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if Rachel, risen from her gravet, was bewailing her lost children,
and refused to be comforted because they are notll." 18 But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appear. 20 eth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise and take the in
fant and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel, for they are dead who sought the young child's life. And he arose, and
took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of 22 Israel. But when ḥe heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea,
in the room of his father Herod, knowing his cruelty, he was afraid to go thither ; but being again divinely admonished in a dream,
he withdrew into the region of Galilee : which was under the go23 vernment of Herod Antipas, a prince of a milder character. And
he went and dwelt in a little city called Nazareth, that what had been spoken, in effect, by the prophets, might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazaræan:" shall appear in mean circumstances and be treated with reproach
REFLECTIONS. What is our fallen nature, that it can be capable of such enormities as we have now been surveying! Or what imaginable circumstances of grandeur and power can free the mind of an ambitious creature from servitude and misery! Who cán behold Herod under the agitation of such a barbarous rage, and not see the vanity even of royal dignity, when the man that sways the sceptre over others hath no rule over his own spirit? Surely none of the innocent victims of Herod's wrath felt so much from the sword of their barbarous murderers as the guilty mind of the tyrant from its own unnatural transports.
The indignation which arises in our minds on the view of so much wickedness, finds a secret satisfaction in this thought. But how grierous is it to reflect on what the parents of these poor babes felt, while the sword that murdered their children in their very sight pierced through their own bowels ! Happy, in comparison with these, were the wombs that never bare and the breasts that never gave suck! Let parents remember how soon their dearest hopes may be turned into lamentation, and learn to moderate their expectation from their infant offspring, and check too fond a delight in them.
Let us all learn to be very thankful that we are not under the arbitrary power of a tyrant, whose sallies of distracted fury might spread desolation through houses and provinces. Let us not say, Where was the great Regent of the universe when such a horrible butchery was transacted ? His all-wise counsels knew how to bring good out of
$ She was buried near this place.
Il Though Josephus does not notice this in particular, he relates many other instances of Herod's cruelty, from whence it might be supposed, there was not any thing so barbarous which such a tyrant was not capable of doing.
Š As Antipater, the heir apparent to the crown (a prince so ambitious and cruel that he had procure.d the death of his two elder brothers) died five days before Herod, both of them might be here referred to
If this solution be not allowed, I must admit, with Chrysostom, the passage referred to is lost.
all the evil of it. The agony of a few moments transmitted these oppressed innocents to peace and joy, while the impotent rage of Herod only heaped on his own head guilt; infamy, and horror. He conceived mischief, and he brought forth vanity; and while he studied to prevent the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom, and set himself, with impious rage, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, He that sitteth in the heavens did laugh, yea, the Lord had him in de. rision. That God, who discerns every secret purpose of his enemies, and foresees every intended assault, knows how, whenever he pleases, by a thought, by a dream, to baffle it.
The preservation of the holy child Jesus in Egypt may be considered as a figure of God's care over his church in its greatest danger. God doth not often, as he easily could, strike their persecutors with immediate destruction ; but he provides a hiding-place for his people, and, by methods not less effectual, though less pompous, preserves his chosen seed from being swept away, cven when the enemy comes in like a flood. Egypt, that was once the seat of persecution and oppression to the Israel of God, is now a refuge to his Son : and thus all places will be to us what Divine Providence will be pleased to make them. When, like Joseph and Mary, we are cut off from the worship of his temple, and perhaps removed into a strange land, he can be a little sanctuary to us, and give us, in his gracious presence, a rich equivalent for all that we have lost.
They continued here till he gave the signal for their departure. Let us, in like manner, remember that it is God's part to direct, and ours to obey ; nor can we be out of the way of safety and of comfort while we are following his directions, and steering our course by the intiinations of his pleasure! Jesus survived his persecutors, and returned into the land of Israel again; but such was his condescension, that he abode at Nazareth, which seems to have been allotted him as the most humble station. Let us never be unwilling to bear reproach for him, who from his infancy endured it for us ; nor take offence at the meanness of his condition, whose removes were directed by angelic méssengers, or immediate envoys from the God of heaven!
Jesus, at the age of twelve years, come's up to the passover at Jeru
salem, and discourses with the doctors in the temple. LUKE fi. 40. &c.
40 A ND the child Jesus grew up and became strong in spirit, file
A led with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. 41 Now his parents went yearly to Jerusalem at the feast of the pass42 over.* And when he was twelve years old,t they took him with
them when they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom 43 of the feast. And when they had finished the seven days of un
leavened bread, and were returning home, the child Jesus staid
* Comp. 1 Sam. i. 3. 7, 21.
behind in Jerusalem, and neither Joseph nor his mother were 44 aware (of it,] but, supposing he was in the company, they went a
day's journey before they missed him: and in the evening they 45 sought for him amongst their kindred and acquaintance. And not
finding him they returned back to Jerusalem, seeking him with 46 great concern. And three days afterf they found him in the
temple, sitting, among others, in the midst of the doctors, both at47 tending to them and asking them questions.ll And all who heard
him were in a transport of admiration at his understanding and
answers. 48 And when they (viz. his parents) saw him, they also were struck
with wonder. And his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou
dealt thus with us? behold thy father and I have sought thee with 49 inexpressible anxiety. And he said unto them, What is the cause
that you have thus sought me ? Did ye not know that I ought to 50 be at my Father's? And they did not understand the words which 51 he spake unto them. And he went down with them and came to
Nazareth, and continued subject to them. And his mother kept 52 all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom
and stature, and grew in favour with God and men.
