Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death has no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He dies unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon (or account) you also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Scripture is as the feast is, both of them of the Resurrection. And this we may safely say of it, it is thought by the Church so pertinent to the feast, as it hath ever been and is appointed to be the very entry of this day's service; to be sounded forth and sung, first of all, and before all, upon this day, as it there were some special correspondence between the day and it.
[187/188] Two principal points are set down to us, out of the two principal words in it: one, scientes, in the first verse, 'knowing;' the other, reputate, in the last verse, 'count yourselves;' knowing and counting, knowledge and calling ourselves to account for our knowledge.
Two points very needful to be ever jointly called upon, and more than needful for our times, being that much we know, and little we count; often we hear, and when we have heard, small reckoning we make of it. What Christ did on Easter-Day we know well; what we are then to do, we give no great regard; our scientes is without a reputantes.
Now this Scripture ex totâ substantiâ, 'out of the whole frame of it' teacheth us otherwise; that of Christian knowledge is not a knowledge without all manner of account, but that we are accountants for it; that we are to keep an audit of what we hear, and take account of ourselves of what we have learned. Dogxesqe is an auditor's term: thence the Holy Ghost hath taken it, and would have us to be auditors in both senses.
And this to general in whatsoever we know, but especially in our knowledge touching this feast of Christ's Resurrection, where there are special words for it in the text, where in express terms an account is called for at our hands as an essential duty of the day. The benefit we remember is so great, the feast we hold so high, as though at other times we might be forborne, yet on this day we may not.
Now the sum of our account is set down in these words, similiter et vos; that we fashion ourselves like to Christ, dying and rising, cast ourselves in the same moulds, express Him in both as near as we can.
To account of these first, that is, to account ourselves bound so to do.
To account for these second, that is, to account with ourselves whether we do so.
First, to account ourselves bound thus to do, resolving thus within ourselves, that to hear a sermon of the Resurrection is nothing; to keep a feast of the Resurrection is as much, except it end in similiter et vos. Saith St. Gregory, quod de more celebratur etiam quoad mores experimatur, 'unless we express the matter of the feast in the forms of our lives,' unless [188/189] as He from the grave, so we from sin, and live to godliness as He unto God.
Then to account with ourselves, whether we do thus; that is, to sit down and reflect upon the sermons we hear, and the feasts we keep; how, by knowing Christ's death, we die to sin, how, by knowing His resurrection, we live to God; how our estate in soul is bettered; how the fruit of the words we hear, and the feasts we keep, do abound daily toward our account against the great audit. And this to be our account, every Easter-Day.
Of these two points, the former is in the two first verses, what we must know; the latter is in the last, what we must account for. And they be joined with similiter, to shew us they be and must be equal and like regard; and we as know, so account.
But because, our knowing is the ground of our account, the Apostle beginneth with knowledge. And so must we.
Knowledge, in all learning, is of two sorts: 1. rerum, or 2. causarum, ti, or dioti, 'that,' or 'in that.' The former is in the first verse: 'knowing that Christ,' &c. The latter, in the second; 'for, in that,' &c. And because we cannot cast up a sum, except we have a particular, the Apostle giveth us a particular of either. A particular of our knowledge quoad res, which consists of these three: 1. that 'Christ is risen from the dead.' 2. That now 'He dieth not.' 3. That 'from henceforth death has no dominion over Him.' All in the first verse. then a particular of our knowledge quoad causas. The cause 1. of His death, sin; 'He died to sin.' 2. Of His life, God; 'He liveth to God.' And both these but once for all. All in the second verse.
Then followeth our account, in the third verse. Wherein we consider, first, 1. the charge; 2. and then the discharge. 1. The charge first, similiter et vos; that we be like to Christ. And then wherein; 1. like, in dying to sin; 2. like, in living to God. Which are the two moulds wherein we are to be cast, that we may come forth like Him. This is the charge. 2. And last of all, the means we have to help us to discharge it, in the last words, 'in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
Before we take view of the two particulars, it will not be amiss to make a little stay at scientes, the first word, because it [189/190] is the ground of all the rest. 'Knowing that Christ is risen.' This the Apostle saith, the Romans did; - 'knowing.' Did know himself indeed, that Christ was risen, for he saw Him. But how knew the Romans, or how know we? No other way than by relation, either they or we, but yet we much better than they. I say by relation, in the nature of a verdict, of them who had seen Him, even Cephas and the twelve; which is a full jury, able to find any matter of fact, and to give up a verdict in it. And that Christ is risen, is matter of fact. But if twelve will not serve in this matter of fact, which in all other matters with us will, if a greater inquest far, if five hundred will serve, you may have so many; for 'of more than five hundred at once was He seen,' many of them then living ready to give up the same verdict, and to say upon the same their oaths.
