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The One God and the Gods Many

The One God and the Gods Many

The One God and the Gods Many

‘Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and we for (unto) Him.’ 1 Corinthians 8:5.

Trinity College Chapel, 24th Sunday after Trinity, 1873.

We read in the Gospels that on one occasion, when our Lord was plied on all hands with casuistic problems by those who sought to entangle Him in His talk, He Himself confronted His interrogators with one simple, searching question, ‘What think ye of the Christ?’

This question has been repeated again and again by Christian preachers with effect. Speaking to professedly Christian people, they have desired to sound the depths of their convictions, to test the ground of their hopes; and they have seen no better way of attaining this end, than by forcing an answer to the question, often repeated, yet ever fresh, ‘What think ye of Christ?’

But the question which I desire to put this morning, and to which I wish to elicit a reply, is more elementary still. It strikes home to the very foundations, not only of Christianity, but of religious conviction in any sense. Before we ask, ‘What think ye of Christ?’ let us be ready with our reply to the prior question, ‘What think ye of God?’

What think ye of God? Is it novel and startling to be addressed in such language? Does it seem superfluous to put this question in a Christian age, in a Christian country, to a Christian congregation? And now especially—now as we approach our Advent Season, when the services of the Church will strike the keynote of patience and joy and hope; now when our eyes are straining to catch the first glimpse of that bright presence, the glory of the Only-Begotten, the Shekinah once more resting visibly over the mercy-seat of God’s providence; and our ears are intent to arrest the first preluding notes of that angelic strain, announcing the dawn of a new era, when glory shall be to God in the highest—is it not incongruous, is it not cruel, to ask a question which implies this deep misgiving, to interpose this stern demand as a screen before the beatific vision, to interrupt the heavenly harmonies with this jarring, jangling note?

And yet, when, on the one side, the author of a movement, which arrogates the proud title of the philosophy of religion of the future, lays down as his fundamental maxim, that society must be reorganised, without a king and without a God, on the systematic worship of humanity, and by the instrumentality of this new religion, which is the direct negation of theology, proposes to regenerate the world; when, on the other hand, a scientific leader of the day, whose bold epigrammatic utterances are sure to arrest the ear, though they may not convince the mind and cannot satisfy the heart, warns us against this panacea of the positivist, this worship of the Great Being of Humanity, denouncing it in no measured terms as a gross fetichism and a crushing spiritual tyranny, and then calls us to follow him, not that we may throw ourselves, our temptations, our sorrows, our struggles, at the feet of the Everlasting and Loving Father, but that we may assist him in erecting once more an altar to the Unknown and the Unknowable, thus reversing the lesson which the Apostle taught to the bewildered Athenians on Mars’ Hill long ages ago, and signing away by one fatal stroke the glorious acquisitions of eighteen Christian centuries; when discordant voices assail us on all sides, saying, Lo, here is God! or Lo, there! or Lo, He is somewhere or other! or Lo, He is nowhere; then, I say, we have good reason to ask, whether we will suffer ourselves to be diverted from the old and tried paths, or whether, on the other hand, though there be that are called gods many, yet we have, and we have had, but one and the same God, and that God a Father, in Whose all embracing arms we rest in filial trust and hope and love? If the answer of our hearts to this is clear, prompt, unhesitating, then we shall lack nothing. Then in all our joys and all our griefs, in adversity and in prosperity, in youth and age, in health and sickness, living and dying, we shall feel the strength of His sustaining presence. Then ‘though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil;’ for He will be with us; ‘He is our shepherd;’ ‘His rod and His staff comfort us.’

When S. Paul wrote these words, it was more than ever true, that there were gods many, who claimed the allegiance of men. By the extension of the Roman Empire the barriers between nation and nation had been broken down. There was a general fusion of thought and of practice. With the native merchandise and with the hereditary customs of distant lands, the superstitions and the deities also were imported. Thus indigenous religions and foreign religions were everywhere bidding against each other for popular acceptance. Here it was the grave, stately political worship of ancient Rome; and there it was the artistic, imaginative worship of ancient Greece. Here it was some political conception deified; there it was some power of nature; and there again it was some physical condition of man, not infrequently some vile and degrading passion, whose apotheosis demanded recognition. Here the animal-worship of Egypt presented its credentials; there the star-worship of the farther East clamoured to be heard. Last of all—a creation almost of S. Paul’s own day—the latest and boldest innovation had been made; Roman emperors by virtue of their office had received divine honours in their lifetime, and become gods on their decease. Only the other day a self-indulgent, cowardly weakling like Claudius had been translated to Olympus, and there enthroned as a deity; and he who now wielded the imperial sceptre, destined to develope into a very monster of human wickedness, a proverb and a byword to all generations—tyrant, sensualist, matricide—would, it seemed, in due course take rank as a god with his predecessors. This was the result (it is a serious thought) of the highest civilisation which the world had ever seen—when in intellectual culture, in political organization and material appliances, in the arts of peace and the arts of war, human society seemed to have reached the zenith; and in the pæans of her poets and the eulogies of her orators the unrivalled glories of queenly Rome were extolled with never-ceasing praises—this result, this apotheosis of monstrous human vice, this vile parody of religion, this outrage on common sense and common decency.

Truly there were gods many, whether in heaven or on earth. In this chaos of conflicting claims, where could the devout and reverent mind obtain satisfaction? At what altar, to what God, were prayer and sacrifice to be offered?

The picture of Athens, as given in S. Luke’s narrative, is a type of the state of the whole civilised world at that time. It was delivered over to idols of diverse kinds, some beautiful, some grotesque, some hideous, but idols, phantoms all—mythical heroes and dead tyrants, living animals and living men, human lusts and human ambitions, fire and blood, grove and mountain and storm, sun and star, social institutions and physical endowments—each vying with the other for the adoration of mankind. And some there were, who, notwithstanding this glut of deities, felt that their deepest wants were yet unsatisfied, yearned after a loftier ideal of Divinity; and so when some strange visitation had befallen them, striking home to their hearts and intensifying their religious emotions, vaguely conscious of the promptings within them, and feeling blindly after a more substantial truth, they erected an altar to some yet unrecognised power, dedicating it ‘to an Unknown God.’

To a God yet unknown to them; but, Heaven be thanked, not unknowable to them, or to us. Christ came and revealed; Paul came and preached. On that anonymous altar, which had been reared in the forlorn heart of humanity, he inscribed the missing name—the name of the Eternal Father, the One True God, ‘of Whom are all things, and we unto Him;’ the name of the Eternal Son, the One True Lord, ‘by Whom are all things, and we by Him.’ With an iron pen, in characters indelible, it was graven on the rock for ever. It might indeed have seemed that in the tumultuous clamour of so many voices this new name would have been smothered and have passed away unheeded. It could never have been predicted—no human prescience could have seen so far—that startled by the accents of that unknown name, and scared by the glory of that new light, this multitudinous throng of idols would have vanished out of sight, and hid themselves for ever, with the owls and the bats, in their congenial darkness.

Yet so it was. The blank was filled in. The secret, after which mankind had been groping, was brought to light; the mystery hidden from the ages, revealed. And men saw, and believed. They could not be deceived. Here was the answer to the vague, mysterious questionings within them; here was the satisfaction to the aching, bewildered soul, which panted to slake its thirst in the fountains of Eternal Love.

And by faith they received the truth. From its very nature it could not be apprehended by sight. From its very nature also it was incapable of demonstrative proof. It was not like those mathematical conceptions, which are the primary conditions of thought; it differed wholly from those physical laws, which we establish by processes of extensive induction. Its proof was not external to itself: its evidence was contained in itself, was itself. Its correspondence with the deepest wants, and the loftiest aspirations, of the human heart was its credential; a correspondence as between the wards of a lock and the notches of a key. It claimed to be light; and, if it was light, then it was truth also. This was the simple test. As light it demanded admission. And the verification of its claim was in the result. To those that believed, this was their assurance, that, in their believing, ‘power was given them to become sons of God;’ to those that believed not, this was their condemnation, that ‘the light was come into the world and they loved the darkness rather than the light.’

And now, in these last days, the words of S. Paul are again applicable, though in a different way. There are that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, not a few. They too are idols, phantoms, though unlike the idols of old. Graven images, stocks and stones, material, tangible gods, these they are not; but wan, vague, fantastic spectres, haunting the dim twilight of thought, fascinating the imagination of men, and diverting their gaze from the contemplation of the truth.

There is first the God of philosophical deism—the most specious and the least repulsive of all these idols. He is One, Eternal, Omnipotent. He is in some sense Creator and Governor of the Universe. So far, there is truth. But He is not a Father. He is a mere metaphysical conception, a necessity of the intellect but not a satisfaction to the heart. He can hardly be called a Person. If He be a Person, He is at least so distant, so abstract, so incognisable to us, that we can hold no personal relations with Him. He is not a Father—certainly not our Father—not yours and mine. We know nothing of Him: we can only describe Him by negations. We cannot pray to Him, cannot love Him. He does not love us. It is doing violence to this abstract conception to speak of God as love. God has not spoken to us, God has not redeemed us, God has not given us assurance of our immortality. And so, notwithstanding the concession that God exists, that He is One and Eternal, we are still left alone in the world—alone with our struggles and our temptations, alone with our griefs, alone with our sins, alone with all our vague longings, alone with our poor, aching, unsatisfied, human hearts. We are thrown back on our own despair.

