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opportunity of listening to the appointed teachers of God's law, perhaps gathering instruction from them, or else communicating it from His own heavenly stores ? May not children learn from this to love wisdom and knowledge whilst they are young, and to be seeking continually fresh supplies of it from all their appointed instructors with diligence and humility, remembering how He who came into the world to be the Great Teacher of all truth, condescended Himself to receive instruction from others? May they not learn too, to seek, above all, heavenly wisdom, to love the house of God, and to listen with humble reverence to the reading of God's word and the preaching of His truth, remembering that the ministers of His house are expressly appointed to teach them in the way of salvation ?
E. What did Joseph and his mother think, Mamma, when they heard Jesus discoursing thus with those learned men ?
M. They were much amazed. They little knew how early and devotedly the mind of this holy child was bent upon studying and performing the will of God; nor did they consider that His heavenly Father had a much higher claim to His time, and His affection, than the best human friends; yea, far more even than His mother. Therefore they inquired, with astonishment, why He had staid so long behind them in the Temple; and His mother said unto Him, “ Son, why hast thou dealt thus with us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” Listen to our Saviour's reply! He said unto them, “ how is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my
Father's business ?” Just as if He had said, “ why search for me any where but here? where should I love to be
so well as with you, excepting only in the courts of my Father's house (for God you know was His Father), engaged in thàt work, which He has given me to do ?” Thus we see that it was, from the very first, the meat and drink of Christ to do His heavenly Father's will: to this, every thing else gave way; for this, every thing else was forgotten; His own convenience, His fondest earthly affections, were never allowed to interfere with His holy zeal for the glory of God. Does not the conduct of our blessed Redeemer, as set before us in this circumstance of His early years, speak loudly to all His followers; to me, and even to you, my
child ? for none, who can listen with interest to the history of His life, can be too young to begin to serve God, to begin to perform our heavenly Father's will. Does it not call upon us, more strongly than any words could do, to make the service of God our first object; to love Him better than even the dearest friends whom He has given us; yea, better than father or mother, or brother, or sister; and never to allow our most interesting occupations to interfere with that higher and better love which we owe to Him?
But whilst I would urge this upon you most earnestly, do not for a moment think that the holy child Jesus was disobedient, or unkind to His mother, or even to Joseph: far indeed was this from Him. Having gratified in the Temple His love to His Father in heaven, and having made the best use of the solemn opportunity, which the sacred feast of the Passover afforded, for the performance of His great work upon earth, He immediately returned with Mary and her husband to Nazareth, and there submitted Himself to them; thus setting an example to all Christian
children of respectful obedience to their earthly parents, or to those who in any way stand in the place of parents to them. For if the Son of God in His childhood was thus obedient, He whose understanding and wisdom were even then so astonishing, how much more should other children obey, who know so little, and need so much the wisdom and experience of their elders to guide them! Yes; He, whom archangels worship, condescended to become an example to children. Though infinite as God, He submitted to pass as we do, through the slow degrees of human nature in body and mind, from His birth to the full prime of life. He was a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes; He was a child subject to parental authority, and to human instruction; before He became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” For as He was perfect God, so was He “perfect man, of a reasonable soul, and human flesh subsisting.” Accordingly as “ the child Jesus grew He waxed strong in spirit.” Being truly man, as well as truly the Son of God, He grew, as other children grow; even His spirit grew daily stronger, as well as His body; His wisdom increased with His outward growth; and the grace or favour of God was upon Him: by which we may understand, that the abundant presence of the Holy Ghost was with Him, bestowing upon Him by degrees all those excellent gifts and graces, which shone forth in Him afterwards so brightly. And here let me remind you again, that our Lord is our great example, and that in His early years He is more particularly an example to the young. When they look upon this part of our Saviour's history, what encouragement will they find in it to pray, and also, by their own endeavours, to strive to become daily wiser and better, that the favour of God, and the help of His Holy Spirit, may be with them more and more; that so, as they grow in years, their spirits too may wax stronger and stronger in every thing that is good. And what a comfort it may be to you to think, as you feel more and more your own weakness and sinfulness, that your blessed Saviour was once a child, and therefore can feel for children still! Surely He knows their difficulties, for He took their nature upon Him; and if they do but trust in Him, He will help them in their trials, pity their weakness, inform their ignorance, and carry them lovingly on, from strength to strength, causing the favour of God to
them in all their ways. Has not the Lord Jesus plainly shown, as well as taught, that children are the objects of his care and love; and that “ of such” indeed " is the kingdom of heaven;" since He was Himself a child ?
Does not His example, still more loudly than His words, proclaim 66 suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not ?" Are not the lambs as well as the sheep equally the Shepherd's care ? He lived for all, ---He died for all, -He cares for all :-Oh then let children come to this gracious Saviour!
See Luke ji. 40-52.
SEVENTH SUNDAY EVENING.
JOHN PREACHING IN THE WILDERNESS.
M. From the childhood of our Lord we pass now to his public ministry. But first, we must turn our attention for a time to John the Baptist, who, as you already know, was to be our Saviour's forerunner or herald, “ the prophet of the highest,” as his father Zacharias had called him, “ to go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.” Accordingly, as the time drew nigh for our Lord's public commencement of his gracious work, John began the duties of his office by preaching repentance to the people, and calling upon them all to forsake their different sins. He told them that they were like trees, to be judged of by their own fruits; that as a tree is known by the kind of fruit it produces, so they would be known by their conduct and character. He also admonished them, that the axe was laid at the root of the tree; by which, we may suppose, he meant, that the great Judge of the world was Himself about to visit the earth, and that every tree, which did not bring forth good fruit, should be cut down and cast into the fire. To those who should really repent at his preaching, John was permitted to give a pledge or outward sign, by baptizing them in the river Jordan, of God's readiness to forgive them, and to wash away their sins.
E. Had there never been any baptism then, Mamma, before John came?
M. Yes, for some such reason as I have been pointing out to you, baptism was customary among the Jews, even before the time of John. And afterwards, you know, our Lord himself graciously adopted baptism to be one of the sacraments of His Church. In the sprinkling of water in that holy ordinance we are reminded how much we need to be cleansed by the precious blood of Christ, which is called in the Bible,