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was occupied in toil such as the great majority of men pursue. The Roman domination embraced nearly all the known world, when the Redeemer was born at the precise moment and in the exact locality where the sacred oracles had predicted that he should appear. Springing from a race of kings, and, in his extreme indigence, deprived even of the humblest asylum upon the earth he came to save, he represented in this double state the entire race of man. All the unfortunate who bear the burdens of toil and of pain, exiled patriotism, banished merit, wandering tribes, and outraged benefactors of every degree, may turn to the babe of Bethlehem, and recognize a brother in “ Him through whom Jehovah bestows salvation," who was cradled into suffering by both power and want, and was from the outset violently pursued by the tyranny he came to overthrow. Several of the first years of our Lord's temporal life were passed in almost entire obscurity, wherein he accomplished the destiny of man, eating the bread which he gained in the sweat of his brow. Submissive to every filial obligation, it is recorded that he obeyed Joseph and Mary with perfect docility ; he accomplished with them the precepts of the law, and it was thus that he grew in wisdom, in age, and in favor before God and men. As the deliverer of man condemned, the ennobler of man degraded, it was necessary that Jesus should at every step be the model of man in perfection, the source of all the graces by which we can, in following his precepts, and imitating his examples, reëstablish in ourselves the image of God, which sin has defaced. No period of his progress, no incident in his life, is unworthy of our profoundest study. We should strive to penetrate the thoughts of eternal wisdom, and contemplate his ways in the marvellous work of our redemption.
Infinite wisdom has not seen fit to grant us copious and minute details of our Savior's early life, but enough are transmitted to us to excite interesting thoughts and impart the most profitable lessons. The events of his maturity command our attention by their grandeur; but they are not the only ones worthy of our observation. On the contrary, we should study the growth of this divine Being, “ seek for the bud which con. cealed the seed, and the powers that conspired to unfold it.”
No other child was ever harassed by adversity and subject to the necessity of exhausting toil, like Jesus Christ. It began in the manger and ended only on the cross.
A divine messenger came to Joseph, and directed him to fly with the child and his mother to Egypt. Think of the length of the journey required; the ignorance of the parents with respect to the way they were to pursue ; the youth and feebleness of Mary, and the trembling age of Joseph; the delicate condition of the infant they were to transport so far, over so rough a way; and especially think how utterly unprovided they were with means of supporting themselves in a foreign land. Groups of the lonely, sojourning in poverty far away from natal soil, behold your prototype and consolation in Christ! How did that family procure food by the way, a shelter from the sun, and a covert from the storm ? Think of the tasks and sorrows that encompassed the child Jesus, in the dawning of his first consciousness, and the exercise of his first strength.
At length the angel of the Lord again appears unto Joseph, saying, “ Take the boy and his mother, and go into the land of Israel ; for they are dead who sought the life of the boy.” Josephus has told us who the tyrant was who had driven the young Redeemer from Judea, and whose death now allows his return. It was that Herod, who, at the close of a blood-stained life of seventy years, goaded by the furies of an evil conscience, racked by a painful and incurable disease, waiting for death but desiring life, raging against God and man, and maddened by the thought that the Jews, instead of bewailing his death, would rejoice over it as the greatest of blessings, commanded the worthies of the nation to be assembled in the Circus, and issued a secret order that, after his death, they should all be slain together, so that their kindred, at least, might have cause to weep for his death. It was this monster who sought to destroy the infant Christ, and it is the like of him that perpetually persecute the innocent, feeble, and unfortunate of earth. But he who is about to return from Egypt will grow up to be a
mightier than Moses to conduct the people from bondage and deliver the tyrant's prey. His first impressions are those of cruel wrongs ; his earliest days are troubled by despotic rage ; his youthful limbs are chafed with incessant toil; and he grows up keenly to observe on the one hand benignant old age buffetted by scorn and doubt, while on the other the “ bright consummate flower” of her sex bends before the storm she cannot resist, diligently labors to foster the excellence she has produced, and at the source of human hope and fear tempers for our redemption the swelling attributes of one mighty to save. Thus, says Neander, “in the very beginning of the life of Him who was to save the world, we see a foreshadowing of what it was afterwards to be. The believing souls, to whom the lofty import of that life was shown by divine signs, saw in it the fulfilment of their longings; the power of the world, ever subservient to evil, raged against it; but amid all dangers, the hand of God guided and brought it forth victorious."
