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Soldier4Christ
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« on: October 23, 2008, 06:52:53 PM »

BETHLEHEM AND HER CHILDREN

A series of stories written by an unknown author many years ago, and published by the American Tract Society.

"All hail the power of Jesus' name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all."

THE GRAVE AT BETHLEHEM

This city is pleasantly situated in the land of Judea, and lies, like many other places mentioned in Scripture, upon the top of a hill. It is only six miles south of Jerusalem, and as one travels towards it from that city, it suddenly bursts upon his view, stretching itself on from east to west with enchanting loveliness. The traveler passes through a deep valley, and then wending his way up the road, approaches the gates of the city, near which of old was the famous well of water of which David drank in his youth, and for which he afterwards longed in time of war. 2 Sam. 23:15.

Bethlehem has been visited by many modern travellers, and they all unite in describing the first view of it as very imposing. From its higher points the eye takes in at one view "the mountains that are round about Jerusalem," the deep and luxuriant valleys nearer at hand, and the far distant mountains that lie in the land of Moab. Every thing around it is beautiful and sacred.

Considering that Bethlehem has stood nearly or quite four thousand years, and been the home or tarrying place of many of whom we read in Scripture, we cannot fail to be interested in tracing the history of some distinguished characters and events most intimately associated with it.

The first mention we find made of Bethlehem is in Genesis 35:19, and that record presents to our view a scene of sadness and mourning. It was the death and burial of RACHEL, the wife of Jacob the patriarch.

Twenty-seven years previous to this time, Jacob had passed through Bethlehem on a journey. How many changes had since occurred. He had previously resided with his father Isaac at Beersheba, in the southern part of Canaan; but his father and mother, that he might avoid the wrath of his exasperated brother Esau, and be prevented from marrying a heathen wife, sent him away from home on a journey of over six hundred miles, to their pious kindred in Haran.

With only his staff and a small bundle of provision for the way, Jacob walks on in a northerly direction, through an inhospitable region, alone and unprotected. Hebron lies on the route, and we may naturally suppose that his footsteps would turn towards the cave of Machpelah, which lay in its suburbs. There slept in unbroken rest Abraham and Sarah, Jacob's grandparents, of whom he had hears so much; and he undoubtedly stood before their graves in deep communings with his own spirits; for unto them and their children were "the promises."

With a softened and saddened heart he leaves this hallowed spot, and walks on over the hill-tops and through the deep passes of the mountains, gathering perhaps ever and anon the juicy grapes that hung in large clusters from the bending vine, or partaking o f the honey that dropped from the rocks by his pathway.

Having journeyed about fourteen miles from the graves of Machpelah, suddenly, on the distant hill-top, Bethlehem bursts upon his sight. But as he was ignorant of the sad events that were to transpire there affecting himself, and of that greater event which was to affect the whole world, he passes through it, and down the valley, and up the hillside, with his feelings undisturbed; and after six more miles the city of Jebus, afterwards Jerusalem, receives the weary traveller.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem, the priest of the most high God, lived here but a short time before, and blessed Jacob's grandfather Abraham: and if this distinguished type of Christ was now dead, yet his history and lineage were without doubt familiar to Jacob, though so little is recorded of them in holy writ.

The sun was sinking fast towards the Mediterranean sea on the west, when the traveller, perhaps on the second day of his journey, had gone about twelve miles north of Jebus, and cast about for a resting-place through the night. Finding no hospitable roof to offer him a shelter, he took the stones of the place for his pillow, while the ground was his bed, and laid him down to rest. This was the time which he afterwards calls "the day of my distress." But "man's extremity is God's opportunity;" and we find that the angels of the Lord encamped round about him, and ascended and descended upon the ladder which reached form his resting-place to heaven.

Here God talked with him, and renewed the promises which he had before made to Abraham and Isaac, that the land of Canaan should be theirs and their children's for ever. Early the next morning Jacob awoke, and said, "Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not." And he arose, and took the stone, his pillow, and set it up, and poured oil upon it, and called the place Bethel, or "the house of God." And there he vowed to the Lord, and worshipped the God of his fathers.

He then continued his journey, and probably crossed the Jordan soon after; and many days of weary and toilsome travel ensued before he arrived in the vicinity of Haran. This place is situated in the country of Mesopotamia, which lies between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, and is supposed by many to have contained the garden of Eden, and the first home of some of Noah's descendants after the flood.

It was towards the close of the day when Jacob drew near to his journey's end; and seeing men standing by a well watering their sheep, he approached to make some inquiries in regard to the friends he was seeking. They told him they were from Haran, and were acquainted with the family of Laban, who was the brother of Rebecca, Jacob's mother; and as they were speaking, Rachel, Laban's beautiful daughter, was seen approaching with her father's sheep, coming to the well for water. Jacob seems to have refrained himself while he rolled away the stone from the well and watered Rachel's sheep; but then his pent-up feelings could no longer be controlled: he kissed her, and lifted up his voice and wept, exclaiming, "I am Rebecca's son."

In joyful surprise Rachel left Jacob to care for her sheep, while she hurried back to tell her father of his arrival; and from that time, probably, Jacob dated the love which he ever after felt for Rachel. Laban received him gladly into his family and service, and a month passed away before any thing was said of wages. Jacob was but too happy of being under the same roof with Rachel to think of wages; and when Laban finally proposed to remunerate him for his labor, he replied in the fulness of his hear, "I will serve seven years for Rachel." Laban accepted the offer; and those seven years, which might have appeared long to Jacob, "seemed to him but a few days, for the love he had to her."

Jacob patiently toiled on fourteen long years for Laban, and received in return his two daughters Leah and Rachel.

Six years more he labored for wages; in which time the Lord greatly blessed him, and increased his substance. Thus twenty years passed by with no intimation from the Lord that he ought sooner to return to the land so long before promised to him and his descendants. But at the expiration of that period, when Jacob was one hundred years old, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, and said, "I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me; now arise, and return unto the land of thy kindred, and I will be with thee."

Fearing that Laban would do him some injury if he were apprized of his design of leaving him and his service, Jacob planned a secret removal, which was carried into effect while Laban went to shear his sheep. Leah and Rachel, dissatisfied with their father's treatment of Jacob, were willing to go; and the large distance over which the numerous flocks of Jacob and of Laban were necessarily separated from each other, favored a departure unobserved. Three days passed by, after Jacob left, before Laban heard that he had gone.
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« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2008, 06:53:59 PM »

THE GRAVE AT BETHLEHEM - CONTINUED

Fired with wrath at losing so valuable a servant, Laban gathered up a company of men, and pursued after Jacob with haste.

In the mean time, Jacob, fearing that this would be the case, travelled on as fast as the state of his flocks would allow; and having crossed the Euphrates and a long desert that intervened, pitched his tents upon mount Gilead, on the east side of Jordan. Here we can imagine that he felt a degree of security in view of the supposed distance between himself and his unjust father-in-law. A magnificent landscape was spread out before him. There were lofty mountains in the distance, and undulating hills at the north, bearing "oaks of Bashan," such as Solomon used in the building of the temple. There too were deep valleys and flowing streams and luxuriant meadows, in which fed the fat "bulls of Bashan." This was the country where afterwards lived the giants, one of whom slept on a bedstead of iron which was more than thirteen feet long.

Jacob's rest upon this mountain was of short duration, for Laban and his company soon made their appearance, intending to carry him and his family back by force. But the protecting hand of the Lord was with him, according to the promise; and after an amicable adjustment of their difficulties, Laban left them with the kiss of peace.

Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, was at this time about six years old; and as he parted with his grandfather Laban, and turned again to his frolics with his brothers, his young heart had no foreshadowings of those sore trials which were to come upon him in the land to which they were going.

Rachel, his beloved mother, was by daily travel drawing nearer and still nearer to the city of Bethlehem, where her loving was to be chilled by death, and her beloved body hid in the grave. Happy for Rachel, happy for us, as we eagerly and joyfully press on to what seem cheering resting-places in the journey of life, that the impenetrable veil which hides the future from our eyes is not withdrawn.

It would be reasonable to suppose that, after such a signal interposition of God in turning away the wrath of Laban, Jacob's fears of future evils would have been greatly lessened. But no sooner had he escaped one danger, than we find him distressed to such a degree with forebodings of certain death by the hand of his brother Esau, that God condescended to open his eyes to see a host of angels encamped around him. This was done to strengthen his confidence in God's protecting power and constant watchfulness.

Yet Jacob did not neglect the means of safety which prudence dictated. Hearing that his brother was approaching with an army of four hundred men, and overwhelmed with fear, he prayed to God to fulfil his promise and protect him. He then called his servants, and with their help selected and dispatched to his brother as a present cattle and flocks of different kinds, in all five hundred and eighty. He then went to lodge with his family.

But as if all had not been done that could be, he arose in the night, and sent his family and all that he had over the brook Jabbok. This is a small river from the eat that empties into the river Jordan between the sea of Galilee and the Dead sea, and is so thickly bordered with oleander, wild olives, and wild almonds, and waving reeds ten or fifteen feet high, that in some places the water is entirely hidden from view. Yet the luxuriant border marks its course, and the musical murmur of its flow is heard. In some places the stream is not over ten yards wide, but it is nearly as rapid and deep as the Jordan itself.

In the dark hours of the night, when nature was hushed and at rest, Jacob labored untiringly in removing all those dear to him across the Jabbok to a place of greater safety. Then he remained alone in the solitude, and the Angel of the covenant came and wrestled with him till the breaking of the day. In this wrestling with the sinner's Friend he prevailed. He received the blessing which he sought, and the new name ISRAEL, which means "a princely prevailer with God."

Jacob's seeking to be alone, that he might spend the night in prayer, shows to what source he looked for help in the hour of fear and distress; and his success is a great encouragement to Christians at all times to follow his example.