From the God of the deist we descend to the God of the pantheist. Nature is God; nature as a spirit, or nature as inanimate energy—this may be doubtful—but nature in some way. There is no God independent of, and external to, nature. And so we ourselves are part of God; not only the spiritual element of our being, but the emotional and the material elements also, our souls, our bodies, our passions, our vices. Yes: our very vices—there is no pausing in the downward series. Sin is an idle word, an empty delusion. The name must henceforth be blotted out of our vocabulary, the idea banished for ever from our conceptions. Our vices—or what we call our vices—not less than our virtues, are processes of the Divine energy, are expressions of the Divine will. And the anathema of the Apostle must be reversed. Be not deceived—the unrighteous, the murderers, the adulterers, and the thieves, and the covetous, and the drunkards, and the extortioners, these inherit the kingdom of God, nay, these are the kingdom of God. They are—it is the inevitable logical consequence of the theory—they are in God and God in them.

I will not stop to enquire what disastrous effect the worship of this God, if it became general, would have on the moral condition of mankind. I seem to see some faint indication of its effects in past history, where some one energy of nature, such as Baal or Astarte, has been held up as an object of adoration. I thankfully acknowledge that the theory is not carried to its strict logical consequences by those who hold it, that it has not been able to stifle the witness of God, the All-Holy, All-Righteous, All-Loving Father, in their heart, that their moral principles rise above their intellectual belief. But I ask you, sons of God, will you exchange the worship of your Heavenly Father for a religion, that confounds the eternal distinction of right and wrong, and orders you to renounce for ever as delusive those ideas, to which you owe (you cannot be mistaken here) whatever is noblest and best, whatever is most exalting and most energizing within you?

From the idol of the pantheist it is one step to the idol of the materialist—I say the idol, for I can no longer say in any sense the God. Law takes the place of Nature. The spectre of a God, which still remained to the pantheist, has now vanished; and the gulf of atheism yawns at our feet. The idea of sin had already been blotted out; the idea of responsibility, by this time reduced to a shadow, now disappears with it. It is idle, senseless now, to talk of morality. At least, if we use the term, we must stamp it with a value wholly different from that for which it has hitherto passed current. Law—inevitable sequence, fatal necessity—is the inexorable tyrant, who reigns autocratic not only in the domain of physical phenomena, but also in the domain of moral purpose and moral action; not influencing, not limiting our conduct only, but all-pervading, omnipotent, absolutely determining that which we call our will, and forcing irresistibly those which we call our actions. All our language, and all our conceptions, must henceforth be changed. It is as foolish to blame a murderer for his crime, as it would be to blame a stone for falling to the ground. These are thy gods, O Israel! Is this light or is it darkness? Interrogate your consciousness; take counsel of your heart, and so give an answer.

And lastly; the positivist offers for our worship his god, which is no God. He sees rightly that man cannot live without religion; and, having blotted God out of the world, he is bound to provide a substitute. So he sets up a new idol; he bids us fall down and worship the Great Being, Humanity. What is this but the final reductio ad absurdum of atheistic speculation? How can we prostrate ourselves before a mere abstract conception, a comprehensive name for the aggregate of beings like ourselves, with our own capricious passions, our own manifold imperfections—some higher and some viler, much viler, than we are? What satisfaction is there for our cravings after an ideal perfection? What power is there here to convince of sin, to redeem from self, to sanctify, to exalt to newness of life? What consolation in our sorrows, what resistance in our temptations, what strength, what hope, what finality?

And now, that we have tried all these gods many, which have a place in the Pantheon of modern speculation, and found them wanting, whither shall we betake ourselves? Shall we close with the advice which has been tendered to us, as the best which in the present chaotic state of opinion we can adopt; and content ourselves with cherishing the most human of man’s emotions by worship at the altar of the Unknown and Unknowable? What altar? What worship? What emotions? If the object of our adoration is unknown, the adoration itself must be blind, capricious, unsteady, worthless. As our conception of God, so will be our worship; and as our worship, so will be our lives. If we deify a bloodthirsty tyrant like Moloch, then his temple will reek with the blood of innocent children: but if we enshrine in our hearts the idea of an All-Loving, All-Holy, All-Righteous God, our Father, then on the altar of a self-denying life we shall offer with filial reverence the sweet incense of holiness and love. It is not a matter of indifference, it is a matter of the utmost moment, what are the theological beliefs of the individual, of the nation, of the age. By their ideas men are most powerfully swayed, and their idea of God is the first and most potent of all.

But you are a Christian. You have never yielded to any of these modern idolatries. You have remained faithful in your allegiance to the God of Revelation. This is well. But have you obscured His glory, have you distorted His image, with unworthy conceptions of your own? Have you indeed seen in Him the Father, the Father of yourself and of all mankind, tender, pitiful, longsuffering (albeit righteous), Who willeth not the death of a sinner, Who would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth? Or have you imposed some narrow restrictions of your own on His Fatherhood? Have you limited His merciful design to an elect few, a small circle to which you yourself belong, and complacently condemned all mankind besides to His eternal wrath? Have you represented the sacrifice of Christ, not as a manifestation of God’s love, but as a thwarting of God’s anger? Have you in your crude, hard, unscriptural definitions practically denied the perfect unity of the Son with the Father in the Eternal Godhead, adoring one as the dispenser of all mercy, and cowering before the other as the fountain of all vengeance and woe?

Not such the lesson of the text. This one confession, ‘We have one God the Father, of Whom are all things and we unto Him,’ is supplemented and explained by yet another confession, ‘We have one Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom are all things and we through Him.’ The Incarnation of the Son is the manifestation of the Father. The life of Christ is the verification of the love of God. In Christ’s words and works, in His Passion and Resurrection, we read the expression of the Father’s will, we trace the lineaments of the Father’s face. And so we no longer adore the Unknown. We know what we worship. We have seen and heard. We may not ignore, and we cannot forget. Henceforth His Fatherly love is an abiding presence with us. Henceforth He is about our path by day and about our bed by night; felt, adored, loved. He is our comfort, our stay, our hope. Holy Father, teach us, strengthen us, command us, use us. Chastise us, if it must be so, that Thou mayest purify us. Kill us, if it must be so, that Thou mayest make us alive. But, whether living or dying, we are Thine. Of Thy love we are assured. In Thine everlasting arms we rest in patience and hope, till the dawn of the final and glorious Advent shall break, and we shall see Thy face, and know Thee as Thou art.

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

Except it Die

Except it Die

Except it Die

That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.  1 Corinthians 15:36.

Trinity College Chapel, Sexagesima Sunday, 1873.

There is no one in this congregation who will not be reminded by these words of some one moment—the most solemn in his life. He will recall the time when he joined in the slow-paced procession, and listened to the mournful language of the Psalmist bewailing the shadowiness, the vanity, the futility of human life, and stood over the yawning grave, and shuddered at the sharp rattle of the soil on the coffin-lid, and then looked down and read the brief memorial—the name, the age, the date—all that remained to the eye of the varied activities of an exuberant life. And then he turned away, thinking sadly of the warm heart that had ceased to beat, and the bright smile which would greet him no more, and the never-failing sympathy which henceforth he would invoke in vain.

And yet, in the midst of his deepest grief, all is not grief. Underlying the pain of immediate loss is a hope, an assurance, which thrills him with a feeling of joy, almost of rapture. He has listened, and his heart has responded, to the great pæan of victory which the Apostle sung eighteen centuries ago over the last enemy fallen, and which the Church repeats as each time she consigns a son or a daughter—no longer to the darkness of despair, but to the hope of a joyful resurrection. And as personal experience and suggestive analogy and impassioned remonstrance and vivid imagery all contribute in turn to the force and fulness of the Apostle’s appeal, his heart and mind are wrought into harmony with the magnificent theme, till he joyfully responds to the final Hallelujah, ‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

‘Through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ It is to the triumph of the Gospel embodied in these last words that I would ask your attention this morning. The description of Christ’s work given by one great Apostle is this; that by His appearing He ‘abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light.’ The thanksgiving to God for Christ’s mission uttered by another is this; that ‘according to His abundant mercy He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ Death vanquished, immortality assured—this, in the language alike of S. Paul and of S. Peter, is the fruit of Christ’s epiphany to the world.

