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The Gospel opens with the relation of the genealogy of Christ after the flesh. We have an account of the miraculous conception: CHRIST'S birth and name.
Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
There is somewhat very striking and particular in this opening of the Gospel. The Old Testament begins with the account of the Creation. The New Testament begins with the account of Him, by whom all things were created. Hebrews 1:1-2 . The great design of this pedigree concerning CHRIST after the flesh, is to prove Christ's lineal descent from Abraham. For unless this be proved, the evidence that Christ is the promised seed, would be wanting. For to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not to seeds as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed which is CHRIST. Compare Galatians 3:16 with Genesis 12:3 and Genesis 22:18 . Hence, therefore, the importance of this pedigree is evident. And the correctness of the one here given, is striking. I beg the Reader to observe it with a suitableness equal to its consequence. Perhaps it were a thing impossible in any other instance, but in the genealogy of Christ, to find among all the pedigrees of the Jews, from the days of our LORD to this hour, a correct genealogy of any one house, or tribe, or family, even for fourteen generations together: whereas in this of CHRIST, we have three times fourteen. What can more decidedly manifest the overruling providence and watchfulness of God!
And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
There would be nothing particularly necessary for me to detain the Reader with in going over this pedigree of names, more than to mark the correctness, if the mere pedigree was all. But there is somewhat more worth noticing in this genealogy: and I venture to believe, that God the Holy Ghost did intend that the Church should make other observations upon the record here given, and therefore I beg to point them out as they strike me.
In the first place, I desire the Reader not to overlook the pointed reference in every name here mentioned to the Lord Jesus Christ. Abraham had many sons beside Isaac, but none are noticed but him. And the reason is plain. The promise in the charter of grace was, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And hence to all the other Sons of Abraham; the Ishmaels, and the Esaus, of every generation, there is no respect. Amos 3:2 .
Secondly, In this pedigree we find many of the characters whose lives gave evident proof, that though by nature they were in the ancestry of CHRIST, yet in grace they had no relation to him. Not to enter into many particular proofs, it may be observed, that Roboam, (or Rehoboam,) Abia, and Jechonias, are marked in Scripture under peculiar tokens of divine displeasure. 1 Kings 12:15 ; 1Ki 15:3 ; 2 Kings 24:9 ; Jeremiah 22:24 , etc. Now the Reader ought to make due remarks upon these circumstances, in proof that grace is not hereditary. It descends not from father to son. Yea, on the contrary we are told, that they which are sons of God, are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 . And what a sweet thought to a child of God is the consideration, that from our union with CHRIST, as it was with the LORD JESUS when upon earth; so will it be with his people in heaven: Whosoever (said Jesus) shall do the will of my FATHER which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother! Matthew 12:50 .
Thirdly. It is remarkable in this pedigree of the Lord Jesus that there are four names recorded in the female line; and three of them, in point of moral characters, are spoken of as exceptionable. Thamar is she with whom Judas committed incest. Genesis 38:13-30 . Rachab (or Rahab) the harlot. Joshua 2:1 ; Hebrews 11:31 ; James 2:25 . And Bathsheba, with whom David committed adultery. 2 Samuel 11:3-4 . Let the Reader pause over this view. We know that CHRIST was made sin for us, who knew no sin. And he was also made a curse for us. And he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. See 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Galatians 3:13 ; Romans 8:3 . All these things are explained to us in the Causes and reasons for the wonderful appointment. But was it needful also, that his holy, spotless nature should come through such channels of sin, and uncleanness? Was it absolutely necessary that He who was separate from sinners, and. made higher than the heavens, should be thus manifested to his Church by such ancestry? Reader! Ponder well the subject! And do not overlook in it the unequalled humility of the SON of God!
Fourthly. I beg to detain the Reader with one observation more on this pedigree of JESUS. We find Rahab and Ruth, in this genealogy of CHRIST. Now both these women were Gentiles. Rahab, of Jericho; and Ruth, of Moab. And yet are here incorporated with Israel, and from this union after the flesh CHRIST came. Was this to show, that though with Israel was deposited the promises, yet the Church of JESUS should be made of both Jew and Gentile? And, as in after ages, when redemption-work was finished, and the middle wall of partition taken down, both should be brought into one fold; yet before all this, yea, before the coming of Christ, the alliance of JESUS with his Gentile Church, as well as with the Jewish, should be shown and proved by such an union as CHRIST after the flesh, arising out of both? Reader! Ponder this well also, for it is blessed. See Isaiah 49:6 ; Galatians 3:28 .
