Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

But as

[ocr errors]

Ramab was at a considerable distance from Bethlehen, Jerusalem lying between them. Wherefore, the application of the prophecy to the slaughter of the infants 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 jiselt. From Jer. xl. I, it appears, that when Nebuzaradan was going to carry the Jews away to Pabylon, he gathered them together in the plains of Ramah. 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 happen, 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 Matthiew uses the prophet's words in their genuine meaning, when lie applies them to the slaughter of the jufants, thongh 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 liave a mind to heighten their deserija tions. In the mean time, the figure, as it is made use of by the evangelist, has a pecnliar beauty, which is wanting in the prophet. Rachel being buried in the fields of Bethlehem, (Gen. xlviii. 7.] where the infants were slain, she is awakened 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, beholil, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saring, arise, and take the young child anil his mother, and go into the innd 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 mother, and came into the land of Israel. But w}le? he heard that Archelans did reign in Judea, in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither; being wurned 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 tire 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 natzi ; and by others, to those passages where his humin liation 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 frust. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they riturned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. Wherefore, pot doubting that he had set out with some of his relations or acquaintance, they went 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, witħ their disappointment, they returned next day to Jerusalem, in the utmost anxiety, to try if they could learn what was become of!,im. 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, taiglot there publicly ; a custom hinted at Jer. xxvi, 5, 6, 7, 10. See also Jolin xviii. 20. It seems, the child Jesus had presented himself to the doctors, in order to he catechised; for we are told, that in the answers which he returned to their questions, and the ob jections which he made to their doctrine, he discovered a wisdom and penetratiolle, which raiscii the admiration of all present, even to astonislıment. And as it is himself who has told us, that, on this occasion, lie was employed in his father's business, it is probable, that in these his answers and objectious, he modestis situated corrections of the errors wherewith the Jewish teachers had now greatly disfigured religion. This parents finding liim here engaged in such an employment, were surprised bevond ineasure; and bis inother, in particular, not able to repress the enotivo she was is, chid him with a tender vehemence, for leaving them withou their knowledge, and putting them to so much pain. He replied, that they had no cason 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 contime always with them, but was to employ liiniself in his business who was really his Father. His parents, however, did not understand him ; perhaps, because they now doubted his being the Messiali, 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 liiniself

, 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 Narareth, and was subject unto them, but his moihii hept all thes, saying: in her heart : though she did not understand theru fully, she was deeply impressed with them, and thought much upon them. And Jesus increased in wisdom 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 perfertion 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 remarks of Dr. Macknight. « What early proofs he gave of his having the divine nature united to the human ; what proficieney he made in knowledge, and the methods by which he advanced therein; what way he emploved himself when he arrived at man's estate ; what notious his acquaintance formed of him ; the manner of his conversing with them ; and other things of a' like nature, the Holy Spirit has not thouylit fit to explain. The following particulars only are left upon record. That he had not the advantage of a liberal education, (John vii. 15.) received no instructions, probably, but what his parents gave him according to the law ; [Deut. iv. 9, 10. vi. 7.] vet at the 'age of twelve years, when carried up to Jerusalem, 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 reTharkable 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 ij. 52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. That as his mind was filled with wisdom,

ad always serene, being perfectly free from those turbulent passions which distract ether men, his countenance, no doubt, must have been composed and agreeable, such as did betoken the streugth 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, unlos

it be thought an explication of the precedent clause, He wared strong in spirit, and was 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, He was crceeding 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 observation concerning our Lord's form may appear somewhat singular, yet a nearer view of it will conciliate our an.. probation ; 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, för instance, Isaiah lii. 14, incunsistent 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, 0 most mighty, 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 hvis hearers were often amazed at the beauty of his discourses, (Luke iv. 22,] and some of them made to cry out, Never man spake like this mán, 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 perniitted, he wrought with his father, at his occupation of a carpenter, Mark vi. U 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 communicate 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."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER III.

THE STATE OF THE JEWS AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF OUR Lord's MINISTRY.

[ocr errors]

Palestine---its different names---its fornier fertility---its present desolate state---ils

divisions---mountains, Lebanon, Hermon, Tabor, &c.---plains---deserts---forests---seasthe dead sea---sea of Tiberius---rivers---Jordan---the lund of the Moabitcs of Midian-the tribe of Reuben---the country of the Ammonites---Galilee---Gad---half tribe of Manasseh---lower Galilee, tribes of sher, Zebulun, Naphtalı, and Issachar--half tribe of Manasseh---Ephruin---Samaria---Julen, tribe of Benjamin---Jerusalem---tribes of Judah, Dan, and Simeon---the Philistines--- Edom---description of the eastern buildings from Dr. Shaw---tents---their furniture---dress of the inhabitants---their diet--Herod's death---reign of Archelaus---government of Pilate---deyenerate state of the Jcus.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

FROM the time of our Lord's conversation with the Jewish teachers to the commencement of the ministry of John the Baptist, not a single fact is related by the evangelists ; here, therefore, we have a convenient opportunity to exhibit such a view of the state of Palestine, natural, political, and religious, as may enable the reader to understand more clearly the history of those important transactions, which, in the succeeding chapters, it is intended to relate.

