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jected the counsels of God in Christ Jesus, and sought their justification in the deeds of the law, have come short of the felicity they desired. Herein the sovereignty, and justice, and unlimited goodness of the Almighty, are manifested. While the rejection of the Jews shows his wrath upon the perverse and unbelieving, the calling of the Gentiles makes known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he hath afore prepared unto glory.'
This wonderful restoration of the Gentiles to favour, in the kingdom of the Messiah, was proclaimed by prophecy in many a sublime strain, in all ages of the world. Who that ponders the primitive promise, that in the seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth should be blessed ;'_who that hears old Jacob declaring in remote time, that unto Shiloh should the gathering of the people be;'—who that catches the strain of Hosea, ‘I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, thou art my God;'—who that listens to the enraptured Psalmist as he sings, “ The kings of Tharsis and of the isles shall give presents; the kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts; all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall do him service;'who that hearkens to the seraphic Isaiah, uttering these wonderful strains; * Thus saith the Lord, -to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth,-kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship ;-for I will give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth ;'—who that recollects these, and many other predictions, and then turns his eyes to the Wise men coming from the east, with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to worship the sun of righteousness’ at his rising, and considers the subsequent recovery of the Gentile nations from their idolatry and ignorance, to a pure religion and elevated hopes; and this, through the preaching of the Gospel by a few friendless and illiterate men, without the aid of wealth or power, and in opposition to all the prejudices and the inclinations of the age;-who, that ponders these things as he ought, can avoid applying to the reception of the Gentiles into the bosom of the church, the words of the king of Israel, • This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.'
But there remains to be observed, in the last place, a yet more wonderful part of the economy of God. Behold the Jews; "a nation scattered and peeled,' and plucked up by the roots, yet living, and preserving their distinct character. Since their rejection of the Messiah, the strong bands of their nation have been dissolved, and they are dispersed in all parts of the world. Everywhere they are associated with other people; but nowhere are they assimilated. Other people are soon blended with those, with whom they live. Other nations are soon lost in their conquerors. But, unparalleled fact ! the Hebrews, though scattered by the Most High, and divested of all civil polity, are, to this day, preserved an unmixed and peculiar people. They are a monument of the truth of Scripture. They are a monument of the authority of Christ. They are a monument of the vengeance of the Almighty upon the faithless generation, by whom his Son was rejected and crucified.
But let no man despise them. They are still the people of God. * As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for our sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.' We behold them reserved, doubtless not in vain, but for the accomplishment of glorious purposes. Though now broken off" from the stock of the goodly olivetree, into which, of God's mercy, we have been grafted,'
they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be grafted in :' for God is able to graft them in again. Our duty is to derive, from their situation, a confirmation of our faith, and an assurance of the truth and holiness of God. And verily if any man will not be convinced by this standing miracle, this daily testimony of the truth of Christianity, neither would he be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.' Lastly ; let us remember that we were Gentiles, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise.' But now are we partakers of the best mercies of the Most High. Great should be our gratitude to him for calling us out of darkness into his marvellous light.' Let us be what our Christian privileges oblige us to be; let us - walk as children of light.' There is nothing of absolute, unconditional decree in our election to the blessings of the Gospel : for unless we continue in his goodness, we also shall be cut off.' Look to the quarter of the globe, which first came to the brightness of the Saviour's rising. Ignorance and superstition have extinguished the light of the gospel, and the koran of Mahomet supplies the place of the Oracles of the living God. And to what must we ascribe the melancholy change? The people were departed from the love of Christ, and held the truth in unrighteousness. Let every one then be induced, by his own individual piety and virtue, and by the Christian education of his family, to assist his country in retaining the favour of the Head of the Church ; if haply from her land, which is now blessed with the light of the Gospel, the golden candlesticks may not be taken away. And while we rejoice in our happiness, let us cast our eyes upon the multitudes of our brethren, who are yet benighted; having no hope, and without God in the world. While their situation teaches us our own felicity, let it induce us, with holy and humble devotion, to offer, frequently, the prayer which the Church hath taught us, that God would have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics; and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of his word; and so fetch them home to his flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Saviour, Amen.
