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unto us, which from the beginning 3 It seemed good to me also, were eye-witnesses, and ministers having had perfect understanding of the word ;
of all things from the very first, to
ly; but he does assert that certain observations by Clarke, are worthy things were absolutely performed, and of consideration :"Having accurately had been delivered or testified by eye- traced up-entered into the very spirit witnesses. Of these things, many had of the work, and examined everything attempted to compose histories; and to the bottom ; in consequence of which they had performed their task with investigation, I am completely convincless or greater fidelity and perspicuity. ed of the truth of the whole.' Though In short, the implied appeal to eye-wit- God gives his Holy Spirit to all them nesses and ministers of the word has who ask him, yet this gift was never relation to the facts themselves, and designed to set aside the use of those not to any former professed history of faculties with which he has already enthose facts. Eye-witnesses. Proba- dued the soul, and which are as truly bly the apostles are here particularly his gifts, as the Holy Spirit itself is. intended. A general reference may be The nature of inspiration in the case of understood to the early disciples, of St. Luke, we at once discover : he set whom there seem to have been several himself by impartial inquiry and diligent who had closely attended on our Lord investigation, to find the whole truth, during his whole ministry. See Acts and to relate nothing but the truth i. 21, 22. Having seen the things and the Spirit of God presided over and whereof they testified, they were com- directed his inquiries, so that he discovpetent witnesses. 1 John i. 1-3. ered the whole truth, and was pre
T Ministers of the word. The reference served from every particle of error." is still, chiefly, to the apostles. They 1 From the very first. This phrase is were ministers of the gospel, which is the translation of one word, which genhere, as often elsewhere, called the erally signifies from above. And hence word. The seventy disciples, of whom some have supposed Luke intended to many suppose Luke to have been one, say, that he derived his information and perhaps some other of the early directly from heaven, or from God. preachers of the gospel, may be in- But, however he obtained his knowl. cluded.
edge, he seems only to assert that it 3. It seemed good, &c. As others extended to the whole period of our had professed to relate these facts, it Lord's residence on the earth, and to seemed good, or appeared proper and all the events of his public ministry, necessary, to Luke, that he should give even from the beginning. See the same a more perfect history of them, inas- use of the word, Acts xxvi. 5, by the much as he was qualified to do so by same writer. I to write unto thee in the more accurate and perfect knowl. order. “ To write a particular account edge which he had acquired. Thus to thee.”—Campbell. Le Clerc and would the defects of former accounts be some other Harmonists have undersupplied, if this were their principal stood the evangelist to refer here to the fault, or their errors be corrected, if they order of time, and hence have taken contained such. Having had perfect this gospel as the true standard, to understanding, &c. “Rather, having which the others should be made to diligently traced out all things from conform. But it is the general opinion, the beginning ; that is, having gotten an that the order of time is not so closely exact account of all those things which observed by Luke as by Matthew ; and happened, at the beginning, especially, that the word rendered in order does from eye-witnesses, &c.”—Pearce. It not imply an exact chronological aris the general remark of commentators, rangement.
" From this word,” says that the common translation of this Campbell, “ we cannot conclude, as passage does not express its full force. some have hastily done, that the order The original implies, not only that of time is observed better by this than Luke had full understanding of the by any other evangelist. The word important truths which he recorded, does not necessarily relate to time. See but that he had used active exertions to Acts xviii. 23. The proper import of obtain that knowledge. The following it is distinctly, particularly, as opposed
write unto thee in order, most ex- | Judea, a certain priest named Zachcellent Theophilus,
arias, of the course of Abia : and 4 That thou mightest know the his wife was of the daughters of certainty of those things wherein Aaron, and her name was Elisathou hast been instructed.
