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The source of Matthew's "star" is evident. It is to be found in the prophecy of Balaam' (Numbers, xxiv. ch.17 v.) “A star shall come out of Jacob." The legend attributed to Balaam originally referred to some fortunate and victorious ruler of Israel; but Aben Ezra, and many Rabbins, show that the prophecy was applied to the Messiah. The name Bar-cocheba, son of a star, assumed by a noted pseudo-Messiah under the emperor Adrian, was chosen with reference to the Messianic interpretation of Balaam's prophecy. It is not only a rabbinical idea that at the time of Messiah's birth, a star will appear in the east and remain for a long time visible; but, in Christ's time, this idea was especially prevalent. The ancient magus Balaam, by the spiritual eye, saw the Messianic star, the Jews believed ; and its actual appearance must be recognised by the late magi. In the 60th chapter of Isaiah, again, Matthew found abundant mythic materialsthe “light,” and “kings" coming to the “brightness of his rising," with “ gifts. Accordingly, the Roman Catholic Church has converted the Magi into the Three Kings. But I will not weary you with farther enlargement on this legend.
The murderous decree of Herod has its mythical origin--(for you all know there is no contemporaneous evidence of its being a real event)-in the story of Moses. This story, in Christ's time, according to Josephus, was, that Pharoah was incited to issue his murderous decree by a communication from his interpreters of the sacred writings, who announced to him the birth of an infant destined to succour the Israelites and humble the Egyptians. For an instance of the wildly arbitrary mode in which 'prophecy' was applied to after events, let any one turn to Jeremiah, (xxxi. ch. 15 v.) and see if he can, any way, discover why “A voice was heard in Ramah, &c.," could be used by Matthew for the end to which he applies it, in this imaginary story. In Jeremiah, it refers to the carrying away of the Jews into Babylon.
“Out of Egypt have I called my son'-the passage quoted from Hosea (xi. ch. 1 v.) gives the mythical source of Matthew's legend, at another stage. The passage, if you turn to it, originally alludes to Israel-Jehovah's collective son—a grand type of the Messiah. Messiah-so Matthew' decided-must fulfil that type; and therefore the "Flight,' had first to be pictured. This loose manner of applying passages in a secondary sense was characteristic of the Jews : abundant instances of it occur in the rabbins; and you have a remarkable one in the Epistle to the Hebrews (i. ch. 5 v.) in which the words-“Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee" -are applied (from Psalm ii. v. 7.) in a mode that, to us, seems utterly unaccountable.
But the appearing of the angel to Joseph in Egypt, commanding him to return—which has to be followed by a second divine revelation, when Joseph arrives nearly at Bethlehem--shocks us with its trifling. A miraculous star, and four visions, in one chapter! Does this legend honour the Deity ? So many false interpretations of the Old Testament-are they proofs of “plenary inspiration ?" One quotation we cannot verify-the closing sentence in the 2nd chapter of Matthew,-“He shall be called a Nazarene.” There is no such sentence in the Old Testament.
Is it possible, however—to return to the events, so apparently varying, recorded by Matthew and Luke-to bring them into anything like accordance ? Matthew ranges in close succession the visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt. Luke represents the parents of Jesus as returning with
the child, after the presentation in the temple, directly to Nazareth. Could the presentation have taken place before the visit of the Magi? How, then, after the scene narrated as having taken place in the temple, could the birth of the Messianic child be so entirely unknown in Jerusalem as the conduct of Herod, on the arrival of the Magi, implies ? Did the presentation take place after the Magi had seen the child ? How incredible that Joseph should be permitted to go to Jerusalem, with the child which Herod had just sought to kill! Still more incredible is it that the parents of Jesus should have returned to Bethlehem after the presentation in the temple. The two narratives are plainly irreconcilable -- we have seen that each separate circumstance in them is derived from mythical ideas-and, there. fore, can form but one conclusion: that the whole tissue of contradictions has no foundation in real history.
