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Jesus Is Named

21 After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,

according to your word;

30

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

31

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.


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21. That the child might be circumcised As to circumcision in general, the reader may consult the Book of Genesis, (17:10.) At present, it will be sufficient to state briefly what applies to the person of Christ. God appointed that his Son should be circumcised, in order to subject him to the law; for circumcision was a solemn rite, by which the Jews

were initiated into the observance of the law.171171     “Par lequel les Juifs protestoyent de se soumettre a l'observation de la Loy;” — “by which the Jews solemnly declared that they would submit to the observance of the Law.” Paul explains the design,172172     “Finem.” — “La fin ou le but de ceste soumission de Jesus Christ;” —”the end or design of this submission of Jesus Christ.” when he says, that Christ was

“made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law,”
(Galatians 4:4,5.)

By undergoing circumcision, Christ acknowledged himself to be the slave173173     Servum.”—This might have been supposed to be equivalent to ministrum, servant, had not the latter clause of the sentence expressly contrasted freedom with the condition of a slave. But Calvin settles the point by rendering it serf, slave; by which he evidently means “complete and degrading subjection.” Paul frequently speaks of the state of the Church under the law as bondage, (Galatians 4:3,9,) and a yoke of bondage, (Galatians 5:1.) — Ed. of the law, that he might procure our freedom. And in this way not only was the bondage174174     See passages referred to in the preceding note, in which the term bondage is applied by an inspired writer to the ceremonial law — Ed. of the law abolished by him, but the shadow of the ceremony was applied to his own body, that it might shortly afterwards come to an end. For though the abrogation of it depends on the death and resurrection of Christ, yet it was a sort of prelude to it, that the Son of God submitted to be circumcised.

His name was called JESUS. This passage shows, that it was a general custom among the Jews to give names to their children on the day that they were circumcised, just as we now do at baptism. Two things are here mentioned by the Evangelist. First, the name Jesus was not given to the Son of God accidentally, or by the will of men, but was the name which the angel had brought from heaven. Secondly, Joseph and Mary obeyed the command of God. The agreement between our faith and the word of God lies in this, that he speaks first, and we follow, so that our faith answers to his promises. Above all, the order of preaching the word is held up by Luke for our commendation. Salvation through the grace of Christ, he tells us, had been promised by God through the angel, and was proclaimed by the voice of men.

22. And after that the days were fulfilled On the fortieth day after the birth, (Leviticus 12:2,4,) the rite of purification was necessary to be performed. But Mary and Joseph come to Jerusalem for another reason, to present Christ to the Lord, because he was the first-born. Let us now speak first of the purification. Luke makes it apply both to Mary and to Christ: for the pronoun αὐτῶν, of them, can have no reference whatever to Joseph. But it ought not to appear strange, that Christ, who was to be, made a curse for us on the cross,” (Galatians 3:13,) should, for our benefit, take upon him our uncleanness with respect to legal guilt, though he was “without blemish and without spot,” (1 Peter 1:19.) It ought not, I say, to appear strange, if the fountain of purity, in order to wash away our stains, chose to be reckoned unclean.191191     “Si celuy qui est la fontaine de toute purete, a voulu estre tenu pour immonde et souille, afin de laver toutes nos ordures.” — “If he, who is the fountain of all purity, determined to be reckoned unclean and defiled in order to wash away our pollutions.” It is a mistake to imagine that this law of purification was merely political, and that the woman was unclean in presence of her husband, not in presence of God. On the contrary, it placed before the eyes of the Jews both the corruption of their nature, and the remedy of divine grace.

This law is of itself abundantly sufficient to prove original sin, while it contains a striking proof of the grace of God; for there could not be a clearer demonstration of the curse pronounced on mankind than when the Lord declared, that the child comes from its mother unclean and polluted, and that the mother herself is consequently defiled by childbearing. Certainly, if man were not born a sinner, if he were not by nature a child of wrath, (Ephesians 2:3,) if some taint of sin did not dwell in him, he would have no need of purification. Hence it follows, that all are corrupted in Adam; for the mouth of the Lord charges all with pollution.

