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in her arms, into the temple, and assisted her husband in presenting him to the Lord. On this occasion two extraordinary incidents happened, which not a little confirmed their faith, and raised their hopes concerning the future greatness of their son. There was now, it seems, in Jerusalem, one Simeon, venerable on account of his age, his prophetic spirit, his virtue, and his consummate piety. This good man had lived long in expectation of seeing Messiah; for God had favoured him so highly, as to assure him, by a particular revelation, that he should not die till he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law; then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: let me depart out of the world, filled with the satisfaction of having seen the Messiah, according to the gracious promise thou wast pleased to make me. This good man, having obtained the utmost pitch of felicity in the gratification of that which had always been his highest wish, and having no farther use for life, desired immediate death: yet he could not depart of himself, knowing that no man can lawfully desert his station, till God, who placed him therein, calls him off. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. Simeon being well acquainted with the prophetic writings, knew, from them, that Messiah was to be the author of a great salvation, which, because it was planned by God, this pious man very properly refers to God ;-thy salvation. He knew, likewise, that this salvation was not designed for the Jews only, but for all mankind; therefore he says, it was prepared by God, before the face of all people. Withal, because, in the prophecies, Messiah is introduced teaching and ruling the Gentiles, he calls him after Isaiah, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel, whom he greatly honoured, by condescending to arise among them.
Simeon's words surprised both Joseph and Mary, not because they imported things greater than could be applied to their son, they knew him to be the Messiah, and so must have been sensible that they were what properly belonged to him, but they marvelled how Simeon, a stranger, came to the knowledge of the child. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Thus Simcon informed them of the different effects which Christ's preaching should produce, and the severe persecutions he and his friends, upon his account, should be called to endure.
And there was one Anna a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser, she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about four-score and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. The meaning is, not that Anna abode continually in the temple, for none lived there, save the priests and Levites; but she attended constantly at the morning and evening sacrifices, and was often in the exercise of private prayer and fasting, spending the greatest part of her time in the temple, as we find the apostles doing, Acts ii. 46. This good woman having the Messiah discovered to her, either by what Simeon had said, or by a particular revelation of the Spirit, the favour which God now conferred on her, in allowing her to behold his Christ, filled her with an ecstacy of joy. She, therefore, praised the Lord aloud, with great fervency, and spake afterwards of the child under the character of Messiah, to all her acquaintance in Jerusalem, that had any sense of religion, or faith in its promises. And she, coming in at that instant, gave thanks
likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. This is the reading of most of the Greek copies, and of the Syriac version; but an old copy, mentioned by Mill, has, to all who looked for the redemption of
It is generally supposed, that immediately after these events, Christ's parents removed to Nazareth, and returned again to Bethlehem, though Luke's words do not necessarily imply this, but only that Nazareth was the place of Christ's education.
Matt. ii. 1, 2. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Alberti and others think, the philosophers who now visited our Lord were learned Jews, called, by their own nation, scribes, many of which order lived in Persia, Babylonia, Arabia, Syria, and other eastern countries, being the posterity of the captives who did not return home, when permitted by the decree of Cyrus. It is supposed, that they came as ambassadors, in the name of the whole body, to do homage to the Messiah, and to congratulate their brethren on his birth. But the circumstances of the history are inconsistent with this hypothesis. For had the magi been Jewish scribes, they must have known all the prophecies relating to Messiah, and, therefore, could not have any need to enquire, either of their brethren scribes, or of Herod, concerning the place of his nativity. Besides, we are not under the smallest necessity of making such a supposition, as there is nothing incredible in the fact, that heathen philosophers came into Judea at this juncture, and enquired concerning the birth of the Messiah; for, from authors of unquestionable credit, we know an opinion had long prevailed over all the east, that in Judea one was to be born about this time, who should become universal monarch of the world. Thus Suetonius in Vespas, c. 4. "An old and firm opinion had prevailed over all the east, that it was written in the books of the Fates, that one, coming out of Judea at that time, should obtain the empire of the world. This, which as the event afterwards shewed, was foretold of a Roman emperor, the Jews, applying it to themselves, rebelled." In like manner Tacitus, Hist. b. v. c. 13 Many were persuaded, that it was written in the antient books of the priests, that, at that very time, the east should recover strength, and that certain, coming out of Judea, should obtain the empire of the world; which mysterious prediction foretold Vespasian and Titus. But the common people (he is speaking of the Jews) according to the usual bias of human passions, interpreting this mighty fortune as designed for themselves, could not be brought to understand the truth by their calamities." Josephus, also, has these remarkable words: "But that which chiefly pushed them on to the war, was an ambiguous oracle found in their sacred books, that, at that time, one from their own country should rule the
