Page images
PDF
EPUB

and gentle sentence of " the day of judgment," which St. Paul prayed to God to grant Onesiphorus; and more explicitly for the Thessalonians," that their whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus'." And I pray God to grant the same to me, and all faithful people whatsoever.

2. As soon as the Lord had "given up his spirit" into the hands of God, "the veil of the temple was rent," the angels, guardians of the place, deserted it, the rites of Moses were laid open, and the enclosures of the tabernacle were disparked, "the earth trembled, the graves were opened," and all the old world, and the old religion, were so shaken towards their first chaos, that if God had not supported the one, and reserved the other for an honourable burial, the earth had left to support her children, and the synagogue had been thrown out to an inglorious exposition and contempt. But yet in these symbols they were changed from their first condition, and passed into a new dominion; all "old things passed away, and all things became new; the earth and the heavens" were reckoned as (6 a new creation," they passed into another kingdom, under Christ their Lord; and as before the creatures were servants of human necessities, they now become servants of election, and in order to the ends of grace, as before of nature; Christ having now the power to dispose of them in order to his kingdom, and by the administration of his own wisdom. And at the instant of these accidents, God so determined the persuasions of men, that they referred these prodigies to the honour of Christ, and took them as testimonies of that truth, for the affirmation of which the high priest had condemned our dearest Lord and although the heart of the priest rent not", even then when rocks did tear in pieces; yet the people, who saw the passion, "smote their breasts, and returned," and confessed Christ.

3. The graves of the dead were opened at the death, but the dead bodies of the saints that slept, arose not till the

2 Tim. i. 18.

.t 1 Thess. v. 23. Vide Irenæum in hunc locum, lib. v. c. 6. adv. Hæres. ubi probat, absque unione corporis, animæ, et spiritus, hominem non esse, "S. Ambros. in Lucam. lib. 10.

resurrection of our Lord; for he was "the first fruits*," and they followed him as instant witnesses, to publish the resurrection of their head, which, it is possible, they declared to those to whom they "appeared in the holy city." And amongst these, the curiosity, or pious credulity, of some, have supposed Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who, therefore, were careful to be buried in the land of promise, as having some intimation or hope, that they might be partakers of the earliest glories of the Messias, in whose faith and distant expectation they lived and died. And this calling up of company from their graves did publish to all the world, not only that the Lord himself was risen, according to his so frequent and repeated predictions, but that he meant to raise up all his servants, and that all who believe in him, should be partakers of the resurrection Y.

4. When the soldiers observed that Jesus was dead, out of spite and impotent ineffective malice, one of them pierced his holy side with a spear; and the rock being smitten, it gushed out with "water and blood," streaming forth two sacraments to refresh the church, and opening a gate that all his brethren might enter in, and dwell in the heart of God. And so great a love had our Lord, that he suffered his heart to be opened, to show, that as Eve was formed from the side of Adam, so was the church to be from the side of her Lord, receiving from thence life and spiritual nutriment; which he ministered in so great abundance, and suffered himself to be pierced, that all his blood did stream over us, until he made the fountain dry, and reserved nothing of that by which he knew his church was "to live, and move, and have her being." Thus the stream of blood issued out, to become a fountain for the sacrament of the chalice, and water gushed out, to fill the fonts of baptism and repentance. The blood, being the testimony of the Divine love, calls upon us to die for his love, when he requires it; and the noise of the water calls upon us to purify our spirits, and present our conscience

* Euseb. Emiss. hom. 6. de Pasch.

tumuloque inferna refringens

Regna, resurgentes secum jubet ire sepultos.- Prudent. Apoth.

· Ἐλυτροῦντο πάντες οι δίκαιοι, οὓς κατέπιεν ὁ θάνατος.-S. Cyr. Catech. et Chrys, hom. 88. in xxvii. Matt.

to Christ "holy and pure, without spot or wrinkle." The blood running upon us, makes us to be of the cognation and family of God; and the water quenches the flames of hell, and the fires of concupiscence.

5. The friends and disciples of the holy Jesus, having devoutly composed his body to burial, anointed it, washed it, and condited it with spices and perfumes, laid it in a sepulchre hewn from a rock in a garden; which, saith Euthymius, was therefore done, to represent, that we were, by this death, returned to Paradise, and the gardens of pleasures and Divine favours, from whence, by the prevarication of Adam, man was expelled. Here he finished the work of his passion, as he had begun it in a garden; and the place of sepulchre, being a rock, serves the ends of pious succeeding ages for the place remains in all changes of government, of wars, of earthquakes, and ruder accidents, to this day, as a memorial of the sepulchre of our dearest Lord, as a sensible and proper confirmation of the persuasions of some persons, and as an entertainment of their pious fancy and religious affections.

