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Olympas. From whom had he this information of the things most surely believed, Reuben?
Reuben. "From those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word.”
Olympas. What then is the difference between the information received from Luke and the Apostles, Eliza?
Eliza. Luke did not first see and hear from the lips of the Messiah and others the things here reported, while the ear-witnesses and first ministers of the word did.
Olympas. In what attitude, Thomas, does this place Luke before us?
Z'homas. In the same attitude as that which Moses held in the book of Genesis. Moses reported what he had learned from indubitable authority. So does Luke.
Olympas. The Prophet, then, utters new and original ideas directly from inspiration; whereas the historian faithfully records what he has learned. The sacred historians are, however, said to be divinely assisted in the matter of the fidelity of their work, as we shall hereafter enforce.
Thomas. We are at a loss to know who Theophilus was, to whom Luke addressed himself in this narrative.
Olympas. So have been our most learned expositors. Many have thought him to be a ficticious character, because the word literally indicates a friend of God. But others more rationally suppose him to have been a real person, because of the epithet of nobility accompanying the name -Kratiste, (Most Excellent,) being prefixed by Paul to the Roman Governor Felix on two occasions, and once to Festus, as Luke himself
narrates, Acts xxiii., xxiv., XXV. All disciples are theophiloi; and to attach "Most Excellent" to one of them as indicative of his profession, would be a solecism in the New Testament. Theophilus was, then, some dignified personage in Greece, most probably converted by Luke, to whom he addresses both this book and that of the Acts of the Apostles. What appears to have been the desigu of this historian in this narrative, William ?
William. That Theophilus might know the certainty of those things in which he had been instructed.
Olympas. We may then expect a clear, full, and well documented narrative of the things believed so confidently by the first Christians. Where does the narrative commence, Eliza ?
Eliza. In the fifth verse, with the reign of Herod.
Olympas. What Herod was this, Thomas ?
Thomas. Herod the Great, as Josephus calls him; or Herod the King of Judea.
Olympas. How many Herods are mentioned in the New Testament history?
Thomas. I am not sure that I know them all ; but in reading Josephus I observe several persons of the same designations with those mentioned in the New Testament. Herod the Great, a proselyte to the Jews' religion, but an Idumean by birth, obtained from the Roman people the government of Judea about thirty-six years before the birth of the Messiah. He is called Herod the Great by way of contrast with the other Herods. He was the father of Herod Philip, and Herod Antipas, who married his brother Philip's wife during his life-time. By his son Aristobulus he had the
grandson Herod Agrippa, the same who murdered the Apostle James, the brother of John. This Herod Agrippa was the father of that King Agrippa, brother of Queen Bernice, before whom Paul made his defence, as written Acts xxvi.
Olympas. Can you, Eliza, enumerate all the Herods mentioned in the New Testament?
Eliza. I will try, sir. Herod the Great, and his two sons, Herod Philip, and Herod Antipas, his grandson Herod Agrippa, and his great grandson Herod Agrippa the King. In all, five.
Olympas. I once told you from Calmet, Josephus, and others, Reuben, the superlative vices of this family of Herods. Can you recite them ?
Reuben. Herod the Great, you said, was a great monster. He married ten wives-murdered his oldest son Antipather--murdered his second wife, Ariamne, and her two sons, Alexander and Aristobulus-murdered the innocents at Beth. lehem, for the sake of murdering the Messiah. His son Herod Antipas murdered John the Baptist. His grandson Herod Agrippa murdered James the Apostle, machinated the destruction of Peter, but fortunately died suddenly at Cesarea.
Olympas. They were certainly a bloody race. How long did Herod the Great reign over Judea, and who succeeded him, William ?
William. He reigned seven and thirty years, and was succeeded by Archelaus his son, who reigned only nine years.
Olympas. After your introduction to the family of the Herods, we shall proceed to other matters in the passage, after a single remark on the pre
diction of Jacob—“The 'sceptre,” said he, “was not to depart from Judah till Shiloh, came.". Herod the Idumean was the first prince of foreign blood that sat on the throne of David. Though a proselyte to the Jews' religion, he had nothing in common with the royal family of Judah. Still
, under his reign, one year before its close, the Shiloh appeared and verified the prediction of his father Jacob-"Unto Shiloh the gathering of the people has been.” What other historical facts are related in the portion read, James, Susan, and William ?
James. Zacharias was a Priest in the days of Herod, and Elizabeth his wife was also a Levite, of the daughters of Aaron. He was of Abijah.
William. But they had no child and were both far advanced in years.
Susan. They were both righteous persons.
Thomas. According to this representation a "righteous man" is one that walks in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
James. While ministering in the Priest's office it became his lot to burn incense, and he did it.
Susan. “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing at the right side of the altar of incense.”
William. His appearance, however, much disconcerted the good man. The angel perceiving this, bade him lay aside his fear, and intimated to him that he should have a son in his old days who was to be “great in the sight of the Lord.”
Olympas. Notice, my dear children, this phrase, great in the sight of the Lord.” This is a very different sort of greatness from that which is called by that name in the common acceptation of
mankind. Many men have been great in the sight of mon, who have been exceedingly little in the sight of God.
Witliam. He was to be to his parents a source of joy and gladness, and many were to rejoice at his birth. He was to be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb. James. What is this Holy Spirit?
Olympas. It is called “the Spirit of God," " the Spirit of Holiness.” It is the author of our holiness.
Susan. What is holiness?
Olympas. It is sanctification---separation to God-or piety. Any thing devoted or set apart to God, is, in Scripture language, holy. God himself is holy; therefore his Spirit is the Spirit of Holiness.
William. I know not how any one could be filled with it. The infant John was filled with it. What does that mean?
Olympas. When a person is said to be full of life, full of love, full of joy, or joyful, he is known to be replete with the effects of life, love, joy, &c. Now where the Spirit of God is felt or is present, it is by such manifestations as these. His gracious effects are there. They are intelligence or light, love, joy, peace, holiness. The Holy Spirit thus replenished the infant harbinger.
Reuben. But was it not extraordinary that an infant child should be so?
Olympas. It was, indeed, extraordinary; and therefore John was an extraordinary person all his life.
Susan. Are any children now filled with the Ioly Spirit?