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1. That while these shepherds were busy in their calling, God sent his angel to them; and that,
Neither was there any cer
The famous Jefuit-chronotain tradition about the years logist, who fixes the birth of of Christ. For the christians Christ in the year of the who first began to enquire in- world 3984, acknowledges, to these things, as Clement he has only conjecture to supof Alexandria,, Origen, Ter- port his calculation,-majori tullian, Julius Africanus, Lac- ex parte conjetura nititur. tantius, Jerom, S. Austin, Petavius, lib. i. ep. 2. ad Sulpicius Severus, Prosper, Arnold. Cathium. and as many as place the death The learned Fabricius gives of Christ in the 15th or 16th a catalogue of one hundred year of
perius, make Christ and thirty-fix different opito have preached but one year, nions concerning the year of or at most but two. At length the birth of Christ. He supEusebius discovered four suc- poses, that Jesus was born in cessive passovers in the gospel the year of the world 4000 : of John, and thereupon set on but adds, “ it is impossible foot an opinion that he preach- to know certainly the number ed three years and an half, of days or years from the beand fo died in the 19th year ginning of the world to the of Tiberius. Others placed birth of Christ without a parhis death in the 17th and ticular revelation from hea20th years. Neither is there ven--citra peculiarem revelaany greater certainty in the tionem divinam.” Fabricii opinions about the time of Bibliograph. Antiq. cap. vii. his birth. The first christians f. 9, 10. De Script. Chronol. placed his baptism near the It seems, at firft fight, very beginning of the 15th year of easy to fix, at least, the year Tiberius: and thence reckon- of the birth of our Saviour ; ing thirty years backwards for S. Matthew says, chap. ii. placed his birth in the 43d 1. he was born in the reign of Julian year, the 42d of Au- Herod. And S. Luke adds, guftus, and 28th of the Ac- chap: ü. 23. 1. he began to tiac victory. This opinion be about thirty years of age obtained till (the year 527 in the fifteentb year of the when)Dionyfius Exiguus mis reign of Tiberius. There is, interpreting Luke üi. 23. in. however, a difference of sevented the vulgar account. veral years in the calculations There is therefore relating to of learned men. No questhese things no tradition worth tion in chronology has been confidering." Sir Isaac Newton more disputed. Difficulties on Dan. Ebap. iiib.
however simple and mean the employments of men may be, it is always very pleasing to God when they discharge them with a good conscience. (4)
arise from contemporary wri- placed it in January --Waters---from medals---from the genseil in February---Bochart meaning of the words of St. in March---some, mentioned Luke üi. 23—from what by Clement of Alexandria, writers of those times do say in April-.-others in May--concerning decisive articles, Epiphanius speaks of some, the taxing of Auguftus, the who placed it in June---and government of Cyrenius, the of others, who supposed it to taking of Jerusalem by He- have been in July---Wagenrod, the death of this prince, seil, who was not sure of the year of the crucifixion, February, fixed it probably in the deftru&tion of Jerusalem, Auguft--Lightfoot on the 15th &c.---And from what they do of September---Scaliger, Canot say, the time from which faubon, and Calvisius in Oce the reign of Tiberius is to be tober---Others in November--reckoned, the time of the be- But the Latin church, being ginning of Herod's reign, infallible in judgment, and &c. &c. A divine may make supreme in power, has sethimself and his flock quite tled the matter by declaring, easy on this article. A point that Jesus Christ had two nain chronology is not an object tivities, one before the world of saving faith, nor is the began of his deity of the faobservation of a festival of ther, the other of his humahuman apointment, and of nity of the virgin on the doubtful time, any part ofthat twenty-fifth of December. See holiness, without which we Labbæi Concil. Fabricii, Bibcannot see the Lord.
liot. Antiq. cap. x. Jesus Christ was not born in (4) God is pleased when men December, for it is an improper discharge the duties of theircalltime to keep flocks in the night. ing. A proper attention to Vossius has shewn, that it can- this plain but useful truth not be inferred, from the would have prevented that fhepherds watching their scandal of chriftianity, a moflocks by night in the open nastic life. The reformation field, that Chrift was not born of this abuse will be an eterin December. De Nat. Chrifti. nal praise to the reformers,
The birth of Christ has and the protection of it a perbeen placed in every month petual reproach to the church in the year. The Egyptians of Rome.
