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and by the motion of whose Spirit, all others ascended thither, would not himself stay at home. In all his examples he meant our instruction. This pious act of his nonage intended to lead our first years into timely devotion. The first liquor seasons the vessel for a long time after.
It is every way good for a man to bear God's yoke, even from his infancy: it is the policy of the devil to discourage early holiness. He, that goes out betimes in the morning, is more like to dispatch his journey, than he that lingers till the day be spent. This blessed family came not to look at the feast, and be gone; but they duly staid out the appointed days of unleavened bread. They, and the rest of Israel, could not want household business at home : those secular affairs could not either keep them from repairing to Jerusalem, or send them away immaturely. Worldly cares must give place to the sacred. Except we will depart unblest, we must attend God's services till we may receive his dismission.
It was the fashion of those times and places, that they went up, and so returned by troops, to those set meetings of their holy festivals. The whole parish of Nazareth went and came together. Good fellowship doth noway so well as in the passage to heaven: much comfort is added by society to that journey which is of itself pleasant. It is an happy word, “Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord." Mutual encouragement is none of the least benefits of our holy assemblies. Many sticks laid together make a good fire, which, if they lie single, loose both their light and heat.
The feast ended, what should they do but return to Nazareth ? God's services may not be so attended, as that we should neglect our particular callings. Hinself calls us from bis own house to ours, and takes pleasure to see a painful client. They are foully mistaken, that think God cares for no other trade but devotion; piety and diligence must keep meet changes with each other. Neither doth God less accept of our return to Nazareth, than our going up to Jerusalem.
I cannot think that the blessed Virgin, or good Joseph, could be so negligent of their divine charge, as not to call the child Jesus to their setting forth from Jerusalem. But their back was no sooner turned upon the temple, than his face was towards it. He had business in that place when theirs was ended : there he was both worshipped and represented. He, in whom the Godhead dwelt bodily, could do nothing without God: his true father led him away from his supposed. Sometimes the affairs of our ordinary vocation may not grudge to yield unto spiritual occasions. The parents of Christ knew him well to be of a disposition not strange, nor sullen and stoical, but sweet and sociable; and therefore they supposed he had spent the time and the way in company of their friends and neighbours. They do not suspect him wandered into the solitary fields, but, when evening came, they go to seek him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. If he had not wonted to converse formerly with them, he had not now been sought amongst them. Neither as God nor man doth he take pleasure in a stern froward austerity, and wild retiredness; but in a mild affableness, and amiable conversation.
But, O blessed Virgin, who can express the sorrows of thy perplexed soul, when all that evening search could afford thee no news of thy Son Jesus ? Was not this one of those swords of Simeon, which should pierce through thy tender breast? How didst thou chide thy credulous neglect, in not observing so precious a charge, and blame thine eyes for once looking beside this object of thy love! How didst thou, with thy careful husband, spend that restless night in mutual expostulations and bemoanings of your loss !
loss! How many suspicious imaginations did that while rack thy grieved spirit! Perhaps thou mightst doubt, lest they which laid wait for him, by Herod's command, at his birth, had now, by the secret instigation of Archelaus, surprised him in his childhood: or, it may be, thou thoughtst thy divine Son had now withdrawn bimself from the earth, and returned to his heavenly glory, without warning: or, peradventure, thou studiest with thyself
, whether any carelessness on thy behalf, had not given occasion to this absence.
O dear Saviour, who can miss, and not mourn for thee? never any soul conceived thee by faith, that was less afflicted with the sense of thy desertion, than comforted with the joy of thy presence. Just is that sorrow, and those tears seasonable, that are bestowed upon thy loss. What comfort are we capable of, while we want thee? What relish is there in these earthly delights without thee? What is there to mitigate our passionate discomforts, if not from thee? Let thyself loose, O my soul, to the fulness of sorrow, when thou findst thyself bereaved of him, in whose presence is fulness of joy ; and deny to receive comfort from any thing, save from his return.
In vain is Christ sought among his kindred according to the flesh : so far are they still from giving us their aid to find the true Messias, that they lead us from him. Back again, therefore, are Joseph and Mary gone to seek him at Jerusalem. She goes about in the city, by the streets, and by the open places, and seeks him whom her soul loveth: she sought him for the time, and found him not. Do we think she spared her search? The evening of her return she hastes to the inn where she had left him, where, missing him, she inquires of every one she met, “ Have you not seen him whom my soul loveth ?" At last, the third day, she finds him in the temple. One day was spent in the journey towards Galilee, another in the return to Jerusalem ; the third day recovers him. He, who would rise again the third day, and be found amongst the living, now also would the third day be found of his parents, after the sorrow of his absence. But where wert thou, O blessed Jesus, for the space of these three days ? where didst thou bestow thyself, or who attended thee, while thou wert thus alone at Jerusalem? I know, if Jerusalem should have been as unkind to thee as Bethlehem, thou couldst have commanded the heavens to harbour thee; and, if men did not minister to thee, thou couldst have commanded the service of angels. But, since the form of a servant called thee to a voluntary homeliness, whether it pleased thee to exercise thyself thus early with the difficulties of a stranger, or to provide miraculously for thyself, I inquire not, since thou revealedst not: only this I know, that hereby thou intendedst to teach thy parents, that thou couldst live without them, and that not of any indigency, but out of a gracious dispensation, thou wouldst ordinarily depend upon their care.
