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Reader. Such was Simon of whom | reveal, and to ask no more! And we read in the eighth chapter of the how studiously should we avoid pushActs ; who is described in the ninth ing our inquiries into matters of mere and eleventh verses as practising the curiosity, such as have nothing to do arts of a magos. And Elymas (Acts with the real elucidation of Scripture xiii. 6, 8) is expressly called a magos, history, the discovery of God's will which our translators have rendered concerning our salvation, or the formsorcerer.
ation of Christian character ! Theophilus. As these Magi were so As far as our real information goes, celebrated in the East, and were of these wise men appear to have been such ancient standing, is it not rather heathen philosophers. Here then we singular that we do not read of them seem to behold a prelude to the callin the Old Testament?
ing of the Gentiles into the church Reader. Allusion to their errors of the Redeemer,—a token of that and false religion may often have mercy whereby Christ has been made been made even where their name a light to lighten the Gentiles, to does not occur. But we do some give knowledge of salvation to people times meet with the very name. of all regions under heaven. At all Rab-mag, in Jerem. xxxix. 3, means events, we may find cause for gratiThe chief Magician, or the head of tude and rejoicing if we contemplate the Magi. And in Isa. viii. 19, the the arrival of these Magi in Jerusa“ wizards that mutter" are the Ma lem as an emblem of that happy and
flourishing condition of the Christian Theophilus. Has it not been sug- church which has been so beautigested as probable that the Magifully described by Isaiah, and will, mentioned by St. Matthew are of one day, we hope, be realized in all Jewish extraction ?
its fulness. “The Gentiles shall Reader. Yes ; but perhaps without come to thy light, and kings to the sufficient reason. Some of the fa brightness of thy rising. . . Then thers, according to their bad system thou shalt see, and flow together, of interpreting Scripture, pretended and thine heart shall fear, and be to know a great deal about these enlarged; because the abundance of wise men. They maintained that the sea shall be converted unto thee, they were kings, three in number; | the forces of the Gentiles shall come and they professed to know even unto thee. The multitude of camels their names, and the place in which shall cover thee, the dromedaries of they were buried. This ostentatious Midian and Ephah ; all they from ignorance arose partly from their fan- Sheba shall come: they shall bring ciful application of prophecy; and gold and incense ; and they shall partly from their habit of following show forth the praises of the Lord.” that ignis fatuus, Tradition. What Isa. lx. 3, 5, 6. wisdom it is to be content with know May not this passage of the Evaning what God has been pleased to gelist also give us a call, and encou
ragement, to send the Gospel into proposed to John the Baptist (Luke the East, the country of the Magi? iii. 15), and the frequent appearance
And let the pains which these wise of false Christs (see Matt. xxiv. 5) men took in their search for the in- about the time of our Saviour's first fant Jesus, admonish us to use all di- coming, are striking indications of ligence in our endeavours to become the fact. It is remarkable also that acquainted with him and his great a certain undefined expectation of salvation. Let us consider, too, how the appearance of some illustrious sad is our case, if, while the Gospel | personage, who should assume uniis brought to our very door, and versal empire, was very prevalent in Jesus Christ is evidently set forth other Eastern countries at this period. among us, not only as born into the Perhaps the Jews, who were scatworld, but as crucified for us and tered in various parts of the world, risen again, we are yet careless and had given rise to this expectation, by indifferent concerning his blessed declaring, to a certain extent, the person and his most glorious work! signification of their prophecies. But The wise men undertook a long jour- | be this as it may, it is plain that an ney in order to see the newly-born opinion on this subject had become King of the Jews. “Oh how will very common, especially in the East. their coming so far as from the east I will read to you some remarkto seek Christ rise up another day in able extracts from two Roman histojudgment against us, if we refuse to rians, which affect this point. The be found by Christ, who came from first is from Suetonius, in his Life of heaven to save us!” “Those who Vespasian.--"An ancient and settruly desire to know Christ, and to tled persuasion had become very prefind him, will not regard pains or valent throughout the East, that it perils in seeking after him.”