Having sent forward hundreds of camels, kine, and other animals, as a costly present to assuage the wrath of Esau, the manner in which he arranged his family to meet him indicates where his deepest affection lay. The handmaids and their children went first, Leah and hers next, and his beloved Rachel and Joseph behind, that if the first should be slain, the wife and child of his bosom might escape.

When Esau had come in sight, Jacob walked forth to met him, and bowed himself seven times to the ground. This conciliatory course, with the blessing of God upon it, extracted the venom from Esau's heart. He ran to meet his twin brother Jacob, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him; and they wept together. They had commenced life together, and for many years they loved each other and were happy; but there came a quarrel, a family quarrel, bitter and hateful, and of thirty years' duration. This was their first meeting after it; and it is pleasant to see their anger giving place to tears of affection.

Esau returned to Edom, and Jacob removed to Succoth. Succoth was a little south of Gilead, on the same side of the river. Here he built a house for himself and booths for his cattle; but he soon after took his family, and crossing the Jordan, proceeded northerly, and came and pitched his tent in Shechem, a town about forty miles north of Jerusalem. Here he paid a hundred pieces of money for a parcel of ground, which he gave to Joseph; and here he digged that well at which our Saviour afterwards sat down, when he had the conversation with the woman of Samaria. And here also Joseph's bones were interred, after they had been brought out of Egypt.

When the land became Jacobs's, he built an altar upon it unto the Lord, and called it "El-Elohe-Israel"—"God the God of Israel."
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« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2008, 06:55:19 PM »

THE GRAVE AT BETHLEHEM - CONTINUED

God now called upon Jacob to arise and go to Bethel, and make an altar unto the God who appeared to him there when he fled from his brother Esau. Jacob obeyed. All things were made ready; and with his numerous family and flocks and herds, he began to move forward. The host presented an imposing appearance; and the terror of the Lord was upon the cities around about them, so that this large company passed on undisturbed, and arrived at Bethel in safety.

But death, who is ever lurking in ambush around the paths of life, shot a fatal arrow into the midst of this family, and Deborah, a beloved and aged servant, received its stroke. While the altar which Jacob built in that place had scarce received its first bleeding victim, she died, and the place was consecrated by the grave of a child of God. This Deborah was the same nurse that was sent away, one hundred and twenty-five years before, with Rebecca, when Abraham's servant went into Padan-Aram, (the Hebrew name of Mesopotamia), to get a wife for Isaac.

She was with Rebecca when she alighted from her camel to meet Isaac as he walked in the field to meditate; saw her given to him as his wife; travelled with them in their various journeyings; nursed Jacob and Esau in their helpless infancy, and watched their growth and different dispositions for more than seventy years. She was probably present when the savory meat was made to deceive her master Isaac; and grieved to see Jacob sent off alone to go to her native country.

After Rebecca's death and Jacob's settlement in the promised land, Deborah seems to have been taken into the family of Jacob; and notwithstanding her usefulness was gone, and she was only a care and expense, her death was sincerely mourned, which speaks well for the kindly feeling existing between the family and this their faithful friend. They buried her under an oak in Bethel, and called it "the oak of weeping."

While Jacob remained in this place the Lord appeared to him again, and blessed him; changing his name to Israel, which means "a prince that prevails with God," and renewing the promises he made to Abraham and Isaac, "To thee and to they seed after thee will I give this land." And he set up another pillar, and poured a drink-offering upon it, and called the name of it "Bethel."

Jacob had now performed at the altar of Bethel the vow which he made "in the day of his distress;" and the Lord had again confirmed his promises. In this consecrated spot he had made the first grave of his household; and with many endearing remembrances of Bethel, we find him again taking down his tents and gathering up his substance for another removal.

This time he turns his face towards the home of his childhood. Rebecca, his fond and indulgent mother, who had sent him to her own kindred "to be gone a few days," had long since closed her eyes in death, without one more view of her beloved Jacob. But his aged father Isaac was still alive; and with the hope of being a comfort to him in his declining days, Jacob purposes to visit his early home.

Twelve miles of his journey are passed, and he arrives again at Jerusalem; but how different is his entrance into the city from what it was some thirty years before, when, alone and sad, he passed through it a fugitive from his father's house. Now he has at his command a host, besides immense wealth and an extended influence. He could say emphatically, "I went out empty, but Thou has brought me back full."

Jerusalem is "beautiful for situation;" but this could not detain the travellers. Commanded of God, the angel of death had passed on before, only to await their approach at Bethlehem; and all unconscious of his fearful presence, this large company passed on with their usual cheerfulness.

Jacob's camel is close by that upon which sits his beloved Rachel; these were among the last hours he would ever pass with her. Only six miles were between him and his greatest sorrow; yet, with cheerful anticipations of happiness in the future, Jacob and his Rachel wended their way through the valleys and up the hill-sides, followed by the long droves of lowing cattle and bleating sheep, till Bethlehem on the distant hill-top burst upon their view.

How sad that death should mar a scene like this. Even now his shadow is falling upon Rachel, robbing her cheek of its bloom. The journey is stayed; the camels' furniture is removed; the tents are pitched; and Rachel has all the attention that could possibly be given. Yet the angel of death steadily approaches, till his presence is evident even to Jacob, whose heart now begins to fail. It is his own Rachel, his dear Joseph's mother, and how can he give her up? God has heard his prayers in other troubles, and will he not help now? Undoubtedly he wrestled long and earnestly for her life; but as an importunate child, who knows not what is for his own good, is refused by a loving father, so Jacob was refused; and with a bleeding hear the aged saint bowed to the will of God.

Neither the encouraging "Fear not" of Rachel's attendants, nor her own wishes, nor her friends' efforts, nor her husband's prayers, could retain the spirit; and as her soul was departing, the son of her sorrow was bequeathed to the broken-hearted Jacob, and the babe became his Benjamin.

It was the custom in that country for the nearest relative of the deceased to close the eyes and give the parting kiss. And can we not see this trembling patriarch, with his long white hair and beard, bending over his beloved wife? His hands were pressed upon her eyelids; his frame trembled; he kissed her, and lifted up his voice and wept. He had kissed her and wept at their first meeting; then for joy, now for grief. Thus the two extremes of our feelings meet in tears.

The loving Joseph mingled the tears of this his first grief with the bitter waters that welled up from his father's wounded spirit; and as Jacob's eye of faith caught glimpses of that better land where his beloved was at rest, did not Joseph learn from his father's words of confidence in God, lessons which were lasting and salutary?

The day of interment came, "and Jacob buried Rachel in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." That the spot might not be forgotten, he placed a pillar of stone upon her grave; and the pillar of Rachel's grave is the first monument of which we have any account at Bethlehem.

About six hundred years after Rachel's burial, we have another glimpse of Bethlehem, which was honored by having one of its citizens chosen as judge in Israel. His name was Ibzan, and he was the successor of Jephthah; but little is recorded of him. He judged Israel seven years, and died, and was buried in Bethlehem.
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« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2008, 06:56:05 PM »

THE BRIDE OF BETHLEHEM

Time rolls on, and Bethlehem's sons and daughters are born and buried for one hundred and seventy years, unnoted in sacred history. But at the expiration of that period the record again begins; and we see Elimelech, with his wife and two sons, gathering up their substance and preparing to remove.

There was a famine in the land; provisions were getting dear; and this family arrived at the determination to forego the privileges of home and the ordinances of God, and to dwell for a time among the idolatrous Moabites.

This nation descended from Moab, the son of Lot, and inhabited the country lying east of the Dead sea. Here is where Zoar lies, the city to which Lot and his daughters fled when Sodom was burned; previous to which event this region was inhabited by a race of giants great and tall. The Moabites called them Emim. These they conquered, and the country afterwards attained a state of great luxuriance and beauty; but the inhabitants worshipped the idols Chemosh and Baal-peor, and God sent many and remarkable threats to them by his prophets, which were afterwards literally fulfilled. At this day the country contains many splendid ruins of temples, hanging gardens, and sepulchral monuments; and the wandering Arabs pitch their tents here and there in the region which was once studded with cities.

To this land Elimelech and his family bent their steps. After several days of weary toil and travel, they reached their place of destination, and made for themselves a home. Here undoubtedly Elimelech had an abundance of food; but while God granted him his desires, he visited him and his family with righteous judgment. Elimelech was laid upon a bed of death, and his grave was made among idolaters.

Naomi, with her two sons, was left in great affliction, a widow among strangers, with no dear friend of her kindred to advise or assist her; and she undoubtedly looked back with regret to her early home and friends, and would gladly have returned and suffered with them in the famine.

But God had designs which were not yet accomplished. There was a Moabitish woman in the land from whom the Saviour was to descend, and she was to have her home in Judah. These secret purposes of God were unknown to Naomi and her son Mahlon; but as he associated with the inhabitants of the land, he became interested in a daughter of Moab named Ruth, and in process of time she became his wife. Chilion the younger son also married Orpah, and the widowed heart of Naomi began to rejoice. But her cup of bitterness was not yet full. Soon Mahlon and Chilion died, and these three widows mingled their scalding tears around the same hearthstone. Well might Naomi exclaim, "Were there no graves in Bethlehem, that I have come into Moab to bury my dead?"

Ten years before, she came from home a beloved wife and a happy mother, and possessed of the comforts of life; but now, bereft of all, she arises with her daughters-in-law to return, for she had heard that the famine was past.

Being destitute of property, they probably left on foot the place where they had been living, and for some time the three travelled on together. But Naomi, whose mind dwelt upon her destitute and helpless condition, turned to her daughters-in-law, and advised them to return each to her mother's home, for she herself could offer no inducements for them to follow her; and she also expressed the wish that the Lord would deal as kindly with them as they had dealt with the dead and with her. She then kissed them a farewell. But they lifted up their voices and wept; and amid their tears they said, Naomi, we surely will go with you.