But to settle knowledge, the number moveth not so much as the quality of the parties. If they were person credulous, light of belief, they may well be challenged, if they took not the way to ground their knowledge aright. That is ever best known that is most doubted of; and never was matter carried with more scruple and slowness of belief, with more doubts and difficulties, than was this of Christ's rising. Mary Magdalene saw it first, and reported it. 'They believed her not.' The two that went to Emmaus, they also reported it. They believed them not. Divers women together saw Him, and came and told them; 'their words seemed to them lÁroj, an idle, feigned, fond tale.' They all saw Him, and even seeing Him, yet they 'doubted.' When they were put out of doubt, and told it but to one who happened to be absent, it was St. Thomas, you know how peremptory he was; 'not he unless he might not only see with his eyes, but feel with his fingers, and put in his hand into His side.' And all this he did. St. Augustine saith well, Profecto valde dubitatum est ab illis ne dubitaretur a nobis 'all this doubting was by them made, that we might be out of doubt, and know that Christ is risen.'
Sure, they took the right course to know it certainly; and certainly they did know it, as appears. For never was anything known in this world, so confidently, constantly, certainly testified as was this, that Christ is risen. By testifying it, [190/191] they got nothing in the earth. Got nothing? Nay, they lost by it their living, their life, all they had to lose. They might have saved all, and but said nothing. So certain they were, so certainly they did account of their knowing, they could not be got from kit, but to their very last breath, to the very last drop of their blood, bare witness to the truth of this article; and chose rather to lay down their lives and to take their death, than to deny, nay than not to affirm His rising from death. And thus did they know, and knowing testify, and so do we. But, as I said before, we to a much surer knowing than they. For when this was written, the whole world stopped their ears at this report, would not endure to hear them, stood out mainly against them. The Resurrection! why it was with the Grecians at Athens, cleu¢smÕj, a very 'scorn.' The Resurrection! why it was with Festus the great Roman, mauia, 'a sickness of the brain, a plain frenzy.' That world that then was and long after in such opposition, is since come in; and upon better examination of the matter so strangely testified, with so many thousand lives of men, to say the least of them, sad and sober, hath taken notice of it, and both known and acknowledged the truth of it. It was well foretold by St. John hæc est victoria quæ vincit mundum, fides vestra. It is proved true since, that this faith of Christ's rising hath made a conquest of the whole world. So that, after all the world hath taken knowledge of it, we come to know it. And so more full to us, than to them, is this scients, 'knowing.' Now to our particulars, what we know.
Our first particular is, that Christ is risen from the dead. Properly, we are said to rise from a fall, and from death rather to revive. Yet the Apostle rather useth the term of rising than reviving, as serving better to set forth his purpose. That death is a fall we doubt not, that it came with a fall, the fall of Adam. But what manner of fall? For it has been holden a fall, from whence is no rising. But by Christ's rising it falls out to be a fall, that we may fall and yet get up again. For if Christ be risen from it, there is a rising; if a rising of one, then may there be of another; if He be risen in our nature, then is our nature risen; and if our nature be, our persons may be. Especially [191/192] seeing, as the Apostle in the fourth verse before has told us, He and we are sÚmfntoi, that is, so 'grafted' one into the other, that He is part of us, and we of Him; so that as St. Bernard well observeth, Christus etsi solus resurrexit, tamen non totus, that Christ, 'though He be risen only, yet He is not risen wholly,' or all, till we be risen too. He is but risen in part, and He may rise all, we must rise from death also.
This then we know first: that death is not like a fall like that of Pharaoh into the sea, that 'sunk down like a lump of lead' into the bottom, and never came up more; but a fall like that of Jonas into the sea, who was received by a fish, and after cast up again. It is our Saviour Christ's own simile. A fall, not like that of the Angels into the bottomless pit, there to stay for ever; but like to that of men into their beds, when they make account to stand up again. A fall, not as of a log or stone to the ground, which, where it falls there it lieth still; but as of a wheat-corn into the ground, which is quickened and springeth up again.
