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J. P. 4709.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when B. V. Æ. 5. the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, a nd said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his h Isa. viii. 14. mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.

Rom. ix. 32,

satisfactory and irresistible evidence was given, on all occasions, to those who really waited, in joyful expectation, for that Saviour who should give redemption to Israel, and deliver them, according to their own ideas, from the power of the Romans. For among the Jews, the human and divine character and actions of the expected Saviour were much blended (a). Every testimony which had satisfied and confirmed their fathers in the faith, had now been vouchsafed to them: the spirit of prophecy-the vision of angels-the return of miracles and of dreams. If greater evidence than this had been afforded-if the more public and stupendous miracles afterwards wrought by our blessed Saviour had taken place at this time, the silent and tranquil obedience of our Lord would have been interrupted, before the time, by the homage, the wonder, the persecuting hatred and jealousy, of the Jewish people. The time was not yet fully come, when his divinity and power were to be publicly manifested. Before he preached to others, he became perfect himself. The root was planted in the dry ground of retired and obscure life, and from this unkindly soil it became the tree of life, yielding its fruits for "the healing of the nations."

29 One consolation the house of Israel may derive from the testimony of the prophet Simeon: The child of whom he spake was set for the fall and rising

(a) "I apprehend," says Bishop Blomfield, "that the true state of the case may be this-The Jews knew from their Scriptures that the promised Messiah was to be of the race of David; they knew also that he was the Son of God, the same Being who had guarded them in the wilderness, and who had descended in the Shechinah. That these two qualifications should be at one and the same time united in the same person, was perhaps a doctrine of which they found it difficult to give a satisfactory account. They probably expected that the Messiah would not manifest his divine character, till he should have fulfilled all the particulars predicted of him, as the Son of David, and his kingdom should be fully established. This notion will perhaps solve some difficulties, which present themselves after considering the treatises of Allix and Wilson." Knowledge of Jewish Tradition essential, &c. p. 35, note.

35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) J. P. 4709. that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in * Jerusalem.

39 And when they had peformed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

B. V. Æ. 5.

Temple of

Jerusalem.

* Or, Israel.

SECTION XIII.

The Offering of the Magi 30.

MATT. ii. 1-13.

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in Bethlehem,

again of many in Israel. It is not necessary to confine the meaning of the words to the primary reception or rejection of our Saviour by the Jews of that age. Christ is set both for the fall and rising again of the whole house of Israel. The time may not perhaps be far distant when the veil shall be taken from their eyes, and, in acknowledging a spiritual Messiah, they will no longer either expect, or desire, a mere temporal deliverer. Then will they restore the temple on Mount Sion, and all the nations of the world will again resort to Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth. "Glorious things shall be spoken of thee thou city of God."

30" The Holy Family, (says Archbishop Newcome (a),) return from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and not to Nazareth; to which they did not retire till after their retreat from Egypt. Mary, who attentively considered every circumstance relating to her son, might prefer Bethlehem, from Micah v. 2. and from the remembrance of the angelic vision." But on this point there is much difference of opinion. Pilkington supposes (b), that they returned from Jerusalem into Galilee, to their own city, and not to Bethlehem. Pilkington's dissertation curious, but the subject is not of sufficient importance to occupy further attention. The curious reader may peruse it at leisure. It seems natural to suppose, that if Joseph and Mary went from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, solely to perform the religious ceremony prescribed by the law, of presenting the child Jesus at the Temple, they would as certainly return again to Bethlehem, as a man would return to his own house, if he left it merely to go to a place of worship. The concurrent testi

(a) Notes to Harmony, fol. edit. p. 4. (b) See Pilkington's second Preliminary Dissertation.

i Luke ii. 4,

6,7.

J. P. 4709. the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men B. V. Æ. 5. from the east to Jerusalem,

Bethlehem.

Jerusalem.

Mic. v. 2.

2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to wor

ship When Herod the king had heard these things, he was

troubled, and all Jerusalem with him 31.