I propose therefore to enquire into the significance of these Apostolic sayings; and I do not know any better starting-point for the thoughts which the subject suggests, than the language of the text, ‘That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.’ The difference between death with Christ, and death without Christ, could not possibly have a more striking illustration than in the sentiment which dictated these words. For observe, the Apostle does not speak here merely of death conquered, death annihilated, death put out of sight; but death is retained, is transformed, is exalted into an instrument of God’s merciful purpose. Death is no longer an unknown terror, but a joyful assurance. Death is the necessary condition of a higher life. ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but, if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.’ Christ’s death bore fruit in the life of the whole world. Each man’s death shall bear fruit in his own individual life. But in both cases alike the divine law is the same, ‘Except it die.’ Where there is no death, there can be no life.

All external nature, all human institutions, ourselves, our affections, our fame, our carefully devised plans, our solidly constructed works, all are subject to this inevitable law. It may be a question of days or of centuries; but the end is the same. Decay, dissolution, death—from these there is no appeal. All creation groaning and travailing in pain together, seeking to be delivered from the bondage of corruption—this idea is not the feverish dream of an overwrought religious sensibility; it is the practical experience of every day and every hour. And yet, though the fact is so patent, human feeling, aye and in some sense human conviction, is a persistent struggle against the operation of this law. We will not, we cannot, resign ourselves to it. Life, permanent life, is a craving of our inmost nature; life, not only for our own personality—though this is a primary aspiration of our being—but life also for whatever is noble, whatever is beautiful, whatever is good. We cannot endure the thought that such should perish. It seems to be a denial of its very nature, that it should exist for a brief span and then pass away. Between the experience of actual fact then, and the invincible craving of the spirit, there is apparently a direct antagonism. No compromise, no truce, between the one and the other seems possible. It is only when we fall back on the idea in the text, ‘Except it die,’ that we approach at length to a solution of the problem. Here is the true consolation of humanity amidst the wrecks of an ever-decaying and perishing world. Here is the only reconciliation between the fact without and the yearning within.

I do not know any enigma more perplexing than that the freshness, the enthusiasm, the exuberant vivacity of youth should give way to the dull cold monotony of middle age. It seems as though all that is fairest and most glorious in the human creature were fated by a stern law of his nature to be crushed out at the very moment when it gives the brightest promise; as though the moral life of man were only too faithfully pictured in the growth of the flower or the maturity of the fruit, and ripeness and bloom must be the immediate precursors of corruption and decay. It is a sad thought that the brightness and the buoyancy of youth must be overclouded and weighed down with the cares and the cynicisms and the distrusts of the grown man; that the freedom of youth must be fettered by the self-woven entanglements of maturer age; that the enthusiasm of youth must be numbed and deadened by the freezing moral atmosphere of worldly experience. It is a sad thought, and it would be an intolerable thought, save for the assurance involved in the words, ‘Except it die.’ Only at the cost of youth can the grander acquisitions of mature life be purchased, heavy as the price may seem. Only on the ‘stepping-stones of their dead selves’ can men rise to a higher life, painful and rugged though the path must be.

And so again with human institutions. Grand philanthropic schemes, powerful organisations for the service of God and the good of mankind, societies banded together on principles of absolute self-devotion, projects carried out by individuals at a sacrifice of everything that men commonly hold dear—all these perish in rapid succession. Not the nobleness of their ideal, nor the devotion of their champions, nor the grandeur of their results, can save them from decay. Corruption comes, not seldom comes earliest in the noblest. They pass away, like the fabled order of the blameless king, lest one good custom—even the best—should corrupt the world. Here again, what is the consolation of mankind for the loss, but the law of progress enunciated in the words, ‘Except it die?’ The institution dies, but the work remains. The example, the inspiration, the idea, develope into a higher life. Over the mangled corpses of dead endeavours and dead institutions—the forlorn hope of history—over the ranks that first scaled the strongholds of ignorance and wrong, humanity presses forward and storms the breach and plants the standard on the surrendered heights.

But these examples, pathetic though they are, will bear no comparison with the death of which the text directly speaks, the dissolution of the natural life of man. We call death a trite theme. Trite it is in one sense. Poets and preachers and moralists and philosophers have spent themselves upon it. Trite it is—trite enough. With every beat of the second’s pendulum, almost with every word that I utter, one human being is passing away into eternity. But worn-out, threadbare, this it is not, and can never be. Its tragic interest only increases with reflection: its strangeness grows stranger with familiarity. Is there one even in this congregation of young men, who passes a week, or a day, without casting at least a transient thought—if it be no more—on the time when he will be severed from all the associations and interests of the present, when the studies and the amusements that have attracted him, and the projects that he has planned, and the companionships that he has formed, will be as though they were not, and he will set forth on his last long journey, stripped of everything, isolated and alone? Can any one, whose affections are warm, look on the face of another with whom his life is bound up—of mother or sister or friend—without sometimes thinking, and trembling to think, that the severance must come at length, may come at any moment, when nothing will remain but the memory of a love which was dear to him as life itself? Death is a theme of never-dying interest to us. It has a fascination for us. We cannot put away the thought, even if we would.

And at the present time especially this theme appeals to us with more than its wonted power. During the few past weeks great men have been falling thick on every side. Names famous in government, famous in science, famous in law, famous in literature, have swelled the obituary of the opening year. And within the narrower sphere of our collegiate life too the awful presence of death has been felt. Only the other day we followed to his grave the mortal remains of the most venerable member of this society. While we were laying him, our oldest brother, in his last resting-place, within the familiar walls of this college which for nearly seventy years had been his home, and winter spread the ground with a timely pall of snow—far away, among strange faces and in a foreign land, another member of this body, one of our youngest graduates, was struck down by a fever caught under a semi-tropical sun among the historic ruins of ancient Sicily; and the hand of death was upon him, though we little suspected it. Letters came expressing his hope of recovery, sketching his plans for the future, providing with characteristic thoughtfulness for the continuance of his interrupted work here. A few hours later the fatal intelligence was flashed to us, that all was over. Then arrived other letters, still in the same strain, still without any foreboding of the end; a voice speaking to us from the very grave, and thus through the irony of circumstances emphasizing with a novel solemnity the uncertainty of human life.

What lesson does all this read to us? Have we here only one illustration more of that cruel commonplace, the instability of life? To the heathen indeed it could not have suggested any less gloomy thought than this; but to you, who read it in the light of Christ’s resurrection, the consolation and the joy and the triumph are there; for the Apostle’s words ring clear in your ears, ‘Except it die.’

If therefore we have learnt in Christ a new estimate of death, if His revelation, without detracting from the solemnity of our conceptions, has yet invested it with a beauty and a peacefulness and a glory unknown before, if in short by inspiring new hopes and pointing out new paths He has drawn its sting—then this is a priceless boon, for which we are bound to offer our perpetual thanksgivings.

And that mankind does owe this inestimable gift to Christ, and to Christ alone, I think it is impossible to deny. An eminent English writer in a famous passage avows his conviction that, if Jesus Christ had taught nothing else but the doctrine of the resurrection and the judgment, ‘He had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and miracles with which His mission was introduced and attested: a message in which the wisest of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts and rest to their enquiries.’ ‘It is idle to say,’ he adds, ‘that a future state had been discovered already; it had been discovered as the Copernican system was; it was one guess among many. He alone discovers who proves.’ I know that exception has been taken to this passage; but I believe the statement to be substantially true. I turn to the Jews, and I find that the very chiefs of the Jewish hierarchy—the high-priests Annas and Caiaphas themselves—belonged to the sect of the Sadducees, which denied the resurrection. I turn to the Gentiles, and I find that a Roman moralist treats the doctrine of another world and a retribution after death as an exploded fable, no longer believed by any but mere children. This may be an exaggeration, as such sweeping statements in all ages are commonly found to be. But we may safely infer from it that even the shadowy conceptions of immortality and judgment, which were handed down in the popular mythology, had very little hold on the consciences of men. It seems hardly too much therefore to say that the doctrine was a discovery revealed in Christ. It is certainly true, that as an assurance, a motive, a power influencing the whole mind and the whole life, this doctrine then first took its proper place in the estimation of mankind. If we would convince ourselves of this, we need only compare the inscriptions on heathen monuments and the dirges of heathen poets—the pervading sadness, the bitterness, the despair, the gloom which not one single ray of hope pierces—with the radiant joy and trust which light up the thoughts and the language of the Christian mourner, even in the moments of his deepest sorrow. All history is a comment on the Apostle’s bold saying, that Christ ‘abolished death and brought life and immortality to light.’

I am well aware that in heathen times men were found, not a few, to meet death with unfaltering step and stedfast eye and unquivering lip. There were heroes then, as there are heroes now. But this is not the point. The conception of death was unchanged. Death was still a stern implacable foe, to be faced and fought. Victory was impossible; but to be vanquished manfully, to succumb without a tear and without a sigh, this at least was within their reach. At best death was to them a negative advantage: it released from trouble, released from suffering, released even from shame. But no joy nor hope attached to it; for it was an end, not a beginning, of life.

But, it may be said, why should not the analogy in the text have suggested to them the true conception of death? Through countless generations seeds were sown and rotted in the ground, and germinated and sprang up into a fresh and more luxuriant life. ‘Except it die’ had been written on the face of creation from the beginning. The analogy which held good for S. Paul should have been equally convincing to those who lived long ages before.