What the original was of this uncommon expectation, which now prevailed among such different and widely distant nations, is not difficult to ascertain. Among the Jews, it took its rise from the prophecies of the Messiah, contained in their sacred books, as Josephus and Tacitus insinuate. Among the Arabians, it was derived from the promise made to Abraham, whose descendants they were by Ishmael. Of this promise they preserved a traditional knowledge as is evident from the words of the Arabian prophet Balaam, Numb. xxiv. 17. There shall come a star out of Jacob, &c. which the LXX. interpret thus; A man shall come forth of his [Jacob's] seed, and shall nations, and his kingdom shall be exalted above Gog, [the name of the kings of the Scythick nations,] and it shall be increased. And even in later times, the words of this prophecy, by most interpreters, are applied to the Messiah. Among the other
eastern nations, the expectation above-mentioned owed its original to their commerce with the Jews and Arabians, but especially with the Jews; who, in their several captivities, being dispersed through the east, spread the knowledge of their prophecies, together with their religion, wherever they came, and begat that expectation which was so universal, that it merited to be taken notice of even by Roman historians. To conclude we are told that Zoroastres, or Zordusht, the celebrated reformer of the magian discipline and worship in Persia, was servant to the prophet Daniel, who had particular revelations made to him concerning the coming of the Messiah: if so, it will not seem at all improbable, that the expectation of his arising in Judea should have remained so strongly imprinted in the belief of the disciples of Zoroastres, that, on the appearing of a new star, three of them should have been moved to undertake this journey, in order to be witnesses of the truth of its accomplishment.
It was the opinion of some of the antients, that the star which the magi saw in their own country was the Holy Spirit; others suppose it was an angel; others, a new star in the firmament; others, a comet; others, some luminous appearance in the air. Lightfoot thinks it was the glory that shone round the angels who appeared to the Bethlehem shepherds on the night of the nativity. Probably, it was a bright meteor, which, at its first appearance, was high in the air, afterwards it descended so low, as to conduct the magi to Bethlehem. But whatever this star was, both the thing signified by it, and the course which the philosophers were to pursue, seem to have been explained to them by revelation.
The arrival of the wise men, and their errand, being quickly noised abroad, soon reached Herod's ears; or these strangers may have got themselves introduced at court immediately upon their coming. Whatever way it happened, the news which they brought, and the enquiry which they made, gave great uneasiness to Herod, and to the whole of the people in Jerusalem. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. In the midst of this general consternation, the tyrant, who was more deeply concerned than them all, concealing his uneasiness, seemed to hear the magi with pleasure, and shewed them abundance of respect; for, that he might return a proper answer to their question, he assembled the supreme counsel of the nation, and enquired of them where the Messiah should be born. And when he had gathered the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. The chief priests were, either those who had enjoyed the dignity of the high-priesthood, which was now become elective and temporary, or the chiefs of the sacerdotal classes, the heads of the courses of priests appointed by David. The scribes were the interpreters of the law, and the public teachers of the nation. All these being illustrious for their learning and station, were consulted upon this important question. They replied, that the antient prophecies had assigned the honour of Messiah's nativity to Bethlehem of Judea; and by their answer they have shewed what the general opinion of the nation, at this time, was, concerning the place of Messiah's nativity. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet: And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art no the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come governor that shall rule my people Israel.
If this quotation be compared with Micah v. 2, there will be perceived a variation of expression, but a coincidence of meaning. They may, either of them, be paraphrased thus: Though the quality of thy inhabitants is such, that thou canst not be reckoned as one of the principal thousands of Judah, thou art by no means among the least of these thousands. On the contrary, thou art, in point of diguity, one of the greatest cities, for thou shalt give birth to the governor of my people, whose going forth hath