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new and singular heavenly body at the birth of Christ. But there is the strongest reason to believe that the star which appeared to the wise men was not a fixed, nor a regular planetary, orb.*

God, who ordained it for a special purpose, disposed the minds of the Magi to fulfil that purpose, by creating among them an enthusiasm with regard to the wonderful sign in the west. Night after night, perhaps, they watched the stranger, till, at length, all doubt that it heralded a royal birth departed. It hung in the west toward Judea, the region where they had been expecting that a great king would soon appear; and their long-cherished interest in that event was greatly quickened by the special appointment, as it were, of a messenger which seemed to beckon them. They could not resist the divine call. No more would they watch the Pleiades, till they had followed after that new star. Arcturus and his sons might, for a season, measure their zone, the crooked Serpent sweep through his orbit, and the sworded Orion lie along the sky, unheeded, as to any prophetic signs in their spheres. The Star of Jacob was then in the ascendant, and filled the thoughts of the wise men; and so, impelled by an

* See "The Star of the Wise Men, being a Commentary on the second Chapter of Matthew, by Richard Chevenix Trench, B. D.;" to which valuable treatise I am greatly indebted in revising this Sermon for the press.

invisible hand, a company of them commenced a pilgrimage toward Jerusalem.

Interesting men! We love you as we follow your caravan in its dreary way along the beaten road or pathless wastes. None ever braved the desert for an object so great as that which excites your zeal.

The presence of a deputation of Magi from the east, in Jerusalem, asking, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" moved the whole city. No doubt the Magi expected to find Jerusalem excited with joy at the birth of the new king. "We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him;" to join with you in your joy, and bring you the congratulations of the eastern world.

Herod the Great was now in the thirty-fifth year of his reign. The appearance of a successor independently of him, of course, filled him with consternation; and whatever disturbed him, especially if it were the prospect of being supplanted, would fill Jerusalem with apprehensions of political disturbance, inasmuch as the Magi might prove to be the representatives of some combination in behalf of a new civil power.

So far was Herod from knowing that Christ was born, that he called the Jewish scribes, (for he was an Edomite,) and inquired of them what place their sacred books named as the Messiah's birthplace. It appears strange, perhaps, that, having ascertained

this, he did not take secret measures to find and slay the infant, instead of waiting, as he proposed, for the Magi to return. For, though Herod was desperately wicked, all agree that he was a shrewd man, and of no common ability in the management of affairs. His shrewdness and tact are seen in this very transaction. He called the wise men privily, that his interest in the object of their mission might not be generally known. The only inquiry which he made of them was one which indicated no hostile purpose; while, bent as he was on finding and destroying the infant, he was employing the very best means to effect his object.

Had he sent forth messengers at once to find and slay the child, he could hardly hope to succeed, with nothing to point out which of the infants then in Bethlehem was the child sought, and with the risk, also, of giving alarm to the friends of the child in season to ensure its safety. Honorable men from the east, seeking the child "to worship him," would be far more likely to find him. "Go," said he, "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." But this cunning and well-contrived arrangement, hiding a bloody purpose, enabled the wise men to fulfil the object for which God brought them from their far country.

And now the star which had beckoned them to

Judea, and which, perhaps, they did not expect to see any more after their entrance into Jerusalem,


came and stood over the place where the young child was." Words cannot express more intense feelings than the original of the passage which follows: "And when they saw the star, they joyed a great joy very much." The morning star of their hope had become the evening star of their desire accomplished. That lost guide, in confidence of whose truthful promise they had trod the desert, perhaps in conflict with many doubts, lest, after all, some meteor had only shone to bewilder and deceive them - behold, that kind friend, that faithful lighthouse, shines forth again, and, instead of tracking a way for them into far distant regions, it comes and rests very low, no higher, perhaps, than the smoke which curls from our chimneys, over the place where the young child was. They need not go from street to street, and from house to house, nor tax their patience, nor exercise their faith, any more. It was as though "Immanuel" were emblazoned on the door, or "King of kings and Lord of lords" were written on the wall.

The question whether this star were an orb of heaven, or a special sign created for this purpose, it would seem, must be removed, when we consider its position over the dwelling where the child was. It is plain that one of the regular heavenly bodies

could not point to one dwelling more than to another.

From the three kinds of gifts which they presented, many have supposed that the number of the Magi was three. The Nestorian church generally taught that it was twelve. Three was the number ascribed to them in the prevailing traditions; names also being given to them, as, among others, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar. They were held to be kings, representing the grand divisions of men— Melchior being put for Shem, Gaspar for Ham, and Balthazar for Japhet. This explains the Ethiopian complexion given to one of them in the pictures of the "Adoration." The passages which are so uniformly regarded as being fulfilled by them, " And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising," (Isa. lx. 3,) and “The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents, the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts," (Ps. lxxii. 10,) have given rise to the belief that they were kings, and accordingly the Feast of Epiphany was, in the middle ages, most commonly called the Feast of the Three Kings. The literature which has been connected with this brief account by Matthew, of the wise men, is hardly exceeded in variety by that of any other part of the New Testament. Cologne, upon the Rhine, the "City of the Three Kings," claims to possess their relics, and has given them a

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