This is to misconceive the Apostle’s meaning. He does not bring forward his analogy to establish his point. His proof of the immortality and the resurrection of man is twofold. It is first and foremost the fact of Christ’s resurrection; and it is secondarily the influence which this belief has had in nerving Christ’s disciples to a life of persistent self-renunciation and suffering. Only when this point is established, does he adduce the analogy to meet an objection raised by his opponents, ‘How are the dead raised?’ Just as the plant, he replies, is developed from the germ of the seed, so also is the heavenly life an outgrowth of the earthly.

It is true that Christian writers have from the very first found in the decay and revival of universal nature types, analogies, evidences (if you will) of man’s immortality. But nevertheless it is most certain that these analogies were only felt after the belief was established by the knowledge of Christ’s resurrection. Suns set and rose before Christ; seeds, decayed in the ground, and plants sprang up before Christ. But what was the impression that these regenerations of nature left on the heathen mind? Why, they appeared not as analogies, not as resemblances, but as contrasts to human destiny. All else seemed to speak of incessant renewal, of continuous life; man alone was born to eternal, irrevocable death. ‘Suns may set and rise again,’ writes one, ‘but we, when our brief day has set, must slumber on through one eternal night.’ ‘Alas! the flowers and the herbs,’ mourns another, ‘when they perish in the garden, revive again afterward and grow for another year; but we, the great and strong and wise of men, when once we die, sleep forgotten in the vaults of earth a long unbroken endless sleep.’ It was the morning ray of Christ’s resurrection which changed the face of external nature, lighting it up with new glories; which smote upon the stern features of the mute colossal image, striking out chords of harmony and endowing it with voices unheard before. The majestic sun in the heavens, the meanest herb under foot, joined now in the universal chorus of praise, proclaiming to man the glad tidings of his immortality.

For just this was wanted to give the assurance which mankind craved. Hitherto it had been a hard struggle between physical appearances on the one hand, and human aspirations and instincts on the other. It was difficult to witness the gradual decay of the mental powers, to watch over the sick-bed and see the bodily frame wasting day by day, to count the pulsations of the heart as they grew fewer and feebler till the last throb was hushed; then to gaze on the relaxed muscles, the glazing eye, the marble brow, the bloodless lip; then to consign the motionless body to the greedy flames of the pyre or the slow putrefaction of the grave, and to know that only a few handfuls of dust remained of what so lately was instinct with volition and energy—to see and to know all this, and still to believe that life could survive the momentous change. But yet there was that within the man which told him that his destiny could not end here. He had capacities, which in this world never attained their proper development or worked out their proper results. He had affections, which were imprisoned and fettered here, and which seemed reserved for a larger scope. He had aspirations, which soared far beyond the limits of his present existence. He could not—do what he would—put away the thought that he had a personal interest in the generations to come; that the future of the world was not, and could not be, indifferent to him. Therefore he was anxious that he should leave a good name behind him, that his fame should linger on the tongues of men: and so by stately mausoleums and heaven-aspiring pyramids, by inscribed tablets and sculptured images, he recorded his stammering protest, that he was still a man among men, that he was still alive. But all was vague, uncertain, faltering.

From this suspense Christ set us free. His resurrection dispelled the mists which shrouded the conceptions of mankind; and where before was an uncertain haze, there burst forth the brightness of the unclouded sun. Truth entered into the lowliest cottage doors. Truth made her home in the hearts of the peasant and the artisan. The feeblest child now grasps the idea of immortality with a firmness which was denied to the strongest intellect and the most patient thought before Christ.

And yet now, after the experience of eighteen centuries, we are asked (as though it were a small thing) to throw aside the miraculous element of revelation, to abandon our belief in the fact of the resurrection, that is, to abandon the Christ of the Gospels, the Christ as we have known Him; and to begin anew from the beginning, to grope our way once more ‘through darkness up to God,’ to seek to discover arguments for the immortality of the soul. What is this but to stultify the experience of history? What is this but to throw mankind back into second childhood? What is this but to return to the state when even with the gifted few, as it has been aptly said, ‘a luminous doubt was the very summit of their attainments, and splendid conjecture the result of their most laborious efforts after truth?’

This we cannot do. Christ has given us the victory, and we will not lightly surrender its fruits. Christ has given us the victory. We know now that death is not annihilation, is not vacancy, is not despair. Death is not an end, but a beginning—a beginning of a regenerate and glorified life. The assurance of our immortality has scared away all the nameless terrors which throng in the train of the king of terrors. One weapon only remained in his hands, and this too has been wrested from him by Christ. The sting of death is sin. This sting Christ has drawn: for He has defeated, and in Himself has enabled us to defeat, even sin. So the last terror is gone. The triumph is complete. Death is swallowed up in victory. And all mankind are bidden to join in the Apostle’s psalm of praise: ‘Thanks be to God that giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

Two Sowings and Two Harvests

Two Sowings and Two Harvests

Two Sowings And Two Harvests

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.  Galatians 6:7, 8.

Trinity College Chapel, 24th Sunday after Trinity, 1871.

It may be a matter of question, what moral defect in the Galatian Church was prominent in S. Paul’s mind, when he wrote these words, and what therefore is the exact link of thought which connects them with the context. Are they aimed at the stinginess of those, who refused to provide proper support for their spiritual teachers, or to extend their alms to a distant Church suffering from the effects of famine? Or are they rather directed against others, who vaunting themselves as spiritual, and professing to subordinate the letter, the ritual, the law of ordinances to a higher principle, yet nevertheless through carelessness and self-indulgence were sinking into lower depths of license than those whom they branded as ‘carnal?’ Whatever may have been the immediate motive, it is clear that the words have a wider application, and cannot be confined to any one development of the fleshly mind.

This then is the great principle, which the text enunciates. It extends the law of cause and effect, which in the physical world is a matter of common observation, to the domain of the moral and theological, from which men, whether professedly worldly or professedly religious, from diverse motives and by manifold subterfuges attempt to exclude it. It declares that certain courses of action, certain modes of life, entail certain inevitable consequences. It pronounces this to be true in the region of human life, as in the region of external nature, that ‘while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest shall not cease;’ true that men do not ‘gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles;’ true that, where tares only have been sown, ears of wheat will not be gathered into the garner.

I need hardly remind you with what persistency and in how many various forms our Lord and His Apostles enforce this lesson; that God takes men, if we may so say, at their word, deals with them according to their aims, matches His gifts to their ambitions, bestows on them what they crave and withholds from them what they despise, and thus through and in themselves works out His great purpose of equal retribution. I might point in illustration of this to S. Paul’s picture of the Gentile world in the opening of the Epistle to the Romans—the earliest and most truthful sketch of the philosophy of religious history—where the degradation and decay of the heathen is traced to the wilful perversion of their aims and darkening of their hearts, which refused to listen to the oracle of conscience speaking within them, and to the voices of nature responding to it from without, till at length ‘God gave them over’—the expression is thrice repeated, as if to designate three successive stages in this relinquishment, three successive plunges in their downward course—‘gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to uncleanness,’ ‘gave them over to shameful affections,’ ‘gave them over’ (last of all) ‘to a reprobate mind,’ when the light of the moral sense had been utterly quenched, and they revelled in their sin and shame, and the corruption was hopeless, irretrievable, final. This in S. Paul’s judgment was the outcome of that ‘healthy sensuality’ of the Greek, which a modern writer has recommended to our favourable consideration as an improvement on the morals of the Gospel. Judge for yourselves; I will add no word to prejudice the verdict. Is this health, is it culture, is it light, is it life; or is it, as S. Paul teaches, vileness and corruption, darkness and death?

Or I might turn again for an illustration to the parable of Lazarus and Dives. Consider the answer to the rich man, when the retribution came and the plea for mercy was urged too late. ‘Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things.’ This is the pivot, on which the moral of the parable turns. They were his good things; the things which were to him the realization of the ends and aims of life, the things on which he had set his heart and for which he had spent his energies. They might not be ‘good things’ in themselves. Some of them might be positively bad, vicious in their processes and dangerous in their results; though for the most part they would have a neutral character, as instruments, advantages, enjoyments, capable of use and capable also of abuse. But to him they represented the ideal of life. He saw nothing beyond, desired nothing beyond. And he had his desire. God granted to him ‘his good things.’ He enjoyed them—enjoyed them to surfeiting. Whether they answered his expectations, whether they did not pall on his palate, did not leave a loathing, a dissatisfied feeling behind, is another matter. The point of the parable is this; that, what he sought for, that he attained; that the seed, which he had sown, had borne its proper fruit in its due season, and that therefore no ground of complaint was left. He had sown to the flesh; and of the flesh he had reaped, in the present, indolence, luxury, magnificence, self-indulgence in its highest and its lowest forms; but in the present and in the future alike spiritual corruption and spiritual death.

