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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 X
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
God find themselves uneasy under all his visitations, and never expect any good from him. They trust in their own power, as the Roman guards trusted in their weapons: therefore God resisteth them, and they are disappointed and confounded. They have nothing to do but to make their escape for a time, and put the best face they can upon their own miscarriages, as we shall find it happened in the present case. But to the friends of God all his visitations are attended with the information and comfort they wish for and however they may be tried and perplexed for a time, their sorrow is turned into joy. A great sight and a great event had agitated the spirits of those holy women; but their fear had such a mixture of joy with it, that there is not one amongst us who would not be glad to feel himself in their situation.
All things shall be after the same pattern, when Jesus Christ shall descend from heaven at the last day. When he shall appear in the clouds, the most devout saint upon earth shall be amazed, and tremble inwardly at the sight; but what comfort shall he feel at the same time, when he now sees that his Redeemer liveth, and is come to stand in the latter day upon the earth. On the other hand, the wicked shall feel that the day of vengeance is come; that their own power is blasted, and that the sight which appears brings nothing to them but terror: so they can only desire to make their escape, and hide themselves from the face of their judge.
But now let us consider how the two parties who attended the sepulchre were employed. The women are called upon to see the place where the Lord lay; the guards are fled from it to their friends in the city. The women are instructed to bear the glad
tidings of the resurrection to the disciples: the soldiers are bribed to report a lie about it, to make their friends easy, and furnish an excuse to all the enemies of Jesus Christ. As the women went to tell the disciples, Jesus himself met them: and we may well suppose that the sight of him affected them as it had never done before. They were now assured that he was immortal and divine; so they fell down before him with fear and reverence, and worshipped him as their Lord and their God. But he saith unto them, be not afraid; go tell my brethren, &c. How comfortable is this message to us as well as to them?-Go tell my brethren.-For he who saith this was raised from the dead only as the first-born of many brethren; and with him thus raised, we are begotten to a new life, and made the sons of God. While they were delivering these blessed tidings to the Apostles, the soldiers had carried their information to the Chief Priests, and had thrown them into no small confusion. They met together immediately; but rather privately as we may suppose; and without any noise, consulted together what was best to be done. Consider first what they had heard, and then you will understand the nature of their plot better, and see farther into the wickedness of the human heart, and the cause of its most evil workings. You will see, that mistakes in religion, though lightly spoken of, as things only of a speculative concern, make people more wicked, more false, cruel and malicious in their actions, than any sensual affection.
The soldiers, it is said, shewed unto the Chief Priests all the things that were done. They shewed them, that while they were keeping watch, and broad awake, as guards were obliged to be at the peril of their lives, a light beyond the brightness of the sun, came upon
them all at once; and an Angel marched through them up to the sepulchre, and rolled away the stone from the mouth of it, though too weighty for any man to stir it; and that they had seen him sit down upon it when he had done, while they were unable to stir from the ground, and were terrified out of their strength, and nearly out of their senses. That the sepulchre being now open, the body of Jesus was certainly gone, while they were under this state of fear and amazement, and that he was actually risen from the dead.
Had the Chief Priests felt in their minds as you feel at the hearing of these things, they would have been pricked to the heart with the sense of their own guilt and folly; and have said-" Then is Jesus of Nazareth our true Messiah, whose doctrine we contradicted, whose person we persecuted, and put him to death at last as a malefactor and a felon! Let us turn then from our errors; let us forsake our evil ways, and pray that he will pardon our ignorance, and receive us to his favour, that we may at last partake of his salvation." Thus you would have said. But what did they say? Instead of confessing their sin, they added to all their other counsels and plots, one more, which was the last and worst of all: they hired the soldiers, who had been witnesses of his resurrection, to deny it, and to confirm the slander they had published before, that his disciples would come by night, and steal him away, and then pretend that he was risen from the dead.
I shall not stay to examine the folly and absurdity of this lie; which tells us, that soldiers were asleep, who were to be punished with death for confessing it; that they knew what was done while they were asleep that the Disciples who had fled with fear