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6 *And thou Bethlehem, in tive concerning the visit of the wise the land of Juda, art not the men to the infant Saviour; and in it least among the princes of Juda:
we find many particulars which may for out of thee shall come a Go
well arrest our attention, and afvernor, 'that shall "rule my peo
ford subject for profitable reflection. Perhaps we may do well to review
the whole passage, verse by verse.7 Then Herod, when he had | Does any question arise out of the privily called the wise men, en- fourth verse, which stands first in the quired of them diligently what portion that has now been read ? time the star appeared
Theophilus. I have been request8 And he sent them to Beth
ed to ask who were the chief priests lehem, and said, Go and search
mentioned in this verse? We read
in the Old Testament of one High diligently for the young child ; | Priest, who was distinguished from and when ye have found him, all other priests, but it does not apbring me word again, that I may pear so clearly what priest, besides come and worship him also. this High Priest, could lay any claim 9 When they had heard the
to the title of chief. king, they departed; and, lo,
Reader. But you do read of chief the star, which they saw in the
priests in the Old Testament, do you
not? Turn, for example, to 2 east, went before them, till it
Chron. xxxvi. 14. came and stood over where the
1 Theophilus. “ Moreover, all the young child was.
chief of the priests, and the people, 10 When they saw the star, transgressed very much after the they rejoiced with exceeding abominations of the heathen, and great joy.
polluted the house of the Lord which
he had hallowed in Jerusalem.”
| Reader. And you may find menRev. ii. 27. I Or, feed.
tion of the chief of the priests in other Reader. In these verses, the place parts of the Old Testament ; for inwhich was honoured as the scene of stance, in 1 Chron. xxiv. 6; Ezra, our Lord's nativity is brought very viii. 24; Nehem. xii. 7.—By “chief strikingly before our notice. We priests” in the New Testament we are conducted, in thought, to Beth are to understand not only the High lehem; and, if we rightly consider Priest for the time being, and others the great event by which that town who had served that office, but also was distinguished, we shall be able to the heads of the twenty-four orders say, in the words of an honoured dis or classes into which the priests were ciple of old, “Master, it is good for divided in the time of David. These us to be here !” In this passage we heads of the sacerdotal families, as have also a continuation of the narra such, were members of the Sanhe
drim; and hence it became usual to that we may find them able to make designate any priest who was a mem-us “wise unto salvation through faith ber of that body by the title of “chief which is in Christ Jesus.” priest.”
Where do we find the prophecy to Theophilus. And who were the which the chief priests and scribes scribes?
referred as pointing out the birthReader. They were the students place of Messiah ? and learned expounders of the law, Theophilus. In Micah v. 2. “But -the same as are elsewhere called thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though lawyers (Matt. xxii. 35) and doc- | thou be little among the thousands tors of the law (Luke v. 17). They of Judah, yet out of thee shall be also acted as registrars, and were come forth unto me that is to be employed in drawing up legal docu ruler in Israel; whose goings forth ments.-In what respect does the have been from of old, from everlastconduct of Herod and his advisers, | ing.” as described in the fourth and fifth Reader. Here is a little verbal verses, deserve to be imitated by us ? difficulty; but perhaps so slight as
Theophilus. That question had hardly to require notice. In the not occurred to my mind before ; but | Evangelist we read, “thou art not I am sure that we may profitably do the least;" in the prophet, “ though one thing which may be considered thou be little.” Some critics have as an imitation of their example, suggested that the words of the orinamely, always consult the Scriptures ginal prophecy should be read inwhen we wish to learn anything con terrogatively, “ art thou too little ?” cerning Christ.