It is in perfect consistency with this, that the Jews are spoken of, in other passages, as “holy branches of a holy root,” (Romans 11:16:) for this benefit did not properly belong to their own persons. They had been set apart, by the privilege of adoption, as an elect people; but the corruption, which they had by inheritance from Adam, was first in the order of time192192     “La corruption hereditaire procedante d'Adam precedoit un tel bien, et estoit plus ancienne.” — “The hereditary corruption proceeding from Adam preceded such a benefit, and was more ancient.” We must, therefore, distinguish between the first nature, and that special kindness through a covenant, by which God delivers his own people from the curse which had been pronounced on all. And the design of legal purification was to inform the Jews, that the pollutions, which they brought with them into the world at their birth, are washed away by the grace of God.

Hence too we ought to learn, how dreadful is the contagion of sin, which defiles, in some measure, the lawful order of nature. I do own that child-bearing is not unclean, and that what would otherwise be lust changes its character, through the sacredness of the marriage relation. But still the fountain of sin is so deep and abundant, that its constant overflowings stain what would otherwise be pure.

23. As it is written in the Law This was another exercise of piety which was discharged by Joseph and Mary. The Lord commanded, that all the males should be dedicated to him, in remembrance of their deliverance; because when the angel slew all the first-born of Egypt, (Exodus 12:29,) he had spared the first-born of Israel.

“On the day that I smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, I hallowed unto me all the first-born in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be:
I am the Lord” (Numbers 3:13.)

They were afterwards permitted to redeem their first-born at a certain price. Such was the ancient ceremony: and, as the Lord is the common Redeemer of all,193193     “Veu que le Seigneur est Redempteur de tout le monde en general;” — “since the Lord is Redeemer of all the world at large.” he has a right to claim us as his own, from the least to the greatest. Nor is it without a good reason, that Luke so frequently repeats the statement, that Joseph and Mary did what was written in the law of the Lord For these words teach us, that we must not, at our own suggestion, attempt any thing in the worship of God, but must obediently follow what he requires in his Word.

24. And that they might offer a sacrifice This sacrifice belonged to the ceremony of purification; lest any one should suppose that it was offered for the sake of redeeming the first-born. When the Evangelist mentions a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons, he takes for granted that his readers will understand, that Joseph and Mary were in such deep poverty, as not to have it in their power to offer a lamb. For this exception is expressly mentioned:

“If she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall
bring two turtles, or two young pigeons,” (Leviticus 12:8.)

Is it objected, that the Magi had very recently supplied them with a sufficiency of gold to make the purchase? I reply: We must not imagine that they had such abundance of gold as to raise them suddenly from poverty to wealth. We do not read, that their camels were laden with gold. It is more probable that it was some small present, which they had brought solely as a mark of respect. The law did not rigorously enjoin, that the poor should spend their substance on a sacrifice, but drew a line of distinction between them and the rich, as to the kind of sacrifices, and thus relieved them from burdensome expense. There would be no impropriety in saying, that Joseph and Mary gave as much as their circumstances allowed, though they reserved a little money to defray the expenses of their journey and of their household.

25. And, lo, there was a man in Jerusalem The design of this narrative is to inform us that, though nearly the whole nation was profane and irreligious, and despised God, yet that a few worshippers of God remained, and that Christ was known to such persons from his earliest infancy. These were “the remnant” of whom Paul says, that they were preserved “according to the election of grace,” (Romans 11:5.) Within this small band lay the Church of God; though the priests and scribes, with as much pride as falsehood, claimed for themselves the title of the Church. The Evangelist mentions no more than two, who recognised Christ at Jerusalem, when he was brought into the temple. These were Simeon and Anna. We must speak first of Simeon.

As to his condition in life we are not informed: he may have been a person of humble rank and of no reputation. Luke bestows on him the commendation of being just and devout; and adds, that he had the gift of prophecy: for the Holy Spirit was upon him. Devotion and Righteousness related to the two tables of the law, and are the two parts of which an upright life consists. It was a proof of his being a devout man, that he waited for the consolation of Israel: for no true worship of God can exist without the hope of salvation, which depends on the faith of his promises, and particularly on the restoration promised through Christ. Now, since an expectation of this sort is commended in Simeon as an uncommon attainment, we may conclude, that there were few in that age, who actually cherished in their hearts the hope of redemption. All had on their lips the name of the Messiah, and of prosperity under the reign of David: but hardly any one was to be found, who patiently endured present afflictions, relying on the consolatory assurance, that the redemption of the Church was at hand. As the eminence of Simeon’s piety was manifested by its supporting his mind in the hope of the promised salvation, so those who wish to prove themselves the children of God, will breathe out unceasing prayers for the promised redemption. For we, “have need of patience” (Hebrews 10:36) till the last coming of Christ.