In the text two great principles are set the one against the other—flesh and Spirit, darkness and light, life and death. And each man is required to make his election between the two. On whichever alternative his choice may fall, he accepts the disadvantages, as well as the advantages, of that alternative. It would be foolish, as it would be futile, to understate the disadvantages of the nobler choice. In the end it will be found true that the yoke is easy and that the burden is light; but a yoke and a burden it is and will inevitably be. And the assumption of this yoke, the shouldering of this burden, must vex and gall, and may even agonize with its unwonted pressure. Yet, if the child that has been indulged in its every whim, that has submitted to no restraints, has learnt no lesson of self-denial in infancy, may even, as a child, have been less happy, because more selfish, than other children, and when it grows out of infancy into boyhood and gets its first rude lessons of the trials of life, may find its position intolerable; if the young man, who wastes his energies and squanders his means and indulges his passions in the vigour and freshness of youth, and thus gambles away all the splendid possibilities of his maturer age, is not a whit more happy even in his present dissipation than his more sober equals, and finds when it is too late that his future is irretrievably ruined—the means which might have started him fairly in life spent, the intellectual endowments which would have more than compensated the lack of material resources stunted and withered by disuse, the whole fibre of his character, his capacity of endurance, his faculty of concentration, his power of self-restraint, wasted in premature decay; then by analogy—as we look forward, no longer from infancy to boyhood, no longer from early manhood to mature age, but from time to eternity, from the life here to the life beyond, from the brief transitory elements of our existence to the abiding and permanent, or in Apostolic language from the flesh to the Spirit—it is only reasonable, only accordant with the lessons of common experience, that he who has staked his all on the earlier phase of existence, has lived in it and for it alone without one thought of the more serious destiny beyond, should, when this destiny overtakes him, be plunged into the agony and despair of those who find themselves suddenly confronted with a new life, for which they have undergone no discipline, with which they have cultivated no sympathies, to which they have made no sacrifices, which is utterly alien to their tastes and their habits. This analogy will lead us to suspect, that he who is wise for the future is not (in any true sense of the word) unwise for the present; that in S. Paul’s language ‘godliness has promise of the life that now is, as well as of the life to come:’ but, whether it does this or not, it certainly tends to vindicate as inevitable the law which is laid down in the text; that in God’s moral world the harvest reaped shall be as the seed sown, and that every tree shall yield fruit after his kind. Any schemes of salvation, any views of grace, election, assurance, which fail to take into account this essential element, must be wrong. They are futile attempts to set aside the dispensation of Divine Providence. They are a mockery of God.

‘He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption.’ What is meant, and what is not meant, by sowing to the flesh, it is important for us to discriminate. It does not mean paying proper attention to the bodily health, for the health of the body is a valuable instrument in performing the functions of our spiritual life. It does not mean giving suitable recreation to the faculties of the mind; for only by such recreation can those faculties be kept sound and vigorous, and fulfil their part as ministers to our spiritual nature. It does not mean attending to our profession or employment, and thus providing adequate means for our support in life; for without such means independence is lost, temptations are multiplied, and the free exercise of the spiritual faculty is shackled in a thousand ways. It does not mean checking and stunting the natural affections; for without the affections duly fostered and guided aright the spiritual life must wither and die for want of proper nutrition. These things it is not. But to live for the sake of amusement only, to live that you may gratify pleasures of the sense, to live that you may indulge your ambition, or your love of popularity, or your love of display, or your love of ease, or even your love of knowledge—regarded as a selfish instinct, without one thought of using it for the benefit of others and to the glory of God—to live for any or all of these is to live for this life alone, whatever form your ideal of this life may take. This is sowing to the flesh; this will rear and will reap a harvest of corruption.

The Apostle draws a sharp contrast. He speaks only of the two extremes, the two antagonist elements—flesh and Spirit. But there are whole regions lying between and occupying neutral ground—regions which may be annexed to the one or the other as either becomes more powerful. Let us then interpolate between the two.

‘He that soweth to the intellect, shall of the intellect reap’—first of all, intellectual triumphs. Of this he may be assured. But whether the end shall be corruption, or whether it shall be life eternal, this still remains undetermined. These intellectual acquisitions are our business here. They are our justification, as a Collegiate body. If we fail in these, we have not answered our end; we have pronounced our doom. The salt has lost its savour, and it is henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden under foot of men. But, if so, it is only the more incumbent upon us, to ask, whether in this province we are sowing to the flesh or sowing to the Spirit?

For it is not difficult to see, how intellectual gifts and intellectual activity may minister to the flesh, may sow the seeds of corruption; and when this is the case, the corruption will be all the more deadly, inasmuch as the faculties thus degraded are the nobler. ‘The light of the body is the eye.’ ‘If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!’

For instance, a man may enter upon some intellectual investigation from a corrupt motive. There are some departments of Natural Science which are most noble in themselves, which offer to the physician the largest opportunities for practical usefulness, which open out to the student the widest fields of scientific research. But this man’s motive is neither philanthropy nor science. A worse than idle curiosity prompts him. He approaches the subject with a sullied touch; and it rots and crumbles in his hands. Here then he has sown to the flesh; and according to the sowing will be the harvest. In the bitter retrospect, when the curse has descended upon him and he is driven from the garden of his happy innocence, he will confess in sorrow and shame the intense moral significance of the earliest pages of that oldest book—at once the oldest and the freshest of all books—where the simple test of obedience is the abstaining from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and yet this one prohibition is too stringent for the sinful curiosity which pronounces it ‘pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise.’

Or, again, take a different instance. Past and contemporary literature will furnish only too many examples, where, through the faculty of imagination, the seed has been sown to the flesh, and the inevitable harvest of corruption reaped therefrom. Better—a thousand times better—never to have risen above the dead-level of mediocrity, never to have left any trace on the literature of your country, better to have lived obscure and died forgotten, than once to have prostituted this, the divinest of all intellectual gifts, to minister to the passions of man, and to plant the seeds of corruption in generations yet unborn. Of all possibilities this is the future which we should most deprecate for any man here—worse than the worst reverses of fortune, worse even than the utter degradation of his own personal character, for then at least the evil may perchance die with him, the whole harvest of woe may be reaped by the sower alone.

Cultivate then, as you are bound to do, your choicest intellectual endowments; but so cultivate them, that they may become also your best spiritual instruments; so cultivate them, that you may lay them down a less unworthy offering at the footstool of the Eternal Throne. He, and he only, that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life eternal.

This spiritual capacity is the crown and glory of human life. To it all other graces, faculties, endowments, lead up. It is their anointed sovereign, their divinely-ordained consummation. Without it the character is mutilated in its most essential part. With unfeigned pity you will have looked on some poor idiot, in whom the light of the intellect has been quenched, whose rude physical health seems a mockery of his mental state, who retains the features and exhibits the gestures of a man, while yet the vacant stare and the inarticulate muttering and the loose gait tell only too plainly that the nobler part of man is not there. With some such sentiment of compassion we may imagine that a higher being will look down on one of us, rich though he may be in all intellectual gifts, lavishly endowed with the powers of reason and the graces of imagination, in whom nevertheless the divinest faculty of all—the spiritual nature—is a dreary hopeless blank, crushed out by worldliness, or wasted away by disuse. His great intellectual capacities seem only to point the contrast, and to flaunt and to mock at the vacancy of this higher part.

But this spiritual faculty, in proportion as it is the most precious, is also the most delicate part of our nature. It demands the most careful tending. It will stand no rude treatment. It soon withers away with neglect. Without self-discipline and without prayer its life cannot be sustained.

Not without self-discipline. I have heard it advanced in conversation and I have seen it stated in sermons, as an axiom which is not open to question, but must at once command belief, that self-denial, if imposed for some immediate beneficent purpose, as for instance to enable us to minister to the wants of others, is an excellent and praiseworthy thing; but that when there is no such end in view, it is morbid, worthless, delusive. But is this so? Does reason or, analogy or experience lend any countenance to this statement? Can the habit of self-denial be formed in any other way than by repeated acts of self-denial? The Apostle is wont to compare the training of the moral and spiritual character to the gymnastic training of the body. Is not the comparison eminently just? It does not do to put off the exercise of self-denial, till there is a distinct demand for self-denial. You can no more deny yourself at pleasure, unless you have undergone a preliminary discipline, than you can put forth the muscular strength and skill requisite for some athletic feat, without the proper physical training. And therefore I say, if you would live the higher life, if you would sow to the Spirit, exercise a stern discipline over yourselves now. Use the rules and the restraints of this place—the fixed hours and the appointed studies—as the instruments of this discipline. It is only by your willing surrender to them that they will be made truly effectual. This do, and conquer sloth, conquer listlessness, conquer indulgence, conquer self.

Not without self-discipline; but also not without prayer. Prayer—the communion of the human spirit with the Divine—is the proper food of the spiritual life. How far this is the daily habit of any member of this congregation, is known to himself alone. But if we turn to our public services, is it hopeful, that, when morning and evening opportunities of common worship are offered to all, so few are found to attend regularly, and so many think it irksome if they are required to attend even now and then? Is it hopeful, that when Sunday after Sunday the Lord’s Table is spread and you are invited to participate in this supreme act of Christian worship—the last command of the dying Saviour, the truest bond of our universal brotherhood, the most intimate communion between the finite and the infinite—so few respond to the call? And yet, if this College is ever to rise to a sense of its highest mission, it must shake off this spiritual lethargy, and throw itself earnestly into this divine life.

