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attempt of theirs ? only for that he taught them the truth concerning his divine nature, and gave himself the just style of the Son of God. How subject carnal hearts are to be impatient to heavenly verities ! Nothing can so much fret that malignant spirit which rules in those breasts, as that Christ should have his own. If we be persecuted for his truth, we do but suffer with him, with whom we shall once reign.
However the disciples pleaded for their Master's safety, yet they aimed at their own ; they well knew their danger was enwrapped in his. It is but a cleanly colour, that they put upon their own fear. This is held but a weak and base passion; each one would be glad to put off the opinion of it from himself, and to set the best face upon his own impotency
Thus white-livered men, that shrink and shift from the cross, will not want fair pretences to evade it. One pleads the peril of many dependents, another the disfurnishing the church of succeeding abettors; each will have some plausible excuse for his sound skin. What error did not our Saviour rectify in his followers ? Even that fear, which they would have dissembled, is graciously dispelled by the just consideration of a sure and inevitable Providence. there not twelve hours in the day," which are duly set, and proceed regularly for the direction of all the motions and actions of men ? So in this course of mine, which I must run on earth, there is a set and determined time wherein I must work, and do my Father's will. The sun, that guides these hours, is the determinate counsel of my Father, and his calling to the execution of my charge: while I follow that, I cannot miscarry, no more than a man can miss his known way at high noon: this while, in vain are either your dissuasions or the attempts of enemies ; they cannot hurt, ye cannot divert me.
The journey then holds to Judea ; his attendants
shall be made acquainted with the occasion. He that had formerly denied the deadliness of Lazarus's sickness, would not suddenly confess his death, neither yet would he altogether conceal it: so will he therefore confess it, as that he will shadow it out in a borrowed expression ; “Lazarus, our friend, sleepeth.” What a sweet title is here both of death and Lazarus ! Death is a sleep, Lazarus is our friend. Lo, he says, not my friend, but ours; to draw them first into a gracious familiarity and communion of friendship with himself; for what doth this import but, “ye are my friends,” and Lazarus is both my friend and yours? “our friend."
O meek and merciful Saviour, that disdainest not to stoop so low, as that, while thou “thoughtest it no robbery to be equal unto God,” thou thoughtest it no disparagement to match thyself with weak and wretched men!“Our friend Lazarus :" there is a kind of parity in friendship. There may be love where is the most inequality, but friendship supposes pairs: yet the Son of God says of the sons of men,
Our friend Lazarus.” Oh what a high and happy condition is this for mortal men to aspire unto, that the God of heaven should not be ashamed to own them for friends! Neither saith he now abruptly, Lazarus our friend is dead; but “Lazarus our friend sleepeth.”
O Saviour, none can know the estate of life or death so well as thou that art the Lord of both. It is enough that thou tellest us death is no other than sleep: that which was wont to pass for the cousin of death, is now itself. All this while we have mistaken the case of our dissolution : we took it for an enemy, it proves a friend; there is pleasure in that wherein we supposed horror.
Who is afraid, after the weary toils of the day, to take his rest by night? or what is more refreshing to the spent traveller than a sweet sleep? It is our infidelity, our unpreparation that makes death any other than advantage. Even so, Lord, when thou seest I have toiled enough, let me sleep in peace; and when thou seest I have slept enough, awake me, as thou didst thy Lazarus : “But I go to awake him.” Thou saidst not, Let us go to awake him : those whom thou wilt allow companions of thy way, thou wilt not allow partners of thy work; they may be witnesses, they cannot be actors. None can awake Lazarus out of this sleep but he that made Lazarus. Every mouse or gnat can raise us up from that other sleep, none but an omnipotent power from this. This sleep is not without a dissolution. Who can command the soul to come down and meet the body, or command the body to piece with itself, and rise up to the soul, but the God that created both ? It is our comfort, and assurance, O Lord, against the terrors of death and tenacity of the grave, that our resurrection depends upon none but thine omnipotence.