The very word which the Apostle useth, egerqeij, implieth the two latter: 1. either of a fall into a bed in our chamber, where, though we lie to see to little better than dead for a time, yet in the morning we awake and stand up notwithstanding; 2. or of a fall into a bed in our garden, where though the seed putrify and come to nothing, yet we look to see it shoot forth anew in the spring. Which Spring is, as Tertullian well calleth it, the very resurrection of the year; and Christ's Resurrection falleth well with it; and it is said he, no way consonant to reason, that man for whom all things spring and rise again, should not have his spring and rising too. But he will have them, we doubt not, by this day's work. He Who this day did rise, and rising was seen of Mary Magdalene in the likeness of a gardener, this Gardener will look to it, that man will have his spring. He will, saith the Prophet 'drop upon us a dew like the dew of herbs, and the earth, will yield forth her dead.' And so, as Christ is risen from the dead, even so shall we.
Our second particular is, That as He is risen, so now He dieth not. Which is no idle addition, but hath his force and emphasis. For one thing it is to rise from the dead, and [192/193] another, not to die any more. The widow's son of Nain, the ruler's daughter of the synagogue, Lazarus, - all these rose again from death, yet they died afterwards; but 'Christ rising from the dead, dieth no more.' These two are sensibly different, Lazarus' resurrection, and Christ's; and this second is sure a higher degree than the former. If we rise as they did, that we return to this same mortal life of ours again, this very mortality of ours will be to us as the prisoner's chain he escapes away withal; by it we shall be pulled back again, though we should rise a thousand times. We must therefore so rise as Christ, that our resurrection be not 'reditus,' but 'transitus;' not a returning back to the same life, but a passing over to a new. Transivit de morte ad vitam, saith He. The very feast itself puts us in mind of as much; it is the Pascha, that is, the Passover, not a coming back to the same land of Egypt, but a passing over to a better, the Land of Promise, whither 'Christ our Passover' is passed before us, and will in good time give us passage after Him. The Apostle expresseth it best when he saith, that Christ by His rising has 'abolished death, and brought to light, life and immortality;' not life alone, but life and immortality, which is this our second particular. Risen, and risen to die no more, because risen to life, to life immortal.
But the third is yet beyond both these, more worth the knowing, more worthy our account; 'death hath no dominion over Him.' Whereas we before said, one thing it was to rise again, another to die no more, so say we now; it is one thing not to die, another not to be under the dominion of death. For death, and death's dominion are two different things. Death itself is nothing else but the very separation of the life from the body, death's dominion a thing of far larger extent. By which word of 'dominion,' the Apostle would have us to conceive of death, as of some great lord having some large signory. Even as three several times in the chapter before he saith, regnavit mors, 'death reigned,' as if death were some mighty monarch, having great dominions under him. And so it is; for look how many dangers, how many diseases, sorrows, calamities, miseries there be of this mortal life; how many pains, perils, snares of death; so many several provinces are there of this dominion. In all which, or some of them, [193/194] while we live, we still are under the jurisdiction and arrest of death, all the days of our life. And say that we escape them all, and none of them happen to us, yet live we still under fear of them, and that is death's dominion too. For he is, as Job calleth him, Rex pavoris, 'King of fear.' And when we are out of this life too, unless we pertain to Christ and His resurrection, we are not out of his dominion neither. For hell itself is 'secunda mors,' so termed by St. John, 'the second death,' or second part of death's dominion.
Now, who is there who would desire to rise again to this life, yes, though it were immortal, to be still under this dominion of death here; still subject, still liable to the aches and pains, to the griefs and gripings, to the manifold miseries of this vale of the shadow of death? But then the other, the second region of death, the second part of his dominion, who can endure once to be there? They seek and wish for death, and death flieth from them.
Verily, rising is not enough; rising, not to die again is not enough, except we may be quit of this dominion, and rid of that which we either feel or fear all our life long. Therefore doeth the Apostle add, and so it was needful he should, 'death has no dominion over Him.' 'No dominion over him?' No; for He, dominion over it. For lest any might surmise he might break through some wall, or get out at some window, and so steal a resurrection, or casually come to it, he tells them - No, it is not so. Ecce claves mortis et inferni; see here, the keys both of the first and second death. Which is a plain proof He hath mastered, and got the dominion over both 'death and him that hath the power of death, that is the devil.' Both are swallowed up in victory, and neither death any more sting, nor hell any more dominion. Sed ad Dominum Deum nostru, spectant exitus mortis; 'but now unto God our Lord belong the issues of death;' the keys are at His girdle, He can let out as many as He list.
