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Wise men from the East.
-They were wise, not so much for their learning, but because they sought God diligently. Wisdom does not make unbelievers, but folly. (Wilmot Buxton.)
Philosophy and the Babe
I. The wise men seeking Christ.
1. They are presented to us here as seekers.
2. They were earnest seekers.
3. They sought Christ reverently.
4. God assisted them in the search.
II. The wise men finding Christ.
1. They were seeking a person.
2. That person must be a king.
3. They sought a king and found a child.
4. Having found the child their seeking came to an end.
5. They worshipped Him. (J. C. Jones.)
Jesus was the beginner of a new era, the founder of a new kingdom, hailed as a King alike at His birth and on His cross.
I. The seekers. Magic not magicians; astronomers, not astrologers; scientists, not wizards. The coming of these wise men prophetic of the time when all the trophies of science should be laid at the Saviour’s feet.
II. The sign. “His star.” Various conjectures. God never lacks the means to guide earnest inquirers.
III. The search. Earnest. Gave up friends and home, and took a wearisome journey. Every follower of Christ must have the same spirit. No earthly joy is entirely satisfactory. Men will not earnestly seek Christ till firmly convinced of the unsatisfactory nature of other “things. Persevering: many discouragements.
IV. The success. Not where they expected it, in the capital; not even in the best place in Bethlehem, yet where their soul-hunger was satisfied-the “house of bread.” They came not empty-handed, trot presented first themselves, then their gifts. The typical nature of these gifts. Around the manger was gathered a prophetic group. (Richard Roberts.)
The Sages, the Star, and the Saviour
I. Their inquiry, “Where is He? “ etc.
1. Interest awakened.
2. Belief avowed.
3. Ignorance admitted.
4. Information entreated.
5. A motive declared.
II. Their encouragement.
1. To see His star was a great favour.
2. It was a great responsibility.
3. They did not regard it as a matter to be rested in.
4. They did not find satisfaction in what they had themselves done to leach the child.
III. Their example.
1. They saw the young child.
2. They worshipped Him.
3. They presented gifts. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Eastern Sages led to Jerusalem
I. The wise men here referred to. The gospel sometimes triumphs over the world where it is most influential, and reduces the wise, rich, and great into a willing subjection to Christ.
II. The country from which they came.
III. The means by which they were conducted to Bethlehem. How great are our advantages compared with theirs; they had a star, we a sun.
IV. The light which is thrown by this passage on some of the perfections of God.
1. On His wisdom, particularly in adapting means to an end.
2. On His power as seen in the star.
3. On His faithfulness as seen in the prophecy mow fulfilled.
4. On His knowledge as displayed in revealing the true intention of Herod.
5. A remarkable illustration of God’s superintending providence. The hearts of kings are in His rule; God provides for the safety of His servants. (D. Rees.)
The illustrious seekers
1. Their title was illustrious.
2. Their pursuit was illustrious.
3. Their wealth was illustrious.
4. Their character was illustrious. (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
I. A model of sound wisdom for all true Christians. Examine the character of their faith.
1. In its commencement: promptitude to follow the call of heaven.
2. In its progress: in their well-supported constancy when the star disappeared.
3. In the perfection of their faith.
II. A portrait of the blind wisdom of worldly men, as seen in Herod’s persecution of Jesus Christ.
1. This false wisdom is at enmity with God.
2. God is at enmity with this reprobate wisdom.
What did the new-born Saviour to Herod:-
1. He troubled him.
2. Made him odious.
3. Confounded his counsel.
4. Made him, in defiance of himself, subservient to the designs of providence. (Bourdalone.)
1. That men of intellectual culture have inquired earnestly for Christ.
2. Men of intellectual culture have encountered difficulties in finding Christ.
(1) A long journey;
(2) A difficult journey;
(3) A dangerous journey.
3. Men of intellectual culture have been led to Christ by the strangest agencies.
4. Men of intellectual culture have rendered the most devout homage to Christ:
(3) practically. (J. Woodhouse.)