It is impossible to watch the tide of vigorous youthful life, as it streams through our antechapel on Sunday evenings, without feeling what untold possibilities of good have been enclosed within the four walls of this building. Here is a vast capacity, an undeveloped spiritual power, which, duly fostered and concentrated, might change the face of society, might revive a Church or regenerate a nation. And yet—it is a painful thought—in a year or two all these elements will be dispersed. This generation too will go forth, as in the parable, on their several ways, ‘one to his farm, another to his merchandise.’ The call will be neglected; the good will remain undone; one more glorious possibility will have passed away. Shall this continue, until the College shall cease to be? Shall generation succeed generation and nothing be done? ‘And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, Thou knowest.’ ‘Lord, how long?’

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

Purity of Heart

Purity of Heart

Purity of Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.  S. Matthew 5:8.

Trinity College Chapel, 3rd Sunday after Easter, 1870.

An eminent living writer on ethical and kindred subjects, viewing the matter from without, complains of the misuse which Christians make of the moral teaching of the New Testament. He urges with great cogency that it was ‘not announced or intended, as a complete doctrine of morals;’ that ‘the Gospel always refers to a pre-existing morality and confines its precepts to the particulars in which that morality was to be corrected or superseded by a wider and higher.’ He therefore condemns that exclusiveness, which refuses to accept any moral lessons except such as are enforced by the letter of the Evangelic or Apostolic writings. ‘They contain and were meant to contain,’ he repeats, ‘only a part of the truth; many essential elements of the highest morality are among the things which are not provided for, nor intended to be provided for, in the recorded deliverances of the Founder of Christianity.’

I think that few who have thought over the subject will deny that this statement contains an important truth, though they would wish that the form of expression were somewhat modified. Certainly our Lord and His Apostles do assume an existing code of morals, more or less imperfect. They could hardly have done otherwise. So far as this code satisfied the demands of the highest truth, they held it unnecessary to dwell at length on lessons which were already adequately taught. It was to those points in which it failed, in which any code built merely upon the requirements of society must necessarily fail, that the first teachers of Christianity chiefly directed their attention. And if we would truly understand their meaning, we must place ourselves in their position, we must assume what they assumed, and not attempt to build up their superstructure without any regard to the foundation on which it was laid.

To take an instance of this; the duty to the State, as the writer, whom I have already quoted, observes, and as is well known, ‘held a disproportionate place’ in the ethical teaching of the ancients—so large a place indeed as to be even dangerous to the moral growth of the individual. It is no wonder therefore if our Lord and His Apostles say but little on this subject. What they do say however, shows, as clearly as words can show, that they recognised in all their fulness the claims of public order on the subject. The restlessness of the Jews in Judæa found no countenance in the teaching of our Lord; the restlessness of the Judaic Christians in Rome was denounced in the language of the Apostle of the Gentiles. ‘Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’—this is the answer given in the one case. ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation’—this is the strong rebuke administered in the other. If therefore politics, strictly so called, do not occupy any space in the sayings of our Lord or in the writings of the Apostles, it is not because their claims are ignored, but because it was rather the ethical function of the Gospel to deepen the foundations, and enforce the sanctions, of morality generally; and only so far to deal with individual elements, as there was some great and signal deficiency in the existing moral standard.

The remark, to which I referred at the commencement, appears to me to be of great importance; and it is the more weighty, because, though having a high apologetic value, it proceeds not from a Christian apologist, but from an external observer, who criticises the ethics of the Gospel with at least a dispassionate freedom.

The fact is that in applying the ethical teaching of the Gospel to ourselves, and indeed throughout the whole domain of Christian practice, we must give free scope to our Christian consciousness. In other words, for regulating the details of our conduct, we must refer to our moral faculty, as refined and heightened by the teaching of the Gospel; we must not expect to find a special precept to meet every special occasion. We must trust to the promise of the Spirit, which Christ has given to His disciples. The pregnant maxim of S. Paul, penetrating as it does into every province in which human judgment can exercise itself, is nowhere more important than here: ‘The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.’ Act on the literal sense of one of our Lord’s precepts delivered in this Sermon on the Mount, from which my text is taken, ‘Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,’ on all occasions, and you will bring confusion on yourself; but receive such precepts as they were intended to be received, as parables or types of the right temper of mind, as corrective of the self-assertion, on which human morality can put no adequate check, which it even tends to foster—in short, take the kernel and not the husk of the precept—and you will produce harmony in your moral being.

I spoke of duties to the State as being assumed rather than enforced in the moral teaching of the New Testament. But it is obvious that this principle of tacit assumption may be and must be applied much further. There are many other valuable elements of morality, on which the Gospel does not lay any special stress, simply because the teaching of common life enforces these with sufficient distinctness, and they therefore do not need such external support. There are some virtues, which a man learns to practise in self-defence. There are others, which society exacts as a condition of membership, having learnt by experience that it cannot hold together without their general recognition. Of the first kind are courage, self-reliance, the assertion of one’s own rights, the sense of personal dignity. In these respects the danger is generally on the side of excess rather than of defect; the tendency is to mere self-will, mere self-assertion, to a stubborn resistance and disregard of the feelings, the weaknesses, the claims of others. Of the second kind is honesty, which, though antagonistic to a man’s natural selfishness, is yet imposed upon him by the imperious law of the community in which he moves and on which he is dependent. Such virtues as these the Gospel does not ignore. On the contrary, it assumes them as the simplest elements of a moral life. And no denunciations are more severe, than those uttered by our Lord against the religious leaders of the people, who notwithstanding their lofty pretensions had not yet mastered these first lessons of morality. But it is not on such points that its efforts are concentrated. The rough teaching of common life would supply what was needed here. The pressure of social constraint would exercise a discipline, the more effective, because constant and inexorable in its demands. This class of virtues society could understand and could enforce.

But beyond and above these lies a whole region of moral life, on which social restraint, whether as law or as public opinion, or in any other form, exercises no effective control at all. And it is just here that the Gospel interposes to supplement and to superadd. If you analyse the ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, you will find that it is almost wholly addressed to supplying this defect. Its moral aim may be said to be twofold; first, to inculcate the value of motive as distinct from the outward act, the realisation; in short, to teach that for the individual himself the goodness or the badness of his conduct is wholly independent of its actual effects, and springs from the inward intention, and from this alone; and, secondly, to emphasize the importance of certain moral elements, to which no appreciable place was assigned in the prevailing ethical code of the day, and which were, and ever are, in imminent danger of being trampled under foot in the race of life, unless borne up by some higher sanction—such as humility, forgiveness, patient endurance, sympathy with poverty and weakness, and the like. Thus the Sermon on the Mount is preeminently corrective and supplementary in its ethical teaching. It is necessarily so. It was addressed, not to the dregs of society, who needed to be instructed in the first principles of morality, but to the disciples, who certainly accepted and practised the best moral teaching of the day, who were destined to be the salt of the earth, and who therefore must aim at a more perfect standard.

And, if you turn to the Beatitudes, you will find that they, one and all, refer to those moral qualities, of which as a rule society takes no cognisance, and to which it offers no rewards, either because it deals only with external acts and cannot reach motives, or because these qualities in themselves are the reverse of obtrusive, and do not press their claims or clamour for recognition. It is on those who suffer patiently and unrepiningly for the right, on those who are gentle or forgiving towards others, on those who are forgetful and depreciatory of self, on those whose study it is to cleanse and purify their hearts, with whom the pursuit of righteousness is a passion, who hunger and thirst after it, impelled as it were by a strong inward craving to follow it on its own account, and regardless of any advantages in the way of reputation, or of influence, which it may accidentally bestow—it is on these, and such as these, that the blessing is pronounced.

Of these Beatitudes, the one which I have taken for my text most strikingly illustrates what has been said. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’ It is just here that social morality is signally defective. It will enter its protest against the more flagrant violations of this duty, because they tend to disturb social order, and to introduce confusion into common life. But of purity, in and for itself, it shows in many ways that it takes little or no cognisance. It shows this by the uneven measure of justice which it deals out to the two sexes, by the stern inexorable punishment of such sins in the one, and the almost complete impunity which it offers to the other. It shows it by its worship of the memory of some famous character, brilliant perhaps in literature or in politics, but profligate in life. It shows it by its lavish favours bestowed on some social idol of the day, whose only claim is a winning manner or a brilliant address, whose life is utterly and hopelessly corrupt, in whose heart impurity has gathered around it other demons hateful as itself, selfishness, cruelty, deceit, meanness in all its forms (for impurity always will seek such alliances for protection and sympathy), whose conduct has degraded and ruined many an individual soul, and by their ruin steeped whole households in misery. Of purity of heart social morality does not and cannot take any account. For purity of conduct indeed it professes a formal respect; but not here does it bestow its favours and its rewards.