This estate is it, which he calleth coronam vitæ; not life alone, but 'the crown of life,' or a life crowned with immunity of fear of any evil, ever to befall us. This is it which in the next verse he calleth 'living unto God,' the estate of the children of the resurrection, to be the sons of God, equal to [194/195] the Angels, subject to no part of death's dominion, but living in security, joy and bliss for ever.
And now is our particular full. 1. Rising to life first; 2. and life freed from death, and so immortal; 3. and then exempt from the dominion of death, and every part of it; and so happy and blessed. Rise again? so many Lazarus, or any mortal man do; that is not it. Rise again to life immortal? so shall all do in the end, as well the unjust as the just; that is not it. But rise again to life immortal, with freedom from all misery, to live to, and with God, in all joy and glory evermore; - that is it, that is Christ's resurrection. Et tu, saith St. Augustine, spera talem resurrectionem, et propter hoc esto Christianus, 'live in hope of such a resurrection, and for this hope's sake carry thyself as a Christian.' Thus have we our particular of that we are to know touching Christ risen.
And now we know all these, yet do we not account ourselves to know them perfectly until we also know the reason of them. And the Romans were a people that loved to see the ground of that they received, and not the bare articles alone. Indeed it might trouble them why Christ should need thus to rise again, because they saw no reason why He should need die. The truth is, we cannot speak of rising well without mention of the terminus a quo, from whence He rose. By means whereof these two, Christ's dying, and His rising, are so linked together, and their audits so entangled one with another, as it is very hard to sever them. And this you shall observe, the Apostle never goeth about to do it, but still as it were of purpose suffers one to draw in the other continually. It is not here alone, but all over his Epistles; every they run together, as if he were loath to mention one without the other.
And it cannot be denied but that their joining serveth to many great good purposes. These two, 1. His death and His rising, they shew His two natures, human and Divine; 1. His human nature and weakness in dying, 2. His divine nature and power in rising again. 2. These shew His two offices; His Priesthood and His Kingdom. 1. His Priesthood in the sacrifice of His death; 2. His Kingdom in the glory of His resurrection. 3. They set before us His two main [195/196] benefits; 1. interitum mortis, and 2. principium vitæ. 1. His death, the death of death; 2. His rising, the reviving of life again; the one what He had ransomed us from, the other what He had purchased for us. 4. They serve as two moulds, wherein our lives are to be cast, that the days of vanity may be fashioned to the likeness of the Son of God; which are our two duties, that we are to render for those two benefits, proceeding from the two offices of His two natures conjoined. In a word, they are not well to be sundered; for when they are thus joined, they are the very abridgement of the whole Gospel.
Of them both then briefly. Of His dying first: 'In that He died, He died once to sin.' Why died He once, and why but once? Once He died to sin, that is, sin was the cause He was to die once. As in saying 'He liveth to God,' we say God is the cause of His life, so in saying 'He died to sin' we say sin was the cause of His death. God of His rising, sin of His fall. And look, how the Resurrection leadeth us to death, even as naturally doth death unto sin, the sting of death.
To sin then He died; not simply to sin, but with reference to us. For as death leadeth us to sin, so doeth sin to sinners, that is to ourselves; and so will the opposition be more clear and full. 'He liveth unto God, He dieth unto man. With reference, I say, to us. For first He died unto us; and if it be true that Puer natus est nobis it is as true that Vir mortuus est nobis; if being a Child He was born to us, becoming a Man He died to us. Both are true.
To us then first He died because He would save us. To sin secondly, because else He could not save us. Yet He could have saved us and never died for us, ex plenitudine potestatis, 'by His absolute power,' if He would have taken that way. That way He would not, but proceed by way of justice, do all by the way of justice. And by justice sin must have death, - death, our death, for the sin was ours. It was we who were to die to sin. But if we had died to sin, we had perished in sin; perished here, and perished everlastingly. That His love to us could not endure, that we should so perish. Therefore, as in justice He justly might, He took upon Him our debt of sin, and said, as the Fathers [196/197] apply that speech of His, Sinite abire hos 'Let these go their ways.' And so that we might not die to sin He did.
