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mercy; nothing appears to you but impotence and death : little do ye know what an irresistible guard there is upon that sacred corpse, such as, if all the powers of darkness shall band against, they shall find themselves confounded. In spite of all the gates of hell, that word shall stand, “ Not a bone bimself shall be broken."
Still the infallible decree of the Almighty leads you on to his own ends, through your own ways. Ye saw him already dead whom ye came to dispatch; those bones therefore shall be whole, which ye had no power to break. But yet, that no piece, either of your cruelty, or of divine prediction, may remain unsatisfied, he, whose bones may not be iinpaired, shall be wounded in his flesh; he, whose ghost was yielded up, must yield his last blood; “ One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith there came out blood and water.” Malice is wont to end with life, here it overlives it. Cruel man! what means this so late wound? what commission hadst thou for this bloody act? Pilate had given leave to break the bones of the living, he gave no leave to gore the side of the dead : what wicked supererogation is this ! what a superfluity of maliciousuess! to what purpose did thy spear pierce so many hearts in that one? why wouldst thou kill a dead man? Methinks the blessed Virgin, and those other passionate associates of hers, and the disciple whom Jesus loved, together with the other of his fellows, the friends and followers of Christ, and especially he that was so ready to draw his sword upon the troop of his Master's apprehenders, should have work enough to contain themselves within the bounds of patience, at so savage a stroke: their sorrow could not choose but turn to indignation, and their hearts could not but rise, as even mine doth now, at so impertinent a villany. How easily could I rave at that rude hand ! but, O God, when I look up to thee, and consider how thy holy and wise providence so overrules the most barbarous actions of men, that besides their will, they turn beneficial, I can at once hate them, and bless thee. This very wound hath a mouth to speak the Messiaship of my Saviour, and the truth of thy Scripture, “ They shall look at him whom they have pierced. Behold now the second Adam sleeping, and out of his side formed the mother of the living, the evangelical church. Behold the Rock which was smitten, and the waters of life gushed forth. Behold the Fountain that is set open to the
, house of David, for sin and for uncleanness; a fountain not of water only, but of blood too. O Saviour, by thy water we are washed, by thy blood we are redeemed. Those two sacraments, which thou didst institute alive, flow also from thee dead, as the last memorials of thy love to thy church: the water of baptism, which is the laver of regeneration ; the blood of the New Testament shed for remission of sins;" and these, together with the Spirit that gives life to them both, are the three witnesses on earth, whose attestation cannot fail us. O precious and sovereign wound, by which our souls are healed! Into this clift of the rock let my dove fly and enter, and there safely hide herself from the talons of all the birds of prey.
It could not be but that the death of (hrist, contrived and acted at Jerusalem in so solemn a festival, must needs draw a world of beholders : the Romans, the centurion, and his band, were there as actors, as supervisors of the execution. Those strangers were no otherways engaged, than as they that would hold fair correspondence with the citizens where they were engarrisoned : their freedom from prejudice rendered them more capable of an ingenuous construction of all events. “Now, when the centurion, and they that were with him that watched Jesus, saw the earthquake, and the things that were done, they feared greatly, and glorified God, and said, Truly this was the Son of God.”
What a marvellous concurrence is here of strong irrefragable convictions ! meekness in suffering; prayer for his murderers, a faithful resignation of his soul into the hands of his heavenly Father, the sun eclipsed, the heavens darkened, the earth trembling, the graves open, the rocks rent, the veil of the temple torn; who could go less than this, "Truly this was the Son of God?” He suffers patiently; this is through the power of grace: many good men have done so through his enabling. The frame of nature suffers with him; this is proper to the God of nature, the Son of God.
I wonder not that these men confessed thus; I wonder that any spectator confessed it not: these proofs were enough to fetch all the world upon their knees, and to have made all mankind converts. But all hearts are not alike, no means can work upon the wilfully obdured. Even after this the soldier pierced that blessed side; and while Pagans relented, Jews continued impenitent. Yet, even of that nation, those
beholders, whom envy and partiality had not interested in this slaughter, were stricken with just astonishment, and smote their breasts, and shook their heads, and, by passionate gesture, spake what their tongues durst not.
How 'many must there needs be, in this universal concourse, of them whom he had healed of diseases, or freed from devils, or miraculously fed, or some way obliged in their persons or friends! These, as they were deeply affected with the mortal indigoities which were offered to their acknowledged Messiah, so they could not but be ravished with wonder at those powerful demonstrations of the Deity of him in whom they believed, and strangely distracted in their thoughts, while they compared those sufferings with that Omnipotence. As yet their faith and knowledge was but in the bud, or in the blade. How could they choose but think, Were he not the Son of God, how could these things be? And if he were the Son of God, how could he die? His resurrection, his ascension, should soon after perfect their belief; but, in the mean time, their hearts could not but be conflicted with thoughts hard to be reconciled. Howsoever, they glorify God, and stand amazed at the expectation of the issue.
