But He answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there will no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonah:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Qui respondens ait illis, generatio mala, et adultera signum quaerit; et signum non dabitur ei, nisi signum Jonae prophetae.
Sicut enim fuit Jonas in ventre ceti tribus diebus et tribus noctibus, sic erit Filius hominis in corde terrae tribus diebus et tribus noctibus.
'The sign of the prophet Jonas' is the sign of the Resurrection, and this is the feast of the Resurrection. Being then the sign of the feast, at this feast to be set up; signum temporis in tempore signi, the sign of the time at the time of the sign, most properly ever.
[383/384] The words are an answer of Christ's in this verse, to a motion of the Pharisees in the last. They 'would see a sign.' The answer is negative, but qualified. There is in it a non, and a nisi; non dabitur, 'none shall be given them.' Indeed none should, they were worthy of none. Yet saith He not non simply, His non is with a nisi - non dabitur nisi; it is with a limitation, with a but, 'none but' that. So that, so one shall be. In the non is their desert, in the nisi His goodness that, though they were worthy none, yet gives them one though.
Gives them one, and one that is worth the giving. Put non and nisi together, it is a non-nisi. If you speak of a sign, none to it; a sign, instar omnium.
This sign is 'the sign of the prophet Jonas.' Of him divers other ways, and namely this; that as he 'was in the whale's belly,' so was Christ 'in the heart of the earth.' there they were either.
And that which makes up the sign, 'three days' apiece; three days, and no longer.'
And then, as Jonas cast up by the whale, so Christ rose again from the dead, and both the third day. So that upon the matter, the substance of this sign is Christ's resurrection, and the circumstance of it is this very day.
We will divide it no otherwise than already we have; 1. into the non, non dabitur; 2. the nisi, non dabitur nisi; 3. and the non-nisi, non nisi signum Jonæ.
I. The non, the denial first; dabitur eis. And the reason is in eis, in the parties. For they 1. an 'evil, and 2. adulterous,' and a 3. 'generation' of such -three brands set upon them; eis 'to them,' to such as them, 'no sign' to be 'given;' none at all.
II. Then the nisi; non dabitur nisi. For though they were such as little deserved any, yet Christ of His goodness will not cast them quite off. 'None' He will give 'bit.' So one He will give, a sign they shall have.
III. And that no trivial or petty sign, to give it His due, but in very deed a signum non nisi; non nisi signum Jonæ, tha tis, insigne signum, 'a sign signal:'- mark them all, none like it.
And that is 'the sign of the Prophet Jonas,' coming forth [384/385] of the whale's jaws, half out and half in. In which sign there are upon the point three sicuts.
1. The parties first; as Jonas, so 'the Son of Man,' that is, Himself.
2. Wherein, the place. That as the one was 'in the bowels of the earth.'
3. Last, in time. Either, 'three days and three nights' just, and but three days, and then forth again. There they were, and there both the same time; the place diverse, the time the same.
So Jonas, the sign of Christ; and the whales' belly, the sign of Christ's grave. Jonas' three days, the sign of Christ's three days, 1.Good Friday, 2. Yesterday, 3. and to-day.
Which three days, when we shall come to calculate them, they will give us three stands, and make as it were three signs in one, each day his several sign.
The letter of the text saith, there they were; 1. we are carried then to ask, How came they thither? The text saith, there they were but 'three days;' 2. we are carried then to ask, How came they thence?
1. Jonas' state before he came into the whale; 2. his state while there; 3. his state getting thence.
Conform in Christ. 1. Good Friday, when as Jonas went down the whale's throat, so Christ laid in His grave. 2. Easter-eve, while there He lay. 3. And this which is now the third day, when as Jonas cast up on dry land, so Christ risen from death to the life immortal.
So have you, as in a sign, set forth: 1. Christ's death by Jonas' drowning; 2. Christ's burial, by Jonas' abode there; 3. Christ's resurrection by Jonas' emersion again.
As Christus sepultus by Jonas absorptus, so Christus resurgens by Jonas emergens. 1. Jonas' going down the whale's throat, of Christ put into His sepulchre; 2. Jonas' appearing again out of the whale's mouth, of Christ's arising out of His sepulchre. All in Jonas shadowed, and in Christ fulfilled.
In these three days these three signs, and in them three keys of our faith, three articles of our creed: 1. mortuus, 2. sepultus, 3. and resurrexit. 1. Christ's death, 2. burial, and 3. rising again.
[385/386] And last what this sign portends or signifies. That whatsoever it was to them, to us it is signum in bonum, 'a sign boding good to us-ward,' a sign of favour and good hope which we have by the resurrection of our Saviour. Specially, if we have the true signature of it, which is true repentance.
