1. ow when Jesus was lorn in Bethlehem^ of Judea, in the days of Herod the king? behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2. Saying, Where is he who is born king of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. These wise men were so called, because they observed the appearances of nature and the heavenly bodies : subjects much studied in the eastern countries to which they belonged. The sight of some unusual meteor in the sky attracted their attention ; and, perhaps, the general expectation which prevailed of some mighty king or deliverer, in consequence of the Hebrew prophecies, led them to suppose that this star was connected with his coming. God, however, must have communicated to them, by his Spirit, some surer intimation. So we are told after1 This town lay six miles to the south of Jerusalem. 2 Commonly called Herod the Great, to distinguish him from others his descendants, subsequently mentioned in the ew Testament. 6

12 MATT. II. 112. wards (v. 12) that he revealed his will to them in a dream. 3. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Herod was troubled, expecting some rival to his power : and Jerusalem, knowing his character, and fearing some new cruelty ; not without too good reason, as soon appeared. 4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea : for thus it is written by the prophet, 6. And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least amongst the princes of Juda ; for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel? The sense of this prophecy seems to have been well understood by the Jews. We find them arguing, u Hath not the Scripture said, that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" 4 They did not, however, understand the nature of his kingdom, or the object of his government. Had they known that he was to be a spiritual and not a temporal ruler, that " his kingdom was not of this world," Herod would not nave been troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 7. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go, and search diligently for the young child ; and when ye have 3 Micah v. 2. 4 John vii. 42.

MATT. II. 112. 13 found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. Herod spoke these " words of peace, having war in his heart :" hoping in this way to discover the abode of the infant king, that he might destroy him. He was little aware that the safety of Christ was secured by a guardian who cannot be deceived. And so, likewise, (blessed reflection,) is the safety of his people. " He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." 5 " The angel of the Lord encampeth about them that fear him, and delivereth them." f 9. When they had heard the king, they departed; and lo, the star which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child ivith Mary his mother, and fell down and ivorshipped him : and when they had opened their treasures, they presented imto Mm gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12. And being warned of God in a dream, that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

In this narrative, an example is set us, which it is our duty to follow. God intimated the birth of his Son to the wise men, by a new appearance in the heavens. So, to us, a Redeemer is made known by early education, by the ministry of the word, by the Scriptures which we enjoy. 5 Ps. cxxi. 4. c Ps. xxxiv. 7.

14 MATT. II. 112. The philosophers of the east were not inattentive to the heavenly vision; but came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews f Thus they made the birth of the Messiah their own personal concern : and that they might not be disappointed in their search, applied to those best able to instruct them. We are bound to do the same ; we are bound to secure to ourselves, by a lively faith, that interest in Christ which is covenanted to us by the privilege of our baptism. We hear his gracious offers, and must come and worship him as our Saviour and our Lord. God does not leave unnoticed and unrewarded those who desire to discover his will, and comply with the suggestions of his Spirit upon their hearts. The star which they had seen in the east, appeared again to the wise men, as they pursued their search from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. This illustrates the way in which the Holy " Spirit prevents us, that we may have a good will, and works with us when we have that good will." 7 The star which advertised these strangers of the birth of Christ is like the Spirit warning us, as we hear or read the word, that the same Jesus is the Author of eternal life to all them that obey him. Are our

hearts awakened by this truth ? do we desire to know him " of whom Moses and the prophets did write ?" do we desire more fully to understand " what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance?" Here again the star appears, 7 Art. x.

MATT. II. 112. 15 and guides us on our way ; " the eyes of our understanding" are gradually " enlightened ; and the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, gives unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him." 8 The Spirit does not leave us, till he has conducted us safely to the Son of God : as the star did not desert the wise men, till it came and stood over where the young child was. " The mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh/' is more and more unfolded to us, and its wonderful adaptation to the circumstances and wants of our state, is more and more perceived till we entirely and cordially receive him as " made unto us of God wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." 9 Has the Spirit done this for ourselves ? Is he thus leading us? Has he brought us to acknowledge Christ as the author of our salvation, by whom we " have access to the Father ?" The history gives us one more lesson of instruction. The wise men when they were come into the house, and saw the young child with Mary his mother, fell down and worshipped him ; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts ; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Here again they afford us an example: we too must present unto him gifts; not once only, or when we first approach him;

but constantly offer him, out of the treasure of our heart, the best gifts we have of active service and obedient love. These are the gifts which he requires, and this is the least return which we can pay that Eph. i. 17, 18. 9 1 Cor. i. 30.

