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pretence is there, that, because we commemorate then Herod's doing a very wicked thing, we should abstain from doing such right and proper things, as fall in our way? not only this fancy, but all of this kind, are utterly without foundation in reason, Scripture, primitive Christianity, or daily experience, if people will but mind what passes, with common care and common sense. They serve to no one good purpose whatever: they fetter the hands of persons; and disquiet their minds with superstitious, which at the same time, are profane and irreligious, fears and observances : as if the providence of God did not always equally watch over us in our lawful undertakings; but he had given some days out of his own hands into those of the wicked one. Weak minds, it is true, may fall into such errors inconsiderately without much blame. But to cast them off, when you are warned of the nature of them, is an evident duty. I proceed to the proper uses.

And surely one of them is, to observe, how pitiable they are, who live under the arbitrary government of despotic princes, that may do, as often as their passions prompt them, the cruellest actions without controul; and to thank God from the bottom of our hearts, that we live in a land of law and liberty, where no such bloody commands as those of Herod, can be issued forth: but we enjoy securely whatever is dear to us; and the meanest, while innocent, hath nothing to fear from the greatest. There are, at this day, countries in the world, where every thing lies at the mercy of one bad man: and on very slight provocations, not only children, but men, women and children, are instantly destroyed at the word of command.

Another point is, to take notice, for a caution to us, what amazing lengths of sin human creatures are capable of going, unless they stop themselves at first; especially when love of power and dominion hurries them on: and how possible it is for the vilest of designs to be covered, as Herod did his, with pretences of the utmost zeal for religion. Nor should we omit to remark at the same time, how painful the agitations of an evil heart must surely be, while it is working itself up to resolutions and deeds of such horror, and how terrifying its reflections afterwards. But especially we should dwell on this meditation, which arises most naturally from the subject before us, that opposing our own wisdom to that of Heaven is the grossest of all follies. Doubtless the crafty monarch, when he gave out his orders, applauded within himself more than a little the prudence of this master-stroke : and despised the cowardly politicians that have scruples, and stop at half way. But why boasteth thou thyself, thou tyrant, that thou canst do mischief, whereas the goodness of God endureth yet daily *? through that, wicked men will always fail, either of the point, at which they are aiming, or of the happiness which they expected from it. Herod failed even of the first. The infants, whom he would have wished to spare, he destroyed : the infant, whom alone he wished to destroy, escaped him. So he plunged himself into the deepest guilt, and gave up his memory to endless infamy; and got nothing by it of what he hoped. Thus was he mocked, not so properly of the wise men, though by means of them, as of God himself; according to the prediction, many ages before, concerning him, and all resembling him.

Psalm lii. 1, 2,

Why do the Heathen so furiously rage together, and the people imagine a vain thing? the kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed. He, that dwelleth in heaven, shall laugh them to scorn : the Lord shall have them in derisi on *. Nor was he disappointed only, which he might know in this life, though we are not sure he did, but called soon after, in a dreadful and exemplary manner, to his final account: dying in all the agonies of a body tortured with a complication of noisome diseases, and a soul driven to the extremity of fury and despair: as the before-mentioned historian, Josephus, whose testimony in this particular cannot be suspected, relates at large.

From such dispensations of Providence as this, and from the gracious promises of God's holy word, his Church, though tenderly affected by the wickedness of its persecutors, as well as the frequent sufferings of its members, may yet learn to look beyond both, and contemplate with triumph its own security ; the shameful defeats of the former, and, even if they appear to succeed, the glorious rewards of the latter. The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee t. Hence the days on which the Apostles and others died martyrs, have been joyfully observed as their birth-days : and shedding their blood, considered as sowing seed for the future increase of believers. Hence also the memory of these infants hath been celebrated in the assemblies of Christians from the primitive times : as we read in a work, that hath been ascribed to Origen,

* Psalm ii. 1, 2. 4.

+ Is. xxxvii. 22.

who lived 1500 years ago *. For their murder was regarded as a martyrdom undergone by them in deed, though not in will; since they lost their lives on Christ's account, and as the collect of our church for this festival expresses it, glorified God by their deaths ; were instrumental in making the birth of his son, and his watchful care of him, remarkable in the highest degree. And thus conformably to the Psalmist's word t, inserted into the same collect, God ordained strength, gave additional evidence to the Christian faith, and by so doing, perfected praise I to his holy name, even from the dying cries, which proceeded out of the mouths of these babes and sucklings.

Let us therefore likewise pay due regard to their memory : and look on it as their unspeakable happiness, that they were sent on such an account, by the tyrant's sword, to Heaven, in the morning of their days, secure from the danger of living to be wicked here, and miserable hereafter. Let us also apply the same consideration to any similar affliction of our own: for we cannot undergo a severer, and, few, if any, upon earth, have ever undergone so severe a one, as that of the poor parents of these children. Let us recollect from this instructive lesson, that the sharpest sufferings may fall on the most innocent persons; that the nearest of our relations, and dearest of our blessings, are God's property more than ourown; but that, if he takes them from us, he not only can, but, unless it be our fault, will, make us ample amends in a better world : and that therefore, though we may lawfully mourn the loss of them, yet we ought meekly to submit to it; supported by the hope of a blessed resurrection for them and ourselves; and applying to our own case, in a higher sense, what was originally said, perhaps in a lower, to Rachel, weeping for her children : thus saith the Lord, restrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears : for thy work shall be rewarded, and they shall come again from the land of the enemy

* Hom, 3. in diversos. + Psalm viii. 2. | Matth. xxi. 16.


* Jer. xxxi. 15, 16.


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