Page images
PDF
EPUB

law, his parents having fulfilled their days of festivity, went homeward, supposing the child had been in the caravan among his friends, and thus they travelled for the space of a whole day's journey ; but when they sought him among their kindred and acquaintance, and found him not, they returned to Jerusalem full of fear and sorrow. Who can express the painful apprehensions of heart which then thronged about the Holy mother, who trembled not only for the loss of the joy of her family, but the hopes of the whole world? What did not her foreboding mind at that time suggest to her upon the apprehension of a loss so incalculably great. Possibly an angel might have carried him she knew not whither; or it may be the son of Herod might have siezed the prey which his cruel father had missed. Whilst she had spent some time under these anxieties of mind, in her sad and holy pursuit of her lost jewel, despairing of the prosperous event of any human diligence, she made her address to God, the only relief and succour of distressed minds; and entering into the temple to pray, God who knew her desires, prevented her with the blessings of his goodness, and her sorrow was turned into joy and wonder : for there she found her Holy Son sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing and asking them questions.

The bare sight of him soon effaced their care and grief: but the glad parents receive this addition to their joy, they find him illustrated with a miracle ; for when they saw him, they were amazed, and so were all that heard him, at his understanding and answers, beyond his education and experience, beyond his years, and even the common abilities and capacities of the best men, discoursing and disputing with the learned, with the power of a prophet, with the brightness of an angel, and the infallibility of inspiration itself.

The Virgin-mother, though everjoyed at the sight of her holy child, could not forbear expressing a gentle admonition to him for the great alarm he had excited, saying, “ Son, why hast thou dealt thus with us?” Which he modestly excused by giving this account of himself;

Why should ye seek me? Knew ye not that I must be

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

about my father's business ?»* These things Joseph and the rest understood not, but Mary laid them up in her heart, well knowing it was part of his employment, and his father's business to be in his house, where she had found him.

Being thus happily recovered by his parents, he returned with them to Nazareth, and was subject to them in all things, lived in holiness and humility, submitting to an ordinary employment, which he undertook in obedience to his supposed father, and for the support of that holy family, which was dear in the eyes of God, though not splendid in the estimation of the world. He is said to have wronght, with his own hands in the business of a carpenter; and when Joseph died, which happened be. fore the manifestation of Jesus unto Israel, he wrought alone, and was no more called “ the carpenter's son," but “ the carpenter.” “ Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?” said his offended countrymen, Mark vi. 3. And in this condition did the blessed Jesus abide till he was thirty years of age ; for he that came to fulfil the law would not suffer one tittle of it to pass unaccomplish. ed: for by the law of the nation, and custom of its religion, no priest was to officiate, or prophet to teach, before he was thirty years of age.

What a pleasing example do the character and conduct of Jesus present to young persons. At the early age

of twelve years he discovers the most affectionate attachment to the house and service of God, so that after an attendance to religious duties for several days successively, he seems unwilling to leave the sacred spot! What a contrast to this is the reluctance which many young persons discover to all religious exercises, however short; and who are fur more warmly addicted to every childish amusement than to the Sabbath, the Bible, and the worship of God!

Father's business. The Greek renders this in St. Luke, ch. ii. ver. 49. w Trīs tcü targ's in his father's house ; so that it seems to refer to the place where they found him, tha: is, in the temple.

At twelve years of age he was deeply versed in the knowledge of the law, and all were astonished at his understanding. Surely this may reproach many professed Christians, who at twice or thrice that age, remain totally ignorant of the grand subjects of revelation !

Notwithstanding, however, this uncommon superiority of sacred attainments," he was subject to his parents,' he did not renounce his obedience to Joseph and Mary, but with due regard to their authority, he returned with them to dwell at the mean city of Nazareth. No talents, no learning, no religious zeal, will justify young persons in the neglect of that plain and universal precept,

nour thy father and ihy mother."

Most of all we may admire the submission of this incomparable person to a state of obscurity, in a despicable country town, till he was thirty years of age, little known or regarded. What astonishing condescension is this, and what a lesson to us all!“ He made himself of no reputation,” shall we then be impatient, if a state of poverty, obscurity and labour, be allotted to us? Or shall we be transported, by an indiscreet zeal, to push ourselves forward to public notice or public functions ? “ Let the mind " that was in Christ be also in us," so shall we best deserve the name of Christians.