The star guiding the wise men to the Babe in Bethlehem
1. Christ is owned by some m the higher orders of life.
2. They who are desirous of finding Christ will not miss Him for want of direction.
3. We should deem no difficulties too great to encounter, no sacrifices too great to make, in seeking after Christ.
4. We are to be concerned to honour Him as well as to be saved by Him. (W. Jay.)
The magi are commended
1. For their prerogative of a deeper wisdom.
2. For their fervid searching.
3. For their constant asking of the place.
4. For the sweetness of their spiritual joy.
5. For their devotion of humble adoration.
6. For the value of their gifts.
7. For the prudent caution of their return. (L M. Ashley.)
The fulness of the faith is gained
1. By asking light from God.
2. By wisely seeking knowledge.
3. By pressing forward in holiness. (L M. Ashley.)
The visit of the wise men of the East to Christ
I. The description afforded of these visitants at Bethlehem
1. The power of God over the human mind.
2. A fulfilment of prophecy.
II. The star which conducted these wise men to Christ.
1. The condescension of God-He often meets man in man’s own paths.
2. The greatness of God-He often puts much honour on Christ by the means which He makes use of to lead sinners to Him.
3. The compassion and care of God-He adapts His guidance to our needs.
III. The conduct of these men.
1. Their faith.
2. The moral greatness they exhibited.
3. Their devotedness to Christ. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The nativity of Christ
These wise men were assisted in their hopes by an inward inspiration. The solicitation of grace worked within them. (G. Bateman, M. A.)
Wise men from the East
1. That despisers of Jesus are doubtless to be viewed as despisers of Him whom His Heavenly Father delighteth to honour. The song of the angels.
2. That Jesus is to Gentiles as well as to Jews a Prince and a Saviour.
3. That the Christian faith is not to be viewed as exclusively embraced by the poor and illiterate.
4. As to the enjoyment of external advantages we are more highly favoured than these men. (A. Teller.)
The Epiphany goodness
1. In the largeness of the plan of His salvation, Christ not only breaks over all the narrow notions of national, family, and social prejudice, but He permits every heart to come to Him, in spite of its imperfections and errors, by the best light and the best feeling it has.
2. At every step forward in the Christian life, each disciple’s amount of privilege or blessing is generally in proportion to the growth of his faith up to that time.
3. After all, wherever the starting-point, whoever the travellers, whatever the gentleness that forbears to quench our feeble life, and however merciful the long-suffering that waits for us, there is an end of the whole way, at the feet of the Lord. (Bishop Huntingdon.)
I. The persons.
1. Their country.
2. Their condition,
II. Them journey. They saw, understood, and set out.
III. 1. Let us evermore give thanks to our Lord God for the revelation of that great mystery of mercy, the restoration of the Gentiles to that Church, from which they had been for so many ages excluded, or rather, we should say, they had excluded themselves.
2. Diligence is generally rewarded with the discovery of that which it seeks after-sometimes of that which is much more valuable.
3. Let us learn to be watchful and observant of those lights, which at sundry times, and in divers manners, are vouchsafed to us. (Bishop Horne.)
I. How the magi sought and found the Lord.
1. Who they were.
2. They sought with the utmost assiduity.
3. They were ultimately directed to Him by the written Word.
4. From first to last they were divinely guided.
II. The feelings with which the magi contemplated him.
1. With exceeding great; joy.
2. With devout adoration.
3. They presented most costly offerings. Lessons:
(1) Except we thus seek and find the Saviour we perish.
(2) Do you know and feel that you have not sought Him?
(3) Are you greatly discouraged in seeking Him? (F. Close, M. A.)
This visit of the wise men shows us:-
I. How variously God speaks to us,-how many are the voices whereby He calls us, if we will, out of darkness, whether of mind or of heart, into His marvellous light. He uses a language to each, which each can understand. The Universal Father sooner or later has a word, a star, for all of us.
II. How truth, if it is to be grasped in its fulness, must be earnestly sought for. These wise men had a little stock of truth to start with, but they made the most of that which had been given them. Some word, some example, some passing, inward inspiration, may be the star in the East, bidding the soul hope and persevere.
III. This history teaches what is the real object of religious inquiry. Worship is the joint result of thought, affection, and will, rising upward towards God, and then shrinking into the very dust before Him. It is much more than mere religious thought, it is the soul seeking the true centre of the spiritual universe with all its powers. (Canon Liddon.)
His birthplace, as in everything else belonging to Him, is a living parable.
I. It was a foreign country. In Judaea, not in Galilee. To teach us that this world is an alien land to us, although we may have grown old in it. Jesus Christ was only a stranger and a sojourner in it; and we in like manner are sojourners.
