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1-2: This short, weighty, artless, candid dedication,
belongs to the Acts, as well as the Gospel of St. Luke.
Many have undertaken - He does not mean St. Matthew or Mark; and
St. John did not write so early. For these were eye witnesses
themselves and ministers of the word.
3: To write in order - St. Luke describes in order of time; first,
The Acts of Christ; his conception, birth, childhood, baptism,
miracles, preaching, passion, resurrection, ascension: then,
The Acts of the Apostles. But in many smaller circumstances he
does not observe the order of time. Most excellent Theophilus
- This was the appellation usually given to Roman governors.
Theophilus (as the ancients inform us) was a person of eminent
quality at Alexandria. In (Ac 1:1), St. Luke does not give
him that title. He was then probably a private man.
After the preface St. Luke gives us the history of Christ, from
his coming into the world to his ascension into heaven.
5: The course of Abia - The priests were divided into twenty - four
courses, of which that of Abia was the eighth, (1Ch 24:10).
Each course ministered in its turn, for seven days, from Sabbath
to Sabbath. And each priest of the course or set in waiting, had
his part in the temple service assigned him by lot.
6: Walking in all the moral commandments, and ceremonial
ordinances, blameless - How admirable a character! May our
behaviour be thus unblamable, and our obedience thus sincere
10: The people were praying without, at the time of the incense
- So the pious Jews constantly did. And this was the foundation
of that elegant figure, by which prayer is in Scripture so often
compared to incense. Perhaps one reason of ordaining incense
might be, to intimate the acceptableness of the prayer that
accompanied it; as well as to remind the worshippers of that
sacrifice of a sweet - smelling savour, which was once to be offered
to God for them, and of that incense, which is continually offered
with the prayers of the saints, upon the golden altar that is
before the throne,(Re 8:3,4).
12: Zacharias was troubled - Although he was accustomed to converse
with God, yet we see he was thrown into a great consternation, at
the appearance of his angelical messenger, nature not being able
to sustain the sight. Is it not then an instance of the goodness
is well as of the wisdom of God, that the services, which these
heavenly spirits render us, are generally invisible?
13: Thy prayer is heard - Let us observe with pleasure, that the
prayers of pious worshippers come up with acceptance before God;
to whom no costly perfume is so sweet, as the fragrancy of an
upright heart. An answer of peace was here returned, when the
case seemed to be most helpless. Let us wait patiently for the
Lord, and leave to his own wisdom the time and manner wherein he
will appear for us. Thou shalt call his name John - John signifies
the grace or favour of Jehovah. A name well suiting the person,
who was afterward so highly in favour with God, and endued with
abundance of grace; and who opened a way to the most glorious
dispensation of grace in the Messiah's kingdom. And so
Zacharias's former prayers for a child, and the prayer which he,
as the representative of the people, was probably offering at
this very time, for the appearing of the Messiah, were remarkably
answered in the birth of his forerunner.
15: He shall be great before the Lord - God the Father: of the Holy
Ghost and the Son of God mention is made immediately after. And
shall drink neither wine nor strong drink - Shall be exemplary for
abstemiousness and self - denial; and so much the more filled with
the Holy Ghost.
16: And many of the children of Israel shall he turn - None
therefore need be ashamed of "preaching like John the Baptist."
To the Lord their God - To Christ.
17: He shall go before him, Christ, in the power and spirit of
Elijah - With the same integrity, courage, austerity, and fervour,
and the same power attending his word: to turn the hearts of the
fathers to the children - To reconcile those that are at variance,
to put an end to the most bitter quarrels, such as are very
frequently those between the nearest relations: and the hearts
of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just - And the most
obstinate sinners to true wisdom, which is only found among them
that are righteous before God.
18: Zacharias said, Whereby shall I know this? - In how different
a spirit did he blessed virgin say, How shall this be? Zacharias
disbelieved the fact: Mary had no doubt of the thing; but only
inquired concerning the manner of it.
19: I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God - Seven angels
thus stand before God, (Re 7:2); who seem the highest of all.
There seems to be a remarkable gradation in the words, enhancing
the guilt of Zacharias's unbelief. As if he had said, I am Gabriel,
a holy angel of God: yea, one of the highest order. Not only so,
but am now peculiarly sent from God; and that with a message to
thee in particular. Nay, and to show thee glad tidings, such as
ought to be received with the greatest joy and readiness.
20: Thou shalt be dumb - The Greek word signifies deaf, as well as
dumb: and it seems plain, that he was as unable to hear, as he
was to speak; for his friends were obliged to make signs to him,
that he might understand them, (Lu 1:62).
21: The people were waiting - For him to come and dismiss them
(as usual) with the blessing.