And the Holy Spirit was upon him The Evangelist does not speak of “the Spirit of adoptions” (Romans 8:15,) which is common to all the children of God, though not in an equal degree, but of the peculiar gift of prophecy. This appears more clearly from the next verse and the following one, in which it is said, that he received a revelation194194     “Responsum;” — “revelation.” from the Holy Spirit, and that, by the guidance of the same Spirit, he came into the temple Though Simeon had no distinction of public office, he was adorned with eminent gifts, — with piety, with a blameless life, with faith and prophecy. Nor can it be doubted, that this divine intimation, which he received in his individual and private capacity, was intended generally for the confirmation of all the godly. Jesus is called the Lord’s Christ, because he was anointed195195     It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that the simple meaning of the Hebrew word Messiah, and of the Greek word Christ, is Anointed; and that the Lord's Christ means the Lord's Anointed,a designation which, as has been already remarked, (p. 92, note 2,) was familiarly applied to David and his successors on the throne for many generations, (2 Samuel 19:21; Lamentations 4:20,) but was afterwards restricted to “David’s son,” and “David’s Lord,” (Matthew 22:45,) whom Daniel emphatically calls the Messiah, the Anointed, (Daniel 9:25, 26.) — Ed. by the Father, and, at the same time that he received the Spirit, received also the title, of King and Priest. Simeon is said to have come into the temple by the Spirit; that is, by a secret movement and undoubted revelation, that he might meet Christ.196196     “C'est a dire, par un mouvement secret et certaine revelation du Sainct Esprit, afin de s'y rencontrer a l'heure que Christ y estoit.” — “That is to say, by a secret movement and certain revelation of the Spirit, in order that he might arrive at the hour when Christ was there.”

29. Thou now sendest thy servant away From this song it is sufficiently evident, that Simeon looked at the Son of God with different eyes from the eyes of flesh. For the outward beholding of Christ could have produced no feeling but contempt, or, at least, would never have imparted such satisfaction to the mind of the holy man, as to make him joyful and desirous to die, from having reached the summit of his wishes. The Spirit of God enlightened his eyes by faith, to perceive, under a mean and poor dress, the glory of the Son of God. He says, that he would be sent away in peace; which means, that he would die with composure of mind, having obtained all that he desired.

But here a question arises. If he chose rather to depart from life, was it amidst distress of mind and murmuring, as is usually the case with those who die unwillingly, that Simeon was hurried away? I answer: we must attend to the circumstance which is added, according to thy word God had promised that Simeon would behold his Son. He had good reason for continuing in a state of suspense, and must have lived in some anxiety, till he obtained his expectation. This ought to be carefully observed; for there are many who falsely and improperly plead the example of Simeon, and boast that they would willingly die, if this or the other thing were previously granted to them; while they allow themselves to entertain rash wishes at their own pleasure, or to form vain expectations without the authority of the Word of God. If Simeon had said exactly, “Now I shall die with a composed and easy mind, because I have seen the Son of God,” this expression would have indicated the weakness of his faith; but, as he had the word, he might have refused to die until the coming of Christ.

30. For my eyes have seen This mode of expression is very common in Scripture; but Simeon appears to denote expressly the bodily appearance of Christ, as if he had said, that he now has the Son of God present in the flesh, on whom the eyes of his mind had been previously fixed. By saving197197     “La ou nous avons rendu Ton salut, qui voudroit suivre le mot Grec de pres, il faudroit dire, Ton Salutaire.” Where we have translated Thy Salvation, were we to follow closely the Greek word, we must say, Thy Saving.”It is evident that Calvin viewed σωτήριον, not with most of our lexicographers, as a noun of the same import with σωτηρία, salvation, but as the neuter of the adjective σωτήριος, which occurs in a memorable phrase, ἡ χάρις τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡ σωτήριος, (Titus 2:11,) rendered in the English version, the grace of God that bringeth salvation. — Ed. I understand the matter of salvation: for in Christ are hid all the parts of salvation and of a happy life. Now if the sight of Christ, while he was yet a child, had so powerful an effect on Simeon, that he approached death with cheerfulness and composure; how much more abundant materials of lasting peace are now furnished to us, who have the opportunity of beholding our salvation altogether completed in Christ? True, Christ no longer dwells on earth, nor do we carry him in our arms: but his divine majesty shines openly and brightly in the gospel, and there do “we all,” as Paul says, “behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” — not as formerly amidst the weakness of flesh, but in the glorious power of the Spirit, which he displayed in his miracles, in the sacrifice of his death, and in his resurrection. In a word, his absence from us in body is of such a nature, that we are permitted to behold him sitting at the right hand of the Father. If such a sight does not bring peace to our minds, and make us go cheerfully to death, we are highly ungrateful to God, and hold the honor, which he has bestowed upon us, in little estimation.