Naomi assured them that she was exceedingly sorry for their sakes, but that the hand of the lord had gone out against her; she was now poor, and although about to return to her native city, she had no home to go to, and could offer them no inducements to follow her. And now, my daughters, she said, go back, and find husbands in your own country, and be prosperous and happy, and I will go on alone to die and be buried with my people. and they lifted up their voices and wept again.

Orpah accepted the advice, and after kissing her mother-in-law again, she turned back; but Ruth said, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge: they people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried." Naomi saw that the lovely Ruth was willing to share with her the hard lot which God had appointed her; and rejoicing in heart that she was still to have her company and help day after day, they two went on their weary journey, till again Bethlehem in the distance, with its familiar and homelike look, bursts upon Naomi's weeping eyes. Who can tell the gush of mingled joy and grief that overwhelmed her at this moment?

Ten years ago she stood on that spot crowned with every blessing. Elimelech was by her side to anticipate and supply all her wants, and her two sons were ready to do her bidding. Where are they now? She stands riveted to the spot by painful remembrances. She is old and poor and sad, with none to comfort her, save Ruth with the loving, kindly feelings of a hopeful heart beaming from her face. Naomi points out the familiar places of her youth, as they go down into the valley and up to the gates of the city.

One and another and another repeats the news that "Naomi has come back," till all the city is moved, and they exclaim, "Is this Naomi?" And she replied in anguish of spirit, "Call me not Naomi," which means pleasant, "but call me Mara," bitter, "for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty; why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?"
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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2008, 06:57:36 PM »

THE BRIDE OF BETHLEHEM - CONTINUED

Naomi evidently saw that their removing into an idolatrous country for the sake of worldly good, thereby exposing themselves and their children to evil influences, was wrong, and she mourned the unwise step.

It was the beginning of barley harvest when Naomi arrived in Bethlehem and settled in her homely lodgings; and Ruth, expecting nothing in this country of her adoption but toil and hard fare, said to her mother-in-law, "Let me go to the field and glean after the reapers." Naomi probably was too old and infirm to endure the fatigue of such an employment, and knowing that she must have something on which to subsist, said, though perhaps somewhat reluctantly, "Go, my daughter."

So Ruth went out from the city early in the morning, and arriving at a field where the reapers were already at work, she asked leave to pick up the scattering grain, and immediately set herself to work, and was busily employed when Boaz the owner entered the lot. He seems not to have known who she was; and after inquiring, and being told that it was Naomi's daughter-in-law, his kindly feelings were at once awakened, and he told his young men to let her glean where she pleased, and also to drop occasionally a few handfuls of grain on purpose for her.

Boaz was a mighty man of wealth, and a prince in Judah; but notwithstanding his exalted position and power, he daily went out upon his farm to superintend his workmen; and as he approached, his common salutation to them was, "The Lord be with you;" and they answered in return, "The Lord bless thee;" a salutation which beautifully illustrates the genuine effects of true religion in producing kindness in superiors, and respect and affection in inferiors.

He soon after came to Ruth, and calling her his daughter, told her to remain in his filed and gather after the reapers, and when she was thirsty to drink of the water that the young men had drawn. She with great humility and modesty expressed her thanks for his kind consideration towards her a "stranger," meaning one born and brought up on heathen Moab. But Boaz replied that it had fully been told him all that she had done for her mother-in-law since the death of her husband, and how she had left her father and mother and come to dwell with a people with whom she was unacquainted; and that he hoped a full reward would be given her by the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings she had come to trust. Little did he know that he was to be the instrument in fulfilling his own wishes.

He also invited her to dine with him, which invitation she accepted, and at dinner she took her seat by the side of the reapers. Boaz, although so high in rank and dignity, partook of the homely meal with the workmen, and helped Ruth at table to such things as they had, and in such a bountiful manner, that after she had eaten, a large quantity remained, which she carefully secured and preserved to meet the wants of Naomi her mother-in-law. Kind and thoughtful Ruth! An own daughter could not have been more considerate of a mother's need.

At night Ruth found to her joy, after she had beaten out her grain, that she had three pecks of barley. This she took home to Naomi, who received it with thankfulness, and said, "Blessed be Boaz of the Lord, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and the dead."

From this time till the end of the barley harvest, and then all through the wheat harvest, Ruth went daily into Boaz's fields to glean, returning at night, laden with the fruits of her toil, to her mother-in-law. And who would not, in this world of want, be at least a gleaner like Ruth, that he might have not only a supply for his own wants, but wherewith to give to him who needeth, if it be but a kind work, a loving smile, or an ephah of barley? And how many there are who could readily spare from their own sumptuous supplies food sufficient for some poor widow in Israel, to be repaid by her blessing and prayers.

Naomi's anxiety to do something to place Ruth in a more comfortable and eligible position in life still continued; and bethinking herself of a law in Israel, that the nearest relative of a married deceased without children should marry his widow, she asked Ruth if she should not attempt to bring about a marriage for her in accordance with this law, that she might be placed above the hardships to which she was then subjected.

"All that thou sayest I will do," meekly responded the trusting Ruth. Naomi then directed her in regard to the steps she should take to bring Boaz's attention to the subject, for he was the near relative; and Ruth implicitly obeyed all her instructions, having full confidence in her wisdom and goodness. And when Ruth afterwards said to Boaz, "Spread thy skirt over me, for thou art a near kinsman," he understood at once that she was urging a customary claim, and he acknowledged its justice, and promised to give immediate attention.

Boaz then informed her that there was another more nearly related to Mahlon, her first husband, than he was; but if this man did not or could not marry her, he himself would take her for his wife.

The next day Boaz repaired to the gate of Bethlehem, and sat down upon one of the seats. Justice was there statedly administered by the judges to any requiring their aid. He had not waited long when the kinsman of whom he spoke to Ruth passed by, and Boaz said, "Ho; turn aside, and sit down." So he sat down. Boaz then took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, "Sit ye down here;" and they sat down. The court was now in session, the judges upon the bench, and the case was called.

Boaz's statement seems to have been about to this effect: That the land of Naomi, which had been sold till the year of jubilee, was about to be redeemed, and this was to be done by paying certain charges. Then turning to his kinsman, he said, "There is none to redeem it, save you or I, and it must be kept in the family. Will you do it?" And he answered, "I will redeem it." Boaz then informed him that Ruth was entailed upon the property, and if he took the land, he must also take her. This he said he could not do, and he yielded up all claim upon it in favor of Boaz; and, as was the custom at the time in sealing business transactions, the kinsman pulled off his shoe and gave it to Boaz.

The business was now completed; and turning to the elders, Boaz said, "Ye are witnesses that I have purchased all that was Elimelech's; and moreover, Ruth the Moabitess have I purchased to be my wife. To this ye are witnesses this day." And all the people who had been standing by as spectators, and all the elders said, "We are witnesses. The lord make the woman that is come into they house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel; and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem." This public recognition of Boaz's taking Ruth for his wife, accompanied by prayers and benedictions, was probably the customary method of distinguishing an honorable marriage; and Ruth became his wife.

Her sudden exultation, however, from the depths of obscurity and poverty to wealth and an enviable position in society, did not raise her above the poor widowed Naomi; and like a good and dutiful daughter, she took her to her own comfortable home, and provided for all her wants during the remainder of her life.

The divine historian records only one more event in regard to this interesting family, and that is the birth of a son. This was an occasion of great rejoicing, particularly with Naomi, for in would her family be represented and sustained. But the joy was not confined alone to the home of Ruth, the happy mother, for the neighboring women flocked in to see the little stranger, and they called his name Obed. And Naomi the grandmother took the child and laid it in her own bosom, and became its nurse. Obed was grandfather to David the king of Israel, and from them Christ descended.
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« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2008, 06:58:50 PM »

THE KING OF BETHLEHEM

Two hundred and forty-eight years after the birth of Ruth's son, an old man of venerable appearance entered the city of Bethlehem with an attendant, and a heifer for sacrifice. The elders who sat by the gate were exceedingly alarmed by his presence, and anxiously asked, "Comest thou peaceably?" The old man was the prophet Samuel, and he answered, "Peaceably. I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." Their fears may have arisen from an apprehension that Samuel had come to denounce some judgment upon them.

Obed had long ago grown up and settled in Bethlehem, and among his children there was one by the name of Jesse. Jesse, like his father, had remained in his native town, and at the time of Samuel's visit was the father of eight sons, the youngest of whom was David, now eighteen or twenty years of age.

After the elders were called to the sacrifice, Samuel went to the house of Jesse to inform him that the Lord had sent him to Bethlehem to anoint a successor to Saul upon the throne of Israel. This news no doubt exceedingly interested Jess, and he cast about in his mind who would be the king elect; but what must have been his surprise when told that among his own sons was the favored one? "Now sanctify yourselves and your sons," said Samuel, "and come to the sacrifice, and there the Lord will show which it shall be."

Samuel then left Jesse to his own reflections and preparations, while he repaired to the spot upon which the altar was to be erected; and after seeing that every thing was properly arranged, he seated himself to await the hour.

The elders of the people assembled, and with them the aged Jesse and seven of his sons. Eliab the eldest was tall and handsome; and as he passed before Samuel, the prophet thought, Surely my eyes now rest upon our future king; but God said, "No, I have refused him. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart." Abinadad, and then Shammah, were called to pass before Samuel, only to be refused. Then the others passed by. "The lord has not chosen these," said Samuel; and he asked, "Are here all thy children?" Jesse replied that the youngest was absent, who kept the sheep. "Send and fetch him," said Samuel; "for we will not sit down" to eat the sacrifice "till he comes."

A messenger was immediately dispatched, and David was soon after brought in. "He was of a ruddy complexion, a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to."

No sooner had Samuel set his eyes upon him, than the Lord said, "Arise and anoint him." Then Samuel took the consecrated oil, which was made of the most exquisite and costly perfumes, and anointed David in the midst of his brethren.