had been decreed by the fates that Theophilus. I observe, Sir, that some should go forth from Judea and the wise men, on their arrival at Je obtain universal empire.” The other rusalem, spoke of the birth of some passage, of like import, is from the illustrious prince in terms which seem fifth book of the History of Tacitus. to indicate that the subject was quite -“Many were persuaded that it was familiar to their own minds, as well contained in the ancient books of the as a matter of general expectation priests, that, at that very period of among the Jews.
time, the East would prevail; and Reader. We cannot be surprised that some should go forth from Juto find that the birth of the Messiah, dea, and obtain universal empire." the King of the Jews, was expected The historians, ignorant alike of the about that time by the Jews them origin of such an expectation, and of selves, when we consider how clearly its real fulfilment, applied it to the the period of his appearance in the dominion of the Roman emperors. world had been determined by the But their testimony is, on this very voice of prophecy. The question account, the more important. Perhaps some of you may remember, it was a constellation, or peculiar conthat the poet Virgil, in one of his junction of the planets; others have Eclogues, alludes to the expected even fancied that it was a comet; while birth of some illustrious progeny others, again, have supposed that it from heaven, in terms very much was the same light as that which like those employed by the inspired shone round about the shepherds of prophet Isaiah relating to the king Bethlehem; and the reveries of some dom of Messiah.
of the fathers (as they are called) Much could be said respecting have proclaimed it to have been an these passages in ancient authors, angel! All that we can know, howwhich would not serve our present ever, amounts to this; that the wise purpose. They possess an historical men saw an extraordinary luminary, value, and may tend to the confirma- probably in the western part of the tion of the truth. At present, it heavens, which was made the means may be enough for us to remember, of conducting them to the birth-place with devout thankfulness, that God of Christ. This is the largest parahas been pleased to favour us with phrase which we can give to the abundant evidence in support of re- words, “We, in the east, have seen ligion; and to charge ourselves, in his star.”—Repeat that remarkable humble dependence on divine grace, prophecy in which the Messiah himto make a good use of the benefit self is spoken of under the figure of thus conferred upon us, by meekly a star. submitting to the sceptre of that Mary. It is the prophecy which King of Righteousness and Prince of was uttered by Balaam. “ There Peace, concerning whom we have re- shall come a star out of Jacob, and a ceived full and sufficient information. sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and Oh, may he reign in our hearts, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and may every thought and desire be | destroy all the children of Seth." brought into a willing subjection to Numb. xxiv. 17. his most righteous and most benefi | Reader. Whether or not the recial sway!
membrance of this prophecy had Mary. What kind of star may we been preserved in the East, and may suppose it to have been which the have been alluded to by the wise wise men saw ?
men, we cannot say. Nor do we Reader. Perhaps this is one of the know with what degree of certainty, many cases in which it is our wisdom or in what manner, they were asnot to suppose anything at all. We sured of the significancy of the star know that the Magi saw something which they discovered. Either these which had the appearance of a star, Magi, of their own accord, interbut we know nothing more. Some preted the appearance of the star as have conjectured that it was a me an announcement of the birth of the teor, moving at no great height from great Deliverer; or else God vouchthe surface of the earth; others, that safed to give them instructions by immediate revelation, or in some mi- 1 Theophilus, to what cause would raculous manner, as he did afterwards you attribute the trouble of Herod, with reference to their return to their when he was told of the birth of the own country. But one thing at least “King of the Jews ?” we know, and this ought to be a sub Theophilus. I fear that we must ject of serious reflection; namely, attribute it to his wicked heart an that we have been blessed with a guilty conscience. He knew how guide to Christ, more glorious in justly he was disliked on account of character, and more distinct in its his cruel and tyrannical conduct ; announcement, than that which the and he dreaded the consequences of wise men saw. We have the holy his crimes, whenever any one should Scriptures, and they testify of Him. arise to make head against him. Let us follow their guidance, in hu | Reader. And, in another point of mility and faith; and we shall find view, we may trace this disquietude that they will lead us into the palace to false apprehensions, and a misand the presence-chamber of the taken opinion concerning the nature King of kings. “ Thy word is a of the Messiah's kingdom. Here light unto my feet, and a lamp unto we discover two great sources of unmy path."