Where is it most probable, Christ was born ?-is a question we still cannot forbear to ask; nor can the answer be very doubtful. We have seen that the supposed prophecy in Micah rendered it certain, in the minds of the Jews, that Messiah must be born in Bethlehem; but Nazareth was positively known to have been the residence of Jesus and his parents, when he first came into public life. Matthew assumes that the parents must have originally lived in Bethlehem, and only conducts them to settle down in Nazareth, by divine warning. Luke takes Nazareth to have been, all along, the dwelling-place of Joseph and Mary,-and seizes upon the census of Quirinus as a cause for taking them to Bethlehem, temporarily. Setting aside the mythical necessity existing in the Jewish mind, for the birth of Jesus, as the promised Messiah, in the city of David—we can scarcely fail to conclude that Nazareth was Christ's birth-place. “The Galilean," " the Nazarene,” were the epithets constantly applied to Jesus, in early times. As "Jesus of Nazareth,” he is introduced (according to John) by Philip to Nathanael, who asks “ Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?". He is known among the populace by this name, and the demoniacs address him by this name. The inscription on the cross gives him this name, and by it the Apostles proclaim him after his supposed resurrection. His disciples, too, were long called “ Nazarenes,” and it was not until a late period, that that title was exclusively applied to an heretical sect. In a word, Nazareth is again and again mentioned as his country; and it was, most probably, the place where he was born, as well as brought up.
6. Lastly, Matthew is silent about the life of Jesus, from the return out of Egypt to the baptism by John; but Luke gives us an anecdote of Christ's conduct while in his twelfth year. The extraordinary position he fills toward the doctors, in Luke's narrative, is far out-stripped in marvellous details by the Apocryphal Gospels. The state of wonder ascribed to his parents by Luke resembles, however, the pictures in those writings. Wher. Jesus speaks of the House of God, his Father,--they do not understand him; and yet Mary must have understood bim, if the angel had ever appeared to her, and told her that her child should be called the “Son of God ;'--and if all the supernatural warnings, before related, had ever been given concerning him. But Moses, Samuel, Solomon, and Daniel, all displayed singular wisdom, and received great marks of divine favour, in their twelfth year, according to Josephus, Philo, and the Rabbins. It would, therefore, be a foregone conclusion with the early disciples of Jesus, that, as the Messiah, he could not have been excelled by such remarkable types of himself.
( To be concluded in next number.)
ADVANTAGES OF KNOWLEDGE.—As the power of acquiring knowledge is to be ascribed to reason, so the attainment of it mightily strengthens and improves it, and thereby enables it to enrich itself with further acquisitions. Knowledge in general expands the mind, exalts the faculties, refines the taste of pleasure, and opens numerous sources of intellectual enjoyment. By means of it we become less dependent for satisfaction upon the sensitive appetites, the gross pleasures of sense are more easily despised, and we are made to feel the superiority of the spiritual to the material part of our nature. Instead of being continnally solicited by the influence and irritation of sensible objects, the mind can retire within herself and expatiate in the cool and quiet walks of contemplation.- Robert Hall.
ON THE DIFFUSION OF KNOWLEDGE.- When knowledge, instead of being bound up in books, and kept in libraries and retirement, is obtruded on the pubiic in distinct sheets; when it is canvassed in every assembly, and exposed upon cvery table, I cannot forbear reflecting upon that passage in the Proverbs : “Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets : she crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the opening of the gates. In the city she uttereth her words, saying, how long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity ? and the scorners delight in their scorning and fools hate knowledge ?”—Spectator.
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TO LORD DUDLEY STUART, M.P.
“ If your demand have reason for its ground,
Cavaliers and Roundheads. MY LORD,—You have so long and fearlessly braved the sneers and opposition of your own class, in defence of the exiled Poles, and your championship of the cause of Hungary was so manly, during her recent struggles, that no one can doubt your moral courage to maintain, openly and without reserve, any great principles which take a firm hold of your convictions. You, as well as Lord Nugent, have repeatedly declared on the public platform, that you would prefer Manhood, to Household Suffrage ; and yet you, also, consent to merge your preference in the smaller rallying cry of the new Reform party. The thousands of the Unfranchised, I repeat, cannot see the consistency of this; and you will fail, therefore, to gain their entire confidence. They may be told, over and over again, that you and others would go for Manhood Suffrage at once, only you fear the Middle Classes would not go with you. But their conviction remains, that the Middle Classes might soon be induced to go for Manhood Suffrage, if men like yourself would lead the way, by throwing aside all expediency. Let me entreat you, my lord, to weigh these thoughts of my Order: they are the convictions of thousands of the most thoughtful among them, who have long marked how readily the sharers in property are disposed to be marshalled under names which wear the lustre of rank and station.
