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Prince of the Kings of the Earth in his earliest boyhood. See him in Joseph's workshop as he grew old enough to lend a hand of help, however trifling, to that “just man,” the Carpenter of Nazareth, now holding the tools required in succession, now trying an unsteady hand with the hammer or the saw, while ever and again Joseph was struck dumb and brought to a halt in his industry by a sudden glance at the marvellous countenance, that window into heaven, or by some soul-searching, truth-piercing question from his lips. See him again on clear Sabbath mornings, in the village boy's best attire, clean and holy, the “spotless lamb," hasting, in Mary's hand, in good time to the Synagogue on the hill-side, "where he was brought up ;" there distinguished amidst the crowds of formal or noisy worshippers by his devout attention, by the zeal of his adoration, and by his voice, as the chorister of God, in psalmody uplifted with the warmth and vigour of an angel's hymn!
See him, too, sometimes, when a little older, op summer evenings ascending alone the heights above, to gaze abroad over the vast panorama of northern Palestine, while the Mediterranean lay westward like “a sea of glass mingled with fire" flashing under the beams of the descending sun, and Hermon flung back the radiance from his snow-crowned summits ;-there gazing until the short twilight had darkened into the gloaming, and the firmament was alight with the constellations; when he, the Son of the Blessed, would prostrate himself before the King of Eternity, and pour out the ardour of his youthful spirit in an ecstasy of delighted worship, or in the lonely far-resounding voice of a psalm. Was there ever such an altar, or ever a worshipper, so pure !
Then, what must have been the influence of the Holy Child at home! In other households the chief formative influence descends from the elders of the family upon the younger ones. Here it was the reverse ; the grand elevating religious influence was from the cbild upon the elders ; his character radiating truth and love upon all around ; the thought of God ever growing brighter and clearer in his mind; his presence a lesson, his life an incessant example of the glory of religion.
Very interesting, also, to inquire how and when the consciousness of his destiny dawned upon him. Did Mary early acquaint him with the prophecies that went on before him; with the visions of angels that shone over his birth at Bethlehem ; with the solemn blessings of Simeon and Anna in the temple ; with the visit of the magi to the manger, under the guidance of the wandering star; with the inspired dreams of Joseph; and the Egyptian journey, under the special direction of heaven? Unless her lips were sealed, she would have been much unlike other mothers if she did not. Then, who can properly imagine what was the effect of those outward instructions, combining with the promptings of the Spirit that equally announced from within his celestial origin P Enough can be conceived to assist us to understand that his feelings would be peculiar to himself, when promised for the first time that he should accompany his parents and the devout persons of Nazareth to Jerusalem, to celebrate in the Temple the great spring festival of the Passover. That Temple would be to him much more than the cottage at Nazareth, his Father's house. The only incident of his childhood recorded in the gospels occurred during one of these early visits. The festival was over. The sacrifices, the loud exulting songs of the Temple service were completed. The many thousands of Israel were dispersing again in scattered caravans to their homes. The sunlit metropolis, with its groves and gardens, was fading in the distance. The pilgrims halt for their evening rest, when it is discovered that Jesus was not there. Joseph and Mary return, seeking him “in sorrow." We know the misery occasioned by the missing of a child. They hunt through the streets and lanes of the city, and through the open squares. They inquire at every inn; they look in at every synagogue. At length, on the third day, they bethink themselves of the Temple, with its vast surrounding colonnades. There the people were accustomed to walk, and to sit under the shade of the cedar roofs shining with inlaid marble and gold. They see a crowd assembled round a number of learned scribes and rabbins. Approaching, they hear the voice of a child-it was their lost son. Mary rushed in, motherlike, “Son, why hast thou dealt thus with us ?” “ Wist ye not," replied he, “that I must be at my Father's ? Where should I be but at home?” They understood not the saying that he spake to them. But this answer indicates that he at least understood his own relationship to God. A lesson was here for Mary; it behoved her henceforth to learn that in him the human was subordinate to the divine.