II. It was a small village. The King of kings is born in an obscure place, and the Lord of might, of lowly parentage. God reverses the judgment of this world concerning many things.
III. It was in Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, “the house of bread,” was born the Living Bread. Before Christ was born, the world was full of starving men, hungering after pleasures, riches, and honours. He Himself satisfies all men’s hunger.
IV. It was a village by the way. Showing that our present life is the way to death. May we follow Jesus Christ from Bethlehem to Zion. (William of Auvergne.)
Good men found outside the pale of privilege; or Christian knowledge in unlikely places
Well, the last year I passed that old church, I noticed something which was very interesting. The tower is standing pretty entire, and the spire of it is standing pretty entire also. It is a little shaken and riven with the weather and the strokes of time; but there it stands. And what do you think is climbing up the side of the spire? Why, a little tree that has got its roots in a little crevice of the spire, and it is covering the bare stones with beautiful green. Now, that tree to me is like the wise men of the East. You see, God in Judaea had a garden, and all the trees there were planted by prophets and people that were sent to do the work. But now, how did He plant these trees in Chaldea-how did He plant that tree in the spire of the church? “Whence came the seed there? “ you say. It was not a man that went up and planted it there; it was not planted as you plant a tree in the garden. But then, God says sometimes to the little birds, “Take a seed and plant it up in the rock, and let it clothe the rock.” Or, He says to the winds, “Waft the seed up to that little crack in the spire of the old church, and let it become a living tree.” (J. Edmond.)
In search of a great man.
In the annals of the Celestial Empire, there is historical evidence of Ambassadors or “wise men” having been sent towards the West in search of the “Great Saint who was to appear.” The following from the Annals narrates the circumstance:-“In the 24th year of the Tchao-Wang, of the dynasty of the Tcheou, on the 8th day of the 4th moon, a light appeared in the south-west which illuminated the “king’s palace. The monarch, struck by its splendour, interrogated the sages, who were skilled in foretelling future events. They then showed him hooks in which it was written that this prodigy signified the appearance of a great Saint in the West, whose religion was to be introduced into this country. The king consulted the ancient books, and having found the passages corresponding with the time of Tchao-Wang, was filled with joy. Then he sent the officers Tsa-yu and Thsin-King, the learned Wang-Tsun, and fifteen other men to the West to obtain information.” So sensible were these “wise men” of the time and place of the Saviour’s birth, that they set forth to hail the expected Redeemer. The envoy encountered in their way the missionaries of Buddhism coming from India announcing an incarnate God; these the Chinese took for the disciples of the true Christ, embraced their teaching, and introduced them to their fellow-country-men as the teachers of the true religion. Thus was Buddhism introduced into China in place of Christianity.
A curious Russian tradition.
The Russian peasantry have a curious tradition. It is that an old woman, the Baboushka, was at work in her house when the wise men from the East passed on their way to find the Christ-child. “Come with us,” they said: “we have seen His star in the East and go to worship Him.” “I will come, but not now,” she answered; “I have my house to set in order; when this is done I will follow and find Him.” But when her work was done the three kings had passed on their way across the desert, and the star shone no more in the darkened heavens. She never saw the Christ-child, but she is living and searching for Him still. For His sake she takes care of all His children. It is she who in Russian and Italian houses is believed to fill the stockings and dress the tree on Christmas morn. The children area wakened by the cry of” Behold the Baboushka!” and spring up hoping to see her before she vanishes out of the window. She fancies, the tradition goes, that in each poor little one whom she warms and feeds she may find the Christ-child, whom she neglected ages ago, but is doomed to eternal disappointment.
Seen his star.
The guiding star
It was revealed to the shepherds and then to the wise men.
1. The Jews had the priority of time, so also they had a superiority in the manner of the declaration. To one a living angel; to the other an inanimate star.
2. To the shepherds it was done much more feelingly than to the magi, it was loving, joyous, confidential, minute. “Fear not,” etc.
3. To the Gentile the intimation was distinct, sufficient, but it was a silent finger. But to the shepherds there were voices, “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,” etc. We all have a great amount of truth floating in our minds; what we want is, to have it made definite, and brought to a focus. That the “star” did for them. Probably it so drew them, that they could scarcely resist its attraction. We cannot be too thankful to God for it, that truth as such is fascinating. Every one who has once lost and then recovered a Christian hope will understand the joy of the magi when they saw the star again. As they went, where did they look? Not at the road, nor at their feet, but at the star high up above them. How many go doubtingly, slowly, heavily, wearily, wrongly, because they look at their feet and not at the star. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The Saviour’s star
1. Shine like that star.
2. Speak like that star.
3. Lead like that star. (G. T. Coster.)
The star of grace
1. In its creation;
2. In its position;
3. In its motion;
4. In its brightness. Let us follow the guidings of this star.
(3) Hopefully. (J. M. Ashley.)