Who can blame the disciples if they were loth to return to Judea ? Their last entertainment was such as might justly dishearten them. Were this as literally taken, all the reason of our Saviour's purpose of so perilous a voyage, they argued not amiss. " If he sleep, he shall do well.” Sleep in sickness is a good sign of recovery, for extremity of pain bars our rest : when nature, therefore, finds so much respiration, she justly hopes for better terms. Yet it doth not always follow, “ If he sleep, he shall do well :” how many have died of lethargies! How many have lost in sleep what they would not have foregone waking! Adam slept and lost his rib; Samson slept and lost his strength ; Saul slept and lost his weapon ; Ishbosheth and Holofernes slept and lost their heads: in ordinary course it holds well, here they mistook and erred. The misconstruction of the words of Christ, led them into an unseasonable and erroneous suggestion. Nothing can be more dangerous than to take the speeches of Christ according to the sound of the letter; one error will be sure to draw on more, and if the first be never so slight, the last may be important.
Wherefore are words but to express meanings ? Why do we speak but to be understood ? Since then our Saviour saw himself not rightly construed, he delivers himself plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” Such is thy manner, O thou eternal Word of thy Father, in all thy sacred expressions. Thine own mouth is thy best commentary ; what thou hast more obscurely said in one
passage, thou interpretest more clearly in another. Thou art the sun which givest us that light whereby we see thyself.
But how modestly dost thou discover thy deity to thy disciples ! Not upon the first mention of Lazarus's death, instantly professing thy power and will of his resuscitation : but contenting thyself only to intimate thy omniscience, in that thou couldst, in that absence and distance, know and report his departure: they shall gather the rest, and cannot choose but think, We serve a Master that knows all things, and he that knows all things can do all things.
The absence of our Saviour from the death-bed of Lazarus was not casual, but voluntary ; yea, he is not only willing with it, but glad of it: “I am glad for your sakes, that I was not there." How contrary may the affections of Christ and ours be, and yet be both good! The two worthy sisters were much grieved at our Saviour's absence, as doubting it might savour of some neglect ; Christ was glad of it, for the advantage of his disciples' faith. I cannot blame them that they were thus sorry ; I cannot but bless him, that he was thus glad. The gain of their faith, in so divine a miracle, was more than could be countervailed by their momentary sorrow.
God and we are not alike affected by the same events ; he laughs where we mourn; he is angry where we are pleased.
The difference of the affections arises from the
difference of the objects which Christ and they apprehend in the same occurrence. Why are the sisters sorrowful ? because upon Christ's absence, Lazarus died. Why was Jesus glad he was not there ? for the benefit which he saw would accrue to their faith. There is much variety of prospect in every act, according to the several intentions and issues thereof, yea, even in the very same eyes.
The father sees his son combating in a duel for his country; he sees blows and wounds on the one side, he sees renown and victory on the other; he grieves at the wounds, he rejoices in the honour. Thus doth God in all our afflictions; he sees our tears, and hears our groans, and pities us; but withal he looks upon our patience, our faith, our crown, and is glad that we are afflicted.
O God, why should not we conform our diet unto thine? When we lie in pain and extremity, we cannot but droop under it: but do we find ourselves increased in true mortification, in patience, in hope, in a constant reliance on thy mercies ? why are we not more joyed in this, than dejected with the other, since the least grain of the increase of grace worth than can be equalled with whole pounds of bodily vexation?
Oh strange consequence! “Lazarus is dead;"> nevertheless “let us go unto him.” Must they not needs think, What should we do with a dead man? what should separate if death cannot ? Even those whom we love most dearly we avoid, once dead ; now we lay them aside under the board, and thence send them out of our houses to their grave. Neither hath death more horror in it, than noisomeness; and if we could entreat our eyes to endure the horrid aspect of death, in the face we loved, yet can we persuade our scent to like that smell that arises up from their corruption? 0“ Love stronger than death !” behold here a friend whom the very grave cannot sever.
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