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in Bethany, till thou hadst effected the glorious work which occasioned thee thither. It was thy meat and drink to do the will of thy Father. Thy best entertainment was within thyself. How do we follow thee, if we suffer either pleasures or profits, to take the wall of thy services?
So good women were well worthy of kind friends. No doubt, Bethany, being not two miles distant from Jerusalem, could not but be furnished with good acquaintance from the city. These, knowing the dearness and hearing of the death of Lazarus, came over to comfort the sad sisters. Charity, together with the common practice of that nation, calls them to this duty. All our distresses expect these good offices, from those that love us; but, of all others, death, as that which is the extremest of evils, and makes the most fearful havoc in families, cities, kingdoms, worlds. The complaint was grievous, I looked for some to comfort me, but there was none. It is some kind of ease to sorrow, to have partners; as a burden is lightened by many shoulders: or as clouds, scattered into many drops, easily vent their moisture into air. Yea, the very presence of friends abates grief. The peril, that arises to the heart from passion, is the fixedness of it, when, like a corrosive plaister, it eats in into the sore. Some kind of remedy it is, that it may breathe out in good society.
These friendly neighbours, seeing Mary hasten forth, make haste to follow her. Martha went forth before; I saw none go after her Mary stirs; they are at her heels. Was it, for that Martha, being the elder sister and the housewife of the family, might stir about with less observation? or was it, that Mary was the more passionate, and needed the more heedy attendance? However, their care and intentiveness is truly commendable: they came to comfort her; they do what they came for. It contents them not, to sit still and chat within doors, but they wait on her at all turns. Perturbations of mind are diseases. Good keepers do not only tend the patient in bed, but when he sits up, when he tries to walk all his motions have their careful assistWe are no true friends, if our endeavours of the redress of distempers in them we love be not assiduous and unweariable. It was but a loving suspicion She is gone to the grave to weep there. They well knew how apt passionate minds are, to take all occasions to renew their sorrow. Every object affects them. When she saw but the chamber of her dead brother, straight she thinks, "There Lazarus was wont to lie," and then she wept afresh; when the table, "There Lazarus was wont to sit," and then new tears arise;" when the garden, "There Lazarus had wont to walk," and now again she weeps. How much more do these friends suppose the passions would be stirred with the sight of the grave, when she must needs think, "There is Lazarus !" O Saviour, if the place of the very dead corpse of our friend have power to draw our hearts thither and to affect us more deeply,
how should our hearts be drawn to and affected with heaven, where thou sittest at the right hand of thy Father! There, O thou which wert dead and art alive, is thy body and thy soul present, and united to thy glorious Deity. Thither, O thither, let our access be not to mourn there, where is no place for sorrow; but to rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious, and more and more to long for thy beatifical presence.
Their indulgent love mistook Mary's errand. Their thoughts, how kind soever, were much too low. While they supposed she went to a dead brother, she went to a Living Saviour. The world hath other conceits of the actions and carriage of the regenerate than are truly intended; setting such constructions upon them, as their own carnal reason suggests. They think them dying, when behold they live; sorrowful, when they are always rejoicing; poor, while they make many rich. How justly do we appeal from them, as incompetent judges; and pity those misinterpretations, which we cannot avoid!
Both the sisters met Christ: not both in one posture: Mary is still noted, as for more passsion, so for more devotion; she, that before sate at the feet of Jesus, now falls at his feet. That presence had wont to be familiar to her, and not without some outward homeliness; now it fetches her upon her knees, in an awful veneration: whether out of a reverend acknowledgment of the secret excellency and power of Christ; or out of a dumb intimation of that suit concerning her dead brother, which she was afraid to utter. The very gesture itself was supplicatory. What position of body can be so fit for us, when we make our address to our Saviour? It is an irreligious unmannerliness, for us to go less. Where the heart is affected with the awful acknowledgment of Majesty, the body cannot but bow.