'To ask a sign,' is of itself not evil; good men, holy saints have done it. Gideon asked one of God and had it; he is painted with the fleece, that is, the sign given him, in his hand. Ezekias asked one and had it too: 'in the sundial of Ahaz, the shadow went ten degrees back.' Yet this suit here is denied by Christ, and Christ denieth nothing that is good; specially, not with hard terms as here we see He doth.
Somewhat is amiss sure, and it is not in the sign or in the suit, but in eis, the men; the suit was not evil; the suitors were. In three words, three brands set upon them: 1. 'evil,' 2. 'adulterous,' 3. 'a generation of evil and adulterous.'
1. 'Evil.' There be marks of evil-minded men even in this very suit. They 'would see a sign.' If they had never seen any before, it had not been evil, but they came now from a sign; they had scarce wiped their eyes since they saw one, the sign of 'the blind and dumb' man, made to see and speak immediately before, it was spirans adhuc, 'yet warm,' as they say. That they saw, and saw they not a sign? A little before even in this very chapter, a withered hand was restored to another. What, could they not see a sign in that neither? Go back to the chapters before, ye shall have no less than a dozen signs, one after another; and come they now with a volumus videre? They would have that shewed them that, when it is shewed, they will not see; a bad mind this, certainly.
2. No worse yet; for you will note malice in them, which is the worse kind of evil. For if you mark, the volumus of theirs is with a kind of spite, with a kind of disgrace, to those he had showed before. They would see one, as who should say, those were none they had seen, that was none they saw, even now. Maliciously, if he shewed none, then He was no body, could not indeed shew any, and so vilify Him with the people. If He showed one, then carp and cavil at it, as they did at that even now; say, it was done by 386/387] the black art. So cavil out one, and call for another, to deprave that too.
3. Nay, which is worst of all, 'evil and absurd' men, saith the Apostle. When is that? Vidi iniquitatem et contradictionem, saith the Psalmist; ye shall see how absurdly they contradict themselves. But even now they charged Him to work by the devil; and here now they come, and would have Him show a miracle. The devil cannot show a miracle; a trick of sorcery he can - such may be done by the claw of the devil; miracles not, but by 'the finger of God,' by power divine. Him then, Him Whom they even now had pronounced to deal with the devil, Him come they to now for a miracle. So absurdly malicious, as they cared not in their malice to contradict themselves. To men so 'evil,' so maliciously evil, so absurdly, signum non dabitur eis.
Well, howsoever they might err that way, the men otherwise to be respected; they were so virtuous men, so straight livers. See you not their phylacteries, how broad they wear them? Nor that neither, saith Christ, but 'evil and adulterous' too. As of evil minds, so of evil lives too. Ye shall come now to the uncasing of a Pharisee; for Christ lifts up their phylacteries, and shews what lurks under them.
For by 'adulterous,' I understand not as if He charged them they were born of adultery, came into the world the wrong way, the seed of Canaan and not of Judah; as having nothing in them of the Patriarchs, so nothing less than their children of whom they bear themselves so much. This is adulterina rather than adultera; 'children of the adulterers, rather than adulterous themselves.' And that was no fault of theirs, and Christ upbraideth no man but with his own faults.
Nor I understand it not of spiritual adultery, though that way they might be charged, as leaving Him the true Spouse, the true Messiah; taking no notice of Him, passing by Him, went after such as had adulterate the truth of God by devices of their own taking up; not with idolatry perhaps, but which is an evil, and differs but a letter, with idolatry; for to worship images, and to worship men's own imagination, comes all to one. That they were faulty of, and I pray God we be free. But this is mystical adultery, and I would [387/388] make, as no more miracles, so no more mysteries than needs I must.
For my part I see no harm to take the word in the native sense without figure, for men given to commit that sin, the sin of adultery. For, for all their deep fringes, all was not well that way, as is plain by John the eighth; where, not one of them durst take up a stone, to cast the woman taken in adultery, but slunk away one after another, till there was no one left. Christ toucheth upon that string, to show what heavenly men these were, who would have a sign from Heaven, and none else serve them. Were not these men to sue for a sign? Were not a sign even cast away upon them?
But this is not all. For this they were, saith our Saviour, not here and there a man of them, but the whole bunch was no better; not the persons only, but the generation so, not a good of them all. And such you shall observe there be; not only such men, but such generations of men and faults - suppose of lying, swearing and such like, rooted in a stock; kept even in traduce, as it were, and derived ab avis atavisque, 'from the father to the son,' by many descents, in a kind of hereditary propagation.
