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HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
LUKE 11. 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52.
Yow his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was
twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, weut a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the Doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him they were amazed : and his mother said unto him, son, why hast thou thus dealt with us 1 Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, how is it that ye sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ? and they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
UNIVERSAL Nature is progress, succession and change. We observe it in every thing around us, we feel it in every particle of our own frame. But obvious as this progression is, in its larger portions, the minuter details defy the closest attention of the acutest eye. Darkness has evidently given place to light; but what vigilance of inspection could ascertain the precise instant when night ceased and light began to dawn? That plant is palpably increased in strength and size, but let me hang over it the livelong day, with the unremitting penetration of an eagle's eye, and I am incapable of catching a single step of the progress. Shade melts imperceptibly into shade ; the transition is made, but we were not aware of it; whether we be asleep or awake, careless or attentive, the great complex machine keeps in motion, performs its revolution, produces its effect. The progress of man, the most perfect of all creatures that we are acquainted with, is the most interesting of all objects to man. If it be delightful to behold the trees of the forest burst into verdure, and those of the garden putting on their beautiful garments, and changing that beauty into fruitfulness; if it be pleasant to behold the springing corn multiply thirty, sixty, a hundred fold ; to behold the flocks and herds increase -what must it be to behold the image of God multiplied on the earth, the human form divine rear itself toward heaven, the powers of thought and reason expand.
THOMSON'S SPRING, 1. 1143.
But this, like every other human delight, is blended with pain. Even the paruality of parental affection is constrained to observe rank and noisesome weeds springing up with the delicate seeds of goodness; the dawning of reason is obscured by the clouds of folly and vice, and the promise of a golden harvest is blighted in early spring, by late frost or premature heat. Before we are well awake to the joy of some newly discovered excellency, we are overwhelmed with the distress of perceiving some glaring imperfection, or ungracious propensity: and where we love and rejoice, there also we find cause to lament and condemn. The spirit of God has seen meet to present the world with one perfect model, for the instruction of every age of human life. We have held it up in a state of infantine beauty, simplicity and gentleness, a passive example of subjection to poverty, and danger, and persecution; but we have seen the meanness and obscurity of that state relieved by the decided attention of eternal Providence, and by the voluntary homage of angels and men.
On returning from Egypt, Jesus was carried to the obscure village of Naz. areth, and the veil is drawn over him till his twelfth year, when he was pleased to clothe himself for a little while with majesty, and then disappeared, till the time of his final manifestation to the world, as the Saviour of it. The law obliged every male of Israel to appear before the Lord in the place which he had chosen to put his name there, three times every year, at the three great feasts of passover, pentecost, and tabernacles. This was evidently intended to maintain a good correspondence between all the members of the commonwealth, by the social intercourse, the innocent festivity and the devotional exercises which these solemnities promoted.
Joseph and the mother of Jesus, though the injunction extended not to females, were in the habit of regularly attending the service of the temple on those occasions; and Jesus, another “Nazarite to God from his mother's womb,” accompanied them to the holy place. Self-evident marks of the favour of heaven were already upon him. “ He grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom.” Expressions importing uncommon comeliness of person, and superiour powers of understanding; but in Him, as in other children, we behold a gradual progression from knowledge to knowledge, as from stature to stature. For as nature conceals from us at what moment she unites the iinmortal mind to the mortal frame, so the Holy Spirit has thought proper to conceal at what season, and in what measure, Deity was pleased to unite himself to the human nature of the Redeemer; and let us not overcuriously seek “ to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power." Neither the lovely form, nor the attractive goodness, nor the excellent wisdom, however, of this wonderful child, seem to have roused much attention or commanded uncommon respect. The world is captivated not by real and solid worth, but by the gaudy outside of shewy, superficial qualities. Rank and riches spread a glare over the person of their possessor, that makes it known and remembered : they add weight to his most ordinary sayings, which gives them currency and importance; while poverty, like a bushel put over a candle, prevents it, however clear it may be, from giving its light. 'What carnal mind can reconcile the idea of great and distinguished qualities with that of the carpenter's son ? No, " He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should de. sire him."
