תמונות בעמוד
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Q. He was smitten by God with many plagues and tortures. According to Josephus, “he was inflamed with a slow fire, which outwardly seemed not so vehement, but inwardly afflicted all his entrails; he had a ravenous and unnatural appetite, which could no ways be satisfied; besides, he had an ulcer in his bowels, with a strange and furious cholic; his feet were swelled, and of a venomous colour ; his members rotted, and were full of crawling worms; also strong convulsions, and shortness of breath ;" and after having tried the physicians for relief without success, he died; but not without farther testimonies of his cruelty.

Q. Is there any account of the number of children that were put to death?

A. The Greek church in their calendar, and the Abyssines of Æthiopia in their offices, commemorate fourteen thousand infants ; for Herod being crafty, and taking the best measures he could that the holy child Jesus might not escape, had caused all the children to be gathered together; which the credulous mothers (supposing it had been to take an account of their age and number, in order to some taxing) hindered not, and thereby they were betrayed to that cruel butchery.

Q. How does the evangelist represent the lamentations of the Bethlemite parents for their children?

A. By a prophetic and figurative speech, cited from Jeremiah,” concerning the captivity of Babylon, and the slaughter of Jerusalem, long after Rachel's death, who therefore did not really weep; but is said to express the lamentable slaughter.

Q. For what reason may we suppose that God permitted the destruction of so many children in Bethlehem?

Jer. xxxi. 15.

A. It does not become us too nicely to enquire into the proceedings of infinite wisdom, all whose actions are governed by the highest reason ; but we may consider whether the infidelity of the Bethlehemites, after such sufficient means afforded for their conviction, might not draw

upon them so severe a punishment. They not only gave no reception to the Virgin Mary, big with child, and of the house of David; but they neither owned nor worshipped our Saviour at his birth. The message of the shepherds and their great joy; the arrival of the wise men from the east and their offerings had no effectual influence upon them. And it is not unusual with God to visit the sins of the fathers

upon their children ; especially since the children were made instruments of God's glory, and not only delivered from the miseries of life and the corruption of their ancestors, but were crowned with the reward of martyrdom.

Q. What may we learn from the observation of this Festival?

A. That religion is but too often used as an Instrument to serve ambitious and worldly designs; which should make good men cautious how they combine with men of that temper, in the measures they take to promote it. That afflictions are not always arguments of guilt, since innocent children were made a sacrifice to the ambition of a cruel tyrant. That they are sometimes tokens of God's favour, and that many a man has owed his happiness to his sufferings. That we ought to be ready to part with what is so dear to us, our own children, whenever they may become instruments of God's glory. That we ought not to fear the cruelty nor policy of the greatest tyrant, who can never hurt us without God's permission. That what oppression soever innocence meets with from the hands of wicked men, is for the

good of those that suffer it. That the conduct of those parents, who neglect the education and instruction of their children in Christian and virtuous principles, exceeds the cruelty of Herod; he only deprived them of life, but such expose them to eternal death. That to be true disciples of Christ, we must become as little children in the frame and temper of our minds, without which we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.'

Q. Wherein consists that temper of mind which our Saviour represents to us by the emblem of little children?

A. It consists in humility and lowliness of mind; in a total submission to the will of God; and in an entire dependence upon him in all dangers that relate either to our bodies or souls : and particularly in a contempt of the world, and a freedom from covetous and ambitious desires ; which never enter into the minds of children, and which very much obstruct and hinder our being true members of Christ's spiritual kingdom.

Q. Wherein consists this humility and lowliness of mind?

A. In the true knowledge of ourselves, and the understanding our weak and sinful condition, taking to ourselves the shame and confusion due to our follies; and giving God the glory of all the good we receive, or are enabled to do. In bearing with patience the contumelies of others. In not being too much transported with those praises we meet with, because however our actions may appear to men, it is only the approbation of God which can give us solid comfort. In avoiding all occasions of drawing upon ourselves commendations, Aever speaking nor acting only with a design to procure applause.

Mat. xviii. 3.

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Q. Wherein consists the submission of a Christian?

A. In a firm persuasion of mind, that nothing happens to us but by the will and permission of God. That he loves us better than we do ourselves, and knows the best methods of making us happy. And that therefore we should acquiesce in all events, how contrary soever to our own inclinations; and how much soever they may thwart those schemes of happiness and enjoyment which we have framed to ourselves.

Q. Wherein consists our entire dependence upon God?

A. In expecting in all our dangers, temporal and spiritual, by a serious and diligent discharge of our own duty, relief from his almighty power, which is able to help us; and from his infinite goodness, which has promised to assist us. And therefore not to disquiet ourselves with the apprehension of dangers and calamities that may never happen; or, if they do, may be overruled to our advantage.

Q. Wherein consists the contempt of the world?

A. In looking on all worldly enjoyments as little and inconsiderable, mere empty nothings in comparison of that happiness which God hath prepared for those that love him. In being content with that portion of the good things of this life, which the wise providence of God hath allotted to our share; without purchasing the enjoyment of them by the commission of any sin ; without being anxiously concerned for the increase of them, or extremely depressed when they make themselves wings and fly away. In a moderate use of all those lawful pleasures and enjoyments which relate to the gratification of our senses and fleshly appetites; as becomes persons who expect their portion not in the pleasures of this world, but in the happiness of the next.

In a low esteem of those idols of the world, riches and honour; being ready to forsake them whenever they come in competition with the performance of our duty. In bearing the afflictions and calamities of this life with patience and constancy; looking unto Jesus, who, for the joy that was set before him, despised the cross; and consequently, in fixing our minds upon our chiefest good, and earnestly desiring and longing for the possession of it.

Q. What is the benefit of this humble, resigned, and depending frame of mind ?

A. It is the proper disposition for devotion, and the parent of religious fear. It is the seed-plot of all Christian virtues. It makes us ready to receive the revelations of God's will to mankind, and as careful to practise what he enjoins. It makes us greatest in the kingdom of God, either as that imports our being members of Christ's church here upon earth, or our being members of the church triumphant in possession of eternal bliss in heaven.

Q. How does a freedom from covetous and ambitious desires dispose us to be true members of Christ's kingdom?

A. Not only by setting us at a distance from the most dangerous temptations of life, which are riches and worldly grandeur ; but by giving our minds leisure to attend the consideration of religion, and liberty to judge and distinguish the true nature and value of things. For while the Jews expected a temporal deliverer, and were fed with the hopes of power and dominion over all nations, they were so strongly prejudiced against the mean appearance of our Saviour that they refused to acknowledge him for the Messias. And if our Saviour had not instructed his disciples in the nature of his kingdom, their disputes about preference might have undermined

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