Solomon in his time noted four of them: 1. One, a 'generation' unkind to their 'parents,' and their children so to them for it: 2. Another, 'pure in their own eyes:' 3. A third of 'high eyebrows:' 4. A fourth, cruel-hearted, whose 'teeth were as knives' to shred the poor of the earth, shred them small.
Such were these, and adultery made way for such. For ubi corrupta sunt semina, 'where a general corruption that way,' no good to be hoped for, the country will not last long. By this Christ had said enough, and shewed that non dabitur eis, is a fit answer for these.
Now, this ye shall mark; the worse the men, the more importune ever, and the harder to satisfy. They must have have signs, and signs upon signs, and nothing will serve them; as no less than four several times were they at Christ. 1. Here; 2. in the sixteenth chapter; 3. Mark the eighth; 4. Luke the eleventh. And still to see a sign. As oft as they came, this had been their right answer; to dispatch them with a non dubitur, [388/389] and no more ado. Other answer let them have none, even absolutely none at all, for none they should have had.
Yet saith He not, none they will have. He will be better to them than they deserve; Christ will be Christ, redit ad ingenium; forgets now all He said erewhile. And 'an evil and adulterous generation' though they be, yet a 'sign' they will have for all that. Not simply 'none' then, but non nisi, 'none save;' the negative is qualified, so qualified as upon the matter it proves an affirmative. The nisi destroys the non; non dabitur nisi, that is dabitur. So one they will have, though not now presently at their volumus, at their whistling as it were, but after when He saw the time. And though perhaps not such a one as they would have fancied, yet such a one as they rather need, and would do them more good; that is, one for their want, not for their wanton desires.
And that is the reason why none but it, for no sign needed but it. For without others, well they might be; without this, they or we could not well be. For opportuit Christum, pati, 'It behoved Christ, Christ ought to die,' and rise again.
None but that? Why afterward, between this and His Passion, he shewed divers others; and how then saith He, none but it? Signs indeed He shewed, yet not any of them so pregnant for the purpose they sought, as was this. They sought a sign of the season, as by the sixteenth chapter is plain, that this was time the Messias was to come. To put them out of doubt of that; to that point none so forcible as His death and rising again, figured in that of Jonas. That, and none but that. All He did else, the prophets had done the like; given signs from Heaven, which they here sought, yes even raised the dead. But raise Himself being dead, get forth of the heart of the earth when once He was in, that passed their skill, never a patriarch or prophet of them all could do that; non nisi; none but He. So as therein He shewed Himself indeed to be the true and undoubted Messias, and never so else in any sign of them all.
For signs being compounded of power and goodness, not power alone but power and goodness, that is, the benefit or good of them they be done for; never so general, so universal, so great a good, as by Christ's death, as it might be Jonas' [389/390] casting in; nor ever so great, so incomparably great a power, as by raising Himself from death to life, set forth in Jonah's casting up again; those twain, by these twain, more manifest than by any other. The sign of the greatest love and power - love to die, power to rise, that ever was wrought.
This nisi then is a non nisi in a new sense, an none-such, a sign paramount. All else nothing in comparison of it. I keep you too long from it.
The sign is laid in the Prophet Jonas, sicut Jonas, and we are much bound to God for laying it in him; they, and we both. And Jonas is non nisi; such a sign for is, and besides so many peculiars of Christ in him, as in effect no sign but he.
First for them, for 'an evil and adulterous generation,' no sign so meet to be given as he. For Jonas, and non nisi Jonah was Propheta peccator, 'the trespasser or sinning Prophet,' among them all. Sinners I know they were all, they confess as much themselves; but for transgressing the express commandment of God, in not obeying God's immediate call, therein none of the rest to be tainted, he only was Propheta fugitivus, fled touch, was in the transgression; sent to Nineveh and went to Joppa; sent East, and went flat West; and was even taken with the manner as we say, and arrested in the very flight. For an evil and 'an adulterous generation' this was a good sign say I; and so might they, if they knew their own good. For them and for us, and in a word for all sinners; for he is Propheta peccator, and so Propheta peccatorum. And Christ is pleased to pick out His fugitive Prophet, His runaway, and make him, a sinner and such a sinner, His sign. As to come Himself in 'the similitude of sinful flesh,' so to make sinful flesh His similitude, to come into a sicut with. All, that sinful flesh might have hope in the signatum, in Him of Whom this was the sign. This, theirs, and ours.
