« السابقةمتابعة »
paid such tribute to Rome as was stipulated between them and the emperor. This survey, having been carried through various provinces and kingdoms which were subject to Rome, in the two years past, was now making in Judea; and every family received orders. from Herod to repair to their own city, to give an account of their real or personal estates, and there to be registered. Joseph and Mary his wife, being both of the family of David, were obliged, on this occasion, to take a journey to the ancient city of Bethlehem. The evangelists Matthew and Luke have inserted in their Gospels, the genealogy of JESUS CHRIST, in which there is so great a variation, that it is with reason concluded, that Matthew gives us the genealogy of Joseph, and Luke of the virgin Mary; that it may appear they were both of the house and lineage of David; one rising through Solomon, and the other through Nathan, another son of that prince. Though the holy Virgin was great with child, and near the time of her delivery, she could not be excused from this long journey. The town of Bethlehem was crouded on this occasion; every inn, and every house of hospitable entertainment was full; the extraordinary persons who are the subjects of our present attention, made no great appearance in the world, and could not command the best accommodations: and while those, whose superior affluence commanded respect, took up the best apartments of the inns, the mother of the great Messiah was content to lodge in a stable; and there, having acccomplished the full time of her pregnancy, she was delivered of her heavenly son. Some have supposed, that, as she had conceived by the mighty power of God, she brough forth her son without pain, or common assistance. The stable in which our great Redeemer was born, is said to be a cave cut out of a rock; and it is not unlikely that he was born in the night. In this situation the holy virgin, having brought forth her son, wrapped the infant in swaddling clothes, and, having no better accomodations, laid him in a manger. What an amazing instance of
condescension was this! The Son of the Eternal God! The Heir of all things! The Darling of the skies! Who was worshipped by angels, and held in veneration equal with heaven's Great Supreme; to become man; to take human nature upon him in its most helpless and feeble state; to lay aside his starry crown, and all the glories of his heavenly dignity, and become a suckling child! One would have thought, that when the great King of the universe condescended to become man, and appear in this world, that he would have been received by the inhabitants of the earth with tokens of the highest regard; and that every thing great and good, every thing grand and noble, would have been prepared to honour and accommodate the mighty prince. It might have been particularly expected, that the nation which he chose for his residence, that people whom he condescended to make his countrymen, would have received him with the highest acclamations, and warmest tokens of honour and respect. But how contrary to this were the councils of heaven! how opposite to this, the appearance of our great Redeemer! When great princes are born, the city of their birth rings with acclamations, and the illuminated night shines like the day. But when our exalted Redeemer was born, all was silent, all was still. Not the poor peasant, who first draws breath in the homely cottage, steals into the world less unobserved, than did the Son of God. He, in all probability was born in the night, perhaps without light, or by the glimmering of a winking taper. When great princes are born, they are wrapped in fine linen, and adorned with mantles of purples fringed with gold: the floors of their apartments are decorated with splendid carpets, the windows are adorned with noble hangings, and they lie on a bed of state, which shines with crimson and with gold. But our great Redeemer, and Saviour of mankind, the greatest Prince that ever was born into the world, received no honour, no tokens of respect; was received with no demonstrations of joy; had no splendid apartment, no rich decota
tions: but was brought forth in a stable, without any person to put on the poor habit prepared for him, but his virgin mother, who herself wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger: but though our glorious Redeemer was received, by the inhabitants of the earth, with no tokens of respect, or demonstrations of joy; though he was brought forth in the incommodious limits of a stable, and his companions were the beasts of the field; he was not neglected or disregarded by the bright natives of the heavenly world. A squadron of shining cherubs was dispatched 'from the eternal throne, to proclaim the great event, to congratulate the wondering world on their great Deliverer's birth, and proclaim the approach of the exalted Prince of peace. But this report was to be made; not to the great Sanhedrim; not to the learned doctors of the law; not to the chief priests and elders: but to a company of poor shepherds, who were watching their flocks by night, in the fields of Bethlehem. The rays of heavenly glory which attended this shining train, breaking through the darkness of night, alarmed and terrified the artless swains. But one of the angels called to them from on high: Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people: for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you, ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. No sooner had the angel uttered these words, than the rest of the squadron, who attended him down the skies, appeared; a flood of light illumined the whole concave of heaven, and angels songs were heard on earthly ground. Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good will towards men, was the strain they sung. And, having ended the celestial concert, they vanished out of sight. Soon as the angelic host was departed, the wondering shepherds repaired to Bethlehem, to seek the heavenly infant, whose birth had in this glorious manner been related. And, as the angels had declared, they found the holy
child, attended only by his virgin mother, and his supposed father Joseph; the babe was wrapped in the meanest clothes, and laid in a manger. These circumstances answering so perfectly to the heavenly declaration, confirmed the affected shepherds, who, with the most ardent joy, adored the holy infant, and related to his wondering parents, what a glorious appearance they had seen, and what great things the angels had related concerning the child. The Shepherds then, with exultation and joy, returned to their flocks, declaring to all men, the great things which they had seen, and praising God for his condescending goodness, in this unexpected manifestation of his great designs, to persons so low and inconsiderable in the world. When the shepherds were departed, the virgin mother of the Lord of life recollected, with adoration and praise, the various concurring testimonies of the divinity of her son; and treasured them up in her heart, with full expectation of having accomplished in him, what had been predicted by the prophets concerning the Redeemer of Israel.
When the eighth day was arrived, since the birth of the holy child, he was circumcised in conformity to the command of the law of Moses; and received the name of JESUS, according to the direction of the angel, who predicted his conception and birth.
CHRISP presented in the Temple. The Adoration of the Eastern Sages. The Departure of the Holy family into Egypt. The murder of the Innocents. The Death of Herod, and CHRIST's return to Nazareth.
THE holy Virgin and her pious husband Joseph, having performed all that the law required in the sacred rite of circumcision, and it being necessary, that the heavnly infant should, at the end of forty days, be presented in the temple; it is reasonable to suppose, that they remained at Bethlehem till those days were accomplished; for Jerusalem was but about six miles from Bethlehem, but a much greater distance from Nazareth, the place of their residence. The days of her purification being fulfilled, the virgin mother, according to the rules prescribed by the law, accompa nied by her husband, brought her young son to the temple: she waited in the outer court, while the two turtle-doves, which, conformable to her mean condition, she had brought for her offering, were presented by the priest as an oblation to the Lord; she was then admitted into the inner court, where the priest received the blessed infant from his mother's arms, and presented him to the Lord, at the altar of burnt offering; and received the five shekels, which the law exacted of every family, without regard to their circumstances, for the redemption of a first-born son. The God, whom Israel expected then suddenly came to his temple: and the glory of the latter house was greater than the former.
While these sacred rites were performing, a pious and venerable old man came into the temple, whose name was Simeon: he had long waited, and earnestly prayed for the redemption of Israel; and it had been revealed to him, by the spirit of God, that before he