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(in the land assigned to the tribe of Judah) was the very spot which the Holy Spirit, by the prophet Micah, had marked out for this great event. In consequence of this intelligence Herod immediately dismissed the assembly, and sending for the three strangers with the utmost secrecy, he enquired of them the exact time of the appearance of the star. Being resolved this question, he then dispatched them to Bethlehem, with orders to make diligent search for the young prince, and, when they had discovered where he was, to bring him word to Jerusalem, that he, in like manner, might go and pay homage to bim. But this was mere pretence, and vile hypocrisy: for so far was Herod from entertaining any religious regard for the Divine Infant, that he had determined in his heart to destroy him as soon as he should be found. He considered him in the light of a temporal prince, who might expel him, or his descendants, from the throne, instead of a prince whose kingdom was wholly spiritual, and whose throne was not to be established upon earth, but in the heavenly Jerusalem.
The three strangers, having received these instructions from Herod, immediately left Jerusalem, and set forward for Bethlehem. In their way they were very agreeably surprized with the sight of the same miraculous star they had seen in their country, which (like the fiery pillar in the wilderness) went before, and directed them to the very house where the Blessed Jesus and his mother abode. As soon as they entered in, they fell prostrate on the ground, according to the Eastern custom, and, having in this manner adored the child, they then presented him with the richest products of their country, such as gold and precious odors, but more particularly frankincense and myrrh.
The Eastern strangers, having thus performed their homage to the Blessed Jesus, intended to return to Jerusalem, and acquaint Herod with the happy discovery they had made; but they were diverted from carrying their design into execution by a vision they had that very night, which apprized them of Herod's cruel intentions, and at the same time directed them, for their own safety, to pursue another course than that they had come to their
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own country. These directions were strictly attended to by the strangers, and thereby was defeated the wicked intention of the malicious Herod.
Not long after this an angel was sent to Joseph to acquaint him with Herod's intended cruelty against the child, and at the same time to order him to retire into Egypt with him and his mother. Joseph instantly obey. ed the Divine command, and, for fear of discovery, taking the advantage of the night, he, with all possible expedi. tion, set forward for Egypt And was there (with the child and his mother) until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet: Out of Egypt have I called my son.
In the mean time Herod waited impatiently for the return of the eastern sages; but at length finding himself deluded, and his most secret and subtle designs frustrated, he fell into a most violent rage, and resolved to effect by cruelty what he had been disappointed of doing by policy. To this purpose he ordered a large party of soldiers to go throughout the city of Bethlehem, and the adjoining villages, and massacre all the children they could find therein that were two years old and under; thinking that the infant Jesus, whom as a prince he both envied and dreaded, would fall in the general slaughter. But God had provided the heavenly missionary with a safe retreat. The shrieks, however, of tender mothers for their innocent babes, and the groans of expiring infants, which, on this occasion, filled the skies, were inexpressible: death and remediless despair raged in every place, and the surface of the earth was crimsoned with innocent blood. But it was not long before the Divine vengeance overtook the author of this dreadful scene, he being afflicted with a most uncommon and dreadful distemper, which, in a short time, put a period to his existence. *
and pccasion, filled the stof expiring infants their inno
* It is clearly evident, from the nature of Herod's disease, and the misery he suffered uniler it, that it was inflicted on him by Providence as a punishment for his horrid cruelty to the innocent and harmless children. Josephus tells us, that not long after the massacre of the infants at Bethlehem, his distemper Jaily increased, and that he labored under the most loathsome and tormenting complaints. “ He had (says he) a lingering and wasting fever, and
Herod, some time before his death, had made a will, which was, in some measure, confirmed by Augustus; and in it he settled his dominions upon his sons and his
66 grievous ulcers in his entrails and bowels; a violent cholic, an 26 insatiable appetite, a venemous swelling in his feet, convulsions o in his nerves, an almost perpetual asthma, and stinking breath, 4 rottenness in his joints, accompanied with prodigious itchings, 6 crawling worms, and intolerable scents, so that he was a perfect « hospital of incurable diseases. And thus he died in horrid pain “ and torment, being smitten by Providence for his many enormous 66 iniquities.”