Anointing was the principal ceremony at the induction of a king into office; and by David's anointing we are to understand his inauguration, although he did not at once enter upon his kingly authority.

After the aged Samuel had fulfilled his mission, eh arose and returned to Ramah.

Not long after these events, while David was employed as usual in watching his sheep, a messenger from the king arrived in Bethlehem. He inquired for the house of Jesse, and when he found it he entered, and making the usual salutations, said to Jesse, The Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul, and an evil spirit is troubling him. And now it has been told the king that your son David is a skilful player on the harp, a mighty valiant man, a man of war, prudent in matters, comely in person, and that the Lord is with him. Wherefore now saith the king, "Send me David thy son, who is with the sheep."

Jesse, obedient to the king's command, made immediate preparations for David's departure. But he must not go without a present for the king; so an ass was brought to the door, and loaded with bread, a leathern bottle of wine, and a kid. David then took his harp, and such other things as he should need, and was soon on his way to Gibeah, the city of the king, which was twelve miles north of Bethlehem.

David seems to have made a very favorable impression upon the king; and we find that Saul soon sent after Jesse to allow his son to remain with him; for when he played upon his harp the evil spirit departed from Saul, and he was well.

How this bad spirit affected Saul we have no knowledge, except that it excited his worst passions, and led to the most wicked conduct. That it was an evil spirit, was shown by the effects it produced upon him; but why music should have such power in driving it from him, is difficult to explain.

How long David continued with the king is not stated; but when there was no longer necessity for his remaining, he returned to Bethlehem and his flocks as contentedly as ever, and was soon forgotten at court.

About four years after, another messenger hurriedly entered the gate of Bethlehem, and proclaimed with trumpet voice, Up! the Philistines have invaded the land, and are now only fifteen miles east of your city. Rise, and fight the battles of the Lord. The cry rang from house to house, and from heart to heart. Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah, Jessie's elder sons, joined with others, and taking their spears and javelins, hurried away to battle. They found Saul and his army stationed upon a mountain opposite the one the Philistines occupied: and as recruits arrived from different directions, their places were assigned them by the generals in command. These three brothers were placed under a captain who had charge of a thousand men. And here the two armies lay from week to week, the army of Saul terrified by the appearance of a giant full ten feet high, who daily came down into the valley and defied them and their God. Saul was trying to increase his army, but does not seem to have offered sacrifices or made supplications to the Lord.

In the mean time, Jessie, the good and pious old man of Bethlehem, began to feel solicitous for the welfare of his sons, and anxious to know how they fared; so he called David from tending the sheep, and said, Take this parched conr, and these loaves of bread, and run to the camp to your brothers; and carry these ten cheeses to their captain, and see how thy brethren fare.

David places his sheep in the care of a keeper, and rose up early in the morning, and went as his father directed him.

When David came in sight of the army, their shouts rang long and loud as they went forth to battle. David hastened forward at the sound, and leaving what he was carrying in the hands of his servant, mingled with the army, and finding his brothers, saluted them.

cont'd
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« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2008, 06:59:31 PM »

While he stood talking with them, his attention was attracted by the giant advancing towards the Israelites. His head was covered with a brass helmet or cap, and his body by a coat of mail, which weighed nearly two hundred pounds. The handle of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the spearhead weighed about twenty-five pounds. The shield to protect him in battle was carried before him by another man.

As the giant approached with his haughty challenge, "I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together," David said, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?"

These words of David were told to Saul, and Saul sent for him. David undoubtedly remembered the king, and expected to be recognized by him; but receiving no intimation that he was know, he immediately proceeded to tell Saul that he himself would go down and fight with the giant. Saul was surpised at his apparent rashness, and commenced telling him of the difficulties of the undertaking. But David, confident of help from the God whom he served, assured the king that he was not unused to danger, for he said, As I was tending my father's sheep, a lion and a bear came and seized a lamb, and I went out after him and smote him, and took the lamb out of his mouth; and when he turned upon me, I caught him by his beard and killed him. I slew both the lion and the bear; and this Philistine shall be as one of them. And Saul said, "Go, and the Lord be with you."

Saul then clothed David in his own armor; but it was too large and clumsy, so David laid it off; and with his staff in his hand, taking his simple shepherd's sling and five smooth stones from the brook, he went down the side of the mountain in sight of both armies, who crowded forward in breathless suspense to view this strange combat.

The giant, coming down from the hill-side into the plain, confident in his strength, looked proud defiance at the stripling. As David advanced, stout hearts trembled with excitement, and a silence profound and awful pervaded the armies.

The silence was broken by the curses of the Philistine, who demanded in his rage, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with staves? Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field."

David replied, You come to me with a sword and a spear and a shield; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts: and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword or spear; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give you into our hands.

These were the last words that Goliath heard, for David by this time had placed a stone in his sling, and running towards the giant, he threw it, and it sank into his forehead, and he fell dead: and while David was cutting off his head, the shouts of the victorious army rang with deafening echoes from rock to rock, and from mountain to mountain.

Then came a general onset, and the Philistines fled in all directions, and were pursued and cut down for miles, till there was not a man to be found.

The Israelites then returned, and entering into the well-filled tents of their vanquished foe, they took possession of the whole with great joy and rejoicings.

In the mean time, Abner, the general of the host, took David, who stood with the giant's bleeding head in his hand, and brought him before Saul. This was a triumphant hour in the life of David; but when the king asked, "Whose son art thou, young man?" he replied with characteristic simplicity and humility, "I am the son of thy servant Jesse." There was no intimation that he was any thing else, or ever expected to be, although he was confident that he should one day occupy the very throne itself.

Michal, Saul's daughter, was given as the wife of David, and he seems to have accompanied the king to Gibeah; but notwithstanding all the noble deeds of David, the popularity which his daring act had gained him was very distressing to Saul, and he watched him with envious hatred.

Notwithstanding Goliath was gone, the giants were not all dead, for he had a brother of like dimensions, who afterwards exceedingly annoyed and troubled Israel. Here was another call for hazardous daring; and Elhanan, who was brought up in Bethlehem with David, and was probably one of his associates, and of the same intrepid spirit, encountered this giant, and killed him. Elhanan afterwards became one of David's valiant men, and received a commission in his army.

For eight or ten years after David's encounter with Goliath, he was obliged to hide himself from the envious Saul in the silent recesses of caves and mountains, and even among the enemies of his country. He first visited Samuel at Ramah, and poured out his full heart to this aged and sympathizing friend. Samuel undoubtedly encouraged him to put his trust in the Lord, who bringeth all his purposes to pass, and to feel that his life and interests were secure in his keeping.

David and Samuel removed to Naioth as a place of greater security; but not feeling safe here, David hurried back to Gibeah, and seeking a private interview with Jonathan, learned that he could hope for no favor or security from Saul, and that his safety lay in flight.
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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2008, 07:00:44 PM »

THE KING OF BETHLEHEM—CONTINUED

Making a covenant with Jonathan of everlasting love and kindness, David hurried away, and after various wanderings, sought refuge in the beautiful city of Adullam, which lay a few miles south of Bethlehem; but he found to his grief that no one here was willing to assist him, for fear of displeasing the king, and he was obliged to hide himself in a cave near by.

While he was there in fear and perplexity, Bethlehem was far from being quiet, for Saul was scouring the city through, and menacing the family of Jesse, in order to discover David, till the aged man could no longer endure it; and perhaps when all eyes were shut, he sallied forth with his aged wife and their sons to seek David. But what a comfortless had he to offer them: a damp and gloomy cave for their house, and cold rough rocks for their beds. But as a dinner of herbs is rendered sweet and palatable by love, so was this desolate place made cheerful and happy by kind and living hearts; and it became their home for a season.

Many others who were friendless and in trouble, fled to David, and he soon had an army of about four hundred men.

For some time David remained in this cave; but finally, fearing or knowing that Saul had discovered him, he hurriedly took his effects and all his company and went to the land of Moab, the birthplace of his great grandmother Ruth.

Seeking an interview with the king of Moab, David introduced to him his father and mother, and requested him to allow them to remain quietly under his protection, till he should know what the Lord would do with him. To this the king readily acceded; and as he was then at variance with Saul, it undoubtedly gratified him to have this opportunity of showing him an indignity. This is the last we hear of Jesse, who probably died away from home and the privileges and ordinances of the land of his birth, and was buried among strangers and idolaters. But he was not along; for in that land slept Elimelech and Mahlon and Chilion, and there too God buried Moses.

We are not informed how long David remained in Moab; but the word of the Lord came to him in that place through the prophet Gad, commanding him to return to the land of Judea. Gad had been his constant companion through all his previous wanderings, and now accompanied him back into the dominions of Saul, and remained his friend and counsellor for many subsequent years, and finally wrote the life of David, as we find by 1 Chron. 29:29.

On David's arriving at home, he found that the Philistines had invaded the land, and were then but a few miles south-west of Bethlehem, gathering up the wheat from the threshing-floors and committing other depredations upon the inhabitants. True to his principle of doing good where he received only evil, he took his men, who now numbered not far from six hundred, and coming upon the Philistines unawares, drove them from the country.

But Saul had heard of his return, and with undiminished hatred, summoned his army and hasted in pursuit of him.

David and his men fled wherever they could; and finally halted in the wilderness of Ziph, a little east of Hebron and not far from the Dead sea. Saul failed to discover his hiding-place; but Jonathan, whose love for David had never abated, found him, and held a private interview with him. Their meeting was of the most tender and affecting character; heart flowed out lovingly to heart, and a solemn compact was made between them of everlasting friendship.

The Ziphites, however, in hope of gaining favor with the king, secretly dispatched men to Saul with this message: "Make haste and come down, for David is in our land, and we will deliver him into your hand." Saul, quite overcome by their kindness in offering to assist him and his army in capturing this one innocent man, exclaimed in the fulness of his heart, "Blessed be ye of the Lord, for ye have compassion on me." But while they were laying their plans and spreading their nets, David was praying, "Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape."

