Page images
PDF
EPUB

and do my Father's will. The Sun, that guides these hours, is the determinate counsel of my Father, and his calling to the execution of my charge: while I follow that, I cannot miscarry, no more than a man can miss his known way at high noon: this while, in vain are either your dissuasions or the attempts of enemies; they cannot hurt, ye cannot divert me."

The journey then holds to Judea: his attendants shall be made acquainted with the occasion. He, that had formerly denied the deadliness of Lazarus his sickness, would not suddenly confess his death; neither yet would he altogether conceal it: so will he therefore confess it, as that he will shadow it out in a borrowed expression; Lazarus our friend sleepeth.

What a sweet title is here, both of death and of Lazarus ! Death is a sleep; Lazarus is our friend. Lo, he says not, "my friend," but ours; to draw them first into a gracious familiarity and communion of friendship with himself: for what doth this import, but, "Ye are my friends, and Lazarus is both my friend and yours? Our friend." O meek and merciful Saviour, that disdainest not to stoop so low, as that, while thou thoughtest it no robbery to be equal unto God, thou thoughtest it no disparagement to match thyself with weak and wretched men ! Our friend Lazarus. There is a kind of parity in friendship. There may be love, where is the most inequality; but friendship supposes pairs yet the Son of God says of the sons of men, Our friend Lazarus. Oh what a high and happy condition is this, for mortal men to aspire unto, that the God of Heaven should not be ashamed to own them for friends! Neither saith he now abruptly, "Lazarus our friend is dead;" but, Lazarus our friend sleepeth.

O Saviour, none can know the estate of life or death so well as thou, that art the Lord of both. It is enough, that thou tellest us death is no other than sleep. That, which was wont to pass for the cousin of death, is now itself. All this while, we have mistaken the case of our dissolution: we took it for an enemy, it proves a friend; there is pleasure in that, wherein we supposed horror. Who is afraid, after the weary toils of the day, to take his rest by night? Or what is more refreshing to the spent traveller, than a sweet sleep? It is our infidelity, our impreparation, that makes death any other than advantage. Even so, Lord, when thou seest I have toiled enough, let me sleep in peace; and when thou seest I have slept enough, awake me, as thou didst thy Lazarus; But I go to awake him.

Thou saidst not," Let us go to awake him." Those, whom thou wilt allow companions of thy way, thou wilt not allow partners of thy work: they may be witnesses; they cannot be actors. None can awake Lazarus out of this sleep, but he, that made Lazarus. Every mouse or gnat can raise us up from that other sleep; none but an Omnipotent power from this. This

sleep is not without a dissolution. Who can command the soul to come down and meet the body, or command the body to piece with itself, and rise up to the soul, but the God that created both? It is our comfort and assurance, O Lord, against the terrors of death and tenacity of the grave, that our resurrection depends upon none, but thine Omnipotence.

Who can blame the disciples, if they were loth to return to Judea? Their last entertainment was such, as might justly dishearten them. Were this, as literally taken, all the reason of our Saviour's purpose of so perilous a voyage, they argued not amiss, If he sleep, he shall do well. Sleep in sickness is a good sign of recovery: for extremity of pain bars our rest : when nature therefore finds so much respiration, she justly hopes for better terms. Yet it doth not always follow, If he sleep, he shall do well. How many have died in lethargies! How many have lost in sleep, what they would not have foregone waking! Adam slept, and lost his rib; Sampson slept, and lost his strength; Saul slept, and lost his weapon; Ishbosheth and Holofernes slept, and lost their heads. In ordinary course, it holds well here, they mistook and erred. The misconstruction of the words of Christ led them into an unseasonable and erroneous suggestion. Nothing can be more dangerous than to take the speeches of Christ according to the sound of the letter: one error will be sure to draw on more; and if the first be never so slight, the last may be important.

Wherefore are words, but to express meanings? Why do we speak, but to be understood? Since then our Saviour saw himself not rightly construed, he delivers himself plainly, Lazarus is dead. Such is thy manner, O thou Eternal Word of thy Father, in all thy sacred expressions. Thine own mouth is thy best commentary: what thou hast more obscurely said in one passage, thou interpretest more clearly in another. Thou art the sun, which givest us that light, whereby we sce thyself.

But how modestly dost thou discover thy Deity to thy disciples not upon the first mention of Lazarus his death, instantly professing thy power and will of his resuscitation; but, contenting thyself only to intimate thy Omniscience, in that thou couldst in that absence and distance know and report his departure, they shall gather the rest, and cannot chuse but think, "We serve a Master that knows all things, and he that knows all things can do all things."

The absence of our Saviour from the death-bed of Lazarus was not casual, but voluntary; yea, he is not only willing with it, but glad of it; I am glad, for your sakes, that I was not there. How contrary may the affections of Christ and ours be, and yet be both good! The two worthy sisters were much grieved at our Saviour's absence, as doubting it might savour of some

neglect; Christ was glad of it, for the advantage of his disciples' faith. I cannot blame them, that they were thus sorry; I cannot but bless him, that he was thus glad. The gain of their faith in so Divine a miracle was more, than could be countervailed by their momentary sorrow. God and we are not alike affected with the same events: He laughs, where we mourn: He is angry, where we are pleased.

The difference of the affections arises from the difference of the objects, which Christ and they apprehend in the same occurrence. Why are the sisters sorrowful? Because, upon Christ's absence, Lazarus died. Why was Jesus glad he was not there? for the benefit, which he saw would accrue to their faith. There is much variety of prospect in every act, according to the several intentions and issues thereof; yea, even in the very same eyes. The father sees his son combating in a duel for his country: he sees blows and wounds, on the one side; he sees renown and victory, on the other: he grieves at the wounds; he rejoices in the honour. Thus doth God in all our afflictions: he sees our tears, and hears our groans, and pities us; but, withal, he looks upon our patience, our faith, our crown, and is glad that we are afflicted. O God, why should not we conform our diet unto thine; When we lie in pain and extremity, we cannot but droop under it; but do we find ourselves increased in true mortification, in patience, in hope, in a constant reliance on thy mercies! Why are we not more joyed in this, than dejected with the other? since the least grain of the increase of grace is more worth, than can be equalled with whole pounds of bodily vexation.

O strange consequence! Lazarus is dead; nevertheless, Let us go unto him. Must they not needs think, "What should we do with a dead man? What should separate, if death cannot?" Even those, whom we loved dearest, we avoid once dead. Now we lay them aside under the board, and thence send them out of our houses to their grave. Neither hath death more horror in it, than noisomeness; and if we could entreat our eyes to endure the horrid aspect of death in the face we loved, yet can we persuade our scent to like that smell that arises up from their corruption? O love stronger than death! Behold here a friend, whom the very grave cannot sever. Even those, that write the longest and most passionate dates of their amity, subscribe but, your friend till death; and if the ordinary strain of human friendship will stretch yet a little further, it is but to the brim of the grave: thither a friend may follow us, and see us bestowed in this house of our age; but there he leaves us to our worms and dust. But for thee, O Saviour, the gravestone, the earth, the coffin are no bounders of thy dear respects: even after death, and burial, and corruption thou art graciously affected to those thou lovest. Besides the soul (whereof thou

sayest not, "Let us go to it," but, "Let it come to us,") there is still a gracious regard to that dust, which was and shall be a part of an undoubted member of that mystical body, whereof thou art the Head. Heaven, and earth, yields no such friend, but thyself. O make me ever ambitious of this love of thine; and ever unquiet, till I feel myself possessed of thee.

