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Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Here, therefore, in the circumstances attending the birth of Jesus, as in that of John the Baptist, provision was made that all should be found consistent. When Jesus “ began to manifest forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him,” those who should go, as the shepherds went, to Bethlehem, to make inquiry, might learn that God had given witness to his Son from the beginning. At present, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart, marvelling to what they might tend : and all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But thirty years afterwards, when Jesus entered upon his ministry, what was remembered in the neighbourhood would confirm the authority which he claimed: and it would appear, that the circumstances of his birth had given promise of those signs and wonders, by which his life was to be distinguished, and his divinity declared.

And, doubtless, the shepherds, as represented in

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the narration, acted as reasonable men might be expected to act, in saying one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto

They did not neglect the message that had been delivered to them, but followed it up with prompt inquiry. None have ever met with disappointment, who have thus sincerely and diligently searched into the gospel. They may have met with what surprised them, what they did not at first comprehend, what opposed their pre-conceived views : as the shepherds would, doubtless, feel astonished when they found lying in a manger, the child whose birth had been announced by angels, and saluted in heavenly hymns. Yet there was really in this nothing which does not admit of explanation, nothing contradictory in his divine nature.

We can readily understand, on reflection, why the counsels of God should have determined that the Messiah should be born in a humble rather than an exalted station, We perceive, further, that his nativity at Bethlehem, away from his father's home, was the fulfilment of prophecy: and that it arose from the strange concurrence of circumstances which brought that prophecy to fulfilment, that he was laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Indeed, there is nothing in the gospel, nothing either in its history or its doctrines, though it may at first appear surprising, which will not, when examined, contribute to prove its truth. The foundation thereof standeth sure. Whoever searches into the doctrine “shall know it to be of God.” He will find reason to return with the shepherds, glorifying

and praising God for all the things which he has seen and heard.

21. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord :

23. (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord ;)

24. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.

Two ceremonies were to be performed in the temple : Mary, the thirty-three days of her purification being now at an end, had a sacrifice to offer on her own account, a sin-offering, (Lev. xii. 1–8,) which, for those who were not rich, was a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons. And at the same time the child Jesus was to be presented to the Lord, and redeemed by the customary payment of five shekels to the sanctuary.'

God had given command to Moses, (Exod. xiii. 11-15,) “Thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast, which thou hast : the males shall be the Lord's. And it shall be, when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this ? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage. And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the first-born of beast: therefore I sacrifice unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but the first-born of my children I redeem.”

1 “Those that are to be redeemed, from a month old, thou shalt redeem, according to thine estimation, for the value of five shekels.”_Numb. xviii. 16.

Thus a memorial of the great deliverance achieved for the Israelites was preserved; and, with it, a memorial of the purpose for which they were delivered, that they might be a chosen nation, a peculiar people, serving the Lord. It was an acknowledgment that the mercies of God gave him a title to the allegiance of those who had enjoyed them. This, my child, is thine, O God: but for the strength of hand with which thou broughtest us out of Egypt, this child would have been born in bondage; the property of a cruel master: therefore I devote him to thee, who hast a claim to his service, and to whom of right he belongs.

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I need not point out how justly this analogy applies to christian parents. What master would their children have served, if God had not sent his Son to bless them, and deliver them“ from the power of Satan,” and convert them to bimself? And therefore we present them to the Lord in baptism: we pledge them to the service of God in Christ Jesus : we pledge them that they shall “not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ's

faithful soldiers and servants unto their lives' end." When they “ ask us in time to come, what is this?” as soon as they are of age, to understand the obligations which lie upon them, we must teach them, that they are “not their own;" they are “ bought with a price ;" and that for this purpose were they ransomed, that they might not, like those whom “the day-spring from on high” hath never visited, “Jive their time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”

Thus let all, of whatever age—let the young, instead of yielding to corrupt nature and evil practice, and let those who are no longer young, and are able to pay an intelligent service to their Maker—let all be prepared to say, “ We present unto Thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto Thee.” will never forget thy precepts, for with them thou hast quickened us.” “ We are thine, save us : and incline our hearts to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end."3

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2

? Baptismal Service.

3 Ps. cxix. 93, 94, 112.

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