When Saul and his mighty men of war arrived at Ziph, David and his six hundred men were safely lodged among the mountains of Maon, which were several miles distant at the south-east.

But as if to try still more David's faith, God allowed Saul to follow and surround him in this solitary retreat. When David discovered his situation he was greatly alarmed; and in agony of spirit cried out, "Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord. Let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt." Scarcely had this prayer fallen from his lips, before a messenger was seen approaching Saul, covered with dust and panting with heat; and as soon as he was within speaking distance, he called out in great excitement, "Haste thee, and come; for the Philistines have invaded the land."

There was no time to be lost; Saul and his army fled like a retreating and discomfited host, leaving David to escape like a bird from the snare. And as he fell upon Saul's track, and pursued his way toward Bethlehem, he sang from a full heart, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, for he hath heard the voice of thy supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and in my song will I praise him."

We find David soon after at Engedi, "The rock of the wild goats." This name was probably suggested by the situation, it being among lofty and precipitous cliffs, half way down the west side of the Dead sea. Many of the cliffs around it could be climbed only by the goats which inhabited this region. Jerusalem lay about thirty miles northwest, and Jericho about the same distance to the north. Engedi was also called the city of palm-trees, there being a great many around it, some of which grew to the height of a hundred feet, and bore yearly fifteen or twenty clusters of dates, each weighing near twenty pounds. Palm-trees are said to be the most beautiful of trees; and as David and his men came out of the caves of these rocks, and stretched themselves under the shade of these trees, and ate of their delicious fruit, and looked down upon the landscape which surrounded them, a feeling of satisfaction and security must have gratified their hearts. David could now exclaim, with pious trust, "The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear."

While David was in this quiet retreat, Saul was busy in repelling the Philistines; after which, he chose from the ranks of all Israel three thousand of the most valiant men, and started forth anew to capture David. He had heard that he was in Engedi, and with a determination to succeed at all hazards, came near it; and being weary from his day's travel, he entered a cave alone and lay down to rest.

But how strange! David and his men were then, through fear of Saul, secreted in the innermost part of the same cave; and when Saul was asleep, those persecuted men, with a full sense of the wrongs they were suffering, raised their spears to strike him dead. But David restrained them, arose and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe, and then secreted himself again in the recesses of the cave.

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« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2008, 07:01:06 PM »

Saul finally awoke, and prepared to press forward after one whom he would fain believe his greatest enemy. David followed close after him, and with the fearlessness which innocence gives, called out, "My lord, O king." Saul, in great surprise at the familiar voice, immediately came to a stand with his army; and David in simple and touching tones exonerated himself from all intentions of injuring "the Lord's anointed," and as proof of what he was saying, he showed the skirt of Saul's robe, which he still held in his hand. Saul's better feelings were touched; his heart relented; and bursting into tears, he exclaimed, "Is this thy voice, my son David? Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil."

Here we have a beautiful and striking exemplification of the rule which our Saviour gave of doing good to those who despitefully use us, thereby heaping coals of fire upon their heads, and melting them into contrition and kindness. For the time, Saul's enmity was gone; and after acknowledging to David that he knew he would sit on the throne, and after making a covenant with him, he departed peaceably to his own home.

But the human heart was not to be trusted in that age of the world, any more than it now is; and David, instead of being thrown off his guard by favorable appearances, and the certainty that he was to sit on the throne of Israel, still took care to preserve his own life by keeping at a distance from Saul and his army.

We next find him in the wilderness of Paran, which lay south of Palestine, in the northern part of that "great and terrible wilderness" in which the children of Israel spent thirty-eight of their forty years of wanderings.

It was while here that he sent to Nabal for provisions, and was refused; and here he took Abigail to be his wife. How long he remained in this region we are not told; but the enmity of Saul's heart had been rekindled, and with an army of three thousand men, he again went forth to seek David; and he came near and pitched on a hill by the way.

David had an intimation from some one of the approach of Saul, and immediately sent out spies to ascertain his position. The next night David took a few men with him and went down and discovered Saul, lying in the midst of his army asleep. Abner, the captain of the host, the same man who led David to the king after he had slain the giant, was also asleep, and the pale light of the moon revealed the dim outlines of the sleeping host as they reposed on their arms in supposed security.

David and his men listened; there was no sound, save the gentle breathing of the wind among the drooping branches, and their own hushed footsteps. "Who will go down with me to Saul?" asked David. Abishai, David's sister's son, who was a valiant young man, and who afterwards became general-in-chief of David's armies, replied, "I will go down with thee." Leaving the rest of the company behind, these two daring men advanced with noiseless steps into the very midst of the sleepers; and passing one and another who lay stretched upon the ground, they stopped by the side of Saul. There at their feet lay the tall handsome man, of whom Samuel had said, "There is none like him among all the people." His spear was sticking in the ground at his pillow, and his cruse of water was standing by. Abishai cast his eye around; there was no movement among the guard; he raised his spear, and poising it over the helpless man, said to David, "Let me smite him, I pray thee, to the earth; I will not strike the second time." "Destroy him not," whispered David; "the Lord forbid that I should stretch forth my hand against the Lord's anointed. But take his spear and the cruse of water, and let us go."

They then made good their escape over to an adjoining hill, and there David stood and cried, "Abner, Abner, answerest thou not?" Abner was aroused from his sleep, and springing up, called out, "Who art thou?"

"Are you not a valiant man?" rejoined David, "and who is like to thee in Israel? Verily thou deservest to die, in that thou has not kept thy master. Look, see where the king's spear is, and the cruse of water that was at his bolster." The king by this time was a listener, and comprehending the whole at a glance, he exclaimed, "Is this thy voice, my son David?" David then reasoned with him of his folly in pursuing after one who had no intention or wish to injure him.

Saul's repentings were again kindled together, and he exclaimed, "I have played the fool, and erred exceedingly; return, my son David, and I will no more do thee harm" He then sent a young man over, and got his spear and cruse of water, and after blessing David, he returned to his home.

But a feeling of discouragement passed over David, as he was again alone in his solitude, and he exclaimed in sinful distrust, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than to go down and live among the Philistines; for Saul will never dare come after me there." We now find him with his two wives, and his six hundred men and their wives and children, moving off in a north-westerly direction towards Gath, and easterly city of the Philistines.

Saul soon after heard that David had placed himself under the care of the Philistines; and knowing that it would be of no use to follow him there, gave him up, and sought no more after him.

David remained among the Philistines about sixteen months, during which time Saul was in deep trouble at home. Samuel was dead, and although Saul had hated and disregarded his warning voice, while he lived, he now found by bitter experience that he had not only lost a friend in him, but had also lost all communication with the God who had heretofore directed Israel's battles. The witches and spiritualists he had put away out of the land, and forbade their making any communications, on pain of death; showing evidently that he had no faith in their pretensions. But when the Philistines gathered their overwhelming hosts and pitched before him, his heart trembled; and as the Lord would neither answer him by dreams, nor by urim, nor by prophets, he was ready to catch at a straw; and thinking, or trying to think that it might possibly be that God would answer him through a familiar spirit, he sought out and consulted the witch of Endor.

God at this time, greatly to her alarm, granted her request; and Samuel appeared. But a few weeks, or months perhaps, had elapsed, since the aged prophet had delivered his last warning to this wretched king; and then wrapping his mantle around him, he had laid him down and died, conscious that his messages were all unheeded. And now, as he appears, he asks, "Why have you disquieted me to bring me up? The Lord has departed from you, and to-morrow you and your sons shall be with me in the eternal world." Unhappy Saul! he was greatly distressed, but had no comforter in this world or the next, save the poor witch, who did what she could for his overwhelmed and guilty soul, by setting before him her fatted calf and some bread. Miserable comforters, for such an hour as that.

The next day, according to the word of Samuel, Saul and his three sons fell among the dead, in the battle on mount Gilboa.

Two days afterwards, David heard of the death of Saul and Jonathan; and when the tidings came, with sincere grief he rent his clothes, and mourned and wept and fasted till evening. And he lamented, saying, "How are the mighty fallen! Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thy high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant has thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!"

David's way was now opened, by God himself, to the throne of Israel, which he soon ascended. The country he was to govern was distracted by civil dissensions, and surrounded by enemies; but he succeeded in raising a large force, which he trained, and with them conquered and drove from his borders his enemies. He never lost a battle, and never besieged a city without taking it. He enriched his country and enlarged its bounds; and form the spoils which he took, he laid by and large abundant stores for the temple of God which he anticipated building.

His inspired psalms have been a comfort and a solace to thousands who like him have hid themselves in caves and mountains from those who watched to entrap and destroy them; they have blessed and strengthened the Christian of every age, and will continue to do so down to the end of time.

He was eminently in many things a type of Christ, who like him was born in Bethlehem, and like him died and was buried in Jerusalem.
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2008, 07:01:48 PM »

THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM

One thousand and fifteen years after the death of David, while the Romans had the land of Judea in subjection, an edict was issued by Augustus Caesar, the Roman emperor, that all the provinces under his rule should be taxed; and consequently each individual, of every tribe, was obliged to repair to his or her respective city, to be enrolled and assessed. All the lineal descendants of David were to appear in Bethlehem, the city of David; and consequently, for many days previous to the set time, great preparations were making in that place for the reception of guests.

At length the whole country was on the move. Some at the south were travelling north, while others at the north were wending their way to their southern birthplaces. Bethlehem's gates were thrown open, and her long absent sons and daughters once more greeted each other within her walls. Strangers too in groups, or singly, arrived and sought the inn, till every resting-place was occupied.

