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accomplished, he returns to Nazareth: there, until his thirtieth year, he passed his life in humble obscurity; as if intending to remind the discontented and ambitious, that real happiness is not the inseparable companion of exalted station. But the humblest condition may have many virtues, to conciliate the favour and approbation of God: and thus our Saviour exhi bited an example of prudent industry in occupation, and of filial piety towards his earthly parents. The powers of his mind and body were gradually expanding for the labours of his future ministry: he increased in wisdom and in stature :' for though his divinity was infinite, yet his human faculties were susceptible of progressive illuminations; thereby convincing us, that he really was man and God, conjointly in one nature.
II. 1. In considering this portion of history, in reference to religion generally, may we not affirm, that an established Church has some claim to our veneration and respect, even because it is established? No sober-minded person would rashly dissent, without having examined, with the most deliberate conscientiousness, the grounds of the national faith under which he has been born. The worship of the Jewish temple was infected by many corruptions; the priesthood was saleable; the doctrine was full of errors; and yet, because the ceremonies of the law were still to abide for a short interval, Christ was eager to testify his respect for the Mosaic dispensation,,by mingling in the exercises of the faithful. But if a precipitous and malignant dissent be censurable, is not a blind orthodoxy equally censurable? And did not Joseph and Mary lose Jesus, even while they were attending the feast of the Passover? We may thus be devoid of true religion, at the very time of fancying ourselves to be in God's immediate presence. Do you attend the public service, from motives of mere decency? In the midst of your prayers, are your thoughts fixed on the pleasures of the world? Do you forget, that vital religion consists in its spirituality? While such are our feelings in attending upon the liturgies of the church, then are we visiting Jerusalem at the Passover; we have lost Christ, though we are unconscious of the privation. This ignorance, relative to the true state of our souls, frequently arises from our associating with such, as appear to be accurate in their conduct and religious opinions. The parents of Christ went a day's journey, supposing him to
be in the company; while travelling with their kinsfolk and acquaintance, returning from the duties of religion, how could they not be exempt from danger, with such connexions as these? We are thus apt to deem the condition of our souls not to be so perilous as it is in reality; foolishly imagining, that the virtues of our friends must necessarily operate as a safeguard for ourselves. Happy, indeed, are they to whom their spiri tual loss becomes known, while they are still able to repair it. Then, as the parents of Christ turned back to Jerusalem, with a similar caution we must arrest our progress, arouse within our hearts a spirit of self-recollection, summon an unbending courage to perform the duties of a wise repentance, and, as it were, retrace our steps, by adopting the very opposite path to that, in which we were proceeding with a careless confidence. And how shall this important enquiry be conducted? We may be disposed, very naturally, as Joseph and Mary, to seek the lost Christ, amid our kinsfolk and acquaintance. Would to God, that friends were always the sources of this religious aid! But when we consider what little reluctance we manifest in associating with many, whose general principles of conduct we cannot fully approve; when we remember, that, by some strange complaisance, gamblers, adulterers, sabbath-breakers, are seen to mingle even in the most elevated society; under such circumstances, let us not be surprised, if we vainly seek, among our kinsfolk and friends, for the lost Redeemer. Let us, therefore, in the season of our doubts, return to Jerusalem. If Joseph and Mary found Christ in the Temple, we also shall find, at the altars of God, that religious feeling, which has be come extinct in our souls. The Temple is the habitation of God; there is his resting-place; there are his sacraments; there does he more especially address himself to the consciences of the penitent. But let us, as the parents of Jesus, seek him sorrowing.' Who, indeed, can miss Christ, and not mourn over him? To be deserted by God, in whose presence is the fulness of joy; to have a soul dead, and abandoned by all re ligious feelings; just, indeed, are the tears which are shed over privations like these. Let us, therefore, evince our value of former blessings, by deploring their loss. They who thus seek, shall find; they who thus mourn, shall be comforted.
II. 2. Let us observe the piety of the Holy Family. The
distance of Jerusalem, their poverty, the fatigues and difficulties of the road, do not deter them from the discharge of their pious duties. Mary accompanies her husband and son: and yet the injunction of visiting the holy city at this particular solemnity, applied more especially to the males, women being excused from a laborious duty, to which their strength was inadequate. But Mary claims no exemption: she knew the spiritual advantages, which the journey might afford; and she was unwilling to sacrifice them. Neither did Joseph and Mary return, until the appointed days had been fulfilled: they do not merely present themselves, and then hasten back, as if they had been dragged forth by their duties, and reluctantly detained by them. Their piety was not sudden and transient; they went up every year: and though to frequent the public assemblies of the faithful is not, indeed, a certain evidence of grace, yet it is an infallible sign of the want of grace to neglect them habitually. Their child was the companion of their journey; as if their prayers were sweeter, in which their son was a partaker.
