This day is the octave, that is, the return and the renewing of Easter day itself; wherein the text was, as this is, of Christ's rising again the third day according to the Scriptures; St. Paul's text to the Corinthians.
What those Scriptures were in particular, we had no time then to set forth, but reserved them till now; and now we shall go on.
It is said here of St. Peter and St. John, that as et they knew not those Scriptures; for want of which knowledge it was that at first they doubted whether Christ was risen or no.
But afterwards, Cum aperuerit illis mentem, ut intelligerent Scripturas, when He had opened their wits, that they might understand the Scriptures, they believed them better than their own eyes, and doubted nothing of it at all.
It behoves us to know what those Scriptures be, that as yet they knew not; whereunto we are referred both by them, and by Christ Himself, for a more clear and evident proof of [248/249] his resurrection than any their own senses afforded them, or than ours would have afforded us, if we had lived in their days and seen Christ rising out of His grave.
The words relate, first, to the knowledge of the Scriptures, and the Scriptures relate to the knowledge of the resurrection, which is so needful a point to be known and believed by us all, that without this we shall believe nothing else, and without the Scriptures we shall not believe this.
To reflect therefore, as the text leads us, first, upon them here that knew not the Scriptures, and then on those Scriptures that as yet they knew not, relating to the resurrection; where we will first look upon the certainty of it, that so it was.
Next upon the necessity of it, that so it behoved to be, that Christ must rise from the dead.
These two to confirm us, first, in our faith, and then to establish us in our hope, together with the virtue and opera-tion that they ought to have, both of them, upon our lives, will be the heads and parts of our sermon to follow.
Of which that, &c we beseech, &c putting you in mind to pray, both now and always, for the good estate, &c more especially for the distressed estate of the kingdom and Church in, &c. and therein for our sovereign lord and master, Charles, by the grace of God king of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, and in all causes over all persons, within his own dominions by the right and title, supreme governor.
For our gracious lady the queen, and all the royal family; for the king's honourable council, and all the nobility; for the reverend prelates o£ the Church and all the clergy; for the universities and all the people.
Rendering likewise praise for all God's mercies and favours over us, among which favours specially to reckon this our profession of his true faith and religion together, in the midst of all these adversities and temptations that are daily upon us to draw us from it; amid for all those that have constantly professed the same heretofore, having been the choice vessels, &c.
Our Father, &c.
[249/250] 'For as yet they knew not the Scriptures that Christ must rise from the dead.'
'As yet they knew not.' And because St. Peter was one of these that knew not, here I stay. First, they that stand so much for St. Peter above all the Apostles besides, and say that he knew all things and missed in nothing, after Christ had once given him the keys, every time they read this Gospel they see themselves confuted here by St. John, who knew the defects both of St. Peter and himself, and of all his fellow disciples together, better than these men ever knew St. Peter's prerogative above the rest.
Of the rest they are not so solicitous, only St. Peter must not fail nor err in one thing; which they do not say for his sake neither, as they do for his whom they bold with as little probability to have succeeded him in his chair; for, not to meddle with him, without all doubt St. Peter here failed for once, if he doubted of Christ's resurrection, as he did, because as yet he knew not the Scriptures that belonged to it.
And yet not only tu es Petrus, but the dabo tibi claves, and the rogavi pro te, and all, had been all three said and past already.
But peradventure his chair was not yet set up, or it may be he had not yet taken a full possession of it; for that they say was given him in the next chapter after this, by virtue of pasce oves meas, the words that they find there, when for reason of his three denials, he had a charge thrice laid upon him to take care of the Church.
How went it therefore after this was past? Truly how it went with him at another place, a city where they say neither he nor any that ever followed him there could yet possibly fall into error about any matter of faith; how it went there, for aught I can learn, nobody could ever yet certainly inform us. But how it went with him at a city called Cæsarea, and that a full year too after pasce oves was
past, St. Peter himself will ingenuously tell us in the tenth chapter of the Acts; that till then, for want of knowing the Scriptures too, he had fallen into another error, and thought before that time, that God had been an acceptor of persons, which error there in open audience he recanteth before them all.
[250/251] It was not for nothing that St. Paul said, all our know-ledge is in part and all our prophesying in part; that is, that it comes not to us altogether at a time, for it did not so with him; nor here with St. John and St. Peter himself, who believed the sepulchre to be empty because they saw it to be so, the words before, but could not yet believe that Christ was risen, because as yet they knew not the Scriptures, the words here; but when they knew them once, the Scriptures, that had foretold it of old, must of necessity be fulfilled at that time, then they were of another mind.
