prepare their souls to welcome the more glorious Messiah, then soon to appear.--This reference to Elijah was designed to suggest the prophecy of Malachi (4: 5, 6), which four hundred years before had foretold under this very name the coming and the work of this John the Baptist.--Noticeably, this work of preparation is described as consisting largely in the revival of parental sympathy, i. e., in turning the heart of the fathers to the children and moving them to holy prayer and endeavor for their salvation. A kindred moral change is the " turning of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just" "-bringing men back from the waywardness of their folly and rebellion against God to the true wisdom of seeking the Lord in penitence and prayer. Thus prepared in heart, they would naturally appreciate and welcome their nation's long promised Messiah. This preparing the way for the Lord Jesus to come and find a people in a measure ripe for his reception, was the grand mission of this Great Forerunner of the Messiah.
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 Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.
20. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21. And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled 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 lie coned 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.
Thus the best earthly piety on record is ofttimes marred by sinful imperfection. The sterling honesty of the inspired word' is very sure to give the world the facts-for our ad
Monition. Let us see to it that as to our personal selves, the admonition be not in vain.--We can not apologize for Zachariah that angelic ministrations were new and strange to him, and lie was therefore reasonably doubtful as to their high authority; for he manifestly recognized the divine mission of this angel. In fact, his soul staggered through unbelief in the power of God, and therefore rashly demanded other and higher authority before he could feel that he knew;--"Whereby shall I know this?"--His rebuke came in the line of his sin. That tongue which bad so rashly uttered his unbelief was doomed to be silent till the event itself should transpire.
When his appointed term of temple service closed, he hastened home-a rebuked but thoughtful and supposably a penitent man.
24. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and hid herself five mouths, saying,
25. Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein be looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
Elizabeth gratefully recognizes the kind heart and hand of God in this blessing so welcome to a pious mother. Precious prophetic forecastings of what a yet unborn son may become-never out of place to a mother-served to heighten her interest and her grateful joy.
26. And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee : blessed art thou among women.
29. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
"The sixth month"--with reference to the "fifth" named in v. 24.--That a virgin should become the mother of the Messiah was a point of definite prophecy by Isaiah (7: 14).--In the first utterance of the angel (v. 28), the oldest manuscripts (Sinaitic and Vatican) omit the words" Blessed art thou among women." The presumption is that these words were borrowed by some transcriber from the speech of Elizabeth (v. 42). At least this may be said: The feeling appealed to in this comparison of herself. with other women is scarcely in place from the lips of. Gabriel after the far more grand and appropriate sentiment "The Lord is with thee." From the lips of Elizabeth we bear it with no surprise; but as coming from Gabriel, after what he bad so sublimely said, it is revolting.
Mary was agitated; on the first instant she could not comprehend the angel's words; but nothing indicates in her heart any culpable unbelief.
30. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary for thou hast found favor with God.
31. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32. 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 David
33. And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Here are the main points of his message. It remains for Matthew (1: 21) to give the significance of this name "Jesus;" vie., Savior; because he should " save his people from their sins." But his greatness, especially as Lord and King, filling the throne of his father David with surpassing dignity and glory, and so fulfilling the long line of antecedent Hebrew prophecy which rested its symbolism on the righteous and victorious throne of David-this is here in the foreground, sublimely significant. His is to be a kingdom never passing down to lineal descendants, but holding on through tong generations of time to their uttermost limit-at least, until its final consummation at the close of this world's probation and the final judgment of the race. This kingdom and throne are put here (as we ought to expect) under a symbolism thoroughly Hebrew in character, and in harmony with that of the old Hebrew prophets.
34. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not man?
35. And 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.
The miraculous conception of this child Jesus is here assigned as the reason for his being called the Son of God. Viewed on the .side of his human nature and relations, this can not be misunderstood. But if the question be pressed as to his divine nature and its relations, whether something analogous to sonship as to the Father existed before the incarnation, we shall find ourselves in deep waters with no certain, perhaps no possible, soundings. We might ask whether the Scriptures have recognized a real sonship antecedent to the incarnation; but even this question involves some uncertainties on the point that such recognition may be anticipative and prophetic.
36. And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she bath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
As Elizabeth's home was in the mountains of Judea and Mary's far north, in Nazareth of Galilee, this announcement of a matter of so much interest in her cousin's distant home came not inappropriately through angelic lips.
In v. 37 the future tense has more significance than we are wont to notice:--For with God, nothing shall ever be nothing can ever be impossible. It is his glory that, when he will, he does things impossible to human agency--things aside from the course of nature and above any and all other agencies save that of his own omnipotence.
Mary's soul bows in sweet confidence and submission to this divinely revealed purpose; and the angelic interview closes.
39. And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
40. And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elizabeth.
41. And it came to pass, that, when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42. And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
43. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44. For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
45. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
Apparently it resulted from this special inspiration of the Holy Ghost that Elizabeth became instantly aware of the facts of the case, otherwise unknown--that Mary was indeed to become the mother of her Lord (v. 43). She herself was far advanced in years; Mary was not. Profound respect should therefore naturally have been in the other party toward herself; yet here we see her soul profoundly moved under a sense of the honor done her in this visit from one so soon to become the mother of her long expected Redeemer. For we must assume that, at least after being thus filled with the Holy Ghost, she had, present to her mind, the great wealth of those ancient promises of their nation's Messiah, as was the case plainly with her husband. Both alike are said to have been " filled with the Holy Ghost"-words which we must interpret by the well established usage of Luke, the historian of the Pentecost, the writer who has consecrated this phrase to express the richest and fullest inspirations both
of truth and of holy emotion. How else came Elizabeth to know that Mary (unlike Zacharias) had from the first believed and therefore had ensured for herself the performance of every blessing promised?-The connection of such faith with the certain fulfillment of God's promises is one of the great moral lessons froin this case-good for all time.
46. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47. And my spirit bath rejoiced in God my Savior. 48. For he hath regarded the low estate of his hand maiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
49. For he that is mi y bath done to me great things; and holy is his na
50. And his mercy is on them that fear him, from generation to generation.
51. He hath showed strength with his arm; he bath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52. He bath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
53. He bath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he bath sent empty away.
54. He bath holpen his servant Israel, in remem- brance of his mercy;
55. As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
56. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
These verses which comprise most of the recorded words of Mary are remarkably suggestive of the ancient song of Hannah under like circumstances (1 Sam. 2: 1-10)-breathing the most delightful recognition of God's great mercy; of his condescension to their humble estate; his often manifested law of moral administration, viz., to exalt the lowly and to abase the proud; and in the present case, celebrating his glorious fulfillment of long extant promises to Israel of One who should be the Redeemer of men.
57. Now Elizabeth's full time came, that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
58. And her neighbors and her cousins heard how the Lord had showed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
59. And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
60. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
61. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
62. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
63. And he asked for a writing-table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. ' And they marveled all.
It was manifestly a common usage then, as in all ages, to name at least one son from his father. This law of usage the neighbors and relatives would fain have followed; but the Lord had overruled it and named him John before his birth (v. 13). This naming by the angel Gabriel was in the mind of both the mother and the father, but was apparently unknown to the neighbors.--In v. 59-it would be more accurate to translate--not, "they called him Zacharah," as of a single act, but they were calling him-were doing this continually, were establishing it by usage.-In v. 63, we should read a writing tablet, rather than "table," it being portable in construction for the convenience of written memoranda.
In v. 62 we might better read-They made signs to his father as to what he might wish to have him called-i. e., to indicate it if he had any preference.
64. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
65. And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea
66. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
At this eventful hour Zacharias became no longer dumb. At one and the same moment his soul was filled with praise and his glad tongue gave it fit expression. All this served to impress the people who were cognizant of these circumstances and at once gave notoriety to this wondrous birth. What is to come of such a child, said they? These raised expectations, we may suppose, conduced to the notoriety of
his after life. That the hand of the Lord was with him was manifest doubtless in ways not specially explained, but such as would verify the memorable fact that he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb.
67. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he bath visited and redeemed his people,
69. And bath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
- 70. As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
71. That we should be saved m our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate u.
72. To perform the mercy prised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
74. That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
75. In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
"Filled with the Holy Ghost," as was said above of Elizabeth. (See Notes there.)
" Prophesied," in the general sense of speaking under the divine energy of the Spirit; not in the special sense of predicting future events. Zacharias spoke more to the point of interpreting ancient prophecy, then about to be fulfilled, than to reveal any thing new.-" A horn of salvation," the horn being a well known symbol of strength, yet contemplated here specially as strength for war-war against the foreign enemies of the Lord's Israel, to save them from the strong, oppressive hand of those who hated them.--That this horn arose in the house of David was in harmony with the whole current of ancient prophecy from David onward--e. g., 2 Sam. 7; Ps. 110: 1; Isa. 11.
Moreover, this long line of prophetic testimonies began ages before David, for this same great mercy was shown to Abraham in the oath sworn to him; and indeed may be traced back to where the garden of Eden echoed to the first grand promise-" The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." We can not fail to notice how prominent the idea of deliverance for Israel from external enemies was' in the thought of Zacharias. In this, however, he simply followed the general strain of ancient Hebrew prophecy, tinged naturally with the then existing relations of Israel to hostile kingdoms in league against her national existence. Yet his prayers and aspirations in this song rose above the height of mere victory over national foes, even to a peaceful reign of truth, righteousness and purity, through all their days.
76. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
77. To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
78. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high bath visited us,
79. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
80. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
" Shalt be called" (v. 76) is frequent in the Hebrew idiom for shalt be--i. e., shalt be worthy to be so called. "The prophet of the Highest"-the Highest One ever revealed to the eyes of mortals, the very incarnation of God. -Under the light of the Spirit of God, the fatber of this child saw clearly and set forth forcibly the great spiritual work to be wrought by his then infant son. Deeply as his phraseology above is tinged with the political and earthly shadings of ancient Israel, we have here only spiritual thoughts and words, and in their full legitimate strength;--To give the knowledge of salvation to his people through the remission of their sins--all to come through the tender mercy of our God, who has made the day star of the morning rise and shine forth upon us, bringing light, and the promise of yet more, to men long in the deathshades of darkness.
That as this child of hope grew up, "he waxed strong in spirit," suggests that he was then girding himself for the stern conflict and the holy moral hardihood soon to be demanded of him when he should go forth among the thousands of Israel to call them to repentance, and press them to flee from the wrath to come. Nothing less than the spirit and power of the old prophet Elijah could be equal to this high and stern mission.
Here are the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (vs. 1-8) ; the announcement of it to shepherds in that country by angels and their seraphic song (vs. 8-14) ; the shepherds verify this vision, and report what they had seen and heard (vs. 15-20) ; the circumcision, the naming, and the prescribed presentation and offerings at the temple 21-24) ; Simeon, his song, his blessing, and his worreturn Mary (vs. 25
35) ; the case of Anna (vs. 36-38) ; the to Nazareth (v. 39) ; the youth of Jesus (v. 40) ; scenes at the passover, Jesus being twelve years of age (vs. 41-52).
1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius _was governor of Syria.)
3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
This "taxing" in the sense of Luke's word was precisely a census, an enrollment of the people, which might or might not have been provisional and preliminary to taxation. This census, at least in Israel, followed genealogical lines, and therefore made it necessary that Joseph and Mary should repair to Bethlehem-both of them being of the lin-