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which they or their conduct bore to him. Yet whatever Matthew says of or about them is marked by wonderful self-consistency and historical exact
And in this he illustrates one of the peculiar features of all Bible narratives. These always say enough for their purpose, but never too much, and never even more than is needed ; and what they do say will bear the strictest scrutiny that the most competent criticism can exercise. If we had bad to turn to the Koran of Mahomet, or to the Vedas or Shasters of Hindoo mythology, or even to those apocryphal books that are sometimes bound up with our Bibles, for our knowledge of these magi, we should have found probably much more minuteness of detail: we should have learned all about them—their names, and country, and rank ; their peculiarities of dress, feature, and form; their sayings and doings; their infancy, youth, manhood, old age, and death-and the whole account would have been so overladen with irrelevant matter, and so marred by puerile inanities, that every reasonable mind would have been shocked and repelled. The very silence of Scripture is divine, revealing, side by side with the words of Scripture, the manifold wisdom of God.
The wise men, then, were magi ; and it would have been as well, or better, if the translators of our version had just adopted the Greek word, magi, for it is and has long been well-known to English readers, and conveys a more distinct impression than the general phrase, “ wise men.". Perhaps they were deterred from this by the disrepute into which the word had fallen. The magicians of the We: t, and of more modern times, were held in fear and abhorrence by all good and orthodox Christians as those who pursued the black arts, and who sought to profit by the deception and ruin of their neighbours. And certainly, though the term was sometimes applied to the honest student of science, many deserved all the opprobrium which attached to the name. But it should be remembered that originally it was a name of the utmost honour and respect. The magi of ancient Persia and Chaldea were both the priests of religion and the priests of learning. They were the repositaries of all the human and divine knowledge of the place and period. They were the counsellors of kings and the guides of nations. And though their studies were directed chiefly to the heavenly bodies, whose movements were supposed to control the destinies of men, and to indicate the will of the Supreme, we have no reason to believe otherwise than that they were sincere in the pursuit of learning and in the exercise of their priesthood. Their rank and power are very fully set before us in the Book of Daniel, which describes the Kings of Babylon as relying upon the magi for guidance in every case of emergency; and that their position was consistent with moral integrity, and even with the worship of the true God, is shown by the fact that Daniel accepted and held for years the office of chief magician to which Nebuchadnezzar appointed him.
We may therefore believe that the “ wise men were magi of this honourable description : learned, upright, and sincere men, whose great object in life was to find the truth of God, and who, to obtain that object, were willing to make a sacrifice of wealth, of the world's favour, and of personal ease.
And God blesses honest effort after the knowledge of himself, even though it be put forth amidst much darkness, and impeded by much error. He helps the tottering feet if they be only directed towards his temple. He gives liberty to the imprisoned mind if it be only earnest and single-eyed in its attempts to break its bonds. These magi were real truth-seekers, and from out of the mystery of the heavens, which they in vain sought to penetrate, a strange star shines, and its radiance enters their hearts, and, hailing it with joy, they are gided by it to the great Sun, from whose fulness of light and
life, let us hope, they obtained a knowledge of Hini“whom to know is eternal life.” So much for the men ; let us now turn to the action that is recorded of them.
They came to Jerusalem, 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.” They had seen his star, therefore they had come.
Whatever that star was, they had taken it as proclaiming the birth of him who was to be the deliverer of the world, and acting on this belief they at once, without hesitation, set out in search of him. It was kis star--the star of the Messiah, the promised and expected Saviour-and as such it brought a message which filled their hearts with joy, and laid a duty on then which they could not put aside. The King was born ; the Shiloh had appeared ; the time of deliverance was at hand; and though the star communicated much less to them than the angels did to the shepherds of Bethleheni, yet their faith and joy mingled with those of the shepherds on that blessed day, and thus foreshadowed the time when, according to the promises, both Jew and Gentile should be gathered into the one fold of the newly-born King.
That star may have been, as some suppose, only a meteor or luminous body floating on this lower atmosphere, and sent expressly to announce the birth of Jesus, and to guide these magi to the place where he lay; but we are disposed to regard it, with others, as a star fixed high in the blue of heaven, and presenting such novelty, either in the time or manner of its appearance, as to strike the minds of these star-gazers with the conviction that it was the star of the “ King of the Jews.' One night as they were occupied with their usual astronomical labours, gazing wistfully and silently np into the unclouded Eastern sky, and marking the positions of the planets and stars, which, like distant lamps, hung from the dome of the firmament, suddenly a new visitor broke in upon the circle of their vision. A star which they had never seen before, and which was new to the place which it now occupied, shone brightly upon them, and took up its part in the “music of the spheres ” as if it had been there always. Such a thing perhaps had never before occurred in their experience ; and as they gazed again and again upon the strange intruder, they began to feel and to say: “ It is his star ; the King is come, let us go to meet him."