The next is ours, and we highly bless God for it; that being to set His sign in a Prophet, He would do it in him, choose him out to make him His pattern, who was Propheta gentium, 'he Prophet of the Gentiles,' sent to prophesy to Nineveh who were heathen, as we and our fathers were. And in that a non nisi too, for none but he was so, never a Prophet of them all sent to the heathen; the rest to the [390/391] Jews, all. This sending of his to the Gentiles, was to us of the Gentiles, 'a gate of hope,' that in former ages, and long before Christ came into the flesh, we Gentiles were not forgotten. Even then, sent God a Prophet to Nineveh. And what was Nineveh? the head city of the Assyrians, the greatest monarchy then in being, and so the principal place of all paganism. That thus in signo, we were not forgotten, a sign it was, no more should we be in signato, but Christ be to us, as Jonas to them, 'a light to lighten the Gentiles,' and 'His salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.'
Let me add this yet more, to our comfort. This Jonas whom He thus sent on this errand to the Gentiles, what was he? Of all the Prophets, all whose prophecies we have remaining on record in the Bible, the four great, the twelve less, of them all, all the sixteen, he was the first in time, senior to them all. Plain by 2Kings 14, that he prophesied long before any of them. For it there said, that his prophecy came to pass in the days of Jeroboam the Second, who lived the same time with Uzziah in Judah. And in Uzziah's time, the eldest of all the rest did but begin to prophecy. So his was done before theirs began. Him that was thus first in the rank of them all, did God send to us Gentiles; to us first, before any to the Jews. A sign we were no last - nay first in his care, in that visited by Him first, as to whom He sent the first of all the sixteen. And I may say to you, this was to them an item, as if God were now to turn Gentile, as looking that way, having a mind to them then even in Jonas' time; they to come in shortly, and the Jews to be shut out; and that, as they had then priority in signo, so should they no less, insignato, and 'the fulness of the Gentiles come in' before the conversion of the Jews. This to us sinners, to us Gentiles, to us 'sinners of the Gentiles,' was salutare signum, 'a healthful sign,' every way.
These three are put, on the by. In the main point of the text and of the time, two more.
He, and non nisi, none but he, had the honour to be a piacularis hostia, as it were, for the casting Him into the sea served in a sort as a kind of 'expiatory sacrifice,' as far as to the temporal saving of the ship he sailed in. And therein as a meet sign he expressed Him Whose death was [391/392] after the full and perfect 'expiation of the sins of the whole world.'
Then again Jonas, and non nisi, only he, was propheta redivivus; that is peculiar, above them all. He the only Prophet who went down into the deep into the whale's belly, and came forth alive. Dead he was not, but lege viventium, 'after the law of the living,' one thrown overboard into the sea in a tempest to all intents may be given for dead, and so I dare say all the mariners in the ship gave Jonas. That he came out again alive, it was by special grace, not by course of nature. For from the whale's belly, he came for all the world as if one should have come out of his grave, risen again.
Among the Jews it goes for current - the Rabbins take it up one after another, that this Jonas was the widow of Sarepta's son, the child whom Elias raised from death to life. If so, then well might he be a sign; a sign - dead in his cradle once, as good as dead in the whale's belly, now again. In both resembling Him Whose sign he was, if both be true; but one is most certain, and to that we hold us. And this is indeed the main sicut, the sicut of the text and of the day.
One more, and I have done, and that is of the time - precise 'three days and three nights;' for in this a non nisi. For none but he so; just three, neither more or less. For I ask, why not the sign of Joseph or of Daniel? Joseph was in the dungeon, among condemned persons to die; Daniel in the lion's den, as deadly place as the whale's belly; yet neither of them made the sign of Christ. Why, Joseph was in the dungeon too long; Daniel, too short - but a night; not long enough to represent Christ being in the grave. Only Jonas' time, just. And the time is it here. Else might the others have been his sign well enough, for the matter, if that had been all.
But the time is still stood on, and the days numbered, that His disciples, that all might know how long He would be from them, and not a day longer. And this, not without good cause. This day was but the third day, and this day they were at sperabamus, did hope; did, but now do not, their hope was fallen into a tertian, that it was time He were up again. This sign set that they might know for a surety, by this day at the farthest they should hear of Him again.
[392/393] Of which three. To verify His being three days, it is enough if He were there but a part of every one of them, for it is not three whole days. As in common phrase of speech, we say the sun shone or it rained these three days past, though it did not so all day long but some part only of each. And if it rained at all in every of them, we say true, it is enough. And so here, the first day of the three, Jonas was in the ship, and Christ on the cross till Friday, somewhat before sunset. All the second day Jonas was in the whale, Christ in His sepulchre. The third day Jonas came out of the whale, and Christ out of His grave, as it might be about the sun-rising, for this day both suns rose together.
To verify the three nights. that do we reckoning, as did the Jews, and that by warrant out of Genesis the first, the evening and the morning but for one; so drawing still the precedent night, and counting it with the succeeding day. So do they still the night past with the day following, as in Genesis they are taught; and we doing so, it will fall our right.
