« PreviousContinue »
Julian Pe 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and Temple of
after the custom of the law,
28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
34 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.
35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 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;
37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four
from this unkindly soil it became the tree of life, yielding its
(a) I apprehend (says Archdeacon Blomfield,) that the true state of
* One consolation the house of Israel may derive from the testimony of the prophet Simeon. The Child of whom he spake was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. It is not necessary to confine the meaning of the words to the primary reception or rejection of our Saviour by the Jews of that age. Christ is set both for the fall and rising again of the whole house of Israel. The time may not perhaps be far distant when the veil shall be taken from their eyes, and in acknowledging a spiritual Messiah, they will no longer either expeet, or desire a mere temporal deliverer. Then will they restore the temple on Mount Sion, and all the nations of the world will again resort to Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth. Glorious things shall be spoken of thee thou city of God.
Julian Pe years, which departed not from the temple, but served Temple of riod, 4709. God with fastings and prayers night and day.
unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked
39 And when they had performed all things according
MATT. ii. 1-12.
2 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.
29 The Holy Family(says Archbishop Newcome (a),)return from
(a) Notes to Harmony, fol. edit. p. 4. (b) See Pilkington's second
30 Mr. Benson appears to me to have proved that the Magi
Jalian Pe 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was Jerusalem. riod, 4709. troubled, and all Jerusalem with him". Before the Vulgar Æra, 4 And when he had gathered all the Chief Priests and 5. Scribes of the people together, he demanded of them
where Christ should be born.
5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa : for thus it is written by the prophet,
6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel ".
7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child ; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
9 When they had heard the king, they departed ; and,
31 The Jews:believed that the glorious reign of the Messiah should commence with a long series of calamitous events, which accounts for the agitation that the intelligence of his birth occasioned in Herod, and all Jerusalem with bim." These expected visitations are enumerated, from the ancient traditions of the Jews, at great length by Schoetgenius (Horæ Hebraicæ, vol. ii. p. 512, &c. &c.); who, after relating many alllictions of a moral and religious nature, which would not have affected the mind of a man of Herod's character, mentions that the Jews in addition to these evils, anticipated—“Many wars"-(Breschith Rabba, soct. 42, fol. 41. L. Dixit R. Eleasar filins Abina: si videris regna contra se invicem insurgentia, n'vn 5w.75275,noy, tunc attende, et aspice ad pedem Messiæ)—“Earthquakes" (Sohar.Exod. fol.3. col. u. ex versione Sommeri, p. 81 ) —“ Revolts and insurrections ofthe bettercitizens"-(Sohar. Numen.fol.102.col. 407.)--"Scarcity of corn and provisions”-(Sota, fol. 49. 2. ; and Pesikta Sotarta, fol 58. 1.)__"Poverty”- Sanhedrin, fol. 97.2.)—“Plague" -(Pesikta rabbathi, fol. 2. 1. and 28. 3.) with many others. It is curious to notice these traditions, as they all unite to prove that many causes migbt have combined to render both Herod and all Jerusalem agitated at the announcement of the Magi. These coincidences also tend to demonstrate the utter impossibility, that the histories given us by the Evangelists, can be otherwise than the authentic and genuine documents, which they are believed to be, by the Church of Christ.
32 Pirke Eliczer, c. 3 applies this passage to the Messiah-opTINYI, his goings forth have been from the beginning, that is, obyn my23 xbw ty, when the world was not yet founded ; and tbe Targum on Micah v, 1. the passage referred to by St. Matthewx7wn pige oogp 738, from thee, before me, shall go forth the Messiah.---Schoetgen. vol. i. p. 3. I quote this pas.sage to shew that the Jewisli teachers interpreted this passage of Micah in the same manner as the Evangelist St. Matthew: it is probable, therefore, that the Evangelist in this, as in other instances, referred to the Prophet in the manner usually adopted by his cotemporaries. He appealed to them on their own principles.
ON THE VISIT OF THE MAGI.
Julian Pe- lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, Bethlebem. riod, 4709. till it came and stood over where the young child was 33. Valgar Æra, 6.