The star and the wise men
1. Science helps religion.
2. Nature needs revelation.
3. Knowledge requires action. (T. R. Stevenson.)
Faith a heaven-born insight
There was not much in the appearance of that single star, but it spoke volumes to those men. You know what it is to be walking by the side of some man, and suddenly he leaps aside from you with an exclamation of pleasure, and dives down into some little obscure corner or hedge, and brings up some choice botanical specimen: you know what the feeling is; you have a kind of deep sense of inferiority; your own nature tells you that he possesses some secret knowledge and power that you do not. It is the insight of natural science. Well, the insight is analogous here. Men go through the world, and they see nothing of God nothing of Christ; or what they do see is merely the building ins which Christ dwells-a great deal about His Church, a great deal about His Word, but very little about Himself. The insight is in the Christ-born, the Christ-taught men who perceive Christ in everything. They take Him at every turn, they find Him lurking in every spot, because He is ever in their hearts. These men saw the star. There were thousands about them who looked upon the same star, and saw no meaning in it. It led them through the long desert to kneel before the Satisfier of their hopes. A picture that I once saw will illustrate what I mean. It represented the sea-shore, and standing beside it the great discoverer of the far-off continent of America; in his hand an image, rough-hewn and coarsely coloured; dawning through his eyes a keenness of observation, thought, and reflection-a dawning of some noble purpose. Behind him was the sea, broken by a brisk wind into little, fleecy waves. Beside him was his wife, half indifferent, half curious, looking on almost perplexed at the interest that he manifested. It showed that out of that strange little rough-hewn god there was born the thought of a far-off world to which he would go. But it told more than that. It told of a purpose that was graven in upon his spirit; and though the danger was great, though the sacrifice was the leaving of the wife who leant upon him, yet still, because of the deep thought which had been struck into his soul, he must perforce go, borne by the spirit of enterprise, till he had put his feet upon the far-of/land. It is this insight of enterprise which God gives to His children. The star shot the thought of Christ into the hearts of the wise men, as the rough-hewn image shot into the heart of Columbus the story of the undiscovered continent beyond the seas. So is it with Christ’s children in this world. They see by an insight of faith what other men do not see. Christ’s religion vindicates itself by the spiritual insight. (W. B. Carpenter. M. A.)
Or, if you were at sea, and saw a lighthouse, you know it would say, “Keep away from the rocks.” Its light through the dark night would speak that to you; or if you lived on a dangerous part of our coast, and heard the signal gun fired by the coastguard men, you would know that that said, “A ship is coming on the rocks. Come and help, men of the life-boat, come and help!” Or if you saw flags flying from the church tower and malay houses, you know that would speak of glad news, perhaps the birthday of the Queen, or the marriage of one of her children, or the coming of some great man to the town. So the star spoke to the wise men, and it told happy news. (G. T. Coster.)
The joy of a guiding light.-
I was many years ago travelling among the Pyrenees. Our carriage had to go over a mountain, by a road which ran for a great part of the way along the edge of a frightful precipice. The rocks descended to a vast depth, and the river roared below out of sight. There was no wall or hedge on the side of the road. At the post-house at the bottom of the pass we were given horses and a postman to drive them, and we started. Night fell before we reached our destination, black with heavy clouds, obscuring the stars. The horses were wild, unbroken-in colts, and they plunged from side to side. Whether the driver had been drinking or had lost his head in the excitement I cannot say, but he was perfectly unable to control the horses. They dashed from side to side of the road, and the carriage rocked, and the wheels grazed the edge. Every moment we expected one of the horses or the carriage to roll over the edge, when we should all have been dashed to pieces. I was then a little boy, and I sat on my mother’s lap. My father, not knowing the danger, had walked on from the post-house by a short cut over the mountains, to the inn at the top of the pass, where we were to spend the night. My mother prepared for her end. The horses were plunging and racing about, so that it was impossible to descend from the carriage. She kissed me, and bade me say my prayers, and her lips moved in prayer also; I felt a shudder run through her at each sway of the carriage towards the edge. All at once, above us, shone out ,a bright light. The postman shouted, the horses seemed to become less restive. A strong hand was laid on their reins, the carriage was stopped, and my father’s voice was heard. He had arrived at the top of the pass long before us, and, uneasy at the delay, had walked down to meet us. The light we saw was in a window of the posthouse, set as a guide to travellers. I cannot describe to you the relief, the joy, that rose in our hearts when we saw that guiding light, and when we heard the voice. We knew then that we were safe, following the ray of light we should reach our place of rest, guided by the firm hand on the bits of the untamed horses, we should be safe from being flung down the abyss. Our course through life is like that mountain journey. These wild undisciplined horses, ready to bring us to destruction, are our passions, the driver is conscience, the light is revealed truth, and He who meets us on our way and guides us is our Heavenly Father. (Baring-Gould.)
