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to the thorough enjoyment of which your absence was the only drawback; but I must write to my dear Harry on subjects still nearer my heart.
As I was prayerfully considering, a few days ago, what verse I should send as your motto for the year on which you are to-day entering, I came in the course of my morning reading to the passage in St Luke, containing that one incident left on record for us of the boyhood of our blessed Saviour : you will find it in the second chapter, vers. 42–49. As I read the reply of Jesus to His astonished and anxious mother, 'How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?' it occurred to me that the latter part of that verse would nicely answer for your birthday motto. It is one little grain of good seed taken by your mother's loving hand from the rich granary of Bible truth, and sent with much prayer that the ‘Lord of the harvest,' the Holy Spirit, may plant and guard it in my boy's heart, and make it very fruitful,—that you may often find it a word which, hid in your heart, may keep you from sinning against God.
Perhaps, at first sight, you wonder a little why I have selected this verse. You may think that Jesus, the little boy of twelve years, who so meekly sat in the temple at Jerusalem, could have nothing in common with the circumstances of the little boy at school. You do not see how you could now be about your · Father's business.' You are too young,—too busy learning so many things,—though you hope when grown up to be a good man like papa. Well, then, let us talk a little about it. Ah! I wish it could be a real talk; but for this time it can only be a talk on paper,-not half so pleasant indeed, but
will think with me, much better than nothing.
And first, we will speak about that wonderful boy we find in the temple; and with great reverence will we speak together of Him, for well do we know that the child, so humble in His dress, so respectful in His manner, so attentive and so intelligent in His questionings and answers, is
none other than the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, the Lord of angels and of men. But He is perfect man as well as perfect God: in all things like other men, only without one stain of sin in thought,
or word, or act. And because He was 'perfect' man, we are told that He increased in wisdom as well as in stature. Dearly should we like to know what kind of childhood that was which was never marred by one disobedient act, one unholy word, one impatient murmur; but which was a perfect fulfilling of that law which is love to God and love to man. Strangely unlike other children must He thus indeed have been ; and yet we are sure that His was perfect infancy and perfect boyhood, as well as afterwards it was perfect manhood, as exhibited to us in those wonderful biographies of Him which we have in the gospels. But we must not venture to fill up the blank left by the Holy Spirit by conjectures of our own; yet we may be sure there was some wise reason why we were given that one glimpse at the childhood of our blessed Lord, which will well repay us for the careful study of it.
The Jews, as you know, were required to go to Jerusalem three times each year to take part in the great Jewish festivals; and at the age of twelve years, boys were permitted to take part in those sacred seasons of worship. Accordingly, we are told that Mary and Joseph took the child Jesus when He was that age, and left Nazareth, in company no doubt with a large party travelling for the same purpose to the Holy City. At the close of the seven days of the Feast of the Passover, they set out on their return to their humble home; but at the end of their first day's journey they missed the child Jesus, and not finding Him, as they had hoped, with any of their relatives or friends in the caravan, in deep anxiety they retraced their sorrowful steps to Jerusalem.
A long and painful search must they have had, for not until the third day did they find Him, in one of those apartments connected with the temple, where the Jewish youth were instructed in all the wisdom of the law by learned
Rabbis, who attended there for that purpose. Much they must have wondered at that boy from Nazareth,—at His humility and His wisdom, His earnestness and His attention; and, without doubt, hoped that one day He would do credit to their teaching, and be an ornament to their order. Little did they dream that a greater than Solomon, a wiser than Daniel, was before them ; still less that He it was who should save His people from their sins, of whom David and Isaiah and all the prophets sang and spake.
Utterly amazed, Mary and Joseph stood beholding Him; and when the power to speak, after such painful suspense, returned, His mother addressed Him in words which, we may well believe, conveyed the very first reproach ever spoken to that beloved child : Why hast Thou thus dealt with us?' He that never before had given them cause for one anxious thought, how could He have left them to seek Him, how could He have been unmindful of their sorrow? And then comes the reply, which I have chosen for your motto: “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ?' This was the one thing to which all else must give place; for boy as well as man, He came to do His Father's will. This, as He afterwards said, was His meat and drink.