implying, “thou art not.” But, even Reader. That is what I meant. without this, the difficulty vanishes if And what a solemn reflection is here we remember that the leading idea is forced upon our minds, that men the same in both forms of the verse; may consult the Scriptures respecting -namely, that Bethlehem, notwithChrist, and may even become learned standing its political insignificance, in the page of inspiration, without should yet be highly honoured and having any saving knowledge of Him distinguished. “of whom Moses in the law, and the In the Evangelist we read “princes" prophets, did write.” Nay, how instead of “thousands;" as in the possible is it for men to seek an ac- original. Here also the difference quaintance with Scripture, and its is more apparent than real; for in meaning, for purposes directly hostile Hebrew the same word signified a to religion! What an awful mass of thousand and a prince ; from the cirimpiety and depravity is the heart of cumstance that the people had been a wicked man! Oh, let us search distributed into thousands, each unthe Scriptures, not for any mere der its own captain, chief, or prince. worldly purpose, nor even in the You perceive how easy and natural spirit of vain curiosity, but in order | it would be, especially in such a language as the Hebrew, 'to say “a | where David was?” John vii. 41, thousand" instead of " the captain of | 42. a thousand."
Reader. We find very early menNow, with respect to Bethlehem, tion of this place in the Old Testa-let me ask you, what is the mean ment; and that too in connection ing of the word ?
with some events of great interest.Theophilus. In Hebrew, as you Read Gen. xxxv. 19. have sometimes told us, The house of Theophilus. “And Rachel died, Bread.
and was buried in the way to EphReader. Let us remember that rath, which is Bethlehem." He who was born there is indeed Reader. Refer to some verses in " the true bread which cometh down that book of the Old Testament in from heaven." Have you discovered | which the name of Bethlehem most. why this town is so fully described | frequently occurs. as Bethlehem Ephratah, or Beth 1 Theophilus. You allude to the lehem in the land of Judah? book of Ruth.-Here we find that
Theophilus. To distinguish it from Elimelech, Naomi's husband, was a another Bethlehem, in Galilee, be- “man of Bethlehem Judah," and that longing to the tribe of Zabulon. their two sons were “Ephrathites
Reader. In what respect had this of Bethlehem Judah.”—Naomi and Bethlehem already become remarka- | Ruth “returned to Bethlehem in ble?
the beginning of barley-harvest." Theophilus. As the birth-place of Boaz, of the kindred of Elimelech, David, the illustrious human ances- " came from Bethlehem.”—“And all tor and one great type of the Mes the people that were in the gate, and siah. 1 Sam. xvi. 4. Hence Beth-| the elders, said, We are witnesses. lehem is called “the city of David." The Lord make the woman that is
Realer. And it is very evident, come into thine house like Rachel from the answer given to Herod, as and like Leah, which two did build well as from ancient Jewish writings, the house of Israel; and do thou that the Jews expected that the Mes-worthily in Ephratah, and be famous siahấthe Son of David-would be in Bethlehem.” born at Bethlehem. Can you recite R eader. We have already seen a verse out of another Evangelist, the place which is occupied by Boaz which tends to prove that such a per- in the human ancestry of our blessed suasion was prevalent among the Lord.—You may find another referJewish people at the period of our ence to Bethlehem, in Psalm cxxxii. Saviour's ministry?
6.—It lay about seven miles southTheophilus. Yes. “Some said, west of Jerusalem.-It was but a Shall Christ come out of Galilee? small town,-so small that in John Hath not the Scripture said, that | vii. 42, it is called, in the original, Christ cometh of the seed of David, “the village of Bethlehem.”—The and out of the town of Bethlehem, | meanness of our Lord's birth-place
may be regarded as one part of his | Lord have spoken it. And I will humiliation.—“ Ye know the grace make with them a covenant of peace, of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though and will cause the evil beasts to cease he was rich, yet for your sakes he out of the land; and they shall dwell became poor, that ye through his safely in the wilderness, and sleep in poverty might be rich.” 2 Cor. the woods. And I will make them viii. 9. May we reflect with un and the places round about my hill feigned thankfulness upon that grace, a blessing; and I will cause the —that free, unmerited goodness and shower to come down in his season ; compassion,—to which we owe our there shall be showers of blessing." deliverance from sin and ruin !- And Ezek. xxxiv. 24-26. let us learn also to become, more and Theophilus, Why did Herod make more completely, followers of the such a secret of his consultation with blessed Jesus in his humility and the wise men? It is said that he lowliness of mind. “Let this mind be called them privily. in you, which was also in Christ Reuder. Ah, guilty Herod! He Jesus; who, being in the form of God, was, perhaps, afraid that if he did this thought it not robbery to be equal openly, the Jews, knowing his cruel with God: but made himself of no and tyrannical disposition, would susreputation, and took upon him the pect him of some design against the form of a servant, and was made in infant Jesus, and that they would take the likeness of men : and being found measures for insuring His safety by in fashion as a man, he humbled him concealment, or by conveying Him self, and became obedient unto death, out of the tyrant's reach. Atall events, even the death of the cross.” Phil. we know that he did this with some ii. 5–8.