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
I think it more than probable, that the HOLY GHOST had some object in view in the division made of the three equal proportions of fourteen generations, in this genealogy of CHRIST. But though I am inclined to this opinion, yet I am free to confess I cannot explain it. But surely God the SPIRIT must have watched over those records with peculiar regard, or they could not but have been lost during the wars of Canaan, and the captivity in Babylon, which followed. And the correctness of this genealogy by Matthew, is striking. For the Targum is in perfect correspondence with it, only with this difference, and which is yet worthy of more particular regard, for that difference; namely, that while both the Targum, and Matthew, make the number of the generations from Zerubbabel fourteen: the Targum call the last Anani, saying at the same time, ``this is the King Messiah, who is to be revealed.'' And this is worthy of the greater attention, in that as the Targum is supposed to have began in the days of Ezra; therefore the Messiah, according to their own tradition, must have been long since. So that here is an additional evidence, (if it were needed,) to all the cloud of witnesses with which. we are encompassed, to the truth as it is in JESUS.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
The subject of the miraculous conception, here intimated, being in itself so highly momentous, I would beg the Reader to attend to it with an affection equal to its vast importance. For this once admitted, brings up after it the glorious doctrine of the Atonement, with all the blessings connected with redemption. Let us consider therefore the subject particularly.
The expression here, used respecting the miraculous conception, is most striking indeed. The birth of JESUS CHRIST was on this wise: Mary was found with child of the HOLY GHOST. And the parallel passage in Luke is to the same amount. The HOLY GHOST shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Luke 1:35 . Hence it must undeniably follow, that the conception was without the intervention of an human father, and wrought by the express work of God the Holy GHOST. And, as if to confirm this still more, the Angel further declared, that what was conceived in the womb of the, Virgin Mary, was of the HOLY GHOST. (Matthew 1:20 ) So much then in proof of the agency of GOD the HOLY GHOST.
Let us next enquire, what Scripture speaketh further of divine agency on this wonderful subject. That God the FATHER had an hand in this great work, is as plainly declared by CHRIST himself under the spirit of prophecy. For, speaking to the FATHER of the inefficacy in all sacrifices to take away sin, and making a voluntary offer of himself, JESUS saith, A body hast thou prepared me. Compare Psalms 40:6 with Hebrews 10:5 . And elsewhere, speaking still in the spirit of prophecy, CHRIST saith, Thou hast covered me In my mother's womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made: when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought on the lowest parts of the earth; that is, the dark chamber of his mother's womb. Psalms 139:13-15 .
Hence, therefore, in the agency of God the FATHER, which is here most plainly shewn, added to what we before noticed of the work of GOD the HOLY GHOST, everything most decidedly proves, that the conception was wholly miraculous.
Let us next call into our view what the Scriptures relate concerning Mary. That she was what the Jews called Almah, that is, a pure virgin, will never be questioned by those who believe the word of God. And therefore I shall not think it at all necessary to dwell upon it. But, what I wish chiefly to have impressed upon the Reader's mind, respecting the part Mary bore in the miraculous conception, is this, that no taint of our corrupt nature was taken into the act. The promise at the fall was, the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. And therefore CHRIST, to fulfil this promise, must be of the seed of the woman. By his incarnation in her womb, He fully proved this. But then this incarnation being without an human, father, And accomplished wholly by the work of both God the FATHER and God the HOLY GHOST; the mere act of conception was all which Mary bore in the great deed. And as this conception was not by generation, in the ordinary way, so there was nothing in it that could pollute or defile. The angel's message to Joseph, most clearly shews this: fear not, said he, to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the HOLY Ghost.
And I desire the Reader to consider the subject yet further, for it is a point never to be lost sight of on this occasion. CHRIST is nowhere said in the scripture to be begotten of a woman, but made of a woman. God sent forth his Son, made of a woman. Galatians 4:4 . And who was the maker but GOD the FATHER? A body hast thou prepared me. And who wrought upon the body of the Virgin Mary but GOD the HOLY Ghost? The HOLY GHOST shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Now mark what follows. Therefore also that HOLY THING which shalt be born of thee, shall be called the SON of GOD. So that it was not man generating, but God the HOLY Ghost overshadowing. Had Mary's conception been by the act of generation by man, no doubt but the same taint of sin must have followed, as follows all the generations of our race. Then, (as David said of his mother, and we may all say of ours,) in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalms 51:5 . But the Virgin's womb became only the sacred chamber of formation; whereas CHRIST saith, he was fearfully and wonderfully made. And her conception was of that pure and holy Thing as the angel called CHRIST, being wrought by the HOLY Ghost, which was holy, harmless, undefiled; separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. And hence was fulfilled that which the Prophet was appointed to foretell. The LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man Jeremiah 31:22 . Hence Christ also is called the second man, the LORD from heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:47 .
