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" the stem of Jesse,” or as we may translate it, a twig, or branch. Now this expression does not denote a tree in full health and vigour, throwing out many branches, but the old trunk or stump of a tree, with just life and strength sufficient to put forth this one shoot: such was the condition of this once royal family, when our Saviour was born in it. His reputed father, a man of so little consequence in society, as to be thrust into a stable, even when the partner of his journey stood in need of the tenderest offices of humanity. · At the same time, low as the parents of our Saviour were in the eye of the world, in the sight of Heaven they were eminently distinguished for piety towards God, and justice towards men. We all know with what implicit submission Joseph received the commands of the Most High, and the speedy acquiescence with which the Mother
IV. of our Lord acknowledged the appeal to the omnipotence of God, as fully sufficient to divert, and set aside, the seldom deviating course of nature. The Gospel historians have taken ample pains to prove, that Christ was a branch from the stem of Jesse, in the line of Joseph, whose adopted Son he was, and by such adoption heir to every paternal right, heir to the throne of David. Moreover, to obviate every cavil, his descent from David is clearly shewn from Heli, the descendant of Nathan, the son of David; and that no prophecy might fall to the ground as of little consequence, this genealogy comprehends the promises made to Eve,. to Abraham, and to David. To the woman it was declared, “That her descendant 6 should bruise the Serpent's head, 9* should overcome the Devil, and crush the powers of darkness; to Abraham it was promised, that “In his seed should all the nations
* Genesis iii. 15.
o of the earth be blessed ;'* to David it was declared, that God would establish the throne of his kingdom for ever: “I will 6 be to him a Father, and he shall be to me “ a Son. And thine house and thy king« dom shall be established for ever before “ thee, thy throne shall be established for “ ever.”+ By Moses it was also asserted, “A “ prophet shall the Lord your God raise up “ unto you of your brethren, like unto me; 66 him shall ye hear in all things, what“ soever he shall say unto you. And it “ shall come to pass, that every soul which “ will not hear that prophet, shall be de66 stroyed from among the people.”I The express and clear declarations of the nature of our Saviour's kingdom, his own unreserved assertion, that “It was not of “ 'this world,” must create a considerable degree of astonishment in us Gentiles, at
* Gen. xxii. 18.
+ 2 Sam. vii. 14, 16.
Deut. xviii. 15.
the blindness and incredulity of the Jews. That a people, who, during their many and long captivities, had preserved the volume of sacred writ, should be ignorant of so material a part of it, is indeed surprizing. Historical evidence; the overthrow of so many vast empires at that moment before their eyes, Greece, Persia, Egypt; the subjection of their own government, along with the rest, to the Roman yoke, might surely have suggested to them, that an empire acquired by conquest, and kept by force of arms, was hardly likely to be an everlasting kingdom, a dominion without end. How much rather should sound reason, and the oracles of God, have taught them, that an empire over the hearts and minds of men, by true religion, and pure morality, must be that intended and foretold: “Men shall be taught of God, (says “ the Scripture) I will put my laws in
66 their hearts, and in their minds will I “ write them.”* As all the prophecies respecting the time and manner of our Saviour's birth were fulfilled, so was also that remarkable one of its place. Now this circumstance did by no means depend on the will of the Jews, or of the Parents of our Lord, but on the will of God, who was pleased to make the emperor's decree the instrument of his design, and thus to accomplish the prediction of his holy prophet Micah : “ And thou Bethlehem Eph6 ratah, in the land of Judah, (for there 66 was another Bethlehem, in the land of « Zebulon) though thou be little among 66 the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee 6 shall come forth to me, one, that is to be 55 a ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have “ been from of old, from everlasting.out Surely this must be allowed a remarkable
* Heb. x. 16.
+ Micah v. 2.'