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and give a crown at last, and all in his good time, if we wait the coming of the angel, and in the mean time do our duty with care, and sustain our temporals with indifferency: and, in all our troubles and displeasing accidents, we may call to mind, that God, by his holy and most reasonable providence, hath so ordered it, that the spiritual advantages we may receive from the holy use of such incommodities, are of great recompense and interest; and that, in such accidents, the holy Jesus, having gone before us in precedent, does go along with us by love and fair assistances; and that makes the present condition infinitely more eligible, than the greatest splendour of secular fortune.
O blessed and eternal God, who didst suffer thy holy Son to
fly from the violence of an enraged prince, and didst choose to defend him in the ways of his infirmity by hiding himself, and a voluntary exile; be thou a defence to all thy faithful people, whenever persecution arises against them; send them the ministry of angels to direct them into ways of security, and let thy holy Spirit guide them in the paths of sanctity, and let thy providence continue in custody over their persons, till the times of refreshment and the day of redemption shall return. Give, O Lord, to thy whole church, sanctity and zeal, and the confidences of a holy faith, boldness of confession, humility, content, and resignation of spirit, generous contempt of the world, and unmingled desires of thy glory and the edification of thy elect; that no secular interests disturb her duty, or discompose her charity, or depress her hopes, or, in any unequal degree, possess her affections, and pollute her spirit: but preserve her from the snares of the world and the devil, from the rapine and greedy desires of sacrilegious persons; and, in all conditions, whether of affluence or want, may she still promote the interests of religion : that, when plenteousness is within her palaces, and peace in her walls, that condition may then be best for her; and when she is made as naked as Jesus to his passion, then poverty may be best for her: that, in all estates, she may glorify thee; and, in all accidents and changes, thou mayest
sanctify and bless her, and at last bring her to the eternal richies and abundances of glory, where no persecution shall disturb her rest. Grant this for sweet Jesus' sake, who suffered exile and hard journeys, and all the inconveniences of a friendless person, in a strange province; to whom, with thee and the eternal Spirit, be glory for ever, and blessing in all generations of the world, and for ever and ever. Amena
Of the younger Years of Jesus, and his Disputation withi
the Doctors in the Temple.
1. From the return of this holy family to Judæa, and their habitation in Nazareth, till the blessed child Jesus was twelve years of age, we have nothing transmitted to us out of any authentic record ; but that they went to Jerusalem, every year, at the feast of the Passover. And when Jesus was twelve years old, and was in the holy city, attending upon the paschal rites and solemn sacrifices of the law, his parents, having fulfilled their days of festivity, went homeward, supposing the Child had been in the caravan; among his friends ; and so they erred for the space of a whole day's journey ; " and when they sought him, and found him not, they returned to Jerusalem," full of fears and sorrow.
2. No fancy can imagine the doubts, the apprehensions, the possibilities of mischief, and the tremblings of heart, which the holy Virgin-mother felt thronging about her fancy and understanding, but such a person, who hath been tempted to the danger of a violent fear and transportation, by apprehension of the loss of a hope greater than a miracle ; her discourses with herself could have nothing of distrust, but much of sadness and wonder; and the indetermination of her thoughts was a trouble great as the passion of her love. Possibly an angel might have carried him, she knew not whither; or, it may be, the son of Herod had gotten the prey, which his cruel father missed; or he was sick, or detained out of curiosity and wonder, or any thing, but what was right. And by this time she was come to Jerusalem; and having spent three days in her sad and holy pursuit of her lost jewel, despairing of the prosperous event of any human diligence, as, in all other cases, she had accustomed, she made her address to God; and entering into the temple to pray, God, that knew her desires, prevented her with the blessings of goodness; and there her sorrow was changed into joy and wonder; for there she found her holy Son," sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions."
3. “ And, when they saw him, they were amazed,” and so were “ all that heard him, at his understanding and answers;” beyond his education, beyond his experience, beyond his years, and even beyond the common spirits of the best men, discoursing up to the height of a prophet, with the clearness of an angel, and the infallibility of inspiration : for here it was verified, in the highest and most literal signification, that, “ out of the mouths of babes, God had ordained strength;” but this was the strength of argument, and science of the highest mysteries of religion and secret philosophy.
