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COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD LAY.
IN these words, the Angel which descended from heaven at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, invited those holy women, who came to seek for him, to look into his sepulchre, and see how the present state of things demonstrated to their senses, that he, who had been laid there three days before, was risen from the dead. On this day, the same words call upon us, and all Christians, to go along with them to the sepulchre of Christ; there to meditate on the certainty, and the wonderful manner, and the glorious power of his Resurrection. This is the use I mean to make of the words: I shall suppose, that you and I on this blessed day are going together to that garden of Joseph of Arimathea, where was a new tomb hewed in a rock, with a stone rolled to the mouth of it; the body of Jesus being buried within it, and a guard of Roman soldiers keeping watch without it; and that when we come there, we find such things as those devout women did, who came early in the morning to visit the place. With those things before us, we shall be affected nearly as they were; and, consequently, we shall be delighted and edified. There is not one circumstance attending the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which doth not carry instruction with it; and therefore I shall consider them nearly in the same order in which they happened,
and shew you the meaning and the reasons of these wonderful things. In all such events as relate to our Salvation, the Providence of God disposes the circumstances in such a manner, that they give us light and learning; and they were undoubtedly recorded for our instruction and edification.
The first circumstance attending the Resurrection of Christ may serve as a specimen, to teach what we may expect from the rest. In the first verse of the 28th chapter of St. Matthew, we are told, that the Resurrection happened as it dawned toward the first day of the week. St. Mark says, more expressly, that it was at the rising of the sun. Here then you see, as on many other occasions, the natural works of God bearing testimony to his spiritual works for the salvation of man. At the crucifixion of Christ the sun was darkened; and from the duration of the darkness for the space of three hours, we may infer that this darkness happened from an eclipse of the sun: the natural sun failing in its light, so long as the Sun of Righteousness, who is the true light of man, was suffering upon the cross. So at his resurrection, the Sun of Grace and the sun of nature rise together. From whence this inference is necessary, that he is, as he said of himself, the true light; and, that he is the author of a new life to the world, as the sun begins a new day. We learn that as nature rises with the sun, so doth the world rise with Jesus Christ, and receive life and immortality from his resurrection and it is not improbable, but that where he is said to have brought to light, that is, (as the word signifies) to have illuminated, life and immortality, his resurrection at the rising of the sun may be referred to for certainly his resurrection did diffuse life, as truly as the sun did then bring on the day. There
fore every rising of the sun should remind us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we receive the benefit of every day's light, we should return thanks for the light of life and immortality, by the resurrection of our Lord. And this is the grand reason why natural things and spiritual are thus coupled together, that in the one way we may daily read the other; and that the sight of Nature may lead us to our prayers. Happy are they who make this use of it. The rising of the sun is a glorious sight; but it is only the pattern of a more excellent glory, and as such, a Christian should daily consider it.
The next observable circumstance is that of the earthquake and here the resurrection of our Lord teaches us what we are to expect at the general resurrection of the dead; when the earth shall tremble as if it were under the pangs of delivery. That a dreadful shaking of the earth shall precede or attend the raising of the dead, is to be gathered from those other occasions, on which a resurrection was brought to pass. At the crucifixion, when Jesus expired, the earth shook, and the rocks were rent, and the graves were opened, and the bodies of saints arose. again, when he was rising from the dead, there was a great earthquake. And the like had happened before in that vision of the prophet Ezekiel, when the dry bones were raised to life *. "As I prophesied," said he," there was a noise and a shaking (the word signifies an earthquake) and the bones came together bone to his bone." Whether this great shaking of the earth be intended as a circumstance of solemnity and terror; or whether it be necessary, as an operative cause, toward that great effect of opening the graves, and bringing forth the dead, and restoring
* Ezek. xxxvii. 7. [compare xxxviii. 19.]
their bodies to life and motion; can be known only to God, who hath the direction of this great event: but so it will be, and we shall all feel it.
We may gather farther, that as this earthquake happened when the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, to minister in the work of our Saviour's resurrection; so will the whole earth be shaken, at that moment of time, when the Son of Man shall descend in the clouds to call the dead from their graves, and to sit in judgment upon them. So the Psalmist saith, "the earth trembled when God arose to judgment."
The work of the angel of the Lord, and the effects of his appearance are wonderfully described, and in such words as are very striking to the imagination. For my own part, I feel myself tremble when I read them. He came; and with power and force more than mortal, he rolled away the massy stone from the door of the sepulchre, and then seated himself upon it in defiance; while his face shone bright as lightning, and his raiment was white as snow. If the description of this is so affecting, what must the sight have been? It was intended to confound the enemies of Jesus Christ; who were keeping watch, and supposed they could confine him in his grave by force of arins. They saw this bright messenger repair to the door of the sepulchre, to set the dead at liberty; but they dared not to interrupt him, for they were trembling and dying with fear. Such is the weakness of human force, and the folly of human wisdom, when it opposes the designs of God, and the forces of heaven. What can a sword or a spear do, when it is held up against a flash of lightning?
From the case of these keepers, all the enemies of Jesus Christ may understand what shall happen to
themselves, when he shall descend from heaven to complete the work of our redemption. They act now with confidence, while they think him sleeping, and suppose they may insult his religion with impunity: but he shall awake to avenge the cause of his word, and of his Church; and then these bold men shall be trembling and dying with fear.
In the mean while the same manifestation of divine power which confounds them, shall bring comfort and deliverance to the Church: even as the angel answered to the woman who came to seek the Lord, fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified.
It doth not appear that the presence of the angel was attended with that dazzling brightness to them, as when he first descended, and struck terror into the guards. It seems from the relation of St. Mark, that they had entered into the sepulchre before they saw him; and there he was found as a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment. There was nothing more than this to excite their terror; but affrighted they were; not expecting such a sight. As to the guards they were gone; and St. Matthew tells us, they came to the city, as the women who went to visit the sepulchre were going out of it.
The two forms therefore under which the angel of the Lord was seen, by the guards, and by the holy women, were very different; the former was attended with power and terror and defiance; the other was as that of a gentle and peaceable messenger from heaven, sent to enlighten and comfort the friends of Jesus under their perplexity and affliction. Such are the different forms and effects of the manifestations of God to the people of this world. The enemies of