It will be the like case with us in any thing besides, where in any point of truth we stand in doubt, there to have the same recourse to the Scriptures that they had, and we shall perceive things never the worse, clearer a great deal than we said before, or can ever do without them; it was their case here.
Only this are we to look to, that with St. Peter, and St. John, and the rest of the disciples after, when the Scrip-tures are opened to us, to show us any truth, we would likewise open our eyes to perceive that truth; and when we find men, ourselves or others, to be in any error against them, that we would be so ingenuous as readily to acknowledge that error. All is laid here upon the truth and knowledge of the Scriptures; which we are to extend, where need is, to all other points of religions whatsoever, whereof there be many no less doubted of in the world now, than here and elsewhere the resurrection was at first. But to this parti-cular because we are now confined, we will not now touch upon any other. And yet the Scriptures will be able to clear them all, all other points of our faith and religion, no less than this.
Which being the main and the chiefest point of all, the Apostles, after they were confirmed in it themselves, took more pains to clear and to set it forth to the world than they did any the rest; as knowing well that the whole frame of our religion, in life and death, and all, depended upon it; for without this, who need to trouble themselves about either of these, but first sit down to eat and drink, and then rise up to play; and when they can play and live no longer, to die, and there an end with them. Yet that end will be to die in [251/252] their sins; for if Christ be not dead and risen for them, to put a new life into them before they die, needs must they perish in them and be no better than dead m n while they seem to be alive. All is thereafter as the resurrection is, here and hereafter; as we shall see anon.
For this purpose we are referred here to the Scriptures; wherein we may perceive as much as they, that refer to them, saw with their own eyes; for we have the same Scriptures that they had, and their own besides. For if now we should be asked the question, what Scriptures those be? it would behove us all to be ready for an answer; and for the more readiness, the Apostles, after they once understood them, have pointed them out to us, as I believe Christ himself, now after He was risen from the dead, did to them.
And it was well they did so. For otherwise we might have been to look at this day, as the Jews yet are, what to make of many prophetical passages in the Old Testament, which are now made manifest and clear to us in the New.
When we took our former text here, the last day, out of St. Paul, we reflected upon three of those passages already; one out of Moses, in capite libri, in the beginning of his volume, and we applied it to the resurrection itself. The two other, out of the Psalms and the Prophets, in corpore libri, and we applied them to the time of the resurrection, that Christ was to rise again the third day, and not to stay a day longer than his time. We shall not go over those places any more; but the books themselves, in some other places, that are for this purpose recorded in them, we are now to go over again.
It is said in a place that Christ began at Moses, and so must we; for Moses is the, fountain and the ocean from whence all the rest of the Prophets drew their waters of life. To begin then with him.
I. Besides these words that I mentioned last, to have been set in capite libri, for antiquity the first, and for majesty the greatest that ever were, we are referred by these two very Apostles here, that came now from Christ's grave, and afterwards preached up His resurrection in the third chapter of their Acts, to that book of Moses again, and there to that promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all the [252/253] nations of the earth should be blessed; to this promise, for a clear proof and prophecy of Christ's rising to immortality.
A prophecy that the Jew, or any worldly man besides with all the temporal blessings that they look for, can never tell what to make of; but the Christian can; to whom it is said, that after Christ had overcome the sharpness of death, He opened his blessed kingdom to all believers. That did He at his resurrection. But for the opening of which blessed kingdom it had gone hard with Abraham, and with all the nations of the earth besides; nor had the promise then made of blessing him and his seed for ever, been any true blessing at all.
(2.) For secondly, it was no sooner made to him, but all the seed he had, by that promise, then alive, was destined and called for away to a present death; the sacrifice of his son, his only son Isaac. Therefore, here the Apostle disputes and challenges Jew, and Gentile, and all the world, to answer him. In Isaac was it said that all the nations of the earth should he blessed; yet in Isaac himself were they never blessed, no more than they were in Abraham, or in all his posterity besides, till Christ came, Who was the seed of Abraham indeed; and being blessed for ever himself, extended that blessing not only to Abraham, but to all the true sons of Abraham for ever, and so made good the promise.
