Matthew 1 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Bible Comments
  • Matthew 1:21-23 open_in_new

    DISCOURSE: 1278

    Matthew 1:21-23. Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for He shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

    THE dispensations of Providence are extremely dark and intricate: the things which appear most afflictive often prove to be the richest mercies that could have been vouchsafed to us. This was remarkably verified in the history before us. Joseph was espoused to a virgin of consummate piety; but, before their nuptials, she proved to be in a state which gave him reason to suspect her fidelity. Desiring to exercise all the lenity which the case would admit of, he determined to put her away privily. How distressing must such an event have been to this holy man! But God sent an angel to unfold to him the mystery, to declare the ends for which the child should be born, and to impose on the infant a name, that should mark his office in the world.

    I. The appointment of the name—

    God had often condescended to assign names to men—
    [Sometimes he had made an alteration in their names [Note: Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah.]; and sometimes totally changed them [Note: Jacob to Israel.]. Sometimes he had assigned a name before the child was conceived [Note: John, Luke 1:13.]. In these things he always acted with unerring wisdom. When men have attempted to give significant appellations, they have only manifested how ignorant they were of futurity [Note: Eve named her first child “Cain,” which signifies getting: thinking perhaps that she had now gotten the promised Seed: having probably soon discovered her mistake, she called her second son “Abel,” which signifies vanity. But how misnamed were both! This proved a martyr for his God; and that, a murderer of his own brother.]. But God sees all things from the beginning to the end. And his designation of Christ’s name was a prognostic of his character.]

    The appellation given to the Virgin’s son was peculiarly suitable—
    [“Jesus” simply means a Saviour [Note: Acts 13:23.]; and was a common name among the Jews. It was sometimes assigned to those who were great deliverers [Note: Nehemiah 9:27.]. It had been given in a peculiar manner to the son of Nun [Note: Numbers 13:16. Which name is precisely the same with “Jesus” and is so translated, Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8.]. He was eminently a Saviour, as leading the Israelites into the promised land, which Moses was not permitted to do [Note: Deuteronomy 1:37-38.]. But Christ, whom he typified, is a far greater deliverer. He “does that for us which the law could not do [Note: Romans 8:3.Acts 13:39.].” He leads the true Israel of God into the heavenly Canaan.]

    So remarkable an event may justly lead us to inquire into,


    The reason of that appointment—

    Waving all other reasons, we notice two before us:

    1. To fulfil a prophecy—

    [Isaiah had foretold that the Messiah should be called Emmanuel [Note: Isaiah 7:14.]. From the event it appears, that God did not intend this prophecy to have a literal accomplishment. We may expect however that the spirit of it should be accomplished. Now the name “Jesus” was in fact equivalent to Emmanuel. “Jesus” means “Divine Saviour;” and Emmanuel, God with us [Note: See Bishop Pearson on the Creed, p. 70, 71.]. And the Evangelist himself tells us, that the imposition of that name was in order to the fulfilment of this prophecy [Note: Matthew 1:22-23.]

    2. To declare the infant’s office and character—

    [The virgin’s child was to be the Saviour of the world. He was to save his people by price, and by power. They were under sentence of eternal condemnation. His life was the ransom to be paid for their souls [Note: Matthew 20:28.]. Hence they are called his purchased possession [Note: Ephesians 1:14. See also 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 1 Peter 1:18-19.]. They were also in bondage to sin and Satan [Note: Luke 11:21; 2 Timothy 2:26.]. And he was to make them a peculiar people, zealous of good works [Note: Titus 2:14.]. Yea, he was ultimately to place them beyond the reach of all the penalties and pollutions of sin. It was of importance that this great work should he represented in his very name. And the text informs us that the name was given him for this very purpose.]


    The interest we should take in it—

    [Surely most precious should the name of Jesus be to all his followers. What benefit can be bestowed like salvation from sin? A deliverance from its dominion is an unspeakable blessing. The godly desire it no less than deliverance from hell itself. Deliverance too from its penalties is an inconceivable mercy. O, how delightful is pardon to a burthened conscience How sweet is a sense of God’s favour in a dying hour! What joy must the glorified soul possess in the day of judgment! Yet Jesus has bought it all for us with his own most precious blood, and has bestowed it freely on all his faithful followers. He will impart it liberally to all who will believe on him. Is there not reason then for that divine anathema [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.]—? Will not the very stones cry out against those who refuse to praise him? Let Jesus then be precious to us all. Let us adopt the grateful strains of that sweet Psalmist of Israel [Note: Psalms 103:1-4.]—.]

    I cannot conclude without a short address, to those who make this a season of carnal mirth—

    [The great majority of Christians seem to think that the incarnation of Christ gives them a greater licence to commit sin. And this impious thought greatly aggravates their guilt. But what madness is it to imagine that they can ever be saved in such a state. If they could, the angel should have assigned a very different reason for the appointment of Jesus’ name [Note: He should rather have said, “He shall save his people in their sins.]. In that case, Christ would have been a minister of sin. But who must not, with the Apostle, express his abhorrence of such a thought [Note: Galatians 2:17.]? Our Lord has plainly told us what shall ere long be his address to self-deceiving sinners [Note: Matthew 7:23.]—. Let us then improve the incarnation of Christ for the ends for which he came; and tremble lest we provoke the Saviour himself to become our inexorable destroyer.]