« Ho

State of Judea in our Saviour's time, and before. JUDEA had been, as we have already seen, brought into subjection to the Romans by Pompey, who, after a siege of three months, took Jerusalem in the year sixty-three, before the Christian æra, about the time of our Midsummer. Josephus always dates the loss of their liberty from that time. The same is said by Tacitus. But though the Jewish people then became subject to the Romans, and it may be said, that from that day forward the rod of heaven hung over them, they enjoyed many privileges, and the freedom of their worship, under the mild government of those masters, as appears both from Josephus, and from the historical books of the New Testament; for when Pom. pey became master of Jerusalem, he and some of his officers entered into the temple, and the most holy places of it; but took nothing away. There were then in it the table, the candlestick with its lamps, the pouring vessels, and the censers, all of gold, and great quantities of spices, and two thousand talents in money; all which he left untouched, and the day after he gave orders, that they who had the charge of the temple should cleanse it, and perform the accustomed sacrifices; and he also restored the high priesthood to Hircanus.

And that after this the Jewish people were, sometimes at least, in a flourishing condition, appears from many circumstances. It was during this period, that Herod repaired the temple. Excepting the cloud of glory with which the first temple had been favoured, that erected by Herod may be reckoned to have been equal to it in the splendor and magnificence of the building, and in rich and costly presents, and other ornaments.

When the Jewish people, after their return from the Babylonish captivity, laid the foundation of the new house,

many of the priests, the Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, wept with a loud voice,” Ezra iii. 12. But God encouraged them by the prophet Haggai

, in this manner ; ch. ii. 3, “ Who is left among you, that saw this house in its first glory? and how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes, in comparison of it, as nothing? Yet now be strong, o Zerubbabel, saith the Lord-and be strong, all ye people of the land, and work : for I am with you, saith the Lord of Hosts—for thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I will shake all nations. And the desire of all nations shall come. And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts, The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of Hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts. And in THIS PLACE WILL I GIVE PEACE, saith the LORD of Hosts.

sa

Notwithstanding the innocent blood which Herod had caused to be shed in Bethlehem, his soul was not yet tiated, but sought for more in the adjacent parts: he hunted the country around to glut his cruelty; but divine providence, still watching over its own, timely withdrew

John the forerunner of our Saviour from his rapacious fury. Elizabeth hearing, it is said, of the sad havock Herod's barbarity had made among the infants of Bethlehem, thought her son not secure among the hills, but fied with him into the wilderness, where she attended him with care and tenderness. John was about eighteen months old when his mother first Aed with him; and his father Zacharias, at the time of his ministration,* which happened about this time, was killed, it is supposed, in the court of the temple, Herod resolving to revenge the disappointment of murdering the son upon the father ; so that the child was exposed to all the dangers of an orphan, wbile a bloody tyrant endeavoured his destruction. But when his faiber and mother were removed, the Lord took him up, as he had formerly done to Ishmael who dwelt in the wilderness, and to Elias when he fled from the rage of Ahab; so to this child, who came in the spirit and power of Elias, to demonstrate that there can be no want where God undertakes to make a provision.

The entertainment that St. John met with in the wilderness, was such as might dispose him to an austere life; for he spent his time in contemplation and prayer, feeding on locusts* and wild honey, and clothed with a rough garment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle, till the time of

ܪ

Ministration. Every rank or course of priests served weekly in the temple by turns ; which course falling out by lot, they determined also by lot, the particular service of the priests, who should burn incense, slay the beasts, lay them on the altar, dress the lamps, &c. Zacharias was of the course of Abia, Luke i. 5, that is, of the eighth course, and his lot was to burn incense, Luke i. 9. As to the death of Zacharias, the father of John Baptist, it is the opinion of St. Chrysostom, Peter Martyr, Tertullian, and others, that it was he that Herod slew be. tween the temple and the altar, because he refused to betray his son to him ; especially Tertullian, who reports it with this circumstance, which, however, has too much the air of fiction ; that the blood of Zacharias had so besmeared the stones of the pavement where he was murdered, that no art or industry could wash it out, the tincture being indelible ; as if, because God intended to exact of that nation all the blood of the righteous from Abel to Zacharias, who was the last of the martyrs of the synagogue, he would ave a character of their guilt in their eyes to upbraid their infidelity and cruelty. Vol. II.

Gg

« PreviousContinue »