Seventy miles north of Bethlehem, in Nazareth, were Joseph and Mary, enjoying the quiet of their new home, when the decree reached them; and in obedience to its commands, they gathered up a sufficiency for the journey, and set forward for Bethlehem. It was a long journey; and though the young wife received every attention that could be given by her kind husband, yet she arrived in the city and before the door of the inn wearied and ill. T

o the husband's inquiries for a resting-place, it was replied, that there was no room for them in the inn; and having no kind friend to open to them the door of hospitality, they were obliged to take lodgings in the place prepared for beasts, where they uncomplainingly made themselves as comfortable as the circumstances would allow.

Night drew her sable curtains over Judea's hills, and darkness settled down upon her valleys. The sweet songsters of the groves had warbled forth their evening praises, and with a protecting wing over their defenceless heads were rocked to sleep by the breath of their Creator. The sacrificial knife was sheathed; the beasts of the field had lain down to rest, and the lambs of the flock had been gathered into the fold. Shepherds on the distant hill-sides lay upon the grass. The tramp of beasts and the voice of the newly arrived stranger in the city died away, the gates were closed, and Bethlehem slept.

But that night angels were crowding in the battlements of heaven with wonder, and numberless bright spirits sped their way over airy roads to earth, and poising on tireless wings, hovered over Bethlehem. And not angels only. Satan, the great archenemy of all that is good, marshaled, without doubt, his malignant legions upon her plains, with demoniac rage and hatred, to destroy or defeat this great miracle of mercy about to be performed. The hour which he had so long expected, and towards which the eyes of the whole universe had been turned for ages, had now arrived. Never before had so startling a blow been struck at Satan's power. Heave, earth, and hell, met that night upon the hills of Bethlehem, when God the mighty Creator took upon himself the form of the creature, and became man. Heaven rejoiced; hell groaned; man slept!

Could those assembled at Bethlehem have seen the hosts of spirits, good and evil, that surrounded them, would they not have cried out in terror, and eagerly inquired the cause? But they slept on, and the thrill of joy that electrified heaven was all unknown to them.

An angel burning to carry the glad news of a Saviour born, flew on swift wing, and hovering over the shepherds, exclaimed, "Behold, I bring you glad 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 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 peach, good-will towards men."

The shepherds were amazed and alarmed at the vision that had so unexpectedly appeared to them; and as they looked and wondered in breathless suspense, the angels rose higher and higher, till they were lost to view.

Recovering from their surprise, the shepherds said one to another, "Let us go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." It is probable that they were not far from Bethlehem, and as they went with haste, they were perhaps there by the time the city was astir in the morning. They soon found Joseph and Mary, and also the babe, which as the angel had said, was lying wrapped in coarse cloths in a manger.

Filled with amazement and joy at what they had seen and heard, they immediately told those whom they met of the wonderful event that had occurred during the night, and the manner of its being made known to them. This excited surprise and curiosity, and many gathered around the infant stranger. But the babe appeared like any other poor child, surrounded with the accompaniments of poverty and destitution; stubborn unbelief fastened upon the multitude, and they turned again to their business or pleasure, and the story of the shepherds was almost forgotten.

Bethlehem before had been the birthplace of an earthly king; it had now become the birthplace of the King of kings, and Lord of lords. Never was such honor bestowed upon any spot of earth, and never can men cease to wonder at this strange manifestation of divinity united with humanity. This God-man, a being unlike all others, was not of the order of angels, for it was not that class of beings he came to benefit. Nor was he merely man; for had he been, he could not have accomplished his mission. Nor yet was he God alone; for in that nature only he could not have taken upon him our infirmities nor borne our griefs. But he was both God and man. The Most High took the form of an infant, and was a mark for hateful men and malignant devils; and while all heaven was rejoicing that the door of mercy was opened to ruined man, devils and men conspired to shut it, and leave the world in midnight gloom for ever.

When Satan saw that Christ, the babe of Bethlehem, was beyond his power, he determined to accomplish his designs through the agency of man. Herod, who was surnamed the Great, became and easy and ready tool, and willingly followed out Satan's suggestions. He dispatched a number of soldiers to destroy all the little boys of Bethlehem, and so make sure of Jesus' death. These hard-hearted men suddenly entered the city, and commenced their horrible work. Who can imagine that deep, heart-rending wail, that burst from the parents of Bethlehem that day? The soldiers entered every house, and every hearthstone was stained with blood. In every home was left the bloody, mangled corpse of the little one, with hands still stretching out imploringly for help. In vain did mothers madly rush from their own roofs with the lisping infants clinging to their necks. The soldiers pursued them, and these first martyrs for Christ were slain in their mother's arms. Rachel, who was buried near this scene of carnage, is represented in Scripture as "weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they were not."

But while Herod was executing his malignant hatred upon the babes of Bethlehem, the infant Jesus, the object of his wrath, was quietly sleeping in his mother's arms in the land of Egypt, far beyond his reach. So easily does God accomplish his own purposes, in spite of the combined wisdom of earth and hell. Herod did not long continue his course of crime. God cut him off by a dreadful disease; and when his Archelaus had ascended the throne, and angel was sent to Egypt to call back the Babe of Bethlehem. Joseph immediately obeyed the summons; but fearing that the new king inherited the cruelty of his father, he passed by Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and stopped at Nazareth, in the central part of Galilee, where he had formerly lived—preferring to be under the rule of Philip, whom he knew to be of a gentle and quiet disposition.

Nazareth, which now became the home of Christ, and probably remained so till he arrived at manhood, is a small city on the west side of mount Tabor. It stood on the side and the foot of an eminence overlooking a small but beautiful valley. At this day it is a town of some importance, having a population of about three thousand industrious inhabitants, part of whom are Turks and part nominal Christians.

What it was in the time of Christ, we do not know, except that it contained a synagogue in which he preached, and where his hearers, being astonished and vexed at the wisdom of Joseph's son, rushed upon him, and led him out of the city to the brow of the hill, to cast him down; but he released himself from their grasp, and passing through the midst of them, went on his way. Being rejected by his own townsmen, he removed to Capernaum.
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2008, 07:02:52 PM »

THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM—CONTINUED

Capernaum was at one time the metropolis of all Galilee, and the principal port on the sea of Gennesareth. Here Christ performed many of his stupendous miracles, and on an adjoining mountain he ordained his twelve disciples. Here he preached that divine sermon recorded in the sixth chapter of John. In this vicinity it also was that he walked through the cornfields on the Sabbath-day, where his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and were reproved by the Pharisees.

That sermon, recorded in Matthew, chapters five to seven, and familiarly known as "Christ's Sermon on the Mount," was delivered on one of Capernaum's mountains, to a great multitude of his countrymen. When evening approached, he dismissed the concourse of people that heard him, and came down from the mountain, wearied with his day's toil, to go to the house of Peter, in the city. Before he reached the place, a leper met him and begged to be healed. Christ, according to his invariable practice, restored him to his usual health; and charging him to go and show himself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded, he left him and went on his way.

Scarcely had he parted from the leper, when a centurion sent to him, and besought him earnestly to cure a servant of his, who lay at home grievously tormented. "I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof; but speak the word, and it shall be done," was his language. Christ marvelled at his faith, and performed the cure. When he arrived at Peter's house, he found the mother of Peter's wife lying sick of a fever. Here was another opportunity for displaying his power: he touched her hand and her fever left her, and she arose and ministered to those around her.

All day Christ had been thronged with the multitude, which had gathered around his pathway and listened intently to his words. He had taught those vital truths which, if received and practised, would lead their sinful souls to heaven. And it was on this eventful day that his mother and his brothers came, desiring to speak with him, and he declared that whosoever did his will was his brother and sister and mother. No sooner had the sun set, and the cool of the evening arrived, than all those who had friends sick, or possessed with devils, brought them to Peter's house, and Christ graciously healed them all.

When he saw the multitudes of people that were gathered and were still gathering about him, he went down to the sea-coast, and sat in a ship and taught the people who stood upon the shore.

His discourse ended, Christ commanded his disciples to depart to the other side of the sea; and being now freed form the throng, he retired to the hinder part of the boat, took a pillow, laid himself down, and slept. He did not awake, although a tempest had gathered around them and the angry waters dashed into the boat. Long and faithful the disciples, some of whom were fishermen, labored to manage the boat and preserve themselves from a watery grave; but still the tempest raged, and when every other hope was gone, they went to Christ and awoke him with these words, "Lord, save, or we perish." Then he arose, and like a God rebuked the sea and the wind, and there was a great calm.

Jesus is now glorified. He never sleep s or slumbers, but stands with outstretched arms, saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Thus he cries to the troubled soul, lashed by an awakened conscience, and terrified by the prospect of eternal death. And how great is the calm produced in the breast of those who cast themselves upon him for help!

The sea of Galilee, around which Christ spent so much of his time, and performed so many miracles, lies beautifully embedded among the mountains. Its whole length from north to south is only from twelve to fourteen miles; and its broadest place, which is north of the middle, is only about seven miles. The water is clear; and many large and small fish are seen by travellers at this day, sporting in its waters.

The basin in which this sea lies is deep, varying from three to four hundred feet; the banks are covered in spring with the richest green, and diversified by fountains and rivulets, which leaping and dancing on their way down from the hill-tops, finally mingle their musical waters with the silent Galilee.

On the eastern side of the sea, where Christ was now going, were wild and desolate mountains, which contrasted finely with the deep blue waters at their feet. In these rocky heights were the graves of past generations, whose deep sleep was not disturbed by the moanings of the devil-possessed beings who hid among the tombs. As Christ and his disciples moored their boat upon the shore, one of these beings met them. Living as he had done among the mountains, without clothes or comfortable food, his flesh was torn, his bare feet were cut, and his long, tangled hair fell loosely over his wild glaring eyes and sunken cheeks; giving him a most frightful and repulsive appearance.