A boy who followed the star of right
When Whitefield (the great preacher) went to America (he went five times), he stood on the steps of the Court-house in Philadelphia, and preached to the people; and there was amongst the crowd a little boy. The little boy saw that Mr. George Whitefield could not see to read his Bible very well, so he got his lantern, and lit it, and held the lantern for Mr. Whitefield to see to read by. Mr. Whitefield was very much obliged to him. The little boy listened-with all his might and main-to Mr. Whitefield’s preaching. He listened so much, that he let the lantern tumble down, and it was broken all to pieces. Many years afterwards Mr. Whitefield came back again to America, on his fifth journey. He stopped at the house of a minister, who said to him one day: “Do you remember, sir, preaching once in Philadelphia, and a little boy, who was holding the lantern, dropped it, and broke it? That I do,” said Mr. Whitefield, “and I would give anything in the world to know what has become of that little boy.” The minister said, “I was the little boy, sir. I held the lantern. I listened to you. I let it drop. Your preaching made me what I am, a Christian minister.” He “followed the star.” (J. Vaughan.)
Of olden times on the coast of Cornwall there were wreckers. These men tied a lantern on the head of an ass, and drove the animal along the heights that fringe the shore. Ships at sea saw this light, and thinking them to be guides where open water was, ran towards them, fell on rocks, and were dashed to pieces. Then the wreckers came down to the shore, and took from the wrecked ship all that could be saved. There are a host of these false signals about in the religious world, leading men to destruction. What, then, are we to do? Look to the lighthouse of the Church, built by the hands of Jesus Christ. In it He has set the clear, steady light of revealed truth. (Baring Gould.)
5. An habitual sinner. (J. M. Ashley.)
1. The shortness of kingdoms.
2. The fear of an evil conscience.
3. Various uses of Holy Scripture.
4. The disposition and temper of the world.
5. The conditions of an acceptable offering. The magi offered
(1) their best gifts;
(2) sincerely opened their treasures;
(3) of their own substance,
(4) with humility, without pomp;
(5) their hearts with their gifts;
(6) the care and prudence of God;
(7) the firmness of God’s counsels. (Baring Gould.)
Priests and scribes.
Near in privilege, far from piety
Some that are best acquainted with the gospel are practical strangers to it. They are like one who should pore over a map, mastering its geography; marking each sea, lake, river; understanding the position of every range of mountains; learning the names of all the localities indicated, but never visiting them. A living author, describing his journey to the falls of Niagara, says: “I met with a gentleman who told me that he had walked from Boston, a distance of seven hundred miles, to see Niagara. “When within seven miles, he heard what he thought might be the roar of the torrent, and asked a man who was at work on the road if this was so. The man replied that he didn’t know; it might be, but he had never been there himself. Yet he had lived within sound of it all his life!” Wonderful stupidity, this! Who does not reprobate such folly? Nevertheless, it is nothing-absolutely nothing-compared with the direr folly which may be witnessed any day that we choose to look around us. Numbers are within sound of “ the river of the water of life “ without an actual, personal experience of its benefit. (Rev. T. R. Stevenson.)
Like in this to those who built the ark for Noah, providing others with a refuge, themselves perished in the flood; or like to the stones by the road that show the miles, but themselves are not able to move. (Augustine.)
I. The character of the Governor,
1. His dignity (Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; Jeremiah 33:6; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 45:24; Romans 14:11-12; John 1:1, and others). Suitably sustained by His attributes.