Why but once? because once was enough, ad auferenda, saith St. John; ad abolenda, saith St. Peter; ad exhaurienda, saith St. Paul; 'to take away, to abolish, to draw dry;' and utterly to exhaust all the sins, of all the sinners, of all the world. The excellency of His person who performed it was such; the excellency of the obedience that He performed, such; the excellency both of His humility and charity wherewith He performed it, such; and of such value every one of them, and all of them much more; as made that His once dying was satis superque, 'enough, and enough again;' which made the Prophet call it, copiosam redemptionem, 'a plenteous redemption.' But the Apostle, he goeth beyond all in expressing this; in one place terming it Úperb£llwu, in another ÚpekrekperisseÚwu, in another, pleou£xwu, - mercy, rich, exceeding; grace over-abounding, nay, grace superfluous, for so is pleou£xwu,. and superfluous is enough and to spare; superfluous is clearly enough and more than enough. Once dying then being more than enough, no reason He should die more than once.
Now of His life: 'He liveth unto God.' The rigour of the law being fully satisfied by His death, then was He no longer justly, but wrongfully detained by death. As therefore by the power He had, He laid down His life, so He took it up again, and rose again from the dead. And not only rose Himself, but in one concurrent action, God, who had by His death received full satisfaction, reached Him as it were His hand, and raised Him to life. The Apostle's word egeréeij, in the native force doth more properly signify, 'raised by another,' than risen by himself, and is so used, to shew it was done, not only by the power of the Son, but by the will, consent, and co-operation of the Father; and He the cause of it, who for the over-abundant merit of His death, and His humbling Himself, and 'becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross,' not only raised Him, but propter hoc, 'even for that cause,' exalted Him also, to live with Him, in joy and glory for ever. For, as when He lived to man He lived to much misery, so now He liveth to God He liveth in all felicity.
[197/198]. This part being oppositely set down to the former; living, to exclude dying again; living to God, to exclude death's dominion, and all things pertaining to it. For, as with 'God is life and the fountain of life' against death, even the fountain of life never failing, but ever renewing to all eternity; so with Him also is torrens delicarum, 'a main river of pleasures,' even pleasures for evermore; never ebbing, but ever flowing to all contentment, against the miseries belonging to death's dominion. And there He liveth thus; not now, as the Son of God, as He lived before all worlds, but as the Son of man, in the right of our nature; to estate us in this life in the hope of a reversion, and in the life to come in perfect and full possession of His own and His Father's bliss and happiness; when we shall also live to God, and God be all in all, which is the highest pitch of all our hope. We see then His dying and rising, and the grounds of both, and thus have we the total of our scientes.
Now followeth our account. An acount is either of what is coming to us, and that we like well, or what is going from us, and that is not pleasing. Coming to us I call matter of benefit, going from us matter of duty; where I doubt many an expectation will be deceived, making account to hear from the Resurrection matter of benefit only to come in, where the Apostle calleth us to account for matter of duty which is to go from us.
An account there is growing to us by Christ's rising, of matter of benefit and comfort; such an one there is, and we have touched it before. The hope of gaining a better life, which groweth from Christ's rising, is our comfort against the fear of losing this. Thus we do comfort ourselves against our death: 'Now blessed be God who has regenerated us to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.' Thus we do comfort ourselves against our friend's death: 'Comfort yourselves one another,' saith the Apostle 'with these words.' What words be they? Even those of our Saviour in the Gospel, Resurget frater tuus, 'Thy brother' or your father or your friend 'will rise again.' And not only against death, but even against the miseries of this life. And not only against death, but even against all the miseries of this life. It was Job's comfort on the dunghill: well yet, videbo Deum in carne meæ; 'I shall see God in my flesh.' And not in our [198/199] miseries alone, but when we do well, and no man respecteth us for it. It is the Apostle's conclusion of the chapter of the Resurrection: Be of good cheer, 'your labour is not in vain in the Lord,' you will have your reward at the resurrection of the just. All these ways comfort comes unto us by it.