If I have succeeded in stating the scripture account of this most sublime subject, in terms sufficiently plain to be understood by the Reader of my Poor Man's Commentary; I shall hope, under divine teaching, that the Reader will not only henceforth be led to form proper and just apprehensions of the miraculous conception; but also be taught to connect with it the great and glorious doctrine of the atonement, which immediately follows. For wherefore was this miraculous conception of Mary, and this holy incarnation of CHRIST, but for the express purpose to make his soul an offering for sin? And wherefore this Offering for sin, but to do away sin by the sacrifice of himself? And now the Lord Jesus CHRIST, having by that one offering of himself, once offered, finished transgression, made an end of sin, made reconciliation for iniquity, and brought in an everlasting righteousness: this righteousness is to all, and upon all, that believe: or by that one offering of himself once offered, he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. See Daniel 9:24 ; Romans 3:21-22 ; Hebrews 10:14 .
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.
For the better apprehension of what is here said, it should be remembered, that it was the custom among the Jews to betroth, or make engagements for future marriages, before that any intention was formed of the time when the nuptials were to be consummated. sometimes those betrothings were made years before the parties came together Yea, Jewish parents sometimes contracted for their children, before, the young persons had any knowledge of, and much less a predilection for, each other. Hence, in case afterwards matters arose of difference, there was a law made for disannulling. See Deuteronomy 22:23-24 , and Deuteronomy 24:1 , etc. Such was the case of Joseph and Mary. They were but betrothed to each other, though Mary is here called His wife. So that the miraculous conception took place before that they came together. Joseph is here represented as deliberating how to act on the Occasion. And it must be confessed, that it affords an amiable picture of his mind.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
It is very probable that this was the same angel which announced to Mary the first tidings of her miraculous impregnation. And the Church hath found cause to bless the LORD for his ministry. For without it we should not have had ability to have formed suitable and becoming conceptions, equal to what, under grace, we are now enabled to do, of an event in which we are so highly concerned. See Luke 1:26 , etc.
I detain the Reader at this scripture, while observing the name of our adorable Lord, and the reason assigned by the angel, wherefore He is called JESUS, just to remark, what a precious name it hath been in all ages of the Church; it still is, and will be through all eternity. It is the same name, in point of significancy, as that of Joshua, or Hoshea, both meaning a Savior. One of the old writers hath made a very sweet and comprehensive sense of it, where he said, ``In the name of JESUS, the whole of the Gospel is hid: for it is the light, the food, the medicine, yea, the very life of the soul.'' And if the Reader also makes his full remark upon the angel's words, he will say the same. Thou shalt call his name Jesus! Wherefore? It is immediately answered. For he shall save his people from their sins. Now observe the beauty and blessedness of those expressions. Jesus. had a people then, even before his incarnation. And it was known, that this people would be sinners. And a provision was therefore made, in the grace of God, for their recovery, even before they had a being. And the very office of JESUS, is to save them from their sins. Yea, the very reason why he is called JESUS, is on this account. Precious LORD JESUS! I would say, Oh give thy people grace to see thee, and to know thee, in this most blessed name, and never to hear this sweet name, or to call upon thee by it, without connecting with it the angel's words. Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for He shall save his people from their sins, See Genesis 22:8-18 ; Psalms 72:17 ; Isaiah 7:14 ; Jeremiah 23:6 ; Daniel 9:24 ; Acts 4:12 ; Hebrews 7:25 .
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
It is always blessed when we are enabled by the Spirit's teaching, to find out the beautiful correspondence between one scripture and another, upon the same subject; for then we behold how one explains the other. Thus, as in this instance. The Prophet Isaiah, more than seven hundred years before the coming of Christ, declared the miraculous impregnation of a virgin: and at the same time told what the name of the son she should conceive and bring forth, should be called, in proof of the mysterious union of his nature, of GOD and man, in one person. See Isaiah 7:14 . Now here the event is accomplished, and the Evangelist refers back to that scripture in proof. Think, Reader, of the wonderful correspondence! Who but GOD could have foretold? What power less than God, could have brought it to pass? And I beg the Reader to remark yet further; everything in the prediction was mysterious. That a virgin should conceive; and that a virgin should bring forth a Son. For the mysterious part was that she continued in both still a virgin. For there would have been nothing mysterious or uncommon, that a virgin should conceive, if the ordinary means for conception had been used. But the very prophecy implied what the fact proved, that it was without human means the virgin conceived; and when she brought forth her son, still she remained a virgin. And hence the grand infinite importance of the whole design; to accomplish redemption. And here I beg the Reader to ponder well the subject, and then let him with me humbly enquire, (for I do not presume to speak decidedly upon the subject) was not all this preached by the Holy GHOST to the Church, in that law of Moses: Whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast, it is mine. Exodus 13:2 . I humbly ask this question; was not this preaching CHRIST, at every