6. But now it was, that in the dark and undiscerned mansions there was a scene of the greatest joy and the greatest horror represented, which yet was known since the first falling of the morning-stars. Those holy souls, whom the prophet Zechariah calls "prisoners of hope, lying in the lake where there is no water z," that is, no constant stream of joy to refresh their present condition, (yet supported with certain showers and gracious visitations from God, and illuminations of their hope,) now that they saw their Redeemer come to change their condition, and to improve it into the neighbourhoods of glory and clearer revelations, must needs have the joy of intelligent and beatified understandings, of redeemed captives, of men forgiven after the sentence of death, of men satisfied after a tedious expectation, enjoying and seeing their Lord, whom, for so many ages, they had expected. But the accursed spirits, seeing the darkness of their prison shine with a new light, and their empire invaded, and their retirements of horror discovered, wondered how a man durst venture thither, or if he were a God, how he should

z Zech. ix. 11, 12.

come to die. But the holy Jesus was like that body of light, receiving into himself the reflection of all the lesser rays of joy, which the patriarchs felt, and being united to his fountain of felicity, apprehended it yet more glorious. He now felt the effects of his bitter passion to return upon him in comforts; every hour of which was abundant recompense for three hours' passion upon the cross, and became to us a great precedent, to invite us to a toleration of the acts of repentance, mortification, and martyrdom, and that in times of suffering we live upon the stock and expense of faith, as remembering that these few moments of infelicity are infinitely paid with every minute of glory, and yet that the glory, which is certainly consequent, is so lasting and perpetual, that it were enough in a lower joy to make amends, by its continuation of eternity. And let us but call to mind what thoughts we shall have, when we die, or are dead; how we shall then, without prejudice, consider, that if we had done our duty, the trouble and the affliction would now be past, and nothing remain but pleasures and felicities eternal", and how infinitely happy we shall then be, if we have done our duty, and how miserable, if not; all the pleasures of sin disappearing, and nothing surviving but a certain and everlasting torment. Let us carry always the same thoughts with us, which must certainly then intervene, and we shall meet the holy Jesus, and partake of his joys, which overflowed his holy soul, when he first entered into the possession of those excellent fruits and effects of his passion.

7. When the third day was come, the soul of Jesus returned from Paradise, and the visitation of separate spirits, and re-entered into his holy body, which he, by his Divine power, did redintegrate, filling his veins with blood, healing all the wounds, excepting those five of his hands, feet, and side, which he reserved as trophies of his victory, and argument of his passion. And as he had comforted the souls of the fathers with the presence of his spirit; so now he saw it to be time to bring comfort to his holy mother, to re-establish the tottering faith of his disciples, to verify his promise, to make demonstration of his Divinity, to lay some superstruc

ε 'Αν τι πράξης μετὰ πόνου καλὸν, ὁ μὲν πόνος ἄχεται, τὸ δὲ καλὸν μένει· ἄν τι ποιήσῃς αἰσχρὸν μετὰ ἡδονῆς, τὸ μὲν ἡδὺ εἶχεται, τὸ δὲ αἰσχρὶν μένει. - Musonius apud A. Gellium, lib. xvi. c. 1.

tures of his church upon the foundation of his former sermons, to instruct them in the mysteries of his kingdom, to prepare them for the reception of the Holy Ghost: and as he had, in this state of separation, triumphed over hell, so, in his resurrection, he set his foot upon death, and brought it under his dominion; so that although it was not yet destroyed, yet it is made his subject: it hath, as yet, the condition of the Gibeonites, who were not banished out of the land, but they were made "drawers of water and hewers of wood;" so is death made instrumental to Christ's kingdom, but it abides still, and shall till the day of judgment, but shall serve the ends of our Lord, and promote the interests of eternity, and do benefit to the church.

8. And it is considerable, that our blessed Lord having told them, that after three days he would rise again, yet he shortened the time as much as was possible, that he might verify his own prediction, and yet make his absence the less troublesome he rises "early in the morning the first day of the week" for so our dearest Lord abbreviates the days of our sorrow, and lengthens the years of our consolation; for he knows that a day of sorrow seems a year, and a year of joy passes like a day; and, therefore, God lessens the one, and lengthens the other, to make this perceived, and that supportable. Now the temple, which the Jews destroyed, God raised up in six and thirty hours: but this "second temple" was more glorious than the first; for now it was clothed with robes of glory, with clarity, agility, and immortality and though, like Moses descending from the mount, he wore a veil, that the greatness of his splendor might not render him unapt for conversation with his servants; yet the holy Scripture affirms, that he was "now no more to see corruption;" meaning, that now he was separate from the passibility and affections of human bodies, and could suffer St. Thomas to thrust his hand into the wound of his side, and his finger into the holes of his hands, without any grief

or smart.

9. But although the graciousness and care of the Lord had prevented all diligence, and satisfied all desires, returning to life before the most forward faith could expect him; yet there were three Maries went to the grave so early, that they prevented the rising of the sun; and though, with great

« PreviousContinue »