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exhort us to follow whithersoever it may guide us. Brethren, never lose sight of it. Like the sages of old, proceed steadfastly; yield not to weariness, though the way be rugged;-be not daunted, though perils and trials beset your path;-let no temptation allure you from the point at which the object of your pilgrimage is to be obtained. Let the Gospel always be your guiding star, till it shall lead you to Christ,-first through temporal suffering and humiliation,—and finally in everlasting happiness and glory."
Reader. Read now the passage in "Mant's Notes on the Book of Common Prayer."
Theophilus. "If we desire to imitate these wise men, it must be our care to keep our ears open, and our hearts teachable. We must not only see, but follow and embrace most gladly the light that shines upon us from above, and is let down from heaven, for a guide to us; comply cheerfully with every call and motion of his good Spirit; provoke, and, if possible, shame those into a holy and noble emulation, who shut their eyes against it. We must not suffer ourselves to be discouraged by any hardships or dangers, which our duty calls us to nor grow cold upon the many ill examples we converse among; the general neglect of most, and the bold affronts of some who make it an act of gallantry to insult, and cast all the contempt they can upon, religion in a word, we must persevere in piety and virtue, though we were left to stand alone; and, in despite of all opprobrious treatment
which they or we may meet from persons who might and should know better, and in truth do not see, only because they will not. Of all this our Saviour hath showed us the necessity by declaring that men cannot believe while they prefer popular esteem before a good conscience : which is, in Scripture language, 'receiving honour one of another, not seeking that honour which cometh from God only, and loving the praise of men more than the praise of God.' John v. 44; xii. 43.
"When they saw the star,' again, says the Evangelist, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy,'" a joy that sprang, no doubt, from strong assurances, that this was a token of their journey being well-pleasing to God; and that He would prosper it to their intended purpose of seeing and adoring that wonderful infant where this star was. And here again they are a pattern which we should be infinitely to blame not to copy after. For, as the Apostle upon all occasions urges, we are certainly of all creatures the most ungrateful and stupid, the most unworthy of our happiness, if we do not esteem the conversion of the Gentile world to be one of the most glorious mysteries of Providence that ever was exhibited to mankind. And our feeling of this mercy should be more sensible and tender, because we are the offspring of those Gentiles, and our ancestors once a part of them, as dark, perhaps, as any. It is possible, indeed, we might not have retained the ancient rudeness and savageness of our country. From that
our invaders would soon have delivered us. But, alas, how poor a consideration is it to Christians, that they have been refined into civility and good manners, taught arts and commerce, and improved in industry and learning! Allow these advantages the great value and commendation really due to them, yet still, I say, how little and insignificant are even all these polishings, in comparison of those benefits which come from the knowledge, the obedience, the hopes, and the precious promises of the Gospel! The exalting our minds with this most holy faith, enlarging our ideas of God, giving us a prospect of heaven, seasoning us with a true taste of good and evil, and forming our lives upon the most perfect model of justice and holiness, and order and peace, and all that can procure or preserve the tranquillity and happiness of ourselves and the whole world: this was, in a literal sense, to bring light out of darkness; and (praised be God) no part of his church is blessed with clearer and
purer day than ours. This is our glory, this ought to be our joy.
Since then we also are, with these Eastern forerunners, happily conducted to Christ, let us, as they did, fall down and worship Him. We see him not, indeed, like them, in arms and infancy, but, which is at once a tragical and yet most comfortable prospect, dying upon a cross for us; nay, risen again, gone up on high, shedding his gifts and graces down, and perpetually at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. Let us, then, approach with reve
rence, and open our treasures too; let us present him, not with gold or spices, but with somewhat more becoming him to receive and us to offer; even our bodies, and souls, and spirits. These, though of little value in themselves, will yet be accounted a rich and fragrant, if they be but an humble and a holy, sacrifice: the only effectual sacrifice of thanksgiving; and an oblation which cannot more please Him than it will profit For, by such a reasonable service, by such undissembled testimonies of praise and gladness, it is that we must hope God will be inclined to accept and answer our petition, that He "who, by the leading of a star, did manifest his only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, would mercifully grant that we, which know Him now by faith, may, after this life, have the fruition of his glorious Godhead, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid; Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining,
Low lies his bed with the beasts of the stall; Angels adore him in slumbers reclining,
Maker, and Monarch, and Saviour of all.
Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odours of Edom, and offerings divine, Gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean, Myrrh from the forest, and gold from the
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gold would his favour secure ; Richer by far is the heart's adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
Brightest and best of the sons of the morning, Dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid; Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our Infant Redeemer is laid.
be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt have I called my
m Hos. xi. 1.
