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dinary generation, but by the power of the Holy Ghost. Christ was formed in the womb of the Virgin, of the substance of her body, by the power of the Spirit of God. So that he was the immediate son of the woman, but not the immediate son of any male whatsoever; and so was the seed of the woman, and the son of a virgin, one that had never known man.
2. His birth......... Though the conception of Christ was supernatural, yet after he was conceived, and so the incarnation of Christ begun, his human nature was gradually perfected in the womb of the virgin, in a way of natural progress ; and so his birth was in the way of nature.
But his conception being supernatural, by the power of the Holy Ghost, he was both conceived and born without sin.
II. The second thing I would observe concerning the incar- . nation of Christ, is the fullness of the time in which it was accomplished. It was after things had been preparing for it from the very first fall of mankind, and when all things were ready. It came to pass at a time, which in infinite wisdom was the most fit and proper : Gal. iv. 4. “ But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”
It was now the most proper time on every account. Any time before the flood would not have been so fit a time. For then the mischief and ruin that the fall brought on mankind, was not so fully seen. The curse did not so fully come on the earth before the flood, as it did afterwards : For though the ground was cursed in a great measure before, yet it pleased God that the curse should once, before the restoration by Christ, be executed in an universal destruction, as it were, of the very form of the earth, that the dire effects of the fall might once in such a way be seen before the recovery by Christ. Though mankind were mortal before the flood, yet their lives were the greater part of a thousand years in length, a kind of immortality in comparison with what the life of man is now. It pleased God, that that curse, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” should have its full accomplishment, and be executed in its greatest degree on mankind, before the Redeemer came to purchase a never ending life for man.
It would not have been so fit a time for Christ to come, afe ter the flood, before Moses's time : For till then mankind were not so universally apostatized from the true God; they were not fallen universally into Heathenish darkness ; and so the need of Christ, the light of the world, was not so evident : And the woful consequence of the fall with respect to man's mortality, was not so fully manifest till then ; for man's life was not so shortened as to be reduced to the present standard till about Moses's time.
It was most fit that the time of the Messiah's coming should not be till many ages after Moses's time ; till all nations, but the children of Israel, had lain long in Heathenish darkness ; that the remedilessness of their disease might by long experience be seen, and so the absolute necessity of the heavenly physician, before he came.
Another reason why Christ did not come soon after the flood probably was, that the earth might be full of people, that Christ might have the more extensive kingdom, and that the effects of his light, and power, and grace, might be glorified, and that his victory over Satan might be attended with the more glory in the multitude of his conquests. It was also needful that the coming of Christ should be many ages after Moses, that the church might be prepared which was formed by Moses for his coming, by the Messiah's being long prefigured, and by his being many ways foretold, and by his being long expected. It was not proper that Christ should come before the Babylonish captivity, because Satan's kingdom was not then come to the height. The Heathen world before that consisted of lesser kingdoms. But God saw meet that the Messiah should come in the time of one of the four great monarchies of the world. Nor was it proper that he should come in the time of the Babylonish monarchy ; for it was God's will that several general monarchies should follow one another, and that the coming of the Messiah should be in the time of the last, which appeared above them all. The Persian monarchy, by overcoming the Babylonian, appeared it : And so the Grecian, by overcoming the Persian, appeared above that ; and for the same
reason, the Roman above the Grecian. Now it was the will of God, that his Son should make his appearance in the world in the time of this greatest and strongest monarchy, which was Satan's visible kingdom in the world ; that, by overcom. ing this, he might visibly overcome, Satan's kingdom in its greatest strength and glory, and so 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 Saviour. And besides, before that, learning did not much flourish, and so there had not been an opportunity to show the insufficiency of human learning and wisdom to reform and save mankind. Again, before that, 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 did come, would have been proper for his appearing in the world to purchase the redemption of men.
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 come to pass ; and there has been but one that has ever come to pass which was greater, and that was the death of Christ, which was afterwards. But Christ's incarnation was a greater thing than had ever come to pass before. The cre. ation of the world was a very great thing, but not so great a thing as the incarnation of Christ. It was a great thing for God to make the creature, but not so great as for God, as for the Creator himself, to become a creature. We have spoken of many great things that were accomplished from one age to another, in the ages between the fall of man and the incarnation of Christ : But God's becoming man was a greater thing VOL. II.
than they all. When Christ was born, the greatest person was born that ever was, or ever will be born.
IV. What I would next observe concerning the incarnation of Christ, are the remarkable cireumstances of it ; such as his being born of a poor virgin, that was a pious holy person, but poor, as appeared by her offering at her purification : Luke ii. 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. v.7. « And if she Be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle doves, or two young pigeons.” And this poor virgin was es poused to an husband who was a poor man. Though they were both of the royal family of David, the most honorable family, 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's being fallen or broken down, Amos ix. 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 : And there was a very remarkable providence of God to bring about the fulfilment of this prophecy, the taxing of all the world by Augustus Cesar, as in Luke ii. He was born in a very low condition, even in a stable, and laid in a manger.
V. I would observe the concomitants of this great event, or the remarkable events with which it was attended..... And,
1. The first thing I would take notice of that attended the incarnation of Christ, was the return of the Spirit ; which indeed began a little before the incarnation of Christ ; but yet was given on occasion of that, as it was to reveal either his birth, or the birth of his forerunner John the Baptist. I have before observed how the spirit of prophecy ceased, not long after the book of Malachi was written. From about the same time, visions and immediate revelations ceased also. But now, on this occasion, they are granted anew, and the Spirit in these operations returns again. The first instance of its restoration that we have any account of is in the vision of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist; which we read of in the 1st chapter of Luke. The next is in the vision which the Virgin Mary had, of which we read also in the same chapter. The third is in the vision which Joseph had, of which we read in the 1st chapter of Matthew. In the next place, the Spirit was given to Elisabeth, Luke i. 41. Next, it was given to Mary, as appears by her song, Luke i. 46, &c. Then to Zachariab again, ibid. ver. 64. Then it was sent to the shepherds, of which we have an account in Luke ij. 9. Then it was given to Simeon, Luke ii. 25. Then to Anna, ver, 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 that I would obserye is, the great notice that was 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 Providence that ever the angels had be. held. We read of their singing praises when they saw the formation of this lower world : Job xxxyiij. 7. “ When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of Cod shouted for joy. And as they sang praises then, so they do now, on this much greater occasion, of 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 prophecies and promises of these things all along: For we are told, that the angels de. sire to look into the affairs of redemption, 1 Pet. i. 12. They had all along been the ministers of Christ in this affair of re. demption, in all the several steps of it down from the very fall of man. So we read, that th were employed in God's dealings with Abraham, and in his dealings with Jacob, and in his dealings with the Israelites from time to time. 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 some among the Jews ; as par. úcularly by Elisabeth and the Virgin Mary, before the birth