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in the world in the time of the Roman the greatest and strongest monarchy, which was Satan's visible kingdom in the world, that, by overcoming this, he might visibly overcome Satan's kingdom in its greatest strength and glory, and obtain the more complete triumph over Satan himself.
It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonish captivity. For, before that, we have not histories of the state of the heathen world, to give us an idea of the need of a Savior. Besides, learning did not much flourish, and so there had not been opportunity to show the insufficiency of human learning and wisdom to reform and save mankind. Again, the Jews were not dispersed over the world, as they were afterwards; and so things were not prepared in this respect for the coming of Christ, The necessity of abolishing the Jewish dispensation was not then so apparent as it was afterwards, by reason of the dispersion of the Jews; neither was the way prepared for the propagation of the Gospel, as it was afterwards, by the same dispersion. Many other things might be mentioned, by which it would appear that no other time before that very time in which Christ came, would have been proper for his appearing
III. The next thing that I would observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, is the greatness of this event. Christ's incarnation was a greater and more wonderful thing than ever had yet come to pass. The creation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for the Creator himself to be
come a creature. We have spoken of many great things that were accomplished between the fall of man and the incarnation of Christ; but God's becoming man was greater than all. Then the greatest person was born that ever was or ever will be.
IV. Next observe, the remarkable circumstances of the incarnation of Christ. He was born of a virgin, pious and holy; but poor, as appeared by her offering at her purification. Luke, 2:24. “ And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons." Which refers to Lev. 5:7. "And if he be not able to bring a lamb, then he shall bring two turtle doves, or two young pigeons.” And this poor virgin was espoused to a husband who was but a poor man. Though they were both of the royal family of David, which was the most honorable, and Joseph was the rightful heir to the crown; yet the family was reduced to a very low state; which is represented by the tabernacle of David being fallen. Amos, 9:11. "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”
He was born in the town of Bethlehem, as was foretold, Mich. 5 : 2; and there was a very remarkable providence of God to bring about the ful. fillment of this prophecy, the taxing of all the world by Augustus Cæsar. Luke, 2. He was born in a very low condition, even in a stable, and laid in a manger.
V. Observe the concomitants of this great event. 1. The return of the Spirit ; which indeed began a little before, but yet was given on occasion of his birth. I have before observed how the spirit of prophecy ceased, not long after Malacbi. From about the same time visions and immediate revela. tions also ceased. But on this occasion they are granted anew, and the Spirit in these operations returns again. The first revealed instance of its restoration is the vision of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Luke, 1. The next is the vision which the Virgin Mary bad. The third the vision which Joseph had. Matt. 1. Then the Spirit was given to Elizabeth. Luke, 1:41. Next, it was given to Mary, as appears by her song. Luke, 1: 46. Then to Zacharias again. Verse 64. Then it was sent to the shepherds. Luke, 2 : 9. Then it was given to Simeon. Luke, 2:25. Then to Anna. Verse 36. Then to the wise men in the east. Then to Joseph again, directing him to flee into Egypt; and after that directing his return.
2. The next concomitant of Christ's incarnation is, the great notice taken of it in heaven and on earth. How it was noticed by the glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world, appears by their joyful songs on this occasion, heard by the shepherds in the night. This was the greatest event of provi.. dence that ever the angels had beheld. We read of their singing praises when they saw the formation of this lower world. Job, 38 : 7. When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” And so they do, on this much greater occasion, the birth of the Son of God, who is the Creator of the world.
The glorious angels had all along expected this event. They had taken great notice of the prophe
cies and promises of these things; for we are told that they desire to look into the affairs of redemption i Pet. 1 : 12. They had been the ministers of Christ in this work, in all the several steps of it, from the very fall of man; as in God's dealings with Abraham, with Jacob, and with the Israelites. And doubtless they had long joyfully expected the coming of Christ; but now they see it accomplished, and therefore greatly rejoice, and sing praises on this occasion.
Notice was taken of it by Elizabeth and the virgin Mary before the birth of Christ; not to say by John the Baptist before he was born, when he leaped in his mother's womb as it were for joy, at the voice of the salutation of Mary. Elizabeth and Mary most joyfully praise God together when they meet, about to become mothers of Christ and his forerunner, filled with the Holy Spirit. And afterwards what joyful notice is taken of this event by the shepherds, and by those holy persons Zacharias, Simeon, and Anna! How do they praise God on the occasion ! Thus the church of God in heaven, and on earth, unite in their joy and praise.
Great part of the universe takes joyful notice of the incarnation of Christ. Heaven takes notice of it, and the inhabitants sing for joy. This lower world, both Jews and Gentiles, take notice of it. It pleased God to put honor on his Son, by wonder: fully stirring up some of the wisest of the Gentiles to come a long journey to see and worship him at bis birth. They were led by a miraculous star, signifying the birth of that glorious person who is the bright and morning star, going before and leading them to the very place where the young child
was. Some think they were instructed by the prophecy of Balaam, who dwelt in the eastern parts, and who foretold Christ's coming as a star that should rise out of Jacob. Or they might be excited by the general expectation of the Messiah's coming about that time, from the prophecies the Jews had of him in their dispersions in all parts of the world.
3. The next concomitant of the birth of Christ was his circumcision. But this may more properly be spoken of under another head.
4. Another circumstance was his first coming into the second temple, when an infant, on occasion of the purification of the blessed virgin. We read, Hag. 2:7, The Desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house (or temple) with glory.' And in Mal. 3: 1. “ The Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant.” And now was the first instance of the fulfillment of these prophecies.
5. The last concomitant I shall mention is the sceptre's departing from Judah, in the death of Herod the Great. The sceptre had never totally departed from Judah till now. Judah's sceptre was greatly diminished in the revolt of the ten tribes in Jeroboam's time; and the sceptre departed from Israel or Ephraim at the time of the captivity of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser. But it remained in the tribe of Judah, under the kings of the house of David. And when the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar, the sceptre of Judah ceased for a little while, till the return from the captivity under Cyrus; and then, though they were not an independent government, as they had been before, but owed fealty to the kings of Persia ; yet