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It would not have been so fit a time for Christ to come, af. 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 Sa. tan'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 timo 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 above 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 Babytonish 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 fiecessity 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 creature. We have spoken of many great things that were accomplished from one age to another, in the agés 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 borny, 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 espoused 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 ü. 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 tinte, visions and immediate relations 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 chap-
2. The next concomitant of Christ's incarnation that I
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 desire to look into the affairs of redemption, 1 Pet. i, 12. They had all along been the ministers of Christ in this affair of redemption, in all the several steps of it down from the very fall of man. So we read, that they 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 particularly by Elisabeth 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. But Elisabeth and Mary do most joyfully praise God together, when they meet with Christ and his forerunner in their wombs, and the Holy Spirit in their souls. And afterwards what joyful notice is taken of this event by the shepherds, and by those holy persons, Zacha rias, and Simeon, and Anna ! How do they praise God on this occasion! Thus the church of God in heaven, and the church on earth, do as it were unite in their joy and praise on this oc: casion.
Notice was taken of it by the Gentiles, which appears in the wise men of the east. Great part of the universe does as it were take a joyful notice of the incarnation of Christ. Heaven takes notice of it, and the inhabitants sing for joy. This lower world, the world of mankind, does also take notice of it in both parts of it, Jews and Gentiles. It pleased God to put honor on his Son, by wonderfully stirring up some of the wisest of the Gentiles to come a long journey to see and wor. ship the Son of God at his birth, being led by a miraculous står, 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 foretold Christ's coming as a star that should rise out of Jacob. Or they might be instructed by that gen, eral expectation there was of the Messiah's coming about that time, before spoken of, from the notice they had of it by the prophecies the Jews had of him in their dispersions in all parts of the world at that time.
3. The next concomitant of the birth of Christ was his cir. cumcision. But this may more properly be spoken of under another head, and so I will not insist upon
it now. 4. The next concomitant was his first coming into the second temple, which was his being brought thither when an infant, on occasion of the purification of the blessed Virgin.
We read, Hagg. ii. 7. “ The desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house (or temple) with głoi:1.". And