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levied upon the people: for it simply implies here a register, or enrolment. It should also be remembered, that Herod, although called king of Judea, was dependent upon the Roman emperor, and tributary to him: consequently, such an enrolment might be made, in virtue of a decree of Augustus, and yet be deemed no infringement upon the rights of these subordinate rulers. Josephus speaks of an oath of allegiance to Herod and to Augustus, which his countrymen took about this time; and it is more than probable, that he means the same thing with that which Luke states under the denomination of a register. The time of this enrolment is stated to be when “Cyrenius was governor of Syria.” Upon this occasion came Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. The immense conflux of people had filled all the inns, and all the houses of public reception; so that they were compelled to lodge in a stable, where the mother of Jesus was delivered of the Savior of the world! The inns of the East, at this day, are large square buildings, usually only one story high, with a spacious court in the centre of them. Into this court you enter through a wide gate, and on the right and left hand, you perceive rooms that are appointed as lodgings for travellers. Those that come first take the rooms which they prefer; but must provide themselves both with a couch and provision: for the rooms are perfectly naked, and contain no sort of furniture whatever. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said the Savior: and he spake a truth capable of many and decisive. evidences. His very entrance into the world announc
• In Lardner's Cred. Vol. ii, c. 1, the reader may find an inexhaustible fund of criticism and sound learning, upon this circumstance.
edit. It would ill have become Him, who was to converse with every possible scene of misery, to have made his appearance amid the shouts of thousands prostrate before him. No palace supported by columns of marble, and perfumed with the incense of Arabia, sheltered his holy head. No vestments of purple interwoven with gold, shaded his tender limbs. No bending attendants received the weeping babe from his mother's arms. No trumpet was blown through the regions of Judea to declare the birth of “the King of the Jews,” or to announce the expectations of the heir to the throne of David. The world frowned upen him from the beginning. Poverty was the handmaid who waited upon him at his BiRTH, as scorn followed him through all his days. The Savior and the brute reposed under one common roof, and were driven to the same shed. Even then, when he first opened his eyes upon the light, their meek intelligence seemed to say, “My kingdom is not of this world!” Yet was he not destitute of honor. Heaven acknowledged the Sovereign whom man rejected. When the First-begotten was brought into the world it was said, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” They hastened to announce the “glad tidings” to “shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night.” They sang, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will to men.” They became the first preachers of the gospel. On that memorable night, amid their “constellations,” they proclaimed the event,
“As earth asleep, unconscious lay,
Nor is this relation more remarkable than that which follows, and which is well attested by the authority of
others writers. Strangers from the East, of no mean lineage, and of no mean attainments, came inquiring “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.” A few inquiries are necessary in order to illustrate and to establish this fact. 1. Who were THESE straNGERs? They are called “wise men,” or Magi." Some have thought that they were magicians. Indeed in this sense only, it appears, the original word is used in other parts of the scriptures. Simon the sorcerer is so called: so also is Elymas. If they are to be considered in this light, then were the instruments of Satan turned against him: they foreboded the shaking of his empire, and acknowledged the dawn of that day when “he fell as lightning from heaven:” and they are the first fruits of the Savior's victory over the agents of darkness. We are disposed however to accord with our transla. tors, and to affix another interpretation to the term, by considering them as scholars. The Magi of the Persians were priests as well as philosophers: the expounders of their laws, human and divine: nor would they suffer any man to be a king, who was not first enrolled among the Magi. This fact, probably, gave rise to the tradition of the Roman church, that they were kings. It is evident that they were Gentiles; and these are the first pledges of the rending of the veil: of the breaking down the wall of partition; and of the abolition of the distinctions which had so long existed between the Jew and the Gentile. They were also “wise men:” men not easily deceived. Well acquainted with the face of the heavens, and with the bodies of light which revolve there, they were not drawn from their native country to Jerusalem, without a conviction that the appearance upon which they gazed was an extraordinary one, and that the light which they followed portended some great event. 2. What was this star? It was not one of those stars which have been from the beginning of the crea: tion, either regular or erratic: otherwise it had not been an indication of any thing new. When they said we have seen his star, the most natural construction which we can put upon the words is, that they then beheld it for the first time. It differed in every respect from all the heavenly bodies in the known planetary system. They shine with an equal blaze: this probably had a superior lustre. They are distant, and move remotely through the fields of ether: this was nearer the earth, that it might answer the purpose assigned it. They have a circular motion: this described no orbit. They are permanently fixed: this, having conducted the Magi to the Savior's feet, disappeared for ever. Comets were always held by the ancients as prognostications of extraordinary events, good or bad. They have made emperors tremble on their thrones, and have nerved the arm of soldiers for the battle. But this was a luminous appearance, resembling in shape, figure, and splendor, a heavenly body, so completely, as to justify the appellation of a star— yet was it so expressly formed for the purpose of conducting them to the Redeemer, that they called it unequivocally, “his star.” 3. OF wil.AT country were THEy? I should translate the passage, “We, of the Fast, have seen his star”—in which case the term, East, will not be used to specify the part of the heavens in which the star appeared, but the country from which they came." Per. haps from Mesopotamia, the country of Balaam, whose singular prophecy was probably handed down to them by tradition—“There shall come a star out of Jacob:” and there might appear to them a singular coincidence between the prediction, and the phenomenon which they witnessed. Their gifts were Arabian —“gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Their title, Magi, is Persian: and they, of all nations, were likely to be best acquainted with the Messiah, through the prophecies of Daniel. If they came from Arabia Felix, or Sehaea, all of which are east of Jerusalem, and were men of rank, then was the prophecy of David fulfilled, “the kings of Sheba and of Seba shall bring gifts.” 4. By what Evidence Is THIS FACT supportEDP Pliny speaks of “a certain splendid comet, scattering its silver hair, and appearing a god in the midst of men.” Chalcidius writes of “the rising of a certain star, not denouncing death and diseases, but the descent of a mild and compassionate God to human converse.”t Thus were the prophecies of the East re-echoed by the western world. The whole globe slumbered in undisturbed tranquillity. The Jews, although tributary to Rome, took their harps from the willows, to sing the approach of Messiah the prince. Samaria had caught the contagion, and was looking for the Christ, who should “teach us all things.” The weeks predicted by Daniel were accomplished; and the universal expectation may be conjectured, when impostors availed themselves of the state of the people's mind te