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of bondage; but they shall be fetched | being hurt by no persecutions, may


evermore give thanks unto thee in thy holy church, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt.-Here we have a farther "instance of the humiliation of the Lord Jesus. As there was no room for him in the inn at Bethlehem, so there was no quiet room for him in the land of Judea." Thus early were the indications of the mournful fact, that "he came unto his own, and his own received him not." "He was banished almost as soon as he was born." born." "Lord, how great an humiliation was this, not only to become an infant, but in thine infancy to be hurried up and down, and driven out of thine own land as a vagabond!"

May we cherish a deep devotion and a reverent love towards the once suffering, but now glorified, Redeemer! And may we learn to follow him in his great humility!

Flee into Egypt. This teaches us that, in certain seasons of difficulty or danger, it is lawful, and in every respect right, for God's people to seek protection by flight, or by otherwise endeavouring to escape the evil which may be designed against them, as long as they can do so without the breach of a plain and positive commandment. It is fanaticism, and not faith, which would run into the flames of persecution, or rush upon the sword of the destroyer. "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." Matt. x. 23. Flee into Egypt.-Perhaps we may

Can I give you any farther satisfaction in the way of mere interpretation or exposition of these verses?

Theophilus. I am not aware, Sir, that any other question arises in our minds on the present occasion.

READER. Let us now proceed to make some practical reflections, and to derive some religious instruction, from this portion of Holy Scrip



Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. His malice and cruelty were foreseen and foretold. And hence we are reminded of the most encouraging fact, that God is intimately acquainted with all the crafty and malicious designs or projects of his people's enemies. He says, as it were, to every enemy of himself and of his cause, as he once said to the haughty Sennacherib by the mouth of Isaiah," I know thy abode, and thy going out, and thy coming in, and thy rage against me." Isaiah xxxvii. 28. And he who is thus acquainted with the ill-will of wicked men or evil spirits can easily frustrate the mischief which he foresees, and can destroy the power of those who exalt themselves against him. Oh let us mingle faith with that petition to God, our merciful Father,


Graciously hear us, that those evils, which the craft and subtilty of the devil or man worketh against us be brought to nought; and by the providence of thy goodness they may be dispersed; that we thy servants,

be permitted to regard this command as an earnest of favour to be extended to the Gentiles, in conveying to them the knowledge of Christ and his salvation. It is delightful to watch even the first faint glimmerings of that "light" which was appointed "to lighten the Gentiles" as well as "to be the glory of his people Israel."

Be thou there until I bring thee word.-God, you observe, keeps his people in a state of continual dependence upon him, and makes it their duty to await, and comply with, the indications of his will. With respect to our station in life, or any other circumstances of our lot, though we may desire a change, yet let us wait God's pleasure. Let us follow what may at least commend itself to our conscience and our sober judgment as the leading of Divine Providence. "Be thou there until I bring thee word."

Flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word.-How often we may observe that God does not work miracles, when ordinary means, sufficient for the accomplishment of a purpose, are at hand. He employs his miraculous and extraordinary power only in cases in which it may be required for some wise, benevolent, or necessary end, which could not be otherwise attained. Or rather, perhaps, I should say, God works miracles, not when man may choose to expect or to desire them, but according to the good pleasure of his own most perfect will. Will not God, in order to protect the infant Jesus, cut off Herod by a sudden

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death? Will he not smite with blindness those who shall be sent to

slay him? No. flee into Egypt.

Christ himself must God does not see fit to put forth that kind of power, or to give that kind of testimony, which a different set of circumstances might have called forth. "He doeth all things well."

When he arose, he departed into Egypt.-Here is a beautiful example of faith and obedience. Unbelief might have suggested that such a flight could not be needed in favour of such an infant ;—or it might have whispered,-If this flight be indeed necessary, then perhaps the infant is not that wonderful One whom you have supposed him to be. But no. Joseph and Mary believed the word which had been spoken,-and were strong in faith, giving glory to God; and their faith issued in a prompt, unhesitating obedience. When he arose-without delay-even before daybreak Joseph took the young child and his mother, and departed into Egypt.-When our instructions are clear, let our obedience be prompt and cheerful.

He took the young child and his mother by night.—Yes;—privately and cautiously, notwithstanding his conviction that the power of God was engaged on behalf of the infant. He acted in the spirit of that injunc tion, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." Promises of safety and deliverance must not make us rash or presumptuous. We must expect the fulfilment of such promises in the use of means, not in the neglect of them.

And was there until the death of Herod that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my Son. This shielding of the infant Jesus from the malice and rage of the cruel Herod is a beautiful em

blem of the effectual care and vigilance of Almighty God on behalf of his whole church-of all his faithful people in the hour of danger and alarm. Let every believer confide in the divine protection; and say thankfully, but humbly, with David of old, "In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me; therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the

Lord." Ps. xxvii. 5.


Jehovah reigns! let all the earth

In his just government rejoice; Let all the isles, with sacred mirth, In his applause unite their voice!

Thou, Lord of all, art seated high,

Above earth's potentates enthron'd! Thou, Lord, unrivall'd in the sky, Supreme by heavenly hosts art own'd.