And in fact no reward, which the world has in its power to bestow, would be at all adequate to meet the case. Material advantages—wealth, pleasure, renown, popularity, influence—these are its best and choicest gifts. But purity of heart seeks not these. Purity of heart breathes another atmosphere, lives in another world, exercises other faculties, pursues other aims. And commensurate with its aims is its reward—not a substantial reward as men regard substantial, but yet very real, because alone satisfying, alone lasting, alone independent of time and circumstance. To the pure in heart, it is given to stand face to face before the Eternal Presence—the veil which shrouds Him from the common eye being withdrawn, and the ineffable glory, which none besides may see, streaming upon them with undimmed splendour. Theirs is the indwelling of the Spirit, that

doth prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure.

To them is vouchsafed in their journey through life the presence of the Holy Thing moving with them night and day. In the strength of this presence they ride onward

Shattering all evil customs everywhere;

until they reach their goal and Heaven receives them into its glory; and they are crowned as kings

Far in the spiritual city.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’

And will not even the limited experience of many here witness that such a quest so rewarded is no mere poetical fiction, no idle play of the imagination, but an eminently deep religious truth, of great practical moment to us all? Have you not felt, that according as you have allowed any sullying influence to stain your heart, and to dim its purity, just in the same degree your spiritual vision has become clouded over, the scales have thickened upon it, and the Eternal Presence has withdrawn Himself in a veil of mist, and you have looked in vain and have not found, and your greatest, truest joy and comfort and hope has vanished from you? Was it deceit? Was it selfishness? Was it pride? Was it impurity in a stricter sense, indulgence in tainted thoughts or indulgence in forbidden deeds? Cannot you trace the process, if you will give it a moment’s reflection, how the cloud gathered and darkened, till the light is wholly shut out, except that now and then in your clearer moments it flashes in upon you with a painful brightness, piercing through the screen of clouds and revealing to you the depth of your degradation and loss? Or on the other hand can you not bear witness, how each stedfast determination to put away the accursed thing, each renewed effort to cleanse and purify your heart, has brought with it a fresh accession of light, has given you a keener vision of the spiritual world, has removed a film from your eye and a load from your spirit, has brought you joy and lightness of heart, because it has placed you nearer to God and to the glory of His presence?

And, if this is so; if this intimate knowledge of the highest truths is vouchsafed, not to acute powers of reasoning, not to vast stores of information, not to critical sagacity or theological attainments, not to poetical genius or scientific culture, not to any or to all of these, but to purity of heart alone, then surely this should be the one paramount aim of our lives, which we should pursue with the unswerving zeal and enthusiasm of a master passion. If the task is great, the reward is great also. A stern and rigorous self-discipline is the first condition of success. This indeed is not a fashionable doctrine. It is the fashion of the day to assert the claims of individual liberty in extravagant terms, and yet to ignore, or almost ignore, self-discipline, self-renunciation, without which the liberty of the individual becomes intolerable to himself and to society. Remember that the most perfect self-command is the truest freedom; that the Apostle of Liberty himself sets the example of keeping his body in subjection. Do not therefore be led away by any commonplaces about liberty; but assert your legitimate command over yourself and keep it. The discipline which you enforce upon yourself is a thousand times more effective, than the discipline imposed from without. Provide yourself with healthy occupations. With healthy recreations for the body, if you will; but, still more, with healthy studies and ideas for the mind; and, above all, with healthy affections and sympathies for the heart. Seek what is healthy in all things: seek what is fresh and simple and transparently pure and guileless. Avoid all taint of corruptness. Experience has taught you how difficult it is to dislodge a corrupt idea from your heart, when it has once found a place there; how will it recur again and again, even though your better nature revolts against it and you give it no encouragement. There is a fatal vitality about such elements of corruptness. You can recall what is noble and elevating only with an effort; what is sullied and degrading will present itself unbidden to your thought. The law of the moral world is analogous to the law of the physical. Disease spreads apace by contact; health has no such spontaneous power of diffusing itself. Therefore it is of vital importance to shun any tainting influence, as a plague-spot: to shun it in your intellectual studies, and to shun it in your social life. To cultivate self-control, to give yourself healthy employment, and to avoid corrupting associations—these three are conditions of success in the great quest to which you have bound yourself. But another still remains. Cultivate your spiritual faculties by prayer and meditation. The higher parts of our nature, because the most subtle, are also the most sensitive. If our intellectual capacities become enfeebled and ultimately paralyzed by neglect or misuse, much more our spiritual. Here again I appeal to your own experience. Can you not bear witness how very soon carelessness and indifference in spiritual matters tells upon your spiritual nature, how very soon a torpor creeps over it, if you neglect your daily prayers, or if you go through your religious duties in a perfunctory, heartless way; how very soon your whole view of things changes, and you begin tacitly to ignore the importance of spiritual life, perhaps half-consciously to argue with yourself that it may be a mere delusion, an idle fancy, after all? It is just because our spiritual nature is so highly wrought, that it will not suffer any trifling or any neglect. A true instinct leads the poet to represent his pure and blameless knight as laying his lance against the chapel door, and entering and kneeling in prayer, when he starts on the quest which is rewarded with the Eternal Vision of Glory.

Do this, and you will not fail. You will dedicate to God the sacrifice which pleases Him best—the freewill offering of the freshness and purity of early manhood: and He in turn will vouchsafe to you the one blessing which is the fulfilment of your truest aspirations, the crown of human bliss—the vision of Himself in unclouded glory. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

The Conqueror from Edom

The Conqueror from Edom

The Conqueror From Edom

Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?  Isaiah 63:1.

Trinity College Chapel, 3rd Sunday in Lent, 1868.

The feud between Edom and Israel had been long and bitter. The descendants of the brothers Jacob and Esau, living as near neighbours, viewed each other with no brotherly or neighbourly eye. The conflict began at a very early date. When the Israelites, set free from Egypt and traversing the desert, asked permission to pass through the territory of the Edomites, the request was churlishly refused. In vain did they plead that they would do no injury to person or property; that they would avoid fields and vineyards and keep to the highway; that they would even pay for the water which they might drink. ‘Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border; wherefore Israel turned away from him.’

This rude and unbrotherly repulse was neither forgotten nor forgiven. Established in the land of promise, the Israelites appear very frequently at war, very rarely in alliance, with the Edomites. ‘Who will lead me into the strong city? Who will bring me into Edom? Wilt not Thou, O God, go forth with our hosts?’ This is the climax of the Psalmist’s prayer—repeated in two different psalms—when Israel is engaged in a fierce contest with this brother tribe.

And this hereditary feud continued to the latest days of Israel, now smouldering treacherously and now bursting out into flames—a feud far worse than the generous antagonism of declared enemies. For there is always a wretched meanness, a low malice, an exaggeration of bitterness—arising out of the false position—in the quarrels of those, whom God and nature have intended to be friends. It is when two peoples of the same race and language go to war, when a nation is divided against itself by civil dissensions, when members of one family fall out, that the worst passions of man’s nature have full play.

But it was in the day of Israel’s deepest sorrow, that Edom’s iniquity reached its climax. When their sharpest pang overtook the Israelites, when their enemies beleaguered them, when their palaces were rifled and their walls thrown down, when their sons and their daughters were swept away into captivity, some change might have been looked for in the attitude of the Edomites. Surely now the moment was come, when past injuries and long-embittered feuds should be forgotten, when the true fraternal love should well up in their hearts, when brother once more should run to meet brother, and embrace him and fall on his neck and kiss him. But, unlike his forefather, Edom had now no tenderness, no compassion for Israel’s sorrow. With a fiendish glee he looked on at the catastrophe. The great Babylonian conqueror was delivering him from a dangerous enemy, a troublesome neighbour—a troublesome brother, it might be said, but what cared he for this? Who made him his brother’s keeper? It was this heartless display of cruel satisfaction, which called forth the bitter cry for vengeance from the exiles on the banks of the Euphrates, interrupting so strangely the plaintive elegy of the mourners: ‘Remember the children of Edom, O Lord, in the day of Jerusalem; how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the ground.’

Then it was, in the hour of Israel’s humiliation, that Edom ‘stood on the other side;’ that ‘in the day that the stranger carried away captive Israel’s forces and foreigners entered into his gates,’ Edom was ‘even as one of them;’ that ‘in the day of their destruction’ Edom ‘rejoiced over the children of Judah,’ and ‘in the day of distress spake proudly;’ that Edom ‘stood in the cross-way to cut off them that did escape.’

It was for this, that the prophet Obadiah predicted a terrible vengeance on this unfeeling race. ‘The day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.’ ‘The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them.’ It was for this that the two great prophets of the fall and captivity, the one an exile on the banks of the Chebar, the other lingering still among the ruins of the holy city, Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the strophe and antistrophe of the same tragedy, ‘deep answering deep’ (as it has been said) ‘across the Assyrian desert,’ join in denouncing God’s judgment on the offending Edom.