And the results of modern science have singularly confirmed this understanding of the passage, coming in this, as in many other cases, to the support and verification of Scripture. It has been put beyond a doubt that about the cime of the birth of Jesus three successive conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn took place, having but short intervals between them. Now, in in the 17th century, Kepler, the great astronomer, observed a similar conjunction of these two planets, and, strange to say, at the same time and in supposed connection with the approximation, he saw a new star which abode in the heavens for a time, and then disappeared as mysteriously as it had come. May not this have been the star which greeted the Eastern magi with the tidings that a Redeemer had risen in the firmament of the world? At any rate, science has proved that it is not only possible but probable. And God never uses a special messenger when an ordinary one will serve his purpose-never works a iniracle unless his object needs a miracle for its accomplishment. Such a star as that I have described would be really more strange, impressive, and heart-moving to men like the magi than some wandering meteor or atmospheric illusion. Nor let it be thought that God would be acting a part unworthy of his character if he made use of the ignorance of that period, and gave to a natural object all the power of a direct sign from himself
. How ofien does God thus work-out of darkness bringing light, out of error truth, out of evil good ?
But the question remains. How did these men of the East come to associate this star with Jesus, or, as they style him, " the King of the Jews"? --whence obtained they the knowledge and the faith which they possessed ? Had they been Jews, it would have been plain enough, but they were not Jews,--they came seeking not their own King—our King--the King promised to our fathers"; but your King, the King of the Jews, which shows that they did not belong to that people in whose line the Deliverer was to come. It is well known, however, that even then the Jews were scattered abroad over all the world, taking with them their sacred books and their sacred ordinances, and that thus some knowledge of the one God and of the hopes of Israel found its way into almost every country. This was especially true of Persia and Chaldea, where many Jews had resided ever since the captivity, and where the traditions of Daniel and others were still familiarly known. And then we have it on the authority of such ancient writers as Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus, that there was at that period a general belief among both Jews and Gentiles that a great King was about to appear, who would deliver the world from its wretchedness, and gather all nations under his beneficent rule. Such things explain, in some measure at least, how the magi came to know of the Messiah, and were led to go to Jerusalem as the place in which they were most likely to find him.
Doubtless they were taught of God as well. Most certainly the band of God was in the whole matter, even though invisible to them at the time ; but so many natural means of information existing, we cannot but believe that God made use of them to enlighten and stimulate these seekers of the truth. The prophetical writings of the Jews were evidently known by them, and perhaps the old prophecy of Balaam flashed up in their minds in response to the brightness of the new star—" I shall see him, but not now; I shall behold him, but not nigh : there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel;" and perhaps, too, they had calculated or sought to divine from their great text-book, the heavens, the period alluded to by Daniel in that prophecy which he made in the very land of the magi—“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks."
Nor would it be an altogether new thing were we to take these men as both knowing and believing in the God of Israel, and as making his word, so far as they could, their guide and hope. Job, the man of Uz, the upright and God-fearing Job, was an Edomite; Melchisedek, the great type of Christ in character as well as in office, was a Canaanite of the old and not of the chosen stock; and we have reason to believe that all through the history of the world God has had a people who could not acknowledge Abraham as their father in the flesh.
All of which teaches us the glorious truth that, though God saw good to separate the chosen nation from the rest of the world, his grace was essentially and ever free, and that his covenant of life embraced the world. The truth was preserved by the ordinances of Jacob, but it was not necessarily and absolutely confined to the seed of Jacob. The word was true then as now, “ My kingdom is within you;” and wherever there was a believing soul, whether it was that of a Melchisedek or of a David, of a Job or of a Moses, of a Levite or of a Chaldean, there God dwelt in mercy and blessing, making the light of his countenance to shine, and inspiring a love of the truth, and a hope of immortal life. The sun shines in some lands more brightly and cloudlessly than in others, but there is no land which is not visited by its gladsome and quickening rays; and so, though Divine grace was more fully and perennially seen and enjoyed within the borders of Israel, yet it really, from the very first of time, beamed over the whole earth. It was only, in every case, the soul's blindness that hid its presence from viewonly the soul's unbelief that prevented it from falling like a refreshing and reviving dew, and making the wilderness become a fruitful field, and the desert bloom as the rose.
W. D. (To be continued.)
LIGHT REFLECTED; OR, THE WORD ITS OWN
: The evening of the sixth day of the Mosaic record brings us to the creation of
The brief history proceeded, with grand and solemn majesty, from, “Let there be light, and there was light,” till now, the expanse having been formed, the heavenly bodies having received their appointments, the earth and the waters having heen assigned their places, the vegetable and animal kingdoms having been called into being, the Creator reaches his last great work, the formation of the parents of the human race. The house was built, furnished, nay, beautified : but the dweller to reside in it had not yet been called into being. The palace was ready for his reception, and stored with large supplies for all his wants; but an occupier for it, the master-work of God below, had not yet been made.