31. Which thou hast prepared By these words Simeon intimates, that Christ had been divinely appointed, that all nations might enjoy his grace; and that he would shortly afterwards be placed in an elevated situation, and would draw upon him the eyes of all. Under this term he includes all the predictions which relate: to the spread of Christ’s kingdom. But if Simeon, when holding a little child in his arms, could stretch his mind to the utmost boundaries of the world, and acknowledge the power of Christ to be everywhere present, how much more magnificent ought our conceptions regarding him to be now that he has been set up as a, “standard to the people,” (Isaiah 49:22,) and has revealed himself to the whole world.

32. A light for the revelation of the Gentiles Simeon now points out the purpose for which Christ was to be exhibited by the Father before all nations. It was that he might enlighten the Gentiles, who had been formerly in darkness, and might be the glory of his people Israel There is propriety in the distinction here made between the people Israel and the Gentiles: for by the right of adoption the children of Abraham “were nigh” (Ephesians 2:17) to God, while the Gentiles, with whom God had made no “covenants of promise,” were “strangers” to the Church, (Ephesians 2:12.) For this reason, Israel is called, in other passages, not only the son of God, but his first-born, (Jeremiah 31:9;) and Paul informs us, that “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Romans 15:8.) The preference given to Israel above the Gentiles is, that all without distinction may obtain salvation in Christ.

A light for revelation198198     “Lumen ad revelationem.” — “La ou nous avons traduit, Pour l'esclaircissement, le mot Grec signifie quelque fois Revelation: mais Simeon vent dire ici, Pour esclairer ou illuminer les Gentils.” — “Where we have translated, For the enlightening, the Greek word (ἀποχάλυψις) sometimes signifies Revelation: but Simeon means here, To enlighten or illuminate the Gentiles.” means for enlightening the Gentiles Hence we infer, that men are by nature destitute of light, till Christ, “the Sun of Righteousness,” (Malachi 4:2,) shine upon them. With regard to Israel, though God had bestowed upon him distinguished honor, yet all his glory rests on this single article, that a Redeemer had been promised to him.

33. And his father and mother were wondering Luke does not say, that they were astonished at it as a new thing, but that they contemplated with reverence, and embraced with becoming admiration, this prediction of the Spirit uttered by the lips of Simeon, so that they continued to make progress in the knowledge of Christ. We learn from this example that, when we have once come to possess a right faith, we ought to collect, on every hand, whatever may aid in giving to it additional strength. That man has made great proficiency in the word of God, who does not fail to admire whatever he reads or hears every day, that contributes to his unceasing progress in faith.

34. And Simeon blessed them If you confine this to Joseph and Mary, there will be no difficulty. But, as Luke appears to include Christ at the same time, it might be asked, What right had Simeon to take upon him the office of blessing Christ? “Without all contradiction,” says Paul, “the less is blessed of the greater,” (Hebrews 7:7.) Besides, it has the appearance of absurdity, that any mortal man should offer prayers in behalf of the Son of God. I answer: The Apostle does not speak there of every kind of blessing, but only of the priestly blessing: for, in other respects, it is highly proper in men to pray for each other. Now, it is more probable that Simeon blessed them, as a private man and as one of the people, than that he did so in a public character: for, as we have already said, we nowhere read that he was a priest. But there would be no absurdity in saying, that he prayed for the prosperity and advancement of Christ’s kingdom: for in the book of Psalms the Spirit prescribes such a εὐλογία,a blessing of this nature to all the godly.

“Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord;
we have blessed you in the name of the Lords”
(Psalm 118:26.)

Lo, this has been set This discourse was, no doubt, directly addressed by Simeon to Mary; but it has a general reference to all the godly. The holy virgin needed this admonition, that she might not (as usually happens) be lifted up by prosperous beginnings, so as to be less prepared for enduring afflictive events. But she needed it on another account, that she might not expect Christ to be received by the people with universal applause, but that her mind, on the contrary, might be fortified by unshaken courage against all hostile attacks. It was the design, at the same time, of the Spirit of God, to lay down a general instruction for all the godly. When they see the world opposing Christ with wicked obstinacy, they must be prepared to meet that opposition, and to contend against it undismayed. The unbelief of the world is—we know it—a great and serious hinderance; but it must be conquered, if we wish to believe in Christ. There never was a state of human society so happily constituted, that the greater part followed Christ. Those who will enlist in the cause of Christ must learn this as one of their earliest lessons, and must “put on” this “armor,” (Ephesians 6:11,) that they may be steadfast in believing on him.

It was by far the heaviest temptation, that Christ was not acknowledged by his own countrymen, and was even ignominiously rejected by that nation, which boasted that it was the Church of God; and, particularly, that the priests and scribes, who held in their hands the government of the Church, were his most determined enemies. For who would have thought, that he was the King of those, who not only rejected him, but treated him with such contempt and outrage?

We see, then, that a good purpose was served by Simeon’s prediction, that Christ was set for the ruin of many in Israel The meaning is, that he was divinely appointed to cast down and destroy many. But it must be observed, that the ruin of unbelievers results from their striking against him. This is immediately afterwards expressed, when Simeon says that Christ is a sign, which is spoken against Because unbelievers are rebels against Christ, they clash themselves against him, and hence comes their ruin This metaphor is taken from a mark shot at by archers,200200     “Ceste facon de parler contient une metaphore prise des arbalestiers, ou autres qui visent au blanc.” — “This way of speaking contains a metaphor, taken from archers, or others who aim at a mark.” as if Simeon had said, Hence we perceive the malice of men, and even the depravity of the whole human race, that all, as if they had made a conspiracy, rise in murmurs and rebellion against the Son of God. The world would not display such harmony in opposing the Gospel, if there were not a natural enmity between the Son of God and those men. The ambition or fury of the enemies of the Gospel carries them in various directions, faction splits them into various sects, and a wide variety of superstitions distinguishes idolaters from each other. But while they thus differ among themselves, they all agree in this, to oppose the Son of God. It has been justly observed, that the opposition everywhere made to Christ is too plain an evidence of human depravity. That the world should thus rise against its Creator is a monstrous sight. But Scripture predicted that this would happen, and the reason is very apparent, that men who have once been alienated from God by sin, always fly from him. Instances of this kind, therefore, ought not to take us by surprise; but, on the contrary, our faith, provided with this armor, ought to be prepared to fight with the contradiction of the world.

As God has now gathered an Israel to himself from the whole world, and there is no longer a distinction between the Jew and the Greek, the same thing must now happen as, we learn, happened before. Isaiah had said of his own age,

The Lord will be for a stone of stumbling, and for a rock of offense, to both the houses of Israel,” (Isaiah 8:14.)

From that time, the Jews hardly ever ceased to dash themselves against God, but the rudest shock was against Christ. The same madness is now imitated by those who call themselves Christians; and even those, who lay haughty claims to the first rank in the Church, frequently employ all the power which they possess in oppressing Christ. But let us remember, all that they gain is, to be at length crushed and broken in pieces,” (Isaiah 8:9.)

Under the word ruin the Spirit denounces the punishment of unbelievers, and thus warns us to keep at the greatest possible distance from them; lest, by associating with them, we become involved in the same destruction. And Christ is not the less worthy of esteem, because, when he appears, many are ruined: for the “savor” of the Gospel is not less “sweet” and delightful to God, (2 Corinthians 2:15,16,) though it is destructive to the ungodly world. Does any one inquire, how Christ occasions the ruin of unbelievers, who without him were already lost? The reply is easy. Those who voluntarily deprive themselves of the salvation which God has offered to them, perish twice. Ruin implies the double punishment which awaits all unbelievers, after that they have knowingly and wilfully opposed the Son of God.

