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Julian Pe-
riod, 4709.
Before the
Vulgar Era,

5.

11 And when they were come into the house, they Bethlehem saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down,

kind; that it is so to be understood, and consequently that it re-
lated only in the mysterious sense to Christ the eternal Son of
God.

Such is the testimony of this eminent theologian; and that
the Jews applied this emblematical prediction to their Messiah,
needs no proof. That the Magians remembered the traditions
of their fathers, is less certain; yet even on this point we have
some degree of evidence collected from the remaining docu-
ments of that remote period. We are informed, that when an
individual put himself at the head of a tumultuary insurrection,
he obtained many followers by assuming an epithet derived
from the expected appearance of a long predicted star (g). The
idea, therefore, must have been very prevalent and very popular,
or it would not have been adopted by an impostor.

There is much difficulty with respect to the question what the star in the east may have been. Lightfoot (h) supposes it was the light or glory of the Shechinah, which shone round the shepherds, when the angel brought them tidings of Christ's birth, which, scen at a distance, assumed the appearance of a star-others that it was a comet-others a meteor-which is by far the most probable opinion, as it solves the phenomena, and is most consistent with the scriptural account. The circumstances related of many singular meteors also serve to confirm this solution (i).

Some learned writers, however, have not been contented with this more easy and natural explanation, of this part of the nar. rative. They consider the prophecy of Balaam as a scientific anticipation.

The learned Mr. Nolan informs me, that Dr. Henly, the principal of Hertford College, formed a theory which was founded on the dog-star; and, according to Scaliger's calculation, the period of about 1460 years, which is the Great Canicular year, intervenes between the prophecy of Balaam and the Birth of our Saviour; and there seems no doubt but that both events were connected by him, through that period. There appears, however, many strong, and, as he believes, insuperable objections to this theory. Sirius was not regarded as the harbinger of good; Aratus terms it ȧsǹp devos, and Homer describes it

-κακὸν δὲ τε σῆμα τέτυκται

Καὶ φέρει πολλὸν πυρετὸν δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι.

It seems impossible, therefore, that the Magians could have deduced any omen of good from this star, much less that of the birth of a Saviour and Deliverer.

Kepler supposed that a star which appeared in the heel of Serpentarius, was that which indicated the nativity. It is a singular circumstance, that he represents the appearance of this star, as viewed by the astronomers at the beginning of the seventeenth century, as being perfectly similar to that, which St. Ignatins describes, as having appeared at the nativity. It was bright above measure, and appeared in a conjunction of the planets (k).

These notions are very ingenious, but the misfortune is, that the Scripture narrative is decidedly opposed to them: for the star moved before the Magi, and directed them to the house where Mary was dwelling with her holy offspring.

Julian Pe- and worshipped him and when they had opened their Bethlehem. riod, 4709. treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Before the Vulgar Æra,

5.

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Whatever, then, may have been the source of the knowledge which induced the Magi to travel from the East to Jerusalem; whether they were instructed by the traditions of their fathers, handed down to them from the times of Balaam; or directed by the traditional knowledge of their ancestors, received perhaps from Daniel and his countrymen; or acquired from the perusal of the Hebrew Scriptures during the captivity-whether that which guided them were a meteor, a comet, or a star, the wisdom and harmony of the dispensation of God is equally manifest Christ was promised as the Saviour and Deliverer of all nations, and proofs of his descent into this world to fulfil his high mission were given to the pious Jew, and also to the Gentile. To both were declarations made while he was yet an infant, of his high official character. The Magi (1), as well as the shepherds, were brought by divine direction to pay their homage to him, not as to one who had yet to earn the dignity ascribed to him, but who was already invested with it. In the poverty and seclusion of his humble condition, he received unequivocal proofs of their belief in his exalted, and probably in his divine nature. Such testimonies as these we can only attribute to the Deity; imposture or collusion on his part, during a state of infancy, was a physical impossibility: and it certainly appears impossible to reconcile such evidences with the supposed mere humanity of Christ.

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It has been supposed by some, that the Magi were proselytes to the Jewish religion-and by others that they were of the descendants of the ten tribes. Dr. Doddridge justly calls this latter opinion a wild hypothesis.

The various opinions which have been at different times proposed to the world, respecting the place from whence the Magi came, may be found in Calmet, Art. Magi, and in Frank's prize Essay on the Magi. The more generally received opinion is that of Sir Norton Knatchbull (m), that they came from that part of Arabia which was conterminous to Judæa. Bryant's conclusions respecting the situation of Pethor, agree very well with the result of Sir N. Knatchbull's arguments (n).

