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no religion could secure his child. The sword, being thus made sharp by Herod's commission, killed fourteen thousand pretty babes; as the Greeks, in their calendar, and the Abyssines of Ethiopia, do commemorate in their offices of liturgy. For Herod, crafty and malicious, that is, perfectly tyranto, had caused all the children to be gathered together; which the credulous mothers, (supposing it had been to take account of their age and number, in order to some taxing,) hindered not, but unwittingly suffered themselves and their babes to be betrayed to an irremediable butchery.
4. “ Then was fulfilled that, which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, Lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning ; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted.” All the synonymas of sadness were little enough to express this great weeping, when fourteen thousand mothers, in one day, saw their pretty babes, pouring forth their blood into that bosom, whence, not long before, they had sucked milk; and, instead of those pretty smiles, which use to entertain the fancy and dear affections of their mothers, nothing but affrighting shrieks, and then ghastly looks. The mourning was great, like “ the mourning in the valley of Hinnom, and there was no comforter;” their sorrow was too big to be cured, till it should lie down alone, and rest with its own weariness.
5. But the malice of Herod went also into the hill country; and hearing, that of John, the son of Zacharias, great things were spoken, by which he was designed to a great ministry about this young prince, he attempted in him also to rescind the prophecies, and sent a messenger of death towards him ; but the mother's care had been early with him, and sent him into desert places, where he continued till the time appointed “ of his manifestation unto Israel.” But, as the children of Bethlehem died in the place of Christ, so did the father of the Baptist die for his child. For “ Herod slew Zacharias between the temple and the altar," because he refused to betray his son to the fury
* Qualis apud Lucianum describitur Tyrannicid. 'Exeīvos hy o Thy ogougar κρατύνων, και τους τυραννουμένους εκκόστων, και τους επιβουλεύοντας φοβών, και τους εφήβους αναστών, ο ενυβρίζων τους γάμους εκείνο αι παρθένοι ανήγοντο και εί τινες σφαγαι, και εί τινες φυγαι, και χρημάτων αφαιρέσεις, και βάσανοι, και ύβρεις, &c.-Bipont. vol. iv.
of that rabid bear. Though some persons, very eminent amongst the stars of the primitive church, report a tradition", that a place being separated in the temple for virgins, Zacharias suffered the mother of our Lord to abide there after the birth of her holy Son, affirming her still to be a virgin; and that for this reason, not Herod, but the scribes and pharisees, did kill Zacharias.
6. Tertullian reports”, that the blood of Zacharias had so besmeared the stones of the pavement, which was the altar, on which the good old priest was sacrificed, that no art or industry could wash the tincture out, the dye and guilt being both indelible; as if, because God did intend to exact of that nation “ all the blood of righteous persons, from Abel to Zacharias,” who was the last of the martyrs of the synagogue, he would leave a character of their guilt in their eyes, to upbraid their irreligion, cruelty, and infidelity. Some there are, who affirm these words of our blessed Saviour not to relate to any Zacharias, who had been already slain ; but to be a prophecy of the last of all the martyrs of the Jews, who should be slain immediately before the destruction of the last temple, and the dissolution of the nation. Certain it is, that such a Zacharias, the son of Baruch, (if we may believe Josephus 8,) was slain, in the middle of the temple, a little before it was destroyed; and it is agreeable to the nature of the prophecy and reproof here made by our blessed Saviour, that, (from Abel to Zacharias,) should take in “ all the righteous blood” from first to last, till the iniquity was complete; and it is not imaginable, that the blood of our blessed Lord, and of St. James their bishop, (for whose death, many of themselves thought, God destroyed their city,) should be left out of the account, which yet would certainly be left out, if any other Zacharias should be meant, than he, whom they last slew : and in proportion to this, Cyprian de Valera expounds that, which we read in the past tense, to signify the future, “ye slew,” i. e.“ shall slay;” according to the style often used by prophets, and as the aorist of an uncertain signification will bear. But the first great instance of the
d Sic Chrysost. et Petrus Martyr. episc. Alexandr. Niceph, et Cedrenus.
e Sic aiunt Origen. tract. 23. in Evang. Matth. S. Basil. Homil. de Humana Christi Generatione. Nyssen, in Natali Christi. Cyril. adv. Anthropomorphitas. In Scorpiaco, cap. 8.
& Lib. iv.
Divine vengeance for these executions, was upon Herod, who, in very few years after, was smitten of God with so many plagues and tortures, that himself alone seemed like an hospital of the incurabili: for he was tormented with a soft slow fire, like that of burning iron or the cinders of
in his body; in his bowels, with intolerable colics and ulcers; in his natural parts, with worms; in his feet, with gout; in his nerves, with convulsions, difficulty of breathing; and out of divers parts of his body issued out so impure and ulcerous a steam, that the loathsomeness, pain, and indignation, made him once to snatch a knife, with purpose to have killed himself; but that he was prevented by a nephew of his, that stood there in his attendance.