A conference of the new Reform party is announced to take place in March. If yourself and the respected and intelligent nobleman I have just mentioned were to introduce a motion into that assembly, for the adoption of Manhood Suffrage, by your Association,-you would, at least, test the sincerity of the majority of its council ; for it is given out, on every hand, by members of that council, that its majority is for Manhood Suffrage. Surely, if their professions be sincere, they could not refuse to support such a motion at the conference ; and their opinions must needs have great weight with the entire assembly of delegates.
Many of us who have borne a part in the struggle against class legislation for some years, cherish a hope that your Association will yet determine to give Unity, which is strength, to the contest for the Franchise in this country. Abroad, as your lordship well knows, Universal or Manhood Suffrage is held by all true liberals, to be the only proper foundation of a free and popular government. In none of the recent triumphs of freedom on the continent—unhappily so short-lived !-did the people hesitate to achieve less. And who can expect men of any intelligence, in this countıy, so long the boasted“ native home of Liberty,” to be behind the men of the continent in their demands ? Who can expect the working-classes who have taught their children to look for the realisation of those free political institutions contended for by Sir William Jones, the Duke of Richmond, and a long line of other illustrious men in the last century ; by the upright and persevering Cartwright in the present; and since his time by many whose virtues would, at least, bear a comparison with those of their opponents and oppressors—who can expect the working-classes to give up these hopes ? Through weal and woe they have cherished them. They have been driven from employment, they have been proscribed as disturbers, they have been imprisoned as conspirators and sowers of sedition ; but their resolution to maintain these hopes is unbroken. They know no other creed in politics that they think worth belief; for it seems to them a mockery to talk of “freedom,” if it be not possessed by every honest, upgrown man, in the possession of his senses; and they feel it would be consenting to tyranny and injustice to deny to their equals what they ask for themselves. This is their plain English sense, my lord, and you cannot say their reasonings are far-fetched.
The Times is now twitting Reformers with their plurality of Charters,' and while acknowledging its clear conviction that Parliamentary Reform will be won, sensibly points to our divisions, as · Four,' 'Five,' or 'Six Point' men, as infallible signs of a prolonged contest for victory. It remains with yourself, and a few other influential names, to bring over the new party to your avowed convictions; and UNITY is gained. The millions in the manufacturing districts must ever form the numerical strength of any great movement for Reform : these are now waiting to hear “ Manhood Suffrage” pronounced as the true and only watchword in your councils, and they will re-echo the cry with an instantaneous vigour and united earnestness which will not only make the Times change its tone, but will produce a healthy foresight in the advisers of the Crown, as to what is needful to be done. There, again, an argument is suggested why our demand for the Suffrage should not be modified into something less than the People have so long embodied in their · Charter.' It is confidently stated in a paper held to be an authority, that the present Minis. try will introduce a measure for the extension of the Franchise at the very opening of the ensuing Session of Parliament,—nay, that the Queen will announce it in her speech from the throne. When the enemy hangs out the flag of capitulation, should the beseigers stipulate for less than they demanded when the beseiged remained resolute in hostility? And has not the present Premier openly declared that he would prefer Universal to Household Suffrage ? Do not, in the name of common-sense, suffer these presages of approaching success to be turned into a partial defeat,-if earnest presuasion on your part can inspire the new division of the army of Reform to give us Unity, and, by consequence, speedy victory.
Above all, these indications of concession on the part of those who hold power should, one would think, determine Reformers to spurn the delays involved in the Freehold Land' scheme. Years must pass, even if workingmen in the populous districts should be favoured with prosperity, before i they could become possessed of the franchise by the purchase of land, in sufficient numbers to return a commanding majority of thorough reformers to the House