But this of ours is another manner of account, of duty to go from us, and to be answered by us. And such an one there is too, and we must reckon of it. I add that this here is our first account, you see it here called for in the Epistle to the Romans; the other cometh after, in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
In very deed, this of ours is the key to the other, and we shall never find sound comfort of that, unless we do first well pass this account here. It is I say, first, because it is present, and concerneth our souls, even here in this life. The other is future, and toucheth but our bodies, and that in the life to come. It is an error certainly, which runs in men's heads when they hear of the Resurrection, to conceive of it as of a matter merely future, and not to take place till the latter day. Not only 'Christ is risen,' but if all be as it should be, 'We are already risen with Him,' saith the Apostle in the Epistle this day, the very words of it; and even here now saith St. John, there is a 'first resurrection,' and happy is he who 'hath his part in it.' A like error it is to conceit the Resurrection as a thing merely corporal, and no ways to be incident into the spirit or soul at all. The Apostle hath already given us an item to the contrary, in the end of the fourth chapter before, where he saith; 'He rose again for our justification,' and justification is a matter spiritual; Justificatus est Spiritu, saith the Apostle, of Christ Himself. Verily, here must the spirit rise to grace, or else neither the body nor it shall there rise to glory. This then is our first account, that account of ours, which presently is to be passed, and out of hand; this is it which first we must take order for.
The sum or charge of which account is set down in these words, similiter et vos; that we be like Christ, carry His image Who is heavenly, as we have carried the image of the earthly, 'be conformed to His likeness;' that what Christ hath wrought for us, the like be wrought in us; what wrought for us by His flesh, the like wrought in us by pp.199/ 200. His flesh, the like wrought in us by His Spirit. It is a maxim or main ground in all the Fathers, that such an account must be: the former, what Christ has wrought for us, Deus reputat nobis, 'God accounts to us;' for the latter, what Christ has wrought in us, reputate vos, we must account to God. And that is, similiter et vos, that we fashion ourselves like Him.
Like Him in as many points as we may, but namely and expressly, in these two here set down: 1. 'In dying to sin,' 2. 'In living unto God.' In these two first; then secondly, in doing both these, eF£pax, but 'once for all.'
Like Him in these two: 1. in His dying, for He dieth not only to offer 'a sacrifice for us,' saith St. Paul, but also to leave 'an example' to us, saith St. Peter; That example we are to be like. 2. In His rising, for He arose not only that we might be 'regenerated to a lively hope,' saith St. Peter, but also that we might be 'grafted into the similitude of His resurrection,' saith St. Paul, s a little before, in the fifth verse of this very chapter. That similitude are we to resemble. So have we the exemplary part of both these, whereunto we are to frame our similiter et vos.
'He died unto sin:' - there is our pattern. Our first account must be 'count yourselves dead to sin.' And that we do when there is neither action, nor affection, nor any sign of life in us toward sin, no more than in a dead body; when, as men crucified, which is not only His death, but the kind of His death too, we neither move hand, nor stir foot toward it, both are nailed down fast. In a word, to 'die to sin' with St. Paul here, is to `cease from sin' with St. Peter.
To 'cease from sin' I say, understanding by sin, not from sin altogether - that is a higher perfection than this life will bear, but as the Apostle expoundeth, Ne regnet peccatum, that is from the 'dominion of sin' to cease. For till we be free from death itself, which in this life we are not, we shall not be free from sin altogether; only we may come thus far, ne regnet, that sin, 'reign not,' wear not a crown, sit not in a throne, hold no parliaments within us, give us no laws; in a word, as in the fourth verse before, that we serve it not. To die to the dominion of sin, that by the grace of God we may, and that we must account for.
[200/201] 'He liveth to God.' There is our similitude of His resurrection: our second account must be, count yourselves 'living unto God.' Now that is, he hath already told us in the fourth verse, even 'to walk in newness of life.' To walk is to move; moving is vital action, and argueth life. But it must not be any life, our old will not serve; it must be a new life, we must not return back to our former course, but pass over to another new conversation. And in a word as before, to live with God with St. Paul here, is to live secundum Deum, 'according to God in the Spirit' with St. Peter. And then live we according to Him when His will is our law, His word our rule, His son's life our example, His Spirit rather than our own soul the guide of our actions. Thus shall we be grafted into the similitude of His resurrection.
Now this similitude of the Resurrection calleth to my mind another similitude of the Resurrection in this life too, which I find in Scripture mentioned; it fitteth us well, it will not be amiss to remember you of it by the way, it will make us the better willing to enter into this account.