4 And when he had gathered all the Chief Priests and Scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,

6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the John vii. 42. least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel 3.

* Or, ruler.

32

mony of antiquity also, which is never to be despised, as well as the letter of Scripture, Matt. ii. 9, 10, 11. are unfavourable to Pilkington's theory.

31 The Jews believed that the glorious reign of the Messiah should commence with a long series of calamitous events, which accounts for the agitation that the intelligence of his birth occasioned in Herod, and "all Jerusalem with him.” These expected visitations are enumerated, from the ancient traditions of the Jews, at great length by Schoetgenius (Hora Hebraicæ, vol. ii. p. 512, &c. &c.); who, after relating many afflictions of a moral and religious nature, which would not have affected the mind of a man of Herod's character, mentions that the Jews, in addition to these evils, anticipated—“Many wars”—(Breschith Rabba, sect. 42, fol. 41. i. "Dixit R. Eleasar filius Abina: si videris regna contra se invicem insurgentia, nw bw ban,ny, tunc attende, et aspice ad pedem Messia")" Earthquakes"-(Sohar. Exod. fol. 3. col. u. ex versione Sommeri, p. 81.)"Revolts and insurrections of the better citizens”—(Sohar. Numen. fol. 102. col. 407.)-" Scarcity of corn and provisions"-(Sota, fol. 49. 2; and Pesikta Sotarta, fol. 58. 1.)—“ Poverty"-(Sanhedrin, fol. 97. 2.)—“ Plague” -(Pesikta rabbathi, fol. 2. 1. and 28. 3.) with many others. It is curious to notice these traditions, as they all unite to prove that many causes might have combined to render both Herod and all Jerusalem agitated at the announcement of the Magi. These coincidences also tend to demonstrate the utter impossibility, that the histories given us by the Evangelists can be otherwise than the authentic and genuine documents, which they are believed to be by the Church of Christ.

32 Pirke Eliezer, c. 3. applies this passage to the Messiah-p "IKI", "His goings forth have been from the beginning," that is, byn ɔɔ xbw Ty, "When the world was not yet founded;" and the Targum on Micah v. 1. the passage referred to by St. Matthew-wp, "From thee, before me, shall go forth the Messiah."-Schoetgen. vol. i. p. 3. I quote this passage to wesh that the Jewish teachers interpreted this passage of Micah in the same manner as the Evangelist St. Matthew: it is probable, therefore, that the Evangelist in this, as in other instances, referred to the Prophet in the manner usually adopted by his contemporaries. He appealed to them on their own principles.

7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, J.P.4709. enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

B. V. Æ. 5.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and Bethlehem. search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was 33.

ON THE VISIT OF THE MAGI.

33 Yet one additional evidence, that the Messiah had come, seemed to have been equally necessary with the others, and that also was granted. He was promised to the Gentiles; and the Great Prophet had long since predicted, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." Isa. lx. 3. The brightness of the rising of the morning star of the Gospel we have already seen. The rays of reviving prophecy, miracle, and angelic appearance, began to penetrate the dark night that had now overspread the Jewish Church. Yet the Heathen world was in a state of still grosser darkness. The light was to beam upon it also in its meridian splendour; we might anticipate, therefore, that one ray of his earlier glory would descend on the Gentile world. This was accomplished in the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem.

That large tract of country extending from Mesopotamia on the north, Arabia on the south, and Persia on the east, was occupied in the earlier ages of the world by populous and powerful tribes, all of whom, according to their authentic and traditional history, professed the same religion, and were distinguished for their reverence of fire, which they considered as the most perfect representation of the Deity, and the worship of which was the most ancient form of idolatry. The philosophers and learned men of this region were called Magi; and it is not improbable, that, as the whole territory originally professed the religion of the one true God, their adoration of the sun proceeded from their considering that body as a permanent Shechinah, or emblem of the Shechinah. The incipient error, from whatever source it originated, gradually sunk into a grosser idolatry, and mingled much superstition with the traditional knowledge of a purer religion. Abraham himself, according to Maimonides, was educated in the Sabian faith (see Josh. xxiv. 2.) which he was afterwards considered to have purified and reformed. Its doctrines were generally received and propagated, and were supposed to have originated in Chaldea: they were afterwards adopted in Persia and Egypt, where they became extremely polluted and debased.