evil design.-A guilty conscience, “Out of thee," says the voice of and an evil intention, often lead men prophecy, “shall come a Governor, to adopt sly, stealthy methods of that shall rule my people Israel;" proceeding. Oh, the disgrace of sin! -shall rule, as a shepherd does his When I read the eighth verse, I am flock, that is the force of the original. often disposed to meditate long upon How tender and how faithful is the the hypocrisy of Herod,- the infatucare of the good Shepherd ! How ation to which he was made subject, blessed his dominion in the soul! -and the singular inconsistency of Let us yield ourselves to his govern- his conduct. ance and guidance, and herein we Look at his hypocrisy—“That I shall find true liberty, and real hap- may come and worship him also." piness;—liberty from the slavery of No; whether he intended to mock sin and Satan; and happiness which him with the form of homage or not, is beautifully depicted by those ex- | certain it is that his ultimate design pressions in Ezekiel, “I the Lord was to destroy him. Thus wicked will be their God, and my servant men often conceal their evil designs David a prince among them; I the under the appearance of religion. Thus crafty and politic enemies of to have believed that the birth of the Gospel often seek to destroy its | Messiah was divinely foretold, and reputation and its efficacy, and to that it was to take place at Bethlestop its progress in the world, even hem; and, therefore, that the infant while they pay it a compliment with of whom he was in search was, to say their lips and by their profession. the least, under the divine protecSuch are the depths of Satan! Such tion: and yet, at the same time, he the dark and intricate mazes of the used his efforts to prevent the fulfilhuman heart, as long as the old ser- ment of prophecy, to defeat the depent lies coiled up within it!—How signs of the Most High! But Heoften also do ungodly men, like rod was not alone in this kind of inHerod, seek to make use of their consistency. Are there not many in more pious neighbours, for the ac- our day who have a certain respect complishment of their evil purposes ! for the Bible as a divine revelation, They look upon the more simple- | a kind of belief in its declarations, hearted as fools, and fit only to be and yet practically oppose its diccome their dupes,—the prey of the tates, and militate against it, as more spirited and clever! But, “He though it were possible for them to that sitteth in the heavens shall cancel its threatenings, and to negalaugh, the Lord shall have them in tive its most solemn announcements ? derision.” Psalm ü. 4. How aw Here is another proof of the treaful to awake from their delusion only chery of sin, and the miserable deluat the moment when this threatening sion which may befal those men who begins to be fulfilled!
walk in the counsel of the ungodly, The infatuation of Herod, not- or stand in the way of sinners, or sit withstanding his craft and artifice, in the seat of the scornful. Our is remarkable. His intention was, only means of safety is to give our doubtless, deeply hidden in his own hearts to God; to submit unreservheart; and to this secrecy he proba- | edly to his will; to live and act with bly trusted. But it would seem to us | a single eye to his glory. that, if the Most High had not pur Let me now call your attention to posely overruled his counsels, he the ninth and tenth verses. Lo, the would certainly, as he might easily, star! In this part of the narrative have adopted some means more ef- we may find an encouraging assurfectual for securing his purpose than ance that God will guide those who those to which he trusted.—But it are disposed to seek the Saviour; is thus that God, in his wisdom, and, in general, that “if we go on "casteth out the counsels of princes." as far as we can in the way of our
Once more, observe the inconsis- duty, God will direct and enable us tency of Herod's conduct on this oc to do that which, of ourselves, we casion. He appears to have believed, cannot do.” The sight of the star, to a certain extent, in the word of which again made its appearance, prophecy; that is to say, he seems must have been very cheering to