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sanctify and bless her, and at last bring her to the eternal : riches and abundances of glory, where no persecution shall
disturb her rest. Grant this for sweet Jesus' sake, who suffered exile and hard journeys, and all the inconveniences of a friendless person, in a strange province; to whom, with thee and the eternal Spirit, be glory for ever, and blessing in all generations of the world, and for ever and ever.
Of the younger Years of Jesus, and his Disputution with
the Doctors in the Temple.
1. From the return of this holy family to Judæa, and their habitation in Nazareth, till the blessed child Jesus was twelve years of age, we have nothing transmitted to us out of any authentic record; but that they went to Jerusalem, every year, at the feast of the Passover. And when Jesus was twelve years old, and was in the holy city, attending upon the paschal rites and solemn sacrifices of the law, his parents, having fulfilled their days of festivity, went homeward, supposing the Child had been in the caravan, among his friends; and so they etred for the space of a whole day's journey ; “ and when they sought him, and found him not, they returned to Jerusalem,” full of fears and sorrow.
2. No fancy can imagine the doubts, the apprehensions, the possibilities of mischief, and the tremblings of heart, which the holy Virgin-mother felt thronging about her fancy and understanding, but such a person, who hath been tempted to the danger of a violent fear and transportation, by apprehension of the loss of a hope greater than a miracle ; her discourses with herself could have nothing of distrust, but much of sadness and wonder; and the indetermination of her thoughts was a trouble great as the passion of her love. Possibly an angel might have carried him, she knew not whither; or, it may be, the son of Herod had gotten the prey, which his cruel father missed; or he was sick, or detained out of curiosity and wonder, or any thing, but what was right.
And by this time she was come to Jerusalem; and having spent three days in her sad and holy pursuit of her lost jewel, despairing of the prosperous event of any human diligence, as, in all other cases, she had accustomed, she made her address to God; and entering into the temple to pray, God, that knew her desires, prevented her with the blessings of goodness; and there her sorrow was changed into joy and wonder; for there she found her holy Son, “ sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions."
3. “ And, when they saw him, they were amazed,” and so were “all that heard him, at his understanding and answers;” beyond his education, beyond his experience, beyond his years, and even beyond the common spirits of the best men, discoursing up to the height of a prophet, with the clearness of an angel, and the infallibility of inspiration : for here it was verified, in the highest and most literal signification, that, “ out of the mouths of babes, God had ordained strength;” but this was the strength of argument, and science of the highest mysteries of religion and secret philosophy.
4. Glad were the parents of the Child to find him illustrated with a miracle, concerning which, when he had given them such an account, which they understood not, but yet Mary laid up in her heart, as that this was part of his employment and his Father's business, “ he returned with them to Nazareth, and was subject to his parents ;” where he lived in all holiness and humility, showing great signs of wisdom, endearing himself to all that beheld his conversation; did nothing less than might become the great expectation, which his miraculous birth had created of him; for “he increased in wisdom and stature, and favour with God and man,” still growing in proportion to his great beginnings to a miraculous excellency of grace, sweetness of demeanour, and excellency of understanding.
5. They, that love to serve God in hard questions, use to dispute, whether Christ did, truly, or in appearance only, increase in wisdom. For being personally united to the Word, and being the eternal wisdom of the Father, it seemed to them, that a plenitude of wisdom was as natural to the whole person, as to the Divine nature. But others, fixing their belief upon the words of the story, which equally affirms
Christ as properly to have “ increased in favour with God as with man, in wisdom as in stature,” they apprehend no inconvenience in affirming it to belong to the verity of human nature, to have degrees of understanding as well as of other perfections: and, although the humanity of Christ made up the same person with the Divinity, yet they think the Divinity still to be free, even in those communications, which were imparted to his inferior nature; and the Godhead might as well suspend the emanation of all the treasures of wisdom upon the humanity for a time, as he did the beatifical vision, which most certainly was not imparted in the interval of his sad and dolorous passion. But, whether it were truly or in appearance, in habit or in exercise of act, by increase of notion or experience, it is certain the promotions of the holy Child were great, admirable, and as full of wonder as of sanctity, and sufficient to entertain the hopes and expectations of Israel with preparations and dispositions, as to satisfy their wonder for the present, so to accept him at the time of his publication; they having no reason to be scandalized at the smallness, improbability, and indifferency, of his first beginnings.
