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Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, (because he was of the house and lineage of David,) to be taxed with Mary, his espoused wife. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace; good will towards men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it, wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these
things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
The records of nations cannot furnish a parallel in importance to the event here recorded. Many a Pharisee, many a man of eminence, among the crowd who now filled Bethlehem, passed thoughtlessly by the humble resting place, which yielded its poor accommodations to Mary and her infant. In after days too, many a ruler of the people would have felt himself dishonoured by a comparison with Jesus. But what is earthly power or wealth, in the sight of God? The multitude who then thronged Bethlehem have passed away, and their names have no longer an existence in the memory of man; nor would a vestige remain to prove that they had once assembled, but for the connexion of the incident with the birth of that child. And of those crowds who turned superciliously away from the instructions of Jesus, the remembrance has passed from the earth. Their very denominations of Pharisee and Sadducee, are famous only from their incidental occurrence in the history of the man of Nazareth. Oh Thou who seest not as man seeth, teach us to use candor and deliberation, when we judge from outward appearances! Teach us cheerfully to dispense, if need be, with the luxuries of life, and never to pride ourselves on their possession; remembering that Jesus, our holy Master, was born in the humble manger of an inn; remembering that he, whose name Thou hast exalted above every name, had scarcely, even in the hour of tenderest infancy, "where to lay his head!"
MILTON, (altered by Dr. Gardiner.)
No war or battle's sound
Was heard the world around,
No hostile chiefs to furious combat ran;
In which the Prince of light
His reign of peace upon the earth began.
The shepherds on the lawn,
In social circle sat, while all around
Or cropped the flowery food,
Or slept, or sported on the verdant ground.
When lo! with ravished ears,
Sweet music, offspring of no mortal hand;
Answering the stringed noise,
With blissful rapture charmed the listening band.
They saw a glorious light
Burst on their wond'ring sight.
Harping in solemn choir, in robes arrayed,
The helmed cherubim,
And sworded seraphim
Are seen in glitt'ring ranks, with wings displayed.
Sounds of so sweet a tone
Before were never known,
But when of old the sons of morning sung,
While God disposed in air
Each constellation fair,
And the well balanced world on hinges hung.
"Hail, hail, auspicious morn!
(Such was the immortal seraph's song sublime,)
To man sweet peace be given,
PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE.
LUKE II. 22.
AND they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. And the Holy Ghost was upon him; and it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law; then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And his father and mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set
for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also ;) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years; and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she, coming in that instant, gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
"Lord, now, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!" Excellent old man! Were we asked the cause of our unwillingness to die, how various would be the reasons assigned. We are not prepared ;—we have not we think, enjoyed the fullness of this world's blessings ;-we fear;-and a cloud of doubt, which even our christian belief does not entirely dispel, comes between us and the light of immortality. With Simeon it was not so. He waited but for one blessing more;-to see the consolation of Israel; and his wish was granted. His cup of joy was full; the Saviour had come; the "light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Israel" had appeared; and now the old man looked to God in perfect, fearless confidence, ready to depart in peace, to pass quietly from the anticipation to the full enjoyment of heaven. How happy is the death of him who is alike the friend of God and man! He looks round on earth, and sees Almighty goodness employed in promoting those best interests of his