THE Rev. Dr. Kitto thus describes his first impressions of the town of Bethlehem:
“The first appearance of Bethlehem is very striking, in whatever direction it is approached. It is built upon a ridge of considerable elevation; and has a rapid descent to the north and east. The white stone of which the hill is composed, and of which the town is built, makes it very hot, and gives it a dusty appearance. It is surrounded by small valleys, or depressions, devoted to the culture of the olive and the vine ; and has, in the distance, a massive and imposing appearance.
“There can be no doubt that the town is the Bethlehem of Scripture — ‘not the least among the princes of Judah’ — where was consummated the great mystery of ‘God manifest in the flesh’; where the Son of God entered a sin-ruined world, that by his obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, He might make an atonement for human guilt, and ‘open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.’
“What would be the gross darkness of the earth now had not the Light of the world appeared, as ‘ a day-spring from on high,’ out of Bethlehem ? As the poor virgin of Nazareth became the ‘blessed among women,’ even so was this humble mountain-town of Judah selected to rank among the most honoured of all the cities of the earth. But its fame reaches far back beyond the Christian era. A thousand years before it gave to the world the thorn-crowned King, who still reigns over all the realms of truth, it bestowed upon the house of Israel its most illustrious minstrel and monarch, in the person of Jesse’s son.
“It was amid these fields that the youthful David fed his father’s sheep; and that his young heart was nourished in those pious thoughts which abundantly break forth in. his Psalms. More highly honoured yet were the fields of Bethlehem when the shepherds who watched their flocks in them by night were, first of all, privileged to hear proclaimed by the heavenly host the good tidings of great joy to all people, that there was born that day ‘in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.’ And still more, for that great mercy to man, for which man is so thankless — the angelic choir was there heard to break forth in praise: ‘Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace, good-will toward men’ (Luke ii. 14).”— Extracted from The Land of Promise (London: Religious Tract Society).