And for the resurrection This consolation is presented as a contrast with the former clause, to make it less painful to our feelings: for, if nothing else were added, it would be melancholy to hear, that Christ is a stone of stumbling,” which will break and crush, by its hardness, a great part of men. Scripture therefore reminds us of his office, which is entirely different: for the salvation of men, which is founded on it, is secure; as Isaiah also says, Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be for a sanctuary,” or fortress of defense, (Isaiah 8:13,14.) And Peter speaks more clearly:

To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house. Wherefore also it is contained in Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion the head-stone of the corner, elect, precious, and he that believeth in him shall not be confounded. Unto you, therefore, which believe, he is precious: but unto them who are disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,” (1 Peter 2:4-7; Isaiah 28:16.)

That we may not be terrified by the designation bestowed on Christ, “a stone of stumbling,” let it be instantly recollected, on the other hand, that he is likewise called the “corner-stone,” on which rests the salvation of all the godly.201201     “La maitresse Pierre du coin, sur laquelle est fonde le salut de tous les enfans de Dieu.” — “The head-stone of the corner, on which is founded the salvation of all the children of God.”

Let it be also taken into account, that the former is accidental, while the latter is properly and strictly his office. Besides, it deserves our notice, that Christ is not only called the support, but the resurrection of the godly: for the condition of men is not one in which it is safe for them to remain. They must rise from death, before they begin to live.

35. But also a sword shall pierce thy own soul This warning must have contributed greatly to fortify the mind of the holy virgin, and to prevent her from being overwhelmed with grief, when she came to those distressing struggles, which she had to undergo. Though her faith was agitated and tormented by various temptations, yet her sorest battle was with the cross: for Christ might appear to be utterly destroyed. She was not overwhelmed with grief; but it would have required a heart of stone not to be deeply wounded: for the patience of the saints differs widely from stupidity.

That the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed There are some who connect this clause with a part of the former verse, that Christ is set for the ruin and for the resurrection of many in Israel; and who include in a parenthesis what we have just now explained about the sword: but it is better, I think, to refer it to the whole passage. The particle that, ὅπως ἄν, in this passage, does not strictly denote a cause, but merely a consequence. When the light of the Gospel arises, and persecutions immediately spring up, there is, at the same time, a disclosure of affections of the heart, which had been hitherto concealed: for the lurking-places of human dissimulation are so deep, that they easily remain hidden till Christ comes.202202     “Extra Christum;” — “jusqu'a ce que Jesus Christ viene.” But Christ, by his light, discloses every artifice, and unmasks hypocrisy; and to him is properly ascribed the office of laying open the secrets of the heart. But when the cross is added to doctrine it tries the hearts more to the quick. For those who have embraced Christ by outward profession, often shrink from bearing the cross, and, when they see the Church exposed to numerous calamities, easily desert their post.

36. And there was Anna, a prophetess Luke mentions not more than two persons who received Christ; and this is intended to teach us, that whatever belongs to God, however small it may be, ought to be preferred by us to the whole world. The scribes and priests, no doubt, were then surrounded by great splendor; but, as the Spirit of God, whose presence was not at all enjoyed by those rulers,203203     The word rulers (principes) appears to be here used sarcastically; for his own translation is,” duquel estoyent du tout destituez les autres, combien que ce fussent les gouverneurs;” — “of which the others were entirely destitute, though they were rulers.” dwelt in Simeon and Anna, those two persons are entitled to greater reverence than an immense multitude of those whose pride is swelled by nothing but empty titles. For this reason, the historian mentions Anna’s age, gives her the designation of prophetess, and, thirdly, bears a remarkable testimony to her piety, and to the holiness and chastity of her life. These are the qualities that justly give to men weight and estimation. And certainly none are led astray by the dazzling and empty magnificence of outward show, but those who are drawn, by the vanity of their own minds, to take pleasure in being deceived.