2. His condescension (Philippians 2:5-8).
3. His fidelity-to Him by whom He was appointed (Matthew 22:37-38; Matthew 5:17-19; Luke 2:49; Matthew 3:15; John 4:31-34); to them for whom He was appointed (John 16:12-13; John 16:33; Ephesians 4:7-13; Luke 12:50; Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 7:25).
4. His clemency. Ever ready to pardon, etc.
II. The character of his subjects.
III. The character of his government.
1. Divine and spiritual (Luke 10:18; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 1:14; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 2:2-3).
2. Mild and equitable. Rules without coercion (Psalms 119:32).
3. Vigorous and effective (2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalms 11:4-7; Psalms 24:7-10; Psalms 103:19-21; Colossians 2:15; Hebrews 2:14; Romans 8:34-39).
4. Staple, prosperous, everlasting (Hebrews 12:28; Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:27; Hebrews 1:8). Application: Let the enemies of this government tremble (1 Corinthians 15:15; Psalms 2:9; Romans 2:4; Romans 2:8-9); submit and find peace (Psalms 2:10-12). Let the subjects of this government rejoice in anticipation of its progressive and rapid conquests, and its final triumph (Psalms 2:7-8; Revelation 7:9-12). (Zeta.)
I. Wicked men often cloak their evil designs under the appearance of religion. They attempt to deceive those who are really good, and to make them suppose that they have the same design. But God cannot be deceived, and He will bring them to punishment.
II. Wicked men often make use of the PIOUS to advance their evil purposes. Men like Herod will stop at nothing if they can carry their ends. They endeavour to deceive the simple, allure the unsuspecting, and to beguile the weak, to answer their purposes of wickedness.
III. The plans of wicked men are often well laid. They occupy a long time; they make diligent inquiry; and all of it has the appearance of religion. But God sees the design; and though men are deceived, He cannot be (Proverbs 15:3). (Dr. A. Barnes.)
A king frightened by an infant
I. That men may be interested in Christ, and inquire about Him from different motives- some to worship, some to murder.
1. The motive of the wise men.
2. Herod’s motive.
II. That inquiry about Christ does not produce the same results in all.
1. The wise men rejoiced.
2. Herod was troubled.
III. That all opposition to Christ and His cause must end in failure and overthrow. (T. Kelly.)
Worshipped Him-Gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Action, Prayer, Sorrow
I. Gold may be taken as representing our substance, our goods, our material wealth. All work, all material, have their worth in gold. This oblation, represents the efficiency of that which is external to us, and can be detached from us.
II. The frankincense is a substance which, once kindled, sends up sweet clouds to the sky it is the symbol of religious thought directing itself lovingly and longingly towards God. It typifies what is inward. There is a life of contemplation as well as of action.
III. The last offering completing the text is myrrh. This stands for sorrows; in this we are equal before God. We can offer to Him our pains and repentance. (M. Dix.)
The character of their worship
5. Obedient (ver. 12). (D. C. Hughes, M. A.)
Give the best you have to Jesus
It matters not how poor the offering be, if it is the best you can give. A legend tells us how once u little boy in church had no money to place among the offerings on the altar, so he gave a rosy apple, the only gift he had to offer. Presently, when the priest removed the alms from the altar, he found there an apple of pure gold. The simplest gift is in the eyes of God as pure gold. (H. J. Wilmt Buxton.)
A Christmas-time address-Gifts for the child Jesus.
From this visit of the magi has grown up our idea of keeping Christmas with gifts. We will try to see the inner meaning of the good old custom.
I. Our chief idea in keeping Christmas is to make everybody happy. Jesus came to make us all happy-blessed of God.
II. Making everybody happy can be done best by giving gifts. All sorts needed-should be adapted-make everybody happy because they bless both him who gives and him who takes.
III. In giving gifts we remember especially the little ones. Because we think of Jesus as a child, etc. Show how suggestive are the magi’s gifts.
IV. Then we rise beyond the little ones to all those whom Jesus taught us to think of as His brethren. Those who are poorer than ourselves, etc. Every child may make somebody a little happier with their love-gift to-day. (R. Tuck, B. A.)
Flee into Egypt.
The duty of parents to their children
I. Childhood is exposed to imminent dangers. “Herod sought the young child’s life.” Evil is never so active or persistent as when it seeks the ruin of the young.