The country which was the scene of our Lord's ministry was first called the land of Canaan, from Noah's grandson, by whom it was peopled; but it has since been more distinguished by other names, such as the Land of Promise, the Land of God, the Cand of Israel, the Holy Land, and sometimes, by way of pre-eminence, the Land. It has, again, been called Palestine, from the Philistines, who possessed great part of it; and Juda, or Judæa Palæstina, from Judah, whose tribe was the most considerable of the twelve, and possessed the most fertile portion of the land. It was inclosed on the west by the Mediterranean ; and on the east by the lake Asphaltites, the Jordan, thie sea of Tiberias, or of Galilee, and the Samachonite lake ; to the north it had the mountains of Libanıls, or rather of Antilibanus, or the province of Phænicia ; and to the south that of Edum, or Idumea, from which it was likewise parted by another ridge of lush mountains. It must be here observed, that we have confined ourselves to that part which is properly called the Land of promise ; as for the other part, viz. that which belonged to two tribes and an half on the other side Jordan, and which was called Peræa, and the land or kingdoms of Og, Sihon, &c. their boundaries are more difficult to be determined. It is about two hundred miles in length, and eighty in breadth, and extends from 31° 30' to 33° 20' of north latitude, and from 34° 50' to 37° 15' of case

longitude from Greenwich. It is therefore placed under the fourth and fifth climates, 50 that its longest day is about fourteen hours fifteen minutes,

The climate of this country, Palestine, is certainly very happy, its situation being neither too far south, nor too far north. But the limits of this country appear so small, considering that it is likewise intersected by high ridges or mountains, woods, deserts, &c. that

many learned men have been induced to question what we read of its fertility and populousness in former times. It must be owner, indeed, that when we compare its antient and flourishing state, when it was cultivated with the utinost diligence, by persons well skilled in every branch of agriculture, with what it has been since the total extirpation of the Jows out of it, and more especially since it fell into the hands of the Turks, the contrast is amazingly great: but when we consider the many evident causes which have contributed to effect this change, and its fruitfulness, in some instances, at the present day, we find not the least reason to doubt the truth of what the sacred historians have related. Moses describes it, before it was possessed by the Israelites, as a land flowing with milk and honey. It even exceeded Egypt, so much celebrated by the antients, in the vast numbers of cattle which it produced, and in the quantity and ex. cellence of its wine, oil, and fruits.

But its fertility has been called in question, and Voltaire, and other infidel writers, have raised difficulties and objections against the authority of scripture, from the pretended sterility of the land of Judea. In answer to which, the abbé Guenee, about 1780, communicated to the academy, inscriptions, and belles lettres, at Paris, Two Memoirs concerning the fertility of Palestine, in order to show that such objections had no solid foundation.

fu the first of them the author proves, that from the captivity of Babylon to the war of Adrian, Judea was always considered as a rich and fertile country. The positive and multiplied authorities of the writers of that period, Jews, Greeks, and Romanis, not only attest, in general, the fertility of that country, but many of these writers, entering into a particular detail of these circumstances, prove it from the nature of the climate, the qualities of the soil, and the excellence and variety of its productions. These are confirmed by proofs of another kind, but which are of a very convincing natöre, even those resulting from a great number of niedals, struck under the reigns of Syria and Judea, and under the Romans, both by Jews and Pagans, and which all bear the symbols of a rich fertility. To these proofs are added a multitude of facts, recorded in the history of the Jews during this period ; the efforts of the neighbouring kings to conquer their country; the long and bloody wars that the Jews carried on with vigour, and, sometimes, with success, against powerful princes and nations ; the tribute and taxes they paid to the kings of Egypt and Syria, to the Romans, and to their own princes; the magnificence of their sovereigns, and particularly of Herod ; the troops he raised and kept on foot; the temples, fortresses, palaces, and cities, which he erected and embellished, not only in his own country, but in Syria, Asia Minor, and even in Greece; the immense sums he lavished among the Romans ; the donations he made among his own people; and the vast treasures which he left behind him: all these circumstances concur in proving the fertility and richness of Palestine, during that period.

In the second memoir the abbè Guence considers the state of Palestine, as it was from the time of the emperor Adrian to the caliphate of Omar, which comprehends a period of four centuries. From sundry facts he shows, that it could not then have been the barren country which it has been represented by some sceptical writers. He particularly mentions the project formed by Adrian of rebuilding and embellishing Jerusaleol, of reforming it into a Roman colony, of giving it its own nome, a project of which lie

« AnteriorContinuar »