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hand, Jesus never speaks of his in fancy, nor of the time that had preceded bis preaching. There is every rea- . son to believe, he did not love to recur to circumstances dishonourable to his mother; towards whom indeed we shall very soon find him failing in filial respect.

The evangelists, in like manner, pass very slightly over the first years of their hero's life. St. Matthew makes him return from Egypt on the death of Herod, without mentioning in what year that happened. He thus leaves his commentators in an embarrassment, as to whether Jesus was then two or ten years old. We find indeed, that the term of ten years is, through complai. sance, invented on account of the dispute between him and the doctors of Jerusalem, which St. Luke places at his twelfth year. This excepted, Jesus disappeared from the scene, not to shew himself again till thirty years of age. *

It is difficult to discover what he did until that age. If we credit St. Luke, he remained at Nazareth. Yet there is reason to believe that he was somewhere else, for the purpose of learning the part which he was afterwards to play. If he had always resided at Nazareth, the inhabitants of that small town would have known him perfectly. Very far from this ;--they are surprised at seeing him, when thirty years of age. They only conjecture that they knew him ; and ask each other, “Is not this the son of Joseph?”a question very

• Jesus perhaps passed a considerable part of his life among the contemplative Essenians or Therapeutes, who were a kind of very enthusiastic Jewish monks, living in the vicinity of Alexandria in Egypt, where it appears he drew up his severe and truly monastic doctrine. See chap. xvii, of this work.

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ridiculous in the mouth of persons who must have been in the constant habit of seeing Jesus in the narrow.com pass of their town. This does not hinder St. Justin from telling us, that he became a carpenter in the work shop of his pretended father, and that he wrought at buildings or instruments of husbandry.* But such a profession could not long agree with a man in whom we find an ambitious and restless mind.

It will be better, therefore, here to quit St. Luke, in order to follow St. Matthew, who places the baptism of John after the return from Egypt, and makes Jesus forthwith commence his mission. It is also, to speak properly, at this epoch we ought to begin the life of Christ. Yet, to let nothing be lost to the reader of the evangelical memoirs, the subject of our literary labours, we thought it our duty not to pass over in sin lence the circumstances which have been noticed, as these preliminaries are calculated to throw much light on the person and actions of Jesus. Besides, the interval between the birth and preaching of Christ has not been the part of his bistory least exposed to the shafts of criticism. St. Matthew, as we have seen, to account for his master's absence during the thirty years, makes him go into Egypt, and return in an unlimited time. St. Luke; who digested his memoirs af. ter Matthew, perceiving that the abode in Egypt cast a suspicion of magic on the miracles of Jesus, makes him remain in Galilee, going and coming every year to Jerusalem; and fixes his abode in the country, by making him appear, at the age of twelve, in the capital, in the midst of the doctors, and debating with them. But St. Mark and St. John, profiting by the criticism which these different arrangements had experienced, make the Messiah drop from the clouds, and put him instantly to labour at the great work of the salvation of mant kind.

* St. Justin Martyr contra Tryphon. The gospel of the infancy informs us, that Jesus, when young, amused himself with forming small birds of clay, which he afterwards animated, and then they flew into the air. The same book says, that he knew more than his schoolinaster, whom he killed for having struck him, because Jesus refused to read the letters of the alphabet. We find also, that Jesus assisted Joseph in his labours, and by a miracle lengthened the picces of wood, when cut too short or too narrow All these extravagancies are not more difficult to believe than many other wonders related in the acknowledged gospels. Codex. Apocryph. N. T. tome i. p. 193, &c. and III. P. 424-441.

It is thus that, on combining and comparing the se: veral relations, we are enabled to discover the true sys. tem of the Gospels, in which, without adopting any alterations, we will find materials for composing the life of Jesus, by merely reducing the marvellous to its proper value.

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FROM the time the Romans subdued Judea, the superstitious inhabitants of that country, impatient to see the arrival of the Messiah or Deliverer, so often promised to their fathers, seemed inclined to quicken the slowness of the Eternal by the ardour of their desires. This disposition of mind gave birth to impostures, revolts, and disturbances; the authors of which the Roman power punished in such a manner as to discourage their adherents, or at least quickly to disperse them. Down to the era we are about to speak of, (which the gospel of St. Luke fixes at the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius), none of those who had attempted to pass for the Messiah had been able to succeed. To have acted that part well, there was need of forces more considerable than those which all Judea could oppose to the conquerors of the world. It was therefore necessary to have recourse to craft, and to employ delusions and trick in place of force. For this purpose, it was of importance to be well acquainted with the disposition of the Jewish nation; to

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affect a great respect for its laws and usages, for which it entertained the most profound veneration; to profit in. geniously by the predictions with which they were imbued ; to move the passions, and warm the imaginations of that fanatical and credulous people. But all this behoved to be silently effected; it was necessary for him who attempted it to avoid rendering himself suspected by the Romans; it was necessary to be on his guard against the priests, doctors, and persons of edacation, capable of penetrating and thwarting his designs. It was therefore essential to commence with gaining adherents and co-operators, and thereafter a party among the people, to support him against the grandees of the nation. Policy required to shew bimself rarely in the capital, to preach in the country, and render odious to the populace, priests who devoured the nation, nobles who oppressed it, and rich people of whom it ought to be naturally jealous. Not to alarm minds too much, prudence demanded that he should speak in ambiguous language and parables. Neither could he dispense with working miracles, which much more than all the harangues in the world were at all times calculated to seduce ignorant devotees, disposed to see the finger of God in every act, the true causes of which they were unable to de. velope.*

* Miracles, says Boulanger, appear to have been invented to supply the want of good reasons.

Truth and evidence have no need of miracles to ensure their reception. Is it not very as tonishing that God Almighty should find it easier to derange the order of Nature, than to convince mankind of truths the most evident, and calculated to foree their assent? Miracles were in. troduced to prove things which it is impossible to believe ; for there is no need of miracles when we talk of reason. Things

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