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it is evident, was at that day well understood and universally acknowledged, to relate to the birth of the Messiah.
Such an intimation, however, was but little calculated to remove the fears of Herod; and, therefore, sending for the wise men to come to him pri tely, he enquired of them anxiously what time the star appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem, saying; Go, and search diligently for the young child, and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.*
The subsequent transactions shew what sort of homage the tyrant contemplated; but God having directed the re-appearance of the star till it conducted them to the spot where the child was, when they had come into the house, they saw the young child, with Mary, his mother, and fell down, and worshipped bim: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.t
God, however, aware of the intentions of Herod, warned the Magi not to return by the way of Jerusalem; and thus, whilst the tyrant was suspending his measures, in expectation of receiving from the Magi the information he was waiting for, an opportunity was afforded for an angel of Jehovah to appear to Joseph, and direct him to arise, and take the young child, and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and to remain there until he should be sent to him again. I
But when Herod saw that he was mocked of the wise men, he was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of them. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying; In Rama
• Matt. ii. S.
+ Matt. ii. 9, 10, 11.
| Matt ii. 12, 13.
was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping and great mourning, Rachael weeping for her children and would not be comforted, because they are not. *
The period, however, was now approaching, when this unhappy wretch was to be summoned into the presence of that being whom he had so awfully offended; but so far from betraying any remorse for the crimes he had committed, his avowed purpose was, that his death should be celebrated by the most horrible and atrocious act that ever came into the mind of man.
Aware that he was lying under a loathsome and incurable disease, t and that the hatred which the Jews had for him would induce them rather to rejoice at than lament his death, he issued a proclamation, commanding all the principal Jews, on pain of death, to appear at Jericho, where he lay sick, on a given day. Upon their arrival he shut them all in the circus, and commanded his sister Salome, and Alexas, her
Matt. ij. 16–18. Prideaux justly infers the probability of this relation, from the cruelty of the edict issued by Herod on his deathbed. Prid. ii.757. See also Masson's Vindication of Macrobius, appended to the second volume of Bp. Chandler's Vindication of his Defence of Christianity, page 19.
† "He had a slow fever, not shewing itself so much to the outward touch and feeling, as more grievously burning him within. Moreover, he had a strong canine appetite for meat, which nothing could satisfy. His bowels were ulcerated, especially the colon gut, from whence he suffered grievous pains. His feet being swoln, from thence issued forth a phlegmatic and shining humour. Moreover, the disease had seized the lower part of his belly, an ulcer broke out in his genitals, breeding worms and lice; besides he had a shortness of breath, and that very stinking and unsavoury. And he had also a troublesome flux of rheum, and with it an asthmatic difficulty of breathing. And the patient not having strength to bear all this, there followed a convulsion of all the parts of his body," Prid. ii. 757.
husband, to let the soldiers in upon them and slay them the moment he was dead; alleging, that by this means, he should ensure the mourning of all the families of Judah in spite of themselves; and thus adjuring his sister and her husband with his dying breath to accomplish this detestable project, he expired in horrible pain and torment, smitten of God in a signal and grievous manner, for his many enormous iniquities. *
* Prid, ii. 756. Matt. ii. 19—23. Not long before his decease he attempted to stab himself.- Jos. iii. 27. “I cannot forbear here remarking that most of the great persecutors have died the like death, by being smitten of God in like manner in the secret parts. Thus died Antiochus Epiphanes; thus died Herod, the great persecutor of Christ and the infants at Bethlehem; thus died Galerius Maximianus, the author and great persecutor of the tenth and greatest persecution against the primitive Christians; and thus also died Philip II, king of Spain, as infamous for the cruelty of his persecutions, and the numbers destroyed by it, as either of the others.” Prid. ii. 242—245. 757. where see the authorities collected. See also Watson's Life of Philip II. vol. iii. 333. But as all former persecutions were infinitely exceeded by the monstrosities of the Parisian massacre, perpetrated by Charles IX, his mother Catherine of Medicis, the Guises, and other popish princes and pobles, on the eve of St. Bartholemew, 1572 ; so not only the stings of conscience, but the visible inflictions of an offended and insulted God, were perhaps post conspicuous in the visitations of that inhuman monarch. “Charles fell mortally sick in the wood of Vincennes, the blood issuing from every aperture of his body ; so that it was conjectured he had been poisoned. Whatever was the cause (if we may be permitted to judge of kings, who are amenable to the Almighty) it was a divine punishment for his blasphemies, and perhaps on account of the torrents of blood he had caused to be shed."-Perefise. “ His agonies were poignant in the extreme, and the blood oozed from all the pores of his flesh."-Sully. "Charles IX. expired in his blood at the castle of Vincennes, on the 30th of May 1574. His body was opened, but neither abscess nor gangrene was apparent; it was, however, full of wounds, the cause of which the surgeons could never ascertain.-Even the infidel Voltaire could not avoid
ascribing the visitation of this wretched sovereign, to the immediate appointment of that God, in whose existence he himself affected to disbelieve.
Dieu déployant sur lui sa vengeance sévére,
For this monarch in death bore the stamp of his ire." Parisian Massacre, by Comber, Passim. Mem. of Henry the Great, vol. i. 169, 170. 180. 182.
And we may add with the prophet"God is jealous, and Jehovab revengeth ; Jehovah revengeth, and is furious ; Jehovah will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. Jehovah is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked; Jehovah hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet; he rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers. Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth. The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world and all that dwell therein. Who can stand before his indignation ? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. Jehovah is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him. But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies. Nahum, i. 248.