Reader. Egypt was at this time a Roman province, in which Herod had no authority. It was the residence of a large number of Jews; many of that people having settled there in the days of Jeremiah, and many more having been attracted thither in later times by various circumstances, especially, perhaps, by the celebrated Temple which had been erected there by Onias IV. Such was the place which God selected as the refuge of the infant Jesus, when his life was sought by a wicked prince. "Egypt had been a house of bondage to Israel, and particularly cruel to the infants of Israel; in Egypt, as much as in Ramah, Rachel had been weeping for her children; yet that is appointed to be a place of refuge to the holy child Jesus. Thus God, when he pleases, can make the worst of places serve the best of purposes." And "all places will be to us what Divine Providence may be pleased to make them."
pretation, and the matters of fact which it may contain, in the way of conversation; and then to point out, as far as I can, the practical inferences and lessons to be deduced from the whole, in the way of a concluding address.
Have you any questions to propose concerning the interpretation of the passage now before you, or with reference to the history which it contains?
Theophilus. We are told here, very briefly, that Joseph took the young child and his mother, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod. Have we means of ascertaining any farther particulars respecting this interesting portion of our Saviour's life on earth?
Reader. None whatever. The Holy Spirit has not thought fit to record such particulars; and therefore we may be well content to be ignorant concerning them. Vain tradition, indeed, always ready to satisfy men's curiosity, to amuse the fancy, and to feed the soul with chaff instead of wheat, has been very inventive and loquacious in this matter. It pretends to inform us of the name of the place in which the holy family sojourned; namely, Matarea, not far from the place in which the Temple of Onias stood. But the truth is, that we do not know the place of their abode. Another story, equally unfounded, and therefore equally unprofitable, is derived from the same unsatisfactory source. It was the practice of early writers, first to suppose, or take for granted, that such or such a prophecy received its ful
filment in some event which they had in mind, and then to invent or propagate some suitable or corresponding tale. Thus, it is written in Isa. xix. 1, "The Lord shall come into Egypt, and all the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence;" and on this was founded the fictitious narrative, that Joseph and Mary, on their entrance into Egypt with the holy child, went into a certain temple, and immediately the images of the idols were overthrown by a supernatural power, and fell before the infant Saviour, as Dagon once fell before the ark. Of course, priests who had the power of inventing and propagating such interesting narratives easily acquired great power over the minds of an ignorant people, naturally prone to propose vain and frivolous questions.
The legends concerning our Saviour's sojourn in Egypt filled a volume. "There is an apocryphal work in Arabic," says one of our modern commentators, "called "The Gospel of the Infancy,' which pretends to relate all the acts of Jesus and Mary while in Egypt. I have taken the pains to read this through, and have found it to be a piece of gross superstition, having nothing to entitle it to a shadow of credibility.” -How great is our privilege in belonging to a scriptural Church which has rejected the fables and traditions of the church of "the fathers," and has retained, in its purity and its integrity, the inspired word of God! How deep is our responsibility, in possessing this blessing, unknown to our credulous and less enlightened
ancestors in the Christian faith! And how earnest should be our endeavour, by divine grace, to use the gift aright!
Theophilus. I think I have heard or read that this narrative is important as fixing the date of our Saviour's birth.
Reader. It does fix the date of that great event very nearly; for by means of it we connect it with an event the exact date of which is easily ascertained. From the fact that Jesus was born before the death of Herod, we learn that the date of his birth is at least three years earlier than the common era, called "The Birth of Christ." And, although we do not know how long this event took place before the death of Herod, yet, as it seems probable that the space of time which intervened was not very great, we may conclude that the Redeemer was born about the time which I have mentioned.
Theophilus. I am not quite sure that I rightly understand the application of the prophecy quoted in the fifteenth verse.
Reader. Read the whole verse in which it occurs; namely, Hosea xi. 1. Theophilus. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt."
Reader. With this compare Exod. iv. 22, 23.
Theophilus. "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my first-born. And I say unto thee, Let my son go
that he may serve me,
Reader. And Numbers xxiv. 8. Theophilus. "God brought him forth out of Egypt."
Reader. It is plain that the words of Hosea, in their original connection, referred to the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt under Moses. In the Gospel they are applied, say some, by the way of analogy, to Christ, the Head of the church; and it is probable that, when St. Matthew wrote, the passage was generally regarded by the Jews as relating, in some way or other, to the Messiah. Perhaps the more correct way of stating the case may be as follows. The words refer, in the first instance, to the people of Israel, spoken of as one man, and called the son of God, as in Exod. iv. 22, 23. But the inspired Evangelist, by divine authority, teaches us to view the passage also in the light of a prediction. By the application which he makes of it, he instructs us that Israel, in the return from Egypt, was a type of Christ, the events of whose life were even then present to the divine mind; and he reminds us that the natural Israelites were spiritually represented in the person of the Messiah. We learn, by later revelation, that several portions of the Old Testament, which, in their immediate and literal sense, related to passing events of Jewish history, contained also a reference to the more distant, but more important, history of Christ and his people. 1 Cor. x. 4-9; Gal. iv, 28-30.
With reference to this twofold application of the words of Hosea, a pious commentator remarks, "It is no new thing for God's sons to be in Egypt, in a strange land, in a house