I have not here discussed the question respecting the time when the eastern sages came to Jerusalem: Lightfoot supposes it was one or two years, and Archbishop Newcome that it was near the end of our Lord's first year. Mr. Benson, in his System of the Chronology of the Life of Christ, (whose hypothesis is here adopted) has examined the subject with much care, and appears to have decided the controversy, that the Magi came from the thirty-ninth to the forty-second day after the birth of Jesus (o).

The Jewish traditions inform us, that it was always expected that a star should appear at the time of the coming of the Messiah. Thus we read in one place of the much esteemed Zohar (p)-The king Messiah shall be revealed in the land of Galilee, and to a star in the east, &c. &c. and again (g)—when the Messiah shall be revealed, there shall rise up in the east a certain star flaming with various colours; and others might be quoted.

(a) Franks' excellent prize dissertation on the Magi, 8vo. Cam. (6) Hesych. voc Μάγον-Μάγον, τὸν θεοσεβῆ καὶ θεολόγον, καὶ ἱερέα, οι Πέρσαι έτως λέγουσιν ap. Bryant's Analysis of Ancient My

Julian Pe- 12 And being warned" of God in a dream that they Bethlehem. riod, 4709. should not return to Herod, they departed into their own

Before the

Vulgar Æra, country another way.

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SECTION XIV.

The Flight into Egypt.

MATT. ii. 13—15.

13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of Egypt. the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Ärise, 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

thology, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 403. (c) Apud Bryant, ut supra. (d) Har-
mer's Observations, Clarke's edit. vol. ii. obs. 9. Pfeifferi dubia vexata
Exotic. N. T. Loc. 3. p. 887. (e) Divine Legation, b. 4. sect. 4. vol. iii.
p. 181. (f) ̓Αξὴρ παρ ̓ Αἰγυπτίοις γραφόμενος ΘΕΟΝ σημαίνει.
Horapollo Hierog. lib. 2. cap. 1. (9) 2. (h) Harmony, vol. i.
p. 205, 437, 438; and vol. ii. Hora Hebr. et talm, p. 109. (i) Vide
Meteorology-Encyc. Britt. ch. v. No. 77. (k) Much curious informa-
tion on the subject of this star in the east, will I hope be soon given to
the world by my learned friend, the Rev. F. Nolan, author of the cele-
brated inquiry into the integrity of the Greek Vulgate, in his Boyle
Lectures on the divine Legation of Abraham. (1) Franks' Essay, p.95,
96. (m) Sir Norton Knatchbull's Annotations on Difficult Texts, p. 6, on
Matt. ii. 16. (n) There are three renderings of the original phrase-We
of the east have seen his star-We have seen his star in the east-We
have seen his star at its rising. (0) Vide Lightfoot's Harm.-Newcome,
note, p. 4. Benson's Chronology, and the references in Elsley. (p) Zohar
in Gen. fol. 74. 3.—Apud Gill in loc. (q) Zohar in Exod. fol. 3. 3, 4.

* Χρηματισθέντες. This expression seems to imply that the
Magi were honoured with a renewal of divine visions, such as
had been in earlier ages imparted to Laban, Abimelech, Nebu-
chadnezzar, and Balaam. Vide Schleusner in voc. xpnμariw-
Xpnuarizoμai oraculum, vel responsum divinum accipio, &c. See
Luke ii. 26.-Acts x. 22.-Heb. viii. 5.-with other instances
there cited.

35 The journey of Joseph and Mary, who were too poor to pay even for the lamb required by the law of Moses, we may justly suppose was defrayed from the offerings of the wise men: their future exigencies, by the over-ruling providence of God, would be equally supplied. Lightfoot quotes on this point the Babylonian Gemara, which states that the Jewish families assembled at this time in Egypt, were so numerous, that the artificers sate by themselves in their companies-the silversmiths-the braziers-the weavers, &c. &c. so that if a poor stranger came into the city, he might know his own fellow-workmen, and betake himself to them, and thence receive sustenance for himself and family. Lightfoot, vol. ii. Works, folio, p. 111.

Julian Pe- might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Egypt. Before the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son 36.

riod, 4709.