He had been in this condition a long time, and as his friends could neither keep him bound or chained, he was given up by them as worse than dead, and wandered wherever he pleased. Christ was moved with compassion at his deplorable condition, and commanded the devils to come out of him. The hideous looking being ran and prostrated himself before Christ, and calling him "Jesus, the living God," besought him not to torment him. The devils acknowledged Christ's divinity and power, and presented a request, which he granted, and they soon found, with the swine they entered, the bottom of the sea. But the man's poor soul had escaped from their tormenting power; and he being clothed and in his right mind, sat quietly at the feet of Jesus. And when the inhabitants of that region gathered in large numbers around Christ, and besought him to leave their coasts, the restored maniac was apparently the only one who desired his company.

How strange is human nature! As long as the devils were in possession of the man, the people were quiet; but when he was freed, and their swine were destroyed, the people arose in a mass and besought Christ to leave their coasts.

The Saviour sometimes takes at their word those who do not desire his presence; and after advising the man to go home and tell his friends what great things the Lord had done for him, he entered the boat, and returned to Capernaum. A multitude had gathered upon the shore waiting for him, and they received him gladly.

While he was teaching the people, a ruler named Jairus came to him and begged that he would go and heal his daughter, a girl twelve years old; but as he was delayed on the way by the woman who touched the hem of his garment, the child was dead when he entered the house. They laughed him to scorn when he said, "She is not dead, but sleepeth," knowing that she was dead; but he quickly restored her to life.

Soon after Christ sent out from Capernaum his twelve disciples, to different villages, to preach and to heal diseases; while he himself appears to have remained at that place, employed as before in doing good. How long the apostles were gone we are not informed, but when they returned and had told Christ what they had done, he took them to a place called Bethsaida, north of the sea of Galilee, and east of the Jordan. Within its borders they found a retired place, where they hoped for quiet and rest. But they were followed by multitudes of people, whom Christ received kindly, teaching, and healing their sick till near night; and when the disciples spoke of sending them away, Christ told them to distribute among them first their five loaves and two fishes, all that they had; and there the five thousand ate and were satisfied, leaving more to be gathered up as fragments than they had wherewith to commence.

cont'd
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« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2008, 07:03:21 PM »

That same night, while the disciples were crossing the lake in their boat, a violent storm arose; the waves were high, and threatened to engulf them. But towards morning Christ went to them, walking on the water; and when he reached the boat, he commanded the winds and waves to be still, and there was a great calm. After this, he continued to teach the people divine truth, and to work miracles among them, visiting Galilee, and the region of Tyre and Sidon, and the country east and north of the sea of Galilee. But we cannot here relate even a small part of what he did and said.

One day the Saviour took Peter, James, and John, and went up upon a mountain to pray, and was transfigured before them. "His countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistening;" and Moses and Elijah were there talking with him. One object of this transfiguration was, to give Christ's followers an assurance that they should be raised to glory and immortality with him. His transfigured body was an emblem of a glorified body at the resurrection, for then we shall be like him. It was also an evidence to the disciples that those good men who once walked the hills and plains of this world, and suffered and died like other men, were alive in another state of existence, and were yet taking an interest in the affairs of the church below.

Moses and Elijah talked with Christ about the death he was to accomplish at Jerusalem—the most wonderful and important of all earthly events, and one that kings and prophets for many ages had longed to understand. The apostles, either overpowered by their presence, or drowsy with fatigue, did not at first fully realize the presence of these holy beings; but gradually a sweet sense of heaven dawned upon their souls, and Peter exclaimed from the fulness of his heart, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias:" not wishing ever again to descend to the strife and sins of the world below. While they were yet speaking a cloud descended and overshadowed them all, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him."

Deeply terrified at the presence of the infinite Jehovah, the disciples with covered faces prostrated themselves upon the earth, and saw and heard no more till Christ laid his hand kindly upon them, with the soothing words, "Arise, and be not afraid;" and when they lifted up their eyes, they were alone with Jesus.

After this Christ returned to Capernaum and wrought many mighty and gracious works there, and in other parts of Galilee; also in Samaria, and in Jerusalem, and in the region beyond Jordan. It was a sad and solemn time when the last day and the last night of his presence at Capernaum came. It had been for years his chief home; here he had daily mingled with the inhabitants, walked their streets, ate at their tables, taught them upon the seashore, and upon their mountains, healed their sick, and raised their dead; and now as he saw the hardness of their hearts and their unbelief, he said with sorrow, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell." If those who so long enjoyed the preaching of Christ himself were lost, let us in this Christian land, and with the light of the nineteenth century around us, fear lest we also fail of a personal interest in the Saviour, and so be finally cast away.

Christ gathered his disciples together, and wending his way down the lake, left Capernaum for ever. After spending some months in Samaria and Judea, they crossed the Jordan and continued their journey through the towns and villages on the eastern side, teaching men and healing their diseases.

But when the time arrived for his appearance at Jerusalem, when he was to deliver himself up to his murderers, he took the twelve, and crossing the Jordan for the last time, came to Jericho. Here he was met by Bartimeus the blind man, whom he cured. Zaccheus too, who for a long time had had a desire to see Jesus, ran ahead, and climbed a sycamore-tree, that he might see him as he passed. Christ dined with Zaccheus that day, and salvation came to his house.

Passing on, the Saviour continued his course towards Jerusalem. He had often visited the city during his ministry, and spent whole nights on mount Olivet in prayer. He had also found dear friends at the house of Martha and Mary, whose brother Lazarus he had raised from the dead; and now he was approaching the beloved, but guilty and self-ruined city, where he was to receive insult, abuse, and death. But devoted to the great object of his mission to earth, he pressed forward to the accomplishment of the grand design.

In less than a week more, he was to be delivered up to be crucified. It was to be a week of sufferings and of trials, of which finite man can form no conception; and like a man bowed under a load too heavy to bear alone, he sought once more the consoling influences of friendship, from his disciples and in the house of Martha and Mary at Bethany. The feast of unleavened bread was at hand; the paschal lamb was to be slain, and Christ the Lamb of God was to be sacrificed for the sin of the world.

On the second day of this week, as he was approaching Jerusalem, the colt of an ass was procured, and the disciples seated the Saviour upon it; then, followed by the multitude, he proceeded towards the city. They were met by a large company, who, hearing of his approach, had taken palm branches and come out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna; Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord." The company continued on its way down the sides of the mountain, and passed by the garden in which Jesus was so soon to be betrayed by one of those very disciples who were now singing his praise.

There in all its glory lay the beautiful city, with its mount Zion, and its golden temple, where God had manifested himself to man, and accepted their sacrifices. But Jerusalem's children had rejected his proffered mercies, and to their other revolting acts of iniquity were about to add this crowning one of all, the crucifying of the Son of God. The fourth day of the week, after teaching all day in Jerusalem and on the mount of Olives, he again went out to Bethany. Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, was there to welcome him, and to do what he could to cheer his drooping spirit. A man named Simon, living in the same town, and wishing to express his regard for Christ, invited him with the disciples, an Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, to a supper; and while they sat and talked, Mary opened a box of very costly ointment and poured it upon the feet of the Saviour, and kneeling, wiped them with the hair of her head.

The unhappy Judas sat by and frowningly asked, "Why was not this ointment sold, and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and wished the money for himself. Christ meekly replied, "Let her alone: the poor ye always have with you, and ye may do them good whenever ye will; but me ye have not always; agastin the day of my burying hath she kept this."

But the Passover feast was now to be observed. Two disciples were sent on before into the city, to prepare a place in which Christ and the twelve could eat the Passover. The lamb was to be slain between three and five o'clock in the afternoon preceeding the first day of the feast, which commenced at sunset, and was eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs on the same evening. Each Jewish family were to have a lamb, or if the families were small, two might associate together.

Christ met his disciples in an upper chamber to eat the lamb which typified his own sufferings and death. He is called "our Passover," and "the Lamb of God." As the lamb was to be without defect, so Christ was wholly "without spot." His blood was poured out freely for the sins of his people, as the lamb's blood was poured by the priest at the foot of the altar. No bone of the sacrifice should be broken. So no bone of Christ was broken, although a Roman soldier went out on purpose to break the legs oft hose crucified on that day. The lamb was to be eaten: so Christ said to his disciples, as he took bread and broke it, "This is my body, broken for sin; take and eat." Faith in him is represented to us as eating his flesh, in evident allusion to the eating of the paschal lamb. The Hebrews in Egypt sprinkled their door-posts and lintels with the blood of the lamb, in order to save themselves from the destroying angel; and it is only by the blood of Christ that any of our race can escape the just demerit of sin.
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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2008, 07:04:09 PM »

THE BABE OF BETHLEHEM—CONTINUED

How mournfully solemn was that last meeting in that upper chamber! All felt that a dark shadow was resting heavily upon their spirits; but the reality they could not discern till Christ, being troubled in spirit, said, sorrowfully, "One of you shall betray me." What a thrill of horror electrified their hearts at these words! They sat and looked one upon another, and with distrust of themselves and many fears did the words, "Lord, is it I?" drop from lip after lip. Dared they wait or hope for an answer to so fearful a question? But Christ soon indicated to them who was to be the traitor; and then to the traitor he said, "What thou doest, do quickly." Judas left the room hurriedly; and the other disciples thought, as he had the purse, he had gone out to buy something for the feast, or to give to the poor.

Darkness had settled down over Jerusalem; but Judas, like one possessed of an evil spirit, hurries on alone from street to street, nor stops till he arrives at the house of the chief priest; and calling him aside, he informs him that if he will supply him with a body of Roman soldiers, he will probably be able to deliver to him before morning, the "king of the Jews," as they deridingly called Christ. The chief priest was rejoiced, and covenanted to give him money; and then going to the chief captain, he found no difficulty in raising a multitude; and while they were hurrying here and there, preparing their torches and girding on their swords, Christ, though perfectly conscious of the whole transaction, sat in that upper room, and taught, like a sympathizing and suffering man, his sorrowful disciples.

How kindly Christ says to them, "Let not your heart be troubled;" assured them that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father's house; promises to come again and receive them when they were through with earth's trials; and tells them, that while they were in the world he would be with them, and answer all their prayers.

