The River Press (Fort Benton, Mont.) 1880-current, December 18, 1889, Image 9

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1886. TILE BOYHOOD OF CHRIST. General Lew Wallace (author of \Ben - Hue • ), in Harper's Magazine for December. \Now is it not amazing that the ybuth of one who intended so well and actually did so much, who left us the most pathetic of histories, who will remain forever the perfect stand - a rdof comparative holiness, applicable alike to every phase and circumstance to be remembered that amongst the gifts of the Magi there was gold. And I please myself thinking that there was enough of it to support the holy faini:y while it was in Egypt, and afterward in Nazareth. In my view, then, the child was not born to pov- erty. If any one doubts the conclu- sion, let him ponder the awful declar- tion in the Talmud: 'These four are accounted as dead, the blind, the lep- er, the poor, and the childless.' As to A XOTHERS LOVE DISTRUSTED. of human life, whose hold upon men has already proven Him a prophet un- to Himself, and still goes on widening and deepening—how wonderful, I say, that the childhood of such a man should be so beggarly of authentic incident! As an argument this fact seems at first glance to justify the opinion common- ly held that the youth of the Saviour ran in course very much like that of the generality of poor Jewish chil- dren.\ \I can't believe that, uncle,\ said Puss, with a show of indignation. The old gentleman looked at her benignantly. \Nor can I,\ he said. \They say that Joseph, to whom as a child our Lord was subject, was a carpenter who plied only the humbler branches of the trade, and that Mary, his wife, spun the flax and wool for the family, and was a housewife. These are the circumstances chiefly relied upon to support the theory that the conidtion of the child was poverty. Now while I admit the circumstances, I deny the conclusicn. That Joseph was a car- penter signifies nothing, as the law re- quired every Israelite, rich or poor, to follow some occupation. Then was it not written of the exemplar of all tie mothers in Israel, 'She looketh well to •••••••, \Mi. • a the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness?' And if we may give heed to accounts not purely Scriptural, Mary owned the house in Nazareth in which the family dwelt, but conforming to the Scriptures, it is the social position of the family, it is enough to remark that, besides being a just man, Joseph was a lineal de- scendant of David the King.\ \They were neither rich nor poor, then,\ said John. \Only comfortable,\ Uncle Midae rejoined; then proceeded: \Exactly the condition to allow our Saviour a marginal time in which to taste some- thing of natural boyish freedom; to have little playmates, run races with the youngest of the flocks, deck Him- self from the anemone beds on the hills, and watch the clouds form slow- ly about the summit of old Hermon. It must be noted, however, that this period was shorter with Him than with our lads, for the terrible Talmudic rules fell upon Him early, after which there was small chance to enjoy boy- hood according to our ideas of its en- joyment. By overwhelming men, women, and children with duties, they put existence in iron jackets. To neg- lect the rules, or the least of them, was to invoke perdition. And besides\ —Uncle Midas drew his gray cap well down, and meditated a moment. \I was about to say,\ he then continued, \that there was another cause to cut short the jocund maminal period of our Lord which must not be over- looked—a cause peculiar to Himself, and, in my judgment, more influen- tial even than the Talmudic rules. His precocity was miraculous. At a time when other children are muling in their mother's arms, the cells of His understanding began to en- large and fill with knowledge. The process must have been like the grad- ual rise of water in the basin of a spring; at all events the knowledge was of a kind to make Him prematurely serious, and it was not derived from books or schoolmasters.\ \You think the angels waited upon Him?\ interposed Nan. The question was asked with such artlessness that Uncle Midas, who had been talking with self -concentration, looked at her half startled. \I did not think of being called up- on to make the admission, my little friend,\ he said; \but I will—only do not take me to be a modern spiritu- alist. You may have seen copies of the most beautiful of the Vir- gin Mothers. Murillo did but work &cording to his faith when he filled the space about the central • HOLIDAY SUPPLEMENT. figure with faces of attending spirits. At the. feet of the Sistine Madonna, beyond peradventure the most di- vinely perfect Mother and Child in group, there are two little cherubs in- imitably suggestive of Mischievous urchins; but examine them closely next time, and see what knowledge is conveyed .in the expression of their countenances. Raphael painted them con amore, meaning that he believed in them—and so do I. I do not think such ministers go with us common mortals. Goodness help them if they do! That they went with the divine Child, however, I am quick to believe. They watched Him with jealous care; they floated on the clouds above Him; they trod the air in His chamber; they nave color, direction, purity and strength to His thought. His mother may have taught Him the al- phabet, but neither she nor theteach- ers in the synagogue could have helped Him to that other rarer and higher learning in the light of which the hearts of those about Him were as primers for easy reading. Through what hu- man agency was it that before He was a man He was master of a lore which Hillel had not been able to obtain with all his one hundred and twenty years of studious life? * *. * \Suppose by any chance He came while a child to know the mysteries of his birth. The effects would have been manifold, but of one of them I am certain—all desire for pastime by childish means would have them ended.