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think, one of the most inhuman years of age, and who had formerly transactions of which I have ever saved Herod's life; a man who, in read. The account of it is painful every revolution of fortune, had in the extreme; and, if it did not shown a mild and peaceable disposirest upon high authority, would be tion. His beloved and beautiful wife almost incredible.
Mariamne was publicly executed ; Reader. The narrative, considered and her mother Alexandra followed in itself, is indeed equally mournful soon after. Alexander and Aristoand astonishing. But here again we bulus, his two sons by Mariamne, have an incidental confirmation of were strangled in prison by his orthe truth and accuracy of Scripture ders, upon groundless suspicions, history. Although this murder, not when they were at man's estate, having had a bearing upon any poli- were married, and had children. In tical change or movement, is not re- his last sickness, he sent orders corded by common historians; yet it throughout Judea, requiring the preis in perfect accordance with the sence of all the chief men of the character and proceedings of Herod nation at Jericho. When they were in many matters which, being of a come, he caused them all to be shut political character, did come within up in the circus; and, calling for the range of their observations. Ma- his sister Salome and her husband crobius indeed (Saturn. ii, 4), re- Alexas, he said to them, ‘My life is cords a jest of Augustus, to the now short; I know the Jewish peoeffect that it was better to be He- ple, and that nothing will please rod's hog than his son,—which some them better than my death. You persons suppose to have had refer- have them now in your custody. ence to the slaughter of the inno- As soon as the breath is out of my cents. But be this as it may, there body, and before my death can be are abundant examples which serve known, do you let in the soldiers to show that this horrid piece of upon them, and kill them. All Jucruelty is no more than might have dea then, and every family, will, been expected at the hands of He-though unwillingly, mourn at my rod.—Read a passage which I have death.' Surely there could be no marked in the book that lies before cruelty which such a man was not you, containing an enumeration of capable of perpetrating." some of this tyrant's atrocities.
Reader. And it is worthy of reTheophilus. “ Aristobulus, brother mark, that the Evangelist does not of his wife Mariamne, was murdered make any comment upon the bad by his directions at eighteen years of character of this wretched tyrant. age, because the people of Jerusalem It is the usual custom of the sacred had shown some affection for his per-writers to give a simple narrative of son. In the seventh year of his reign facts, without stopping to express he put to death Hyrcanus, grand- admiration, or any other sentiment, father of Mariamne, then eighty at the circumstances which they re
cord; or to dilate upon the character | figure of Rachel weeping over her and motives of the actors. This children; it is a specimen of that speaks greatly in favour of their genuine and exalted poetry with credibility as historians; and, in fact, which the language of Scripture it points us to that fountain of truth abounds. And, what is more, the and purity from which they derived second fulfilment of the words of inspiration and guidance. It may Jeremiah, — which no one, anteceserve also to suggest to us a reli- dently to the event of the applicagious duty ;-namely, not to speak tion made by the inspired Evangeevil of other men, except when ne- | list, would have supposed to possess cessary; and, even then, not to take any farther reference or meaning,pleasure in casting blame or discredit is a proof of the certainty of the di
vine foreknowledge, and the depths Theophilus. Perhaps you will be of divine revelation. kind enough to explain to us the Other modes of explaining St. application of the prophecy to which Matthew's application of the pasthe Evangelist here refers.