beth. was, in the
54 TF Perodys ne kinga y before God, walking in all the com
to confusedly, generally.” No other versed in the Holy Scriptures, and less sacred writer uses this word ; and it in the Jewish learning, that could imoccurs only in Luke i. 3; viii. 1 ; Acts agine this Zacharias to have been the iii. 24 ; xi. 4 ; xviii. 23. T Theophilus. high-priest, when he is said to have This is a Greek name, and literally sig- been but of the eighth course, and to nifies a lover of God. Some have sup- have attained this turn of attendance by posed that Luke used this name, simply lot.”—Lightfoot. 1 of the course of to denote Christians generally, without Abia. Abia here answers to the Headdressing any particular individual. brew Abijah ; as Zacharias answers to But the epithet" most excellent" seems Zachariah. For the reason of this difrather to denote an individual, and to ference in names, as written in the Hebe descriptive of his peculiar character, brew and in the Greek, see note on or rather of his rank or official station. Matt. i. 2. For the performance of the It is not known what particular individ- Temple-service, the priests were divi. ual was intended. He is not elsewhere ded, by David, into twenty-four courses named, except in the dedication to him or classes ; each class officiated one of the Book of Acts. On the subject week, in its turn, thus performing the of significant names, and their common service two weeks in a year. See use in the East, see note on Matt. i. 23. 1 Chron. chap. xxiv. Of these classes,
4. That thou mightest know, &c. the eighth was that of Abijah. When The definite object of the writer is here the Jews returned from their captivity stated. He desired to confirm the faith in Babylon, it would seem that only of this disciple; and his testimony is four principal families of the priests equally important and valuable to all were with thein. See Ezra ü. 36—39. disciples. Stability of faith is essential. These are said by Jewish writers to ly necessary to our peace. We should have been distributed, as on the former examine the doctrines of the gospel, occasion, into twenty-four classes, to until we attain a moral certainty of their which the original names were assigntruth. Then, and not before, may our , ed. His wife was of the daughters faith become firm and abiding, able to of Aaron. The wives of the priests sustain us in every trial. ( Instructed. were ordinarily of the posterity of Levi, Literally, catechised. The meaning is, though marriage was allowed with any however, sufficiently expressed in the of the stock of Israel, if qualified in text; for the evangelist probably refers other respects. But it was regarded as rather to the fact that Theophilus had most proper and honorable for the priests been taught, than to the peculiar man- to take the daughters of Aaron for wives. ner in which he had received instruc- This Zacharias had done. And thus tion.
John the Baptist, whose birth is here 5. Herod. Generally styled Herod related, descended, both by his father the Great. See note on Matt. ii. 1. and by his mother, from Aaron, the first [ Zacharias. It may be observed, as high-priest of the Jews, and was legally one evidence of the fidelity of the sacred entitled to his rank as a priest. God writers, that they are generally so care-appointed him to a higher office ;-he ful to give names and dates ;-particu- made him a prophet, and the herald of lars in which fabulous narratives are our blessed Lord. | Elisabeth. See notoriously deficient. We have no par- the foregoing remarks concerning preticular account of this Zacharias ; but cision in regard to names. his name and the class of priests to 6. Righteous. The parents of John which he belonged being mentioned, not only descended from what was rethe Jews were able to identify him by garded as a holy stock, and occupied a their registers. “They are very little sacred station, but in their personal mandments and ordinances of the 8 And it came to pass, that. Lord blameless.
while he executed the priest's of7 And they had no child, because fice before God in the order of his that Elisabeth was barren; and course, they both were now well stricken 9 According to the custom of the in years.
priest's office, his lot was to burn character they were pure and uncorrupt. vice. The phrase before God may Honorable descent is doubtless to be mean, generally, that all acts of public prized, and an honorable station to be worship, being addressed directly to regarded ; but true honor, nevertheless, God, are peculiarly before him, or perdepends on individual character. The formed in his presence in a sense in righteous man is to be respected by men, which other actions are not, though all and he is approved before God, however are manifest in his sight. Or, perhaps, unrighteous his ancestors may have the meaning may be more restricted, heen, or however humble his own sta-indicating simply that Zacharias was țion in life. And the unrighteous man performing the duties of his office in is guilty before God and men, notwith-the Temple, which the Jews regarded standing the piety of his ancestors. as the peculiar dwelling-place of Jeho. Indeed, such a one is properly consider- vah. ed worthy of additional disgrace for 9. According to the custom of the having disregarded the good example priest's office, his lot was, &c. The of his parents and slighted their in- order in which the several classes of structions; and if he occupy an honor- priests served at the Temple was esable station, it serves only, and right- tablished by standing regulations. See fully, to render his corruption more note on ver. 5: But the particular notorious, and to excite a more wide- duties of each individual in any class spread and a deeper condemnation. were determined by lot. On this subSuch, however, was not the case of ject, Lightfoot quotes from Jewish wriJohn's parents.
