Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

been of old : thou shalt give birth to Messiah. This answer of the Jewish senate was acquiesced in by Herod as indubitable ; for he immediately sent the magi to Bethlehem. Then Herod, when hc had privily called the wise men, enquired of theni diligently what time the star appcared first ; for by that circumstance he could form a probable conjecture, how long it was since the child, concerning whom they enquired after, was born. He naturally judged, that Messiah's parents would conceal him ; for which reason, he found a project of killing all the children of Bethlehem of such an age, that there might be no possibility of his escaping, In the mean time, to hide his bloody purpose from the wise men, he desired them, as soon as they found the child, to let him know, that he also might have an opportunity of worshipping him, professing great respect for this infant king.

The magi having received these instructions, departed by themselves, under the guidance of the star which had led them all the way from their own country, but had stood still, or disappeared, on their arrival in Judea. The disappearing of the star, or even its standing still, laid the strangers under a necessity of going to the capital for farther information, which the wisdom of God thus brought about, in order that their errand might be the better published. Accordingly, when that end was obtained, and they were departing from Jerusalem, the star appeared again, or began to move, going before them till it came to Bethlehem, where, to their exceeding joy, it stood over the house in which the new-born king was lodged. They straitway entered, and falling down before him with the most profound reverence, offered him gifts of considerable value, probably, after having explained the occasion of their coming, as they had done before in Jerusalem : and, at night, being warned by God in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned into their own country by another way.

This visit which the magi, under the divine direction, made to the Son of God, at his entrance into the world, answered several valuable purposes. 1. The principal thing was, to shew succeeding generations what expectations of him were entertained; at this very time, among the Gentiles; and thereby to confirm, in latest ages, the eristence of those prophecies, which had raised such a general hope in the breasts of mankind. 2. It is far from being absurd to suppose, that these philosophers, by the tidings which they carried home concerning the king of the Jews, might prepare their countrymen for becoming his subjects in due time : for if their report was remembered by the succeeding generation, it must have contributed, not a little, to their chcerful reception of the gospel, when it was preached to them. 3. The coming of the magi occasioned the answer of the ganhedrim, wherein it was declared to be the unanimous opinion of the most learned Jewish doctors then living, that by the designation of heaven, Bethlehem was to be the place of their Messiah's nativity. 4. 'The seasonable beneficence of those learned strangers, put Joseph in a condition to subsist his family in Egypt, whither he was soon to be sent from the wrath of the king.

But to return : though Herod's real designs, with respect to the king of the Jews, were hid from men, thev did not elude the knowledge of God, who, foreseeing what the tyrant's cruelty would lead him to do, warned Joseph, by an angel, to flee with his family into Egypt. And when they were departei, behöld, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and fleç into Egypt, and be thou chere until I bring thee word, for Herod vill seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young chrid and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt. And was there urtii inc death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, slying, out of Egypt have I called my son.

This prophecy, as it stands, llosea xi. I. seems to have been spoken originally of depart and mantives iuto Egypt by the Ptole that if the one part of the past find the

the Israelites. Nevertheless, the application which the evangelist has made of it to Christ is just, as will appear from what follows. The bringing of people into Egypt was a proverb for laying them under great hardships, and took its rise from the afflictions which the Israelites sustained in that country. The threatening (Deut. xxviii. 68.? that the Israelites should be sent back again into Egypt, affords a proof of this proverbial use of the expression ; for we do not find the Israelites carried back into Egypt, as the punishment of the first instances of their rebellion, but into Assyria and Babylon, captivities which have ever been looked upon as the execution of that threatening

