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ing that his name should be John; then the mouth of the father was opened; and, to show us the proper employment of the tongue when heaven grants the use of it, he " praised God." Faith restored what incredulity had taken
away; “he believed, and there“fore he spake.” And his heart having been prepared, by silence and retirement, for the reception of celestial influences, he was now “ filled with the
Holy Ghost,” and brake forth into that divine hymn, which shall be the subject of the next section.
Considerations on the Hymn of Zacharias.
AMONG the alterations in nature which notify the return of spring, no one is more pleasing, than the exchange of a long and melancholy silence, for that melody which then resoundeth on every side of us in the woods and fields. Solomon hath not forgotten this circumstance, in his short but lovely description of that delightful season: “ Lo, the winter “is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers ap
pear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds “is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our “ land." The advent of Messiah was announced, in a similar manner, to the church; and we may say of it, in the words of the Roman poet, which, likę
s Cant. ij. 11.
those of Caiaphas, contained much more than he was aware of who uttered them,
Aspice, venturo lætentur ut omnia sæclo ! For now, the blessed virgin“ magnifieth the Lord, "and her spirit rejoiceth in God her Saviour:" the father of the Baptist “ blesseth the Lord God of “ Israel, for having visited and redeemed his people:” the angels themselves descend in full choir, to perform an anthem in honour of their Lord and ours : and old Simeon closeth all with his affecting farewell to the world; “ Lord, now lettest thou thy servant “ depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine
eyes have seen thy salvation.” Thus did all break forth into joy, and sing together, because “ the Lord had comforted his people, and redeemed “ Jerusalem;" because the Sun of righteousness, by his visitation of the earth, was putting a period to a dreary winter, and introducing, in its stead, a new and more glorious spring. And as spring is the morning of the year, Cowley's address to the material light, which is but a faint copy, may be applied to the great original himself:
When thou lift'st up thy radiant head
And all the joyful world salutes the rising day. The hymn which we are at present to consider, is that of Zacharias. The occasion on which it was indited, was the birth of St. John : the subject is the covenant of grace in Christ Jesus: the language is that of the Old Testament, old terms being trans
ferred to new things : the speaker is a priest and a prophet, “ full of the Holy Ghost.”
During a tedious interval of silence, Zacharias had beheld the accomplishment of the divine promise to himself; and he knew, likewise, that the Saviour of mankind would soon be born of his relation, the virgin Mary. We may judge, therefore, what pain and grief he felt, while restrained from uttering that
good matter” of which his heart was so full, that when at length God saw fit to remove the mound, it burst forth at once in an impetuous and irresistible torrent of thanksgiving :
1. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he
hath visited and redeemed his people'.
It was no new thing for “ the God of Israel” to “ visit and redeem his people.” He had often done it when they were in affliction and captivity. But so to visit and redeem, was not all that he intended to do for his chosen. Through things temporal he was desirous that they should look at things eternal, and carry on their views from a bodily to a spiritual redemption, in which all his counsels terminated; a redemption to be effected by his visiting mankind, dwelling among them in a tabernacle of flesh, and in that tabernacle offering up the true propitiatory sacrifice; a redemption that should extend to Gentiles as well as Jews, and of both make one people, a new Israel, of which he should be the Lord God
Luke, i. 68, &c.
for evermore. How gracious this visitation ! How astonishing this redemption! “Blessed be the Lord “ God of Israel ; for he hath visited and redeemed “his people,”
2. And hath raised up an horn of salvation for
us in the house of his servant David.
In the Old Testament, we read continually of saviours and deliverers “raised up” by God, to rescue his people, from time to time, out of the hands of their oppressors. But of them we may say, as the apostle does of the Levitical priests,
They were not suffered to continue, by reason of “ death *.” And, therefore, we may argue in one case, as he doth in the other, that no one of them could be the true Saviour of Israel, the subject of the promises. Neither Moses, who brought them out of Egypt, nor Joshua, who settled them in Capaan, was “ He that should come,” but they were still to “ look for another;" and so on, through the whole calendar of temporal saviours, who, like the legal ministers, “served only,” by their wars and victories, “ to the example and shadow of hea
venly things.” “The body," or substance, in either instance, “ was of Christ."
was of Christ.” For he who arose “a " Priest for ever,” arose also “a King immortal;” a mighty Horn, or Power, of salvation; a Moses, to · deliver us from this present evil world; a Joshua, to put us in possession of the heavenly Canaan; in
• Heb. vii. 23.
short, every thing, to fill up every prefigurative character. This mighty Saviour, this omnipotent King of Israel, God raised up " in the house of his ser“ vant David,” as he had promised, “ that of the “ fruit of his body, according to the flesh, he would “ raise up Christ to sit on his throne W." And to this agree the words of the angel, at the annunciation : “ The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of “ his father David ; and he shall reign for ever and "ever over the house of Jacob; and of his kingdom " there shall be no end.
3. As he promised by the mouth of his holy
prophets, which have been since the world began
In a matter of so great consequence as man's redemption, God left not the world without information from the beginning: so that wherever we find ignorance, it must be charged to the account of man, as having rejected, and not to that of his Maker, as having denied the necessary means of instruction. We see the Christian church now supported in her belief of Messiah's second advent, on which all her hopes are fixed, by the discourses of the apostles, as the ancient church was supported in her belief of his first advent by the discourses of the prophets. There is no more difficulty in one case than in the other. The ancients lived in faith, and so do we. They died in faith, “not having received the pro
w Psal. cxxxii. 11. Acts, ii. 30.
* Luke, i. 32.