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JESUS AND THE RABBINS. ALONG the Roman military road running northward from Jerusalem toward the great plain of Esdraelon, we behold travelers returning from the Passover.
As evening draws nigh, we attach ourselves to a company, or small caravan of Galileans, who turn aside for the night, and pitch their tents upon the high table-land between Gilgal and Shiloh.
The camels and other beasts of burden are soon unloaded, and fastened for the night. All is bustle and animation, while from capacious panniers are drawn all the necessaries of the traveler's life, and preparations are made for the evening repast.
Meanwhile, scattered through the glades of the forest, young men and maidens chant responsive strains of the temple psalms, and make the groves resound.
Apart from the rest, a solitary female arrests our attention, as she sits remote, gazing abstractedly toward the majestic outline of the dark blue mountains of the north. Something
in her form and bearing suggests that she is not wholly a stranger to us, and, as she turns her head, a single glance suffices to identify the matchless features of the royal daughter of David.
Time has dealt kindly with the Virgin Mary, profaning no charm, but rather enhancing and spiritualizing all, so that twelve peaceful, gliding years have served only to etherealize and exalt what seemed before incapable of improvement. If, indeed, her step be statelier, and her glance more assured, and her expression a shade more saddened, yet still the thirsty eye, insatiable with seeing, drinks eager draughts of that same rich flood of mingling emanations of loveliness that form an atmosphere about her delicate and symmetrical person.
There is the same spiritual serenity, united with a profounder thoughtfulness, a more inquiring and matured reflection. There
There is the same mystery of earnest wishfulness, which shows that life's enigma is still for her unsolved, and the prophetic future not less inscrutable, nor less anxious by its nearer approach. No scenes of splendid festivity nor of brilliant gayety have enervated her high powers, nor swerved their determined questioning from the goal of the future. Far from the bowers of music and
mirth, unknown to the great, gaudy vanity-fair of Pharisaic elegance, her gentle hand has dispensed other spells than those of festive sorcery. Sequestered in her thoughtful abodes, she has been wrestling with the deepest questions that can agitate the mind of any pilgrim of earth. A new incident is now preparing to reawaken and reagitate the painful intensity of those concealed inquiries that form the inward habit of her soul.
Returning to her tent, she is met by the startling intelligence from her husband, that her son is absent. Through every tent search is made in vain; he is not only absent, but has not been (as they had confided) in the company during the day.
Now, if this absence might be attributed to youthful carelessness, it need not create any serious alarm; but Mary reflects too surely that no such explanation can be probable of one whose minutest motions have ever given indications of calm and advised design. Hence the only explanation that offers to her mind is one that whispers of some disaster, some forcible detention, or catastrophe of a nature she can scarce dare to conjecture.
The recent banishment of Archelaus, the tyrannical successor of Herod the Great, gives her
no assurance, for it brings the country only the more directly under the Roman government; and the vigilance of that haughty tyranny would be prompt to seize upon any individual who might be looked upon as the future leader of a popular insurrection, especially should they, by any means, have discovered the circumstances of his birth, his royal lineage, and his heirship to the throne of David, as attested by the angel, and by the shepherds, and by the magi.
Agitated by these reflections, and incapable of further refreshment or repose, she proposes an immediate return; and, while the shades of evening darken around, bidding adieu to their sympathizing kinsfolk in the encampment, they hasten back upon the paved highway toward the city.
Arriving in the early dawn, they explore the different inns and other rendezvous of travelers, they explore the temple, and pace to and fro the city streets, but in that vast metropolis they can find no trace of him. Her son is lost. ! A second day passes in like fruitless endeavors, and still deeper in heart sinks the thought of some dark fate that has fallen upon him. Perchance, she thinks, he is even now seized by some of the watchful spies of jealous tyranny, and languishing in a dungeon; and, at the
thought, she would fain rush toward the guarded portals of the procurator's palace, or the gloomy gates of the tower Antonia.
First, however, they resolve to search once more the different portions of the Temple, that vast and complicated structure of courts, and galleries, and chambers, and halls, yea, and with shuddering she remembers, of many a darksome cavern underneath, hewed out in the living rock. Once more they traverse those extensive
Above, below, within, without, wherever a youthful wanderer might be so easily concealed, every where inquiring of priest, of Levite, and of citizen for the child in vain; the only answer is, “ He is not here."
“Ah!" she thinks, “why did I bring him ? And yet it was in obedience to the law of our fathers! And yet, the very first time, thus to 'find him snatched mysteriously away! Oh, fatal prophet!" she internally ejaculates, as she pauses by the Gate Nicanor, and recalls the words uttered there years ago by hoary Simeon, “is this, then, the fulfillment of thy word? Is this that keen sword' that is piercing through
my very soul ?!
At length, after having well-nigh given over the fruitless search, as despondingly they are passing nigh the hall of the Sanhedrim, their