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sionate dates of their amity, subscribe but, Your friend till death; and if the ordinary strain of human friendship will stretch yet a little further, it is but to the brim of the “grave; thither a friend may follow us, and see us bestowed in this house of our age, but there he leaves us to our worms and dust. But for thee, O Saviour, the grave-stone, the earth, the coffin, are no bounders of thy dear respects; even after death, and burial, and corruption, thou art graciously affected to those thou lovest. Besides the soul, (whereof thou sayest not, let us go to it, but, let it come to us,) there is still a gracious regard to that dust, which was and shall be a part of an undoubted member of that mystical body whereof thou art the head. Heaven and earth yields no such friend but thyself. Oh make me ever ambitious of this love of thine, and ever unquiet till I feel myself possessed of thee!
In the mouth of a mere man, this word had been incongruous, “Lazarus is dead, yet let us go to him ;" in thine, O almighty Saviour, it was not more loving than seasonable ; since I may justly say of thee, thou hast more to do with the dead than with the living ; for both they are infinitely more, and have more inward communion with thee, and thou with them: death cannot hinder either our passage to thee, or thy return to us. I joy to think the time is coming, when thou shalt come to every of our graves, and call us up out of our dust, and we “shall hear thy voice and live.”
GREAT was the opinion that these devout sisters had of the power of Christ, as if death durst not show her face to him; they suppose his presence had prevented their brother's dissolution: and now the news of his approach begins to quicken some late hopes in them. Martha was ever the more active; she, that was before so busily stirring in her house to entertain Jesus, was now as nimble to go forth of her house to meet him ; she in whose face joy had wont to smile upon so blessed a guest, now salutes him with the sighs, and tears, and blubbers, and wrings of a disconsolate mourner. I know not whether the speeches of her greeting had in them more sorrow or religion. She had been well catechized before : even she also had sat at Jesus's feet, and can now give good account of her faith, in the power and Godhead of Christ, in the certainty of a future resurrection. This conference hath yet taught her more, and raised her heart to an expectation of some wonderful effect. And now she stands not still, but hastes back into the village to her sister, carried thither by the two wings of her own hopes and her Saviour's commands. The time was when she would have called off her sister from the feet of that divine Master, to attend the household occasions: now she runs to fetch her out of the house to the feet of Christ.
Doubtless, Martha was much affected with the presence of Christ; and as she was overjoyed with it herself, so she knew how equally welcome it would be to her sister; yet she doth not ring it out aloud in the open hall
, but secretly whispers these pleasing tidings in her sister's ear, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” Whether out of modesty, or discretion, it is not fit for a woman to be loud and clamorous : nothing beseems that sex better than silence and bashfulness, as not to be too much seen, so not to be heard too far. Neither did modesty more charm her tongue than discretion, whether in respect to the guests, or to Christ himself. Had those guests heard of Christ's being there, they had, either out of fear or prejudice, withdrawn themselves from him: neither durst they have been witnesses of that wonderful miracle, as being overawed with that Jewish edict which was out against him; or perhaps they had withheld the sisters from going to him, against whom they knew how highly their governors were incensed. Neither was she ignorant of the danger of his own person, so lately before assaulted violently by his enemies at Jerusalem. She knew they were within the smoke of that bloody city, the nest of his enemies; she holds it not therefore fit to make open proclamation of Christ's presence, but rounds her sister secretly in the ear. Christianity doth not bid us abate any thing of our wariness and honest policies; yea, it requires us to have no less of the serpent than of the dove.
There is a time when we must preach Christ on the house-top; there is a time when we must speak him in the ear, and, as it were, with our lips shut. Secrecy hath no less use than divulgation. She said enough, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” What a happy word was this which was here spoken ! what a high favour is this that is done, that the Lord of life should personally come and call for Mary! yet such as is not appropriated to her. Thou comes to us still, O Saviour, if not in thy bodily presence, yet in thy spiritual; thou callest us still, if not in thy personal voice, yet in thine ordinances. It is our fault, if we do not, as this good woman, arise quickly, and come to thee. Her friends were there about her, who came purposely to condole with her; her heart was full of heaviness ; yet, so soon as she hears mention of Christ, she forgets friends, brother, grief, cares, thoughts, and hastes to his presence.
Still was Jesus standing in the place where Martha left him. Whether it be noted to express Mary's speed, or his own wise and gracious resolutions; his presence in the village had perhaps invited danger, and set off the intended witnesses of the work ; or it may be to set forth his zealous desire to despatch the errand he came for ; that as Abraham's faithful servant would not receive any courtesy from the house of Bethuel, till he had done his master's business concerning Rebekah : so thou, O Saviour, would not so much as enter into the house of these two sisters in Bethany, till thou hadst effected this glorious work which occasioned thee thither. It was thy “meat and drink to do the will of thy Father;" thy best entertainment was within thyself. How do we follow thee, if we suffer either pleasures or profits to take the wall of thy services ?
So good women were well worthy of kind friends. No doubt Bethany, being not two miles distant from Jerusalem, could not but be furnished with good acquaintance from the city; these knowing the dearness, and hearing of the death of Lazarus, came over to comfort the sad sisters. Charity, together with the common practice of that nation, calls them to this duty. All our distresses expect these good offices from those that love us; but of all others, death, as that which is the extremest of evils, and makes the most fearful havoc in families, cities, kingdoms, worlds. The complaint was grievous, “I looked for some to comfort me, but there was none.” It is some kind of ease to sorrow to have partners; as a burden is lightened by many shoulders; or as clouds scattered into many drops, easily vent their moisture into air. Yea, the very presence of friends abates grief. The peril that arises to the heart from passion is the fixedness of it, when, like a corrosive plaster, it eats in, into the sore. Some kind of remedy it is, that it may breathe out in good society.
These friendly neighbours, seeing Mary hasten forth, make haste to follow her. Martha went forth before; I saw none go after her; Mary stirs; they are at her heels. Was it for that Martha, being the elder sister, and the housewife of the family, might stir about with less observation? Or was it that Mary was the more passionate, and needed the more needy attendance ? however, their care and attentiveness is truly commendable ; they came to comfort her, they do what they came for. It contents them not to sit still, and chat within doors, but they wait on her at all turns. Perturbations of mind are diseases: good keepers do not only tend the patient in bed, but when he sits up, when he tries to walk; all his motions have their careful assistance. We are no true friends, if our endeavours of the redress of distempers in them we love be not assiduous and unweariable.
It was but a loving suspicion, “She is gone to the grave, to weep there.” They well knew how apt passionate minds are to take all occasions to renew their sorrow; every object affects them. When she saw but the chamber of her dead brother, straight she thinks, There Lazarus was wont to lie, and then she wept afresh; when the table, There Lazarus was wont to sit, and then new tears arise ; when the garden, There Lazarus had wont to walk, and now again she weeps. How much more do these friends suppose the passions would be stirred with the sight of the grave, when she must needs think, There is Lazarus ! O Saviour, if the place of the very dead corpse of our friend have power to draw our hearts thither, and to affect us more deeply, how should our hearts be drawn to, and affected with heaven, where thou sittest at the right hand of thy Father! There, 0 Thou "which wert dead, and art alive,” is thy body and thy soul present, and united to thy glorious deity. Thither, oh thither, let our access be; not to mourn there, where is no place for sorrow, but to rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious, and more and more to long for that thy beatifical presence.
Their indulgent love mistook Mary's errand; their thoughts, how kind soever, were much too low: while they supposed she went to a dead brother, she went to a living Saviour. The world hath other conceits of the actions and carriage of the regenerate than are truly intended, setting such constructions upon them as their own carnal reason suggests: they think them