birth of the first-born? And was not this law enjoined wholly on CHRIST's account? See then, Reader, if so, how JEHOVAH had an eye all along to this one great and glorious event. And then think, how precious the event of CHRIST'S incarnation ought to be in our eye! But I beg to make one observation more on this interesting passage. Though the LORD commanded the first-born, both of man and beast, to be sanctified to him, as a type of Jesus; yet, strictly and properly speaking, the opening of the womb at the birth cannot be called the first opening, either in man or beast. This must have taken place before. But, in the instance of Christ, and him only, it was strictly and properly so. He, and he alone, opened the womb. So that here, as in all other points, Jesus must have the pre-eminence. The types of Him could come no nearer in resemblance, than what is said of them. But CHRIST, miraculously conceived and miraculously born, truly and properly, in both acts, conception and birth, opened the womb of the virgin; as in the great work of redemption afterwards by his resurrection, he opened the womb of the earth. So that it was CHRIST, and CHRIST only, of whom JEHOVAH spake in all those scriptures, which declared, that whatsoever opened the womb, should be sanctified to the Lord. Hence He, and He only, became the true Nazarite to GOD. Oh! what beauties are there in the scriptures of our GOD! And what sweet, soul satisfying evidences do they bring with them, at the same time of the truth of our most holy faith. Reader! I pray you to be very cheery of them, in the present day of rebuke and blasphemy; and beg of GOD the HOLY GHOST, to enable you to bind them as frontlets between your eyes. They are always precious to a believer. And they will be eminently so, if I greatly mistake not, to the rising generation, in proportion as those glorious truths, in this land, will be less and less regarded. See John 17:19 ; Luke 1:35 ; Leviticus 27:26 ; Numbers 3:13 ; Luke 2:23 , etc. Luke 18:8 .
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
There is a great sweetness and modesty in the original word, for knowing her not. And the chastity of scripture language, is ever to be admired and esteemed. How much it teacheth a chastity of conversation among the people of God; even, when necessity at any time constrains us to speak of what relates to the present infirmities of our poor fallen nature. When it is said, that Mary continued in the single state unto the birth of Christ; it saith no more than what the prophecy declared. A virgin was to conceive, and a virgin bring forth a son. This was literally accomplished. So that no question should arise concerning the chastity of the virgin, until the birth of CHRIST was accomplished. Very much hath been both said and written, in respect to the cohabitation of Mary with Joseph, after the birth of CHRIST. But the scriptures are wholly silent upon the subject. And therefore it becomes the Church of GOD to be silent also. Whether Mary did, or did not, continue in a single state, is no article of faith. All the after events of her life were to herself; and not to the Church. And it should seem, from the words of the Lord Jesus to her, at the marriage feast in Cana of Galilee, as if the Lord would discourage his people from ascribing unsuitable honors to the virgin. Though she was declared by the angel to be highly favored and blessed among women, in being singled out for the high honor in the miraculous conception; yet, in all other points, Mary stood upon the same footing with every child of GOD in the Covenant. And that Mary herself considered it as such, and looked for salvation, as all others of the redeemed do, in and by CHRIST, is evident from the song she sung upon the occasion: Mary said, My soul doth magnify the LORD, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my SAVIOR. Luke 1:46-47 , etc.
PAUSE, Reader! at this opening of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the SON of GOD; and while beholding the relation of the pedigree of CHRIST, after the flesh, who was made not after time genealogy of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life; well may we both cry out, with the astonishment of the Prophet, Who shall declare his generation? Oh! for grace to discover the wonderful relationship between Christ and his people; and to exult with the Church, in the glorious truth: Unto us a child is born: unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and he shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor; the Mighty GOD; the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace!
And, Reader! as we have both such abundant cause, so let us seek from the Lord all suited grace, to bless him for the discovery here made; how the human nature of Christ was produced, by the body which GOD the FATHER prepared him; and by the overshadowing power of GOD the Holy Ghost, by which. he was conceived in the womb of the virgin. Let us both bless God for the gracious revelations of this stupendous event; whereby the necessity of atonement, and the infinite importance of it, is most fully shewn. And oh! thou dear Lord Jesus; never, never, may any of the children lose sight of thine infinite condescension, who, though in the form of God, and with whom it was no robbery to be equal with GOD: yet didst thou make thyself of no reputation, and took upon thee the form of a servant, and was found in fashion as a man, and didst humble thyself even to the death of the cross!
Lord Jesus! give us to know thee, to love thee, to delight in thee, by every endearing name, and office, and character, in which thou standest revealed to thy people. Thou art indeed Emmanuel; GOD with us; God in us; GOD for us! Thou art JEHOVAH our righteousness. Thou art indeed JESUS, for in that sweet name is comprehended every other. And what endears it yet more to our hearts, thou hast commanded us to call thee so; For in this blessed scripture it is said, Thou shalt call his name JESUS; for He shall save his people from their sins. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent