And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
But is he not here?--what do we, then, here to-day? "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." Why, it is not worth the seeing now; it is but a sad place now he is gone; no place worth the seeing or the being in, if He who is our being be not there:- Old Jacob's Descendam lugens in internum, is all that we can look for; we must go down with sorrow to the grave.
But "fear not," though. Our Lord, indeed, is gone, but risen and gone away himself; they have not stolen him away. He is past stealing; "he is risen," and alive. Nor is he gone so, neither, but we may find him anon again in some better place. Had we found him here in the grave to-day, it had been sad indeed. He had been lost, and we had been lost, and both lost for ever. "He is risen, he is not here," are the words that disperse the clouds and clear up the day, make it so clear, that Videtur mihi hic dies ceteris diebus esse lucidior, says S. Augustine; sol mundo clarior illuxisse, astra quo que omnia et elementa lætari: "Never any day so bright; the sun, the stars, and all the elements [127/128] more sprightful and glorious to-day than ever;" they even dance for joy. The Angels themselves to-day put on their glorious apparel, bright shining robes to celebrate this glorious festival at the grave; a place where they this day strive to sit; sent thither to dispel our fears, and disperse our sorrows, and raise our hopes, and advance our joys.
And indeed it was no more than needed when this day first arose; no more than what needs still to those who "seek Jesus which was crucified," who go out with these tender hearts to the grave to weep. They need comfort and encou-ragement, direction, and other assistance too. They lie open to fears and troubles, to errors and mistakes often in their seekings. They had need of an Angel to guide them, and the news and certainty of a resurrection to support them; and by this we find here, shall so find it, if they truly seek him.
This is the business both of the text and of the clay. The whole business of the Angel here, and of his speech to the women that sought Jesus that was crucified. In which, when I have shown you,
I. The persons--the Angel speaking it, and the women to whom it was spoken,--I shall show you then,
II. In the speech:---
Somewhat (1) to disperse the fears.
Somewhat (2) to approve and encourage the endeavours.
Somewhat (3) to correct the search.
Somewhat (4) to inform the judgments.
Somewhat (5) to confirm the faith of those who here seek, or shall at any time hereafter set themselves to seek "Jesus which was crucified."
For, (1,) "fear not ye," says the Angel; there our fears are dispersed. (2.) "I know you seek Jesus which was crucified;" there our endeavours are approved of or encou-raged. (3.) "He is not here;" there is our search corrected. (4.) "He is risen, as he said;" there is our judgment in-formed. (5.) "Come, see the place where the Lord lay;" there is our faith confirmed. All you see plain and orderly in the text, both the particulars and the sum of it.
I shall go on orderly with the particulars; and so show you, first, the persons--both the speaker--and to whom it is [128/129] spoken. The Angel is the speaker, and stands here first. I shall begin with him.
And an excellent speaker he is. The tongues of angels above all the tongues in the world besides. You will say so anon, when you have heard his speech examined In the meantime a word of him.
S. Matthew mentions here but one; S. Mark no more; S. Luke two. S. Matthew's Angel sat upon the stone which was rolled away from the mouth of the sepulchre; S. Mark's sat on the right side of the sepulchre, within; S. Luke's Angels stood by the women, as they stood perplexed in the sepulchre. And S. John speaks of two Angels more--"the one sitting at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain." And yet in all these diversities no con-tradiction. The story runs smoothly thus:-
These pious women mentioned here come early to the se-pulchre to embalm their Master's body; whilst they yet stood without, for fear, this Angel in the text that sat before the door, upon the stone he had rolled away, invites them to come in, where they were no sooner entered but they saw a second Angel, sitting, who entertained them almost with the same words, and is he remembered by S. Mark; when they had awhile perused the bowels of the grave, and found nothing there but the desolate linen in which their Lord's body had been wrapped, being somewhat perplexed at the business, they were comforted by two other Angels, which immedi-ately appeared, to resolve their doubts, and sent them to the disciples to tell the news, and are those spoken of by S. Luke; whereupon away they haste; only Mary Magdalene returns again with S. Peter and S. John, who having looked and entered into the grave, away they go; but she stands still without, and weeps, till two other Angels, as S. John relates, show forth themselves to stop her tears and divert her moans, and show her her Lord, standing at her back.
Thus we need no synecdoches, no usteron-proteronj, no strained figures to make things agree. But thus, you see, "Angels are all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," as the Apostle tells us. They stand by us when we think not of them. They speak to us often when we do not mind them. In the [129/130] very grave, in our deepest melancholies, in our saddest con-ditions; at the head and at the feet of them they take their places and sit to comfort us; but especially, when we descend into the grave to seek our Lord; when we cannot be satisfied unless we may even die with him; when we are crucified and dead to the whole world but him; when our only business is both in life and death to be with him, then to be sure we shall not want Angels to attend us; at every turn they stand ready for us; upon all occasions they are still at hand. A strong consolation this (1) in all afflic-tions; a brave encouragement (2) in all good undertakings; a good item, (3,) too, for our good behaviour, to carry our-selves well, soberly, modestly, piously, in all conditions, "because of the Angels," as the Apostle speaks, that thus stand about us, that are everywhere so near us.
So near us, that they often answer our desires ere we can speak them. We read not of a word the women said to the Angel, yet, says the test, he "answered." Thus, many times God answers us by himself or by his Angels ere we utter our necessities or breathe out our thoughts. He does not always delay his mercy till we beg it; he prevents us with his loving- kindness.
He did so, to be sure, to-day by sending it by such mes-sengers. Angels have wings,--so they were graved and painted in the Tabernacle and the Temple,--his comforts had so too, to-day. The message of the resurrection,--the greatest of our comforts,--could not upon this account come by a better hand. By an Angel, then, (1,) that it might be with the greater speed.
By an Angel, (2,) that it might be with the greater honour. Angels are glorious things, honourable ambassadors; and such are not sent on petty errands, nor can that embassy be slight on which such persons come.
By an Angel, (3,) that the benefit might look with more convenience. It was an Angel (i.) that shut the gates of paradise against us and drove us thence into the territories of the grave; the more convenient, sure, that the Angel again should roll away the stone, and open the gates of heaven out of those confines of death into which he drove us. He had (ii.) been employed in the news of our Lord's incarnation [130/131] and first birth out of the womb; the fitter to be sent with the tidings of his resurrection and second birth out of the grave.
By an Angel, (4,) that it might be told with all the advan-tage it could possibly. Such news is fittest for Angels' tongues; men know not how worthily enough to speak it. Thus (i.) for the greater speed, and so our greater comfort; for the greater honour, (ii.) and so our greater and humbler thanks; for the greater convenience, (iii.) and so the greater confirmation of the analogy of our faith; for the greater advantage, (iv.) and so our greater and readier acceptance of it, was this first news of the resurrection given us by an Angel, though nor men nor angels sufficiently fit for it.
Angels, certainly, the fittest of the two-they the fittest for the news; and yet methinks meaner ambassadors might be fitter for the persons to whom it is told. Angels and women, the "sons of God and the daughters of men," are no good matches; though I must tell you, too, such women as these,--such who outrun the Apostles themselves in affec-tion and duty to their Lord, whose love triumphs over the power of death, whose early piety prevents the morning watch and shames the sun, are company for Angels to make up their choirs.
But it is not without reason that the Angel first appears to women--that they are honoured here with the first news of a resurrection. There is a mystery in it. The woman (i.) was first deceived by an angel of darkness; it vas therefore most convenient she should first be undeceived by an Angel of light. The woman (ii.) was the first that fell; somewhat the more requisite that she should hear first of the hopes to rise again. Thus does the Almighty Wisdom proportion all things to us; thus does the Eternal Goodness contrive all things for us with order and convenience, et respondent ultima primis, and all things answer one another, first and last.
Yet all must not look for Angels to comfort or instruct them. S. Peter and S. John came to the sepulchre, but found no such favour--they came too late; the Angels were gone before they came: the women had been before them, and had gotten the blessing. It is they that watch and rise up early to find their Lord that meet Angels at their prayers.
[131/132] When the day breaks the Angel must be gone, to say his matins, says the Chaldee; he will stay no longer. When we come lagging in with our devotions, God's answers come lagging too; extraordinary favours are the rewards only of extraordinary attendance.
But, what! those two great Apostles not so highly favoured as poor silly women? What! is Mary Magdalene the sinner, too, among the rest, preferred above them? It is so; women and sinners, and any above us, above the greatest Apostles, the greatest clerks, in God's favour, if above them in their devotion and piety to their Lord; it is so, and we must be content; nay, if God please to prefer the weak and meaner things of the world, upon any account, either such as are so, or such as we conceive so, at any time before us, we have no more to say, but, Even so it pleased thee, O Father; and learn upon it to be humble, and not think too highly of ourselves; as those weaker things are hereupon also not to be afraid or terrified at their weaknesses, but called to here by the Angel not to fear: "Fear not ye," which is the proem or first part of his speech, to which we are now come.
Four things here there were that possibly they might fear (1,) the glorious presence of the Angel; (2,) the ghastly countenances of the soldiers; (3,) the unsettled face of the yet almost quaking earth; (4,) and the sad sight and horror of the grave. Yet, "Fear not," says the Angel, not any of these.
(1.) Not me,--not an Angel, first. Angels are our "fellow--servants," and of our "brethren that bear the testimony of Jesus," as well as we. We need not fear them-they will do us no hurt; nay, they are always ready to do us good. Somewhat I confess there is in it that makes them commonly thus preface all their speeches, as, "Fear not, Zacharias;" "Fear not, Mary," and "Fear not," to the shepherds. All is not so well between heaven and us as should be; all not so wholly well but that we may be afraid sometimes of a messenger from thence. Yet fear not for all that; they come not to us thence but with "good tidings," especially when they come in raiment, "white garments," as the Angel does; or a "long white garment," as S. Mark's Angel. That is neither a fashion nor a colour to be afraid [132/133] of, for any that "seek Jesus which was crucified," or hope to see the face and enjoy the company of holy angels, though some now-a-days are much scared with; such a garment, when the angels or messengers of the Churches appear in it. But mh fobeisqe "fear it not;" it is but an innocent robe; no more hurt in it than in the Angel that wore it. It is the robe of innocence and the resurrection; no reason to fear it: "Fear not ye," not this bright appearance.
No, nor (2,) that black one neither, of the ghastly counte-nances of the amazed solders. They, alas, are run and gone! There was no looking for them upon him they had crucified. They indeed had reason to be afraid that the earth that trembled under them should gape and swallow them; that the grave they kept, being now miraculously opened, might presently devour them; that he whom they had crucified, now coming forth with power and splendour, might send them down immediately into eternal darkness for their villany. Nay, the very innocent brightness and whites in which the Angel then appeared, might easily strike into them a sad reflection and terror of their own guilt, and confound them with it,--and I am afraid when the Angel's "long white garment" does so still, it is to such guilty souls and consciences as these soldiers that it does so; such who either betrayed their Lord to death, or were set to keep him there. Such, I confess, may fear even the garments of innocence that others wear. But they that seek Christ crucified may be as bold as lions. Non timent Mauri jacula nee arcus, Nec venenatis gravidas sagittis, Christe, pharetras. Thy disciples, O blessed Jesu, now thou art risen, will fear nothing, nor darts, nor spears, nor bows, nor arrows, nor any force or terror, any face or power of man whatever. And ye good innocent souls, ye good women, "fear not ye," your own innocence will guard you; these soldiers shall do you no hurt; their shaking hands cannot wield their weapons, nor dare they stand by it,--they are running away with all speed to save themselves. So, (2,) fear not them.
Nor fear (3,) the quaking earth that seems ready either to sink them or sinks under them; it is now even settling upon its foundation. The Lord of the whole earth has now once again set his foot upon it, and it is quiet, and the meek, [133/134] such as seek Christ, they shall now inherit it. But "though the earth were moved," and though "the hills were carried into the midst of the sea," yet "God is our hope," the "Lord is our strength," and we "will not, therefore, fear," says David. No, "though the waters thereof rage and swell, and though the mountains shake at the tempest of the same," do earth what it can to fright us, "God is a present help in trouble;" why, then, should ye be afraid? "Fear not."
(4.) No, not, lastly, the very grave itself, that King of Terrors, that is now no longer so to you. Though tyrants should now tear your bodies into a thousand pieces, grind your bones to powder, scatter your ashes in the air, and disperse your dissolved atoms through all the winds, no matter; this Angel and his company are set to wait upon your dust, and will one day come again and gather it together into heaven. Nothing can keep us thence, nothing separate us, "nor life, nor death," says the Apostle. Fear nothing, then, at all not ye, however; for "ye seek Jesus which was crucified." That is an irrefragable argument why you should not fear. And such give me leave to make it, before I handle it, as an encouragement of our endeavours; an encouragement against our fears, before I consider it as an encouragement to our work.
And, indeed, ye who dare "seek Jesus that was crucified," amidst swords and spears, and graces, of what can you be afraid? He that dreads not death needs fear nothing. He that slights the torments of the cross, and despises the shame of it; he that loves his Lord better than his life, that dares own a crucified Saviour, and a profession that is like to produce him nothing but scorn and danger and ruin, he cannot fear. Illum si fractus illabatur orbis, impavidum ferient ruinæ: "The world itself, though it should fall upon him, cannot astonish him." Nothing so undaunted as a good Christian, as he that truly "seeks Jesus that was crucified."
And there is good reason for it. He that does so is about a work that will justify itself; he needs not fear that. He whom he seeks is Jesus,--one who came to save him from his sins; he needs not fear them. This Jesus being [134/135] crucified, has by his dying conquered death: "O death, where is thy sting?" He needs not fear that. And though die we must, yet the grave will not always hold us, no more than it did him. "He is not here," nor shall we be always here--not always lie in dust and darkness; no need to fear that. Nay, "he is risen" again, and we by that so far from fear that we know we shall one day rise also. For the chambers of death, ever since the time that Christ lay in them, lie open for a return, are but places of retreat from noise and trouble, places for the pilgrims of the earth to visit, only to see "where the Lord lay." Thus is every comma in the text an argument against all fears that shall at any time stop our course in seeking Jesus that was cruci-fied. And having thus out of the words vanquished your fears, I am now next to encourage your endeavours: for "I know ye seek Jesus," &c.
"I know it," says the Angel: that is, I would not only not have you be afraid of what you are about, as if you were doing ill, but I commend you for it, for it is well that you "seek Jesus which was crucified;" you need not be afraid, you do well to do it.
Yea, but how dust thou know it, thou fair son of light, that they seek him? Alas! it is easy to be known by men and women's outward deportment, whom they seek. Let us but examine how these women sought, and we shall see.
(l.) They come here to his sepulchre; they not only fol-lowed him to his grave a day or two ago, the common office we pay to a departed friend,--but to-day they come again to renew their duties and repeat their tears. Nor do they do it slightly or of course.
They (2) do it early, "very early," as if they were not, Mark could not be, well till they had done it; so early, that it was scarce light; nay, "while it was yet dark," says S. John; they thought they could not be too soon with him they loved.
They (3) came on with courage as well as haste. They knew there was a guard upon the sepulchre; yet for all that, venture they would,--they feared them not. The day they knew, too, would come on apace, and there would be eyes upon them, so may be presumed not to be ashamed of their [135/136] Master or their work. No, nor were they neither afraid (4) of cost or charges, for
"They had bought rich spices," and sweet ointments, and had brought them with them "to anoint him." They were resolved to be at charges with him.
That (5) would not be done without solemnity and cere-mony neither; that they were resolved on too--resolved to pay their last duty to their Lord with all funeral solemnities and honours.
And by this time we have more than a guess, when men "seek Jesus that was crucified." (1.) If they follow him day after day. (2.) If their devotions be so eager on him, that they give him their attendance at the earliest hours, "suffer not their eyes to sleep, nor their eyelids to slumber, nor the temples of their head to take any rest," till they have found him. (3.) If neither the fear or shame of men can keep them from him. (4.) If the grave itself be more their desire than their fear, willing to be dissolved to be with him. (5.) If shame for his name he (as it was to the Apostles) the matter for their rejoicing. (6.) If, for his sake, they spare no cost upon his altars, which represent his tomb and present his body; nor upon the poor, who are the members of his body. (7.) If they think much of no cost, pains, or time; no duty or reverence too much for him. When we find any thus disposed and doing, we may confidently say of them, They "seek Jesus that was crucified," and we thus know it of a certain.
And indeed we had need of good certain signs to know it by. For many there are that cry, Lord, Lord, and yet Christ himself does not know them he professes. Many that talk of the Lord Jesus, and pretend to cast out devils too, some-times, and do miracles in his name; have his name the Lord Jesus commonly in their mouths, and talk of it at every turn; yet if you mark it, it is one King Jesus; if any Jesus, it is in his kingdom, not on his cross; not Jesus crucified. No; the doctrine of the cross was to the Jew a scandal, and to these men foolishness. The very sign of the cross dis-turbs them. Fools they were thought, you know, a while ago, that would take up the cross and follow him, when they might with more ease follow him in his kingdom, (as was [136/137] then much talked of when the kingdom was in their own hands,) and reign with him. But whatever was the business of those times, the business of this is, Jesus crucified. And if we had no other proof that they still seek not "Jesus which was crucified," but that they are yet ashamed to give any reverence to his name, so to acknowledge him; ashamed too, of the very badge of Jesus crucified, the sign of the cross upon which he was; not only ashamed of it neither, but not ashamed to oppose it, and write and preach against it, and disturb the peace of the Church and simple souls about it; if, I say, we had no other argument against them, that they seek not "Jesus which was crucified," I know not how they would invalidate, and less, answer it. He certainly that cannot endure the sign, would less endure the thing itself, nor seek him certainly that hung upon it, if he must succeed him there.
Nay, we ourselves, who profess right enough, live not, I am afraid, sometimes, as if we sought or served a crucified Jesus, or indeed a Jesus. Our devotions to him are dull and heavy, slow and careless; we come to Church, as if we cared not whether we came or no; we are niggardly and sparing in the embalming of Christ's body,--to the Church, and to the poor; we are afraid of pains and charges in his service; we are ashamed too often to be found doing well, lest the wits and gallants of the age should laugh at us; afraid to be too ceremonious, lest we give offence to I know not whom; ashamed of patience or humility, lest we should be thought poor-spirited Christians; that is, the servants of so poor-spirited a Lord, that would rather suffer himself to be so horribly abused and crucified, than to head his Father's legions to fight for him.
He that sees how we have kept our Lent, how we always keep it; how little we mortify our lusts, how little we re-strain our passions, how much we indulge our appetites, how far we are from crucifying our sins, or subduing our flesh, or dying to the world; how profuse men and women are in their apparel, how studious of vanities, how poured out in riots and excesses, how given up to their sports and pleasures, how continually taken up in some or other of these, when they are even walking to their tombs, and should [137/138] be thinking upon their graves; how every day they still post off all serious and religious thoughts, and never think of Christ or of his cross,-either what he did, or what he suffered for them, or what he would have us to do upon it; he cannot but say, "I know ye seek" not "Jesus that was crucified." I see no balms in your hand, no spices in your laps, no tears in your eyes, no sorrow in your faces, no funerals by your garments, no solemness or seriousness at all in any of your demeanour, that carries any semblance of relation to Jesus crucified. All so loose, so fine, so quite of another fashion, that certainly it were a tyranny over any faith, to impose upon me to believe that you "seek" any such as a "Jesus that was crucified;" that any such as you do so at all.
I did not think to have made so severe an observation, but that I find men think commonly that strict devotion is but women's work, they themselves may live with greater free-dom,--but so it is not; it is only this seeking Jesus we have spoken of, can really arm ups against the grave, or fit us for the resurrection. And great persons do so too; too often think it is for those only of lesser rank, the simpler and the mean ones; they, forsooth, have enough to do to dress, and visit, and talk idly, and take a liberty from morn to night, answerable to their greatness, their fortune, or their youth. This story of Jesus crucified spoils all the sport, and lays all their honour too soon in the dust. Well, not-withstanding, we had better all of us have the Angel here than they commend us; his testimony rather that we "seek Jesus that was crucified," than their wits that make light of it.
And yet, methinks, they here are but slenderly re-warded for it, for all their pains. Now they have done all, "He is not here." That we called the correction of their search.
And however we think of it, it is a good reward to have an Angel set to keep us right, to tell us when we do amiss. Let me never want one, O Lord, to do so; "let him smite me friendly, and reprove me." There are even "balms," says the Psalmist, that will "break one's head," and smooth ways we often stumble in. Smoothing and anointing does not always [138/139] cure us; too often betray us. To tell us always, "O Sir, you are right; you do well, excellently well," is but a way to ruin us. "Thou art the man," is better far; "you are out," --"he is not here;" "you seek wrong," when we do so, as ne-cessary, as to tell us we seek right, when so we do. Indeed, the women were right, both for him they sought and the way they sought him; but for the place, that they were amiss in. Even "in many things we offend all," says S. James. For "there is no man that sinneth not." And it is our happiness when we are timely told it, that we go not wrong too long.
And it was timely here, indeed; the Angel would not have them enter in an error. It was a good work they came about, but he would not let them do it upon false principles. Men do so often--do that which is good upon a wrong ground; seek Christ too often so.
Sometimes, (1,) they seek him in the grave; that is, in fading, dying things, in earthly comforts, or for such things; but he is not there.
Sometimes, (2,) they seek him in the graves of sins and lusts, whilst they yet continue in them; whilst they are yet in their rebellions, schisms, pride, covetousness, malice, envies, and disorder, they pretend to seek him, even none but him; but his body fell not, as those Israelites, in the graves of lust. He is not there.
Sometimes, (3,) they seek him in a melancholy fit, in a humour sad as the grave, in a mood of discontent, all godly on a sudden. They have buried a friend, or son, or wife, or brother-are disappointed of a preferment-have missed of an estate-lost an expectation; and are now, forsooth, for a fit of heaven, a seeking Christ; but "he is not here;" you will see it quickly, if the day clear up again; the monk will quit his cell, the dog will to his vomit, he is presently where he was.
Sometimes, (4,) they seek him in outward elements, in mere ceremonies and formalities, and mind no further; think if we hear a sermon, or come to prayers, make a formal show of piety and religion, all is well. But if we bring not somewhat also within, some hearty inward devotion with us too, "he is not here" neither. A few linen clothes you may find, perhaps, that look fair and handsome, and the external lineaments [139/140] of a sad, sober piety, like the dimensions of the grave; but dead men's clothes they are, and a grave, an empty grave, it is still; if our hearts be taken up with them, stopped and buried there, "he is not here."
Sometimes, (5,) we seek him perfectly in a wrong place, where the malice of his enemies only thrust him for a time amidst dust and rubbish; he is not there: he will be sought in "the beauty of holiness;" now "he is risen," there shall you find him; for he does not love to dwell in dust, though amongst us that are so. We must find him a fitter place to be in. Now "he is risen," and we are risen, our low con-dition changed into a higher, our poverties into plenties, our rags into robes, our houses almost into courts, it is fit his house and courts should also rise into lustre and glory, and he not in badgers' skins whilst we dwell in cedars, nor lie upon the cold stones or earth whilst we lie upon silks and velvets.
And now you see why it is when we seek Christ we so often miss him. We seek him where he is not to be found -amidst graves and sepulchres whilst we are dead in trespasses and sins; or buried over head and ears in earth and earthly interests; or only in some sad distemper, when we are so weary of ourselves that we wish for death; or only in dead elements and rites, without the life or spirit of devotion; or with that slightness and neglect as if we thought anything good enough for him, or that he would be content with any clod of earth to lay his head on.
But these are the mysteries of the grave. He was not to be found, lastly, even in the grave, without a mystery; he could not be held in the grave they laid him. "It was not possible," says S. Peter; God had promised he would not leave him there--that his flesh should "see no corruption." Here was the mistake these good women made; they either understood not, or had forgot this promise; and believed not his own, that lie would rise again. This is that S. Luke's Angels even chide them for, for forgetting: "Why seek you," say they, "the living among the dead? Remember what he spake to you while he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and he crucified, and the third day rise again." It was a piece of [140/141] infidelity, it seems, now to seek him in the grave; so that well may the Angels ask them why they do it.
Indeed, our Angel here is not so rough; but you must know this was the first time of their error. When they had been told it once or twice before,--first, by S. Matthew's Angel, and then S. Mark's, that he was not there, it would make even an Angel chide, to see them still continue in the same mistake. At the first it is Angels' method to be smooth in the business of reproof.
Nay, and sometimes to pave our way to it, with a "fear not;" I do not mean to hurt you,--what I am to tell you is only for your good. This is but with Balaam's Angel, to stand only in our war with a sword drawn to hinder us from a fruitless journey; or, at the worst, but to smite us friendly with it, that we may go no further on upon wrong surmises.
And yet "fear not,"-" he is not here!" Is not the infer-ence ill? Are they well joined? Why, "he is not here;" and therefore fear seems a better consequence. If he be not here, we have lost all our labour, all our cost. If he be not here, somebody has stolen him hence, and taken away even that little comfort that was left us of seeing him once again, and doing our last office to him. Thus Mary Magdalene complains indeed. Well, but for all that, depose your fears; if you should find him here you might fear indeed, and despair for ever. He had deluded you, he had broken his promise with you, that he would come again; he was no Saviour, but his body a mere dead trunk, like other men's; your hopes were all taken away, and all of you undone for ever. But now he is not here, you may hope better, and dread no longer; and I shall quickly put you out of all fear indeed, for I shall tell you now, "he is risen," as he said.
And now indeed, O blessed Angel, thou sayest something away all my fears, "he is risen." Why then, (1,) he is above the malice of his enemies, and of all that hate him. They, and the soldiers that crucified him, may be dismayed, and look all like dead men for fear, but I shall never be dismayed hereafter, seeing death has no more dominion over him.
For, (2,) if he be risen, we shall rise one day too. If our head be risen, the body, ere long, will rise also. He is [141/142] "the first-fruits;" the whole lump, of course, will follow after. So certain, that the Apostle tells us, that in him we are all already "made alive;" and with indignation asks, how some among them durst be so bold to say there was "no resur-rection of the dead," seeing "Christ is risen."
But is he not rather raised than risen, (3,). that they durst say so? Was it by his own power, or another's By his own, sure; for all the Evangelists say unanimously "he is risen." Indeed, it is said, that "God raised him from the dead." It was so; for he was God himself, "he and his Father one:" so God raised him, and yet he raised himself; was not raised as the widow's son, or Jairus's daughter, or his friend Lazarus; but so as none other ever were, or shall be raised and risen, and yet so risen as not raised by any but himself that is a third note upon "he is risen."
And (4) risen so as to die no more. All they did, but he not. He conversed awhile with his disciples upon earth, so by degrees to raise them too; but after forty days he ascended into heaven. Risen, surely, to purpose-risen above all heavens-risen into glory.
And if thus risen, we have good cause, (1,) to raise our thoughts up after him, entertain higher thoughts of him than before; though then we knew him after the flesh, yet now with the Apostle henceforth to know him so no more.
Good cause, (2,) if he be risen, to raise up our affections after him; "set our affections," as the Apostle infers it, "upon things above," and no longer upon things beneath; set them wholly upon him.
Nay, and (3) raise ourselves upon him; build all our thoughts and hopes upon him; build no longer upon sand and earth, but upon that Rock that is now risen higher than we, in whom we need fear no storms or tempests; we cannot miscarry.
And, in the meantime, lastly, now "he is risen," let us rise and meet him; rise in haste with Mary, yet not to go to the grave to weep, as they thought of her, but to cast ourselves at his feet, and cry, "Lord, if thou hadst been here,"--if I had found thee in the grave, my brother and I, and all my brethren, had died indeed, been irrecoverably ruined and undone. And yet, for all that, "come," now, [142/143] and "see where the Lord lay;"--be your own eyes your witnesses that "he is risen."
And it is but just that in so doubtful a condition of affairs, and a change so unheard of, you should seek an evidence not to be contradicted. "Come," then, and "see" it; the place will show it, and your eyes shall behold it.
Indeed, that "He is risen," as he said, to a tittle, to a day, as soon as ever it could be imagined day, is an argument that not being here, he is truly risen. Yet it is fit that we should be certain he is not there.
For it is fit that we should be able "to give a reason of the faith that is in us," says S. Peter. We can neither believe unreasonable things ourselves, nor imagine others should believe them. We are not to take our religion upon trust from an Angel: si angelus de coelo, says S. Paul; not from an Angel coming from heaven itself. Some Angel, it seems, thence, may, speaking to an absolute possibility, preach some other doctrine than what we have received; "but believe him not," says the Apostle, if he do. But suppose an Angel thence can speak no other, yet there is an Angel that is from below, from the pit of darkness, that can transform himself into an Angel of light. We had there-fore need take heed to our own eyes, too, as well as to our ears. The best way to fix them is to look first into the grave of "Jesus that was crucified;" see what we can find there to make good what the Angel tells us, be he who he will. "Try the spirits," says S. John, "whether they be of God," before we trust them. See whether things are as they are presented. It is but dark day yet; we may be deceived if we look not narrowly into the business, even to the very inmost corners and crannies of the grave. "Come see," then, what is there.
Nothing but the "linen clothes" that wrapped him in, says S. John, and "two Angels," says S. Luke. Well, this -was enough, indeed, to prove he was not there. But how proves it that he was risen? Had not somebody stolen him thence? The grave was closed, the stone was sealed, the guard was set, and who durst come to do it? His disciples? Why, they were stolen away themselves for very fear. And it is not probable they would venture for him through a [143/144] guard of soldiers when he was dead, that ran from him when he was alive. The Jews? Why, they set a watch to keep him there. The soldiers? Why, who should hire them? or, why should they take money to deny it, if they were hired to it? Besides, it was against the Jews' interests to give so fair a ground to the report of his resurrection, and his dis-ciples had so little subtilty to maintain so forlorn an interest as theirs, that it looks not like a piece of their contrivance; and so poor a purse, God knows, they had that they could not fee so largely as to reach it. Nay, and the linen clothes left all behind, are a kind of witnesses against it. It is not probable they would have stolen the dead body and left them when they came to steal, and the laying them so in order by themselves requires more leisure than a thief's haste. So being clearly gone, and clearly none to own the theft, and none to prove it, and nothing to evince it, it is plain he must be risen, as he said. We have n_w, then, no more to do than "see the place where," &c.
And where he lay we call the grave: a good place sometimes to go into; "the house of mourning better to go into than the house of mirth," says Solomon, who had tried both; best to recal our wandering thoughts to prepare both for a comfortable death and joyful resurrection.
But Christ's grave, or sepulchre, has more in it than any else. There sit angels to instruct and comfort us; there lie cloths to bind up our wounds; there lies a napkin to wrap up our aching heads; there is the fine linen of the saints to make us bright white garments for the resur-rection.