24: Hid herself - She retired from company, that she might have the
more leisure to rejoice and bless God for his wonderful mercy.
25: He looked upon me to take away my reproach - Barrenness was a
great reproach among the Jews. Because fruitfulness was promised
to the righteous.
26: In the sixth month - After Elisabeth had conceived.
27: Espoused - It was customary among the Jews, for persons that
married to contract before witnesses some time before. And as
Christ was to be born of a pure virgin, so the wisdom of God
ordered it to be of one espoused, that to prevent reproach he
might have a reputed father, according to the flesh.
28: Hail, thou highly favoured; the Lord is with thee; blessed
art thou among women - Hail is the salutation used by our Lord to
the women after his resurrection: thou art highly favoured, or
hast found favour with God,(Lu 1:30), is no more than was said of Noah, Moses, and David.
The Lord is with thee,
was said to Gideon, (Jdg 6:12);
and blessed shall she be above women,
of Jael, (Jdg 5:24).
This salutation gives no room for any pretence of paying adoration
to the virgin; as having no appearance of a prayer, or of worship
offered to her.
32: He shall be called the Son of the Highest - In this respect
also: and that in a more eminent sense than any, either man or
angel, can be called so. The Lord shall give him the throne of
his father David - That is, the spiritual kingdom, of which
David's was a type.
33: He shall reign over the house of Jacob - In which all true
believers are included.
35: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the
Highest shall overshadow thee - The power of God was put forth by
the Holy Ghost, as the immediate Divine agent in this work: and
so he exerted the power of the Highest as his own power, who
together with the Father and the Son is the most high God.
Therefore also - Not only as he is God from eternity, but on this
account likewise he shall be called the Son of God.
36: And behold, thy cousin Elisabeth - Though Elisabeth was of
the house of Aaron, and Mary of the house of David, by the
fathers side, they might be related by their mothers. For
the law only forbad heiresses marrying into another tribe.
And so other persons continually intermarried; particularly
the families of David and of Levi.
38: And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord - It is not
improbable, that this time of the virgin's humble faith, consent,
and expectation, might be the very time of her conceiving.
39: A city of Judah - Probably Hebron, which was situated in the
hill country of Judea, and belonged to the house of Aaron.
41: When Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary - The discourse
with which she saluted her, giving an account of what the angel
had said, the joy of her soul so affected her body, that the
very child in her womb was moved in an uncommon manner, as if
it leaped for joy.
45: Happy is she that believed - Probably she had in her mind the
unbelief of Zacharias.
46: And Mary said - Under a prophetic impulse, several things,
which perhaps she herself did not then fully understand.
47: My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour - She seems to turn
her thoughts here to Christ himself, who was to be born of her,
as the angel had told her, he should be the Son of the Highest,
whose name should be Jesus, the Saviour. And she rejoiced in hope
of salvation through faith in him, which is a blessing common to
all true believers, more than in being his mother after the flesh,
which was an honour peculiar to her. And certainly she had the
same reason to rejoice in God her Saviour hat we have: because he
had regarded the low estate of his handmaid, in like manner as he
regarded our low estate; and vouchsafed to come and save her and
us, when we were reduced to the lowest estate of sin and misery.
51: He hath wrought strength with his arm - That is, he hath shown
the exceeding greatness of his power. She speaks prophetically
of those things as already done, which God was about to do by the
Messiah. He hath scattered the proud - Visible and invisible.
52: He hath put down the mighty - Both angels and men.
54: He hath helped his servant Israel - By sending the Messiah.
55: To his seed - His spiritual seed: all true believers.
56: Mary returned to her own house - And thence soon after to
60: His mother said - Doubtless by revelation, or a particular
impulse from God.
66: The hand of the Lord - The peculiar power and blessing of God.
67: And Zacharias prophesied - Of things immediately to follow.
But it is observable, he speaks of Christ chiefly; of John only,
as it were, incidentally.
69: A horn - Signifies honour, plenty, and strength. A horn of
salvation - That is, a glorious and mighty Saviour.
70: His prophets, who have been since the world began - For there
were prophets from the very beginning.
74: To serve him without fear - Without any slavish fear. Here is
the substance of the great promise. That we shall be always
holy, always happy: that being delivered from Satan and sin,
from every uneasy and unholy temper, we shall joyfully love and
serve God, in every thought, word, and work.
76: And thou, child - He now speaks to John; yet not as a parent,
but as a prophet.
77: To give knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins - The
knowledge of the remission of our sins being the grand instrument
of present and eternal salvation, (Heb 8:11,12). But the
immediate sense of the words seems to be, to preach to them the
Gospel doctrine of salvation by the remission of their sins.
78: The day spring - Or the rising sun; that is, Christ.