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
CHRIST IN THE TEMPLE. St. Luke ii. 41.-Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the
feast of the passover. 42. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, after the custom of the feast. 43. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried
behind in Jerusalem, and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44. · But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk, and among their acquaintance. 45. And when they found him not, they turned back to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. 47. And all that heard him, were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48. And when they saw him, they were amazed; and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me ? wist ye not, that I must be about my Father's business? 50. And they understood not that saying which he spake unto them. 51. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them. But his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
[Text taken from the Gospel for the Day.]
This portion of Scripture has the stronger claim upon our attention, since it contains all that the Evangelists have thought proper to record, relative to the time which preceded our Saviour's public ministry. The propriety of this reserve will appear to us in a clearer point of view, if we advert to the childish incidents, and fabulous wonders, which the biographers of Romish saints have usually made the ground-work of their narratives. The purport of the sacred penmen was not to gratify curiosity, but to consult our spiritual benefit; their united labours seem intended to form merely a brief manual, such as might be easily perused, easily remembered, easily carried, and even easily distributed, by persons of no great capacity, leisure, or fortune. And yet does this manual comprise all transactions necessary to be known, whether they relate to the mediatorial, prophetic, or regal offices of our Redeemer. But it is sufficient for us to allude to this discreet silence of the Evangelists, as an internal evidence for the truth of the Gospel: our more immediate purpose is, I. To review the leading circumstances of the narrative; and II. Then to deduce some inferences, which may influence our practice.
· I. Now his parents went to Jerusalem, every year, at the feast of the Passover.' On one of these pious observances of the law, our Lord, being now twelve years old, accompanies them, either because this was the age, at which male children began to appear before the Lord at the three great public festivals : or because his parents were anxious to instil into his tender mind an early regard for religion. When the eight days (i. e, the day of the Passover itself, and the seven days of unleavened bread) had elapsed, Joseph and Mary set out on their return home: but Christ, without their knowledge, remains in Jerusalem. Several families usually travelled together; the parents, therefore, of Jesus might suppose, that he was in some other part of the company,
and hence were not solicitous about him, during the day: but not finding him at night, they became anxious on account of his absence. Having spent one day upon their journey, they reach Jerusalem on the second; and on the third, they find the youthful Saviour in the Temple. And how was he there occupied ? He was sitting amid the Rabbins, not as a scholar to be informed, but as a teacher to instruct. The ignorance of the Jewish doctors was, at that time, extreme; and their public instructions consisted of absurd legends, and of the most idle equivocations: it is, therefore, no matter of surprise, that Christ, who, in thus staying behind at Jerusalem, was preparing the Jews, by this sun-rise of his wisdom, to acknowledge him as a divine teacher; that Christ, who, by some irresistible power, seems to have awed the disdainful Rabbies into a reluctant silence, should now have excited the astonishment of his hearers; either by his interpretations of the law, or by substituting spiritual righteousness in the room of legal ordinances, or by exposing the ignorance and selfishness of the Rabbinical guides. His mother chides him with a tender vehemence, for having exposed them to so much anxiety: "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us?" This anxiety had, in truth, been occasioned by their own indifference to so great a treasure : but we all are much disposed to ascribe to others the blame of our own misconduct: we should, therefore, cautiously suspect all affections of the flesh, lest, in vindicating our own fancied rights, we infringe upon the higher prerogative of God. Our Lord, in reply, takes this opportunity to instruct Joseph and Mary, concerning his divine nature and mission; "wist ye not that I must be at my Father's ?' i. e. where should the Son of God be found, but in his Father's house?
The parents of Christ did not comprehend the import of this answer: they had hitherto no just conceptions of the great objects, for which the Messiah had been sent into a lost world; and, indeed, at all periods, the human heart seems wonderfully slow in appreciating the communications of God. When the purport of our Saviour's visit to Jerusalem had thus been