And can we, as parents, contemplate this conduct of Joseph and Mary, and not imitate their parental solicitude? If children be a gift and heritage from God, what an awful responsibility must rest upon the guardians of pledges so precious! The children who are forward in other things, should be forwarded in religion. It is for the honour of Christ, that parents, like Joseph and Mary, should bring with them their children into the Temple: Christ loves to listen to their hosannas. If the Passover no longer exist, the Church of Christ is still distinguished by many ceremonies, in which the young should be initiated: let their foreheads be early marked with the sign of the cross; let them be presented, at the earliest convenient age, for the rite of confirmation; above all, let them attend, in due season, at the true Gospel-passover, the Supper of the Lord. The conducting of Christ to Jerusalem seems to have a more especial reference to that injunction, by which the Jewish parents were bound to instruct their children in the institutions and ceremonies of the law. Christian parents would do well, by displaying a similar anxiety in explaining to their children the occasions of the several Christian festivals. These, as they occur in the various periods of our religious year, would afford
a compendious system of evangelical education. Habits of early piety and serious reflection might thus be deeply imprinted upon the youthful breast: so that they who, at the age of twelve, were beheld in the Temple, will still be found within its precincts, like aged Simeons, ready to depart in peace, and to breathe forth their souls amid the altars of their God. If our parental labours are not always crowned with these auspi cious results, still will it be no mean consolation in the final day of account, that we have conscientiously discharged our duties: and that the perdition of a soul cannot be ascribed, by an angry judge, to our vicious example, or to our sinful negligence.
II. 3. But from the parent let us, lastly, address ourselves to the child. Christ, at the age of twelve, was found in the temple of his heavenly Father. Can the young more honourably consecrate their time, than in thus devoting its first-fruits to the honour of the Giver? Let them, therefore, like their Saviour, be cheerful attendants upon the services of their God, and dedicate a due proportion of their life to the search after divine truth. Do they wish to invert the account of Christ? That while he increased in wisdom,' they may increase in profligacy and sin? and while he grew in favour with God and man,' they may grow reprobate in the sight of the Almighty, and an object of pity or contempt in the opinion of the wise and good? Let, therefore, children view the example of the 'holy child Jesus,' with an humble desire of transcribing, into their own conduct, its chief lineaments for wist they not,' that they, too, must be about' their Father's business'? a business to which they stand pledged by every emotion of gratitude towards their heavenly benefactor; a business, which is its own exceeding great reward; a business, which interferes not with one lawful enjoyment; a business, which cannot be safely procrastinated until the decay and infirmities of age. Remember,' therefore, thy Creator in the days of thy youth.' Let his church and ordinances be dear to thee: the piety which thy soul thus imbibes, will influence thy whole conduct; and from the house of a heavenly father thou wilt return, like Christ, in dutiful subjection to an earthly parent. Filial piety was enforced by his precept and by his example, He laboured to clear the fifth commandment from those false
glosses, with which the Jewish doctors had obscured it. The very prayer, which he hath bequeathed to us, commences with the words, Our Father,' intimating, that the Deity cannot be acceptably addressed by those, whose hearts are strangers to the duties of a child towards a parent. He who, though, in one respect, the son of Joseph and Mary, was their lord and sovereign-in another; even he thought it no degradation to observe a reverent and dutiful submission towards his earthly parents. In reference to this example of Christ, no poverty of circumstance, no meanness of condition, no infirmities of age, can ever place so wide an interval as that between Jesus and Mary, a God and a mortal woman. But as this infinite distance admits not of comparison, so the duteous conduct of Christ must eternally condemn the refractory and disobedient child; and the wrath of God must abide upon him, while he withholds that tribute of affection and respect, which parents have a right to command, by the ordinances both of man and God.
Let the young lay these considerations most seriously to heart. Let them remember, that the beauty of youth is piety, which years cannot wither. Let them make it the subject of their constant prayers, that, like their Saviour, they may crease in wisdom as in stature, and in favour with God and
[COMPILED BY THE EDITOR.]
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
ROM. xii. 3.-For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.] It is difficult, and very difficult, for a man to measure himself, and not to suffer his ambition to go beyond his talents and his