Vulgar Æra,

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36 The Evangelist here seems to apply the passage in Hosea ii. 1. in a very peculiar manner to our Lord. This text is generally included among those prophecies which have a double signification. It was referred in its primary sense to God's deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt: but, in its secondary figurative sense, it is applied to Christ. A type is fulfilled, says Dr. Whitby in loc, when that is done in the antitype, which is done in the type. Israel, as a type of Christ, is called in the Old Testament, "My son, my first-born," Exod. iv. 22.-to fulfil the types, therefore, as well as the prophecies, it seems necessary that our Lord should have gone down into Egypt. This country may be considered as a type of the world -that "great city, which is spiritually called Sodom, and Egypt," Rev. xi. 8. All the Patriarchs successively went down into Egypt for protection and support, till at length the Israelites, the spiritual people of God," were called from Egypt," by the power of their divinely appointed Lawgiver and Deliverer. Egypt and Israel may also be considered as types of the twofold character of man, the natural, and the spiritual. The natural man is fed on the bread of Egypt alone: he has no hope, nor fear, nor thought beyond this life; its advantages, wealth, and honours. The spiritual man, by the grace and power of God, is so delivered and called out of Egypt, or from the bondage and vanities of this life, that he keeps himself unspotted from the world; and lives not by the bread of Egypt alone, but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Under the Levitical dispensation, all connection and intimacy was prohibited between the Israelites and the Egyptians; and every transgression of this prohibition, which seemed to imply a desire to trust to human wisdom and power, in preference to that which was spiritual, and from above; was uniformly attended with failure, or calamity. (See also Warburton's Divine Legation on the Connection between Israel and Egypt.) St. Matthew, under the influence of the spirit of God appears to apply the passage of Hosea to the Messiah according to this sense. Christ in his human nature, as our representative, went down into Egypt, to be nourished there; and, like Israel of old, was called out of it by a divine interposition.

He was baptized in the river of Jordan-tried in the wilderness forty days-and after the crucifixion of the flesh attained the promised land, the Heavenly Canaan.

The Israelites were baptized in the Red Sea-tried in the wilderness forty years, and not crucifying the flesh with its affections and lusts, forfeited the promised land, the typical Canaan. Numb. xi. 4, 5, 6. 33, 34, and Numb. xiv. 27. 29, &c. Midrash Techillim, Ps. ii. 7. has these remarkable words. I will publish a decree-this decree has been published in the law, in the Prophets, and in the Hagiographia. In the law, Israel is my first-born, Exod. iv. 22. In the Prophets, Behold my servant shall deal prudently, Isa. liii. 13. In the Hagiographa, The Lord said unto my Lord. All which passages the Jews refer to the Messiah; and St. Matthew, even if he had not spoken by inspiration, would have been justified, according to the custom of his countrymen, in applying the passage in question to the Messiah.

Julian Period, 4709.

SECTION XV.

Slaughter of the Children at Bethlehem.

MATT. ii. 16-18.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of Bethlehem. Before the the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and Vulgar Era, slew all the children that were in Bethlehem ", and in all

5.

37 Because Josephus has omitted to notice the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem, which is related in Matt. ii. 16. the evangelical narrative has been pronounced a fabrication! and a tale that carries its own refutation with it.' This assertion was first made, we believe, by Voltaire, whose disregard of truth, especially in matters connected with the sacred history, is sufficiently notorious. But the evidence for the reality of the fact, and consequently for the veracity of Matthew, is too strong to be subverted by any bold and unsupported assertions. For, in the first place, the whole character which Josephus ascribes to Herod, is the most evident confirmation of the barbarous deed mentioned by the Evangelist.

Secondly, The Gospel of Matthew was published about the year of our Lord 38, at which time there doubtless were persons living who could, and from the hostility then manifested against the Christian faith who would, have contradicted his assertion, if it had been false or erroneous: their silence is a tacit proof that the Evangelist has stated the fact correctly.

But, thirdly, the reality of the fact itself, (though mentioned in his usual scoffing manner) was not denied by the philosopher Celsus, one of the bitterest enemies of Christianity, who lived towards the close of the second century, and who would most unquestionably have denied it if he could (a).

Fourthly, Matthew's narrative is confirmed by Macrobius, a Heathen author, who lived about the end of the fourth century, and who mentions this massacre in the following terms:Augustus," says he, "having been informed that Herod had ordered a son of his own to be killed, among the male infants about two years old, whom he had put to death in Syria, said, It is better to be Herod's hog than his son (b)." Now although Macrobius is far too modern to be produced as a valid evidence in this matter, unsupported by other circumstances, and although his story is magnified by an erroneous circumstance, yet the passage cited from him serves to prove how universally notorious was the murder of the children in Bethlehem, which was perpetrated by the order of Herod.

Fifthly, With regard to the silence of Josephus, we may further remark, that no historian, not even an annalist, can be expected to record every event that occurs within the period of which he writes.

Sixthly, Contemporary historians do not relate the same facts. Suetonius tells us many things which Tacitus has omitted, and Dion Cassius supplies the deficiency of both.

Seventhly, It is unreasonable to make the silence of the Jewish historian an objection to the credibility of the sacred writer, while there is equal, and even superior reason, to confide in the fidelity of the latter.

Eighthly, Herod would naturally be supposed to take such precautions as he might think necessary, without being scrupulous concerning the means.

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