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Holy Scriptures, has all these Evidences which the Fact of Christ has : And so God has thought sitting, that this great Fact, above all other Facts, of the greatest Glory to God, and Importance to Mankind, should appear with greater and more undeniable Evidence than any other Fact that ever was in the World.
De. We are now upon the particular Fact of the Magi or wise Men coming to Christ. Have you any more to say as to that?
(5.) Chr. It has those same Evidences that the Truth of the Bible in general has; which are more than can. be produced for any other Book in the World. But now as to this Fact in particular; St. Matthew was the sirst who wrote the Gospel; and it was in the same Age when this Fact was said to be done. And can you think it possible that such a Fact as this could have passed without Contradiction, and a publick exposing of Christianity, then so desirable, and so much endeavoured by the unbelieving Jews, their High Priests, Elders, &c. as the only Means for their own Preservation, if the Fact had not been notorious, and fresh in the Memory of all the People then at Jerusalem; viz. That these wise Men came thither, and that Herod, and the whole City were troubled at the News they brought of the Birth of the King of the Jews; that Herod thereupon gathered all the Chief Priests and Scribes of the People together, that they might search out of the Prophets, and know the Place where Christ mould be born; and then the Slaughter of the Infants, in and about Bethlehem, and in all the Coasts thereof, which followed 1 say, could such a Fact as this have passed at
that very time, if it had not been true? Could St. Matthew have hoped to have palmed this upon all the People, and upon those very same Chief Priests and Scribes, who, he said, were so sar concerned in it? Would none of them have contradicted it, if it had been a Forgery? Especially when the detecting it would have strangled Christianity in its Birth. Would not they have done it who suborned false Witnesses against Christ ,, and gave large Money to the Soldiers tp conceal E I* (is possible) Ms Rsurrection? Would not they have done it, who persecuted Christianity with all Spite and F"iy, ar'd invented all imaginable false Stories and Calumnies against it? Whereas here was one at hand, this of the Magi, which, if false, could have been so easily detccted, by appealing to every Man, Woman and Chili, I may say, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and even in all Judea, who, no doubt, had heard of the terrible Massacre of so many Infants, and the Cause of it.
De. I can give no Account why the Writers against Christianity did not offer to contradict this Fact of the Star and the Magi, which is put in the very Front of this Gospel of St. Matthew: And there it is called his (Christ'^ J Star; We have seen his Star in the East—As if God had created a new and extraordinary Star on Purpose, as the Signal of Christ hung out in the Heavens, to give the World Notice of his Birth. But did none of the heathen Philosophers take Notice of this Star, ox of this Relation given of it by your St. Matthew?
(6). Chr. Yes. For Chakidius, in his Comment upon Plato"sTimæus, speaking of the Presages of Start mentioned by Plato, adds, as a further Proof, Est quojue alia venerabilior Cif fanctior Hisioria—There is likewise another more venerable and holy History.—By which I doubt not he means this of St. Matthew; for what he tells seems to be taken out of it. That, by the Rifing of a certain unusual Star, not Plagues and Diseases, but the Descent of the venerable God, for the Salvation and Benefit of Mortals, was observed by the Chaldeans, who worshiped this God newly born, by offering Gifts unto him.
De . This makes those Magi ot wife Men to have been Chaldeans, who, I know, were the most noted then in the World for the most curious Learning, particularly in Astronomy: And they were likewise East of Jerusalem; so that it might be well said they came from the East.and had seen his Star in the East. But I cannot imagine how they should read the Birth of a God in the •Face of a new Star; and how that Star should send them particularly to Jerusalem, though I may suppose it pointed them Westward.
(7.) Chr. This will be eafier to you, when you know, that all over the East there was a Tradition• or fix'd Opinion, that about that Time a King of the J*.ws would be born, who mould rule the whole Earth. And the Appearance of this extraordinary Star in the East* was taken by them as a Sign that he was then born. And whither mould they go to look for the King of the Jews, but to Jerusalem? And when they came thither, they enquired, saying, Where is be that is born King of the Jews? For we hai'e seen his Star in the East, and are come to worship him. This made Herod gather the Priests and Scribes together: And they, by searching the Prophets, found that Bethlehem was the Place: Whereupon the wise Men went to Bethlehem. And, to convince them that they were right, the Star, which they had seen in the East, appeared to them again, and icent before them, till it came and stood Over inhere the young Child was: This made them rejoice with such an exceeding great Joy.