From this general statement of the circumstances attendant on the early days of Christ on earth, let us proceed to remark that the suffering and toil into which he was plunged at so tender an age were adapted to develop his powers and fit him for the perfect accomplishment of the redemption he came to execute. The painful experience of his earliest struggles had the triple advantage of unfolding his energies, his sympathies, and his aspirations.
In the first place, as is the case with all redeemers, his best energies were developed by the worst trials. Christ assumed our nature, bore our sorrows, fought our battles, won our triumphs. He came to this tearful and stormful earth to live out in actual experience, from the first pang to the last, the spiritual sorrows and physical deprivations of all Adam's race. Monarch supreme in heaven, and regal on earth even by right of birth, he chose to appear in the most humble condition. For our sakes he became poor, and entered upon the conquest of the world without noticing either its honors or its emoluments. In the eye of the wealthy and powerful he was regarded only as
" the carpenter's son.” The morning of his career dawned in the lowest vale of life, where he shared the sufferings of the most destitute, the wretched abode of cattle even, for there was no room for him and his associates at the inn. Such was the pomp
in which the Deliverer of mankind appeared. The first acts of his divinity here below were struggles against want, and his destitution increased in proportion as his functions
The foxes had holes, and the fowls of the air had nests ; but the Son of man had no reposing place for his head. Poor and toil-worn to the end, he earned all with his own hands, or received from charity the bread he ate, the garments he wore, and the winding-sheet in which he was entombed. Whoever has struggled with difficulties almost to strangling at the very outset of his heroical career, whoever has toiled all day to win a scanty sustenance, and, in mental desolateness and gloom deeper than night, has shrieked in agony to the God of heaven, whoever has cloaked his outward wants and inward aspirations beneath the humble mechanic's garb, and gone forth, firm, silent, and resolute, learning the “priceless wisdom from endurance drawn” among his fellow-men, whoever has mourned for “ all the oppressions which are done under the sun," and been “mad for the sight of his eyes
that he did see," — whoever has felt all the 6 wanderer in his soul,” and striven through the tender years of youth with sweating brow, blistered hands, and bleeding heart, to win the weapons of moral warfare, and cleave a way to self-emancipation and the disinthralment of all mankind, - let him come and hug to his bosom that brother of the poor and young champion of the weak; let him receive cheering words of fellow-feeling, and strength that shall never fail, from that Boy of Nazareth, the working Son of God. And in his intercourse with such an example of overcoming courage and patient efforts for the common weal, let him never despond, but remember
“ He that is born is listed ; life is war
Eternal war with woe.”
Early to task the energies of a predestined hero through severe toil is gradually to make him acquainted with his latent might, and causes him to taste the glory of his own puttings forth and triumphs. It is thus that personal power is quickened and kept in motion. All that is divine on earth must be developed and find expansive scope through resolute exertion. Of what use are wings to a young eagle so long as he sits in his eyry, looking out idly upon the vast expanse around him? Because the first flappings of those pinions are of necessity feeble, they are not therefore to be kept perpetually unemployed. Mere instinct teaches the parent bird better than this. He early induces his young to try his strength, and if he refuses, for lack of confidence, he pitches him out; and a few weeks of trials, constantly increased, constitute the glory and the joy of the young monarch of the air. Had he been moored in the dove's downy nest, his first flight would have sent him down dazzled before the rising day; but with strong plumes growing from within himself, and strengthened by struggles to surmount or penetrate opposing blasts, he wins and adorns the birthright of his race, darting to the zenith unblenched, and bathing himself in the splendors of the noontide sun.
condition of one in this world of sin and - the obscurity in which we perish, or from which we are compelled to emerge — vicissitudes of every degree, and wants of every kind — every objective difficulty, and every subjective trial all that can by any possibility be made to invigorate the body or arouse the mind — may be regarded as the compost out of which true heroism draws sap, acquires fibre, and imbibes the sustenance which aids the rising champion to disclose the hidden beauty of his spirit, the symmetry of his form, and the flexile majesty of his invincible strength. Says Cowper, truly,
“ No soil like poverty for growth divine,
As leanest land supplies the richest wine." All our higher faculties gain infinitely more of purity and power by breathing in content the keen and wholesome air of