Imatges de pÓgina

In his admirable paraphrase of the nineteenth Psalm, Addison says of the stars,

"In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
Forever singing, as thwy shine.

"The hand that made us is divine !' " Whatever the intention of Luke may have been, when he wrote the account of the angel-music; whether he related a professedly true story he had somewhere heard, or devised an allegory,-1, of course, cannot tell. But only as an allegory do I believe his statement.

I think it very probable that what Matthew says* concerning the star in the east” that guided the "wise men" to the place where Jesus was born, had its origin in a belief of Astrology; which was once very extensively prevalent. The ancients were accustomed to attribute the success of a distinguished and prosperous individual to his fortunate horoscope ; and on the other hand, they ascribed one's ill-luck to the evil stars, which (as they believed) ruled at the hour of his birth.

It was a beautiful, though superstitious idea, which was once extensively cherished in many parts of Great Britain, that about Christmas-time the nights were unusually free from the disturbing influences of ill-boding stars. To this pleasant whim Shakspeare refers, in these charming lines:

“Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no sprite dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then sO PLANETS STRIKE;
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charın,

So hallowed and so gracious is the time.”+
Matt. ii. 2, 7, 9, 10. + Hamlet, Acti, scene 18t.

Some traces of the influence of Astrology, in modern times, might be pointed out. There are in our midst a few lingering remnants of the coloring and moulding of speech, if not of thought, produced by that old system of star-divination. Sometimes, upon the occurrence of a lucky event, we hear a person exclaim, “Bless my stars.' or,

« Thank the stars!"

When I consider the strong hold which Astrology once obtained upon the belief and reverence of eastern nations, and bear in mind that the Jews doubtless expected to see a star when their Messias should come, in accordance with their interpretation of what Balaam said ;* I am not surprised that a story of the actual appearance of such a luminary, about the time of Christ's birth, should gradually come into being, and after a while be generally accredited.

We are told that when the wise men went in search of the infant-Jesus, "the star went before them, till it came and stood over where the


was."| If this star was one of the planetary host, it could not have “stood over" Bethlehem long; for, in a few hours, the earth in its diurnal course must have whirled that little town away out of the view of many whole constellations which were seen when the guiding star first arose.

Several commentators have supposed that the "star" alluded to was a meteor created expressly for the occasion. It is mentioned by Matthew only.

* Numbers, xxiv. 17. Mail. ii. 9.

No doubt many would be shocked at the idea of denying that Christ was distinctly and specifically prophesied in the Old Testament. Of those who may possibly deem me in error in the opinion I have expressed on this subject, I have one question to ask. Will you please refer me to the book, chapter and verse, of the Old Testament, wherein may be found any thing like a prophecy of the Resurrection and the Ascension?

If Jewish prophets were endowed with power to foretell the coming of Jesus, several centuries before he made his appearance, is it not likely that they would have been able to predict the most important particulars in relation to his mission on the earth? We are repeatedly told that the Resurrection is one of the most vitally important events alleged to have taken place concerning him. By some, a man who disbelieves this is denied all rightful claim to the title of Christian. And yet, not the shadow of a prediction of this, or of the Ascension, can be found in any part of the Old Testament !

Some writers, I am well aware, point to the reckoning of Daniel about the seventy weeks," &c.; and then endeavor, by the aid of jumping guesses concerning the import of the term “weeks,” to render it apparent that Christ cime at just the time foretold. To make this

appear, several things are taken for granted, without the slightest attempt to furnish satisfactory proof. All the reasoning of this kind that I have met with, savors more strongly of assumption than of clear demonstration. It is, to me, no more plausible than much of the whimsical

reckoning of William Miller; who finds in the career of Napoleon an exact fulfilment of the last part of the eleventh chapter of Daniel, and has recently, if I am correctly informed, announced that he discerns a consummation of some of the old prophecies, in Messrs. Polk & Co.'s late riot, down in Mexico !

There are those who contend that a disbelief of a part of the New Testament, is equivalent to a rejection of the whole. Say they, If we may discard the miraculous narratives concerning Jesus, we have no reasonable grounds for believing that such a person as he ever existed. Then, by the same parity of reasoning, if we disbelieve the supernatural wonders of the Koran, we have no evidence that there ever was such a person as Mahomet. Yet who doubts that he once existed, that he taught many good principles, and was on the whole a remarkable personage?

The idea I am endeavoring to refute, if it have any force, amounts to this: that we cannot properly exercise discrimination in regard to any history of the past, (even if some parts contradict each other) but must either receive the whole, as true in every particular; or reject it all, as entirely false. If I were to adopt a rule like this, I should have but little reason to accredit the best histories of the United States; for the two prominent historians, Bancroft and Graham, are at variance with each other, in some important respects; and learned men take sides with both !

Some statements in the Gospels might be modified, perhaps, without doing any injustice to the original intention of their authors. Of such, may perhaps be reckoned the assertion that Jesus “fasted forty days and forty nights,” while tarrying in the wilderness, previous to his being "tempted of the devil."* We have no reason for believing that a human being could subsist for that length of time without partaking of material food. Why, then, should we be required to accept the evangelist's statement, merely on his authority ?

Universalists and Unitarians, and some others, regard the detailed conversation which we are certified took place between Jesus and Satan, as all figurative, and as intended simply to convey the idea that various seducing thoughts and suggestions arose in the mind of the former, while he reflected upon what outward glory he might attain if he would but minister to the superstitious thirst of the Jewish people, &c.

If we may allegorize the plain statements that he was "tempted of Satan," with whom he conversed, and to whom he said, “Get thee behind me,” &c., why may we not rightfully modify the phrase "forty days and forty nights,” and consider it as used only in an indefinite and proverbial sense,–intended merely to imply several days?

According to the Apocryphal New Testament, Joachim, (the reputed grandfather of Jesus, on his mother's side) on a certain occasion, "retired into the wilderness,

* Matt. iv. 1, 2. Luke, iv. 2.

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