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1. Birth of John the Baptist

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall 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. 18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. 26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. 39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house. 57Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. 67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

48. Because he hath looked She explains the reason why the joy of her heart was founded in God to be, that out of free grace he had looked upon her. By calling herself low she disclaims all merit, and ascribes to the undeserved goodness of God every occasion of boasting. For ταπείνωσις, lowness, does not here denote — as ignorant and uneducated men have foolishly imagined — “submission, or modesty, or a quality of the mind,” but signifies a mean and despicable condition.”4848     “Les Latins, traduisans ce passage du Grec, ont us, du mot d'Humi- lite, lequel les barbares et sots parleurs de Latin, prennent ici comme en Francois, pour une facon de faire contraire a l'arrogance, assavoir quand une personne s'estime rien: mais il se prend autrement, assavoir pour Petitesse; c'est a dire, condition basse et meprisee.” — “The Latins, translating this passage from the Greek, have used the word Humility, which barbarians and fools talking Latin take here, as in French, for a manner of acting opposed to pride: but it is taken differently, namely, for Meanness, that is, a low and despicable condition.” The meaning is, I was unknown and despised, but that did not prevent God from deigning to cast his eyes upon me.” But if Mary’s lowness is contrasted with excellence — as the matter itself and the Greek word make abundantly plain — we see how Mary makes herself nothing, and praises God alone. And this was not the loud cry of a pretended humility, but the plain and honest statement of that conviction which was engraven on her mind; for she was of no account in the eyes of the world, and her estimation of herself was nothing more.

From this time She announces that this kindness of God will be kept in remembrance throughout all generations But if it is so remarkable, that it ought to be proclaimed every where by the lips of all men, silence regarding it would have been highly improper in Mary, on whom it was bestowed. Now observe, that Mary makes her happiness to consist in nothing else, but in what she acknowledges to have been bestowed upon her by God, and mentions as the gift of his grace. I shall be reckoned blessed,” she says, through all ages.” Was it because she sought this praise by her own power or exertion? On the contrary, she makes mention of nothing but of the work of God. Hence we see how widely the Papists differ from her, who idly adorn her with their empty devices, and reckon almost as nothing the benefits which she received from God.4949     “En cela nous voyons coment les Papistes accordent mal avec elle, lesquels sans jugement la parent de nouvelles louanges forgees en leurs cerveaux; et cependant ne tiennent quasi conte do tous les biens que’lle a eus de Dieu.” — “In this we see how ill the Papists agree with her, who without judgment adorn her with new praises forged in their own brains; and yet make no account, as it were, of all the benefits which she had from God.” They heap up an abundance of magnificent and very presumptuous titles, such as, Queen of Heaven, Star of Salvation, Gate of Life, Sweetness, Hope, and Salvation.” Nay more, to such a pitch of insolence and fury have they been hurried by Satan, that they give her authority over Christ;5050     “Qui plus est, Satan les a transportez en une telle rage et forcenerie, qui’ls n’ont point eu de honte du luy attributer l’authorite de commander a Christ.” — “What is more, Satan has carried them away to such a rage and fury, that they are not ashamed to attribute to her authority to command Christ.” for this is their pretty song, Beseech the Father, Order the Son.”5151     “Roga Patrem, jube Natum.” None of these modes of expression, it is evident, proceeded from the Lord. All are disclaimed by the holy virgin in a single word, when she makes her whole glory to consist in acts of the divine kindness. If it was her duty to praise the name of God alone, who had done to her wonderful things, no room is left for the pretended titles, which come from another quarter. Besides, nothing could be more disrespectful to her, than to rob the Son of God of what is his own, to clothe her with the sacrilegious plunder.

Let Papists now go, and hold us out as doing injury to the mother of Christ, because we reject the falsehoods of men, and extol in her nothing more than the kindness of God. Nay, what is most of all honorable to her we grant, and those absurd worshippers refuse.5252     “En ce faisant, nous luy accordons ce qui luy est le plus honorable, en lieu que ces habiles gens, qui la servent a contrepoil, l’en despouillent.” — “In doing this we grant to her what is the most honorable, while those clever people, who serve her the wrong way, take it from her.” We cheerfully acknowledge her as our teacher, and obey her instruction and commands. There certainly is no obscurity in what she says here; but the Papists throw it aside, trample it as it were under foot, and do all they can to destroy the credit of her statements?5353     “Fidem ejus dictis abrogant;” — “dementent la vierge en tant qu'en eux est;” — “as far as lies in them, they make the virgin a liar.” Let us remember that, in praising both men and angels, there is a general rule laid down, to extol in them the grace of God; as nothing is at all worthy of praise which did not proceed from Him.

He who is mighty hath done to me wonderful things She informs us, that the reason why God did not in this case employ the assistance of others was, to make his own power more illustrious. And here we must recall what she formerly said, that God had looked upon her, though she was mean and despicable. Hence it follows, that those praises of Mary are absurd and spurious which do not altogether exalt the power and free grace of God.


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