In the mouth of a mere man, this word had been incongruous, Lazarus is dead, yet let us go to him; in thine, O Almighty Saviour, it was not more loving, than seasonable; since I may justly say of thee, thou hast more to do with the dead, than with the living: for, both they are infinitely more, and have more inward communion with thee and thou with them. Death cannot hinder, either our passage to thee, or thy return to us. I joy to think the time is coming, when thou shalt come to every of our graves, and call us up out of our dust, and we shall heur thy voice, and live,

CONTEMPLATION XXIV.-LAZARUS RAISED.

JOHN XI.

GREAT was the opinion, that these devout sisters had of the power of Christ as if death durst not show her face to him, they suppose his presence had prevented their brother's dissolution. And now, the news of his approach begins to quicken some late hopes in them.

Martha was ever the more active. She, that was before so busily stirring in her house to entertain Jesus, was now as nimble to go forth of her house to meet him. She, in whose face joy had wont to smile upon so Blessed a guest, now salutes him with the sighs and tears and blubbers and wrings of a disconsolate mourner.

I know not, whether the speeches of her greeting had in them more sorrow or religion. She had been well catechized before. Even she also had sat at Jesus his feet; and can now give good account of her faith in the power and Godhead of Christ, in the certainty of a future resurrection. This conference hath yet taught her more, and raised her heart to an expectation of some wonderful effect.

And now she stands not still, but hastes back into the village to her sister; carried thither by the two wings, of her own hopes and her Saviour's commands. The time was, when she would have called off her sister from the feet of that Divine Master, to attend the household occasions: now she runs to fetch her out of the house, to the feet of Christ.

Doubtless, Martha was much affected with the presence of Christ; and, as she was overjoyed with it herself, so she knew

how equally welcome it would be to her sister: yet she doth not ring it out aloud in the open hall, but secretly whispers this pleasing tidings in her sister's ear, The Master is come, and calleth for thee; whether out of modesty, or discretion. It is not fit, for a woman to be loud and clamorous. Nothing beseems that sex etter, than silence and bashfulness; as not to be too much seen, so not to be heard too far. Neither did modesty more charm her tongue than discretion; whether in respect to the guests, or to Christ himself. Had those guests heard of Christ's being there, they had, either out of fear or prejudice, withdrawn themselves from him: neither durst they have been witnesses of that wonderful miracle, as being overawed with that Jewish edict, which was out against him: or, perhaps, they had withheld the sisters from going to him, against whom they knew how highly their governors were incensed. Neither was she ignorant of the danger of his own person, so lately before assaulted violently by his enemies at Jerusalem. She knew they were within the smoke of that bloody city, the nest of his enemies; she holds it not therefore fit to make open proclamation of Christ's presence, but rounds her sister secretly in the ear. Christianity doth not bid us abate any thing of our wariness and honest policies; yea, it requires us to have no less of the serpent, than of the dove. There is a time, when we must preach Christ on the house-top; there is a time, when we must speak him in the ear, and, as it were, with our lips shut. Secresy hath no less use than divulgation.

She said enough, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. What a happy word was this, which was here spoken! What a high favour is this, that is done; that the Lord of Life should personally come and call for Mary! yet such as is not appropriated to her. Thou comest to us still, O Saviour; if not in thy bodily presence, yet in thy spiritual: thou callest_us_still; if not in thy personal voice, yet in thine ordinances. It is our fault, if we do not, as this good woman, arise quickly, and come to thee. Her friends were there about her, who came purposely to condole with her; her heart was full of heaviness: yet so soon as she hears mention of Christ, she forgets friends, brother, grief, cares, thoughts, and hastes to his presence.

Still was Jesus standing in the place where Martha left him: whether it be noted, to express Mary's speed or his own wise and gracious resolutions; his presence in the village had perhaps invited danger, and set off the intended witnesses of the work: or it may be, to set forth his zealous desire to dispatch the errand he came for; that, as Abraham's faithful servant would not receive any courtesy from the house of Bethuel, till he had done his master's business concerning Rebekah, so thou, O Saviour, wouldst not so much as enter into the house of these two sisters

« PreviousContinue »