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journey for that purpose. We have only to send our hearts on the search, and to study with prayer the Bible, which is our light. The Lord Jesus will not hide himself from any seeking soul, that desires to worship him, and to take shelter under his shadow.
Jerusalem was the royal city of the Jews, and thither the wise men bent their way; perhaps expecting to find the new-born King surrounded by his princes. They arrived, and made the inquiry, but no one could inform them of the event.
Anna the prophetess was in the temple, serving God night and day; she had seen the child Jesus there, and had spoken of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. Alas! how small must have been the number of such, and how obscure their station, since the three strangers met not with one, in all their search, who could give them the glad tidings. They were, probably, not yet aware that the kingdom of the Messiah was spiritual ; and they might naturally look for Him among the highest order of nobles, and men of the most distinguished office in the state; they might inquire in the place where those met who had the keeping of the public affairs, and the management of the nation's wealth ; they might enter those houses of merchandize which especially supplied the luxuries that courts delight in, and where they might expect to find a thousand brilliant préparations going on to adorn the palace and the couch of infant royalty. Wherever they went, they carried the strange question, “ Where is he that is born King of the Jews ? and for all who wondered at the inquiry, they had still the stranger explanation to offer, “ We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship Him."
They would probably have been dismissed, on all sides, with mockery, but that there was a general expectation of some great event - the coming of some mighty deliverer, at that time, Herod, therefore, when he heard these things, was troubled; and all Jerusalem with him. Herod feared the loss of his kingdom which he held from the Romans, to whom the Jews were in subjection. His trouble, therefore, was well grounded ; but how strange that Jerusalem, which groaned under and hated the Roman yoke, should partake in his feelings! They, no doubt, thought it very extraordinary that a company of Gentile strangers should know more about their king than they did: but, probably, it was the heavenly character of his mission, shown forth by the announcement of a star, that offended them. They liked not to be told of the fulfilment of prophecy: since the same writings which foreshow the coming of Messiah, denounce the wrath of God on all transgressors; and declare that the wicked shall be turned into hell. They desired not a spiritual ruler, who should subvert the dominion of their ungodliness and worldly lusts, or bring them into judgment. The language of their souls was, “ Depart from us : we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.”
However, as such an appearance was expected about that time, Herod consulted the chief priests and scribes, who had the keeping and expounding of the prophetical writings; and they were able to inform him that the place of Christ's birth would be Bethelem, for so it was expressly declared. But neither they, nor any of the people, seem to have had the least inclination to go and look for him.
These were the “blind guides? concerning
whom our Lord afterwards so solemnly warned the people. “ The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works, for they say, and do not.” This was strikingly proved in the present case. When asked concerning what was written in the book of the prophets, they turned to it; and so long as they merely declared what they found written there, the people were safe in following them. In those days, the law of God, was not, as now, within every person's reach. If you or I want to know what the Scriptures testify concerning Christ, we have but to stretch forth our hand and take up the blessed Bible; but then the writings of Moses and the prophets were carefully laid up in the temple ; and only to be referred to by those men who had the keeping of them. Moses was read in the synagogue every sabbath day; and the people could listen to the word of God, and take all its warnings and consolations to themselves : but the chief priests and Scribes were no longer to be followed, than while they read out of the book of the law; for their own doctrine was as false, as their hearts and lives were unholy: and our Lord has given us a sure test by which to judge of both. In regard to doctrine, we must look “ to the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them;" and for their lives and practice, “by their fruits ve shall know them.” Ministers who preach a crucified Saviour as the sole ground of hope, and who insist on sanctification as the necessary fruit of a true faith, while their own lives bear witness to the sincerity of their profession, are to be followed, and had in reverence: for they bear
the high commission of ambassadors from Christ; and to them he says, “ He that despiseth you, despiseth me."
Where now are those very Chief Priests and Scribes, who answered Herod's inquiry, and who certainly knew both that the time was come when Christ should be born, and also that his birth-place was so near at hand as to leave them no excuse in not searching him out? It is an awful question :their dust is long since mingled with the earth around it; and their spirits have been waiting for more than eighteen hundred years, the terrible day when they must appear before the judgment-throne of Him whose lowly cradle they scorned, and in whose after sufferings some of them might have lived to take an active part of cruel persecution. Yes, it is an awful thought, that we shall actually meet and behold those very men, and see them stand along with guilty Herod, and his ungodly attendants, and many a Jew, well taught in the oracles of God, while the Gentiles from the east appear to their condemnation. And have professing Christians no privileges to answer for? Shall no poor, simple, believing soul, from among the distant heathen, who have but just heard of Christ from the imperfect accents of a missionary stranger, and yet have gladly embraced Him, and walked faithfully according to the light which they had shall none such stand forth to put many to shame? Are we indeed following hard after Christ, in our own persons, earnestly striving to make our calling and election sure walking faithfully, and uprightly, in holy selfdenial, in renunciation of the world, in abundance of patience, of humility, of zeal and love, after His most blessed example? Or are we merely, by bearing His name, and attending on his ministers, directing others to look for Him, while we sit fettered by indolence that we will not shake off, and lusts that are dearer to us than the salvation of our souls, or the glory of our acknowledged King? Let not this instructive subject pass away, and be forgotten; but let us look deeply into our own breasts, to ascertain whether what is there occasions us most to resemble the carnal and indifferent Jews, or the humble, zealous, diligent, and devoted eastern travellers.
They were told to proceed to Bethlehem; and they were too much in earnest in their search to wait for any other assistance. God has sent them forth; and they seem to have had a simple and firm reliance on his guidance that was abundantly answered. “Who ever trusted in Him, and was confounded ?”
Behold, then, the wise men leaving the gates of Jerusalem, despised, and probably laughed at by those who considered it but a vain attempt, to look for a Saviour, when they themselves were looking only for what might please themselves, and turn to their worldly profit. Bethlehem was not very far off; but, from the little help that they had hitherto got, the strangers would hardly expect much assistance in finding the King, whose subjects seemed to know nothing of his very existence. Perhaps it was evening, and the cool breeze, so refreshing in that sultry climate, was beginning to fan their brow. They looked up-and good reason they had to look up to heaven, when earth cared so little about what they had set their hearts on. They wanted to
see Jesus; and the world always looks strange • upon those who confess such a want. The world
sees in Him no beauty, that it should desire him;