The Egyptians in a subsequent age abused their knowledge, and professed to dive into futurity by astrology and the other arts of divination; and from this illicit application of the Sabian doctrines arose the term Magi, or Magician, when used in its opprobrious sense. The evidence of history (Mr. Franks (a) remarks,) traces the Goetic arts to Egypt, as their birth-place, of which country were the first magicians mentioned in history.

But it can be equally made evident by the testimony of a variety of profane

(a) Franks' excellent prize dissertation on the Magi, 8vo. Camb.

J. P. 4709.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedB. V. E. 5. ing great joy.

Bethlehem.

authors, that the most ancient signification of this word was applied, as a term of distinction, to the philosophers and wise men of a much earlier age. By the word Magus, says Hesychius (b), the Persians understand a sacred person, a professor of theology, and a priest; and Suidas (c) tells us, that, among the Persians, the Magi are those who devote themselves to philosophy, and to the worship of the Deity. Dion, Chrysostom, and Porphyry, assert the same: and many more authorities might be enumerated in confirmation of this opinion.

The principal object to which the Magi, or the Chaldean, or eastern philosophers in general, devoted their attention, was the study of astronomy. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, Balaam, the last prophet under the patriarchal dispensation, was summoned by the king of Moab, from Petorah, to curse them. Many suppose that Balaam, from his knowledge of astronomy, was himself a Magus it is certain that he was much esteemed in that part of the country, where the Magians were so much celebrated. This prophet, it is well known, predicted, "there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall arise out of Israel." As astronomy was the favourite pursuit of the day, this promised star, from generation to generation would be anxiously looked for and expected. The prophecy itself was, without any exception, the most peculiar, and most important, which had been given to the world. It was uttered at the most eventful period in the annals of the postdiluvian ages, on the establishment of the Levitical dispensation, and the overthrow of the Patriarchal; and it might therefore have been received by the Gentiles as a prediction of their restoration to the favour of their common Father: Christ being uniformly spoken of as the light of the Gentiles, who should bring all nations under his splendid dominion. Elated with these hopes, at the appearance of the long desired star, we may suppose the wise men hastened to Jerusalem to make their eager inquiries respecting the newly-born Deliverer, to whom their traditions or purer knowledge had ascribed the name of "King of the Jews."

By this confident inquiry, these strangers became witnesses to the Jews of the coming of Christ, and, drawing from the Scribes a testimony respecting his birth-place, might themselves receive an additional confirmation of his Messiahship. That they considered the infant as a royal child, was evident from the gifts which they presented to him. It was the custom of the East uniformly to make presents according to the condition in life of the person to whom they were offered. If they had judged from appearance only, a citron, a rose, or any the least gift, would have been sufficient for the infant of the poor Mary. But, mean as his appearance was, they treated him as a royal child; and even after they had discovered the poverty of his parents, they presented him with presents of the richest kind, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, such as the Queen of Sheba presented to Solomon in his glory (d). At Bethlehem, the place of his nativity, he was acknowledged king both by Jew and Gentile, and in both in

(3) Hesych. voc Μάγον—Μάγον, τὸν θεοσεβῆ καὶ θεολόγον, καὶ ἱερέα, oi Пépoaι ourws Aéyovo-ap. Bryant's Analysis of Ancient Mythology, 8vo. vol. ii. p. 403. (c) Apud Bryant, ut supra. (d) Harmer's Observations, Clarke's edit. vol. ii. obs. 9. Pfeifferi dubia vexata Exotic. N. T. Loc. 3. p. 887.

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