They were righteous; ters thus :-" The ruler of the Temple and their son did not disgrace their saith, come ye, and cast your lots, that name. In all the commandments, &c. it may be determined who shall kill the They were not of the number who de sacrifice, who sprinkle the blood, who spise all forms and ceremonies, asserting sweep the inner altar, who cleanse the that religion consists entirely in other candlestick, who carry the parts of the things. But believing that God has sacrifice to the ascent of the altar; the not commanded anything useless or head, the leg, the two shoulders, the unnecessary, and that all his require tail of the back-bone, the other leg, ments are designed for the benefit of the breast, the gullet, the two sides, his children, they were careful to walk the entrails, the four, the two loaves, in all his commandments and ordi- and the wine. He hath it, to whom-it nances ; that is, to obey them conscien- happens by lot.” The lot was detertiously.
mined thus :-the priests “stood in a 7. In this verse, are mentioned two circle ; and the ruler, coming, snatches circumstances which rendered the birth off a cap from the head of this or that of John the Baptist remarkable, if not man; from him the lot begins to be absolutely miraculous. His parents, reckoned, every one lifting up his finger having never been blessed with child at each number. The ruler also saith, dren, were now well stricken in years; In whomsoever the number ends, he or, in more familiar terms, were old, or obtains this or that office by lot; and of advanced age.
he declares the number; for example, 8. Executed the priest's office before there is, it may be, the number one God, &c. In other words, while he hundred, or three score, according to was engaged in the public offices be the multitude of the priests standing longing to the priesthood, during one of round. He begins to reckon from the the weeks allotted to his class. The person whose cap he snatched off, and ordinary duties of a priest were incum- numbers round, till the whole number bent on him at all times. But reference is run out. Now, in whomsoever the is here evidently made to the public number terminates, he obtains that ofoffices connected with the Temple-ser-fice, about which the lot was concerned.
incense when he went into the tem- | the people were praying without, ple of the Lord.
at the time of incense. 10 And the whole multitude of 11 And there appeared unto him And so it is in all the lots.". Such is those who personally united in them. the manner in which the lots of the It was not sufficient that the priest several priests is said to have been burned incense in the name and behalf determined. But the Jews evidently of the people ; the people themselves had other methods of determining by must offer prayers, in order to obtain lot. Prov. xvi. 33,“the lot is cast into the full benefit designed. Much more, the lap,” &c., or, more properly, as under the Christian dispensation, it is some say, into the cavity, that is, of an
not sufficient that the minister of Christ urn or vessel often used for that pur- offer prayers in the sanctuary, however pose.
See also Acts i. 23—26, where fervently, while the thoughts of the peothe method pursued was certainly dif- ple, like the eyes of a fool, are in the ferent from that before described. TTo ends of the earth.” If they would reburn incense. The incense burned in ceive benefit, they also must pray, unitthe temple was composed of stacte, ing with the leader in his supplications, onycha, galbanum, and pure frankin- confessions, ascriptions, and thankscense, in equal parts. Exo. xxx. 34. givings, or pouring out the fulness of This mixture, when burned, emitted a their own souls in their own language very agreeable perfume. To burn this before God. Men cannot acceptably incense in the temple was regarded as worship by proxy: Personal devotion the most honorable duty which a priest is as indispensable as personal rightcould perform. And it is said that this
See John iv. 23. service was never allotted to any priest a second time. I Temple of the Lord. note on Matt. i. 20.
11. An angel. A messenger. See
In this place, The word here used denotes rather the undoubtedly, a divine messenger is sanctuary, the holy place, than the tem- denoted. The place and general charple generally. The difference between acter of the interview, the declaration ton naon, (còv vaov,) here used, and to in ver. 19, the nature of the communiieron, (rò ispov,) in other places render- cation made, and the remarkable effect ed temple, may be seen in note on Matt. produced on Zacharias, all concur in xxi. 12. Briefly, the latter compre-proof that this messenger was not a man hended the various courts of the tem- like one of us, but a ministering spirit ple, in some of which the people were of a more exalted rank. . Standing on praying, ver. 10, while the former em- the right side, &c. This was a good braced only the vestibule, the holy place omen, according to the opinion of the or sanctuary, into which none but priests ancients; while an unusual appearance might enter, and the most holy, accessi- on the left hand would be regarded as an ble to the high-priest alone. In the indication of misfortune. As the altar sanctuary were placed the altar of in- of incense stood at the west end of cense, the table of show-bread, and the the sanctuary, near the veil which congolden candlestick. This apartment cealed the most holy place, and as the was separated from the most holy by a priest must necessarily have stood with vail, or, as some say, by two vails. See his face towards the altar, the angel was note on Matt. xxvii. 51.
