Page images
PDF
EPUB

The first-born of every creature.—Colossians i. 16.

Thousands each night—the watchman on his beat, the sentinel on the ramparts, the seaman on the heaving deep, the jaded votaries of pleasure on their return from ball and revel—walk beneath the spangled heavens, nor once raise their eyes, or, if they do, raise not their thoughts to the magnificence of the scene. And each day, thousands engrossed with the pursuit of pleasure or business, tread the spangled sward with an eye of no more intelligence than an ox—careless of the beautiful flowers, which with a happier, purer taste, the little child loves to gather, and, singing to her work, weaves into garlands for her sunny brow. Not that these persons are constitutionally dead to beauty; or devoid of intelligence. Not that they look on the face of nature with an idiot's vacant stare, but familiarity, which breeds contempt in some instances, in this has bred indifference. Behold, perhaps one reason why, though our Lord presented such a glorious combination of divine and human excellencies, many were insensible to it; and why, sad to think of it, he found so much occasion to apply to himself the old proverb, A prophet is not without honor but in his own countryj and among his own kin, and in his own house!

A less pardonable reason, however, may be found for this in his case, as in others, and found in that envy to which our fallen nature is prone. A bad, a base, in every way an unprofitable passion, one that, more than any other, carries its own punishment with it, and makes those who cherish it wretched, envy is its own avenger; and yet, so prone are many to regard others with envy, that a man may feel assured that he has begun to rise in the world so soon as he hears the buzz of de~ tractors, and feels their poisoned stings. This, indeed, is not a bad test of merit, just as we know that to be the finest and the ripest fruit which bears the marks of having been attacked by wasp, or hornet, or other such winged or wingless insects. The goose, and the seagull, and other common creatures, are left to pursue their way through the fields of air without interruption or attack, but I have seen, when some noble bird appeared, who had a wing to soar aloft, to cleave the clouds, how he was harassed and hunted by a noisy crowd, that assailed him with their voices, but, mingling cunning with insolence, kept beyond the swoop of his pinions, or the stroke of his talons. Now, see how Moses, the meekest, noblest, most generous of men was envied by ambitious spirits among the children of Israel! Ye take too much upon you, they said to him and his brother, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore, then, lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? Ay, and even his own brother and sister grew jealous of him. On pretence of his having done wrong in marrying an Ethiopian woman, they who should have supported the brother to whom they owed their position, most basely and ungratefully attempted to undermine his influence. It was very wrong in Moses to make this marriage—to enter into such an unsuitable alliance; so they said to the multitude. Yet mere dust and smoke that, which they raised to cover their real motives and base ends. The envy, from whose evil eye no excellence is a protecting charm, and which, rending asunder the most sacred ties, refuses to spare a brother, was at the bottom of the discontent. For while Aaron and Miriam held such language to the people, masking their selfish passions under a fair pretence of patriotism and piety, listen to them in their tent, how different their language to each other, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?

[graphic]

Looking at such cases; what else was to be expected from the men of Nazareth, a place of proverbially bad repute, than that they should grudge Jesus his honors, and hate him for his success? He had emerged from deep obscurity into a fame that filled every mouth with his works, and embraced within its widening circle all the land. He had become famous; and they had not. It did not matter that that was not his fault. They felt themselves grow less as he grew greater, and they could not brook that; such as were stars among them, or wished to be thought so, were bitterly mortified to find themselves extinguished in the light of this rising gun. Therefore they hated Christ, giving him ground to complain, A prophet i& not without honor but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

Let me turn your attention to one occasion when this feeling, which had been grumbling like a pent-up volcano, burst forth most insolently, most offensively. Our Lord was teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth —teaching with that strange, wonderful, divine wisdom, which in its very dawn, when the child was but twelve years old, astonished the gray divines and subtlest lawyers of the temple; and which not only made unprejudiced hearers hang on his gracious lips, but compelled his enemies to confess, Never man spake like this man. On the occasion to which I refer, envy gnawed like a canker-worm, at the heart of his townsmen. What business had he to reach an eminence they might aspire to, but could never attain? Hopeless of that, although they could not rise to his height, they might perchance pull him down to their own level. They will try. And so, at the close of his discourse, when we might have expected them to praise God for the wisdom that had dropped from his lips, and to congratulate Mary on her son, and their native town on an inhabitant whose name would render Nazareth famous to the latest ages, they cast about for something which, by detracting from his glory, might gratify their spleen. They had nothing to say against either the matter or the manner of the discourse; both were perfect. Nor had they a whisper to breathe against the life and character of the speaker. A circumstance worthy of note! For it is one of the finest testimonies borne to our Lord's lofty and holy life, that the thirty years which he spent in a small town—where leisure always abounds, and scandal is often rife, and every man's character and habits are discussed in private circles, and dissected by many cutting tongues— did not furnish them with the shred of an excuse for whispering an ill word against him. His life resembled a polished mirror, which the foulest breath cannot stain, nor dim beyond a passing moment. What a noble testimony to Jesus Christ! Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, envy found no way to vent its malice and spit its venom at him, but by a taunt she drew from his humble origin and poor relatives. As if it were not an honor to rise above the circumstances of our birth, as if a man's ascent by one step above his original condition, fairly, honestly, and honorably won, were not more a matter of just pride, than a descent traced from the proudest ancestry, they said, Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us ?—whence, then, hath this man all these things?

Extending from his early youth into the years of mature manhood, there is a great blank in our Lord's history. Eighteen years of his life stand unaccounted for; and that blank, looking as dark as the starless regions of the sky, tradition, usually so fertile in invention, has not attempted to fill up. How often have I wondered and tried to fancy what Jesus did, and how he passed the time between his boyhood, when he vanishes from our sight, and his thirtieth year, when he again appears upon the stage to enter on his public ministry? Thanks to his townsmen's envious sneer, or, rather, thanks to Him who permitted the insult, and thus has made the wrath of man to praise him, their insolent taunt throws a ray of light into the deep obscurity. Their question, Is not this the carpenter? not, as at another time, the carpenter's son, but the carpenter himself, suggests to us the picture of a humble home in Nazareth, known to the neighborhood as the carpenter's, and under whose roof of thatch Jesus resided with his mother—in all probability then a widow, and, like many a widow since then, cheered by the love and supported by the labors of a dutiful son. I have no doubt that holy angels, turning their wings away from lordly mansions and the proud palaces of

« PreviousContinue »