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The feast ended, what should they do, but return to Nazareth ? God's services may not be so attended, as that we should neglect our particular callings. Himself calls us from his own house to ours; and takes pleasure to see a painful client. They are foully mistaken, that think God cares for no other trade, but devotion. Piety and diligence must keep meet changes with each other. Neither doth God less accept of our return to Nazareth, than our going up to Jerusalem.
I cannot think, that the Blessed Virgin or good Joseph could be so negligent of their Divine Charge, as not to call the child Jesus, to their setting forth from Jerusalem. But their back was no sooner turned upon the temple, than his face was towards it. He had business in that place, when theirs was ended : there he was both worshipped and represented. He, in whom the Godhead dwelt bodily, could do nothing without God : his true Father led him away from his supposed. Sometimes the affairs of our ordinary vocation may not grudge to yield unto spiritual occasions.
The parents of Christ knew him well to be of a disposition not strange, nor sullen and stoical, but sweet and sociable; and therefore they supposed he had spent the time and the way, in company of their friends and neighbours. They do not suspect him wandered into the solitary fields; but when evening came, they go to seek him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. If he had not wonted to converse formerly with them, he had not now been sought amongst them. Neither as God nor man doth he take pleasure, in a stern froward austerity and wild retiredness; but in a mild affableness and amiable conversation.
But, 0 Blessed Virgin, who can express the sorrows of thy perplexed soul, when all that evening search could afford thee no news of thy son Jesus? Was not this one of those swords of Simeon, which should pierce through thy tender breast? How didst thou chide thy credulous neglect, in not observing so precious a charge; and blame thine eyes, for once looking beside this object of thy love! How didst thou, with thy careful husband, spend that restless night, in mutual ex postulations and bemoanings of your loss! How many suspicious imaginations did that while rack thy grieved spirit! Perhaps, thou mightest doubt, lest they, which laid wait for him by Herod's command at his birth, had now, by the secret instigation of Archelaus, surprised him in his childhood: or, it may be, thou thoughtest thy Divine Son had now withdrawn himself from the earth, and returned to his heavenly glory, without warning : or, peradventure, thou studiedst with thyself, whether any carelessness on thy behalf had not given occasion to this absence.
O dear Saviour, who can miss, and not mourn for thee? Never any soul conceived thee by faith, that was less afflicted with the sense of thy desertion, than comforted with the joy of thy presence. Jusť is that sorrow, and those tears seasonable, that are bestowed upon thy loss. What comfort are we capable of, while we want thee? What relish is there in these earthly delights, without
thee? What is there to mitigate our passionate discomforts, if not from thee? Let thyself loose, () my soul, to the fulness of sorrow, when thou findest thyself bereaved of him, in whose presence is the fulness of joy; and deny to receive comfort from any thing, save from his return.
In vain is Christ sought among his kindred according to the flesh. So far are they still, from giving us their aid to find the true Messiah, that they lead us from him.
Back again, therefore, are Joseph and Mary gone, to seek him at Jerusalem. She goes about in the city, by the streets and by the open places, and seeks him, whom her soul loveth : she sought him, for the time, and found him not. Do we think she spared her search? The evening of her return, she hastes to the inn, where she had left him ; where, missing him, she inquires of every one she met, Have you not seen him, whom my soul loveth ?
At last, the third day, she finds him in the temple. One day was spent in the journey towards Galilee ; another, in the return to Jerusalem; the third day recovers him. He, who would rise again the third day and be found amongst the living, now also would the third day be found of his parents, after the sorrow of his absence.
But where wert thou, O Blessed Jesu, for the space of these three days ? Where didst thou bestow thyself, or who tended thee, while thou wert thus alone at Jerusalem ? I know, if Jerusalem should have been as unkind to thee as Bethlehem, thou couldst have commanded the heavens to harbour thee; and if men did not minister to thee, thou couldst have commanded the service of angels : but, since the form of a Servant called thee to a voluntary homeliness, whether it pleased thee to exercise thyself thus early with the difficulties of a stranger, or to provide miraculously for thyself, I inquire not, since thou revealest not: only this I know, that hereby thou intendedst to teach thy parents, that thou couldest live without them; and that, not of any indigency, but out of a gracious dispensation, thou wouldest ordinarily depend upon their care.