II. On what conditions the safety of childhood depends.
1. The first of these is parental love. See the love and fidelity of Joseph and Mary. Nothing more natural than that parental love should seek at any cost the safety of a child.
2. Parental love wisely directed. The parents of Jesus did not trust to their own wisdom.
3. The Divine direction given to parents respecting their children is to be followed in obedience and faith. Joseph and Mary obeyed the will of God. (Monday Club Sermons.)
The truth of God and the trials of its friends
I. The truth of God.
1. Earth’s opposition to the truth.
2. Heaven’s interest in the truth.
3. Man’s guardianship of the truth.
II. The trial of its friends. (Dr. Thomas.)
Obedience and Divine guidance
I. That God can use not only the extraordinary, but even the trivial events of life in the rescue and guidance of his people. “In a dream.”
1. He puts Joseph on his guard.
2. He keeps His eye on Herod.
3. He points out a place of safety.
II. That at all times, especially in peril and perplexity, it is the duty and privilege of God’s children to obey. Obedience may call for-
1. Prompt action, “Flee.”
2. It may call for sacrifice of friends and home-“Into Egypt.”
3. It sometimes calls for patient waiting-“Be thou there.”
4. It always brings God’s further direction and blessing-“I bring thee word.” (T. Kelly)
The flight into Egypt
1. That when God brings forth good, evil is sure to oppose.
2. God permits wicked and lawless tyrants to be supreme for a time.
3. That cross-handed providences often bring our greatest mercies.
4. That while self is always in a hurry to display itself, real greatness is content to wait its time. (W. P. Balfern.)
The flight into Egypt
I. The flight into Egypt.
II. The massacre of the infant children at Bethlehem. Herod may be considered as an example of the infatuating influence of sin and its power to stultify the most obvious conclusions of a rational intelligence. Herod never thought of our Lord as a human opponent, but as the Messiah. He did not disbelieve the star or the prophecies interpreted by the priests and scribes. He was fighting against God; He thought the prophecies might fail at the last.
III. The recall of the holy family. Egypt has often been the asylum of persecuted goodness; Abraham, Joseph, Jacob. (D. Moore, M. A.)
God takes care of little children
I remember reading a story of a baby-a wee child-that travelled by railroad. Away whirled the coach very fast; but it soon knocked against something, and all were thrown cut-men, women, mothers and babes. Some were pitched here, some there; heads were broken, hands cut off. In the midst of the confusion, a voice was heard crying-“Where is my baby? Oh l my dear baby! I cannot find him anywhere. Did nobody see my sweet baby? What shall I do? “ One man lost his leg; another his hand; another his eye; but the mother did not mind them, but was going about, wringing her hands, and crying-“Where is my baby?” After much search for it, and for a great while in vain, at length a man went over to a place where was a bandbox. He took up the bandbox, and what do you think he found under it? The baby, fast asleep! Now, if God takes care of common babies, surely He would take care of His own child, Jesus. (J. Gregg.)
The efforts of a mother for the safety of her child
A slave-mother who had been faithful under the very worst usage remained so until told that her child was to be severed from her and sold in New Orleans. It was midwinter, yet at midnight she started for the Ohio, determined to live and, if need be, die with her child. As she reached the bank no boat was near, and along the water masses of broken ice drifted. Trusting to heaven, she put her feet on the treacherous element, and, with it bending and breaking beneath her, she boldly pushed on from cake to cake until she safely landed on the Ohio shore. Five minutes sooner, and she must have perished; two minutes later, and she would have met with a watery grave, for, before she had proceeded twenty steps, the ice behind her on the Kentucky side had broken, and was scattered ere she reached the river. “Thank God, you and your child are safe!” exclaimed the hard-hearted master, rejoicing that he had escaped the responsibility of their death. “Brave woman,” said a Kentuckian, who had witnessed her escape, “you have won your freedom, and you shall have it.” The mother and child were kept together in liberty and love, and in a humble but happy home.
Departed into Egypt.
I. The natural seed of Israel, as called out of Egypt.
II. The divine seed, the man Christ Jesus.
III. The chosen seed that shall be brought out of Egypt. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Slew all the children.
The holy innocents
The narrative presents sharp contrasts of character and history.