To the sivut then of these three days. There is in each of them set down a several state of Jonas, and so of Christ. 1. Their going thither; 2. their being there; 3. and their coming thence.
Thus fell it the first day. Jonas was at sea in a ship: 'a great tempest came,' so great as the ship was upon casting away.
Of tempests, some are of course, have their causes in nature; and in them art and strength will do good. With Jonas here it did but did not prevail a whit, thereby they knew it to be one out of course, of God's immediate sending.
God sends not such tempests but He is angry; He is not angry but with sin. Some great sinner then there is in the ship, and if the ship were well rid of him, all would be calm again.
To lots they went; Jonas was found to be the party.
Being found, rather than all should be cast away, he bid frankly, tollite me et projicite, 'take me, cast me into the sea.'
Cast in he was, and the storm ceased straight, the ship came safe home. 'And the evening and the morning were the first day.'
[393/394] Will ye see now what was acted in Jonas, actually fulfilled in Christ? But first will ye note that what is in the Old Testament written of Jonas, is not only historia vera, but sacramentum magnum, not a bare story only, but beside the story, pregnant also with 'a great mystery.' Not only a deed done, but further a sign of a deed to be done, of a far higher nature; dico autem in Christo, 'I speak it as of Christ,' and His resurrection. Of that history this the mystery, this the sacramentum magnum.
Will ye note again? it is on Christ's side with advantage. Sicut Jonas, saith this verse. But ecce plus quam Jonas, saith the next, and both may stand; there may be a sicut where yet there may be a plus quam, a likeness in quality where an exceeding in degree though. Indeed, sicut makes not a non nisi, plus quam doth; and we then so to remember the sicut in this, as we forget not the plus quem in that. No more will we.
And now weigh them over well, and whithersoever ye look, ye shall find a plus quam. Plus in the ship, in the tempest, in the cause, in the danger, in the casting in, in the coming out again; in every one, a plus quam. All that was in Jonas, in Christ more conspicuous, and after a more excellent manner; in signato, than in signo. That so in this, as in all else, 'Christ may have the pre-eminence.'
To begin then. It is no new thing to resemble the Church, the commonwealth, yea, the world to a ship. A ship there was, not a small bark of Joppa, but plus quam, a great ark or argosy, wherein were embarked all mankind, having their course through the main ocean of the world, bound for the port of eternal bliss. And in this great carrick, among the sons of men, the Son of Man, as He terms Himself, becomes also a passenger, even as did Jonas in his small bottom of Joppa.
Then rose there a tempest. A tempest itself, and the cause of all tempests, the heavy wrath of God, ready to seize upon sinners, who made such a foul sea as this great ship and all in it were upon the point of being cast away. The plus here is plain, take it but as it was indeed literally. For what a tempest was there at Christ's death! It shook the Temple, rent the veil, cleft the stones, opened the graves, put out the [394/395] sun's light, was seen and felt all the world over, as if heaven and earth would have gone together. But the miserable storm, then, who will declare?
And no marvel; there was a great plus in the cause. For if the sin of one poor passenger, of Jonas, made such a foul sea, the sins of the great hulk that bore in it all mankind together in one bottom, what manner tempest think you they like to raise? In what hazard the vessel that laden with them all! But one fugitive there; here all runaways from God - masters, mariners, passengers and all.
Now the greater vessel, the more ever the danger. With Jonas, but a handful like to miscarry; in this, the whole mass of mankind like to perish. So in the peril plus too.
The storm will not be stayed neither, till some be cast into the sea; and some great sinner it would be. And here the sicut seems as if it would not hold; here the only non sicut Jonas. For Jonas there was the only sinner, all besides in the ship innocent poor men. Here Christ only in the ship, innocent, no sinner, all the ship besides full fraught with sinners; mariners and passengers, grievous sinners all. Here it seemed to halt.
And yet I cannot tell you neither, for all that. For in some sense Christ was not unlike Jonas; no, not in this point, but like Jonas, as in all other respects, so in this too. Not as considered in Himself, for so He knew no sin; 'but Him Who knew no sin, for us made He sin.' How? by laying 'on Him the iniquities of us all,' even of all the sons of men upon this Son of Man. And so considered, He is not only sicut, but plus quam Jonas. More sin of Him than on Jonas; for on Him the sins of the whole ship, yes Jonas' sins and all.
For all that here is another plus, though. For what Jonas suffered, it was for His own sin, and merito haec patimur might he say, and we both with the thief on the cross. But Christ, what had He done? It was not for His own, it was for other men's sins He suffered, 'He paid the things He never took.' So much the more likely was He to satisfy, 'the just for the unjust,' the Lord for the servant; much more than if one sinner or servant should do it for another.