But if the carrying of people into Egypt was a proverbial expression for laying them - under great hardships, by parity of reason, any singular interposition of providence, in behalf whether of a person or nation, might be termed a calling them out of Egypt, the Israelites having been delivered from the Egyptian bondage by visible and most astonishing exertions of the divine power. Agreeably to this remark, we find the return of the Jews from Assyria and. Babylon, represented by the prophet Zechariah, x. 10, 11, under the figure of bringing them again out of Egypt. But that no reader might mistake his meaning, he adds, I will gather them out of Assyria. At the same time, he adumbrates the interpositions of divine providence, for accomplishing their deliverance from Assyria, by the miracles that were formerly wrought, to bring about the antient deliverance froni Egypt. And he shall pass through the sea with atliction, and shall smite the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the river shall dry up. And the pride of Assyria shall be brought town, and the sceptre o Egypt shall depart away. See Psalm lxviii. 22. It is replied, indeed, that in latter times, the Jews were carried captives into Egypt by the Ptolemics, and that this is a prediction of their deliverance from thence. But the answer is, that if the one part of the prophecy is to be understood literally, the other must be so likewise. Nevertheless, we do not find the Jews of later times brought out of Egypt by any signal interposition of providence at all, as was the case when they were made to return from the castern captivities ; much less were they brought out by God's smiting the waves of the sea, and drying up tlie deeps of the river, and making the sceptre of Egypt to depart away. It is much more proper, therefore, to interpret this prophecy of the deliverance from Babylonish captivity, effected by the destruction of the Babylonish empire, to accomplish · whichi, Cyrus was raised up. If so, the prophecy, in this sense, affords us a proverbial use of God's bringing, or calling, his people out of Egypt, applicable to the present case : for as Christ's flying into Egypt, from the wrath of Herod, happened in consequence of a message from heaven, and was the means of saving his life ; it might fitly have the prophetical and proverbial expression, Out of Egypt hare I called my Son, applied to it. And what confirms this remark is, that we find the prophecy, or proverb, rather applied, not to Christ's coming out of Egypt, but his going thither.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was erceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under. according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, !n Ramah was there a yoice hearli, lantentation and wceping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. This prophecy, and its application, differ in two particulars. 1. The persons spoken of in the prophecy, were not put to death in the history ; for, Jer. xxxi. 16, 17,7 we find them coming again from the land of the enemy, to their own border : Thruz saith the Lord, refrain thy voice from weeping, &c. 2. The lamentation described by the prophet was in Ramah, whereas, that mentioned by the evangelist was in Bethlehem. Now we learn from Judges xix. 2, 10, 13. that

Ramah was at a considerable distance from Bethlehem, Jerusalem lying between them, Wherefore, the application of the prophecy to the slaughter of the infauts in Bethlehem is made, rather by way of accommodation than completion ; that is to say, it is an application of the expressions and figures of the prophecy, rather than of the prophecy ilself. From Jer. xl. 1, it appears, that when Nebuzaradan was going to carry the Jews away to Babylon, he gathered them together in the plains of Ramah. But as the Babylonish captivity was the most terrible disaster that ever befel the Israelites, Jeremiah, predicting it, beautifully introduces Rachel their mother crying, bitterly

in Ramah, when she saw her children driven out of their country, slaves to heathens. - It was not, however, his intention to affirm, that this circumstance would actually hap

pen, for Rachel did not rise from the dead to bewail the Babylonish captivity ; but he meant it as a poetical figure, to shew the greatness of the desolation that was then to be made. It is plain, therefore, that Matthew uses the prophet's words in their genuine meaning, when he applies then to the slaughter of the infants, though that event was not predicted by Jeremiah. For as in the prophecy, so in the history, the mother of the Israelites is figuratively introduced weeping at the calamity of her children, a liberty taken by all animated writers, when they have a mind to heighten their descrip tions. In the mea: time, the figure, as it is made use of by the evangelist, has a peculiar beauty, which is wanting in the prophet, Rachel being buried in the fields of Bethlesem, [Gen. xlviii. 7.7 where the infants were slain, she is awakcned by their cries, rises out of her grave, and bitterly bewails her little ones, who lie slaughtered in heaps around her.

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead which sought the child's life. This last expression. is supposed to include Antipater, one of the worst of the sons of Herod. And he arose, and took the young child and his niother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Juden, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither ; being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene. This prediction that Christ should be a Nazarene, has been, by some, referred to the passages where he is called the branch, in Hebrew ratzi ; and by others, to those passages where his humiliation is predicted, Nazarene being a proverbial term of reproach.

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. Ard when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. Wherefore, not doubting that he had set out with some of his relations or acquaintance, they vent a day's journey, in expectation of overtaking him on the road, or at the village where they were to lodge. Accordingly, when they came thither, they sought him, but to no purpose. Greatly afflicted, therefore, with their disappointment, they returned next day to Jerusalem, in the utmost anxiety, to try if they could learn what was become of!in. Here, on the morrow after their arrival, which was the third day from their leaving the city, they found him, to their great joy, in one of the chambers of the temple, sitting among the doctors, who, at certain seasons, and particularly in time of the great festivals, taught there publicly; a custom hinted at Jer. xxvi. 5, 6, 7, 10. See also John xviii. 20. It seems, the child Jesus had presented himself to the doctors, in order to be catechised; Tor we are told, that in the answers which he returned to their questions, and the objections which he made to their doctrine, he discovered a wisdom and penetration,

