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Herod was alarmed at the coming of the wise men *, he inquired of the learned Jews where Christ should be born; and hearing that it should be at Bethlehem, he destroyed all the male children there under a certain age, hoping to cut off the Messias. He is charged by some, but it seems to be a mistake', with burning the genealogies of all the Jewish families, that the lineage of David, from whom the Messias was to spring, might be unknown; and it hath been said that he undertook to rebuild the temple, because it was thought that the Messias would perform that work.
A great number of impostors, false Christs and false prophets, taking advantage of this prevailing opinion, en
k St. Matthew says that at the birth of Jesus, Herod was troubled, grapex or, and all Jerusalem with him, ii. 3. To which the author of the scheme of Lit. Proph. objects ; .' How could all Jerusalem be troubled to hear their Messiah, or deliverer, was born; when the Jews at all times hoped and desired to see him?' &c. p. 35.
Herod and his friends, and all the irreligious Jews, when they heard that the Messias was come, štasáxbroav, were moved, with grief and fear. The rest of the Jews, who wished for the Messias, &rapézoroar, were moved with an anxiety made up of hopes, and fears, and uncertainty, and expectation. All therefore were put into a commotion, and had their apprehensions and uneasiness, but in some they were mixed with hope and joy.
Phædo, in the Dialogue of Plato whick bears his name, thus describes the painful pleasure which he felt whilst he was conversing with Socrates for the last time-'Αλλ' άτεχνως άτοπον τι μοι πάθος παρών, και τις αήθης κράσεις από τα της ηδονής συγκεκραμμένη ομού και της λύπης, , ενθυμουμένω ότι αυτίκα εκείνος έμελλε τελευτάν. και πάντες οι παρόντες σχεδόν τι ούτω διεκείμεθα.- και αυτός έγωγε 'ΕΤΕΤΑΡΑΓΜΗΝ και ώ άλλοι. * Sed affectus quidam plane mirus, atque insolita voluptatis simul et doloris permixtio me invaserat considerantem illi paullo post moriendum
Et quicunque aderamus similiter ferme affecti eramus,atque ipse aliique peturbati eranus.
Vix sum apud me, ita animus commotu'st metu,
Terent. Andr. v. 4.
Virgil. Æn. x. 648.
Horat. Carm. ii. 19.
Statius, Theb. vi. 393.
deavoured to impose upon the Jews. Many of these deceivers appeared from the days of Herod the Great to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Amongst the Romans also, and in the eastern parts of the world, there was an opinion that some extraordinary person should arise and rule the earth, which inust have conie in ali probability from the Jews m.
The Samaritans hated the Jews so much that they cannot well be thought to have borrowed the hopes of a Messias from that nation. That they entertained such hopes we read in the New Testament; which is also confirmed by the attempts of Simon Magus, and other Samaritan impostors.
Concerning the fitness of the time when Christ came into the world, the holy scriptures say little; and we can only offer conjectures, which ought to have no more of authority than they are found upon examination to have of probability.
1. Our Lord came when men had been prepared by a long series of prophecies to expect and receive him.
The promises of a Messias were at first more obscure, and, as the time of his coming drew near, more plain; and during the long interval between Adam and Malachi, different predictions concerning the person and the offices and the sufferings and the prosperity of the Messias were delivered, which contained many things seemingly irreconcileable, and yet accomplished in Christ.
As the knowledge of these predictions was in a manner confined to the Jewish nation, it pleased God to make their religion more known when the time of Christ's appearing drew near". Before his coming, the Old Testament was translated into the Greek language, a language then', and long afterwards, the most universally under.
m Josephus, Bell. Jud. vi. 5. Tacitus. Suetonias.
* Eusebius endeavours to prove that the Gentiles were indebted to the Jews on many accounts. Eccl. Hist. 1. 2. et Præp. Evang.
• It is certain that the Romans took pains to propagate their language, and to establish its superior dignity ; of which good proofs are collected by Bayle, Dict. Claude, p. 897. But in the time of Christ and his apostles, Greek was really the universal language. The New Testament is a proof of it, if proof were wanted, and this is one reason,
stood, whereby the Gentiles had access to sacred history and to the prophetic writings P: and it appears from the books of the New Testament, and from other writers, that many proselytes had learned of the Jews to worship one God and to obey the moral parts of the law of Moses, and that such persons were to be found in most nations of the known world 9.
2. Christ came when the Jews wanted the Messias as an instructor.
The Jews, who from the time of Moses to Malachi were seldom without a prophet, had none, as we can find, froni the days of Malachi to the coming of our Saviour. The prophets used to be sent to them to reprove them for their fáults, to require from them an observance of the laws of Moses, and to foretel the Messias : but the writings of the prophets were in their hands, and constantly read; and served for these purposes as much as any new messenger could have served, unless he had been one of superior authority to his predecessors. The Jews wanted no new prophecies concerning the Messias ; they saw him pro
amongst many others, which may be given why St. Matthew probably wrote his gospel in Greek. 'Græca leguntur in omnibus fere gentibus : Latina suis finibus, exiguis sanè, continentur. Cicero Orat. pro Arch. Quamdiu steterit aut Latinæ linguæ potentia, aut Græcæ gratia.' Seneca Cons. ad Polyb. 21. * Sed nostra constitutio, quam pro omni natione, Græca lingua--composuimus,' says Justinian, Instit. 1. iii. tit. viii. 3. See Wetstein's N. T. p. 224. St. Matthew, v. 47, 48. says,- 1 TERWYL ούτω ποιούσιν ; "Εσεσθε ούν υμείς τέλειοι--That is: Be ye not τελώναι, but réelos. - Videtur aut Matthæus vocem réelon hic studio adhibuisse, ut serais opponeret.' Wetstein. Add to this, that turns and cé310 both are derived from the same word, from TĖMIS. So again vi. 15. we find an antithesis in the words αφανίζουσι τα πρόσωπα, όπως OL056— Eleganter dicitur : Tegunt faciem, ut appareant,'&c. Wetstein. One thing which contributed to spread the language of the Romans, was their law; which, even when it was written in Greek, could bardly he understood by the Greeks, unless they had some knowledge of the Latin tongue, of εμαγκιπω, φιδεϊ κομμιττω, ληγατον, ιντερδικτον, ετοιμόρδιναίος, . τουτωρ, κουρατωρ, πουπιλλος, and a thousand such words.
