« AnteriorContinuar »
diately affected him with jealousy, and put him upon en. quiring into the matter. To be farther satisfied, he called a synod of the Chief-Priests and Scribes, and demanded of them where CHRIST should be born : they tell him at Bethlehem in Judea, according to what the prophet Micah, ch. v. ver. 2, had foretold, “ But thou Bethlehem, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
This was so far from affording any satisfaction to Herod, that it rather inflamed and increased his jealousy, which -craftily he concealed. Calling for the wise men privately, he examines them about the appearance of the star, and pretended he would send them to Bethlehem, in quest of the child, that when they, had discovered where he was, they should intimate the same to him, that he also might come and worship him. But God disappointed Herod's treachery. The wise men went to Bethlehem, the star which they had before seen in the East being their guide, which went before them till they came to the place where the Son of God was. - Into whose presence being admitted, they paid him the most solemn adoration, and presented him with the richest productions of their country, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Having performed their congratulatory embassy in this solemn manner, they prepared to return to Jerusalem, to acquaint Herod with the discovery they had made ; but God, whose infinite wisdom and all-searching eye beheld the wickedness and insincerity of Herod, who had no other design by sending these three wise men to find out the babe but to destroy bim, admonishes them in a vision not to acquaint Herod with what they had seen, but to return home to their country another way.
we have seen in the preceding pages, was Hircanus the High-Priest. Secondly, Aristobulus, nephew of Hircanus, and High-Priest. Thirdly, Marianne his wife, and daughter of Hircanus. Fourthly, Alexandra, the mother of Mariamne. Fifthly, Alexander and Aristobulus, his sons by Marianne. Sixthly, Antipater, his son by another wife. These were his reasons for murdering the innocents, among whom he hoped Christ would have fallen, who now seemed his only surviving competitor.
After the circumcision of the holy infant, the next ceremonies to be performed, according to the custom of the law, were the purification of the Virgin-mother, and the presentation of her first-born; which solemnities were to be performed forty days after the nativity, publicly in the temple, by reason of the offering to be made there : which in pursuance of the law was done, the Holy Virgin humbly 'submitting to the law, which enjoined women to purify themselves, though she had no need of it, her blessed Son, who was purity itself, having submitted to the rite of circumcision. After so divine and miraculous a birth, she repaired to the temple with the sacred infant to present him to the Lord, who continued to evince to the world his having sent his Son to redeem it : for in the great concourse of people that attended on this solemn occasion, there appeared two persons eminent for piety, who, being urged by the divine impulse of the Spirit, came to give an illustrious testimony to their Saviour. Simeon, a man just before God, and who wait. cd for the consolation of Israel, having God's promise that he should not depart this life before he had seen the Lord's Anointed, when through the light of his faith he had discovered God thus hidden under the meanness of human infancy, and the promise which God had made him, thus accomplished, transported with an holy joy, he took the blessed infant in his arms, and in an ecstasy sung, “ Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word : for mine eyes have seen thy salva. tion. A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.”
And whilst the Holy Virgin and the rest of this pious assembly rejoiced at what this good man uttered, an holy and venerable widow, named Anna, came likewise into the temple, and added her public praises and acknowledgments to those which Simeon had already given of the Saviour. Her exemplary life gave authority to what she said; for after seven years' marriage she had past all the rest of her life to her eighty-fourth year in acts of piety and devoţion, praying and fasting continually, and Vol. II,
constantly frequenting the temple at the accustomed hours of performing those duties, while the eminency of her character made a deep impression on all who heard her affirming that this infant was the Messiah sent into the world for the redemption of Israel.
These ceremonies being performed in the temple at Jerusalem, they returned home to Bethlehem, where they dwelt till after the coming and departure of the wise men iu all apparent security, mirsing the holy babe, and not in the lcast suspecting the wicked designs or attempts of any enemy. But the eye of Providence was more watchful: God, who knew the insincerity of Herod's heart, resolved to disappoint him, and sent an angel to Joseph, to warn him of the approaching danger that threatened the holy child ; informing him of Herod's cruel design to destroy the infant, and commanding him to retire into Egypt with him and his mother, and there to remain till he should direct him farther. Joseph, who before this had been acquainted with the divine visitation, disputed not the celestial message ; but in a dutiful obedience to God, and fear for his sacred charge, immediately prepared for their escape ; and taking the advantage of the night to prevent a discovery, travelled to Egypt, where these holy pilgrims remained secure, under the protection of heaven.