There certainly never was a more wicked man, or complete tyrant than Herod. He suppressed, and changed the high-priest's office as he thought fit, and even prophaned the temple itself. He caused the legal king of the Jews to be slain, extirpated all the race of the Maccabees, removed the whole Sanhedrim, and placed others in their stead. Nor was his rage confined to the Jews, but descended to his owņ fimily and nearest relations, even to the executing his beloved wife Mariamne, and his own sons Alexander and Aristobulus, upon slight and trivial occasions. As he was conscious to himself of the wickedness of his life, so he had great reason to imagine, that, instead of any true lamentation at his death, there would be much rejoicing throughout the whole kingdom of Judea; and, therofore, to prevent this, he framed a project, which was one of the most horrid that ever entered into the mind of man. He summoned all the nobility and most considerable men in every city, town and
where he then lay sick. As soon as they were assembled, he ordered his soldiers to shut them all up in a spacious place, called the Hippodrome; after which, calling to him his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, with some choice friends, he told them, “ That he was sensible of the hatred of the Jews to his person and government, and that his death would be a high satisfaction to them: that his friends, therefore, ought to procure him soine solace in the midst of his bitter anguish, which if they performed according to his order, the mournings and lamentations at his death would be as great and magnificent as ever any prince had. The substance of this order was, that on the same hour when he expired, the soldiers should surround the Hippodrome, put all the inclosed persons to the sword, and then publish his death, which (as he said) would cause his exit to be doubly triumphant; first, for the posthumous execution of his commands, and secondly, for the quality and num. ber of his mourners." But Salome and Alexas, not being wicked enough to do what they had been made solemnly to promise, chose rather to break their obligation, than make themselves the executioners of so bloody a design; and, therefore, as soon as Herod was dead, they ordered the Hippodrome to be opened, and permitted all that were shut ap in it to return to their respective habitations.
sister. He made Archelaus bis successor in that part of his kingdom which included Judea, Idumæa, and Samaria: to Philip he gave Auronitis, Trachonitis, Panea, and Batanea: to Herod Antipas, Galilee and Peräa; and to his sister Salome, some particular cities, with a con. siderable sum of money.
Joseph returns out of Egypt, and takes up his residence at
Nazareth in Galilee. Archelaus, who succeeds Herod in the government of Judea, is deposed by the emperor Augustus. Our Blessed Saviour, at twelve years of age, is found dis. puting with the doctors in the temple. Death of Augustus Cæsar. T'he preaching of John the Baptist, and the man. ner of his life. Baptism of Christ, and visible descent of the Holy Ghost on that occasion. Commencement of our Saviour's ministry. His temptation in the wilderness. His first miracle of turning water into wine at the marriage feast.
AS soon as the tyrant Herod was no more, his death was notified to Joseph by an heavenly messenger, who directed him immediately to leave Egypt, and return, with the child and its mother into the land of Israel. Joseph readily obeyed the Divine command; but, when he arrived at Judea, hearing that Archelaus succeeded Herod in that part of the country, and being apprehensive that the cruelty and ambition of the father might be entailed upon the son, he was fearful of settling in his dominions. But these disagreeable apprehensions were soon removed by his receiving a visit from another heavenly messenger, who directed him to retire to Nazareth in Galilee, which was under the government of Herod Antipas, a mild and benevolent prince, and where the particular circumstances which attended the birth of our Blessed Saviour were not generally known.
The precise circumstances of our Lord's childhood and life, previous to the time of his public ministry, are not
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noticed in the writings of the Evangelists, which can alone be relied on as authentic. All we can gather from those inspired men is, that our Blessed Saviour's parents annually repaired with him to Jerusalem at the feast of the passover; and that, as his body increased in stature, so more especially the faculties of bis soul were enlarged, and highly replenished with the grace of God. As his parents were poor he had not the advantage of a finished education, and seems to have received no other instruc. tion than what his parents gave him, in conformity to the Jewish laws. But supernatural abilities amply compensated for the deficiency of natural acquirements, and he gave instances, in his earliest years, of the most amazing penetration, and extensive wisdom.
In the mean time Archelaus, king of Judea, following the steps of his cruel father Herod, made himself so obnoxious to the Jews, that the principal men among them, joining with those of Samaria, drew up a complaint against him, which they laid before Augustus Cæsar, emperor of Rome. The emperor, after a full hearing on both sides the question, deprived Archelaus of his gor. ernment, confiscated all his goods, banished him to Vienna, a city in Gaul, and reduced his dominions to the form of a Roman province, which, ever after, was ruled by a governor sent from Rome, who was called by the name of Procurator, but, in some cases, was subject to the President or Governor of Syria.
While Judea was reduced to this wretched state, our Blessed Saviour was advanced to the twelfth year of his age, at which time he went up with his parents, as usual, to celebrate the feast of the Passover at Jerusalem. His parents, after staying the whole seven days, and having performed the usual cereinonies on the occasion, were now returning, with great numbers of their neighbors and acquaintance, towards Galilee; and supposing that the Blessed Jesus had joined himself with some of the company, they travelled on a whole day's journey. But, when night came on, and they could not, among their relations and particular friends, hear any tidings of him, they were thrown into the utmost consternation, and im