easiness, which have caused perThe wise men said, “We have seen plexity to many men. A guilty conhis star, and we are come to worship science, that is the worst tormentor; him," i.e. to do him homage, as the and a set of mistaken opinions, or great and illustrious prince whose foolish prejudices, is another, capabirth was expected. It is probable ble of inflicting much misery and that they did not know his real cha- | pain. Let us cultivate a conscience racter, and had little idea how wor void of offence; and aim also at a thy he is of supreme honour, of right understanding, a sober, wellworship in the strict sense of the informed judgment, as a subsidiary expression. But we know this. and concurrent source of comfort. "When he bringeth in the first-be- A right judgment in all things, how gotten into the world, he saith, And great a blessing! What a happy let all the angels of God worship preservative against vain hopes and him.” Heb. i. 6. Those who have distressing fears! And how needbeen truly led to Christ by that ful to each of ourselves, in these bright star, the word of revelation, days especially, assaulted as we are will fall down and worship him in by infidelity on the one hand, and spirit and in truth; they will say to | by superstition, fanaticism, and false him practically, by the surrender of pretensions of various kinds on the their hearts, and the obedience of other! Let us, therefore, without their lives, My Lord, and my God! ceasing, study the Scriptures and "Have we seen Christ's star?” says pray to God. a pious writer on this passage, “let We may observe, also, that Herod's us study to do him honour!” mistaken notions concerning the nature of Messiah's kingdom were not consist the real peace and happiness only a source of anxiety to himself, of every man's soul! From such but became, also, the occasion of his hardness of heart, and contempt of animosity against the infant. And thy holy word, good Lord, deliver hence we are reminded that “the us! greatest enmities, and the bitterest
HYMN. animosities, have arisen from cause
Micah iv. 1–5. less fears and groundless jealousies." It is only the reign of perfect truth
Behold, the mountain of the Lord
In latter days shall rise, that will be the reign of perfect
Shall tower above the meaner hills, peace. Blest Prince of Peace, thy And draw the wond'ring eyes. kingdom come!
To this the joyful nations round, It is a melancholy picture which All tribes and tongues, shall flow : this verse brings before us. “ Christ, “ Ascend the hill of God," they say, who was the angel's song, the wise
“ And to his temple go.” men's joy, and Israel's consolation, The beam that shines on Sion's hill becomes Herod's fear and Jerusa
Shall lighten every land;
The King that reigns in Sion's towers lem's terror.” Yes; all Jerusalem
Shall all the world command. was troubled together with guilty Herod. This must have proceeded
No strife shall vex Messiah's reign,
Or mar the peaceful years; from gross ignorance, to say the
To ploughshares shall they beat their swords, least. The wise men found the Jews,
To pruning-hooks their spears. the professors of the true religion,
Come then, O) come, from ev'ry land, uninformed on a point concerning
To worship at his shrine; which they ought to have been well And, walking in the light of God, instructed, and uneasy at the men
With holy beauty shine.
LOGAN. tion of one whose name ought to have been a cause of thankfulness and rejoicing! And, alas! how many
§ V. nominal Christians are equally ignorant of the Saviour, and equally of
CHAP. II. 4-10. fended at him! Satan in the soul,
The wise men out of the East are dilike Herod on the throne, hates and is troubled at the name of
rected to Christ by a star. Christ; and the poor slaves of Satan, 4 And when he had gathered like the Jews in the days of Herod, all the chief priests and 'scribes are unprepared to give a welcome to of the people together. 9 he detheir glorious Deliverer. Ignorance
manded of them where Christ of the true nature of Christ and his
should be born. office, and a willing subjection to the tyranny of sin,—what impedi
5 And they said unto him, ments are these to that cheerful re- In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus ception of the Saviour, wherein alone it is written by the prophet,