But, above all other, O thou blessed Virgin, the holy mother of our Lord, how many swords pierced thy soul, while, standing close by his cross, thou sawest thy dear Son and Saviour thus indignly used, thus stripped, thus stretched, thus vailed, thus bleeding, thus dying, thus. pierced ! how did thy troubled heart now recount what the angel Gabriel had reported to thee from God, in the message of thy blessed conception of that Son of God! how didst thou think of the iniraculous forination of that thy divine burden by the power of the Holy Ghost! how didst thou recal those prophecies of Anna and Simeon concerning him, and all those supernatural works of his, the irrefragable proofs of his Godhead ! and, laying all these together, with the miserable infirmities of his passion, how wert thou crucified with him! The care that he took for thee in the extremity of his torments, could not choose but melt thy heart into sorrow: but 0, when in the height of his pain and misery, thou heardst him cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” what a cold horror possessed thy soul ! I cannot now wonder at thy qualms and swooninys, I could rather wonder that thou survivedst so sad an hour. But
when, recollecting thyself, thou sawst the heavens to bear a part with thee in thy mourning, and feltst the earth to tremble no less than thyself, and foundst that the dreadful concussion of the whole frame of nature proclaimed the Deity of him that would thus suffer and die, and rememberedst his frequent predictions of drinking this bitter cup, and of being baptized thus in blood ; thou beganst to take heart and to comfort thyself with the assured expectation of the glorious issue. More than once had he foretold thee this his victorious resurrection. Ile, who had openly professed Jonas for his type, and had fore-proinised in three days to raise up the ruined temple of his body, had doubtless given more full intimation unto thee, who hadst so great a share in that sacred body of his. “ The just shall live by faith.” Lo, that faith of thine in his ensuing resurrection, and in his triumph over death, gives thee life, and cheers up thy drooping soul
, and bids it, in an holy confidence, to triumph over all thy fears and sorrows; and him, whom thou seest dead and despised, represents unto thee living, immortal, glorious.
The Resurrection, GRACE doth not ever make show where it is. There is much secret riches both in the earth and sea, which never eye saw.
I never heard any news till now of Joseph of Arimathea ; yet was he eminently both rich and wise, and good; a worthy, though close disciple of our Saviour, True faith may be wisely reserved, but will not be cowardly. Now he puts forth himself, and dares beg the body of Jesus. Death is wont to end all quarrels. Pilate's heart tells him he hath done too much already, in sentencing an innocent to death; no doubt that centurion had related unto him the miraculous symptoms of that passion. He, that so unwillingly condemned innocence, could rather have wished that just man alive, than have denied him dead. The body is yielded, and taken down; and now that which hung naked upon the cross is wrapped in fine linen; that which was soiled with sweat and blood is curiously washed and embalmed. Now even Nicodemus comes in for a good part, and fears not the envy of a good profession. Death hath let that man loose, whom the law formerly over-awed with
restraint. He hates to be a night-bird any longer, but boldly flies forth, and looks upon the face of the sun, and will be now as liberal in his odours as be was before niggardly in bis confession. O Saviour, the earth was thine, and the fulness of it ; yet as thou hadst not an house of thine own while thou livedst, so thou hast not a grave when thou wert dead. Joseph, that rich counsellor, lent thee his; lent it so, as it should never be restored : thou tookst it but for a while: but that little touch of that sacred corpse of thine made it too good for the owner.
O happy Joseph, that hadst the honour to be landlord of the Lord of life ! how well is thy house-room repaid with a niansion not made with hands, eternal in the heavens! Thy garden and thy tomb were hard by Calvary, where thou couldst not fail of many monitions of thy frailty. How oft hadst thou seasoned that new tomb with sad and savoury meditations ! and badst oft said within thyself, Here I shall once lie down to my last rest, and wait for my resurrection. Little didst thou then think to have been disappointed by so blessed a guest; or that thy grave should be again so soon empty, and in that emptiness uncapable of any mortal indweller. How gladly dost thou now resign thy grave to him in whom thou livest, and who liveth for ever, whose soul is in Paradise, whose Godhead is every where? Hadst thou not been rich before, this gift had enriched thee alone, and more ennobled thee than all thine earthly honour. Now great princes envy thy bounty, and have thought themselves happy to kiss the stones of that rock which thou thus hewedst, thus bestowedst.
Thus purely wrapped, and sweetly embalmed, lies the precious body of our Saviour in Joseph's new vault. Are ye now also at rest, Oye Jewish rulers? is your malice dead and buried with him? hath Pilate enough served your envy and revenge? Surely it is but a common hostility that can die ; yours surviveth death, and puts you upon a further project. “The chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, we remember, that this deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again : command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure till the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say to the people, he is risen. '
How full of terrors, and inevitable perplexities, is guilti