At the same time that Isaac should have been offered by his father, Isaac was not slain: very near it he was, there was fire, and there was a knife, and he was appointed ready to be a sacrifice. Of which case of his, the Apostle in the mention of his father Abraham's faith, - 'Abraham,' saith he, 'by faith,' logs£meuoj 'made full account,' if Isaac had been slain, 'God was able to raise him from the dead.' And even from the dead God raised him, and his father received him, eu paarabolÁ, 'in a certain similitude,' or after a sort. Mark that well: Raising Isaac from imminent danger of present death, is with the Apostle a kind of resurrection. And if it be so, and if the Holy Ghost warrant us to call that a kind of resurrection, how can we but on this day, the day of Resurrection, call to mind, and withal render unto our God our unfeigned thanks and praise, for our late resurrection eu parabolÁ, for our kind of resurrection, He was not long since vouchsafed us. Our case was Isaac's case without a doubt: there was fire, and instead of a knife, there was powder enough, and we were designed all of us, and even ready, to be sacrificed, even Abraham, Isaac, and all. Certainly if Isaac's were, ours was [201/202] a kind of resurrection, and we so to acknowledge it. We were as near as he; we were not only within the dominion, but within the verge, nay even within the very gates of death. From thence hath God raised us, and given us this year this similitude of the Resurrection, that we might this day of the resurrection of His Son, present Him with this, in the text, of 'rising to a new course of life.'
And now to return to our fashioning ourselves like to Him, in these: As there is a death natural and a death civil, so is there a death moral, both in philosophy and in divinity; and if a death, then consequently a resurrection too. Every great and notable change of our course of life, whereby we are not now any longer the same men that before we were, be it from worse to better, or from better to worse is a moral death; a moral death to that we change from, and a moral resurrection to that we change to. If we change to the better, that is sin's death; if we alter to the worse, that is sin's resurrection. When we commit sin, we die, we are dead in sin; when we repent, we revive again; when we repent ourselves of our repenting and relapse back, then sin rises again from the dead; and so toties quoties. And even upon these two, as two hinges, turns our whole life. All our life is spent in one of them.
Now then that we be not all our life long thus off and on, fast or loose, in dock out nettle, and in nettle out dock, it will behove us once more yet to look back upon our similiter et vos, even upon the word eF£pax ... semel, 'once.' That is, that we not only 'die to sin,' and 'live to God,' but die and live as He did, that is 'once for all;' which is an utter abandoning 'once' of sin's dominion, and a continual, constant, persisting in a good course 'once' begun. Sin's dominion it languisheth sometimes in us, and falleth happily into a swoon, but it dieth not quite 'once for all.' Grace lifteth up the eye, and looketh up a little, and giveth some sign of life, but never perfectly receiveth. O that once we might come to this! no more deaths, no more resurrections, but one! that we might once make an end of our daily continual recidivations to which we are so subject, and once get past these pangs and qualms of godliness, this righteousness like the morning cloud, which is all we perform; that we might [202/203] grow habituate in grace, radicati et fundati, 'rooted and founded in it;' e¸·ijwme/uoi, 'steady,' and e/daoi, 'never to be removed;' that so we might enter into, and pass a good account of this our similiter et vos!
And thus we are come to the foot of our account, which is our onus, or 'charge.' Now we must think of our discharge, to go about it; which maketh the last words no less necessary for us to consider, than all the rest. For what? is it in us, or can we, by our own proper and virtue, make up this account? We cannot, saith the Apostle; nay we cannot, saith he, logisassqai , 'make account of any thing,' no not so much as of good thought towards it, as of ourselves. If any think otherwise, let him but prove his own strength a little, what he can do, he will be confounded in it, as he will change his mind, saith St. Augustine, and see plainly, the Apostle had reason to shut up all within Christo Jesu Domino nostro; otherwise our account will stick in our hands. Verily, to raise a soul from the death of sin, is harder, far harder, than to raise a dead body out of the dust of death. St. Augustine hath long since defined it, that Mary Magdalene's resurrection in soul, from her lying dead in sin, was a greater miracle than her brother's Lazarus' resurrection, who had lain four days in his grave. If Lazarus lay dead before us, we would never asay to raise him ourselves; we know we cannot do it. If we cannot raise Lazarus that is the easier of the twain, we shall never Mary Magdalene which is the harder by far, out of Him, or without Him, That raised them both.