4. Glad were the parents of the Child to find him illustrated with a miracle, concerning which, when he had given them such an account, which they understood not, but yet Mary laid up in her heart, as that this was part of his employment and his Father's business," he returned with them to Nazareth, and was subject to his parents," where he lived in all holiness and humility, showing great signs of wisdom, endearing himself to all that beheld his conversation; did nothing less than might become the great expectation, which his miraculous birth had created of him; for “he increased in wisdom and stature, and favour with God and man,” still growing in proportion to his great beginnings to a miraculous excellency of grace, sweetness of demeanour, and excellency of understanding.
5, They, that love to serve God in hard questions, use to dispute, whether Christ did, truly, or in appearance only, increase in wisdom. For being personally united to the Word, and being the eternal wisdom of the Father, it seemed to them, that a plenitude of wisdom was as natural to the whole person, as to the Divine nature. But others, fixing their belief upon the words of the story, which equally affirms Christ as properly to have “ increased in favour with God as with man, in wisdom as in stature,” they apprehend no inconvenience in affirming it to belong to the verity of human nature, to have degrees of understanding as well as of other perfections: and, although the humanity of Christ made up the same person with the Divinity, yet they think the Divinity still to be free, even in those communications, which were imparted to his inferior nature ; and the Godhead might as well suspend the emanation of all the treasures of wisdom upon the humanity for a time, as he did the beatifical vision, which most certainly was not imparted in the interval of his sad and dolorous passion. But, whether it were truly or in appearance, in habit or in exercise of act, by increase of notion or experience, it is certain the promotions of the holy Child were great, admirable, and as full of wonder as of sanctity, and sufficient to entertain the hopes and expectations of Israel with preparations and dispositions, as to satisfy their wonder for the present, so to accept him at the time of his publication; they having no reason to be scandalized at the smallness, improbability, and indifferency, of his first beginnings.
6. But the holy Child had also an employment, which he undertook in obedience to his supposed father, for exercise and example of humility, and for the support of that holy family, which was dear in the eyes of God, but not very splendid by the opulency of a free and indulgent fortune. He wrought in the trade of a carpenter; and when Joseph died, which happened before the manifestation of Jesus unto Israel, he wrought alone, and was no more called the carpenter's son, but the carpenter himself. “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary i ?” said his offended countrymen. And in this condition the blessed Jesus did abide, till he was thirty years old; for he, that came to fulfil the law, would not suffer one tittle of it to pass unaccomplished; for, by the law of the nation and custom of the religion, no priest was to officiate, or prophet was to preach, before he was thirty years
Mark, vi. 3.
Ad SECTION VII.
Considerations upon the Disputation of Jesus with the Doctors
in the Temple.
1. Joseph and Mary, being returned into Nazareth, were sedulous to enjoy the privileges of their country, the opportunities of religion, the public address to God, in the rites of festivals and solemnities of the temple : they had been long grieved with the impurities and idol rites, which they, with sorrow, had observed to be done in Egypt; and, being deprived of the blessings of those holy societies and employments they used to enjoy in Palestine, at their return came to the offices of their religion with appetites of fire, and keen as the evening wolf; and all the joys, which they should have received in respersion and distinct emanations, if they had kept their anniversaries at Jerusalem, all that united they received in the duplication of their joys at their return, and in the fulfilling themselves with the refection and holy viand of religion. For so God uses to satisfy the longings of holy people, when a persecution has shut up the beautiful gates of the temple, or denied to them opportunities of access : although God hears the prayers they make with their windows towards Jerusalem, with their hearts opened with desires of the public communions, and sends them a prophet with a private meal, as Habakkuk came to Daniel ; yet he fills their hearts, when the year of jubilee returns, and the people sing " In convertendo," the song of joy for their redemption. For as, of all sorrows, the deprivations and eclipses of religion are the saddest, and of the worst and most inconvenient consequence; so, in proportion, are the joys of spiritual plenty and religious returns; the communion of saints being like the primitive corban, a repository to feed all the needs of the church, or like a taper joined to a torch, itself is kindled, and increases the other's flames.
2. They failed not to go to Jerusalem : for all those holy prayers and ravishments of love, those excellent meditations and intercourses with God, their private readings and discourses, were but entertainments and satisfaction of their