You may now descend into the grave with confidence; it will not hurt you; Christ's body lying in it has taken away the stench and filth and horror of it. It is but an easy quiet bed to sleep on now; and "they that die in Christ do but sleep in him," says S. Paul, and "rest" there "from their labours," says S. John.
"Come," then, and "see the place," and take the dimen-sions of your own graves thence. Learn there how to lie down in death, and learn there also how to rise again; to die with Christ and to rise with him. It is the principal moral of the test and the whole business of the day. In [144/145] other words, to die to sin and live to righteousness, that when we must lie down ourselves, we may lie down in peace and rise in glory.
I have thus run through all the parts of the test. And now I hope I may say with the Angel, "I know ye" also "seek Jesus that was crucified," and are come hither to that purpose. But I must not say with the Angel, "He is not here." He is here in his word, here in his sacraments, here in his poor members. Ye see him go before you when ye see those poor ghosts walk; you hear him when you hear his word or read, or preached. You even feel him in the blessed sacraments when you receive them worthily. The eyes and ears and hands of your bodies do not, cannot; but your souls may find and see him in them all.
Some of you, I know, are come hither even to seek his body too, to pour out your souls upon it, and at you holy sepulchre revive the remembrance of the crucified Jesus; yet take heed you there seek him as you ought. Not "the living among the dead," I hope. Not the dead elements only, or them, so as if they were corporally himself. No; "He is risen" and gone quite off the earth, as to his corporal presence: all now is spirit, though Spirit and Truth too; truly there, though not corporally. "He is risen," and our thoughts must rise up after him, and think higher of him now than so, and yet believe truly lie is there. So that I may speak the last words of the test with greater advantage than they are here; "Come, see the place where the Lord lies."
And "come, see the place," too, "where he lay;" go into the grave, though not seek him there. Go into the grave and weep there, that our sins they were that brought him thither. Go into the grave and die there; die with him that died for us; breathe out your souls in love for him, who out of love died so for us. Go into his grave, and bury all our sins and vani-ties in that holy dust. Go we into the grave, and dwell there for ever, rather than come out and sin again; and be content (if he see fit) to lie down there for him, who there lay down for us. Fill your daily meditations (but now especially) with his death and passion, his agony and bloody sweat, his stripes and wounds, and griefs and pains.
[145/146] But dwell not always among the tombs. You come to seek him; seek him then, (l,) where you may find him; and that is, says the Apostle, "at the right hand of God." "He is risen," and gone thither. And seek him, (2,) so as you may be sure find him. Not to run out of the story,-seek him as these pious women did; (1) get early up about it henceforward, "watch and pray" a little better; he that seeks him early shall he sure to find him. Seek him (2) courage-ously; be not afraid of a guard of soldiers; be not frighted at a grave, nor fear though the earth itself shake and totter under you. Go on with courage, do your work, be not afraid of a crucified Lord, nor of any office, not to be crucified for his service. Seek him (3) with your holy balms and spices, the sweet odours of holy purposes, and the perfume of strong resolutions, the bitter aloes of repentance, the myrrh of a patient and constant faith, the oil of charity, the spicy perfumes of prayers and praises; bring not so much as the scent of earth, or of an unrepented sin about you; seek him so as men may know you seek him,--know by your eyes, and know by your hands, and know be your knees and feet, and all your postures and demeanours, that you "seek Jesus that was crucified;" let there be nothing vain, or light, or loose, about you; nothing but what becomes his faith and religion whom you seek, nothing but what will adorn the Gospel of Christ. You that thus "seek Jesus which was crucified," shall not want an Angel at every turn to meet you, to stand by, support and comfort you in all your fears and sorrows, nor to encourage your endeavours, nor to assist you in your good works, nor to preserve you from errors, nor to inform you in truths, nor to advance your hopes, nor to confirm your faiths, nor to do anything you would desire. You shall he sure to find him too, whom your souls seek; and he who this day rose from his own sepulchre, shall also raise up you from the death of sin first to the life of righteousness, and from the life of righteousness, one day, to the life of glory; when the Angel shall no longer guide us into the grave, but out of it,-out of our graves and sepulchres into heaven, where we shall meet whole choirs of angels to wel-come and conduct us into the place where the Lord is; where we shall behold, even with the eyes of our bodies, "Jesus [146/147] that was crucified," "sitting; at the right hand of God," and sit down there with him together in the glory of the Father.
To which he bring us, who this day rose again to raise us thither, "Jesus which was crucified." To whom, though cru-cified--to whom for that he was crucified, and this day rose again to lift us up out of the graves of sins, and miseries, and griefs,--be all honour and power, praise and glory, both by Angels and men, this day, henceforward, and for ever. Amen.