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glory. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Maria. Was there any glorious appearance that filled the house at this time.
Aunt. There could not be a greater display of glory than God manifest in the flesh: the Jews had experienced most wonderful displays of divine goodness, but nothing equal to that of God in our nature. Simeon was so transported at the sight, that he took the child up in his arms, and blessed God, saying, Now let thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before all people: a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and Mary marvelled at the things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them. There was also one Anna, a prophetess, a widow, about eightyfour years of age, who, having no worldly cares to engage her attention, resided close to the temple, and employed her whole time in the sacred exercises of religion. This devout person, coming in that instant, gave thanks to the Lord, and spake of Jesus to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
Lucy. But you have forgotten, aunt, to tell us any thing about the star which appeared.
Aunt. It is natural for you to think so, as the relation in Matthew comes so immediately after the birth of Christ, that, without comparing one part of the scripture with another, one is led to think that it took place while Christ was in the manger; but the things which I have related must have occurred first we will enter upon it at our next meeting.
Lucy. PRAY, aunt, is it known what part of the east the wise men came from?
Aunt. It cannot be exactly ascertained: some suppose from Arabia, others, from the more distant regions of Mesopotamia, or Persia. When they came to Jerusalem, they inquired, 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.
Maria. How could they tell, by seeing a star in the east, that a king should be born?
Aunt. Perhaps from Balaam's prophecy, that a star should arise out of Jacob, and a sceptre out of Israel; but, more probably, by some intimation from God himself. Their inquiries were so open, that king Herod, though old, began to be suspicious, when he heard of a king of the Jews: and the king and all Jerusalem were troubled.
George. Why should Jerusalem be troubled at the tidings?
Aunt. Because they had not formed any proper judgment of the blessings to be expected from the Messiah; and they had witnessed so many of Herod's cruelties, upon suspicion of a competitor, that they seem to have feared new scenes of confusion and bloodshed. Herod, however, from the strangeness of the event, supposing the ancient prophecies were about to be fulfilled, covened the priests and scribes, that he might know from them, in what place the promised Messiah should be born:
they told him, in Bethlehem, according to the prophet Micah. He next conferred with the wise men, that he might know from them, the exact time when the star first appeared, from which he meant to compute the age of his infant rival: having learnt this, he dismissed them with directions to go to Bethlehem, telling them, when they had found the young child, to come and inform him, that he might worship him also.
Lucy. The wise men did not suspect his design of murdering the infant.
Aunt. But though he could deceive man by his subtlety, he could not deceive God, who knew the wickedness of his heart. The wise men pursued their journey till they came to Bethlehem, which was but six or seven miles from Jerusalem. To recompense their pious constancy, the star which they had seen, appeared to them again, and became stationary over the house where Jesus was. And they entered in, and saw the young child, with Mary his mother: and they fell down and worshipped him. And they presented to him gold, frankincense and myrrh; thus treating him as a king, though they found him in so mean a situation.
Lucy. They paid him more honour than his own people did.
Aunt. He came to his own, but his own received him not, while these Gentiles acknowledged him as their Lord and King. Thus was he manifested, not only to Jews but to Gentiles also, though by different modes: the shepherds, acquainted with the true worship of God, had an angel for their guide; the wise men, contemplating the heavenly bodies, had
a star for their's; the all-wise God accommodating his revelations to the peculiar circumstances of men's natural genius and education.
George. Did the wise men return to Herod?
Aunt. They did not: for, being warned by God in a dream, they went to their own country another way. And when Herod found they did not return, he issued out an order that all the male children, in Bethlehem and the adjacent villages, which were under two years of age, should be slain. Herod now thought he was sure of his prey; but God easily found means to defeat his malice, for the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. Thus was fulfilled that prophecy in Hosea xi. 1, Out of Egypt have I called my son. The presents offered by the wise men came very seasonably to provide for them in a foreign country.
George. Did Herod come to the knowledge of Joseph and Mary's flight?
Aunt. He did not: for he sent and slew all the male children. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet chap xxxi. 15. A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel, weeping for her children, refused to be comforted, because they were not. Rachel, who lay buried between Ramah and Bethlehem, might be poetically represented, on this occasion, as weeping inconsolably for the slaughter of her children: doubtless many of the descendants of
Joseph and Benjamin were murdered, as well as those of Judah, in this massacre. It is impossible to describe the horrors of such a brutal scene, and the anguish of the tender mothers over their infants, torn from their arms and butchered before their eyes!
Lucy. This man was a greater monster than
Aunt. In the history of the Jews which I have promised you, you will have a fuller account of this vile wretch: He did not long survive the slaughter of the infants. When Herod was dead, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead who sought his life. And they arose and returned into the land of Israel; but Joseph, finding that Archelaus, the son of Herod, had obtained of the Romans, the government of that part of the country in which Bethle hem was situated, and perhaps, learning that he was of a jealous, cruel disposition, feared to settle there; and being farther warned of God, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee, in the northern part of the land, which was governed by Philip, who was of a more pacific and mild temper: and he fixed his residence at Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
And the child Jesus grew, and waxed strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him. There is a remarkable circumstance recorded, which took place when he was twelve years of age. His parents went up to Jeru