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STAR IN THE EAST.
MATTHEW II. 2.
“For we have seen his Star in the East, and are come to
WHEN, in the fullness of time, the Son of God came down from heaven to take our nature upon him, many circumstances concurred to celebrate the event, and to render it an illustrious epoch in the history of the world. It pleased the divine wisdom that the manifestation of the Deity should be distinguished by a suitable glory: and this was done by the ministry of Angels, by the ministry of men, and by the ministry of Nature herself.
First, this was done by the ministry of Angels; for an Angel announced to the shepherds "the glad tidings of great joy which should be to all people;” and a multitude of the heavenly host sang Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good-will toward men.
Secondly, It was done by the ministry of Men; for illustrious persons, divinely directed, came from a far country, to offer gifts, and to do honor to the new born king.
Thirdly, It was done by the ministry of Nature. Nature herself was commanded to bear witness to the presence of the God of Nature. A star or Divine
light, pointed out significantly from heaven the spot upon earth where the Saviour was born.
Thus, I say, it pleased the divine wisdom, by an assemblage of heavenly testimonies, to glorify the incarnation of the Son of God.
All these testimonies were appropriate; but the journey of the eastern sages had in it a peculiar fitness, we can hardly imagine a more natural mode of honouring the event than this, that illustrious persons should proceed from a far country to visit the child which was born Saviour of the world. They came, as it were, in the name of the Gentiles, to acknowledge the heavenly gift, and to bear their testimony against that nation which rejected it. They came as the representatives of the whole heathen world; not only of the heathens in the east, but also of the heathens in the west, from whom we are descended. In the name of the whole world, lying "in clarkness and in the shadow of death,” they came inquiring for that light which they had heard, was to Visit them in the fullness of time. "And the Star which they saw in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they were come into the house, they fell clown and worshipped him; and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh;” and they departed into their own country.
Do vou ask how the Star of Christ was under. stood in the east? Or why providence ordained that peculiar mode of intimation?
Christ was foretold in old prophecy, under the name of the "Star that should arise out of Jacob;" and the rise of the Star in Jacob was notified to the world, by the appearance of an actual star.
We learn from authentic Roman history, that there prevailed "in the east" a constant expectation, of a prince, who should arise out of Judea, and rule the world. That such an expectation did exist, has been
confirmed by the ancient writings of India. Whence then arose this extraordinary expectation, for it was found also in the Sybilline books of Rome?
The Jewish expectation of the Messiah had pervaded the east long before the period of his appearance. The Jews are called by their own prophet the "expecting people,”* (as it may be translated, and as some of the Jews of the east translate it) the "people looking for and expecting one to come.” Whereever, then,
the ten tribes were carried throughout the cast, they carried with them their expectation. And they carried also the prophecies on which their expectation was founded. Now one of the clearest of these prophecies runs in these words: “There shall come a Star out of Jacob.” And as in the whole dispensation concerning the Messiah, there is a wonderful fitness between the words of prophecy and the person spoken of, so it pleased the divine wisdom that the rise of the Star in Jacob should be announced to the world by the appearance of an actual Star (for by what other means could the great event be more significantly communicated to the remote parts of the earth) and this actual Star, in itself a proper emblem of that “light which was to lighten the Gentilcs,” conducted them to him who was called in a figure the Star of Jacob, and the "glory of his people Israel;” and who hath said of himself,(Rev. xxii. 16) "I, Jesus, am the bright and morning Star."
But again, why was the east thus honoured? Why was the east, and not the west, the scene of these transactions. The east was the scene of the first revelation of God. The fountains of inspiration were first opened in the east. And, after the flood, the first family of the new world was planted in the east; I mean the east in relation to Judea. Besides, millions of the human race inhabit that portion of the
•13- xviii. 2. “The people meted oub," in our translation. 4 The Jews used to speak or their Messiah under the appellation of Bar Cocabr or "the Son of the Star;” and (alse Christs actually assumed that name.
globe. The chief population of the world is in these regions. And in the middle of them the Star of Christ first appeared. And, led by it, the wise men passed through many nations, tongues, and kindreds, before they arrived at Judea in the west; bearing tidings to the world that the Light was come, that the “Desire of all nations” was come. Even to Jerusalem herself they brought the first intimation that her long expected Messiah was come.
Now, my brethren, as the east was honoured in the first age, in thus pointing out the Messiah to the world; so now again, after a long interval of darkness, it is bearing witness to the truth of his religion; not indeed by the shining of a star; but by affording luminous evidence of the divine origin of the Christian faith. It affords evidence, not only of the general truth of its history, but of its peculiar doctrines; and not of its doctrines merely, but of the divine power of these doctrines in convincing the understandings and converting the hearts of men. And in this sense it is, that "we have seen “his Star in the East, and are come to worship him."
And when these evidences shall have been laid before you, you will see that the time is come for diffusing His religion throughout the world; you will "offer gifts” in His name for the promotion of the work; and you will offer up prayers in its behalf, “that God would be pleased to make his ways known, his saving health "unto all nations."
In this discourse, we propose to lay before you,
1st. Evidences of the general truth of the Chris. tian religion, existing in the east.
2dly. Evidences of the divine power of that religion, exemplified in the east.
I. The general truth of the Christian religion is illustrated by certain evidences in the east. Of these we shall mention the following:
1. Ancient writings of India, containing particulars of the history of Christ.