He then commanded them to love one another. Strange, that it should be necessary to give such a command to such a body of Christians. It indicates a dark spot in human nature, and should be a warning to all Christians, "lest they fall out by the way."

Christ told them that he had many things more to say to them, but seeing their hearts ready to break with sorrow, he added, "Ye cannot bear them now. I will send you the Comforter, and he shall guide you into all truth." He then lifted up his eyes to heaven, and uttered that most pathetic and tender prayer which is recorded in the seventeenth chapter of John—a prayer which included not only the disciples to whom he was speaking, but also all who should believe on him through their word.

When his prayer was ended, he arose to go. Midnight was approaching, and he must go forth to tread the wine-press of God's wrath alone. He descended the stairs with the eleven, and came out into the street of the city. Look at that band of sorrowing men as they went their way in the darkness towards the eastern gate of the city, and descend slowly into the valley of the Kidron. They entered the garden called Gethsemane, and then was witnessed by multitudes of spiritual beings, both holy and unholy, a more heart-rending scene than had ever occurred on this sinful earth. It was that exceeding sorrow which brought the blessed Saviour night unto death, until "his sweat was as great drops of blood falling down to the ground." When his spirit was groaning beneath its awful burden, the compassion of heaven was manifested in the advent of an angel to strengthen him, that he might accomplish the great atoning sacrifice.

Then came Judas and the multitude with torches, swords, and staves, clamorous for the blood of their innocent victim. How meekly and like a lamb he delivers himself up to his murderers! But see how cruelly and roughly they handle him; how tight they draw those cutting cords around his hands, and how rapidly they hurry him away to his mock trial. He was first taken to Annas, but he gave him back bound, to the rabble; and he was taken through the dark streets to the house of Caiaphas. Here he was questioned and abused by that dignitary of the Jewish church, and by the Sanhedrin, through the remainder of the night; and when the day began to dawn, was sent to Pilate the Roman governor.

Josephus informs us that "Pilate was a man of an obstinate and impetuous temper, and one who would for money sell justice, and pronounce any sentence that was desired." He makes mention of his rapines, his impositions, his murders, and the torments that he inflicted upon the innocent; not a few of whom were put to death without any forms of law. St. Luke says that Pilate mingled the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices, but why we are not informed. He disturbed the repose of Judea during his whole administration of ten years; but was at length deposed, sent to Rome to give an account of his conduct to the emperor, condemned to go into exile, and there reduced to such extremities, that it is said he laid violent hands upon himself.

When Christ was arraigned before this unjust and cruel man, it is not surprising that he was delivered up to his murderers; although his innocence was so clear that even Pilate would not have condemned him, but for the urgent demands and threatenings of the Jews.

It was the custom, before delivering a man up for crucifixion, to scourge him with rods or whips, a torture under which the sufferer sometimes expired. Pilate scourged Jesus, and then delivered him up to the soldiers and the mob, who led him away out of the city gate to the place of crucifixion.

We would gladly draw a veil over this part of the awful tragedy; but as these sufferings were inflicted for our sins, we should with deep humility draw near and behold the scene. Though the Saviour is wearied, and sinking with the previous day's trials and burdens, the sleepless night of unutterable agony, and the scourging upon his naked body, they unfeelingly lay upon him his cross and compel him to carry it.

The cross of the Romans was generally about ten feet high after it was placed in the ground, and had a small projection, about half way up, on which the sufferer partially sat, to prevent the weight of the body from tearing the hands and feet from the nails, and so letting the person down. The beam was placed firmly in the ground, the criminal elevated upon it, the arms tied to the cross-piece with ropes, and his hands and feet afterwards nailed with spikes. Sometimes each foot received a nail, at other times one spike answered for both. In this position the poor sufferer was left to linger on, from day to day, until death finally came to his relief. As long as any life remained, he was watched by a guard.

To produce intoxication, or a stupor, that the crucified one might be less sensible of pain, the Jews gave a medicated drink of wine and myrrh. This Christ refused, for the obvious reason that he wished to die with his mind and spirit unclouded. It was a different drink which was afterwards offered him by the soldiers. This was a common beverage among the soldiers.

Crucifixion was not only the most ignominious death, but it was cruel beyond description. "The position of the body is unnatural, the arms being extended back, and almost immovable. In case of the least movement, the nails being driven through the hands and feet, which abound with nerves and tendons, create the most exquisite anguish. The exposure of so many wounds to the open air brings on an inflammation, which every moment increases the poignancy of the suffering. In those parts of the body which are distended or pressed, more blood flows through the arteries than can be carried back by the veins. The consequence is, that a greater quantity of blood finds its way into the head and stomach than would be carried there by a natural circulation. The general obstruction extends its effects likewise to the heart, and an internal pressure and anguish more intolerable than death itself is produced. The degree of anguish is gradual in its increase, and the person crucified is able to live under it commonly till the third, and sometimes till the seventh day."

To all these sufferings Christ yielded himself up freely, that he might surely save the church that he loved with an unearthly love. He took upon him our sins, and bore them in his own body upon the tree. He suffered and died as a man, but opened the gates of Paradise to the dying thief like a God!

His body was wrapped in a winding-sheet, and laid in the sepulchre cold and pale in death. But the grave could not hold him, for by his own immortal energies he burst the bands of death, and rose triumphant, like a God.

See him again after his resurrection. He meets his disciples, and sympathizes and talks and eats with them; and then leading them out as far as Bethany, he ascends in radiant majesty a God confessed! "God has gone up with a shout! The Lord with the sound of a trumpet! Sing praises unto God; sing unto our King, sing praises."

"All hail the power of Jesus' name, Let angels prostrate fall; Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown him Lord of all."
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2008, 07:04:54 PM »

THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM

Eighteen hundred years have rolled their rounds since the events recorded in the last chapter occurred; but Bethlehem still stands on the end or spur of the mountain, where it has stood thousands of years, and where travellers will visit it with interest and veneration till the end of time.

The valley which surrounds the city on three sides is luxuriant and beautiful, and is shaded by olive, fig, pomegranate, oleander, and myrtle trees, interspersed with flowers of rich and varied hue. Some of these, no doubt, bloom on the same field where Ruth gathered her barley. But whether you imagine it on that undulating ground at the south, or in that beautiful valley which stretches off a mile or more at the east, or where, as you take the northern path, you pass through the grove of olive-trees and go on towards Rachel's grave, it matters not; it is somewhere near at hand, and the outlines of the scenery are the same as when Ruth saw them that day with a happy heart, as she hastened home with the fruits of her labor to her mother.

The village itself is now a sad and uninviting place. Dull, blank walls of low stone huts with flat roofs, line each side of the main street, which is narrow and unpleasant. No street-lamps are burning brightly at night, as in modern cities, neither are there lighted and pleasant windows on a dark evening, intimating to the traveller that there are happy households gathered around the social hearth.

The inhabitants are a motley mixture of Greek, Latin, and Armenian Christians, with some Turks and Arabs. Their principal employment is the manufacture of the shell of the pearl oyster into crucifixes, etc., which are sold in large numbers to the pilgrims, who are glad to carry away something from this sacred spot. Some of the shells are smoothed and carved with designs taken from the Scriptures, such as the flight into Egypt, the nativity.

The costume of the inhabitants is gay and fanciful. The Turks wear different colored turbans wound around their heads, while their pantaloons are broad, and their coats loose and flowing. Their manners and customs are in many respects the reverse of ours. At their meals they sit on the floor, eat with their fingers, and show their politeness by helping themselves before they do their guests. They turn their toes in while walking; and on entering a church, instead of uncovering their heads as our gentlemen do, they remove their shoes. They write from right to left; and in mounting a horse, take the right side. An inquiry after their wives they resent as in insult.

Besides the inhabitants mentioned, the city is often crowded by pilgrims who visit in large numbers the birthplace of our Lord. It is supposed by many modern travellers, that the identical spot where Christ was born is pointed out—a cave in the eastern part of the city on the brow of the hill; and as such caves or grottoes abound in Palestine, and are sometimes used as stables, the supposition is that Christ was born in such a place. A convent and church stand over this grotto, and completely shut it out from the light of the sun. This convent was built by Helena, the mother of Constantine, and is a huge pile of large stones, and adorned with great magnificence. But who would not much rather see the manger as it was, eighteen hundred years ago, when a bed of straw was the cradle of the Lord of glory, and his worshippers, though few, were true and sincere?

Great events have taken place from time to time upon this earth, but the greatest of all, in connection with its results, occurred in this little town of Bethlehem. Here that "Bread of heaven" came down, of which if a man eat he shall hunger no more. It was a little city, and but little honored among the cities of Judah; but God placed honors upon it which can never be effaced. As long as time endures, Bethlehem of Judah will be known. While we reverence the city for the sake of One who was born there, let us not forget to place our heart's best affections upon Him by and for whom all worlds and beings were made; but who condescended for our sakes to take our nature, and become the Babe of Bethlehem, the Man of sorrows, the dying Saviour, our Elder Brother, and everlasting Redeemer.

THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM

"When marshaled on the nightly plain,
The glittering host bestud the sky,
One Star alone of all the train
Can fix the sinner's wandering eye.

Hark, hark! to God the chorus breaks,
From every host, from every gem;
But one alone the Saviour speaks,
It is the Star of Bethlehem.

Once on the raging seas I rode—
The storm was loud, the night was dark,
The ocean yawned, and rudely blowed
The wind that tossed my foundering bark.

Deep horror then my vitals froze,
Death-struck, I ceased the tide to stem;
When suddenly a Star arose—
It was the Star of Bethlehem.

It was my guide, my light, my all;
It bade my dark forebodings cease;
And through the storm and danger's thrall,
It led me to the port of peace.

Now safely moored—my perils o'er—
I'll sing, first in night's diadem,
For ever, and for evermore,
The Star, the Star of Bethlehem."
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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