De. This would go down in some measure with me, if you could make good your first Postulatum, of such a current Tradition or Opinion in the East: But for this you have given no sort of Proof: And all the rest, which you have inserred from thence, must come to the Ground with it, if it be not supported. I confess it would seem as strange to me, as the Star to the wise Men, if God had (we know not how, it is unaccountable to us) sent such a Notion into the Minds of Men, and at that time 0;dy, of such a King to be born; and that he should be a Jew (the then most contemptible People in the World, subdued and compared by the Romans J and that he was to be King os' the Jews, and thence to become King of all the Earth, and conquer his Conquerors. The Romans would have looked with Difdain upon such a Notion Of Prophecy a» this; it would have made some tor among them, if they had heard of it, or given any Credit to it.
(8.) Chr. You argue right. And I will shew you what Stir it made among them; and I hope you will take their Word, as.well for this Eastern Tradition, air-. E * - sot
for the Effects it had among themselves: Nay they wanted not the (ame Tradition among themselves, and express Prophecies of it in their Sibyls, and otherwise. So that the same Expectation of the Messiah was then current over all the Earth, with -the Gentiles as well as with the Jews.
Tacitus, in his Hi/lory, 1. v. c. 13. speaking of the great Prodigies that preceded the Destruction of Jerusalem, says, that many understood these as the Forerunners of that extraordinary Person, whom the antient Books of the Priests did foretel should come, about that Time, from Judea, and obtain the universal Dominion; his Words are, Pluribus Perfuafio incrat, antiquis Sacerdotum Li ten's contineri,' to ipso Tcmpore fore, ut valesceret O R1E N s, profe Si que J u D Æ A Rerum potirentur, i. e. Many were persuaded that it was contained in the old Writings of the Priefts, that at that very Time the East should prevail, and the Jews should bavs the Dominion. And Suetonius, in the Lise of Vespafian, c. 1. n. 4. says, Percrebuerat Oriente toto metus & constans Opinio, esse in Fatis, ut eo Tempore, Judæa profeBi Rerum potirentur; i.e. That it ivas an antient and constant Opinion (or Tradition) throughout the wbole East, that at that Time those who came from Judea should obtain the Dominion; that is, That some Jew Ihou'd be universal King. Therefore Cicero, who was a CommonwealthsMan, in his second Book of Divination, speaking of the Books of the Sibyls, who likewise foretold this great King to come, says, Cum Antistibus agamus, & quidvis petius ex illis Libris, quam Regem proferant: quern Rorme posi hece nee Dii, nee Homines, esse patientur: i. e. Let us deal with these Priefis, and let them bring any thing out ot these Books rather than a King; whom neither the Gods nor Men will suffer, after this, at Rome.
But he was mistaken, and had his Head cut off for writing against Kingly Government. And others, more confiderable than he, laid greater Stress upon these Prophecies, even the whole Senate of Rome, as I come to shew you.
Whether these Sibyls gathered their Prophecies out of -: the the Old Testament, is needless here to examine. I am now only upon that general ExpeBation, which was then in the World, of this great and universal King to come about that Time.
(9.) The same Year that Pompey took Jerusalem, one of these Oracles of the Sibyls made a great Noiie, which was, That Nature was about to bring forth a King to the Remans. Which, as Suetonius relates, in the Lite of Augustus, c. 94. did so terrify the Senate, that the/ made a Decree to expose, that is, destroy, all the Children born that Year; Scnatum exterritum censuisfe, ne quis illo Anno genitus educaretur: That none born that Year should be brought up, but exposed; that is, left in some Wood or desert Place to peri/h. But he tells how this dreadful Sentence was prevented; Eos qui grain . das Uxores haberent, quod ad fe quisque Spent traheret, curasse ne Senatus consultum ad Ærarium deserretur: That those Senators, whose Wives were with Child, because each was in hopes of having this great King, took care that the Decree of the Senate should not be put into the Ærarium, or Treasury; without which, by their Constitution, the Decree could not be put in Execution. And Appian, Ptutarch, Salust, and Cicero, do all say, That it was this Prophecy of the Sibyls which raised the Ambition of Corn. Lentulus at that time, hopeing he should be this King of the Romans. Virgil, a few Years before the Birth of Christ, in his 4th Eclogue quotes a Prophecy of one of these Sibyls, speaking of an extraordinary Person, to be born about that Time, who should introduce a golden Age into the World, and
restore all Things, and should blot out our Sins Si
qua manent Sceleris Vestigia Noftri -And calls him, Chara Deum Soboles, Magnum Jovis incrementum. Dear Offspring of the Gods, and great Son ofJove. He describes a new State of Things, like the new Heavens and new Earth, Isai. Ixv. 1 7. Magnus ab Integra Seclorum Nascitur Ordo. A great Order os Ages does begin, wholly New. And as Isaiah describes the happy State in the new Earth; that the Lion and the Lamb should feed together, the Serpent eat Dust, and that they E 3 should