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band and wife, 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, enjoyments 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 relieve, and to support each other. A perpetual 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>: 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 one 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 feel 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 Jerusalem, 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 passage 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 deference 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 of the child, and emerging into the man. There is about that period, knowledge enough to minister fuel to vanity and self-conceit, but not enough to discern ignorance and folly; there is learning sufficient to tease and perplex, but not to attract and 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 petulence, 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 frowardness of assumed superiority: between the meekness and gentleness which are the inseparable concomitants of real ability, and the self-sufficiency 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 to 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, 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 husiness?" 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 he 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 remain an everlasting monument of the perfect union of wisdom and harmlessness, which distinguished the Son of God from every other.
The sun, having shone forth in his 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 it seemed good in thy sight; "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Let us 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 em
ror 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 in Palestine as procurator of Judea, in the room of Valerius Gratus, and John Baptist entered on the exercise of his public