But as out of Christ, or without Christ, we can do nothing towards this account; not accomplish or bring to perfection, but not do - not any great or notable sum of it, but nothing at all; as saith St. Augustine, upon sine Me nihil potestis facere. So, in Him and with Him enabling us to it, we can think good thoughts, speak good words, and do good works, and die to sin, and live to God and all. Omnia possum, saith the Apostle. And enable us He will, and can, as not only having passed the resurrection, but being the Resurrection itself; not only had the effect of it in Himself, but being the cause of it to us. So He saith Himself, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life;' the Resurrection to them that are dead [203/204] in sin to raise them from it; and the Life to them that live unto God, to preserve them in it.
Where, besides the two former, 1. the article of the Resurrection, which we are to know; 2. and the example of the Resurrection, which we are to be like; we come to the notice of a third thing, even a virtue or power flowing from Christ's resurrection, whereby we are made able to express our similiter et vos, and to pass this account of 'dying to sin,' and 'living to God.' It is in plain words called by the Apostle himself, virtus resurrectionis, 'the virtue of Christ's resurrection,' issuing from it to us; and he prayeth that as he had a faith of the former, so he may have a feeling of this; and as of them he had a contemplative, so he may of this have an experimental knowledge. This enabling virtue proceedeth from Christ's resurrection. For never let us think, if in the days of His flesh there 'went virtue out' from even the very edge of His garment to do great cures, as in the case of the woman with the bloody issue we read, but that from His Ownself, and from those two most principal and powerful actions of His Ownself, His 1. death and 2. resurrection, there issueth a divine power; from His death a power working on the old man or flesh to mortify it; from His resurrection a power working on the new man, the spirit, to quicken it. A power able to roll back any stone of an evil custom, lie it never so heavy on us; a power able to dry up any issue, though it have run upon us twelve years long.
And this power is nothing else but that divine quality of grace, which we receive from Him. Receive it from Him we do certainly; only let us pray, and endeavour ourselves, that we 'receive it not in vain,' the Holy Spirit by ways to flesh and blood unknown inspiring it as a breath, distilling it as a dew, deriving it as a secret influence into the soul. For if philosophy grant an invisible operation in us to the celestial bodies, much better may we yield it to His eternal Spirit, whereby such a virtue or breath may proceed from it, and be received of us.
Which breath, or spirit, is drawn in by prayer, and such other exercises of devotion on our parts; and, on God's part, breathed in, by, and with, the word, well therefore termed by the Apostle, 'the word of grace.' And I may safely say it with [204/205] good warrant, from those words especially and chiefly; which, as He Himself saith of them, are 'spirit and life,' even those words, which joined to the element make the blessed Sacrament.
There was good proof made of this day. All the way did He preach to them, even till they came to Emmaus, and their hearts were hot within them, which was a good sign; but their eyes were not opened but 'at the breaking of bread,' and then they were. That is the best and surest sense we know, and therefore most to be accounted of. There we taste, and there we see; 'taste and see how gracious the Lord is.' There we are made 'to drink of the Spirit,' there our 'hearts are strengthened and established with grace.' There is the Blood which will 'purge our consciences from dead works,' whereby we may 'die to sin.' There the Bread of God, which will endure our souls with much strength; yea, multiply strength in them, to live unto God; yes, to live to Him continually; for he who 'eateth His flesh and drinketh His blood, dwells in Christ and Christ in Him;' not inneth or sojourneth for a time, but dwelleth continually. And never can we more truly, or properly say, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro, as when we come new from that holy action, for then He is in us, and we in Him, indeed. And so we to make full account of this service, as a special means to further us to make up our Easter-day's account, and to set off a good part of our charge. In Christ, dropping upon us the anointing of His grace. In Jesus, who will be ready as our Saviour to succour and support us with auxilium speciale, 'His special help.' Without which assisting us, even grace itself is many times faint and feeble in us; and both these, because He is our Lord who, having come to save that which was lost, will not suffer that to be lost which He hath saved. Thus using His ordinance of Prayer, of the Word, and the Sacrament, for our better enabling to discharge this day's duty, we shall I trust yield up a good account, and celebrate a good feast of His resurrection. Which Almighty God grant.