She had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity This is intended to inform us, that she was a widow in the very prime of life. She had married young, and shortly afterwards lost her husband; and the circumstance of her not entering into a second marriage while she was in the rigor of her bodily frame,204204     “Quum adhuc vegeto esset corpore.” is mentioned with the view of heightening the commendation of her chastity. What follows, that she was a widow of about eighty-four years, may be explained in two ways. Either that time had passed in her unmarried state,205205     “Il y avoit tant de temps que son mari estoit mort;” — “it was so long since her husband died.” or it was the whole period of her life. If you reckon the eighty-four years as the time of her widowhood, it will follow that she was more than a hundred years old: but I leave that matter doubtful. The Spirit of prophecy still shone in a very few, who served as tokens to attest the doctrine of the Law and the Jewish religion, till the coming of Christ. In a state of society so dissolute, the elect of God needed such aids to prevent them from being carried away.

37. She departed not from the temple This is a hyperbolical expression; but the meaning is plain, that Anna was almost constantly in the temple. Luke adds, that she worshipped God with fastings and prayers day and night Hence we infer, that she did not visit the temple for the mere purpose of performing the outward service, but that she added to it the other exercises of piety. It deserves our attention, that the same rule is not enjoined on all, and that all ought not to be led indiscriminately to copy those performances, which are here commended in a widow. Each person ought to make a judicious inquiry, what belongs to his own calling. Silly ambition has filled the world with apes, from superstitious persons seizing, with more “zeal” than “knowledges” (Romans 10:2,) every thing that they hear praised in the saints: as if the distinction of rank did not render a selection of employments necessary, that each person may answer to his own calling. What is here related of Anna, Paul applies in a particular manner to widows, (1 Timothy 5:5;) so that married people act a foolish part, if they regulate their life by an unsuitable model.

But there still remains another doubt. Luke appears to make fastings a part of divine worship But we must observe, that of the acts which relate to worship, some are simply required, and, as we are accustomed to say, are in themselves necessary; while others are accessory, and have no other design than to aid the former class. Prayers belong strictly to the worship of God. Fasting is a subordinate aid, which is pleasing to God no farther than as it aids the earnestness and fervency of prayer. We must hold by this rule, that the duties of men are to be judged according as they are directed to a proper and lawful end. We must hold, also, by this distinction, that prayers are a direct worship of God; while fastings are a part of worship only on account of their consequences. Nor is there any reason to doubt, that the holy woman employed fastings as an excitement to bewail those calamities of the Church which then existed.

38. Made acknowledgment also to God206206     “Louoit aussi le Seigneur;” — “praised also the Lord.” The holy melody, which proceeded from the lips of Simeon and Anna, is praised by Luke, in order that believers may exhort each other to sing with one mouth the praises of God, and may give mutual replies. When he says, that Anna spake of him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem, he again points out the small number of the godly. For the substance of faith lay in this expectation; and it is evident, that there were few who actually cherished it in their minds.

39. They returned to Galilee The departure to Egypt, I readily acknowledge, came between those events; and the fact mentioned by Luke, that they dwelt in their own city Nazareth, is later, in point of time, than the flight into Egypt, which Matthew relates, (Matthew 2:14.) But if there was no impropriety in one Evangelist leaving out what is related by another, there was nothing to prevent Luke from overleaping the period which he did not intend to mention, and passing at once to the following history. I am very far from agreeing with those who imagine that Joseph and Mary, after having finished the sacrifice of purification, returned to Bethlehem, to live there. Those persons are foolish enough to believe, that Joseph had a settled abode in a place where he was so little known, that he was unable to find a temporary lodging. Nor is it without a good reason that Luke says, with respect both to Joseph and Mary, that Nazareth was their own city We infer from it, that he never was an inhabitant of Bethlehem, though it was the place of his extraction.207207     “Combien que ce fust le pays de ses ancestres;” — “though it was the country of his ancestors.” As to the order of time, I shall presently give a more full explanation.

40. And the child grew From the infancy of Christ Matthew passes immediately to his manifestation.230230     “Au temps de sa manifestation;” — “to the time of his manifestation.” Luke relates here a single fact, which well deserved to be recorded. In the midst of his boyhood, Christ gave a specimen of his future office, or at least indicated, by a single attempt, what he would afterwards be. The child grew, and was invigorated in spirit These words show, that the endowments of his mind grew with his age.231231     “Avec l'aage les dons et graces d'Esprit croissoyent aussi et aug-mentoyent en luy.” — “With age, the gifts and graces of the Spirit grew also and increased in him.”. Hence we infer, that this progress, or advancement, relates to his human nature: for the Divine nature could receive no increase.

