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and the High Priest of our pro
Weak is the effort of my heart, fession, and in both ways our Saviour.
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art, He shall save his people from their I'll praise Thee as I ought. sins. Here we perceive the glory and
Till then I would thy love proclaim perfection of the Gospel. The great With every fleeting breath ; Deliverer whom it reveals is one who And may the memory of thy name both atones for sin and destroys it ;--
Refresh my soul in death.
Newton. one who saves his people from its
(See Phil. ii. 9-11.) guilt, its pollution, and its power. “ Those whom Christ saves he saves from their sins; from the guilt of sin by the merit of his death, from the dominion of sin by the Spirit of
CHAP. II. 1-3. his grace. In saving them from sin,
The wise men of the East are directed he saves them from wrath and the
to Christ by a star. curse, and all misery both here and hereafter. Christ came to save his Now when "Jesus was born in people, not in their sins, but from Bethlehem of Judea in the days their sins; to purchase for them, not of Herod the king, behold there a liberty to sin, but a liberty from
came wise men from the east to sin, to redeem them from all ini
Jerusalem, quity' (Tit. ii. 14); and so to redeem them from among men' (Rom.
2 Saying, "Where is he that xiv. 4) to himself, who is separate is born King of the Jews? for we from sinners.' So that those who leave have seen "his star in the east, their sins, and give up themselves to and are come to worship him. Christ as his people, are interested 3 When Herod the king had in the Saviour, and in the great sal
heard these things, he was trouvation which he has wrought out.” -Let us practically remember this bled, and all Jerusalem with
him. great and consolatory truth.
a Luke ii. 4, 6, 7. 6 Gen. x. 30, & xxv. 6.
1 Kings, iv. 30.-c Luke ii, 11. d Numb. xxiv. 17. Is. lx. 3.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
And drives away his fear.
And calms the troubled breast; 'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.
My Prophet, Priest, and King;
Reader. Our attention is here called to the time of our Saviour's nativity-and the remarkable journey of certain wise men from the east in search of the infant Redeemer.
Jesus was born, we are told, in the days of Herod the king. There were many
Herods ; and on some future occasion I shall probably show you a table which may assist you in remembering their relation to each which Scripture gives that God's other, and the order of their succes- kingdom ruleth over all, and that he sion. At present, it will be sufficient sees the course of human events if Theophilus will tell us which He- from the beginning to the end ! rod is mentioned in the passage be- The narrative of the visit of the fore us.
wise men will furnish matter for Theophilus. It is Herod, com- many profitable reflections. But let monly called the Great ; who was at me ask, in the first place, are there first governor of Judea, and was af- any particulars concerning these perterwards made king of that country sons, or their journey to Jerusalem, by the Romans.
which you wish to ascertain ? Reader. True; and his days were Mary. I have been requested to now drawing near to their end; for the ask
you where they came from? birth of Christ took place in the last Reader. Probably from Arabia, or (i. ethe thirty-fifth or thirty-seventh) rather, as some suppose, from Persia. year of his reign. His son reigned But on this point we know no more only nine years; and after that Judea than what the Bible tells us; namely, was placed under governors or pro- that they came from some country to curators, and made completely tri- the east of Judea. butary to Rome. Besides this, Ar- Theophilus. They are called wise chelaus, Herod's son, was not ac- men; I suppose they were what we knowledged as king by the Roman should call philosophers. emperor. Of what country was
Reader. St. Matthew tells us that Herod?
they were Magi, for that is the Theophilus. He was the son of Greek word which our translators Antipater, an Idumean.
have rendered wise men. Now it is Reader. And, as you said, he was commonly supposed that by this term made king of Judea by the Romans. we are to understand oriental philo-Are these facts of any importance sophers, or rather astrologers, who with reference to the fulfilment of may also have sustained the characprophecy?
ter of priests in connection with some Theophilus. Yes; they remind us of the religious systems then prevathat Judea was under the domi- lent in the East. Perhaps they were nion of foreigners; and that it had followers of Zoroaster. But this is lost the privilege of being governed not a matter of much importance.