sage are, I think, less satisfactory.Reader. These words of Jeremiah Some say that, perhaps, the massacre (xxxi. 15) referred primarily to the extended to the territory of Ramah, lamentations which were heard in
which bordered on that of Bethlethe neighbourhood of Ramah when hem, and so the children of Rachel, Nebuzar-adan collected in that place literally speaking, were involved in the captives from Judah and Benja- the calamity.-One commentator remin whom he was about to carry marks, it is “
marks, it is “as if the Evangelist away to Babylon. See Jer. xl. i. had said, Bethlehem at this time Ramah was in the tribe of Benja- resembled Ramah; for, as Rachel min; and the mother of that tribe is might be said to weep over her most elegantly represented as be- children which were slaughtered, or wailing the calamity of her descend- gone into captivity; so, in Bethleants.-Now Bethlehem was situate hem, the mothers lamented bitterly at the distance of about twelve miles their children, because they were from Ramah, and lay in the tribe of slain.”—Luther translates the words Judah; but Rachel's tomb was there; “in Ramah,” supposing them to and hence the prophecy of Jeremiah mean in " the hill country." is to be regarded as receiving a se- Theophilus. The number of infants cond and farther accomplishment in
slain by Herod is, I suppose, uncerthe slaughter of the infants, over tain. whose death, with equal propriety Reader. Quite so. Bethlehem was and beauty, Rachel may be repre- not a large place; and, although the sented as weeping—though not as slaughter extended to the parts adthe mother of the tribe, yet as hav- | jacent, or the neighbourhood some ing been buried in the neighbour- distance round,—which is meant by hood. There is great beauty in the “all the coasts thereof” — yet, all
things being considered, we may for our comfort to reflect that the conclude that the number could not "counsel of the Lord " shall always have been very large. Tradition, “stand,” in opposition alike to the indeed, fixes the number at fourteen craft and the rage of his enemies. thousand! But this, as
The promise of God to his faithful mentator has well observed, is only people is this,—“Thou shalt tread an instance of the vanity of that upon the lion and adder; the young most vain and deceitful guide; for lion and the dragon shalt thou trameven a populous city would not con- ple under feet.” Ps. xci. 13. tain such a number of infants of two Herod was exceeding wroth.-The years old and under.
word in the original is the same as Theophilus. I see, more and more that which the Septuagint employs plainly, how vain and unprofitable it to express the rage of Haman is, to attempt to become wise above against Mordecai. Esth. iii. 5; v. 9. what is written in matters of reli- To what awful lengths of wickedgion, and especially with reference
ness are men sometimes led by the to those matters of fact which are indulgence of anger ! Under the recorded in Holy Scripture.
influence of this evil passion, if they
yield to it, they are likely to commit READER. Let us endeavour to sins of the deepest dye. “Wrath is become wise, in a practical way, by cruel, and anger is outrageous.” “He that which has been written for our that is slow to wrath is of great unlearning in the passage of Holy Scrip-derstanding; but he that is hasty of ture which has now been read.
spirit exalteth folly.” Prov. xxvii. 4; Herod, when he saw that he was xiv. 29. mocked of the wise men, was exceeding Herod had already received a wroth.-His crafty and dishonest po- check in his iniquitous designs by the licy having been defeated, he pro- disappointment which he had suffered. ceeded, in the next place, to acts of Was not this enough to divert him open enmity and violence. “Hav- from his purpose? It might well ing played the fox before,” says have spoken to his conscience; and Burkitt, “he acts the lion now.' it ought to have deterred him from And thus it often happens, that his crime.
Even the re"when fraud and subtilty fail the bukes of God address themselves in enemies of the church, then they vain to the heart of a hardened sinfall to open rage and barbarous in
And "inveterate corruption," humanity."
so far from being allayed, “ often But this act of cruelty, great and swells the higher for the obstruction monstrous as it was, was not effec- it meets with in a sinful pursuit." tual for its purpose. The child Je- Herod sent forth, and slew all the sus was not destroyed, as Herod in- children. There is a neat remark by tended and hoped. The Lord had an early Christian writer, which has the tyrant in derision. And it is been transferred to the pages of a
commentator on our Book of Com- murder of the infants as a source of mon Prayer, to the following effect, grief and mourning to their parents. . —that there are three kinds of martyr- The heart of many a parent was dom; the first both in will and deed, wrung with anguish on this lamentawhich is the highest; the second in will, ble occasion. How soon may we be but not in deed; the third in deed, called to mourn over the deathbut not in will. These infants were perhaps, as
perhaps, as we may suppose, the martyrs (if such they may be called) untimely death — of relatives and of the latter class. And, in one sense, friends! Let us always be prepared they may be properly regarded as for so solemn and painful an evento martyrs, that is, suffering witnesses to Let us walk in faith, hand in hand, Christ, if we regard their death, and with united hearts, towards a although involuntary, as the fulfil-higher and a better world! Concernment of inspired prophecy.
