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to the holy family, by these beneficent and learned strangers, enabled the good man to support his family in Egypt, where they soon after this were sent by divine direction, to escape the murdering fury of that execrable tyrant Herod.
The wise men being départed to their own country, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. Joseph immediately obeyed the divine command, and, for the greater security set out from Bethlehem in the night and taking a journey of near two hundred miles, he settled with his family in Egypt, and there he remained till the tyrant was dead.Herod, in the mean time, having waited for the return of the wise men in vain, and knowing he was hated by the Jews, was so jealous, discontented, and wicked, that he mistrusted every body of plotting against him; and, perhaps, concluding, that the Jews might conceal this child till a proper opportunity should offer for them to bring him forth, was full of rage, and actuated by the most infernal cruelty, sent his soldiers to Bethlehem, and the adjacent country, with orders to kill all the young children that were under two years old. The troops too punctually executed the orders of the detested tyrant; and it is asserted by historians, that fourteen thousand young children fell in this bloody massacre, and Judah's streams were tinged with infant blood. The horrid cruelty of this transaction is such, that it is almost sufficient to stagger our belief. But if we consider the conduct and character of the man, that he was grown old in murder and cruelty; that he reared his throne in blood; that he was guilty of the most horrid murders to support it; and at this very time, was most deplorably miserable by quarrels in his family, and was constantly apprehensive of plots against his life: if we consider that he had no friend he could
trust, but was jealous of all about him, and thought 2 his own sons conspired to poison him; we shall not wonder at any degrees of wickedness, which such a man, in such a situation, might be capable of committing. But this horrid scene, as it might be expected, was soon followed by peculiar and distinguished vengeance, which burst on the impious tyrant, and laid him low in death. In the utmost agonies of mind, and the accutest torments of body, he soon after this expired. He ordered the execution of his own son but five days before his death, and he commanded all the nobility of the Jewish nation to be put to death, as soon as it was known that he had ceased to breathe. But the persons whom he trusted to execute this last order, not being so wicked as himself, the noble prisoners were set at liberty..
This affecting and terrible slaughter of the innocents, is pathetically described by the evangelist, in referring to a passage in the prophet Jeremiah. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, in Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be conforted, because they were not.
Some time after the tyrant was dead, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, in Egypt, in a dream, and commanded him to take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: at the same time informing him, that they were dead who sought the young child's life. The good man, without hesitation, obeyed the heavenly vision, and returning to his native country, designed to have settled in Judea, probably at Bethlehem. But when he heard that Archelaus, the son of Herod, succeeded his father in Judea, and he being a prince of a cruel disposition, Joseph judged it imprudent to settle in his dominions; and hearing that Antipas, another of Herod's sons, but more mild and peaceable in his temper, was governor
of Galilee, he, by divine direction, went thither, and took up his abode at Nazareth, the former place of his residence, that it might be fulfilled, the evangelists inform us, which was spoken by the prophet, He shall be called a Nazarene.
The adversaries of our religion have not neglected to remark, that there is no such prophecy as is here referred to; but very probably, it might be in some prophecy which is not transmitted to us: or, if the very words are not to be found, the thing intended, is the frequent language of the prophets; for, whenever CHRIST is mentioned in the gospels, as called a Nazarene, it is always looked upon as a term of reproach; and how applicable this is to the language of the prophet Isaiah, He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
The Infancy of CHRIST and his disputing with the Doctors in the Temple.
THE account of our Lord's childhood and youth is very slightly touched on in the sacred writings. How he was employed from his infancy, till he arrived at thirty years of age, is not to be found in any authentic history. This period includes the greatest part of his life, which is absolutely unknown to the Christian world. St. Luke, who is the most particular in his account of our Lord's younger years, only tells us, that the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him. And, speaking of his life at his father's house at Nazareth, he informs us, that he was subject to his parents, and that he increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
But, notwithstanding the silence of the sacred writings, we are not to suppose that the heavenly youth was subject to the common frailties of humanity, the follies of childhood and youth. It may naturally be concluded, from what is above declared, that the holy child was remarkable for a native grandeur and majestic modesty in his deportment; that his temper was the most amiable, not peevish and pettish, but all meekness, kindness, condescension and goodness; and that his mind was peculiarly turned to seriousness and contemplation. It is reasonable to suppose, that he was possessed of the most amazing faculties and powers of mind; a strong retentive memory; a lively imagination; a prodigious understanding; a penetrating judgment; and a remarkable solidity and sedateness, which led him to the most sincere and regular piety, and spiritual exercises of every kind. It is reasonable to suppose, that he spent much time in private retirement, and in divine meditations, and spi
ritual converse with his heavenly Father; and that he behaved, in every respect, in such a manner to his friends and relations, as made him the most amiable child, in the age in which he lived. It cannot be learned from the evangelists that he had a liberal education; every account we have of the condition of his parents in the world, conspires to prove that they were in low circumstances. Joseph was by trade a carpenter. JEsus abode with his parents till his public ministry commenced, and, no doubt, worked with his supposed father at his trade. He is called in one place in the gospels, the carpenter; and in another, the carpenter's son: so that it may be concluded that he had no other learning than what his parents themselves taught him, and what he might gather at the synagogue by attending to the reading of the law and the prophets. But it may be learned from the words of the evangelist above quoted, that the favour of God towards him was very apparent, and that the holy spirit with which he was filled, appeared in his early youth. The wonderful advances he made in wisdom, the visible strength and steadiness of his mind, and the seriousness of his countenance, beyond whatever was seen before in one so young, were plain vindications of his divinity, and were every day improving and increasing.
It was the general custom of the Jews to take a journey to Jerusalem, and annually attend the feast of the passover. The parents of our Great Redeemer, with their numerous relations and friends, when the holy child was twelve years old, went to the capital of the kingdom on this occasion. Whether the child' JESUS had been at Jerusalem before, is not certainly known: it is generally concluded that he had not. Having remained seven days with them, during their attendance at the temple, he separated himself from the company, and, when they set out on their return to their own country, stayed behind. They proceeded on their first day's journey and did not miss him till night, supposing he might be in company with some