It appears that the time of the Messiah mentioned in other parts of the New had fully come, according to that Testament were impostors who pracancient prophecy in Gen. xlix. 10, tised
tised upon the superstition and cre“ The sceptre shall not depart from dulity of the heathen. Judah, nor a lawgiver from between Theophilus. I do not remember that his feet, until Shiloh come.”
there is any other mention of Magi Reader. How many are the proofs in the New Testament.
Reader. Such was Simon of whom reveal, and to ask no more! And we read in the eighth chapter of the how studiously should we avoid pushActs; who is described in the ninth ing our inquiries into matters of mere and eleventh verses as practising the curiosity, such as have nothing to do arts of a magos.
And Elymas (Acts with the real elucidation of Scripture xiï. 6, 8) is expressly called a magos, history, the discovery of God's will which our translators have rendered concerning our salvation, or the formsorcerer.
ation of Christian character ! Theophilus. As these Magi were so As far as our real information goes, celebrated in the East, and were of these wise men appear to have been such ancient standing, is it not rather heathen philosophers. Here then we singular that we do not read of them
seem to behold a prelude to the callin the Old Testament?
ing of the Gentiles into the church Reader. Allusion to their errors of the Redeemer,-a token of that and false religion may often have mercy whereby Christ has been made been made even where their name a light to lighten the Gentiles, to does not occur.
But we do some- give knowledge of salvation to people times meet with the
very name. of all regions under heaven. At all Rab-mag, in Jerem. xxxix. 3, means events, we may find cause for gratiThe chief Magician, or the head of tude and rejoicing if we contemplate the Magi. And in Isa, viii. 19, the the arrival of these Magi in Jerusa" wizards that mutter” are the Ma- lem as an emblem of that happy and gim.
flourishing condition of the Christian Theophilus. Has it not been sug
church which has been so beautigested as probable that the Magifully described by Isaiah, and will, mentioned by St. Matthew are of one day, we hope, be realized in all Jewish extraction ?
its fulness. “ The Gentiles shall Reader. Yes; but perhaps without come to thy light, and kings to the sufficient reason. Some of the fa- brightness of thy rising. Then thers, according to their bad system thou shalt see, and flow together, of interpreting Scripture, pretended and thine heart shall fear, and be to know a great deal about these enlarged; because the abundance of wise men. They maintained that the sea shall be converted unto thee, they were kings, three in number; the forces of the Gentiles shall come and they professed to know even unto thee. The multitude of camels their names, and the place in which shall cover thee, the dromedaries of they were buried. This ostentatious Midian and Ephah ; all they from ignorance arose partly from their fan- Sheba shall come: they shall bring ciful application of prophecy; and gold and incense; and they shall partly from their habit of following show forth the praises of the Lord.” that ignis fatuus, Tradition. What Isa. Lx. 3, 5, 6. wisdom it is to be content with know- May not this passage of the Evaning what God has been pleased to gelist also give us a call, and encouragement, to send the Gospel into proposed to John the Baptist (Luke the East, the country of the Magi? iii. 15), and the frequent appearance
And let the pains which these wise of false Christs (see Matt. xxiv. 5) men took in their search for the in- about the time of our Saviour's first fant Jesus, admonish us to use all di- coming, are striking indications of ligence in our endeavours to become the fact. It is remarkable also that acquainted with him and his great a certain undefined expectation of salvation. Let us consider, too, how the appearance of some illustrious sad is our case, if, while the Gospel personage, who should assume uniis brought to our very door, and versal empire, was very prevalent in Jesus Christ is evidently set forth other Eastern countries at this period. among us, not only as born into the Perhaps the Jews, who were scatworld, but as crucified for us and tered in various parts of the world, risen again, we are yet careless and had given rise to this expectation, by indifferent concerning his blessed declaring, to a certain extent, the person and his most glorious work! signification of their prophecies. But The wise men undertook a long jour- be this as it may, it is plain that an ney in order to see the newly-born opinion on this subject had become King of the Jews. “Oh how will
very common, especially in the East. their coming so far as from the east I will read to you some remarkto seek Christ rise up another day in able extracts from two Roman histojudgment against us, if we refuse to rians, which affect this point. The be found by Christ, who came from first is from Suetonius, in his Life of heaven to save us!” “ Those who
Vespasian.-"An ancient and settruly desire to know Christ, and to tled persuasion had become very prefind him, will not regard pains or valent throughout the East, that it perils in seeking after him."
