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from whence the child has come to her.” It appears, that in her distress, she had forgot the adventure of Gabriel :--that angel came the night following to encourage by a dream poor Joseph, who, on his part, was on the point of having an affair with the priests, who accused him of having palmed this child, to the prejudice of Mary's vow of virginity. On this the priests made the two spouses drink of the waters of jealousy, that is, of a potion, which, by a miracle, did them oo injury; the high priest, therefore, declared them most innocent.
It is likewise related in the same gospel, that after Mary had been delivered, Salome, refusing to credit the midwife who assured ber that the delivered was still a virgin, laid her hand on Mary in order to satisfy herself of the fact. Immediately this rash hand felt itself on fire; but she was cured on taking the little Jesus in her arms. See Codex Apocr. N. T. tome i. p. 95--113.
OF the four historians of Jesus adopted by the church, two are wholly silent on the facts we are to relate in this chapter ; and St. Matthew and St. Luke who have transmitted them, are not at all unanimous in particulars. So discordant indeed are their relations, that the ablest commentators do not know how reconcile them. These differences, it is true, are less perceptible when the Evangelists are read the one after the other, or without reflection ; but they become particularly striking; when we take the trouble of comparing then). This is undoubtedly the reason why we have hitherto had no concordance of the gospels, which received the general approbation of the church. Even those which have been printed, have not been universally adopted, though it must be acknowledged that they contain nothing contrary to faith. It is perhaps from judicious policy, that the heads of the church have not approved of any system on this point; they have probably felt the impossibility of reconciling narratives 80 discordant as those of the four Evangelists; for the Holy Ghost, doubtless with a view to exercise the faith of the faithful, has inspired them very differently. Besides, an able concordance of the Gospels would prove a very dangerous work :-it would necessarily bring together facts related by authors, who, very far from supporting, would only reciprocally weak. en each other-a circumstance which could not fail to stagger at least the faith of the compiler.
St. Matthew, who, according to common opinion, wrote the first history of Jesus, asserts, that as soon as Christ was born, and while he was still in the stable a Bethlehem, Magi came from the East to Jerusalem, and enquired where the king of the Jews was, whose star they had observed in their own country. He rod, who then reigned in Judea, being informed of the motive of their journey, consulted the people of the law; and having learned that Christ was to be born at Bethlehem, he permitted the Magi to go there, recommending to them to inform themselves exactly of this child, that he himself might do him homage.*
It appears, from the narrative of St. Matthew, that as soon as the Magi left Herod, they took the road to Bethlehem, a place not far from Jerusalem. It is surprising that this prince, alarmed at the arrival of the Magi, who had thus announced the birth of a king of the Jews, did not take more precaution to allay his own uneasiness, and that of the capital, which the gospel represents as in a state of consternation at this grand event. It would have been very easy for him to have satisfied himself of the fact, without being under the necessity of relying on strangers, who did not exe.
St. Matthew ii. 2. &c.
cute his commission. The Magi did not return : Joseph had time to save himself and his little family by flight; Herod remained tranquil in spite of his suspicions and fears. It was not till after a considerable interval that he got into a passion on finding himself deceived ; and then, to preserve his crown in safety, he ordered a general massacre of the children of Bethlehem and the neighbouring villages ! But why suppose such conduct in a sovereign, jealous, distrustful, and cruel? This prince had assembled the doctors of the law and princi. pal men of the nation ; their advice had confirmed the rumour spread by the wise men; they said it washant Bethlehem that Christ was to be born, and yet Herod. did nothing for his own tranquillity! Either Herod bad faith in the prophecies of the Jews, or he did not believe them. In the first case, and instead of relying on strangers, he ought himself to have gone, with all his court, to Bethlehem, and paid homage to the Saviour of the nation. In the second case, it is absurd to make Herod order a general massacre of infants, on account of a suspicion founded on a prophecy which he did not believe.
Neither do we find that this prince's indignation was roused till after the lapse of several days, and after he perceived that the Magi derided him, and returned by another road. Why did he not learn by the same means, the flight of Jesus, of Joseph, and his mother? Their retreat must certainly have been observed in a place so small as Bethlehem. It will perhaps be said, that God on this occasion, permitted Herod to be blinded; but God should not have permitted the inhabitants of Bethlehem and its environs to be so obstinate in preserving a secret that was to cost the lives of all their children. Possessed of the power of working mira.
dles; could not God have saved his son by more gen. tle means than the useless massacre of a great num. ber of innocents ?-On the other hand, Herod was not absolute master in Judea. The Romans would not have permitted him to exercise such cruelties; and the Jewish nation, persuaded of the birth of Christ; would not have been accessary to them. A King of England, more absolute than a petty sovereign of Judea, dependent on the Romans, would not be obeyed, were he to order his guards to go and cut the throats of all the children in a neighbouring village, because three strangers, in passing through London, had said to him, that among the infants born in that village there was one, who, according to the rules of judicial astrology, was destined to be one day king of Great Britain. At the time when astrology was in vogue, they would have contented themselves with causing search to be made for the suspected infant; they would have kept it in solitary confinement, or perhaps put it to death; but without comprehending other innocent children in its proscription.
We might indeed oppose to the relation of Matthew the silence of the other evangelists, and especially that of the historian Josephus, who, having reasons to hate Herod, would not have failed to relate a fact so likely to render him odious as the massacre of the innocents. Philo is likewise silent on the subject; and no reason can be divined why these two cele brated historians should have agreed in concealing a fact so horrible. We cannot suppose it bas proceeded from hatred to the Christian religion; for that detached fact would prove neither for nor against it. We are, therefore, warranted to conclude that this massacre is a fable; and that Matthew seems to have in.