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election, with remembrances and notions highly compunctive, and greatly incentive of all the parts of sanctity. Let thy Holy Spirit dwell in my soul, instructing my knowledge, sanctifying my thoughts, guiding my affections, directing my will in the choice of virtue ; that it may be the great employment of my life to meditate in thy law, to study thy preceptive will, to understand even the niceties and circumstantials of my duty ; that ignorance may neither occasion a sin, nor become a punishment. Take from me all vanity of spirit, lightness of fancy, curiosity and impertinency of inquiry, illusions of the devil, and fantastic deceptions : let my thoughts be as my religion, plain, honest, pious, simple, prudent, and charitable ; of great employment and force to the production of virtues and extermination of vice; but suffering no transportations of sense and vanity, nothing greater than the capacities of my soul, nothing that may minister to any intemperances of spirit; but let me be wholly inebriated with love; and that love wholly spent in doing such actions, as best please thee, in the conditions of my infirmity and the securities of humility, till thou shalt please to draw the curtain, and reveal thy interior beauties, in the kingdom of thine eternal glories : which grant, for thy mercy's sake, O holy and eternal Jesu. Amen.

SECTION VI.

Of the Death of the Holy Innocents, or the Babes of Beth

lehem, and the Flight of Jesus into Egypt. 1. All this while Herod waited for the return of the wise men, that they might give directions, where the child did lie, and his sword might find him out, with a certain and direct execution. But “ when he saw, that he was mocked of the wise men, he was exceeding wroth.” For it now began to deserve his trouble, when his purposes, which were most secret, began to be contradicted and diverted with a prevention, as if they were resisted by an all-seeing and almighty Providence. He began to suspect, the hand of Heaven was in it; and saw, there was nothing for his purposes to be

acted; unless he could dissolve the golden chain of predestination. Herod believed the Divine oracles, foretelling that a king should be born in Bethlehem; and yet his ambition had made him so stupid, that he attempted to cancel the decree of Heaven. For, if he did not believe the prophecies, why was he troubled? If he did believe them, how could he possibly hinder that event, which God had foretold, himself would certainly bring to pass ?

2. And, therefore, since God already had hindered him from the executions of a distinguishing sword, he resolved to send a sword of indiscrimination and confusion ; hoping, that if he killed all the babes of Bethlehem, this young king's reign also should soon determine. He, therefore, “ sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” For this execution was in the beginning of the second year after Christ's nativity, as in all probability we guessa; not at the two years' end, as some suppose: because as his malice was subtle, so he intended, it should be secure; and though he had been diligent in his inquiry, and was near the time in his computation, yet he, that was never sparing of the lives of others, would now, to secure his kingdom, rather overact his severity for some months, than, by doing execution but just to the tittle of his account, hazard the escaping of the Messias.

3. This execution was sad, cruel, and universal : no abatements made for the dire shriekings of the mothers, no tender-hearted soldier was employed, no hard-hearted person was softened by the weeping eyes and pity-begging looks of those mothers, that wondered, how it was possible any person should hurt their pretty sucklings; no connivances there, no protections, or friendships, or considerations, or indulgences; but Herod caused, that his own child, which was at nurse in the coasts of Bethlehem, should bleed to death : which made Augustus Cæsar to say, that, “ in Herod's house, it were better to be a hog than a child b;" because the custom of the nation did secure a hog from Herod's knife, but no religion could secure his child. The sword, being thus made sharp by Herod's commission, killed fourteen thousand pretty babes; as the Greeks, in their calendar, and the Abyssines of Ethiopia, do commemorate in their offices of liturgy. For Herod, crafty and malicious, that is, perfectly tyrant, had caused all the children to be gathered together; which the credulous mothers, (supposing it had been to take account of their age and number, in order to some taxing,) hindered not, but unwittingly suffered themselves and their babes to be betrayed to an irremediable butchery.

a Sic ait Glossa ordinaria ; sed Onuphrius in Fastis ait hanc cædem biennio post Christum natum contigisse.

b Macrob. Saturnal. lib. ii. c. 4.

4. “ Then was fulfilled that, which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, Lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning ; Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted.” All the synonymas of sadness were little enough to express this great weeping, when fourteen thousand mothers, in one day, saw their pretty babes, pouring forth their blood into that bosom, whence, not long before, they had sucked milk; and, instead of those pretty smiles, which use to entertain the fancy and dear affections of their mothers, nothing but affrighting shrieks, and then ghastly looks. The mourning was great, like “ the mourning in the valley of Hinnom, and there was no comforter;" their sorrow was too big to be cured, till it should lie down alone, and rest with its own weariness.