P But it must be owned thrat the Scriptures, even after this translation, were little known to many of the Gentiles for a considerable time. Greek and Roman historians, as Diodorus Siculus, Trogus Pompeius who is abridged by Justin, Strabo, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, and others, seem to have been ignorant of Jewish Antiquities.
& Who were dispersed in all lands. See Josephus ü. p. 191. 407.
mised, as they thought, clearly in many places of the sacred books. There was as little occasion for one who should press upon them an adherence to the ritual law; they observed it carefully, or rather superstitiously : but of two things they particularly stood in need ; first, of instruction in the true nature of the ceremonial law; secondly, of receiving fuller assurances of a future state. The ceremonial law was given to the Jews, partly in condescension to their temper and capacities, and partly to keep them separated from the vices and idolatries of the Heathen. But their wrong opinions of it were attended with bad consequences: they esteemed it at too high a rate; they despised the Gentiles, and thought them excluded, in a great measure, from the favour of God, not 80 much for their vices, as because they were legally impure, and observed not the Mosaic rites; and consequently they entertained unsuitable notions of God and of morality. But the time was now approaching when their ceremonial law would be almost impracticable, when the Romans would deprive them of those small remains of liberty which they possessed, would destroy their temple, drive them out of their land, and disperse them into all nations. It was therefore necessary that they should be taught that their ceremonies were no longer of importance, that God was no respecter of persons, and that all good men were his children ; that a Jew might perform his duty in another country as well as in Judæa; that he might converse indifferently and freely with all the sober and virtuous ; that he ought to think himself a citizen of the world, account every man his neighbour, and love him as such.
The doctrine of universal love and charity was very necessary to be inculcated to Jews and Gentiles.
and Gentiles. Many Pagans of great renown had carried the love of their country to a vicious excess, and had not scrupled to injure and oppress other nations, that they might advance the power and glory of their own. The Romans had not been free from this fault; the Lacedæmonians had been scandalously guilty of its
See Le Clerc de l'Incréd. p. ii. c. 7.
See Plutarch in Agesil. et Alcibiad. Thucydid. 1. v, Vol. I.
The doctrine of a future state had not been delivered in a full, clear, and satisfactory manner, in the law or in the prophets! The Sadducees rejected it, supposing it not to be contained in the sacred books; and the Pharisees and Essenes", who admitted it, founded their belief upon consequences drawn from some expressions in Scripture upon tradition, and upon such arguments as their reason suggested, and had mixed together some true and some false notions about it. The express promises made in the law to the righteous were of temporal good things, and these promises began to be less and less fulfilled, to the disappointment of many pious persons, who scarcely knew how to reconcile these ways of Providence with the holy Scrip
It was therefore expedient that they should be taught by the Messias, that as the Jewish commonwealth, with its political and ceremonial laws, would soon cease, God interposed no longer in their behalf, but invited the Jews and the rest of mankind to a more sublime and spiritual religion, and would bestow upon his servants a recompense infinitely surpassing all that this unhappy world can bestow.
3. About the time of Christ's coming, religion and morality were universally corrupted, and greatly wanted reformation. The Jewish church was overrun with error and superstition: the precepts of God, and the rules of
Jure B. Proleg. 3. 23, 24. and Le Clerc Art. Crit. i. 429. Sublatâ hominum concordiâ, virtus nihil est omnino. Quæ sunt enim patriæ commoda, nisi alterius civitatis aut gentis incommoda? id est, fines propagare, aliis violenter ejectis, augere imperium, vectigalia facere majora. Quæ omnia non utique virtutis, sed virtutum sunt eversiones. In primis enim tollitur humanæ societatis conjunctio, tollitur alieni abstipentia, tollitur denique ipsa justitia, quæ dissidium generis humani ferre non potest, et ubicumque arma fulserint, hinc eam fugari et exterminari necesse est. Verum est enim Ciceronis illud : autem civium rationem dicunt habendam, externoruin negant, dirimunt li communem humani generis societatem ; quâ sublatâ, beneficentia, liberalitas, bonitas, justitia funditus tollitur.'
Nam quomodo potest justus esse, qui nocet, qui odit, qui spoliat, qui occidit Quæ omnia faciunt, quí patriæ prodesse nituntur. Lactantius Inst. Div. vi. 6. i Tillotson, vol. i. serm. xxiii.
Essenes & Therapeutæ;' men who seem to have been but one remove from those who, by the Roman laws, were ad agnatos et gentiles deducendi.'