In the meantime, thy divine wisdom could not but foreknow all these corroding thoughts, wherewith the heart of thy dear mother must needs bleed, through this sudden dereliction; yet wouldst thou leave her for the time to her sorrow. O Saviour! thou thoughtst fit to visit her that bore thee with this early affliction. Never any loved thee, whom thou dost not sometimes exercise with the grief of missing thee; that both we may be more careful to hold thee, and more joyful in recovering thee. Thou hast said, and canst not lie, “I am with you to the end of the world ;” but, even while thou art
Even so, really present, thou thinkst good to be absent unto our apprehensions. Yet, if thou leave us, thou wilt not forsake us; if thou leave us for our humiliation, thou wilt not forsake us to our final discomfort. Thou mayst for three days hide thyself, but then we shall find thee in the temple. None ever sought thee with a sincere desire, of whom thou wert not found. Thou wilt not be either so little absent as not to whet our appetites, nor so long as to fainten the heart. After three days we shall find thee: and where should we rather hope to find thee than in the temple? There is the habitation for the God of Israel, there is thy resting place for ever. O all
ye that are grieved with the want of your
Saviour, see where you must seek him! In vain shall ye hope to find liim in the streets, in the taverns, in the theatres: seek him in his holy temple, seek him with piety, seek him with faith ; there shall ye meet him, there shall ye recover him. While children of that age were playing in the streets, Christ was found sitting in the temple ; not to gaze on the outward glory of that house, or on the golden candlesticks or tables, but to hear and oppose the doctors. He who, as God, gave them all the wisdom they had, as the Son of man, hearkens to the wisdom he had given them. He, who sat in their hearts, as the Author of all learning and knowledge, sits in the midst of their school, as an humble disciple; that by learning of them, he might teach all the younger sort humility, and due attendance upon their instructors. He could, at the first, have taught the great Rabbins of Israel the deep mysteries of God; but because he was not yet called by his father to the public function of a teacher, he contents himself to hear with diligence, and to ask with modesty, and to teach only by insinuation. Let those consider this, which will needs run as soon as they can go ; and, when they find ability, think they need not stay for a further vocation of God or men. Open your eyes, ye rather ripe invaders of God's chair, and see your Saviour, in his younger years, not sitting in the eminent pulpits of the doctors, but in the lowly floors of the auditors. See him, that could have taught the angels, listening in his minority to the voice of men. Who can think much to learn of the ancients, when he looks upon the Son of God sitting at the feet of the doctors of Israel? First he hears, then he asks. How much more doth it concern us to be hearers, ere we offer to be teachers of others! He gathers that hears; he spends that teacheth : if we spend before we gather, we shall soon prove bankrupts.
When he hath heard, he asks, and after that he answers : doubtless, those very questions were instructions, and meant to teach, more than to learn : never had these great Rabbins heard the voice of such a Tutor: in whom they might see the wisdom of God so concealing itself, that yet it would be known to be there : no marvel then, if they all wondered at his understanding and answers. Their eyes saw nothing but human weakness, their ears heard divine sublimity of matter; betwixt what they saw, and what they heard, they could not but be distracted with a doubting admiration. And why did ye not, () ye Jewish teachers, remember, “That to us a child is born, and unto us a son is given, and the government is upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace?” Why did ye not now bethink yourselves, what the star, the sages, the angels, the shepherds, Zachary, Simeon, Anna; had premonished you? Fruitless is the wonder that endeth not in faith; no light is sufficient where the eyes are held through unbelief or prejudice.
The doctors were not more amazed to hear so profound a childhood, than the parents of Christ were to see him among the doctors; the joy of finding him did strive with the astonishment of finding him thus : and now, not Joseph, (he knew how little right he had to that divine Son) but Mary breaks forth into a loving expostulation, “Son, why hast thou dealt so with us?”. That she might not seem to take upon her as an imperious mother, it is like she reserved this question till she had him alone : wherein she meant rather to express grief
, than to chide : only herein the blessed Virgin offended, that her inconsideration did not suppose, as it was, that some higher respects, than could be due to flesh and blood, called away the Son of God from her that was the daughter of man. She, that was but the mother of humanity, should not have thought that the business of God must, for her sake, be neglected. We are all partial to ourselves naturally, and prone to the regard of our own rights. Questionless, this gracious saint would not, for all the world, have willingly preferred her own attendance to that of her God: through heedlessness she does so. Her Son and Saviour is her monitor, out of his divine love reforming her patural; “How is it that ye sought