Ye, who to serve the Lord aspire,

Abhor what's ill, and truth esteem; He'll keep his servants' souls entire,

And them from wicked hands redeem.

Rejoice, ye righteous, in the Lord!
Memorials of his holiness

Deep in your faithful breasts record,
And with your thankful tongues express.

§ VIII. CHAP. II. 16-18.

Herod slayeth the children. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by "Jeremy the prophet, saying,

18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

n Jer. xxxi. 15.

Reader. This is a dark passage in the history of human ungodliness and crime. And, as a dispensation of Divine Providence, it would be mysterious and difficult to our apprehension, did we not consider how absolutely the lives of all men are in the hands of God,-how completely they have been forfeited by sin,and that it is more than probable that God, in his mercy, made the cruelty of Herod towards these infants minister to their speedy and eternal benefit.

Theophilus. This massacre is, I

think, one of the most inhuman transactions of which I have ever read. The account of it is painful in the extreme; and, if it did not rest upon high authority, would be almost incredible.

Reader. The narrative, considered in itself, is indeed equally mournful and astonishing. But here again we have an incidental confirmation of the truth and accuracy of Scripture history. Although this murder, not having had a bearing upon any political change or movement, is not recorded by common historians; yet it is in perfect accordance with the character and proceedings of Herod in many matters which, being of a political character, did come within the range of their observations. Macrobius indeed (Saturn. ii. 4), records a jest of Augustus, to the effect that it was better to be Herod's hog than his son,-which some persons suppose to have had reference to the slaughter of the innocents. But be this as it may, there are abundant examples which serve to show that this horrid piece of cruelty is no more than might have been expected at the hands of Herod.-Read a passage which I have marked in the book that lies before you, containing an enumeration of some of this tyrant's atrocities.

Theophilus. "Aristobulus, brother of his wife Mariamne, was murdered by his directions at eighteen years of age, because the people of Jerusalem had shown some affection for his son. In the seventh year of his reign he put to death Hyrcanus, grandfather of Mariamne, then eighty


years of age, and who had formerly saved Herod's life; a man who, in every revolution of fortune, had shown a mild and peaceable disposition. His beloved and beautiful wife Mariamne was publicly executed; and her mother Alexandra followed soon after. Alexander and Aristobulus, his two sons by Mariamne, were strangled in prison by his orders, upon groundless suspicions, when they were at man's estate, were married, and had children. In his last sickness, he sent orders throughout Judea, requiring the presence of all the chief men of the nation at Jericho. When they were come, he caused them all to be shut up in the circus; and, calling for his sister Salome and her husband Alexas, he said to them, 'My life is now short; I know the Jewish people, and that nothing will please them better than my death. You have them now in your custody. As soon as the breath is out of my body, and before my death can be known, do you let in the soldiers upon them, and kill them. All Judea then, and every family, will, though unwillingly, mourn at my death.' Surely there could be no cruelty which such a man was not capable of perpetrating."

Reader. And it is worthy of remark, that the Evangelist does not make any comment upon the bad character of this wretched tyrant. It is the usual custom of the sacred writers to give a simple narrative of facts, without stopping to express admiration, or any other sentiment, 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 nelist, 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 diupon them. vine foreknowledge, and the depths of divine revelation.

Theophilus. Perhaps you will be kind enough to explain to us the application of the prophecy to which the Evangelist here refers.

Reader. These words of Jeremiah (xxxi. 15) referred primarily to the lamentations which were heard in the neighbourhood of Ramah when Nebuzar-adan collected in that place the captives from Judah and Benjamin whom he was about to carry away to Babylon. See Jer. xl. 1. Ramah was in the tribe of Benjamin; and the mother of that tribe is most elegantly represented as bewailing the calamity of her descendants.-Now Bethlehem was situate at the distance of about twelve miles from Ramah, and lay in the tribe of Judah; but Rachel's tomb was there; and hence the prophecy of Jeremiah is to be regarded as receiving a second and farther accomplishment in the slaughter of the infants, over whose death, with equal propriety and beauty, Rachel may be represented as weeping-though not as the mother of the tribe, yet as having been buried in the neighbourhood. There is great beauty in the

Other modes of explaining St. Matthew's application of the passage are, I think, less satisfactory.— Some say that, perhaps, the massacre extended to the territory of Ramah, which bordered on that of Bethlehem, and so the children of Rachel, literally speaking, were involved in the calamity.-One commentator remarks, it is "as if the Evangelist had said, Bethlehem at this time. resembled Ramah; for, as Rachel might be said to weep over her children which were slaughtered, or gone into captivity; so, in Bethlehem, the mothers lamented bitterly their children, because they were slain."-Luther translates the words "in Ramah," supposing them to mean in "the hill country."

Theophilus. The number of infants slain by Herod is, I suppose, uncer


Reader. Quite so. Bethlehem was not a large place; and, although the slaughter extended to the parts adjacent, or the neighbourhood some distance round,-which is meant by "all the coasts thereof" - yet, all

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