ame into cons of Her This last go into

himself, at that weine evangelist, that

hit his mother as deeply importure, and

which raised the adıniration of all present, even to astonishment. And as it is hiinsels who has told us, that, on this occasion, he was employed in his father's business, it is probable, that in these his answers and objections, he modestly insinuated corrections of the errors wherewith the Jewish teachers had now greatly disfigured religion. His parents finding him here engaged in such an employment, were surprised beyond measurc; and his mother, in particular, not able to repress the emotion she was in, chid him with a tender vehemence, for leaving them without their knowledge, and putting them to so much pain. He replied, that they had no reason to be angry with him for leaving them without their knowledge, nor even to be grieved on that account, since they might have understood, by his miraculous conception, and the revelations which accompanied it, that he was not to continue always with them, but was to employ himself in his business who was really his Father. His parents, however, did not understand him ; perhaps, because they now doubted his being the Messiah, as he had not disappeared according to the notion of the scribes, or, rather, because they had few just conceptions of the end for which the Messiah was sent into the world. Nevertheless, that he might not seem to encourage disobedience, in children, by withdrawing himself, at that weak age, from under the government of his parents, it is particularly taken notice of by the evangelist, that He went down with them, and came to Naznreth, and was subject unto them; but his mother kept all thes: sayings in her heart : though she did not understand then fully, she was deeply impressed with them, and thought much upon them. And Jesus increased'in wisdon and stature, and in favour with God and man. Though his divine nature was capable of no improvement, his human received distinct and gradual illuminations as he advanced in years. For as our Lord condescended to be like his brethren in body, so it was not below him to resemble them in the other, and no less essential part of their nature, their soul. Accordingly, it is observed, that he industriously declined shewing himself in public, till ripeness of years and judgment brought him to the perfection of a man.

Such as may wish to know further particulars of our Lord's childhood and private life, may, perhaps, be gratified by the following reinarks of Dr. Macknight. " What early proofs he gave of his having the divine nature united to the human ; what proficiency he made in knowledge, and the inethods by which he advanced therein; what way he employed himself when he arrived at man's estate ; what notions his acquaintance formed of him ; the manner of his conversing with them ; and other things of a like nature, the Holy Spirit has not thought fit to explain. The following particulars only are left upon record.—That he had not the advantage of a liberal education, John vii. 15.7 received no instructions, probably, but what his parents gave him according to the law ; [Deut. iv. 9, 10. vi. 7.1 yet at the age of twelve years, when carried up to Jerusalemn, he distinguished himself, among the doctors, by such a degree of wisdom and penetration, as far exceeded his years. That he very early understood the design on which he was come into the world :-Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? That as he grew in years, he became remarkable for his wisdom and stature, advancing gradually in the former as well as in the latter ; and that by the comeliness of his person, the sweetness of his disposition, and the uncommon vigour of his faculties, he engaged the affections of all who had the happiness of knowing him. Luke ï. 52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. That as his mind was filled with wisdom, and always serene, being perfectly free from those turbulent passions which distract other men, his countenance, no doubt, must have been composed and agreeable, such as did betoken the strength of his understanding, and the goodness of his heart. The expression, the grace of God was upon him, found Luke ii. 40, may imply this, unloss

Know the the foldinine naths which

hembe gave of his lia by the followings of our Lord's chilaman,

hat nou

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

it be thought an explication of the precedent clause, He waxed strong in spirit, and &as filled with wisdom, See Raph. not Polyb. p. 186, who makes it probable, that the grace of God, in the passage under consideration, is the Hebrew highest superlative, being an expression of the same form with the mountains of God, i. e. exceeding high mountains, and so is equivalent to the description which Stephen gave of Moses's beauty, Acts vii. 20. He was exceeding fair. Besides, we find the word grace in a similar sense by Luke iv. 22. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; the harmony and beauty of his diction, as well as the importance of his subject. I confess, this obseryation concerning our Lord's form may appear somewhat singular, yet a nearer view of it will conciliate our approbation ; for if his stature was so remarkable in his youth, that it deserved to be taken notice of twice by the evangelist Luke ii. 40, 52, his comeliness might be so likewise. Nor is any thing which the prophets have said of him, for instance, Isaiah lii. 14, inconsistent with this conjecture ; for the meanness of the Messiah's condition, and the disposition of the Jews towards him, are described in that prophecy, rather than the form of his person; just as Psal. xlv. 3, Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighly, with thy glory, and thy majesty, describes the triumphs of his religion, rather than the majesty and the glory of his outward form. . The evangelist tells us farther, that Jesus was possessed of an uncommon and prevailing eloquence, insomuch, that his hearers were often amazed at the beauty of his discourses, FLuke iv. 22,] and some of them made to cry out, Never man spake like this man, John vii. 46. "That he reinained subject to his parents, and lived with them in humble obscurity till he entered on his public ministry, which commenced about the thirtieth year of his age; the excellences of his divine nature having been, for the most part, veiled, during the whole course of his private life.. And, that as soon as his strength permitted, he wrought with his father, at his occupation of a carpenter, Mark vi. 3, leaving us an admirable example, both of filial duty and prudent industry.”

These are all the particulars which the Holy Spirit has thought fit to cominunicate to us concerning our Lord's private life; if our curiosity would go further, it must be restrained, the means of gratifying it being denied us.”

« AnteriorContinuar »