5. But the malice of Herod went also into the hill country; and hearing, that of John, the son of Zacharias, great things were spoken, by which he was designed to a great ministry about this young prince, he attempted in him also to rescind the prophecies, and sent a messenger of death towards him; but the mother's care had been early with him, and sent him into desert places, where he continued till the time appointed “ of his manifestation unto Israel.” But, as the children of Bethlehem died in the place of Christ, so did the father of the Baptist die for his child. For “ Herod slew Zacharias between the temple and the altar," because he refused to betray his son to the fury of that rabid beard. Though some persons, very eminent amongst the stars of the primitive church, report a tradition”, that a place being separated in the temple for virgins, Zacharias suffered the mother of our Lord to abide there after the birth of her holy Son, affirming her still to be a virgin; and that for this reason, not Herod, but the scribes and pharisees, did kill Zacharias.

e Qualis apud Lucianum describitur Tyrannicid. 'Excīvos no ó thu ogougar κρατύνων, και τους τυραννουμένους εκκόστων, και τους επιβουλεύοντας φοβών, και τους εφήβους ανασπών, και ενυβρίζων τους γάμους: εκείνω αι παρθένοι ανήγοντο και εί τινες σφαγει, και εί τινες φυγαι, και χρημάτων αφαιρέσεις, και βάσανοι, και ύβρεις, &c.-Bipont. vol. iv. P. 511.

6. Tertullian reports, that the blood of Zacharias had so besmeared the stones of the pavement, which was the altar, on which the good old priest was sacrificed, that no art or industry could wash the tincture out, the dye and guilt being both indelible; as if, because God did intend to exact of that nation“ all the blood of righteous persons, from Abel to Zacharias,” who was the last of the martyrs of the synagogue, he would leave a character of their guilt in their eyes, to upbraid their irreligion, cruelty, and infidelity. Some there are, who affirm these words of our blessed Saviour not to relate to any Zacharias, who had been already slain; but to be a prophecy of the last of all the martyrs of the Jews, who should be slain immediately before the destruction of the last temple, and the dissolution of the nation. Certain it is, that such a Zacharias, the son of Baruch, (if we may believe Josephus 3,) was slain, in the middle of the temple, a little before it was destroyed; and it is agreeable to the nature of the prophecy and reproof here made by our blessed Saviour, that, (from Abel to Zacharias,) should take in “ all the righteous blood” from first to last, till the iniquity was complete; and it is not imaginable, that the blood of our blessed Lord, and of St. James their bishop, (for whose death, many of themselves thought, God destroyed their city,) should be left out of the account, which yet would certainly be left out, if any other Zacharias should be meant, than he, whom they last slew : and in proportion to this, Cyprian de Valera expounds that, which we read in the past tense, to signify the future, " ye slew,” i. e.“ shall slay;" according to the style often used by prophets, and as the aorist of an uncertain signification will bear. But the first great instance of the

* Sic Chrysost. et Petrus Martyr. episc. Alexandr. Niceph. et Cedrenus.

• Sic aiunt Origen.tract. 23. in Evang. Matth. S. Basiì. Homil. de Humana Christi Generatione. Nyssen. in Natali Christi. Cyril. adv. Anthropomorphitas. In Scorpiaco, cap. 8.

& Lib. iv.

Divine vengeance for these executions, was upon Herod, who, in very few years after, was smitten of God with so many plagues and tortures, that himself alone seemed like an hospital of the incurabili: for he was tormented with a soft slow fire, like that of burning iron or the cinders of yew, in his body; in his bowels, with intolerable colics and ulcers; in his natural parts, with worms; in his feet, with gout; in his nerves, with convulsions, difficulty of breathing; and out of divers parts of his body issued out so impure and ulcerous a steam, that the loathsomeness, pain, and indignation, made him once to snatch a knife, with purpose to have killed himself; but that he was prevented by a nephew of his, that stood there in his attendance.

7. But as the flesh of beasts grows callous by stripes and the pressure of the yoke; so did the heart of Herod, by the loads of Divine vengeance. God began his hell here; and the pains of hell never made any man less impious : for Herod, perceiving that he must now die", first put to death his son Antipater, under pretence, that he would have poisoned him; and that the last scene of his life might, for pure malice and exalted spite, outdo all the rest, because he believed the Jewish nation would rejoice at his death, he assembled all the nobles of the people, and put them in prison, giving in charge to his sister Salome, that, when he was expiring his last, all the nobility should be slain, that his death might be lamented with a perfect and universal

sorrow.

8. But God, that brings to nought the counsels of wicked princes, turned the design against the intendment of Herod; for when he was dead, and could not call his sister to account for disobeying his most bloody and unrighteous commands, she released all the imprisoned and despairing gentlemen, and made the day of her brother's death a perfect jubilee, a day of joy, such as was that, when the nation was delivered from the violence of Haman, in the days of Purim.

9. And, all this while, God had provided a sanctuary for the holy child, Jesus. For God, seeing the secret purposes of blood, which Herod had, sent his angel', “ who appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young

* Δειναι γας και κοίται απoιχoμένοιο λέοντος.

· Matth. ii. 13.

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