In those stated journeys to Jerusalem, it was customary for many families of the same neighbourhood, or of the same kindred, to travel in company. The road was sweetened and shortened by friendly communication, and religion strengthened the bands of friendship and the ties of blood. Were there no other reason but this to press upon the heart the importance of attendance
on the ordinances of God's house, that it serves to strengthen the bond of na. ture between husband and wile, parent and child, one neighbour and another, it were enough to recommend it to every one who prizes the comfort of the life that now is; how much more, when there are involved in it, all the infinitely more important interests of that which is to come! Happy are those societies in which the powers of a world to come are so felt, as to shed a sweetening, cheering, enlivening influence over present connections, enjoy: ments and pursuits. The solemnities of the feast being ended, all prepare to return to their respective homes and their usual employments. Thus wisely and mercifully, He who knows what is in man makes devotion, labour and rest, alternately to recommend, to reliere, and to support each other. petual sabbath would soon prove the death of religion ; under uninterrupted labour the man would quickly sink ; rest protracted beyond a certain bound would prove destructive of all repose. But to the heart in which the love of God is shed abroad, the painful toil of the week is mitigated and diminished by the prospect of the day of sacred intermission, of heavenly communication; and the calm, satisfying delights of the Lord's day, bestowing ease on the body, and composure on the mind, serve as a restorative toward undertaking and undergoing the fatigues of another week.
The numerousness of the company which travelled back to Nazareth prevented its being observed that one was wanting, and a complete day's journey is performed, before the eager, attentive eye of even a mother, misses its darling object. How is this to be accounted for? The whole train was a band of brothers, of one heart and of une soul; in whatever part of it the child was, behind or before, he was encompassed with friends : other children of twelve years old need attention, protection and support, but he has given many unequivocal proofs of a wisdom capable of conducting himself. The time is now come that his mother herself must learn with whom she had to do, and to revere in her own son, the Son of the Highest. All was of God, who thus prepared the way for another public declaration of the great Prophet who should come into the world, and that not by the tongue of an Archangel, nor by a multitude of the heavenly host, but by the mouth of Jesus himself; into whose lips grace was poured and praise perfected. It is easier to conceive than to describe the sorrow and anxiety occasioned by the discovery that Jesus was not in the train. The shades of night spread over the soul of a mother the terror of evil beasts, of evil men; of hunger and cold, of missing the road, and of all the nameless apprehensions which solicitous parents fcel for unprotected youth and innocence. Nothing remains but to tread back their weary, anxious steps, and the close of the second day sees them enter Jerusalemi, with the mixed emotions of hope and despondency; and another sleepless night succeeds the painful day. The third day, well knowing the zeal which he had for God's house, they repair betimes to the temple: they find him; think, O mothers, with what astonishment and delight, in health, safety and composure; and, gracious heaven! how employed ? " sitting in the midst of the Doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions." Painters and commentators seem to have entirely mistaken this pasgage of our Saviour's history. They place him in the centre, in the chief seat, assuming authority, instructing grey hairs. The Evangelist places him in the modest seat of a pupil, a pattern to children of twelve, of docility, of humility, of meekness ; carefully listening to the questions proposed to him by the public teachers, and answering with defference and submission, though with intelligence and decision ; and proposing, in his turn, questions that led to important truth and really useful knowledge, not such as displayed the acuteness of him who interrogated, or that aimed at exposing him of whom the answer was demanded. In truth, ever since I could read and understand
the words of the historian, I have considered this little anecdote of our blessed Lord, as of singular importance in his character, as the great teacher of mankind. The age of twelve is an interesting crisis in human life. The rational soul is then shaking off the child, and emerging into the man. There is about that period, knowledge enough to minister fuel to vanity and selfconceit, but not enough to discern ignorance and folly; there is learning sufficient to tease and perplex, but not to attract nd conciliate affection. And did it please thee, meek and condescending Jesus, to instruct that wayward season of existence, when youth begins to feel the force of example, to blush at petulance, to be influenced by honest shame and honest praise, that season when the heart is awake, alive all over to the bitterness of censure, or to the sweets of approbation? Yes, and we see in thee with wonder and joy the happy medium between the firmness of conscious wisdom, and the forwardness of assumed superiority: between the meekness and gentieness which are the inseparable concomitants of real ability, and the selfsufficiency which betrays want of talents, supporting itself by extravagance of claim. That this is the just view of our blessed Lord's conduct is evident from the effect which it produced. You need not be told of the jealousy of aged and professional men. Not a doctor in the temple but would have felt and resented the mortifying superiority of a child, had that superiority been ostentatiously displayed; but his whole deportment excited only admiration and love ; his understanding was equalled only by his affability and condescension; he at once instructs his teachers and gains their good will ; "all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers."