I. Christ the terror of the tyrant even when a helpless babe.
II. The tyrant’s utmost endeavours are all in vain against the child.
III. Our richest blessings are often baptized with blood.
IV. The children of Bethlehem were unconscious martyrs for Christ.
V. The holy innocents died for Christ’s sake. (S. Mease, D. D.)
I. How strongly the scene of our Lord’s nativity was guarded.
1. From the gusts of popular commotion, which were above all things to be prevented, in order that full scope might be left for the gradual development of the Redeemer’s ministry with its attendant evidences, all which would have been hindered and disturbed by any sudden tumult excited in the body of the Jewish people.
2. It was guarded also by securing to it such decisive and indubitable marks of the certainty of that which was transacted, as never could be brought in question, or disputed. These points discover to us in the plainest character the wisdom and control of Providence in all the work which was effected. The first stone laid was thus deeply placed and immovably fixed where it stands to this day.
II. Three sorts of hands were employed on Earth to set their seal to that witness which was borne from heaven, and to commend it to perpetual regard.
1. Friends. The shepherds of Judaea were of all persons the fittest from their solitary and sequestered lives to bear that part which belongs to friends, and to become the first-called witnesses of the truth of those events which took place at our Lord’s nativity. They raised no clamour. They possessed no influence. And yet a simple heart and unsuspected tongue form no inconsiderable properties in any witness whose word is to be taken for the truth and reality of what is seen and done.
2. Strangers. Men clear of just suspicion. They came from afar and took their first measures in concert, not with friends, but with those who were soon to fill the place of foes and to stand forth as virulent opponents.
3. Enemies. Herod. He laid traps to ensnare the strangers, causing them to depart the land by another course. The word of prophecy was exactly brought to pass by the cruel stratagem which he devised and executed. By his relentless act of mingled cowardice and cruelty he lent his own hand, polluted as it was, to the confirmation of the truth. Herod’s cruelty at Bethlehem stands recorded both by friends and foes. Not only is it related in the sacred page, but it is also transmitted to us by writers of that age, whose undisputed works confirm the truth. (Archdeacon Pott.)
1. We may notice in connection with this transaction very great opportunities, and very satisfactory information, very perversely employed.
2. What a treacherous thing is the indulgence of malignant passion and self-seeking.
3. We are reminded of the estate of Christ and of those who come within His circle, in relation to the present world. (a) Learn not to be unduly alarmed for the ark of the Lord. Jesus in His cradle is mightier than Herod on his throne.
(2) Not to be unduly grieved at our losses and sufferings for Christ’s sake. The cause is safe.
(3) Learn the importance of having our children in close relation to Christ. (J. A. Seiss, D. D.)
The slaughter of the innocents
Glance at the history. Herod’s the most striking instance of open opposition to God. He knew the prophecies, yet fought against their fulfilment. Some surprise that God permitted this slaughter.
I. It is not necessary to the vindication of God’s dealings that we should always be able to give reasons for their every part. There are reasons which will tend to remove surprise that Herod was not restrained from murder.
1. This murder would fix Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Christ. Prophecy had announced this. Herod’s sword corroborated this.
2. This murder would enable Jesus to live in obscurity until thirty years of age. Brought up at Nazareth, He was regarded as a Nazarite. The slaughter of the innocents would prove His birth at Bethlehem. Herod supposed his object gained, so the infant Christ was allowed to rest in obscurity.
3. God was leaving Herod to fill up the measure of his sin.
4. God was unquestionably disciplining the parents by the slaughter of their children.
II. The consequences of the slaughter as far as the innocents themselves were concerned. Dying before they knew evil from good, they were saved by the virtue of Christ’s propitiation. Not best to die in infancy; better to win the victory than be spared the fight. They are reckoned amongst the martyrs of the church. Teaching for those who bury their children. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Instances of infantile murder
It has been too often the cruel policy of the despots of the East to consolidate the foundation of their thrones by the slaughter of all who had claims or power to dispute their authority (2 Kings 10:1-14). The history of Abyssinia furnishes an instance of a tyrant ordering the destruction of about 400 children. Niebuhr mentions an Arabian prince who murdered all the remotest descendants of his predecessors he heard of; and Sir Thomas Roe states, that a king of Pegu, in order to destroy a nephew of his own, whose claims interfered with his possession of the crown, and who was secreted by his partizans among a vast multitude of the children of the grandees, commanded the whole to be slaughtered, to the number of 4,000-a massacre much more terrible than Herod’s, in which it is thought that not more than fifty infants fell a prey to the tyrant’s jealousy. (Dr. Jamieson.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26