This did He at his resurrection, which was the end, the fulfilling of that premise. For Abraham had it in a type, saith St. Paul, when he received his son from death in a figure. If the figure went before, the verity of that figure must of necessity follow after; for, as Tertullian says, rationally and truly, speaking of the Sacrament and of this mystery together, figura est semper figura veritatis; there is no figure or shadow without a true substance with it, but that truth never came out of the shadow, to be manifestly true, till Christ himself came, Who was the truth, and the life of all things. And this in his rising to life out of death itself, [253/254] after he had been made a sacrifice upon the cross, as Isaac should have been, and was made in a type, upon the Mount.
When we meet with his story, peradventure some of us run through it too fast. Shall we stay a little and look upon it, to see how even the parallel lines of it are laid to those of Christ?
(l.) First, for their persons. They were both the sons, and the only sons, and the only beloved sons of their fathers; yet doth determined to he put to death; alike in that.
(2.) Then in their obedience to either. They were both willing to be offered up for a sacrifice, and to die, obedientes facti usque ad mortem; alike too in that.
(3.) And in the manner of it alike. They were both of them bound for it.
(4.) The wood whereupon they were to be sacrificed was laid upon both their shoulders.
(5.) They were either of them led away to the mount, and to the same mount both; for mount Calvary and mount Moriah were but one and the same place.
(6.) Then what was the ram that came thither in the thorns, and was offered up to save Isaac's life, but the figure and pledge of Him That cam forth with the crown of thorns, and offered up himself to save ours?
(7.) And lastly, the release of them both, which was the figure of the resurrection in Isaac's story, and is there seldom taken notice of; fell out to be either of them upon the third day. Which circumstance of time set forth for Isaac, needed not to have beet mentioned there at all, unless it had referred here to Christ, that they might every way agrees.
[254/255] And so much for what was written of Him in the volume of that book; which, as St. Austin says rightly, is nothing else but a perpetual prophecy of Christ'. This and all the rest which pass under the name of Moses.
II. The next book we are sent to is the book of the Psalms. St. Peter sends us to two of them, and St. Paul to a third; I will mention no more.
And of St. Peter's two we have made one clear already. It was the sixteenth Psalm, that which we call the Psalm of the Resurrection, where the patriarch David, that saw corruption himself and is still detained under it, prophesied of Christ That saw none, and was never corrupted in His grave at all. For there we found it to be all one, not to see cor-ruption, and not to be above three days dead; at which time naturally we see every dead body corrupt; but so did not Christ's, Whose body was risen and alive again before that time of corruption came.
The other of St. Peter's psalms is of the stone which the builders cast away, and which God took up and made the head stone of the corner; never made good but by the death and the resurrection of Christ. For at the one they hacked and hewed him like a stone, they threw him aside and trod upon Him like a stone; but within a few days after, at the other, He was taken up again and set in the very head of the building, which made Him the head and the only head of His Church ever since. A title that some others have of late times adventured to take upon themselves, but the Scriptures reserve it only to Him; and they that are not for the right head are not for Christ. In effect, they would not have Him yet risen. There is another psalm of the passion, where they parted his garments among them; but the end of that psalm is that He will call them to an account for all, and in his time shew that He is risen indeed, however they [255/256] use him now, as if He lay dead still in his sepulchre. These were St. Peter's psalms.
Besides these, there was a proof made by St. Paul of the resurrection of Christ out of the second Psalm, when he preached his first sermon at Antioch. He tells them there, that God had fulfilled His promise, in that He had raised up His Son from the dead; as it is written in the second Psalm, 'Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.'
What makes that to the resurrection, which a man would think were a text rather belonging to the nativity at Christ-mas, than to the resurrection at Easter?
But it was an Easter-day psalm with St. Paul, and so was it here with us; it was appointed for the day.
And indeed there is no applying of that Psalm to any but to Christ, nor to Christ at any other time so properly as this.
For who was He That had the heathen there given him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for ills possession, but Christ? It could not be king David himself, that, for he never had any such possession given him; nor he, nor any other. But He, that being, as He was, the Son of God, became afterwards to be the Son and the Lord of king David himself; of Him, and of all the kings and powers of the earth, at this very time when He said all power in heaven and earth was given him, and that was immediately after his resurrection, when He sent out his Apostles to take possession of it in the world. At this time was He made the King's Son, and set up over his own inheritance. The sons of men have since that time, as they make account at least, got a good part of it to themselves; but their inheritance is one thing, and his is another.
So are their generations too, that we may not be troubled here at that expression, 'This day have I begotten thee.' For there are two begettings, and two several nativities; one to this life here below, in which we must die; another to the life above, in which we shall never die; and to this latter life was Christ now begotten, after his death to the first.
