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much; surely they would not have refused to be comforted; but would have trusted their precious infants cheerfully with Him, who could keep them safely in His holy arms for ever!
E. You do not mean with Him on earth, Mamma, but with Him safely in heaven.
M. I do my child; and now I wish, that before we leave this subject, you would repeat to me that beautiful hymn of Bishop Heber's, on the death of the holy innocents. It will give us some sweet thoughts upon this sad, but interesting history.
M. You have seen now what a cruel man this king Herod was, thus to murder so many innocent children! His history affords us a melancholy proof of the length to which the passions of mankind will carry them, if not kept under control. Herod's great sin was a love of power. It was to preserve his power that he killed these poor babes. He thought Christ
would one day take away his crown from him; and, not knowing that the good providence of God had removed Him far out of his way, he thought he should be sure, in putting to death all the little children in and about Bethlehem, to kill Jesus also. It was not long however before Herod died himself, and was obliged to leave for ever all that power and greatness, for the sake of which he had committed such grievous sins.
On the death of Herod, Joseph, who was still in Egypt with the young child Jesus and His mother, was directed by an angel to bring them back again into the land of Israel. Accordingly they came again into Palestine; but when Joseph heard that a son of Herod, named Archelaus, was made king of Judea in his father's room, he was afraid to return to Bethlehem. In this difficulty God was pleased to direct him again what to do; and, guided by Him, he went from Judea into Galilee, and took up his abode at Nazareth, which you will remember was the city where Joseph and Mary were living when we first hear of them, before they went to Bethlehem to be taxed. See Matt. ii. 12-23. Luke ii. 39.
SIXTH SUNDAY EVENING.
THE CHILDHOOD OF JESUS.
We have now finished, my dear Edward, the history of our blessed Saviour's infancy; we have seen how the Son of God condescended for our sakes to submit to poverty and hardship, to persecution and contempt.
Angels indeed sent shepherds to adore Him; but it was in a manger: wise men came from afar to do Him homage; but the king of Judea seeks to destroy Him. He is driven into banishment, and when He returns to His country, it is to dwell in one of the most despised cities of Galilee and to be called a Nazarene. But even this turned to his glory in reality; for His dwelling at Nazareth was not less a fulfilment of prophecy, than His birth at Bethlehem.
For whilst it was expressly said that the great ruler of Israel should come out of Bethlehem, it was also intimated that He should be called a Nazarene. The prophet Isaiah also foretold that he should be "despised, and rejected of men," and few things were so likely to cause Him to be thus despised and rejected as that of being considered a Nazarene. You remember, I dare say, that I told you not long ago, that it was quite a proverb among the Jews, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth ?" And yet this was the city after which the Son of God permitted Himself to be called. Though born at Bethlehem, the birthplace of David, and as such held much in honour, our Lord is continually in the Gospels called, not Jesus of Bethlehem, but "Jesus of Nazareth."
And here did the Son of the Most High God condescend to spend the days of his childhood, that so he might not receive glory from his circumstances, nor from the place of his abode, but that his divine glory might break forth through all these outward hinderances, as the sun scatters the thick clouds, until all kings of the earth shall one day fall down before Jesus of Nazareth, and all nations do Him service.
I have already had occasion to observe to you, that
of the early history of our Lord the notices in the Gospel are very few. After recording the birth of Jesus, His presentation in the Temple, His manifestation to the Gentiles, His flight into Egypt, and His return to Judea, the sacred narrative seems to hurry on to the period of His ministry, to His miracles, His teaching, His sufferings, His death. But it pauses awhile on one stage in His early life-on one stage, observe, and one only, as if to point it out to our more especial notice. It pauses at the close of our Saviour's childhood, at that period of life, which is, in some respects, the most interesting of all; when the simplicity of childhood remains, while the powers of the mind are beginning to unfold themselves. From His circumcision to this time, and again from this time to His baptism, the Gospels are silent. There is for thirty years a stillness, a silence in the Saviour's history, which is broken, as I have said, only once. But in the circumstances related to us of this part of our Saviour's history we find much for our thoughts to dwell upon, and much which shews that the Son of God cared for children, and left even to them an example that they should follow His steps. Of this you will have an interesting proof in the particulars I am going to tell you, of an event which is related of Him when He was twelve years old. old. At this time Mary went up to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of the Passover, as she was accustomed to do every year with Joseph; and on this occasion she took the blessed child Jesus with her. There they remained the usual time of the feast, and then set out to return again into Galilee. "But the child Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it;" for it was
the custom of the Jews to perform these journeys in large companies, those who were friends and neighbours going and returning together; and they thought that Jesus was among the party. Mary and Joseph therefore went a day's journey without any fears about Him; but at the close of the day they began to feel anxious, and to inquire for Him among their relatives and friends: and when they found Him not, they turned back to Jerusalem seeking Him. Three long days did they continue their search, and great, no doubt, all that time were the sufferings of the tender mother. Sad must have been her thoughts and her fears for the blessed child, lest some evil should have happened to Him, or lest He should in any way have been taken away from her, and she should see His face no more. At length, having sought Him every where else in vain, she turned her steps towards the house of God; perhaps with some faint hope of finding her lost treasure there; or, perhaps, merely to seek some relief for her wounded and troubled heart, by pouring out her soul unto the Lord. Happy Mary! Soon was all her sorrow to be turned into joy. There sat the holy child "in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." Surely then were fulfilled those words spoken by the Psalmist of old, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hath God ordained strength." The Temple, you know, was the house of God; was it then to be wondered that the Son of God should delight to linger there? Or was it surprising that He, who from His earliest childhood was daily advancing in wisdom, should rejoice in this great