Page images

not permitted to return to Herod, for that crafty tyrant meditated the death of the infant. They were directed in a dream to avoid Jerusalem, and return to their country by another route. At the same time, Joseph was warned in a dream of the danger to which the infant was exposed, and directed to quit the country, and take refuge in Egypt. Thus he escaped the murderous jealousy of the king. But Herod was exceedingly exasperated; and resolving to be sure that the dreaded infant did not escape, caused all the infant children of about the age of Jesus, in Bethlehem and its neighborhood, to be put to death. This cruel act has seemed to some persons too savage to be true. But Herod was a monster of cruelty, and is well known to have done other acts as horrible as this.

But it was in vain that the angry king raged against the anointed of the Lord. He could not thwart the purposes of God. The infant, whom he thought to destroy, was destined to accomplish great purposes in the kingdom of divine grace, and therefore a way was made for his escape from the danger which threatened him. While Herod pleased himself with thinking him slain, he was safely conveyed into Egypt. His parents departed with him by night, and travelled over a portion of the desert which the Israelites crossed under the guidance of Moses. The distance

was not far from two hundred miles;;-a weary and painful journey for a young mother with an infant babe. It must have been, also, no small trial to her faith. Is it thus, she might say, that the visions of the night, the promise of the angel, and the prophecies in the temple are to be accomplished? Are we thus to be compelled to flee for our lives, to endure the perils of the desert, and the want and anxiety of a strange land? Would God thus deal with his Messiah? Is it not possible that, after all, I have been deceived? We may conceive that moments of despondency like this must have sometimes beset her. Her case was not unlike that of Abraham, when travelling for three days to sacrifice his only son Isaac,-that son to whom God had made great promises, which it seemed as if his death must defeat. But as Abraham, though he might have been amazed and have experienced momentary misgivings, yet went steadfastly on, unshaken in his faith; so Mary, however strange she might think this dispensation, and however inconsistent with the promises made to the young Messiah, undoubtedly kept her faith strong, and trusted in the Lord.

Of their residence in Egypt, we know nothing, except that it continued till the death of Herod, which took place within three years. Upon the tidings of that event reaching him, Joseph felt

that all danger was over. He therefore returned to his own country, and took up his abode once more at Nazareth. This was a small town in Galilee, about seventy-five miles north of Jerusalem. Its inhabitants were not in very good repute through the country, and such a prejudice existed against the place, that a Nazarene had become a term of contempt. It is important to remark this, because we see frequent intimations of it in the course of our Lord's subsequent life; and the evangelist Matthew, when he would say that the prophecies concerning the Messiah's humiliation were fulfilled, sums them all up in one word, "He shall be called Nazarene." We know too that when Nathaniel first heard of Jesus, he thought it impossible he should be the Messiah, because he came from this despised place, "Can any good thing," said he, "come out of Nazareth?"

It was undoubtedly a part of the plan of Providence to draw the Saviour from humble human circumstances, in order to render his divine authority the more conspicuous and unquestionable. It was thus made to appear that his words of wisdom could not have been learned from man, and that he must have been from God. He probably received little or no education during his early years; for the Jews asked, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" Schools and

instruction were not then universal as they are now, and Joseph was probably too poor to afford to his children a privilege which could be purchased only by the rich.

This however is not stated in the New Testament. There is far less there respecting his early years than we should be glad to find. We only read in general terms, that "the child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon him. He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." Of particular incidents only one is recorded. When he was twelve years of age, he accompanied his parents to Jerusalem, when they went up, in obedience to the law, to keep the passover. The seven days of the feast were over, and they set out on their return. They had proceeded a whole day's journey, before they discovered that Jesus was not accompanying them. We may easily understand how this could happen, when we remember, that the law commanded all the men, from all parts of the land, to go up and keep this feast at Jerusalem. Consequently, there must have been great throngs on the road, both in going and returning. The people naturally trayelled in parties. The inhabitants of a village made one company. Families, in all their branches, went together. The parents of Jesus, therefore, Luke ii. 40.




being in company with a vast number of relatives and neighbors, did not think it strange that they did not see him during the day's march. They supposed him to have been in the company, says Luke; and it was only after seeking for him among their kinsfolk and their acquaintance,' that they discovered he had been left behind. They returned to Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard him, were astonished at his understanding and his answers. So absorbed was he in this employment, as if it were his proper concern, that when his mother complained of the uneasiness they had suffered on his account, he expressed surprise that they should have spent any time in searching for him; they should have come directly to the temple; for they might know that he would be engaged in his Father's business. Yet at their command he immediately left the place, and went with them to Galilee, and there remained subject to them as a dutiful son.

We are often reminded that Jesus set an example for our imitation. This is true of his childhood as well as of his age. He seems to have been conscious of his greatness, yet he did not presume upon it. He was docile and humble, reverent and obedient to his parents. It would be well if many young persons, who treat their

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »