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and who will one day call you to account to him for all the actions of life.
In the verses above we have Matthew's account of our Saviour's birth. In the first of them we are told that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This was a small town in the country of Judea, about six miles from Jerusalem, its chief city. Judea was in Asia, on the opposite side of the globe from where you and I live, and it is now one thousand eight hundred and forty-four years since Jesus was born there. Yet, as God was so good as to teach his servants to record it for us, we know just when and where he was born, as well as the people did who lived in Bethlehem. Luke informs us in the second chapter of his gospel, that when Jesus was a little babe he was laid in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn. A manger in England, where the New Testament was translated, was a kind of box, built up for horses and oxen to eat their hay from. Did you ever learn that beautiful verse of Dr. Watts ?
"Soft and easy was my cradle ;
Coarse and hard my Saviour lay,
But in Judea they had no such stables as in England, or in our own country. Learned men say it was a caravansary, a kind of inn, where the caravans, or large companies of people, in journeying, rested at night. In one part of the building the people lodged, and in the other part the camels, horses and other animals were sheltered. It was probably in such a place our Saviour was born.
When you were a tender babe, and could not
bear to open your eyes to the light of the sun, and a heavy sound would make you spring and catch your breath in fright-you had an easy cradle to be rocked in, and a soft bed to sleep in beside your mother; the windows were shaded to keep out the bright rays of the sun, and every thing around you was kept still and quiet. But the blessed Saviour, who came from heaven to save sinners, when he was a babe was laid in a manger, the stable was the chamber of his rest, and the rude noises of the beasts fell on his soft ear.
Although the people of Bethlehem did not know who Jesus was, there were some wise men living in the country east of that who were expecting the Saviour to come into the world, and they came to Jerusalem to inquire for him.
God uses a variety of means to guide his people in the right way, and inform them about himself. Those men were told that Jesus had come by a peculiar star which God caused them to see in their own country, and which he made to move before them, and direct their course. Have you not heard Jesus called "the Star of Bethlehem?" He is called so because this star moved towards Bethlehem, and stopped over the place where he lay. When you read the third verse above perhaps you thought it very strange that Herod and the people of Jerusalem should be troubled, because the wise men told them that they supposed Jesus was born. Good people would not have been troubled, but greatly rejoiced to hear of the arrival of such a stranger; but Herod was a very wicked king. He made all the people obey him, and as he heard Jesus called "the king of the Jews," he
feared that he should lose some of his power, and be obliged to submit to Jesus. The people around Judea would be troubled by the same thing which troubled him, for he was so wicked that he would not allow them to be happy if he was not happy himself.
In the fourth verse we are told that Herod called together all "the chief priests and scribes of the people," and demanded of them where Christ should be born. These were the wisest men in the Jewish nation. They had the Old Testament to read, and they knew that God had promised to send a Saviour into the world. It appears from their answer that they knew in what place Jesus should be born, because it was thus written by the prophet, "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." We find this passage in somewhat different words, in the book of Micah, chapter v. verse 2. You and I have both the Old and New Testament, and we should often compare them together, that we may see how God prepared the way for his Son to come into the world, and taught his people to believe and trust in him long before he came. Herod felt very anxious about the strange star, and after he had inquired particularly of the wise men at what time it appeared, he sent them to Bethlehem to search for the child which was born king of the Jews; and told them when they found him to return and bring him word, that he might "come and worship him.” This wicked king did not intend to worship the Saviour; he only said this to deceive the wise men;
perhaps he did deceive them, but you know he could not deceive God. The good men listened to the words of the king, and then they departed to find the infant Saviour; but they did not go without a guide, for the same star which they had seen in their own country, moved along before them until it came over the place where Jesus was, and then it stood still. When they saw the star "they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." They felt that God was watching over and directing them in the right way, although they had found no one in the city of Jerusalem to assist them in searching for the Saviour. When the wise men found the young child with Mary his mother, they worshiped him, and presented unto him gifts which they had brought with them. In the eastern part of the world, those who called on kings, and other great men, brought presents to them; and these were brought to honor the Saviour. It is said they worshiped him. As we now use the word worship, this would mean that they paid the Saviour reverence, such as is due to God, and that would have been right; but we are not certain that the wise men did worship him in this manner, because as the word was then used, to worship only meant to pay great respect to a person. Herod, you know, was expecting these men to return to him, when they had found the Saviour; but God was watching over Jesus, and over the wicked king too, for we learn in the twelfth verse that he warned the wise men by a dream to go to their country another way, and not to return to Herod. They chose to obey God rather than man; and so the king did not learn where the infant Saviour was.
After this we hear no more of the wise men ; but as we have reason to think they were good men, we have no doubt they were happy as they journeyed to their home. They thought and spoke much of Jesus, and we hope they understood that he had come to be the Saviour of the world. Perhaps they sometimes thought of Herod, and pitied him because he was so wicked; but they need not have felt afraid of him, though he was a mighty king, for God, who was their friend, was far more mighty than he.
From this account respecting the birth of our Saviour, what instruction can my young reader draw? Perhaps you have been thinking "there can be no lesson for me in these passages of scripture, which just gives us the circumstances of the Saviour's birth;" but I think we can find a lesson here. Learn first, not to look among those who are rich and powerful, and live in splendid mansions, for the wisest and best people.-Jesus Christ, who was superior to any being that ever dwelt on earth, chose the humble abode of poverty, and very many of those who are the followers of Jesus, are among the poor and despised of the earth. Secondly, learn that the wicked and powerful men are in the hands of God, and he can easily prevent their vile plans from being executed, as he did the plans of Herod.