The next we read of Him is, that He returned with His mother and Joseph to Nazareth, and ' was subject unto them ;' and this last was just as truly ‘His Father's business' as was the diligent learning in the temple. When, as we doubt not, He afterwards patiently worked as carpenter with His supposed father, as well as when for three years • He went about doing good,' He was still about His Father's business ;' and when at last, in obedience still to that Father's will, He died upon the cross, and, as our Te Deum sings, when He 'overcame the sharpness of death, He opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.'
And now, dearest Harry, you too are twelve years old to-day ; and what lesson can you learn from this
little bit of the history of the childhood of our preciouz Saviour? How can my boy follow His example during his busy school-days?
Let us begin by asking the Holy Spirit to teach you to do it with full purpose of heart; and then let us consider, that whatever it is clearly your duty to do, be it great or small, it becomes your Father's business, if only you do it as His business. For instance, it is your duty carefully and accurately to learn whatever lessons your master has appointed. But you may learn them well from various motives : either from the fear of punishment, and thus missing some of your hours for play ; or from the wish to please us; or, it may be, that you are ambitious and eager to secure the prizes which will be awarded to the best in your class. Now, however good some of these motives may be which induce you to diligence in your studies, they want the something which alone could constitute it your Father's business.'
* If it is my heavenly Father's will that I should learn this, or do that, then I will do it the very best I can to please Him.' Ah! this is the true secret which may make even a mean thing noble, a weak thing strong; which makes a good thing better, a pleasant thing more pleasant; which turns earthly into heavenly work. And remember, Harry, that this motive may and ought to influence us in everything, even such as writing a letter. I know well that most little boys find it a trouble to write a letter, and, of course, they cannot get through it very quickly; and then comes the temptation : ‘Oh, there is no hurry about my writing to-day; it is only just a week since I wrote last, and one day won't make much difference; and this is such a glorious day for cricket, it would be a sin to stay poked up in the house ; very likely to-morrow will be wet!' But it is very possible that when to-morrow comes, some other difficulty quite as weighty comes also ; and so the loved ones at home are disappointed by the non-arrival of the weekly letter asked for and promised. To have written that letter on the right day was a duty, unless some really good reason obliged it to be deferred; and the little word, 'I must be about my Father's business,' would, I think, have set all right; and a short note on that very fine day would have let papa know that his dear boy remembered his wishes, and the game of cricket would have been all the more pleasant afterwards.
Again, I fear that in all large schools there are bad boys who find pleasure in getting others, especially the little ones, into mischief; who will fearlessly laugh at the boy who regularly prays and reads his Bible, and will for a time find countless means of persecuting and annoying him. If you have found it thus, think what courage to resist evil-to bear unkindness—would my little motto give you: 'My Father's business'-and such a Father! so full of love that He will help me ; so strong that He can help me: shall I, can I, give up this business, and go and do Satan's ?
Again, there might be amongst your schoolfellows some little boy, younger perhaps than you, a timid, easily led little fellow, one who may never have been far from home before, or thrown among other boys ; then, I think, if you were seeking to do your Father's business, as our blessed Example would have done, you would try to be a help and comfort to that poor child. You would try to prevent his being bullied by the other boys ; you would help him to understand the ways of the school; and the very thought that there was at least one of his schoolfellows who felt for him and would take his part, would give him courage and heart to work on bravely. This would be in some measure learning to 'bear one another's burden,' and so to fulfil the law of Christ.
But now for your play-hours. Perhaps you think that there at least you must cease to be about your Father's business; but indeed you need not. It may not be directly His work ; but all innocent recreation, when it does not interfere with our actual duties, will only make is the better fitted for the thorough performance of these