2. God does in regard to men what these shepherds did in regard to their sheep. He is the Great Shepherd of mankind, watching over them by his providence. He had his eyes upon these men, and,
Monks are divided by some Monachism is said by an into three classes. The first are excellent church-historian to Eremits, or Hermits, who live have proceeded from myftic alone in woods or deserts by theology, and this from plathemselves. Anchorites fhut tonic philosophy, the docthemselves up in cells. Ce- trines of christianity being nobites, who are properly proposed to the people with a monks, live in companies, as mixture of abstract reasonings in colleges, and have all and fubtile inventions, conthings common. Bellarm. de trary to the native purity and Monach. I. ii. cap. 3. fimplicity, with which they
Their rise in the christian were originally explained. church is placed in the third Mosheim's Eccl. Hift. cent. iii. century,they were formed into p. 2. ch. 3. a regular body by Antony in We have a great controthe fourth, and in successive versy with the church of Rome ages became innumerable,be- on this article, concerning ing divided into different or- christian perfection---precepts ders, Augustines, Carme- ---counsels --- vows--
-- volunlites, Carthusians,Franciscans, tary poverty.--devoted obeDominicans, Celestines, and dience to superiors in matters so on. Our divines apply to- of conscience---vows of conthem Rev. ix. 3. a swarm of tinence --- parental rights--locufts for their number and conjugal rights---civil rights waite---on account of their ---canonical hours-peculiar pernicious origin and end, habits, &c. &c. Synopsis PaTaid to come out of the bottom- pismi And. Willet. cont. 6. less pit---and for their spirit The Jews tell us a very reof persecution accounted in- markable providence in favour fects of battle, with fings in of their nation, and a very their tails.---The first monks ingenious and agreeable turn were harmless fanatics, who on a passage of Scripture fol. lived by labour; the later forts lows in consequence of it, had the riches of princes, with « A certain king of Portugal exceflive power and enormous could not sleep one night, and vices, so that the church of he rose and walked on the Rome itself has been obliged balcony of his palace. It was to reform, or rather to restrain moon-light, and his majesty them.
seeing two men throw the
in a proper and seasonable time gave them an angelical envoy as a token of his love. It is of great use both to direct our duty and to comfort our hearts, to remember that what we are in our vocation God is to us. A father called to conduct his family ought to remember that God himself is his father. A magistrate exalted above the people should also consider that God is his master, and so of other professions. This on the one hand would engage us to discharge our duties well, if we would enjoy the blessings of providence ; and on the other it would consolate and exhilarate us, for we may be certain, God will pay such attention to us, as we do to the things and persons committed to our care, and infinitely more. A good father may assure himself, that, while he discharges his duty to his children, God will watch over him. A good prince may think the same. It extends to the meanest
dead body of a person, whom don't translate the passage he supposed they had mur- rightly; you should render it, dered, into the court-yard of Behold! the Lord doth not a Jew, sent two of his servants Number : nor will be suffer him to watch the murderers home. who keepeth Ifrael 10 sleep. In In the morning all the city mercy to you, God denied me was in an uproar, and the rest last night, &c.” Shebet Jews, as usual, were taxed Jehuda. ap. Vindicia Judæowith murdering the man,
with rum. Man. Ben. Ifrael. intent to eat his felh. The I call this an ingenious king interposed, sent for the turn, and agreeable to truth; assassins, who confessed their for, were a minister from this crime, and then, turning to text to preach to magistrates, the Jews, aked some of the he would offer no violence to Rabbies, how they translated scripture and truth to thewthe fourth verse of the hundred that magistrates, our earthly and twenty-firit psalm. They gods, are appointed to guard answered, Behold! be, that the lives and properties, the keepeth Ifrael, pall neither civil, and religious rights of Jumber nor fleep. If he doth mankind---and that vigilance 20t Number, replied the king, is essential to the discharge of much less doth he feep. You their office.
conditions, even a good shepherd may take the same comfort. (5)
(5) If we would enjoy the contrary to experience. 2. bleffings of Providence we must The passages, from which discharge our duty. For doing they,who maintain it, reason, so God gave Cyrus the treasures regard only some particular of darkness, the hidden riches seasons. 3. It is injurious to of the Babylonian temple. the goodness of God. 4. It Ifai. xlv. 3. Because Nebu- is hurtful to piety, for it dischadnezzar performed a great courages the weak. The seJervice at Tyre, he was re cond method is an opposite warded with the whole land extreme, for i. Jesus Chrift of Egypt; for, says the pro- and his apoftles proposed difphet, he and his army had no ferent motives.
2. It does wages at Tyre; the Tyrians not accord with the genius escaping by sea with all their and design of the gospel. 3. effe&ts while he besieged their It confounds the dispensation city by land. Ezek. xxix. 18, of the gospel with that of the
law. 4. It is contrary to Profeffor Turretin makes experience. 5. It is injufome very juft, and necessary rious to a great many pious observations on this subject. persons, who are oppressed " Mat. vi. 33. Seek ge forft with afflictions. 6. It gives the kingdom of God, and his infidels an occasion to ridicule righteousness, and all these religion. things shall be added to you. What then, are we never to Hence arises this enquiry, In use motives taken from temwhat manner ought christian poral advantages ? Yes, they minifters to enforce the doctrines ought to be used: but used, of religion by motives taken however, with the following from temporal advantages? precautions. Previous to Some divines describe the itate these, remark two plain prinof believers in this life as a ciples. 1. Temporal advanftate of perpetual affliction and tages, strictly speaking, are infelicity. Others enlarge not evangelical promises. 2. too much on the temporal ad- Piety and virtue naturally, vantages of piety, and Bellar- and by a wise conftitution of mine makes the temporal fe- things, are attended with malicity of the defenders of the ny temporal advantages; and, church one evidence of the on the contrary, vice induces true church. In regard to the misery. Preachers, then, first extreme---the thesis is should 1. Consider these adunwarrantable, for 1. It is vantages only as consequences