In the mean time, thy divine wisdom, could not but foreknow all these corroding thoughts, wherewith the heart of thy dear Mother must needs bleed, through this sudden dereliction; yet wouldest thou leave her, for the time, to her sorrow. Even so, O Saviour, thou thoughtest fit to visit her, that bore thee, with this early affliction. Never any loved thee, whom thou dost not sometimes exercise, with the grief of missing thee; that both, we may be more careful to hold thee, and more joyful in recovering thee. Thou hast said, and canst not lie, I am with you, to the end of the world; but even while thou art really present, thou thinkest good to be absent unto our apprehensions.
Yet if thou leave us, thou wilt not forsake us; if thou leave us for our humiliation, thou wilt not forsake us to our final discomfort. Thou mayest for three days hide thyself, but then we shall find thee in the temples. None ever sought thee with a sincere desire, of whom thou wert not found. Thou wilt not be, either so
little absent as not to whet our appetites, nor so long as to fainten the heart.
After three days, we shall find thee; and where should we rather hope to find thee, than in the Temple? There, is the habitation for the God of Israel ; there, is thy resting place for ever. O all ye, that are grieved with the want of your Saviour, see where you must seek him. In vain shall ye hope to find him in the streets, in the taverns, in the theatres: seek him in his Holy Temple ; seek him with piety ; seek him with faith : there shall ye meet him ; there shall ye recover him. · While children of that age were playing in the streets, Christ was found sitting in the temple ; not to gaze on the outward glory of that house, or on the golden candlesticks or tables, but to hear and appose the doctors. He, who as God gave them all the wisdom they had, as the Son of Man hearkens to the wisdom he had given them. He, who sat in their hearts, as the Author of all learning and knowledge, sits in the midst of their school, as an humble Disciple; that, by learning of them, he might teach all the younger, sort humility, and due attendance upon their instructors. He could, at the first, have taught the great Rabbins of Israel the deep mysteries of God; but, because he was not yet called by his Father to the public function of a Teacher, he contents himself to hear with diligence, and to ask with modesty, and to teach only by insinuation. Let those consider this, which will needs run as soon as they can go; and, when they find ability, think they need not stay, for a further vocation of God or men. Open your eyes, ye rathe ripe invaders of God's chair, and see your Saviour in his younger years, not sitting in the eminent pulpits of the doctors, but in the lowly floors of the auditors. See him, that could have taught the angels, listening in his minority to the voice of men. Who can think much to learn of the ancients, when he looks upon the Son of God, sitting at the feet of the doctors of Israel? First, he hears; then, he asks. How much more doth it concern us to be hearers, ere we offer to be teachers of others! He gathers, that hears; he spends, that teacheth: if we spend before we gather, we shall soon prove bankrupts.
When he hath heard, he asks; and after that, he answers. Doubtless, those very questions were instructions; and meant to teach, more than to learn. Never had these great Rabbins heard the voice of such a Tutor; in whom they might see the wisdom of God so concealing itself, that yet it would be known to be there. No marvel then, if they all wondered at his understanding and answers. Their eyes saw nothing, but human weakness; their ears heard divine sublimity of matter : betwixt what they saw and what they heard, they could not but be distracted with a doubting admiration.
And why did ye not, () ye Jewish teachers, remember, that to us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given ; and the government is upon his shoulder ; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace? Why did ye not now bethink yourselves, what
the Star, the Sages, the Angels, the Shepherds, Zachary, Simeon, Anna, had premonished you? Fruitless is the wonder, that endeth not in faith. No light is sufficient, where the eyes are held, through unbelief or prejudice.
The Doctors were not more amazed, to hear so profound a childhood, than the parents of Christ were, to see him among the doctors. The joy of finding him did strive with the astonishment of finding him thus.
And now, not Joseph, (he knew how little right he had to that Divine Son,) but Mary, breaks forth into a loving expostulation, Son, why hast thou dealt so with us? That she might not seem to take upon her as an imperious Mother, it is like she reserved this question, till she had him alone; wherein she meant rather to express grief, than correption. Only herein the Blessed Virgin of. fended, that her inconsideration did not suppose, (as it was,) that some higher respects, than could be due to Aesh and blood, called away the Son of God from her, that was the daughter of man She, that was but the Mother of Humanity, should not have thought, that the business of God must for her sake be neglected.