seen standing on the north side, where 10. People were praying without, &c. stood the table of show-bread, the That is, in the courts, or other apart- golden_candlestick being on the south ments, around the sanctuary. They side. Exo. xxvi. 35 ; xxx. 6. The altar were in the temple, in the common of incense was made of shittim-wood, sense of that term. It was customary, which, according to Jerome, "grows in when the burning of the incense com- the deserts of Årabia, like white-thorn menced, to notify the people by the in its color and leaves, but not in its ringing of a bell ; and they immediately size, for the tree is só large, that it commenced praying, in silence. It may affords very long planks. The wood is not be impertinent to observe, that, ac- hard, tough, smooth, without knots, cording even to the Jewish law, acts of and 'extremely beautiful ; so that the religious worship were not regarded as rich and curious make screws of it for particularly efficacious to any except their presses. It does not grow in cul
an angel of the Lord, standing on 13 But the angel said unto him, the right side of the altar of in- Fear not, Zacharias : for thy prayer cense.
is heard ; and thy wife Elisabeth 12 And when Zacharias saw shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt him, he was troubled, and fear fell call his name John.
14 And thou shalt have joy and tivated places, nor in any other places communications to his children, as well of the Roman empire, but only in the as in the usual dispensations of his provdeserts of Arabia."-Calmet. The altar idence, he designs their benefit. This was eighteen inches square, on the top, is one of the evidences that he is truly and its height was three feet. Around “good to all, and his tender mercies the top was a crown, or elevated band, are over all his works.” Ps. cxlv. 9. and at each corner a horn. On the Even the events which usually inspire sides were rings by which it might be the most intense fear, if viewed aright, removed. The whole altar, with its will be perceived to be blessings from horns and rings, was overlaid or plated God. T Thy prayer is heard, &c. From with pure gold. See Exo. xxx. 1–5. what follows, it would seem, that, with This altar was exclusively devoted to his prayers for the people, Zacharias the burning of incense, morning and had mingled one petition for himself evening; neither burnt-sacrifice, nor individually. Some suppose he had meat-offering, nor drink-offering, be- been praying for the speedy manifestalonged to it; nor was it to be stained tion of the Messiah, and that this was with blood, except once a year, when it the prayer here mentioned. But the was to be legally purified by touching general purport of the angelic address its horns with the blood of a bullock indicates rather that he had prayed for and a goat, and by sprinkling some of offspring, -a blessing of which he had the same blood upon the altar itself
. hitherto been destitute. The desire for Exo. xxx. 7-10; Lev. xvi. 18, 19. posterity was peculiarly strong among
12. He was troubled, and fear fellihe Jews; and it was considered the upon him. It may be difficult to as- severest misfortune to die childless, sign any satisfactory reason for the fact, and to have one's name perish from yet I think it will not be disputed, that among the people. The hope of being any supposed supernatural appearance a progenitor of the expected Messiah uniformly_excites fear in the human may have had an influence in making breast. Especially is this true, when this desire more strong, and the disapsuch an appearance is witnessed by one pointment more bitter. But whatever who is alone, as was the case with may have been the cause, the fact is Zacharias. Perhaps his fear was the perfectly evident in the scriptures. See more oppressive, through the influence Gen. xv. 2 ; XXX. 1; 1 Sam. i. 11, 27. of an opinion, common among the Jews, 14. Thou shalt have joy and gladthat the appearance of a divine messen- ness. The desire of offspring being so ger betokened speedy death. See Judges strong, its gratification would produce xiii. 21, 22. - But, without any such joy and fill the heart with gladness. apprehension of impending dissolution, But in addition to this natural joy, the sudden and unexpected appearancé Zacharias was assured he should expeof an angel would naiurally trouble any rience the happiness of having a son, one, and fill him with fear.
worthy of his love and his prayers ; a 13. Fear not. It is worthy of remark, son, illustrious beyond all his predecesin regard to the supernatural appear- sors ; Matt. xi. 11 ; a son, who, though ances recorded in the scriptures, that as not the promised Messiah, should be uniformly as men have expressed fear, his herald, and should induct him into so uniformly have the celestial messen- office by the rite of baptism. Well gers assured them there was no real might a father rejoice in such a son ; cause for it. Fear not is a common especially when that son's moral charsalutation on such occasions. Judges acter was as pure as his office was vi. 22, 23 ; Dan. X. 12; Matt. xxvii. honorable. Many shall rejoice at his 5; Luke i. 30 ; ii. 10; v. 7–10; Rev. i. birth. By birth should be understood
In this is manifested the love of not the mere event only, but its conseGod, that when he makes extraordinary I quences. The character and conduct ,