Yet was Christ, as was Jonas, content to be thrown in. [395/396] Tollite me, said Jonas; suite hos abire, said Christ, Let these go. Take me, my life shall answer for theirs, as it did. As content, said I? No, more. For with Jonah there was no other way to stay the storm, but overboard with him. But Christ had other ways, could have stayed it with His word, with His obmutesce, as He did the eighth chapter before, needed not to have been cast in, yet 'to fulfill all righteousness.' condescended to it though, and in He was thrown, not of necessity as Jonah, but quia voluit; and voluit, quia nos salvos voluit, 'would have us safe,' and His Father's justice safe, both.
Now to the effect. Therewith the storm stayed, God's wrath was appeased, mankind saved: there the plus is evident. That of Jonas was but salus phaseli - no more; this was salus mundi - no less. A poor boat with the whole world, what comparison? And the evening and the morning were Good Friday, Christ's first day.
To Jonas now secundo; he was drowned by the means. No, not so. God before angry, was then pacified; pacified, not only with the ship, but pacified with Jonas too; provided a whale in show to devour him; indeed not to devour, but to preserve him; down he went into her belly.
There he was, but took no hurt there. 1. As safe, nay more safe there than in the best ship of Tarshish; no flaw of weather, no foul sea could trouble him there. 2. As safe, and as safely carried to land; the ship could have done no more. So that upon the matter he did but change his vehiculum, shifted but from one vessel to another, went on his way still. 3. On he went as well, nay better than the ship would have carried him. Went into the ship - the ship carried him wrong, out of his way clean, to Tarshish-ward. Went into the whale, and the whale carried him right, landed him on the next shore to Nineveh, whither in truth he was bound, and where his errand lay. 4. And all the while at good ease as in a cell or study, for there he indited a Psalm, expressing in it his certain hope of getting forth again. So as in effect, where he seemed to be in most danger, he was in greatest safety. Thus can God work. And the evening and the morning were Jonas' second day.
The like now in Christ, but still with a plus quam. Do but compare the whale's belly with 'the heart of the earth,' [396/397] and you will find, the whale that swallowed Christ, that is, the grave, was another manner whale, far wider-throated than that of Jonas. That whale caught but one Prophet, but Jonas; this has swooped up Patriarchs and Prophets and all, yes, and Jonas himself too. None had escaped the jaws of it.
And more hard getting out, I am sure - witness Jonas. Into the whale's belly he went, and thence he gat out again. After he gat thence, into 'the heart of the earth' he went, and thence he gat not; there he is still.
The sign lies in this, by the letter of the text. And in Christ the sign greater. For though to see a whale tumble with a Prophet in the belly was a strange sight, yet more strange to see the son of God lie dead in the earth; and as strange again, to see the Son of man to rise from the grave again alone. A double sign in it.
'The heart of the earth,' with Justin Martyr, Chrysostom, Augustine, I take for the grave; though I know Origen, Nyssen, Theodoret take it for hell, for the place where the spirits are, as in the body that is the place of them. And thither He went in Spirit, and 'triumphed over the powers and principalities' there, in His own person. But for His body it was the day of rest, the last Sabbath that ever was; and then His body did rest, rest in hope - hope of what? that neither His soul should be left in hell, nor His flesh suffered to see corruption. For Christ had His Psalm too, as well as Jonas. David composed it for Him long before, the sixteenth Psalm, the Psalm of the Resurrection. And so the evening and the morning were Christ's second day, Easter-eve.
Now to Jonas's ultimo. Jonas' hope failed him not; the whale's belly that seemed his tomb, proved his womb or second birth-place. There he was, not as meat in the stomach, but as an embryo in the matrix of his mother. Strange! the whale to be as his mother, to be delivered of him, and bring him forth into the world again. So forth he came, and to Nineveh about His business. Thither he went, to bring them out of the whale's belly too. And the evening and the morning were Jonas' third day.
Now the whale could not hold Jonas, nor more could the grave Christ longer than this morning, after break of day, but forth came He too. And with a plus quam, in respect of [397/398] Jonas. It was in strict speech with Jonas no resurrection, for the truth is, he was never dead; never he, but putative. But Christ was dead, stark dead indeed, slain our right upon the cross, His heart pierced, His heart blood ran out. And for dead taken down, laid in, sealed up in His grave, a stone rolled on Him, a watch set over Him. Made sure, I trow, and yet rose for all that.
Another, Jonas rising, the whale gaped wide, and strained hard, and up came Jonas. It was long of the whale, not of him or any power of his. But Christ, by His own power, broke the bars of death, and 'loosed the sorrows of hell, of which it is impossible He should be holden.'