REFLECTIONS. Let us, who are heads of families, take occasion from the story before us to renew our resolutions, that we and our house will serve the Lord ; and remember that it is a part of our duty, not only to God but to our domestics, to engage them with us in his public worship; the pleasures of which will surely be increased when we see them, and especially our dear children, joining with us in attendance on our great common Father.
Let children view the example of the holy child Jesus with an humble desire to copy after it. Let them love the house and ordinances of God, and thirst for the instructions of his good word. Let them think themselves happy if his servants in the ministry will bestow a part of their important time in those exercises which are esa pecially suited for their instruction ; and let them not only be careful to return the properest answers they can, but at convenient times, with modesty and respect, ask such questions as may be likely to im. prove them in knowledge and grace. S
Let those children, whose genius is most promising and most admired, learn from the blessed Jesus to behave themselves in an humble and submissive manner to all their elders, and especially to their parents; for though he was the Lord of all, yet was he subject, not only to Mary his real mother, but to Joseph, though only supposed to be his father. Such children may well hope that the grace of God will still be upon them; and, growing in wiscom as they do in stature,
I i. e. the third day after they had left the city.
li It is a great injury to his character to represent him as going up into the seats of the doctors, and disputing with them. They sat on semicircular benches, raised above their disciples, and Jesus with others, sitting at their feet, might be said to be in the midst of them. To ask as well as answer questions, was very usual,
they will also advance in favour with God and men, and be the darlings of heaven as well as of earth.
And oh, that the greatest and wisest of us, those of the longest standing, and of the most eminent stations in the church, might learn of this admirable and Divine Child ; that, always remembering our relation to God, and ever intent on learning his will and promcting his glory, we might, with humble acquiescence, accomodate ourselves to all the disposals of his providence ! How easily could he, who discovered such early marks of a sublime genius and a lively wit, have relished the most elegant delights of science, and have eclipsed all the most celebrated poets, orators, and philosophers, of that learned and polite age? But he laid all those views aside, that he might pursue the duties of that humble rank of life which his heay. enly Father's infinite wisdom had assigned him ; and joined, as it would seem, to assist in maintaining himself, and his parents too, by the daily ·labour of his hands. Let us learn from hence, that it is the truest greatness of soul to know our own place and office, and to deny ourselves those amusements of the mind, as well as those gratifications of the senses, which are inconsistent with the proper services of our different relations and callings.
... SECTION XV.
The opening of John the Baptist's ministry. MARK i. 1-6. LUKE
ii. 1-6. Matt. iii. 1-6.
THE beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God :
1 As it is written in the prophets (Mal. iii. 1.) “ Behold I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee.” So also by Isaiah (xl. 3.) “ The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." · Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee (i. e. governor of that fourth part of his dominions); and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene; in those days, while Annas and Caiaphas were high-priests, the word of God came unto John the Baptist, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness, of Judea. And John did baptize in the wilderness, and came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, and saying, “ Repent ye, for the long expected kingdom of heaven is approaching."
. As it is written in the book of discourses of the prophet Isaiah ; for this is he who was spoken of (ch. xl. 3—5.) saying, “ The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought down : even the crooked roads shall be made straight, and the rough places shall be laid level*, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
. * A reference to the custom of sending pioneers to level the way before princes. See Grotius.
Now this John wore a rough garment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his waistt ; and his food was locustst and wild honey ll. Then the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all the land of Judea, and all the region round about Jordan went out to him, and were all baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
REFLECTIONS With what pleasure should we hear the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God ! and with what reverence remember the dignity of his divine nature amidst all the condescensions of his incarnate state ! It is surely matter of unspeakable thankfulness that the kingdom of heaven should be erected ainong men ! that the great God should condescend so far as to take to himself a people from our mean and sinful world, and appoint his own Son to be the governor of that kingdom! How happy are we that it is preached among us and we are called into it! Let it be our great care that we be not only nominal, but real members of it.
For this purpose let us remember and consider that, to become the subjects of this kingdom, we are to enter into it by the way of repentance ; humbly confessing our sins, and resolutely forsaking them, if we do indeed desire to find mercy. Let us bless God, both for the promises of pardon and for the appointment of the seals of it, particularly of baptismal washing ; always remembering the obligation it brings upon us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the fiesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. And being ourselves become members of Christ's kingdom, let us pray that it may be every where extended. May Divine Grace remove every obstruction, and make a free course for his gospel, that it may every where run and be glorified, so that all flesh may see the salvation of God!
John, with this awful severity of manners and of doctrine, was sent before Christ to prepare his way. Let us learn to reflect how necessary it is that the law should thus introduce the gospel ; and let all the terrors of Moses and Elias render the mild and blessed Redeemer so much the more welcome to our souls !
John admonishes those that attended his ministry, and proclaims the afproach of the Messiah. MATT. iii. 7. 12. Mark i. 7,8. LUKE
iii. 7- 18. MATT. AND when he saw many of the Pharisees and Saddu
A cees coming to his baptism (knowing the hypocrisy of 7 the one, and the profaneness of the other) he said unto them, O
ye broods of vipers ! who hath admonished you to flee from the 8 wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruits worthy of repen9 tance. And do not think to say, We have Abraham for our father;
† As the ancient prophets did. 2 Kings i. 8. Zach. xiii. 4. Rev. vi. 12. xi. 3.
Large winged grasshoppers (Rev. ix. 3. 7.9.) which the law allowed the Jews to eat (Lev. xi. 21, 22.) Pliny says, these made a considerable part of the food of the Parthians and Ethiopians.
Comp. 1 Sam. xiv. 26. Jud. xiv. 8. Ps. Ixxxi. 16.