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hinder their reforting to Jerufalem yearly, for the Celebration of it; that in this Mary joined too, though not obliged to it, by the Letter of the Law: and that, when Jefus arrived at the Age of Twelve Years, he was taken thither with them. What Obligations they lay under for their own Attendance, the Texts, referred to in the Paraphrafe, fhew. The carrying up of Jefus feems to have had more immediate refpect to thofe Ordinances, which required all Ifraelites to inftru&t their Children diligently in the Knowledge of the Law: And efpecially, in the Reafons, for which the Paffover, and the reft of their great Solemnities, were instituted.
Ch. xiii. 8--II.
Now the Virgin and Jofeph, by their punctual Compliance, in both thefe Cafes, have fet an excellent Example to Parents, of all Ages and Places. An Example, which, grounded on the exprefs Command of God, fhould make them fenfible of how great importance it is, That They, who govern Families, be confcientious in frequenting God's publick Worfhip themselves: That they go before their Children, and, by their own Behaviour, encourage them to follow, in the ways of Piety and Virtue; That they season their tender Years with early Notions of Good and Evil, let them in to a right understanding of Religion, by fuch Methods, and in fuch Degrees, as the Greennefs of that Age is capable of. Particularly, (which comes nearest to the Cafe before us) to turn all their Childifli Curiofity to profit, by explaining to them the Occafion of the Chriftian Feftivals; begetting in them an early Reverence for the glorious Myfteries, and a becoming Value for the invaluable Benefits, of our Redemption. In short, that they would, from the very firft, make them their Companions in the Service of God; and imprint, upon this foft Wax, fuch frong and lafting Characters of his · Majesty
Majesty and Goodness, fuch an habitual Awe and Love of Him and his Commands, as may serve for a Foundation, to build a wife and holy Life upon. Such as may preferve their riper years, from the Contagion of Irreligion and Vice, direct their Choice, and fecure their Perfeverance, by Habits of Goodness, and exemplary Improvements in Religious Prudence, ftill afpiring nearer Perfection, to the End of their days.
2. The Three following Verfes take notice of Jesus ftaying behind, and the anxious Concern of his Parents, upon that occafion. The Greatnefs of This Some have imputed to a fear of his falling into ill hands; who, by deftroying him, might defeat the Expectation of the glorious things, God fent him into the World to accomplish. But I conceive it much more reasonable, to afcribe that Concern to the natural Tenderness of a Mother, and the Frights and Confufions, which the miffing a beloved Child, in whofe Company they above all things delighted, uses to produce, upon fo unexpected an Accident. And the Duty I would recommend from hence is, Kindness and Affection to our Children, A quick and tender Senfe of their Sufferings and Dangers, And a very follicitous Care for their Safety and Happiness.
I know not well, what may at first be thought, of my pretending fo folemnly to excite a Difpofition which Nature feems to have provided effectually for already, by planting it, even in the fierceft and wildeft of Beafts. It hath indeed done this, and in fuch manner, that thofe very Brutes are a Reproach to many Men; Who behave themselves, as if Reason were given to harden their Hearts, and render them but fo much less gentle and fenfible. For it is really prodigious to fee, how Some, even who profefs themfelves Chriftians, can lay afide all Bowels, and forget every thing of Care and Compaffion for their own Flesh. Such Indifference, fuch Stupidity, nay fuch remorfless Cruelties,
Cruelties, fuch Blows, fuch Revilings, fuch bitter Curfes, are too often to be heard and feen, betwixt the nearest Relations, as would even tempt us to fufpect the power of Reason and Religion, for working us into fofter and better Tempers: had not Chrift and his Apostles foretold, that in the last days fome fhould fo obftinately ftand it out against the force of Both, as to hate and betray their own Off-fpring, to become cold in love, and abfolutely void of natural affection.
Matth. x. 21.
Ch. xxiv. 12.