A third, Jonas rose but to the same state he was in before, but mortal Jonas still. When he escaped, he drew his chain after him, and by the end of it was plucked back again afterward. But Christ left them, and linen clothes and all, in the grave behind Him; rose to a better, to ultra non morietur, never to die more, He.
And in a word, the great plus quam. Jonas was but ejectus in aridam, but Christ was receptus in gloriam. And in sign of it, the place whereon Jonas was cast, was dry land or cliffs, where nothing grows. The place wherein Christ rose, was a well-watered garden, wherein the ground was in all her glory, fresh and green and full of flowers at the instant of His rising, this time of the year. So, as He went lower, so He rose higher than ever did Jonas, with a great ecce plus quam.
And yet behold, a greater than all these. For Jonas, when he came forth, came forth and there was all; left the whale as he found it. But ecce plus quam Jonah hic, plus quam indeed. Christ slew the whale that devoured Him, in the coming forth, was mors mortis; He left not the grave as He found it, but altered the property, no changed the very nature of it by His rising.
Three changes He made in it very plainly: 1. Of a pit of perdition which it was before, He has made it now a harbour of rest, rest in hope. Hope of a new, not the same it was before, but a better far, with a great plus quam.
2. Made it again, as the whale to Jonas was, a convoy or passing boat to a better port than any is in our Tarshish here; [398/399] even to the haven of happiness, and Heaven's bliss without end. This for the soul.
3. And for the body, made the grave as a womb for a second birth, to travail with us anew, and bring us forth to life everlasting; made cor terrae ventrem ceti, 'the heart of the earth to us, as the belly of the whale was' to Jonas, which did not still retain him. That did not him, or this will not us; will not hold us still, no more than the whale did him, or the grave Christ. There shall be a coming forth out of both. And when God will speak to the earth, as to the whale He did, the sea and grave both will yield up their dead, and deliver them up alive again.
The very term of the 'heart of the earth' was well chosen. There is heart in it. For if the earth have a heart, there is life in it, for the heart is the fountain of life, and the seat of the vital spirits that hold us in it. So there is, we see; for the earth dead for a time, all the winter - now when the waters of heaven fall on it, shows it has life, bringing forth herbs and flowers again. And even so, when the waters above the heavens, and namely the dew of this day distilling from Christ's rising, will in like sort drop upon it, it will be, says Isaiah in the twenty-sixth chapter, 'as the dew of the herbs,' 'and the earth will give forth her dead.' 'Dead' men, as it does dead plants, now fresh and green again in the spring of the year. And so the evening and the morning were Christ's third day, this day Easter-day morning.
Thus many ways doth this sicut hold, and hold with a plus quam. Were it not great pity now that Christ Who is so many ways plus quam Jonas, for all this should come to be Jonas, after he came out of the whale, brought to pass that famous repentance, the repentance of Nineveh. At Jonas' preaching they repented at Nineveh, at Christ's they did not in Jerusalem.
We shall mend this, if we be as the Ninevites, repent as they. As they? God forbid we should be but as they; as Christ was more than Jonas, so Christians should be more than Ninevites. Well, in the meantime, I would we were but as they; but so far onward, never plead [399/400] for a plus, but be content with sicut, and never seek more; but that we must, for less sure we cannot be. Christ to be plus quam Jonas, we to be minus quam Nivivitæ - it will not fit, it holds no proportion.
The sicut ye see, and the plus quam, both. Now what is the profit of this sign of the Prophet? This sign being of Christ's giving, Christ gives no sign, but it is signum in bonum, 'a sign for good,' a good sign; and a good sign is a sign of some good. Of what good is this a sign? Of hope of coming forth sure. Coming forth whence? From a whale. What is meant by the whale? the deliverance most what is as the whale is. And three whales we find here: 1. Jonah's whale; 2. Christ's whale; 3 and a third; and hope we have, to come forth of all three.
First Jonah's whale. Death it was not, it was but danger, but danger as near death as could be, never man in more danger to escape it than he; if not in death, in Zalmaveth, 'in the vale of the shadow of death' it was.
Of any that hath been in extreme peril we use to say, He hath been where Jonas was. By Jonas' going down the whale's throat, by him again coming forth of the whale's mouth, we express, we even point out the greatest extremity, and the greatest deliverance that can be. From any such danger, a deliverance is a kind of resurrection, as the Apostle plainly speaks of Isaac; when the knife was at his throat, he was 'received from the dead,' èse en parabolÁ, though yet he died not. This for the feast of the Resurrection.
