« PreviousContinue »
wars was spread about in Jerusalem, they be wailed him thirty days in that city; and the minstrels played on the flute, and sang funeral ditties to his honour. And travellers inform us that the custom is still kept up in the East.
Serious and thoughtful minds must always have rather chosen to be freed from such noise and intrusion at these seasons.
And however heathen men, who had but faint hopes beyond the grave, and thought that death severed them for ever from those they loved, might receive satisfaction, and forget their sorrows, by these means, the Christian will seek his consolation in the sure promises of God by Christ, of being raised to an immortal life, where nothing will be wanting to complete his happiness; and not in the outward trappings and formalities of woe, or vain encomiums 'of the dead, 'or extravagant expense upon them, who cannot be benefited by it, and which might be laid out to much better account on the living. ¿
Our Lord turned these noisy people out of the house because, generally they were of light unserious minds, and, being accustomed
to sights of death, less affected with them; that they might not give any disturbance during the awful miracle that he was about to perform.
Their being disappointed, however, of exercising their office any longer over a person of whose death they were fully persuaded, and which they would not fail to speak of, would contribute the more to ascertain Christ's extraordinary power and make it known, and might perhaps put proper thoughts into some of them.
Their behaviour to him, however, upon it, marked but too well their general disposition, and justified his dismission of them. For when he said, the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth, they laughed him to scorn.
They were strangers to his holy and excellent character, and particularly to those lovely graces of modesty and humility which were most eminent in him, and which had now caused him to speak in such a way as to excite them to such rude behaviour.
One of a less perfect virtue might have been prompted to bid them remark, what a cold lifeless corpse lay before them, and have expatiated on the greatness of that power
which could kindle again the spark of life so totally extinguished; and thus have drawn the admiration of by-standers to himself, as one so highly favoured of Heaven.
But far was our Lord from all such idle parade and self-regards.
Instead of this, he contents himself with saying, "She is not dead, but sleepeth :" she is not so dead as to need your services any longer to lament over her.
In reading our Lord's history, we are frequently put upon remarking his soft and gentle way of speaking of death, which to the mere philosopher, in all ages, who borrows nothing from the light of revelation, has appeared the most alarming and dreadful of all evils.
"The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth," says he, who called himself, and who was truly, the light of the world, in this most important respect of all others.
Most assuredly she did but sleep to him, who knew that by the great power given him from God, he should forthwith raise her from death as easily as we awake one out of sleep.
But, besides, there was a justness and propriety, as well as modesty, in the language our Lord uses; and, accordingly, death is commonly spoken of in scripture under the image of sleep, which it resembles in many particulars.
For there, in the grave, the weary are at rest: there all our conscious powers and feelings are suspended; we remain in a still, silent, insensible state.
But we shall not for ever remain in such a state: ere long, as our Maker hath discovered to us by Christ our heavenly teacher, ere long, all that sleep in death shall be awakened out of it, though not all at one time; for the same divine oracle tells us, that the virtuous dead are to be first raised; but mentions not at what distance and interval afterwards the rest of mankind shall awake and recover their existence.
Most properly, therefore, is death described as a state of sleep to us, of mankind, who shall all live again. And hence, it is never applied when we speak of the death of the brute creation, because we know nothing of their being ever to live again.
How awful is the subject to us all!
Sleep, a little prolonged, is death!
Many go to rest at night in health, who never wake till the morning of the resurrection, and the last trumpet's sound calls to judgement!..
Think on this, how near akin sleep is to death! and by the divine assistance so order your lives, that it may be indifferent to you each night that comes, whether you awake to your ordinary business in this world, or, after the long night of death is past, shall find yourselves in that other state.
There is a pleasing beautiful circumstance, which may not pass unnoticed, in our Lord's manner of restoring life and understanding to this young person:-at the very instant that he spoke, "Damsel, arise," he took her by the hand to raise her up from death, as we would take hold of a child to awake it out of sleep.
This shows the goodness and gentleness of his disposition, and also the fulness of that divine power which was imparted to him, and with what ease he performed the greatest miracles.
It shows, also, as he speaks of himself in