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The HISTORY of CHRIST.
The Conception of John the Baptift foretold by an Angel.
MANY have undertaken to draw up in writing an Account of what they have receiv'd concerning Jefus Chrift from credible Witneffes, who were all along with him, from the time he firft began to publifh the Gospel, and who gave a large, Relation of the things themfelves had heard and feen: but fince not a little has been
been omitted by them, and they have not exactly obferv'd the order of Time in which they were done, I thought it would be well worth the while to write the Hiftory of thofe Affairs in a more copious and exact marmer; fuppofing it may not a little conduce to the eftablishment of the Faith of all pious Perfons.
There liv'd in Judea, at what time Herod firnam'd the Great was Governor of that Country, a certain Priest whofe name was Zacharias. He was of the course of Abia, which is wont (as all the other Claffes or Courfes into which the Priests are difpos'd) to exercife the Sacerdotal Offices, one week in twenty four, in the Tem ple at Ferufalem. His Wife Elizabeth was of the Pofterity of Aaron, as well as her Husband. Both were confpicuous for a diligent and unfeign'd obfervation of the Divine Commands, and a fingular probity of Manners. They had no Child, for Elizabeth had hitherto been barren; nor did they, now in their old Age, for much as hope for any. Towards the end of Herod's Reign, and, about fixteen months before the Birth of Jefus Chrift, when Zacharias, as the courfe of his
12 And when Zacharias faw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth fhall bear thee a fon, and thou shalt call his name John.
14 And thou fhalt have joy and gladness, and many fhall rejoyce at his birth.
Is For he fhall be great in the fight of the Lord,and fnail drink neither wine nor ftrong drink; and he fhall be filled with the holy Ghost,even from his mothers womb.
Family came about, was attending the Duties of his Function in the Temple, upon cafting Lots according to the Cuftom, to affign the Priests their feveral charges, the Duty of offering Incenfe within the Sanctuary fell to his fhare.
Accordingly he enter'd the Holy Place, while the Multitude ftood without praying to God in filence. Here Zacharias faw an Angel standing on the right fide of the Altar of Incense, and was ftruck with extraordinary Terror at the fight of him. But the Angel thus accofted him: Fear not Zacharias, for God is propitious to thee, and has fent me to acquaint thee that the Prayers thou haft fo often pour'd out to him to obtain an Offpring, are at laft heard. Thy Wife Elizabeth thall bear a Son, and the name thou art to give him is John, which fignifies, one gracionfly given of God. He fhall one day be an occafion of great Joy to thee, and not to thee only, but to others alfo. He fhall be in favor with God himfelf, and dignified with an especial Office. He fhall abftain from all inebriating Liquors after the manner of thofe who have taken on them the Vow of Nazarites. He fhall be inspir'd with the Spirit of God, even from his Mother's Womb, and before his
16 And many of the children of Ifrael fhall he turn to the Lord their God.
17 And he fhall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well ftricken in years..
19 And the angel answering faid unto him, I am Ga briel, that ftand in the prefence of God: and am fent to fpeak unto thee, and to fhew thee thefe glad tidings.
20 And behold, thou fhaltbe dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things fhall be performed, because
Birth. He fhall bring over many of the Jews to a stricter course of Life. He fhall be the forerunner of the Mefiah, who by the appointment of God is to appear foon after him. He fhall be furnish'd with Abilities and Inftructions, like those with which the Prophet Elias was formerly entrusted, and fhall reduce the Jews who are divided about Religion to a state of Concord. fhall engage the more Obftinate to receive the fentiments of the Pious, and fhall lead them all to one Mafter, the Meffiah, that when he comes he may meet with a People prepar'd to receive and obey his Divine Precepts.
Zacharias having heard all this, and reflecting on his own and his Wife's old Age, could not perfuade himself that he should have any Child born of her, and therefore defir'd a Sign of the Angel that might affure him of it. The Angel perceiving his Mind agitated with Doubts, tho without juft reafon, began thus to correct him: Thou doft not well to doubt of the happy news which I Gabriel, an Angel of God, and one of his principal Minifters, am come to tell thee. Therefore for a Sign which thou haft rafhly defir'd of me, thou shalt be deaf and dumb from this hour till thou haft a Son born of thy Wife Elizabeth. This
fhall be the punishment of thy Incredulity, but the things I have foretold shall nevertheless be accomplish'd in their proper feafon. The People, in the mean time who were waiting in the Court of Ifrael for Zacharias, wonder'd that he tarried. in the Sanctuary longer than was ufual for one that offer'd Incense. At length he came forth and found himself depriv'd of Speech; for when the People ask'd him why he ftaid fo long in the Sanctuary, he could return no answer, as he endea vour'd to fignify to them by beckning and making Signs, whence they collected he had had fome Vifion. When his Week of Miniftration expir'd, Zacharias return'd home, and Elizabeth had Conception not long after, but difcover'd the matter to none for the first five months, contenting her felf in giving thanks to God in private, i that he had at last taken away from her the reproach of Barrennefst