ing the tenants of that blissful region There are, especially, four points it has been written, “God shall wipe of view in which we may consider the away
all tears from their
and slaughter of these children, in order there shall be no more death, neither to our practical benefit.
sorrow, nor crying, neither shall We may regard it, first, as the act
there be any more pain, for the of a cruel and despotic tyrant. And former things are passed away." hence we should learn to be thankful Rev. xxi. 4. that, through the good providence of Fourthly, we may look at this God, we are not exposed to the same circumstance with reference to the awful invasion of the rights of man, infants themselves. It was an early the same wanton exercise of irrespon- and, as men call it, a premature sible and unbridled power. Thanks death. “It was no unrighteous be to God for the liberties of Britons, thing in God to permit this; every and the excellence of the British life is forfeited to his justice as soon Constitution !
as it commences; that sin which enSecondly, we may contemplate tered by one man's disobedience this event as having taken place by introduced death with it; and we are . divine permission.—“Let us not say, not to suppose anything more than Where was the great Regent of the common guilt,—we are not to supuniverse when such a horrible butch
that these children were sinners ery was transacted ?
His all-wise above all that were in Israel,-becounsels knew how to bring good out cause they suffered such things. God's of all the evil of it. The agony of a judgments are a great deep. few moments transmitted these op- “ But we must look
murpressed innocents to peace and joy, der of the infants under another while the impotent rage of Herod character; it was their martyrdom. only heaped on his own head guilt, How early did persecution commence and infamy, and horror.”
against Christ and his kingdom! Thirdly, we may consider the Think ye that he came to send peace
upon the earth? No; but a sword, Lord appeareth in a dream to such a sword as this (ch. x. 34, Joseph in Egypt, 35.)". The meaning of which pas
20 Saying, Arise, and take sage is, not that such was the inten
child and his mother, tion or design of Christ's coming, as
and to the counsels of God, but that
into the land of Israel : such was one of its effects, through
for they are dead which sought the corruption and wickedness of the young child's life. man. “A passive testimony was 21 And he arose, and took hereby given to the Lord Jesus.
the young child and his mother, They shed their blood for him who and came into the land of Israel. afterwards shed his for them.-If
22 But when he heard that these infants were thus baptized with
Archelaus did reign in Judea in blood, though it were their own, into the church triumphant, it could not
the room of his father Herod, be said but that, with what they he was afraid to go thither: gained in heaven, they were abun- notwithstanding, being warned dantly recompensed for what they of God in a dream, he turned lost on earth."
aside into the parts of Galilee: HYMN.
23 And he came and dwelt in Weep, weep not o'er thy children's tomb,
a city called "Nazareth : that it Oh Rachel ! weep not so: The bud is cropt by martyrdom,
might be fulfilled which was The lower in heaven shall blow.
spoken by the prophets, He Firstlings of faith! the murderer's knife
shall be called a Nazarene. Hath miss'd its deadly aim ; The God, for whom they gave their life,
o ch. iii. 13. Luke ii. 39-p John i. 45. 9 Judges For them to suffer came. Though evil were their days and few,
Reader. Hence it appears that Baptiz'd in blood and pain, He knows them whom they never knew,
our Saviour's sojourn in Egypt was And they shall live again.
but of short duration. He did not Then weep not o'er thy children's tomb,
remain in that country long enough Oh Rachel ! weep not so;
to receive any part of his earthly The bad is cropt by martyrdom,
education there ; for he was taken The flower in heaven shall blow.
back to Nazareth as “a young child,” i.e. while he was yet an infant.
Theophilus. From the expression
they are dead," are we to conclude CHAP. II. 19-23.
that others besides Herod were enHerod dieth. Christ is brought back gaged in seeking the life of the in
fant Jesus, and that they had all been again into Galilee to Nazareth.
removed by the stroke of death ? 19 ( But when Herod was Reader. It is, of course, probable dead, behold, an angel of the that some of Herod's adherents were
1 Sam. i. 11.