33 Yot one additional evidence that the Messiah had come, seemed to have been equally necessary with the others, and that also was granted. He was promised to the Gentiles; and the Great Prophet had long since predicted, “ The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Isa. ix. 3. The brightness of the rising of the morning star of the Gospel we have already seen. The rays of reviving prophecy, miracle, and angelic appearance began to penetrate the dark night that had now overspread the Jewish Church. Yet the Heathen world was in a state of still grosser darkness. The light was to beam upon it also in its meridian splendour ; we might anticipate, therefore, that one ray of his earlier glory would descend on the Gentile world. Třis was accomplished in the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem.
That large tract of country extending from Mesopotamia to the north, Arabia to the south, and Persia to the east, was occupied in the earlier ages of the world by populous and pow. erful tribes, all of which, according to their authentic and traditional history, professed the same religion, and were distinguished for their reverence of fire, which they considered as the most perfect representation of the Deity, and the worship of which was the most ancient form of idolatry. The philosophers and learned men of this region were called Magi, and it is not improbable that as the whole territory originally professed the religion of the one true God, that their adoration of the sun proceeded from their considering that body as a permanent Shecbinah, or emblem of the Shechinab. The incipient error, from whatever source it originated, gradually sunk into a grossor idolatry, and mingled much superstition with the traditional knowledge of a purer religion. Abraham himself, according to Maimonides, was educated in the Sabian faith (see Josh. xxiv. 2.) which he was afterwards considered to have purified and reformed. Its doctrines were generally received and propagated, and were supposed to have originated in Chaldea: they were afterwards adopted in Persia and Egypt, where they became extremely polluted and debased.
The Egyptians in a subsequent age abused their knowledge, and professed to dive into futurity by astrology, and the other arts of divination; and from this illicit application of the Sabian doctrines arose the term Magi, or Magician, when used in its opprobrious sense. The evidence of history (Mr. Franks (a) remarks,) traces the Goetic arts to Egypt, as their birth-place, of which country were the first magicians mentioned in history.
But it can be equally made evident by the testimony of a variety of profane authors that the most ancient signification of this word was applied as a term of distinction to the philo. sophers and wise men of a much earlier age. By the word Magus, says Hesychius (b), the Persians understand a sacred person, a professor of theology, and a priest ; and Suidas (c) tells us, among the Persians, the Magi" are those who devote themselves to philosophy, and to the worship of the Deity. Dion, Chrysostom, and Porphyry, says Mr. Bryant, assert the same: and many more authorities might be enumerated in confirmation of this opinion.
The principal object to which the Magi, or the Chaldæan, or eastern philosophers in general, devotod their attention, was the study of astronomy. When the Israelites came out of
Solian Pe. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceed- Belblehem.
Egypt, Balaam, the last prophet under the patriarchal dispen-
By this confident inquiry, these strangers became witnesses
and even after they discovered the poverty of his parents, they presented him with presents of the richest kind, gold, frank iucense, and myrrh, such as the Queen of Sheba presented to Solomon in his glory (d). At Bethlehem, the place of his nativity, he was acknowledged king both by Jew and Gentile, and in both instances by the means of a miraculous revelation. The wall of partition was now about to be destroyed.
Bishop Warburton (e) has shewn that prophetic writing, may be defined, a speaking hieroglyphic. Emblems and hieroglyphics had long been used before alphabetic writing; and the phrases which originated from those enblems, are the foundation of all that beautiful and metaphorical style which we still admire, as the ornament and strength of a language. The word star, he proceeds to demonstrate, does not merely signify a sovereign or ruler, but a God.
The metaphor of a sceptre, he observes, was common and popular to denote a ruler; but tbe star, though it also signified in the prophetic writings (f) a temporal prince or ruler, yet had in it a secret and hidden meaning likewise : a star in the Egyptian hieroglyphics denoted God. Thus, in Amos v. 25, 26. we read, Ye have borne the star of your God; that is, the image of your God. Hence we conclude that the metaphor of a star, used by Balaam, was of that abstruse and mysterious