7. But as the flesh of beasts grows callous by stripes and the pressure of the yoke; so did the heart of Herod, by the loads of Divine vengeance. God began his hell here; and the pains of hell never made any man less impious : for Herod, perceiving that he must now die", first put to death his son Antipater, under pretence, that he would have poisoned him; and that the last scene of his life might, for pure malice and exalted spite, outdo all the rest, because he believed the Jewish nation would rejoice at his death, he assembled all the nobles of the people, and put them in prison, giving in charge to his sister Salome, that, when he was expiring his last, all the nobility should be slain, that his death might be lamented with a perfect and universal
8. But God, that brings to nought the counsels of wicked princes, turned the design against the intendment of Herod; for when he was dead, and could not call his sister to account for disobeying his most bloody and unrighteous commands, she released all the imprisoned and despairing gentlemen, and made the day of her brother's death a perfect jubilee, a day of joy, such as was that, when the nation was delivered from the violence of Haman, in the days of Purim.
9. And, all this while, God had provided a sanctuary for the holy child, Jesus. For God, seeing the secret purposes of blood, which Herod had, sent his angel', “ who appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young
Η Διναι γας και κοίται απoιχoμένοιο λέοντος.
I Matth. ii. 15.
Child and his mother, and fly into Egypt, and be thou there, until I bring thee word; for Herod will seek the young child, to destroy him. Then he arose, and took the young Child and his mother, by night, and departed into Egypt.” And they made their first abode in Hermopolisk, in the country of Thebais; whither, when they first arrived, the child Jesus, being by design or providence carried into a temple, all the statues of the idol-gods fell down, like Dagon at the presence of the ark, and suffered their timely and just dissolution and dishonour, according to the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, the Lord shall come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence'.” And in the life of the prophet Jeremy, written by Epiphanius, it is reported, “ that he told the Egyptian priests, that then their idols should be broken in pieces, when a holy virgin, with her child, should enter into their country:" which prophecy possibly might be the cause, that the Egyptians did, besides their vanities, worship also an infant in a manger, and a virgin in her bed.
10. From Hermopolis to Maturea went these holy pilgrims, in pursuance of their safety and provisions; where, it was reported, they dwelt in a garden of balsam, till Joseph, being, at the end of seven years, (as it is commonly believed,) ascertained by an angel of the death of Herod, and commanded to return to the land of Israel, he was obedient to the heavenly vision, and returned. But hearing that Archelaus did reign in the place of his father, and knowing that the cruelty and ambition of Herod was hereditary, or entailed upon Archelaus, being also warned to turn aside into the parts of Galilee, which was of a distinct jurisdiction, governed indeed by one of Herod's sons, but not by Archelaus, thither he diverted ; and there that holy family remained in the city of Nazareth, whence the holy Child had the appellative of a Nazarene.
* Easeb. de Demonstr. c. 20. S. Athanas. lib. de Incarnat. Verbi, Palladius in Vita S. Apollon.
Isa. xix. 1. Dorotheus in Synopsi. Pallad. in Vita Apollon.
Ad SECTION VI.
Considerations upon the Death of the Innocents, and the Flight
of the Holy Jesus into Egypt.
1. Herod, having called the wise men, and received information of their design, and the circumstances of the child, pretended religion too, and desired them to bring him word, when they had found the babe, “ that he might come and worship him ;” meaning to make a sacrifice of him, to whom he should pay his adoration; and, instead of investing the young Prince with a royal purple, he would have stained his swaddling-bands with his blood. It is ever dangerous, when a wicked prince pretends religion ; his design is then foulest, by how much it needs to put on a fairer outside ; but it was an early policy in the world, and it concerned men's interests to seem religious, when they thought, that to be so was an abatement of great designs. When Jezebel designed the robbing and destroying Naboth, she sent to the elders to proclaim a fast; for the external and visible remonstrances of religion leave in the spirits of men a great reputation of the seeming person, and therefore they will not rush into a furious sentence against his actions, at least not judge them with prejudice against the man, towards whom they are so fairly prepared, but do some violence to their own understanding, and either disbelieve their own reason, or excuse the fact, or think it but an error, or a less crime, or the incidences of humanity; or," however, are so long in decreeing against him, whom they think to be religious, that the rumour is abated, or the stream of indignation is diverted by other laborious arts, intervening before our zeal is kindled; and so the person is unjudged, or, at least, the design secured.
2. But in this, human policy was exceedingly infatuated : and though Herod had trusted his design to no keeper but himself, and had pretended fair, having religion for the word, and “ called the wise men privately," and intrusted them with no employment but a civil request, an account of the success of their journey, which they had no reason, or desire, to conceal ; yet his heart was opened to the eye of Heaven, and the sun was not more visible, than his dark purpose