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OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH
REV. MR. SAMUEL BURFORD:
IN GOODMAN'S FIELDS, APRIL 24th, 1768.
John xi. 16.—Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus,
unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.
Such was the language of an apostle on the death of a friend. And such may have been the language of some now present on this sad occasion-A sad occasion indeed! For what sight so moving, as that of a disconsolate widow, with a long train of helpless children, pouring out their tears over the remains of an indulgent husband and tender parent-a numerous people lamenting the loss of their affectionate and faithful minister and many besides, expressing by their countenances the grief they feel, for being thus suddenly deprived of a dear relation, and an amiable friend ? It is, I say, a peculiarly mournful providence. Yet, mournful as it is, it may be improved, with the blessing of God, to our real advantage. That I may assist your sorrows to that end, let me lead you into a consideration of the words just read.
The story to which they refer, is one of the most affecting narratives we meet with in the New Testament. And though it is not to our immediate purpose, to dwell on all the particulars of it; yet it is so extraordinary, that I can hardly be excused giving you a general view of the whole. And the rather as our Saviour himself declares, in the preceding verse, that what he did on this occasion, was with intent to prove the divinity of his mission.
Lazarus, a person of considerable eminence, and a very intimate friend and disciple of Christ, it seems fell sick. His sisters Martha and Mary, who had a most tender affection for him, and lived in the greatest harmony with each other, immediately dispatched a messenger to Jesus, saying, Behold, Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick a. They were in hopes that he would instantly come to their house, and had no doubt but that at his word, their brother would be at once restored to his former health.
& John xi. 3,
Our Saviour was at this time at a considerable distance. For Bethany, the village where Lazarus lived, was near Jerusalem, and he was now beyond Jordan, in the place where John baptized a. But upon receiving the message, instead of hastening away as they expected, he resolves to abide where he was two days longer b; signifying to those about him, that this sickness was not unto death, that is, to the utter loss of life, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby c. A great disappointment doubtless this was to the two afflicted sisters, who were weeping by the dying bed of their dear brother. What joy would it have given them, to see the face of so able and compassionate a physician as Jesus ! But ah! in vain do they expect him. Their tears and prayers avail nothing at present. Lazarus languishes-expires in their embraces.
Our Lord knowing he was dead, immediately sets out on his journey to Bethany d. When he gets near the place, Martha hearing the news of his approach, instantly runs to meet him; and overwhelmed with grief, addresses him in these sad and sorrowful words, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died e. Why, O why didst thou not pity us in our distress, and come, ere it was too late, to our relief? so had all this misery we now endure been prevented.” But recovering herself from this hasty expression, which seemed to carry in it some reflection on our Saviour's compassion, she immediately adds, I know that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee f. Some gleam of hope seemed to arise in her breast, that Christ might even yet some way extricate them out of their trouble. He answers, affected doubtless with her extreme distress, Thy brother shall rise again. Yes, Lord, says she, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day. “ But ah! that will be a long time yet.”—True, replies he, but I am the resurrection and the life : he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die. Believest thou this? Yea, Lord, says she, I believe that thou art
6 Chap: xi. 6.
a John x. 40. 4 Ver. 7.
c Ver. 4. f Ver. 22,
the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world a. What an illustrious expression of faith was this ! especially considering her present circumstances of grief and sorrow, and her disappointment at our Saviour's having refused to come, when her brother lay ill.
Upon this she burries back to the house, beckons her sister Mary out of the room, where her friends sat with her condoling her loss, and tells her that the Master was come, and called for her. Mary silently quits the house, and flies to Christ, her friends supposing she was gone to the grave, to weep there. . And being come, she falls down at his feet, and addresses him in the same passionate language her sister had used, and which excessive grief naturally prompted-What a moving scene was this! No wonder that those who stood around could not forbear weeping. Nay, such was the effect on Jesus himself, that he compassionately mingled his tears with theirs; insomuch that the Jews said among themselves, Behold, how he loved him b. Our Lord makes no direct answer to Mary, but asks where they had laid the body. And being come to the sepulchre, he commands the stone to be rolled away from the mouth of it. Which done, he lifts up his eyes to heaven, and says, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always : but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they might believe that thou hast sent
When he had thus spoken, he cries with a loud voice -a voice which will another day reach the remotest part of the earth, and to which all nature shall be obedient-LAZARUS COME FORTH d. Lazarus, quickened by that almighty word, instantly comes forth and lives.
What an amazing display of omnipotence was here! Who that saw it could resist the evidence of his mission, or forbear falling down and worshipping the Son of God! What a striking emblem was this of that divine energy, which gives life to a sinner dead in trespasses and sins! What a lively representation of the resurrection of the dying interests of religion in future times ! And what an assured pledge of that miraculous
a John xi. 23—27. c Ver. 41, 42.
b Ver. 36. d Ver. 43.