But a question arises. From the time that he was conceived in his mother’s womb, did he not abound in all fullness of spiritual gifts? for it appears absurd to say, that the Son of God wanted any thing that was necessary to perfection. The reply is easy. If it takes nothing from his glory, that he was altogether, “emptied,” (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσε, Philippians 2:6,) neither does it degrade him, that he chose not only to grow in body, but to make progress in mind. And certainly when the Apostle declares, that, “in all things he was made like unto his brethren,”(Hebrews 2:17,) and “was in all points tempted like as we are, sin excepted,” (Hebrews 4:15,) he no doubt includes, that his soul was subject to ignorance. There is only this difference between us and him, that the weaknesses which press upon us, by a necessity which we cannot avoid, were undertaken by him voluntarily, and of his own accord. Christ received, in his human nature, according to his age and capacity, an increase of the free gifts of the Spirit,232232     “En dons et graces de l'Esprit;” — “in gifts and graces of the Spirit.” that “out of his fullness” (John 1:16) he may pour them out upon us; for we draw grace out of his grace.

Some excessively timid persons restrict what is here said to outward appearance, and make the meaning to be, that Christ appeared to make progress, though, in point of fact, no addition was made to his knowledge. But the words have a quite different meaning, and this mistaken opinion is still more fully refuted by what Luke shortly afterwards adds, that he grew in age and wisdom with God and man, (ver. 52.) We are not at liberty to suppose, that knowledge lay concealed in Christ, and made its appearance in him in progress of time. There is no doubt whatever, that it was the design of God to express in plain terms, how truly and completely Christ, in taking upon him our flesh, did all that was necessary to effect his brotherly union with men.233233     “Avoit vrayement et entierement prins tout ce qui estoit possible et propre pour accomplir de tous points la conjonction fraternelle de luy avec les hommes.” — “Had truly and entirely taken all that was possible and fitted to complete, at all points, the brotherly union between him and men.”

And yet we do not in this way suppose a double Christ:234234     “Deux Christs, ou un double Christ;” — “two Christs, or a double Christ.” for, though God and man are united in one person, it does not follow, that the human nature received what was peculiar to the Divine nature: but, so far as was necessary for our salvation, the Son of God kept his divine power concealed. What Irenaeus says, that his Divine nature was quiescent when he suffered,235235     “Qu'il a souffert, sa Divinite ne demonstrant point sa vertu.” — “That he suffered, his Divinity not demonstrating power.” I understand to refer, not only to bodily death, but to that amazing distress and agony of soul, which drew from him the complaint, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46.) In a word, if we do not choose to deny, that Christ was made a real man, we ought not to be ashamed to acknowledge, that he voluntarily took upon him everything that is inseparable from human nature.

It is a foolish objection, that ignorance does not apply to Christ, because it is the punishment of sin: for the same thing might be said of death. Scripture declares, on the contrary, that he performed the office of Mediator: for all the punishment which we deserved was transferred from us to him.236236     “Pource qu'il a prins sur soy toutes les peines que nous avions meritees, afind nous en discharger.” — “Because he took upon himself all the punishment which we had deserved, in order to discharge us from it." Besides, it is a foolish mistake to say, that ignorance is the punishment of sin. For we must not suppose that Adam, while he remained in innocence, knew all things. Angels also are, to some extent, ignorant, and yet they do not endure the punishment of sin.

A more refined argument is employed by some, that there was no ignorance in Christ, because ignorance is sin. But those persons assume a principle which is altogether false and groundless: otherwise, the angels must either be equal to God, or they must be sinful.237237     “Autrement il faudra que les Anges soyent pareils a Dieu, et qu'ils sachent tout: ou selon le dire de ces gensci, ils seront vicieux.” — “Otherwise, the Angels must be equal to God, and know everything: or, according to the statement of these people, they must be sinful.” There is no doubt a sinful blindness of the human mind, which is justly reckoned a part of original sin: but here we ascribe to Christ no other ignorance than what may fall upon a man who is pure from every taint of sin.

He was invigorated in spirit, and was full of wisdom Luke thus declares, that whatever wisdom exists among men, and receives daily accessions, flows from that single fountain, from the Spirit of God. The following phrase is more general, and the grace of God was upon him: for it includes all the excellence of every description that shone brightly in Christ.




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