If strangers were thus moved by a mild display of early, unaffected wisdom, what must a parent have felt, whose heart but a moment before was throbbing with anguish unutterable? How happy is she to acknowledge such a son, the delight of every eye, the theme of every tongue. But even Mary, the mother of Jesus, is weak and imperfect, she speaks unadvisedly with her lips, she presumes to mingle upbraiding and reproach with expressions of endearment and exultation ; she has forgotten from whence she received him, the character given him of the angel before he was conceived in the womb, the sacred names which he bore, the testimony which God had so repeatedly given to his beloved Son; she addresses him, all-wonderful as he was, as if he had been merely an ordinary child, who had thoughtlessly and wantonly rambled away from his parents, and had given them unnecessary trouble and pain, He whose every word, every action had an important meaning and design. “ Son,” says she, “ why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”. And now the answer of Christ to this question unfolds the great end which he had in view, through the whole transaction. It was time for him to assert his divine original; and the meekest and most submissive of all children stands invested with divine majesty, “ how is it that ye sought me ? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ?" or, as it might perhaps with greater propriety have been rendered, " in my Father's house."
What a lesson is conveyed to the world in this reply ? Sacred is the authority of a mother over a son of twelve years of age, but there is an authority still more sacred, of which a child even of that age may be sensible. When the honour of God is concerned, the voice of nature must be suppressed. When the voice of heaven calls, the decencies and civilities of life must give place, and all secondary obligations and considerations must be swallowed up of the first. He silently endured the reproach of being called the carpenter's son by strangers, but his own mother must denominate him what ho is, and what she knew him to be. But reproof of a parent must be insinuated, not brought directly forward; and here again the pattern is perfect; delicacy
and firmness unite to spare the mother, yet reprove the offence; and whatever were the other questions and answers of this celebrated conference, those which are on record will reinain an everlasting monument of the perfect unión of wisdom and harmlessness, which distinguished the Son of God from every other.
The Sun, having shone forth in this temporary effulgence, again hid its face in clouds, and submitted to an eclipse of eighteen years longer; He divested himself of all authority; He sought not glory from man; He became of no reputation, He took on him the form of a servant.
" He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them;" and by this voluntary humiliation of himself, by this retreat into the shade, more than by ten thousand precepts and arguments, He has inculcated the practice of humility on his disciples. A few short words contain the history of many years, even so, holy Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight; Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. not presume to draw aside the veil which infinite wisdom has spread, nor seek to be wise above what is written, these things the angels desire to look into, and some of these things, though now they are hidden from us, we may be permitted to know hereafter.
About the period of this passover, when Christ was shewing himself in the temple, after this extraordinary manner, as the Son of God, Augustus Cæsar, the emperor of Rome, dies, and is succeeded in the throne by Tiberius. About six years after, Josephus, called Caiaphas, was made high priest of the Jews, through the partial favour of Valerius Gratus, the Roman governor. Towards the end of the twelfth year from that period, Pontius Pilate was sent into Palestine as procurator of Judea, in the room of Valerius Gratus, and Joho Baptist entered on the exercise of his public ministry. Those names are now stripped of all their glory; those stations are now fallen into disuse, those events are now stripped of all their importance, save what they derive from the relation which they bear to yonder babe in the stable, that child in the midst of the doctors, that gentle, obscure, unassuming youth of Nazareth of Galilee. So differently do objects weigh when examined by the scale of the world, and tried by the balance of the sanctuary. In the next Lecture we will proceed, if God permit, to the history of Christ's baptism, and of the illustrious testimony then given from the most excellent glory to Jesus Christ, as God's well-beloved Son.
" Let us with Mary keep all these sayings in our heart.” Let us, from the example of this pious pair, regularly attend the worship of God's house, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves as the manner of some is :” and thus
go from strength to strength” till we appear before God in Zion, Let us carefully attend to the proper mode of treatment of children, suited to age, to capacity, to temper and disposition. The discipline adapted to childhood is by no means suited to a more advanced state ; and when the youth has become a man, and “put away childish things,” he must be treated as a man. It is of importance to know when the stimulus, when the bridle is to be employed., What would overwhelm the timid, may prove hardly a crub to the headstrong; the slow of speech and understanding must not be urged into the speed of the acute and impetuous. Parents rejoice in a forward display of faculties in their children; they encourage it, and they not seldorn repent it. The opposite error is not common, and is therefore less an object of caution. The difficulties which daily present themselves, in managing the progress of the human mind, are frequently insurmountable by the ordinary powers of man, which therefore stand in need of the illumination of "wisdom from above;" " if any of you,” then," lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."