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pears was given Him in His cradle, and which was afterwards inscribed upon His cross.
In both instances, this title was refused to Him by the Jews, and given to Him by the Gentiles. They said, that they had seen His star when they were in the East ; a star which they conceived to announce the birth of some great Personage, and which seemed to point to Judea as the place of His nativity. Under this title, Balaam, who is said to have come from Aram, out of the East, prophesied of the coming of Christ, There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel. Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion.69 Whether these wise men from the East were acquainted with the prophecy of Balaam or not, cannot be ascertained. The wonderful phenomenon in the heavens, however, filled their minds with awe of the Mighty One whose birth it signified to them; and they set out in quest of Him with such presents as they considered to be suitable to His dignity, and to offer Him the homage that was due. Heathen writers mention, that a report prevailed very widely throughout the world about this time, that a great Personage was to be born in Judea, whose dominion would be very extensive, who would subdue all the surrounding nations to His authority. This general expectation of the advent of the Messiah showed that the appointed time was at hand. The prophet Daniel, who had filled the highest post of honour in the Persian court, and whose prophecies might possibly have been published there, had marked the time of His coming so exactly, that it could not be misunderstood.70 And it may be presumed that the Sovereign of the country, where the star appeared, thus transmitted His acknowledgment of the supremacy of the glorious Personage who had given to the world this sign of His appearance.
69 Numbers xxxii. 7, xxiv, 17, 19.
The effect produced upon King Herod was of a very different kind. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. He feared that his usurped authority was about to come to a speedy end; and he was in great consternation at the birth of one who was styled the King of the Jews ; and he at once determined secretly to rid himself of so formidable a rival as he supposed this new-born child to be. He was aware that the Jewish nation was in expectation of the coming of their Messiah ; that there were reports current among them on the subject. And he feared that he should at all events be dispossessed of his kingdom, in case the new-born child were permitted to arrive at years of maturity. He therefore gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, and demanded of them where Christ should be born. Being acquainted with the prophecies of the Old Testament, they answered him out of the prophecy of Micah. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea : for thus it is written by the prophet,71 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. When Herod had obtained this information, he seems to have been afraid lest the inquiry of the wise men after the new-born King of the Jews should be noised abroad among the people; and therefore, when he had privily called the wise men, he inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared; that he might know exactly when the supposed Messiah was born, and might be the more sure of accomplishing his murderous designs. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young
70 Daniel ix. 24, 25.
child, and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also. The cruel King thought that by keeping in his own breast his wicked intentions, he should be able to effect the destruction of the new-born infant, without
other person being aware of it; and
71 Micah v. 2.
thus rid himself of a rival, without exciting any disturbance among the people. But the eye of Omniscience was upon him, was aware of all his designs, observed all his proceedings, and in due time disappointed his crafty schemes.
The wise men hastened to Bethlehem. When they had heard the King they departed; and lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding joy. They followed its direction, rejoicing at the goodness of God in again giving them a sight of it, and thus assuring them that they were in the right way. And notwithstanding they found that the Messiah was unknown at the court of Herod, and that His pretensions did not meet with favour there ; and although when they arrived at Bethlehem they saw Him surrounded with every mark of poverty; yet as soon as they came into His presence, they fell down and worshipped Him. When they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Thus, on behalf of the Gentiles, these wise men from the East did homage to Him, who, it had been declared by the aged and devout Simeon, was a Light to lighten the
Gentiles, as well as the glory of His people Israel.74 They were afterwards warned of God in a dream, that they should not return to Herod, to give him the information which he had required from them, in order that he might put in execution his wicked designs; and therefore they departed into their own country another way ; and so disappointed his expectations, and frustrated his schemes as far as they were able to do it.
But let us consider more particularly the conduct of the wise men as it is described in the text. Having been the first Gentiles who came to do honour to our most adorable Redeemer on His appearing in our lower world, the manner in which they acted towards Him is the more remarkable. It is mentioned in a twofold point of view. Here is
First, The homage they did to Him, and
First, The homage they did to Him is recorded. They fell down and worshipped Him. It is not said that they acted thus towards King Herod, although it was customary to pay peculiar marks of outward reverence to the eastern monarchs. But they paid this homage to the infant Jesus, and thereby showed that they acknowledged Him to be not only King of the
72 Luke ii. 32.