had been decreed by the fates that Theophilus. I observe, Sir, that
forth from Judea and the wise men, on their arrival at Je- obtain universal empire." The other rusalem, spoke of the birth of some
passage, of like import, is from the illustrious prince in terms which seem fifth book of the History of Tacitus. to indicate that the subject was quite -“Many were persuaded that it was familiar to their own minds, as well contained in the ancient books of the as a matter of general expectation priests, that, at that very period of among the Jews.
time, the East would prevail; and Reader. We cannot be surprised that some should go forth from Juto find that the birth of the Messiah, dea, and obtain universal empire." the King of the Jews, was expected The historians, ignorant alike of the about that time by the Jews them- origin of such an expectation, and of selves, when we consider how clearly its real fulfilment, applied it to the the period of his appearance in the
dominion of the Roman emperors. world had been determined by the But their testimony is, on this very voice of prophecy. The question account, the more important. Perhaps some of you may remember, it was a constellation, or peculiar conthat the poet Virgil, in one of his junction of the planets; others have Eclogues, alludes to the expected even fancied that it was a comet; while birth of some illustrious progeny others, again, have supposed that it from heaven, in terms very much was the same light as that which like those employed by the inspired shone round about the shepherds of prophet Isaiah relating to the king- Bethlehem; and the reveries of some dom of Messiah.
of the fathers (as they are called) Much could be said respecting have proclaimed it to have been an these passages in ancient authors, angel! All that we can know, howwhich would not serve our present ever, amounts to this; that the wise purpose. They possess an historical men saw an extraordinary luminary, value, and may tend to the confirma- probably in the western part of the tion of the truth. At present, it heavens, which was made the means may be enough for us to remember, of conducting them to the birth-place with devout thankfulness, that God of Christ. This is the largest parahas been pleased to favour us with phrase which we can give to the abundant evidence in support of re
words, “We, in the east, have seen ligion ; and to charge ourselves, in his star."-Repeat that remarkable humble dependence on divine grace, prophecy in which the Messiah himto make a good use of the benefit self is spoken of under the figure of thus conferred upon us, by meekly
a star. submitting to the sceptre of that Mary. It is the prophecy which King of Righteousness and Prince of was uttered by Balaam. Peace, concerning whom we have re- shall come a star out of Jacob, and a ceived full and sufficient information. sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and Oh, may he reign in our hearts, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and may every thought and desire be destroy all the children of Seth." brought into a willing subjection to Numb. xxiv. 17. his most righteous and most benefi- Reader. Whether or not the recial sway!
membrance of this prophecy had Mary. What kind of star may we been preserved in the East, and may suppose it to have been which the have been alluded to by the wise wise men saw ?
men, we cannot say. Nor do we Reader. Perhaps this is one of the know with what degree of certainty, many cases in which it is our wisdom or in what manner, they were asnot to suppose anything at all. We sured of the significancy of the star know that the Magi saw something which they discovered. Either these which had the appearance of a star, Magi, of their own accord, interbut we know nothing more. Some preted the appearance of the star as have conjectured that it was a me- an announcement of the birth of the teor, moving at no great height from great Deliverer; or else God vouchthe surface of the earth; others, that safed to give them instructions by