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of their relations, who had been at the holy city on the same occasion with themselves, and were now returning. But inquiring amongst all their kindred and friends, they learnt that he was not in the company. Full of anxiety and distress, they returned to Jerusalem; and searched every place in the city where he was likely to be found. Two days they sought him in vain. On the third day, they found him in the outer court of the temple, amongst the learned doctors of the law, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
In the outer court of the temple, called the court of the people, were several chambers belonging to the priests; and here the doctors of the law assembled at the feast of the passover, and at other times, to teach the people; and not only expounded the Mosaical institutions, but debated with one another, concerning the difficulties that occurred. Such youth as applied themselves to learning, were permitted to converse with the assembly; and received such instructions as were necessary to enable them to pursue their respective studies. At this assembly of the doctors, Jesus presented himself, and not only gave attention to their debates, and proposed such questions, as naturally arose from the subjects under consideration; but propounded several difficult questions of his own, which, when the doctors could not clear up, he expounded himself, to the satisfaction and surprise of all present. The learned doctors, with the utmost astonishment, heard the young child manifest such wisdom and deep understanding, as not only exceeded men, but such men as were deputed the most learned and judicious amongst them. No doubt there was something remarkably majestic and amiably divine in his appearance; and as he led the discourse himself, we may reasonably suppose, that the question which he debated with the doctors, had reference to some prophecy concerning the Messiah; which he threw such light upon, and explained in such a manner, as raised
the admiration and astonishment of all that heard him. It is certainly very strange, that the admiration which the holy child excited in this public assembly, by his understanding and pertinent answers, did not excite some further inquiry after him. But, it is to be supposed, that the coming of such mean persons as Joseph and Mary, who appeared to be his parents, very much abated the regard which the learned doctors of the law would otherwise have had for so wonderful a child; but things which appear low in the world, are always despised by those lazy inquirers after truth, who seek the praise of man, and are only candidates for popular applause.
Joseph and Mary, who had been seeking the holy child, with the utmost apprehensions and concern, found him in this situation with equal surprise and joy. And there is no doubt, but JESUS, when he perceived the approach of his parents, arose and went with them immediately; taking this occasion to withdraw himself from the admiring assembly. His mother was very much affected with the appearance of her son, and the place and company in which she had found him. She gently asked him, Why he had left them in this manner? rather inquiring into the reason of his staying behind, than designing to blame or chide him: for, no doubt, she perceived that he was under divine direction; yet proceeding to inform him, that her husband and herself had been extremely concerned for him, and had sought him three days with the utmost anxiety and grief. The holy child, with the most amiable meekness, informed her, that they need not have wearied themselves with seeking him, nor their minds with anxiety and care, for he was under the protection of his Father, on whose business he had been employed. The expressions which the heavenly child used on this occasion, were not clearly understood by his wondering parents; but his mother, on this, as on every other remarkable occurrence in the life and conduct of her son, took notice of his
words, and treasured them up in her heart: and the child JESUS, having given this early and remarkable instance of his diligence and ready obedience in the work in which he was to be thereafter employed, now proceeded to give an open and manifest instance of his duty to his parents; for he returned with them to Nazareth, and was subject to them as before. Here he remained till he arrived at the age of thirty years, and made wonderful improvements in wisdom and knowledge, being favoured by God in an extraordinary manner, and highly esteemed, reverenced, and loved by all that knew him.
There is nothing expressly recorded in the evangelists, relating to our Lord's life and conversation, from twelve years old, to the time when he entered on his public ministry, which was at the age of thirty; but from several passages of Scripture, various circumstances may be collected. It is plain, from his parents seeking him amongst his relations and acquaintance, when he was left behind at Jerusalem, that he was of a familiar, friendly disposition; that he had no objection to company and conversation, and that he lived in familiarity and friendship with his neighbours and relations; it is also evident, that, though the learned doctors, and the people in the temple, were filled with the highest admiration at the abilities and knowledge of JESUS, when a child; and, though afterwards, he no doubt, gave to his mother and some few particular friends, plain proofs of his heavenly wisdom; yet his conversation with the common people was such, as cast a veil over his divinity; and the general course of his conduct and converse with the common people was such, that no noise was made about him, nor any great things expected from him in the Jewish nation, nor even in his own city. And it is to be supposed, that his mean appearance in the world, not a little contributed to prevent his being remarked and esteemed for those excellent qualities, which must certainly be apparent in him; for we find he was afterwards reproach
ed in his own city, for pretending to teach them, when they knew the meanness of his extraction, and his illiterate education: Whence, they cried, hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary, and his brethren James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?
And it may further be remarked, that the blessed JEsus did not give himself any airs of superiority amongst his brethren and friends; but meekly condescended to attend to the meanest employment, assisting the necessities of his parents with his labour, and not being desirous of popular applause. For as it is to be supposed, that he weekly attended on the reading the law and the prophets in the synagogue, was it not surprising that he could hear the erroneous expositions, which, no doubt were frequently made, and remain silent at Nazareth,, after he had disputed with the learned doctors in the temple, and silenced the wise men of Jerusalem? Herein appears the most profound humility, and the most consummate wisdom of our Lord, in concealing his superior knowledge and understanding, when he might have gained the admiration and applause of his townsmen, and have been justly revered and esteemed by all. It is supposed that Joseph did not live till CHRIST began his public min→ istry, because he is not mentioned in the Gospels, after John began to baptize. Some of the ancient writers have pretended to inform us what was the particular sort of carpentry which Joseph carried on: they say, it was making plows, yokes, and instruments of husbandry for his neighbours. And it is not unlikely, that our Lord lived with his mother, and assisted her in carrying on the trade, after her husband's death: and hence, it is supposed, he is called by St. Mark, The carpenter, the son of Mary.
Of the death of Elizabeth, and the Murder of Zacharias. The preaching of John the Baptist; his office, and Manner of Living: He baptiseth in Jordan, and rebuketh the Pharisees. CHRIST is baptised, and receiveth a Witness from Heaven. John the Baptist imprisoned and beheaded by Herod, at the instigation of Herodias.
WE must now pass over, in the history of the life of CHRIST, a period of eighteen years; all the account the evangelists give of our Lord, during this time, is, that he dwelt at Nazareth, and was subject to his parents. But having passed over this time in silence, all the evangelists agree in giving the history of his entrance on his public ministry, and the preparatory preaching of his great forerunner John the Baptist.
years of age,
When our Lord was about fourteen the emperor Augustus died, after a reign of about forty years. Great was the grief of the whole empire, at his death, for he was a prince of such a disposition, and reigned with such wisdom, justice, and goodness, as gained him the love of his subjects. He was succeeded by Tiberius, the son of his wife Livia, by a former husband. Tiberius was admitted to a share in the government two or three years before the death of Augustus, and now succeeded without opposition. He was a prince of a disposition vastly different to that of his predecessor, and governed the empire in such a manner, as rendered him justly hated by his subjects. Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, had been deposed from the Government of Judea about three years before the death of Augustus, and that country was reduced into the form of a Roman province. Rufus, who was governor of Judea, when the emperor died, was recalled in the second year of Tiberius, and Valerius Gratus was sent to succeed him. He, having