The reason that the ancient Church called their martyrs [256/257] days natalitia martyrum, that is, the days of their nativities; wherein though they lost one life, yet they were begotten and born to another far better than the former. And this for the book of Psalms.
3. The books of the prophets that follow are full to this purpose. I will but name three of them, and stay at the fourth.
Daniel; he foretells the precise time both of Christ's death, and of his return from death; of the Messias by name, and that this was his time.
Zachary says that they should see him alive, Whom they had pierced to death; applied by St. John here to the person of Christ.
Hosea is clear, 'After two days He will return, and the third day rise up and ransom us;' which St. Paul applies to Christ's rising from the dead.
But I stay upon the prophet Isaiah, the clearest of them all. There was a man of Ethiopia that was reading of him in his chariot, and the place he read was a prophecy of Christ's passion, which endeth there in his resurrection; that place alone converted him and made him a Christian. He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and for the sins of my people was He slain; and there it ends not, but afterwards, He was taken out of His prison and came forth from His sepulchre like a conqueror from the field: which was so clear a prophecy of Christ, that six hundred years before He came, the prophet speaks of him as if he had then seen him rising before his eyes. For first, he asks the question, Who is this that cometh, so glorious in his gait, so beautiful in his garments? And then he answers it, Behold, here comes your Saviour, with the keys of Edom and Bozra, that is, of death and hell both, at his girdle. A text in Isaiah, which if Isaiah were not named, might be rather taken for a story penned by one of the evangelists than for a prediction made by one of the prophets; so like a story it looks of a thing then past, or present, and not like a prophecy of any [257/258] thing thou to come so many ages after. But this manner of penning these prophecies made them the surer; and there is nothing so great a stay to our faith and religion that we have for Christ, than that those things which we profess to believe of him we find to he so plainly foretold so many years before they came to pass.
To which therefore St. John here refers both St. Peter, and himself, and all of us together; that both they might believe the Scriptures better than their own eyes, as being the clearer evidence and the surer proof of the two; and that we, who were to come after them, having the same Scriptures that they had, might be as sure as they, and believe as they did; ever remembering that, as the Angel told him, the testimony of Jesus is the sure spirit of prophecy. And so I have done with these Scriptures, the ground of our faith and the certainty of this truth, that Christ is risen.
II. The necessity of it is yet behind, which I will despatch in a word, that we may apply both to ourselves.
It is said here, that Christ must rise from the dead. He had said so before himself, Quia sic oportuit, impleri omnem justitiam, that it behoved Him both to die and to rise again, or otherwise God's justice must never have been satisfied. For neither we, nor all the world besides, were able to do that; so that done it must be, or we must have been all undone, one of these two.
That 'must' troubles the Socinian,--which is a new sect that now troubles the world abroad, and says that there was no such necessity to satisfy God's justice at all, either by Christ's death or by Christ's rising. They deny Christ's satisfaction, and say there was no need of it. Bylike they either know how to satisfy for themselves, (as some others are taught to do, that may not wholly rely upon Christ; but they are of another division,) or else they know not the Scriptures, which yet they pretend to do above all people living. It should seem that among the rest they leaped over this, as their manner is to fly at some one, and leave [258/259] ten behind them. But all they have to say is, that God will do it some other way; ex plenitudine potestatis, or ex plenitudine misericordæ; either by his absolute power, or by his absolute goodness, because his power and mercy are over all his works.
As if there had been no way at all for mercy and justice to meet and so to stand together; as if there were ever any greater power and mercy showed, than in this way of satis-fying God's justice by the death and resurrection of his Son! For as we must ever acknowledge his mercy in all things, so must we never deny him his justice in any thing, which is every way as essential to him as his mercy is; otherwise they rob God of one of his attributes, Who can neither quit his justice nor waive His truth, and when justice comes once to claim her own of them, if they find it not then in menu Mediatoris, if they chance to meet it then out of Christ's hands, they had better meet a lion in their way, to devour and tear them in pieces.
The truth is, there is no other way either to appease that justice of God, or to quiet any man's conscience, than this way alone, this way of necessity, that the Scriptures have here laid upon Christ. And there we rest.
There is another question here moved by these men, whether Christ raised himself or no, in that it is said in another place, that God raised him. But let not that trouble us, for He was God Himself, and there are not two Gods; there was but the same Deity, and the same power in either Person. And here we rest again in the Scriptures and in Him, that we may now come to ourselves, and ask what all these Scriptures and this resurrection of Christ will teach us.
Multum per omnem modum, says the Apostle, much and many ways they will do it.