We are all partial to ourselves naturally ; and prone to the regard of our own rights. Questionless, this gracious saint would not, for all the world, have willingly preferred her own attendance, to that of her God : through heedlessness she doth so: her Son and Saviour is her monitor ; out of his Divine love, reforming her natural; How is it, that ye sought me? Know ye not, that I must go about my Father's business?
Immediately before the Blessed Virgin had said, Thy father and I sought thee with heavy hearts : wherein, both, according to the supposition of the world she called Joseph the father of Christ, and according to the fashion of a dutiful wife she names her Joseph before herself. She well knew, that Joseph had nothing but a name in this business; she knew how God had dignified her beyond him; yet she says, Thy father and I sought thee.
The Son of God stands not upon contradiction to his mother; but, leading her thoughts from his supposed father to his true, from earth to Heaven, he answers, Knew ye not, that I must go about my Father's business? It was honour enough to her, that he had vouchsafed to take flesh of her; it was his eternal honour, that he was God of God, the Everlasting Son of the Heavenly Father. Good reason therefore was it, that the respects to flesh should give place to the God of Spirits.
How well contented was holy Mary, with so just an answer! How doth she now again, in her heart, renew her answer to the Angel, Behold the servant of the Lord, be it according to thy word!
We are all the sons of God, in another kind. Nature, and the world, thinks we should attend them. We are not worthy to say, “ We have a Father in Heaven," if we cannot steal away from these earthly distractions, and employ ourselves in the services of our God.
CHRIST'S BAPTISM. John did, every way, forerun Christ; not so much in the time of his birth, as in his office. Neither was there more unlikeliness in their disposition and carriage, than similitude in their function. Both did preach and baptize: only John baptized by himself; our Saviour, by his disciples: our Saviour wrought miracles by himself, by his disciples ; John wrought none by either : wherein Christ meant to shew himself a Lord, and John a servant; and John meant to approve himself a true servant to him, whose harbinger he was.
He, that leaped in the womb of his mother, when his Saviour, then newly conceived, came in presence, bestirred himself, when he was brought forth into the light of the Church, to the honour and service of his Saviour. He did the same before Christ, which Christ charged his disciples to do after him, Preach and baptize. The Gospel ran always in one tenor; and was never but like itself: so it became the word of him, in whom there is no shadow by turn, ing; and whose word it is, I am Jehovah, I change not.
It was fit, that he, which had the prophets, the star, the angel, to foretell his coming into the world, should have his usher to go before him, when he would notify himself to the world. John was the Voice of a Cryer ; Christ was the Word of his Father : it was fit this Voice should make a noise to the World, ere the Word of the Father should speak to it.
John's note was still, Repentance; the axe to the root, the fan to the floor, the chaff to the fire : as his raiment was rough, so was his tongue; and if his food were wild honey, his speech was stinging locusts. Thus must the way be made for Christ in every heart. Plausibility is no fit preface to regeneration. If the heart of man had continued upright, God might have been entertained without contradiction; but now violence must be offered to our corruption, ere we can have room for grace. If the great WayMaker do not cast down hills and raise up valleys in the bosoms of men, there is no passage for Christ. Never will Christ come into that soul, where the herald of repentance hath not been before him.
That Saviour of ours, who from eternity lay hid in the counsel of God, who in the fulness of time so came that he lay hid in the womb of his Mother for the space of forty weeks, who after he was come thought fit to lie bid'in Nazareth for the space of thirty years, now at last begins to shew himself to the world, and comes from Galilee to Jordan. He, that was God always, and might have been perfect man in an instant, would by degrees rise to the perfection both of his Manhood and execution of his Mediatorship; to teach us the necessity of leisure in spiritual proceedings; that many suns and successions of seasons and means must be stayed for, ere we can attain our maturity; and that when we are ripe for the employments of God, we should no less willingly leave our obscurity, than we took the benefit of it for our preparation.