And thus was Jonas a sign to them of Nineveh. As he escaped, so they - he his whale, they theirs, destruction, which even gaped for them as wide as Jonas' whale. And as to them a sign this, so to us. And this use we have of it; when at any time we are 'hard bestead,' this sign then to be set up for a token. And there is no danger so deadly, but we may hold fast our hope, if we set this sign before us, and say - What? we are not yet in the whale's belly; why, if we were there, from thence can God bring us though, as Jonas He did.
Jonas' whale was but the shadow of death; Christ's was death. And even there in death to be set up. And we not in death itself to despair, but with Job to say, yea, [400/ 401] 'Though He kill me, yet will I trust Him.' My breath I may, my hope I shall not forego; exspirare possum, desperare non possum. Here now is our second hope; to come forth, to be delivered from Christ's whale, from death itself.
But if the whale be, or betoken, the death of the body, it doth more much more the death of the soul. So shall we find another whale yet, a third. And that whale is the 'red dragon,' that great spiritual Leviathan, Satan. And sin, the very jaws of this whale, that swoopeth down the soul first, and then the body, and in the end both. Jonas had been deep down this whale's throat, before ever he came in the others; the land-whale had devoured him, before ever the sea-whale meddled with him. In his flight he fell into this land-whale's jaws before ever the sea-whale swallowed him up. And when he had got out of the gorge of this ghostly Leviathan, the other bodily whale could not hold him. And from this third whale was Jonas sent, to deliver the Ninevites; which when he had, the other, of their temporal destruction, could do no hurt. Their repentance rid them of both whales, bodily and ghostly, at once.
Here then is a third cape of good hope, that though one had been down as deep in the entrails of the spiritual great Leviathan as ever was Jonah in the sea-whale's, yet even there also not to depair. He Who brought Jonah from the deep of the sea, and David 'from the deep of the earth,' his body so; He also delivered his 'soul from the nethermost hell,' where Jonas and he both were, while they were in the transgression.
And now by this are we come to the very signature of this sign, even to repentance, which followeth in the very next words, 'for they repented at the preaching of Jonas.' Jonas preached it, and indeed none so fit to preach on that theme, on repentance, as he, as one who hath been in the whale's belly; in both the whales, the spiritual whale's too, for Jonas had been in both. One that hath studied his sermon there, been in Satan's sieve, well winnowed, cribarus Theolgus, he will handle the point best, as being not only a preacher but a sign of repentance, as Jonas was both to the Ninevites.
And as Jonas, so Christ; how soon He was risen, He gave order straight 'that repentance,' as the very virtue, the stamp [401/402] of His resurrection, and by it 'remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.'
But, indeed, if you mark well, there is a near alliance between the Resurrection and Repentance; reciprocal, as between the sign and the signature. Repentance is nothing but the soul's resurrection; men are 'dead in sin,' saith the Apostle, their souls are. From that death there is a rising; else were it wrong with us. That rising is repenting; and when one has lain dead in sin long, and does eluctari, 'wrestle out of' a sin that hath long swallowed him up, he hath done as great a mastery, as if with Jonas he had got out of the whale's belly; no, as if with Lazarus he had come out of 'the heart of the earth.' Ever holding this, that Mary Magdalene raised from sin, was no less a miracle than her brother raise from the dead.
And sure repentance is the very virtue of Christ's resurrection. There it is first seen, it first shows itself, has his first operation in the soul to raise it.
This first being once wrought on the soul from the ghostly Leviathan, the like will not fail but be accomplished on the body from the other of death, of which Jonas is here mysterium magnum; dico autem in Christo. For in Christ this sign is a sign, not betokening only, but exhibiting also what it betokens, as the Sacraments do. For of signs, some show only and work nothing, such was that of Jonas in itself, sed ecce plus quam Jonah hîc. For some other there be that shew and work both - work what they shew, present us with what they represent, what they set before us, set or graft in us. Such is that of Christ. For besides that it sets before us of His, it is farther a seal or pledge to us of our own, that what we see in Him this day, shall be accomplished in ourselves, at His good time.
And even so pass we to another mystery, for one mystery leads us to another; this in the text, to the holy mysteries we are providing to partake, which do work like, and do work to this, even to the raising of the soul with 'the first resurrection.' And as they are a means for the raising of our soul out of the soil of sin - for they are given us, and we take them expressly for the remission of sins - so are they no less a means also, for the raising our bodies out of the dust of death. [402/403] The sign of that body which was thus 'in the heart of the earth,' to bring us from whence at the last. Our Saviour says it totidem verbis, 'Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, I shall raise him up at the last day' - raise him, whither He has raised Himself. Not to life only, but to life and glory, and both without end. To which, &c.