Lessons, also, there were for the rabbies of Jerusalem, the great authors and supporters of the system of pharisaic formalism under which the nation sat in darkness. There, on high benches, they sat, clothed in their long robes, adorned with their phylacteries and high-sounding titles, “had in reputation among the people.” At their feet sat the marvellous boy ; his bright open face beaming with the lustre of heaven; his eyes (afterwards to be as a flame of fire) flashing with the living glances of an intelligence which astonished all who beheld it. That was a terrible tribunal for learned pharisaism to confront—the mind of the honest and God. fearing child! It is often difficult to answer the questions which ordinary children propose on established doctrines and institutions ; but for those Pharisees and doctors to have to answer his questions !--to be asked with all the simplicity of childhood, and a glowing earnestness that was altogether supernatural, how to reconcile many of their precepts with the plain letter of the Scriptures as quoted by him! One cannot but believe that the doctors in the Temple must have been very thankful when Mary broke into the discussion on the finding of her son : for there is nothing more galling for superstition to encounter than the unsophisticated mind of a child, determined to ask natural questions and to obtain an answer to them.
Yes, we see in Jesus the operation of that law by which the human soul is appointed to work its way through darkness and twilight into truth by "asking questions.” Each generation of
children is born with a divinely inspired instinct so to do; and if that instinct were wisely nurtured and encouraged in youth, an end would soon come to many a terrible system of despotism, fanaticism, and formality. These systems could not withstand the encir. cling assault of the cross-questioning of the rising generation. But one of the chief objects of so-called religious education is to destroy this spirit of youthful inquiry, to extinguish that divine spark of honest curiosity which might kindle into a destructive flame ; so that scarcely one here and there is found among adults who retains the spirit of investigation into the things of God. They worship intellectually “ Baalim, which their fathers taught them."
This spirit, however, was not to be extinguished in Jesus, and doubtless many a hearer in that famous colloquy felt that a power of simple truth and fervent love was before them, which would utterly destroy the vast fabric of the traditions of the fathers—a power of fresh intelligence, joined to a spirit of unfeigned reverence for the divine word, before which the theological puzzles of the scholastic teachers, and the authority of many foolish generations, would be driven as chaff before the wind.
The infancy and childhood of Jesus have thrown a glorious ray of hope over the whole world of the young. “The Son of the Blessed” was once a babe, and can this signify less than that he is the Redeemer of children? He has carried with him to heaven the charter of their eternal salvation. Not only on earth will he take young children in his arms to bless them; not only on earth will he “ get a little child in the midst of his disciples,” but doubtless the Good Shepherd on high cares for his lambs as well as his sheep, and carries them in his bosom. “Feed my lambs,” were among his last words on earth, and we will not doubt that the Son of David, standing in the temple of heaven itself, delights his ears there, as he did below, with the hosannahs of the little ones.
For the childhood of Jesus himself is everlasting. He continues to be as a little child, amidst all the strength and majesty of his manhood enthroned in the skies. Simplicity of character is true greatness. It is to “the holy child Jesus” that the weary and heavy laden may come; and it is because he is “meek and lowly in heart” that they shall find in him “rest unto their souls." Infinite wisdom is childlike in the simplicity of its character, and infinite love is childlike in the warm breathing of its affections.
FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD.
“ Abraham, my friend."-Isa. xii. 8. Reproof from God when we err in heart or life is another part of this privilege. When mortal friendships are founded on the right principles, reproof will be a chief duty on the one hand, a chief privilege on the other. However we may wince at the time, before unwelcome “truth spoken in love," we afterwards feel a secret respect for the speaker, greater than we had before. With kind, wise, monitory thought, “let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindness.” “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.“ “ As many as I love,” says the Friend of Sinners, “I rebuke and chasten.” Exclamations of astonishment break from the unreflecting crowd, when they see the many afilictions of the righteous. And men ask “Is it natural for affection to afflict its object ?” Let us keep in mind the divine sentences just quoted, and difficulties vanish. These sorrows are not penal but corrective. They are not frowns of wrath, but “ graver looks of love."* You sin,-you suffer ; that is the reproof. You lavish your affections, to censurable excess, on some mortal object; reproof comes in bereavement. Your heart is charged with thoughts and cares “ of the earth, earthly;" reproof comes in desolating loss; or what may be, in its effect on your inward life, still more desolating gain. You are unfaithful to your principles, you do not with manly decision own your Lord. In the language of action, you say before a scoffing age, “I know not the man." Restless, anxious thought is burning in your spirit. God's reproving eye—the eye which is as a flaming fire, is glancing down ; the Lord who turned and looked upon Peter, is looking on you. That look says, “Is this thy kindness to thy friend ?" You ought to feel its infinite pathos. You ought to “ go out and weer bitterly.” You ought to say in meek reliance on Divine strength,-Friend, eternal invisible, if again “I forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning; let my tongue cleave to the roof of my month, if I prefer not thee to my chief joy !"