6. But the holy Child had also an employment, which he undertook in obedience to his supposed father, for exercise and example of humility, and for the support of that holy family, which was dear in the eyes of God, but not very splendid by the opulency of a free and indulgent fortune. He wrought in the trade of a carpenter; and when Joseph died, which happened before the manifestation of Jesus unto Israel, he wrought alone, and was no more called the carpenter's son, but the carpenter himself. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Maryi ?” said his offended countrymen. And in this condition the blessed Jesus did abide, till he was thirty years old; for he, that came to fulfil the law, would not suffer one tittle of it to pass unaccomplished; for, by the law of the nation and custom of the religion, no priest was to officiate, or prophet was to preach, before he was thirty years
i Mark, vi. 3.
Ad SECTION VII.
Considerations upon the Disputation of Jesus with the Doctors
in the Temple.
1. Joseph and MARY, being returned into Nazareth, were sedulous to enjoy the privileges of their country, the opportunities of religion, the public address to God, in the rites of festivals and solemnities of the temple : they had been long grieved with the impurities and idol rites, which they, with sorrow, had observed to be done in Egypt; and, being deprived of the blessings of those holy societies and employments they used to enjoy in Palestine, at their return came to the offices of their religion with appetites of fire, and keen as the evening wolf; and all the joys, which they should have received in respersion and distinct emanations, if they had kept their anniversaries at Jerusalem, all that united they received in the duplication of their joys at their return, and in the fulfilling themselves with the refection and holy viand of religion. For so God uses to satisfy the longings of holy people, when a persecution has shut up the beautiful gates of the temple, or denied to them opportunities of access : although God hears the prayers they make with their windows towards Jerusalem, with their hearts opened with desires of the public communions, and sends them a prophet with a private meal, as Habakkuk came to Daniel; yet he fills their hearts, when the year of jubilee returns, and the people sing " In convertendo,” the song of joy for their redemption. For as, of all sorrows, the deprivations and eclipses of religion are the saddest, and of the worst and most inconvenient consequence ; so, in proportion, are the joys of spiritual plenty and religious returns; the communion of saints being like the primitive corban, a repository to feed all the needs of the church, or like a taper joined to a torch, itself is kindled, and increases the other's flames.
2. They failed not to go to Jerusalem : for all those holy prayers and ravishments of love, those excellent meditations and intercourses with God, their private readings and discourses, were but entertainments and satisfaction of their
necessities, they lived with them during their retirements ; but it was a feast, when they went to Jerusalem, and the freer and more indulgent refection of the spirit; for, in public solemnities, God opens his treasures, and pours out his grace, more abundantly. Private devotions, and secret offices of religion, are like refreshing of a garden with the distilling and petty drops of a water-pot; but addresses to the temple, and serving God in the public communion of saints, is like rain from heaven, where the offices are described by a public spirit, heightened by the greater portions of assistance, and receive advantages by the adunations and symbols of charity, and increment by their distinct title to promises appropriate even to their assembling, and mutual support, by the piety of example, by the communication of counsels, by the awfulness of public observation, and the engagements of holy customs. For religion is a public virtue ; it is the ligature of souls, and the great instrument of the conservation of bodies politic; and is united in a common object, the God of all the world, and is managed by public ministries, by sacrifice, adoration, and prayer, in which, with variety of circumstances indeed, but with infinite consent and union of design, all the sons of Adam are taught to worship God; and it is a publication of God's honour, its very purpose being to declare to all the world, how great things God hath done for us, whether in public donatives or private missives; so that the very design, temper, and constitution of religion, is to be a public address to God; and, although God is present in closets, and there also distils his blessings, in small rain ; yet to the societies of religion and publication of worship as we are invited by the great blessings and advantages of communion, so also we are, in some proportions, more straitly limited by the analogy and exigence of the duty b. It is a persecution, when we are forced from public worshippings; no man can hinder our private addresses to God; every man can build a chapel in his breast, and
a Habet semper privilegium sunm, ut sacratius fiat quod publicâ lege celebratur, quàm quod privatâ institutione dependitur. - Leo de Jejun. 7. Mensis. Publica præferenda sunt privatis, et tunc est efficacior sanctiorque devotio, quando in operibus pietatis totius ecclesiæ unus est animus et unus
Idem, Serm. 4. b Heb. x. 25. VOL. II.