Even before all her neighbours of Jerusalem, doth Mary thus fall down at the feet of Jesus. So many witnesses as she had, so many spies as she had of that forbidden observance. It was no less than excommunication, for any body to confess him: yet good Mary, not fearing the informations that might be given by those Jewish gossips, adores him; and, in her silent gesture, says as much as her sister had spoken before, Thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Those, that would give Christ his right, must not stand upon scrupulous fears. Are we naturally timorous? Why do we not fear the denial, the exclusion of the Almighty? Without, shall be the fearful.
Her humble prostration is seconded by a lamentable complaint ; Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. The sisters are both in one mind; both in one speech; and both of them, in one speech bewray both strength and infirmity: strength of faith, in ascribing so much power to Christ, that his presence could preserve from death; infirmity, in supposing the necessity of a presence for this purpose. Why, Mary, could not thine
Omnipotent Saviour, as well in absence, have commanded Lazarus to live? Is his hand so short, that he can do nothing but by contaction? If his power were finite, how could he have forbidden the seizure of death? if infinite, how could it be limited to place, or hindered by distance? It is a weakness of faith, to measure success by means, and means by presence, and to tie effects to both, when we deal with an Almighty Agent. Finite causes work within their own sphere: all places are equally near, and all effects equally easy to the Infinite. O Saviour, while thou now sittest gloriously in heaven, thou dost no less impart thyself unto us, than if thou stoodst visibly by us, than if we stood locally by thee: no place can make difference of thy virtue and aid.
This was Mary's moan: no motion, no request sounded from her to the Saviour. Her silent suit is returned with a mute
No notice is taken of her error. O that marvellous mercy, that connives at our faulty infirmities! All the reply that I hear of is, a compassionate groan within himself. O Blessed Jesu, thou, that wert free from all sin, wouldst not be free from strong affections. Wisdom and holiness should want much work, if even vehement passions might not be quitted from offence. Mary wept her tears drew on tears from her friends: all their tears united drew groans from thee. Even in thy heaven, thou dost no less pity our sorrows. Thy glory is free from groans, but abounds with compassion and mercy. If we be not sparing of our tears, thou canst not be insensible of our sorrows. How shall we imitate thee, if, like our looking-glass, we do not answer tears, and weep on them that weep upon us?
Lord, thou knewest, in absence, that Lazarus was dead; and dost thou not know, where he was buried? Surely, thou wert further off when thou sawest and reportedst his death, than thou wert from the grave thou inquiredst of. Thou, that knewest all things, yet askest what thou knowest, Where have ye laid him? Not out of need, but out of will; that as in thy sorrow, so in thy question, thou mightest depress thyself in the opinion of the beholders for the time, that the glory of thine instant miracle might be the greater, the less it was expected. It had been all one to thy Omnipotence, to have made a new Lazarus out of nothing; or, in that remoteness, to have commanded Lazarus, wheresoever he was, to come forth: but thou wert neither willing to work more miracle than was requisite, nor yet unwilling to fix the minds of the people upon the expectation of some marvellous thing, that thou meantest to work; and therefore askest, Where have you laid him?
They are not more glad of the question, than ready for the answer; Come, and see. It was the manner of the Jews, as likewise of those Egyptians among whom they had sojourned, to lay up the dead bodies of their friends with great respect.
cost was wont to be bestowed on some of their graves than on their houses. As neither ashamed then, nor unwilling, to shew the decency of their sepulture, they say, Come, and see. More was hoped for from Christ, than a mere view. They meant and expected, that his eye should draw him on to some further action. O Saviour, while we desire our spiritual resuscitation, how should we labour, to bring thee to our grave! how should we lay open our deadness before thee, and bewray to thee our impotence and senselessness! Come, Lord, and see what a miserable carcass I am; and, by the power of thy mercy, raise me from the state of my corruption.
Never was our Saviour more submissively dejected than now, immediately before he would approve and exalt the Majesty of his Godhead. To his groans and inward grief he adds his tears. Anon, they shall confess him a God: these expressions of passions shall onwards evince him to be a man.
The Jews construe this well; See how he loved him. Never did any thing but love fetch tears from Christ. But they do foully misconstrue Christ in the other; Could not he, that opened the eyes of him that was born blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Yes, know ye, O vain and importune. questionists, that he could have done it with ease. To open the eyes of a man born blind was more than to keep a sick man from dying this were but to uphold and maintain nature from decaying; that were to create a new sense, and to restore a deficiency in nature. To make an eye was no whit less difficult than to make a man: he, that could do the greater, might well have done the less. Ye shall soon see this was not for want of power. Had ye said, "Why would he not? Why did he not?" the question had been fairer, and the answer no less easy; For his own greater glory. Little do ye know the drift, whether of God's acts, or delays; and ye know as much, as you are worthy. Let it be sufficient for you, to understand, that he, who can do all things, will do that which shall be most for his own honour.
It is not improbable, that Jesus, who before groaned in himself for compassion of their tears, now groaned for their incredulity. Nothing could so much afflict the Saviour of men, as the sins of men. Could their external wrongs to his body have been separated from offence against his Divine Person, their scornful indignities had not so much affected him. No injury goes so deep, as our spiritual provocations of our God. Wretched men! why should we grieve the good Spirit of God in us? Why should we make him groan for us, that died to redeem us?
With these groans, O Saviour, thou camest to the grave of Lazarus. The door of that house of death was strong and impenetrable. Thy first word was, Take away the stone. O weak beginning of a mighty miracle! If thou meantest to raise the dead, how much more easy had it been for thee to remove the
gravestone! One grain of faith in thy very disciples was enough to remove mountains; and dost thou say, Take away the stone? I wis, there was a greater weight, that lay upon the body of Lazarus, than the stone of his tomb; the weight of death and corruption: a thousand rocks and hills were not so heavy a load as this alone: why then dost thou stick at this shovelfull? Yea, how easy had it been for thee, to have brought up the body of Lazarus through the stone, by causing that marble to give way by a sudden rarefaction! But thou thoughtest best, to make use of their hands rather: whether for their own more full conviction; for had the stone been taken away by thy followers, and Lazarus thereupon walked forth, this might have appeared to thy malignant enemies, to have been a set match betwixt thee, thy disciples, and Lazarus or whether for the exercise of our faith, that thou mightest teach us to trust thee under contrary appearances.
Thy command to remove the stone seemed to argue an impotence: straight, that seeming weakness breaks forth into an act of Omnipotent power. The homeliest shows of thy human infirmity are ever seconded with some mighty proofs of thy Godhead; and thy miracle is so much more wondered at, by how much it was less expected.
It was ever thy just will, that we should do what we may. To remove the stone, or to untie the napkin, was in their power; this, they must do: to raise the dead was out of their power; this, therefore, thou wilt do alone. Our hands must do their utmost, ere thou wilt put to thine.
O Saviour, we are all dead and buried in the grave of cur sinful nature. The stone of obstination must be taken away from our hearts, ere we can hear thy reviving voice: we can no more remove this stone, than dead Lazarus could remove his; we can add more weight to our graves. O let thy faithful agents, by the power of thy Law and the grace of thy Gospel take off the stone, that thy voice may enter into the grave of miserable corruption.
Was it a modest kind of mannerliness in Martha, that she would not have Christ annoyed with the ill scent of that stale carcass? or was it out of distrust of reparation, since her brother had passed all the degrees of corruption, that she says, Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath beeen dead four days? He, that understood hearts, found somewhat amiss in that intimation. His answer had not endeavoured to rectify that, which was utterly faultless. I fear, the good woman meant to object this, as a likely obstacle to any further purposes or proceedings of Christ. Weak faith is still apt to lay blocks of difficulties, in the way of the great works of God.
Four days were enough to make any corpse noisome. Death itself is not unsavoury; immediately upon dissolution, the body