2 Tim. iii. 2.
But, when foretelling this, they fignify withal, that the abounding of Iniquity is the Cause of it; and, to fhew, that those are the very Dregs of Time, they give the Coming of fuch things to pafs, for a Mark of the worst, as well as the laft Days. Since then fuch unnatural Things are practicable however, and plainly poffible at leaft; it cannot misbecome Me to prefs a Duty, which, though Nature hath univerfally implanted a Difpofition to, yet the Corruption of Human Nature hath the Scandal of being too often proof against. And indeed I the rather chufe to recommend this Tenderness for our Children, fo remarkable and eminent in God and Good Men; becaufe a due obfervance of this particular will exceedingly contribute to the Succefs of the former. It will quicken our Concern for their best and most valuable Part; It will make our Care of their Souls more earneft and vigorous, and it will prepare the way for its being better accepted too. For the firft Step to Perfuafion, is, to poffefs Men with an Opinion, that we heartily love them. Anda Command is half obeyed, when once the Party is thoroughly convinced, that what we require, is not for the fake of exercifing a Defpotick Power, or from a Delight to lay heavy Burthens; but from a Senfe of its being neceffary to their Happiness, and because we zealously defire their
Good. Now, confidering, how much more this World affects the Generality of People, than that which is to come; the Parent, who does not firft approve himself tender of his Children's Body, and its prefent Comforts, and Conveniencies, will never be able to get himself believed, when profeffing the kindest Resentments, and most impatient Wishes, for the Safety and Happiness of their Souls.
3. But to proceed. If the Trouble of thefe Parents was great for the Abfence of fo dear a Child, their Joy muft needs be doubled by meeting him again; not only fafe, but engaged in an Employment fo very promifing, fo very becoming, fo much above his Years. For the Forty-fixth Verfe fays, They found bim in the Temple, fitting in the midst of the Doctors, both bearing them and asking them Queftions. And this, 'tis probable, he might do, not meerly out of Curiofity, but to acquit himself of a Duty, expected from all, who attained to a certain Age, among the Jews. For They, who have taken pains in examining Their Inftitutions and Customs, obferve this commendable one to have obtained among
the reft; That their Youth were brought before fome Mafters of the Synagogue, to render an Account of their Proficiency in Religion, and from thenceforth to be anfwerable for their own Sins: That this was a Ceremony, performed with ftrict Examination, with devout Prayers, and folemn Benedictions.
See Grot. in locum.
Buxtorf. Synagog. Judaic. Cap. 3.
All which, as it very nearly refembles, fo may it feem to have miniftred fome ground to, the Chriftian Rite of Confirmation. Wherein, after having answered to the first and moft neceffary Rudiments of Faith and Practice, our young People, in prefence of the Fathers of the Church, and with the Bleffing of God by thefe implored upon their future Endeavours, do
take the Charge of their Baptifmal Vow upon themfelves; as being prefumed fufficiently inftructed, to be refponsible for their own Duty, the remaining part of their Lives. A very Learned Man fuppofes our Lord to have staid behind for this purpose. Which, though Others were not ufually called upon to do till Thirteen, yet He might do it at Twelve Years old. The particular Seafon then in ufe being accommodated to the Capacities and Attainments of Children in general, but not forbidding thofe of extraordinary Qualifications to do it earlier, when competently prepared, and of a Genius, which (to fpeak in the Jews own Phrafe) did run before the Command.
4. However this be (for I am content to leave it as a probable Conjecture only) yet thus much is certain; That He, in thofe Conferences, behaved himself, not only to the Satisfaction, but the Wonder of the whole Affembly. For all that beard him were astonished at his understanding and anfwers. We are not however to imagine all the fulnefs of his Divine Knowledge difplayed upon this Occafion, but fuch a brightnefs of Parts and Apprehenfion, as spoke an uncommon Pregnancy, and left them ftill free to fuppofe him no more than Man, though, for his Age, a wonderful one. So much the Difpenfation undertaken by him required, in the whole course whereof nothing was permitted, that might juftly call the Truth of his Human Nature in queftion. For this reafon the Evangelift prudently adds, at the clofe of the Chapter, that be increafed in Wisdom, as well as Stature. Mind and Body both received additional Improvements, though fome of thofe Additions were imparted in larger Proportions than ufual. The Endowments of each exerted themselves, in measures and actions fuitable to the feveral Stages of his Life. And even the Divine Nature, though always prefent, feems to have communicated