Now, however, ere the sixth day closes, ere Jehovah ceases from working, the steward of this lower world is to be formed : a high priest must be installed in this temple of nature, who will, intelligently and gratefully, offer up sacrifices of thankful praises from himself and the creation under him to nature's God. He is to be a creature different from all the rest: “a little lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honour, and set over the works of God's hands.”. Jehovah now changes his mode of speech. It is no longer the simple fiat which he had been previously using, but language denoting the co-operation of Godhead in the work. It is not, Let there be man, but “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness ; and let him have dominion on the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him ; male and female created he them.” And God gave him a large and liberal grant, and a heavenly father's blessing. “And God saw all that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
What a difference does this language put between man and the other creatures ! Though all, man as well as they, were made from the earth, yet he possessed a something which distinguished him immeasurably from them all. He was made in the image of God. What, we are ready to ask, was the image of God in which man was created ? In what did it consist? It was evidently not a bodily image: not a material or corporal likeness. We are not to form a conception of God as baving bodily parts : for God is a spirit, and not possessed of these. “No man hath seen God at any time. Ye have neither heard his voice nor seen his shape." Man's body, however, is a noble structure. Though formed of the dust of the ground, it was “fearfully and wonderfully made : curiously wrought,” says David, " in the lowest parts of the earth :” a wondrous mechanism, indeed, a harp of ten thousand strings. This body has been honoured by the Son of God assuming it unto himself. He has raised it from its lowest earthly state, the grave, and carried it glorified with him to the skies. And though our vile bodies fall in the dust, yet they are precious in the Lord's sight. They, as well as our souls, are the purchase of his blood. The ashes into which they fall, are preserved more safely than ashes in an
It has been well said, “ Though death despoils us of that with which we were invested, terminates all the functions and feelings of life, resolves the body into its original particles, and scatters them over the face of the earth, yet the
day of death is better than the day of birth, because death is a higher and nobler birth. The grave is an underground avenue to heaven, a triumphal arch, through which spiritual heroes return from their fight to their reward, made conquerors, and more than conquerors, through Him that loved them, the dressing-chamber in which the believer puts off his sordid and polluted garments, and puts on his beautiful wedding robes, to rise and meet the Lord in the air." * He will fashion our vile bodies and make them like his own, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.”
As the image stamped on man at creation was not corporal or bodily, it must have been spiritual, it must have belonged to his soul ; and hence we read, breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” On this point, man's being created in the image of God, the New Testament reflects a light. Paul tells us that a soul in union with the Lord Jesus Christ is “renewed after the image of Him that created him.” In one place the expression is “ renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him :” and in another it is, “ renewed in righteousness and true holiness." The image was therefore a moral image. Man's understanding was spiritual light : his heart was holy love : and his will was conformed to the image of God. “ The image of God was reflected in him, in his capacity of intelligence, his uprightness of condition, and his immaculate purity of character in his knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.”.
The Old Testament gives us the reason requiring this renewal. Man has fallen from his state of uprightness, and lost his creation-image. The debased image is that which has descended to Adam's race, and that which all the generations from Adam have borne. We bear by nature the image of the earth, and we need to be renewed after the image of the heavenly – -to put off the old man and put on the new, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us—to be renewed in the spirit of our minds—to look to the Lord Jesus, that, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord—and to let our light shine forth before men that others may take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus. The believer
may say, “As we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we also bear the image of the heavenly.” And how glorious that shall be we cannot tell. " It doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is."
“ Our Lord, we know, when he appears,
Shall bear his image bright,
open to our sight.” What we have already said, on the subject of man's creation in the image of God, would be quite sufficient for the humble Christian, who feels his dependence on a creating and preserving God, and has a heart grateful to him for redeeming grace. But we have to look the so-called New Theology and New Philosophy in the face, though some of their doctrines are not new, but borrowed. Those doc. trines diverge, in the hands of some, to a greater, and in the hands of others, to a less distance from the Bible account of man's creation ; but they are all the offspring of fruit from the forbidden tree. We shall therefore notice their hypotheses. As for facts contradicting Scripture they have got none. All that they produce is hypothesis, theory, conjecture, moonshine.
According to some, man's existence is accounted for, not by an act of creation, but by unlimited development. According to others, who might not go so far as to develop him from a snail or muscle, man was originally in a savage state, and after long and gradual advancement became civilized. According to others, who admit creation, man ranks no higher than a mere animal; and some at least of this party, because of the differences in the farcily of man, assign him different centres of creation, as if several Adams were created, one here and another there.
Dr. Darwin, in his work on the origin of species, takes the lead on the development theory. This theory is that the different races of beings on the earth are all developed from a single pair or a single monad. But how the pair or the monad came to possess animal life as distinct from vegetable life he does not say. labor, horæ opus est.” In this development theory there is a struggle for life, in