(l.) First to confirm and strengthen our faith, that herein we were not born to inherit and believe a lie, as some other people of the world are in following their own fond and [259/260] groundless courses of religion, but that we rest upon certain and undoubted truths, built upon the foundation of the prophets and Apostles, grounded upon the evidence of Scripture, upon reason, upon justice, and upon many witnesses here besides. Which rule if it might be followed in all other matters of religion, as indeed it ought to be, and was here in this, we should have more unity and less contention in the world about them than there is.
(2.) Secondly, that He in Whom we believe, and the Scriptures in which we trust, have hereby declared him to be the Son of the everliving God, even by the resurrection from the dead; the Apostle's own words. For in His dying He was declared to be the son of man, without which He might have died; but in his rising again He was set forth to be what He was, the eternal Son of the Most high God, without which He could never have made perfect our redemption.
For if our faith had gone no further than that He died only, and no more, the Jews and the very pagans themselves will confess as much of Him as that, etiam pagani credunt mortuum esse Christum, they will believe Him to be dead, as they believe it of their own special men, of their own whom they set up to be worshipped; sed resurrexisse vivum, to believe that He is alive and risen again to glory, hæc est fides Christianorum propria, this is the only true faith and character of a true Christian, as St. Austin rightly tells them; it can be said by none but Christ, and challenges all the world to shew it of another. Since his time there are some Christians arisen that have made bold to believe it of another, we know who, but it is a peculiar faith that, by themselves, and a groundless, whereby they have degenerated not a little from the proper and universal Catholic faith of a Christian, which never yet believed it of any but of Christ, and holds it to be no good sign of a true Christian indeed to let any creature whatsoever, either among the sons or the daughters of Abraham, entercommunion with him in his glory. This for our faith in Him to confirm that.
[260/261] Then for our hope in Him, to establish that. The nature of hope is to expel fear; and of this hope to expel the fear of death or the grave. For thus we plead; if Christ be risen we shall rise; if He be risen in our nature, as sure He is, then may our nature rise sure enough; and if our nature may rise, as it did in Him, then is there no fear but our persons may rise also, as His did.
For lo! here comes your Saviour, as Isaiah said of Him, when he saw him coming from the regions of death. And being already come from thence Himself, He will never leave those behind Him there to be lost, for whom and for whose sakes alone, He went thither; but if He suffers us to be carried to our graves, He will see us safely brought out from them again, and never part with us which all the world besides leaves us. Which is the only chief comfort we shall have against the fear of death, when we shall come, as once we must all do, to die ourselves.
Then we plead again, if Christ be the head of his Church, as there is no other, then is St. Gregory's reason a good one, cum caput vidimus super aquas, when the head be kept above the waters, the body that belonged to it, though in the meanwhile then see it not, is safe enough. And St. Paul's is better; Christ is but the first-fruits of them that sleep, two reasons in one; if they do but sleep they shall do well enough, they may awake again from their sleep; and if He be but the first-fruits, the rest are a part of those fruits, in their own due season to follow.
It is but symbolical divinity this; but it illustrates well. The rational is that, as by Adam, whose sons we are, we all die, because he is dead, so by Christ, Whose sons we are too, we shall be restored to life, because He is risen from the dead. For we are parties now, no less to the one than we are to the other. And herein is our hope laid up for us against the time to come.
Indeed our other hopes here below do many times deceive us, but it is not long of hope that, it is long of ourselves, who lay our hope upon a wrong object, and there anchor in a storm that pulls it up and carries it away, in the uncertain, transitory, and perishing things of this life. Lay it where it should he laid, in those things that belong to a better life, and it will never fail us.
[261/262] There is no better advice in this case than that which St. Austin gives; si vis esso Christianus, if you will he counted a good Christian, live so as you may live in hope of having such a resurrection as Christ had; et propter hoc esto quod es, that is, and for this hope's sake, be and carry yourself like a Christian, like one that bears his name and waits for his coming. Which is a good lesson now to make an end withal and so I have done with this text.
Whereof the Sacrament, that we are now going to, is a lively symbol; for here we shall find Christ's death and resurrection presented to us again. To enjoy the true fruit and benefit whereof, we are thither to bring our own death and resurrection with us, a death to our deadly sirs, we know every one what our own be, and a resurrection to our new life, we are none of us ignorant what that should be. St. John calls it the first resurrection, which will open us a door of hope for the second, that that may be for the better and not for the worse; for be it will howsoever; but when it is, God send it for the best. To Whom be all honour and glory, now and for evermore. Amen.