\ \Then you believe he knew it all?\ aAlred Puss impulsively—\knew it all when He was a child?\ \Well he answered, \let us see. He was from the beginning in care of at least two persons who cou:d not have put their knowledge of Him away had they wished to do so. The world has doneinjustice to Joseph. The fa- thers of the church did better when they canonized him. He held a pro- digious secret in his possession, and was true to it. 'Who is this?' the rabbis asked, when Christ began His miracles; and they answered them- selves, 'Oh, it is the carpenter's son!' The other person was Mary, the mother. After all that has been said and written of her appearance, her devotion, hersanctity—her wom- anliness makes her as incomparable amongst women as her son is incom- parable amongst men. I am some- what rigid in my idea that worship is due to God alone; nevertheless, it would have been hard for me to re- fuse to fall in the march with Cyril in his great dispute with Nestorius, and I am sensible of a kindly feeling for Pope Gregory the Great, because he at length settled the dispute by mak- ing it lawful to write 'Holy Mother of God' after Mary's name. Neither have I any disposition to quarrel with the devotional habit the peasants have of stopping to kneel before the Mother as she appears above the rural altars on the waysides of Italy. On the quay of the Bosporus as one approaches Therapia there is an arched vault Of an ancient ruin in which a poor hunch- backed Greek keeps a candle always burning before a wretched pic- ture of the Virgin. In front of that humble church I habitually stopped my caique, and going in, drop- ped a piastre in the alms -box, and crossed myself. The deformed keeper kept his light, such as it was, burning in the world; my money helped give him bread and maintain his light; the sign was reverence to her who is to be the pattern of mothers while the ear th endures; and such worship as there was in my salutation and gift went up to God with as much acceptance, in my belief, as if it had been rendered with organ accompaniments amidst the splendors of St. Peter's.\ There was a decided movement amongst the audience at these words. Uncle Midas was allowing himself to be carried away again. The rustle, however, brought him back to his subject. \I begpardon,\ he said, with charm- ing candor. \If I have wandered a little, charge the fault to my great love of good women. The two, Jo- seph and Mary, I was saying, possessed the secret of our Lord's origin. When I consider their relationship to Him, it becomes impossible for me to think they did not tell him all they knew about him. I prefer to believe the story came first from her. She knew it best; she loved Him most; and as to the time the tale was told, exact- ness is of no importance. The hour, we may be sure, was auspicious; she held Him clasped in her arms; His head lay upon her breast; from that soft, pure pillow He looked up into her eyes, and then she remembered that He was the Messiah, and she the most bleased ji Expue elf 640)1( tio E o of women, and from that moment He was lost to all the claims of boyhood. In the good old language so nearly de- scriptive of the indescribable, 'The grace of God was upon Him.' \Well if He did not play as other children He at least went to school,\ one of the auditors said; and Uncle Midas hastened to reply: \If Nazareth had a school—and the better opinion is that the village was not so favored—it is to be kept in mind that scholars could not be ad- mitted before the age of six, and that all instruction was limited to the law, and was entirely oral. The master sat on a raised seat; the chil- dren, on the floor, simply repeated what he recited to them until they knew the lesson by heart. After six years—certainly after He came to know Himself—our Lord was taught, I think, by His mother. She may have initiated Him in the alphabet earlier; anyhow I delight in imagining the two at work. The torah is spread upon her knee. He has a hand over her shoulder, she an arm about His waist; He is quick to apprehend; their voices are low and sweet; at times they turn to each other, and it is the old story. 'Soft eyes looked love to eyes that spake again.'