16 MATT. II. 1323. the "life which we live in the flesh," we "live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us, and gave himself for us."

LECTURE IV. HEROD'S CRUELTY CHRIST CALLED A AZARE E. MATT. ii. 1323. 13. And when they were departed, behold the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word ; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt : 15. And was there until the death of Herod : that it might be fulfilled which teas spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. The passage alluded to occurs in Hosea xi. 1, " When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." So God now loved his " only begotten Son, in whom he was well

pleased ;" and it was part of his providential design, that for a while he should find a refuge in Egypt, like the Israelites of old. Afterwards he called Jesus out of Egypt, as in former times he had delivered 7

MATT. II. 1323. 17 Israel from the bondage of the same strange land ; arid as he will deliver all the true members of that church, of which Christ was to be the Head, from the bondage and clangers of sin. 16. Then Herod, when he saw that Tie was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and tinder, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. o one can foresee the end of any worldly principle or passion, when allowed to have dominion. Herod's passion was the love of power; and when he conceived that his power was threatened, he determined to preserve it at all hazards, and by all means, lawful or unlawful. It was his misfortune to hold a station, which allowed him, without restraint, to practise the cruel devices which he believed to be needful to his security. A lamentation was made then, in the scene of this barbarous wickedness, like that which had been made six hundred years before by Jeremiah, when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the prisoners were brought to Ramah. * Ramah was within the district of Bethlehem ; therefore we are told, 17. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy

the prophet, saying, 18. In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. <l 1 Jer. xl. 1. 2 Jer. xxxi. 15.

18 MATT. II. 1323. The words of the prophet proceed, " Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears ; for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord ; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy." And so it might be said on this occasion, Refrain your voice from weeping, ye mothers of Bethlehem, and your eyes from tears ; for your sorrow shall have a recompense : your children shall live again, in a land where they have no enemy. They are taken from a world of sin and trial, into the presence of a merciful God. His goodness may be trusted, however dark the present dispensation may appear. Shortly after the commission of that cruelty, by which he had intended to preserve his life and his power, Herod died. We may turn aside the hand of man ; but we cannot turn aside the universal decree, Thou shall surely die. 19. But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20. Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel : for they are dead which sought the young child's life.

21. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither : notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee : 23. And he came and dwelt in a city called azareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a azarene.

MATT. II. 1323. 19 Jesus, though born at Bethlehem, was generally considered as belonging to azareth; because his youth was passed in that place, as being the residence of Joseph. Hence his followers were termed azarenes. So Paul is accused by the orator Tertullus as a " ringleader of the sect of the azarenes." 3 azareth was a place held in general contempt, as we learn from the first question of Bartholomew to Philip : " Can there any good thing come out of azareth ?" And the prophets had spoken concerning Christ, that he should be " despised and rejected of men." The Psalmist says of him, " For thy sake have I borne reproach ; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children." 5 Therefore Joseph was directed in a dream to this ignoble place, that he for whom God hath designed a " name that shall be above every name," might, in his earthly condition, accomplish the prophecy, " He was despised and we esteemed him not :" 6 he hath no form nor comeliness : and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him ! This leads to a natural reflection. " For thy sake

have I borne reproach," says the Lord of glory. Certainly, for our sake he did undergo reproach, who, " being in the form of God, yet made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ; and being 3 Acts xxiv. 5. 4 John i. 46. 5 Ps. Ixix. 7, 8. e Is. liii. 2, 3 . The reason may be seen in Whitby for adopting this interpretation, instead of referring the allusion to Judges xiii. 5, where it is said of Samson, he shall be a azarite (separated, hallowed, ^yiaayAo/os) unto God from the womb. c2

20 MATT. II. 1323. found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." 7 Should we then hesitate to endure reproach for him, if be put to such a trial ? If our zeal to serve what we believe to be his cause should prove unpopular, or if our strict conformity to the spirit of his laws should lead to misrepresentation, shall we be disturbed, as if some strange thing had happened to us ? Still less ought we to decline from the straight path of duty, through a vague apprehension of any such consequence, which probably may never arise. The lesson to be learnt is, that both worldly honour and worldly reproach are as nothing in the sight of God ; and that we should endeavour to think them nothing, but seek the " honour which cometh from God " only. It often happens that those who do seek that honour simply and consistently, are unexpectedly rewarded, in the end, by the good opinion of men. For " when a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be

at peace with him." 8 Enable us, Lord, through " honour and dishonour, through evil report and good report," to lead the life which is approved by thee, and " keep ourselves unspotted from the world." i Phil. ii. 6 8. 8 Prov. xvi. 7.

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