Herod having long and impatiently expected the return of the wise men, and finding himself deluded by them, impiously resolved to gratily and secure himself another way, intending such a scene of blood as he vainly thought must inevitably determine this young king's reign, whom his jealousy suggested was come to supplant him in his ill-gotten dominion. Nothing less than a general massacre* of all the male-children in Bethlehem, and the country around to two years old, could glut this monster's cruelty, and thinking it impossible in so universal a slaughter that any .could escape him. Thus he resolved, but heaven
* Massacre. This execution was in the beginning of the second year
after Christ's nativity, and not at the two years' end, as some suppose. The number of children slain at this time is said to have been fourteen thousand.
had otherwise decreed; for by this time the intended prey was out of his reach ; and safe under the wings of Provi. dence.
Herod is not tardy in putting his bloody resolution into execution. Guilt and malice soon furnishing him with instruments suitable to his cruel purpose, whom he disperses in all parts to execute his bloody commands, and without pity or distinction murder all the male children in Bethlehem, and in all the confines of it, who were not above two years old. Then was wofully verified the prophecy of Jeremiah, chap. xxxi. ver. 15, “ Rachel *
weeping for her children, and would not be comforted.” The shrieks of tender mothers for their mangled babes, and the groans of expiring infants fill the skies: death and remediless despair raging in every place, and the surface of the earth crimsoned with innocent blood.
During these cruel transactions God had provided a sanctuary in Egypt for the holy child Jesus, a chain of prophecies † exactly concurring in every minute parti
Rachel. This part of Jeremiah's prophecy was spoken figuratively of the captivity of Babylon, and the slaughter at Jerusalem, long after Rachel's death, who is here, though long before dead, said to lament; and so also it hath here a second completion in this slaughter of the infants : and Rachel, the mother of
Benjamin, of which tribe, with that of Judah, the Jews were chiefly composed, is · likewise here figuratively introduced, lamenting the slaughter, as of her children.
† Propbecies. St. Matt. ch. ii. ver. 25, alludes to that text in Hosea, xi. 1, "Out of Egypt have I called my Son;" which had one accomplishment when the people of Israel were carried into, and delivered out of Egypt, and was now again fulfilled in this true promised seed of Abraham, that is, in Christ, (of whom Israel, called God's first-born, was a type) and in him, now that he was a child, as it was said in Hosea. And to this purpose it may be considered, how fity Joseph was a type of Christ, as he is represented to us in the History of his Flight into, and return from Egypt: for as Joseph was by his brethren sold into Egypt, so is Christ by the persecution of Herod driven thither : as Joseph was separated from his brethren, and cast out from among them, so was Christ for fear of Archelaus separated from his own tribe of Judah, and constrained to dwell in Nazareth of Galilee, whose name may denote that fight or separation ; and may likewise sig. nify an afficted or humbled person, which may be applicable to Christ's being brought up in Nazareth ; a'poor place (can any good come out of Nazareth ?) and so a special part of Christ's humiliation to reside there.
cular, as had been foretold some centuries before, and most agreeably and properly accommodated to the person of our Saviour, of whom several persons in the Old Testament had been types.
The holy pilgrims having tarried nearly seven years (as it is commonly believed) in Egypt, Joseph was assured by an angel of the death of Herod, and commanded to return to the land of Israel with his holy charge. He readily obeys the heavenly vision, and returns: but hearing that Archelaus succeeded his father in Judea, and fearing that the cruelty and ambition of Herod might be entailed upon the son,* and being also warned of God in a dream to turn aside into the parts of Galilee, (which was a distinct jurisdiction, governed indeed by one of Herod's sons, but not by Archelaus,) he withdrew thither : and there this holy family remained in the city of Nazareth.t
From their return out of Egypt to Judea, and their habitation in Nazareth, till the blessed child Jesus was twelve years of age, we have nothing transmitted to us out of any authentic record, but that they went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover, which opportunities of religion, and public address to God in the rites and solemnities of the temple, they had been denied during their peregrination in Egypt. But being returned to their own country, they again enjoyed the blessings of those holy societies and employments, of which they had been so long deprived. At the feast therefore of the passover, when Jesus was twelve years old, and in the holy city, attending upon the paschal rites and solemn sacrifices of the
Dr. Doddridge is of opinion, with Grotius, Huinsius, and other critics, that the Țeference made to Hosea xi. 1, is merely in the way of allusion, as also the passage which refers to Jeremiah's prophecy:
Son. Archelaus, in the very beginning of his reign, massacred three thou. sand Jews at one time in the temple.
# Nazareth. It was said, in effect at least, by many of the prophets, " He shall be called a Nazareen,” that is, he shall appear in despicable circumstances, and be treated contemptuously. But, as we do not find the above sentence literally in any of the prophets, we must conclude, with Chrysostom, that ifsuch a sentence originally existed, it has been lost.