\ Uncle Midas' voice was a little tremulous, but he went on in the same strain: \After the lad came to know Him- self, the knowledge enforced solemnity and serious thought. The old master who painted Him trudging afterJoseph with a basket of tools had the true conception of Him about this time, for He was humble and uncomplaining and delighted in service. Of out -door employments, I am sure he most loved that of a shepherd. In following the capricious flocks as they wandered over the broad Esdneleon, He could freely indulge the expectancy of revela- tion that must have been His constant condition of mind. I have had visions of Him out in the historic plain, sunburned, large -eyed, oval -faced, leaning upon a crook, a dog by His side. What time He is not observant of His charge, He is listening for voices, attentive to each passing wind, or gs,zing at the clouds for seraph- ic messengers, or giving heed to the 1887. emotions of His own being, in the hope of their becoming tell -tales of all he so wished. How tenderly He would carry the weaklings of the herd down the steeps and over the stony places! He loved them and they loved Him. The herdsmen of Nazareth were ignorant and poor; still they complied with the law, and at least once every year went up to Jerusalem after the cus- tom of the feast. In the procession on one such occasion there was a family, the head of which was a plain, serious -looking, middle-aged man, with whom the world has since become acquainted as .Tosenh. His wife, Mary, was then about twen- ty-seven years of age, gentle, modest, sweet -spoken, of fair complexion, with eyes of violet -blue, and hair half brown, half gold. She rode a donkey. James, Joses, Simon and Jude, full-grown sons of Joseph, walked with their fa- ther. A child of Mary, twelve years old, walked near her. It is not at all likely that the group attracted special attention from their fellow -travelers. 'The peace of the Lord be with you!' they would say in salute, and have return in kind. More tHan eighteen hundred years have passed since that obscure family made that pious pilgrimage. Could they come back and make it now, the singing, shouting, and worship that would go with them would be without end; not Solomon in all his glory, nor Csar, nor any or all of the modern kings, would have such attendance. Let us single out the boy, that we may try and see Him as He was—afoot like His brethren, small, growing, and therefore slender. His attire was sim- ple; on His head a white handkerchief, held in place by a cord, one corner turn- ed under at the forehead, the other cor- ners loose. A tunic, also white, cov- ered Him from neck to knees, girt at the waist. His arms and legs were bare; on his feet were sandals of the most primitive kind, being soles of ox -hide attached to the ankles by leathern straps. He carried a stick that was much taller than himself. The old painters, called upon to render this childish figure on canvas, would have insisted up- on distinguishing it with a nimbus at least; some of them would have filled the air over its head with cher- the better to see the procession wind- ing picturesquely through the broken country. His head is raised in an ef- fort at far sight. The fight of an in- tensely brilliant sun is upon His coun- tenance, which in general cast is oval and delicate. Under the folds of the - Ff'it‘g Tkl- \ \ U handkerchief I see the forehead, cov- ered by a mass of projecting sunburned blonde hair, which the wind has taken liberties with and tossed into trufts. The eyes are in shade, leaving a doubt whether they are brown or violet, like His mother's; yet they are large and health- fully clear, and still retain the paral- lelism of arch between brow and up- per lid usually the characteristic of children and beautiful women. The nose is of regular inward curve, joined prettily to a short upper lip by nostrils just full enough to give definition to transparent shadows in the corners. The mouth is small, and opens slight- ly so that through the scarleL fresh- ness of its lines I catch a glimpse of two white teeth. The cheeks are rud- dy and round, and only a certain squareness of chin tells of years this side the day the Magi laid their treas- ures at His feet. Putting face and figure together, and mindful oi the at- titude of interest in what is passing before Him, the lad as I see Him on the rock is handsome and attractive. When the journey shall have ended, and His mother made Hint ready for the court of the temple, He may jus- tify a more worshipful description; we may then see in Him the promise of the Saviour of Men in the comeliness RUSTRAS AT HONE. ubs; some would have had the tunic plunged into a pot of madder; the very courtierly amongst them would have blocked the way of both mother and son with monks and cardinals. The boy's face comes to me very clearly. I imagine Him by the road- side on a rock which He has climbed, of budding youth, His sad de:.tiny yet far in the future.\ Let us ease up a little on the worry and cost of Christmas, and keep the best holiday of the ages in the old spirit of unostentatious charity and the exercise of mirth and good -will that refreslus and does not weary. •

The River Press (Fort Benton, Mont.), 18 Dec. 1889, located at <http://montananewspapers.org/lccn/sn85053157/1889-12-18/ed-1/seq-9/>, image provided by MONTANA NEWSPAPERS, Montana Historical Society, Helena, Montana.