Sympathy is another advantage of friendship. Before I speak, my friend detects my fine pains and fine delights; when I am weak, he is weak ; he returns me tear for tear, and light for light of gladness. “He understands my thoughts afar off." But how can words describe the sympathy of the Friend in heaven! To form an idea of that you must study the life of Jesus Christ. “I am the door," he says ;-the door by which we enter into the true knowledge of God. Jesus Christ is God seen, God felt. “He that hath seen me, bath seen the Father.” Then see him. See the Angel of the Presence, " in all our afflictions, afflicted.” See him at an humble marriage festival, not to frown upon bright thoughts and morning hopes, but to add happiness to happiness. See him mingling his tears with the mourners of Bethany. See him entering into the human feelings and excitements of the shepherd searching for his lost sheep ; the poor cottager sweeping the floor to find the lost coin ; the greyheaded father clasping his lost child. See him bearing with his disciples, so slow to learn, so ready to forget; and offering the quick apology of love—“The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And this Friend with his Divine sympathy is here! You see it not living in the mortal eye, and mantle in the human countenance, as did the disciples when they saw “the man Christ Jesus.” But he is here. Here, “ to revive the hearts of the contrite ones.” Here, to remove the distrust natural to the afflicted. Here, “ to bind up the
* Cowper, in a Letter.
broken-hearted and comfort the mourner.” Here, to offer sympathy with sorrow too delicate for merely human sympathy. To his disciples he said, “Lo, I am with you always.” When we are compassed about with infirmities, he bears with us ; when we sin, he forgives, and forgives again. “The Shepherd of the mountains” says Dr. Waugh, “when the reed, the simple instrument of melody is bruised and injured, breaks it, and flings it away; but the Shepherd of Israel will not break the bruised reed,'—he mends and tunes it, and makes it send forth touching strains of praise.” Delight to realize the sympathy of the Invisible Friend, as it receives voice and visibility in the Word!“We have not an High Priest who is not touched with a feeling of our infirmities, but one who was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Another advantage of this friendship is that you may always feel assured of its continued existence. There will be constancy. Various circumstances have changed your human fellowship. Those in whom you once confided are not what you thought they were. Peculiar exitements, outside life, the romance of the spirit, concealed the real character, as the wreath of lighted and tinctured cloud conceals the savage rock ; but now the charm is fied, the colour gone, and you see only what is cold and unappealing as the ice, the snow, and the rugged stone. The companions of your youth are not always the same as the companions of your age. There is often a change, from the warm affections to the shy advance, the timid notice, the actions of polite formality. And when faithful friends are faithful still, perhaps they live in another country or in another world. You miss the “ watchers," the "holy ones," who were the guides of your youth, or the sharers of your matured affection ; you have missed one after another from “the place that knew them once ;"- have seen the gentle fading of nature, the slow gradations of decay. You have stood alone in the chamber of mourning. With awe-with the creep of a strange panic chill over every faculty-you have lifted the melancholy drapery of death, to gaze on the sad ruin, the still and stony brow, the dim, unconscious, transfixed face of your friend. You have heard, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” pronounced over what was once lighted up with thought and passion and sensibility. You have felt the crowded solitude of life, the crushing sense of desolation. You have walked for a time in the “ valley of the shadow of death.” For you the star has lost its sparkle, the flower its beauty, the spring its song.
I see some of you grey and drooping with years. An old man must feel pensively when he thinks of the many changes, even in the outward world, which he has witnessed since his youth. He must feel a stir of tender sorrow even when he thinks of the alterations in the country, of the old roads that have been turned ; of the fields where, as a child, he used to frolic amidst a wilderness of flowers ; but which are now covered with grim factories, straight streets, and stark brick walls. He must have mournful thoughts indeed when he reviews the history of changes in the fellowships of spirit. “Joseph is not, Simeon is not,” and death is about “ to take Benjamin away." "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” “Demas hath