And in this chorus of inspired utterances, early and late, the voice of the Evangelic prophet is not silent. Raising his eyes, he sees approaching from the south-eastern frontier, from the direction of Edom, and of Bozrah the capital of Edom, a sublime form, as of some mighty hero, advancing with majestic step, and clad in the scarlet robes of a victorious captain. Awed at the sight, he asks, ‘Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?’ A voice replies, ‘I am He that speaketh in righteousness, mighty to save.’ It is the just and upright judge, the terrible avenger, the powerful and saving ally, the triumphant king, the Lord Jehovah Himself. As the sublime form approaches, the prophet sees that His scarlet robes are reeking with purple stains. Again he asks, ‘Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth the wine-fat?’ Again the voice replies to his question. The winepress is the visitation of God’s wrath: the purple stains are the blood of slaughtered enemies, trampled and crushed under foot by His heavy judgments. ‘I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me: for I will tread them in Mine anger, and trample them in My fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon My garments, and I will stain all My raiment. For the day of vengeance is in Mine heart, and the year of My redeemed is come.’

This then is the force of the passage. It is a prophetic announcement of Israel’s triumph at the moment of Israel’s deepest humiliation; a prophetic denunciation of vengeance on Israel’s enemies, when those enemies were proudly triumphing over their prostrate foe. The chief offender, the bitterest and most insolent foe, is Edom, Israel’s brother Edom. In the day of vengeance Edom’s punishment shall be the greatest, because her crime was so unnatural, her hostility so uncalled for. Though the horizon is now so dark and stormy, though all hope seems to have vanished, though Israel stands alone among the nations, while her enemies are many and strong and unscrupulous, yet there is One Whose arm is all powerful, One Whose aid is never invoked and never rendered in vain, One Who will silence all insolence and crush all opposition, the never-failing ally of Israel, the Lord Jehovah Himself. This reliance on God alone in the absence of all human aid is the leading idea of the passage. Again and again it is reiterated, ‘I have trodden the winepress alone. Of the people there was none with Me. I looked, and there was none to help; I wondered that there was none to uphold. Therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me!’

And yet in contrast to the feebleness and prostration of Israel, Edom possessed just those advantages which seemed calculated to secure success in her enterprises, and impunity in her insolence. In two most important respects Edom was favourably circumstanced among the nations around. Her position was strong, and her inhabitants were sagacious.

Edom was strong. Her fortresses were almost impregnable with the appliances of ancient warfare. The most famous of her strongholds, the rock-bound city of Petra, the wonder of modern travellers, is only accessible by one narrow gorge, which is easily defended. The strength of Edom is more than once celebrated by the Israelite prophets. ‘Thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rocks,’ ‘thou exaltest thyself as the eagle, thou settest thy nest among the stars.’ ‘Who will lead me into the strong city? Who will bring me into Edom?’

But Edom was not only strong, Edom was wise also. The wisdom of Edom was proverbial. When the sacred historian wishes to extol the wisdom of Solomon, he cannot do so better than by saying that it ‘excels the wisdom of all the children of the East country,’ that is, of these Edomites. ‘Shall I not in that day,’ writes Obadiah again, ‘destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?’ ‘Concerning Edom,’ says Jeremiah also, ‘thus saith the Lord of Hosts; is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished?’ In this land also seems to be laid the scene of that marvellous book, in which human and divine wisdom are confronted, and the perplexing problems of human life are discussed with such profound intuition. The interlocutors of the Book of Job are chiefly, if not solely, Edomites. And still after the lapse of centuries this nation seems to have retained its character. From Idumea came ‘that fox,’ the second Herod—the crafty son of a crafty father—retaining the peculiar gift of his race, though degrading it into an instrument of licentiousness and cruelty.

Against these advantages of Edom combined, against the strength of the strong and the wisdom of the wise, Israel, fallen and desolate, had one hope, one ally only. But her faith in this ally rides triumphant over all present disasters and all dark forebodings. The prophet’s voice assures her of complete victory; and the later history of the nation is the answer to this appeal.

I have explained the passage thus at length, because from very early times it has suffered much from misinterpretation. It has been supposed that the prophet’s words refer immediately to the scene on Calvary; that the figure seen approaching is our Lord Himself; that the solitary treading of the winepress represents His submission to the Father’s wrath endured for our redemption. I think it will be plain from what has been said, that this view does not at all meet the requirements of the context. I think it will be seen, also, that the image of treading the winepress, till the garments of the treader are drenched with the blood of the crushed grape-clusters, must signify, not the endurance of punishment, but the infliction of punishment. And, if so, we need not stop here to enquire whether in any proper or natural sense our Blessed Lord could be said to endure the Father’s wrath when He ended a life of self-devotion by this sublime act of self-sacrifice, which was the fulfilment of His Father’s will.

Far different is the lesson which the text sets forth. It is the lesson of dependence on God’s help, in desertion and loneliness, against enemies the most powerful and sagacious, amid circumstances the most adverse, despite all the calculations of human foresight. In some respects we cannot apply the prophet’s words to ourselves without limitation or correction. The Gospel has supplanted the Law. The Israel after the spirit has taken the place of the Israel after the flesh. The prophet’s utterance expresses the indignant cry of an outraged people demanding justice on their enemies, the indomitable enthusiasm of a nation yearning for the restitution of its national life by the mighty arm of the national and yet omnipresent, omnipotent God. To ourselves all men are fellow-countrymen, are brothers in Christ. A larger, more comprehensive, more spiritual conception of God’s triumphs is vouchsafed in the Gospel. Our vision is enlarged; our point of view is changed; but the main lesson of the passage—the heroism of loneliness, the trust in God, the assurance of victory—has the same binding force now as then.

It may be that the interpretation of the passage, to which I have already referred, has led other Churches besides our own to select this passage in place of one of the Epistles in Passion Week. But, whatever motives may have influenced the choice, it is very appropriate for that solemn season. I do not mean only that, as speaking of a redemption, it may be taken to have a Messianic reference, but that it sets forth the very lesson, of which the scene on Calvary was the most signal manifestation ever held out to a sinning, suffering world. The Passion and Death of Christ were preeminently the victory of loneliness through faith in the power of the unseen God. He, Who had gathered about Him admiring multitudes in Galilee, Who had been accompanied from village to village, and from city to city, by eager and attentive throngs, now at length in the hour of deepest trial, in the face of cruel sufferings and ignominious death, was abandoned by all. Loneliness, entire loneliness, only the more painful by contrast with the crowded audiences and the enthusiastic welcomes of the past, was the keenest pang of that painful crisis. In the agony of Gethsemane His nearest and best beloved disciples could not even watch with Him for a single hour. At the moment of His betrayal one and all ‘forsook Him and fled.’ And so the cruel taunts of the Roman soldiers, the insolent ribaldry of the Jewish mob, the cold injustice of Pilate, the bigoted hatred of Caiaphas, were encountered and endured without one friendly eye to gladden Him or one friendly voice to console Him; till at length, when His sufferings had reached their climax, and the agony of death was upon Him, even the Father Himself seemed for the moment to have veiled His face, and in anguish of spirit He cried, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ In that awful solitude the triumph over the enemies of God was complete—the triumph over sin, over the world, the flesh, and the devil. For then, when He was all alone, the Almighty Conqueror drew near, with arm upraised to maintain the righteous cause, even as of old He was seen in the prophet’s vision approaching from Edom. ‘I looked and there was none to help.’ ‘Who is this that cometh? This that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?’ ‘I am He that speaketh in righteousness, mighty to save.’

And so also it must be with us. Our most heroic achievements, our most signal victories, must be wrought in solitude. With God, and God alone, on our side, we must fight, and we must conquer. There is indeed a solitude, which is due to our own faults, which arises from a cold or churlish disposition, from our imperfect sympathy, from our indolence or our selfishness. We not unfrequently hear persons complain that they are misunderstood or neglected, that no one seems to care for them, that they are very lonely in the world; when they have taken no pains to consult the well-being, or win the affections, of others. It is not of this loneliness that I speak.

But there is also the loneliness of a great moral purpose. A man steps forward as the advocate of some forgotten truth, or the champion of some neglected cause. Or he devotes himself to the reform of some flagrant social abuse, or to the amelioration of some degraded class. The truth, the justice, the expediency, of his cause seem to him very manifest. He sets about his work with high hopes. He feels confident of enlisting the sympathies, and securing the aid, of all honest and fair-judging men. He forecasts a complete and speedy triumph. But his bright anticipations soon fade into the sickly light of experience. He encounters prejudice, ignorance, misunderstanding, the inertia of habit and the obstinacy of self-interest, secret obloquy and open antagonism, a thousand unforeseen difficulties lying across his path. Each fresh effort seems to start some new form of opposition. At length, worn out and desponding, he begins to ask himself, whether it is worth while persevering at so much cost, whether he is bound by any obligation to so vast a self-sacrifice, whether success is not wholly beyond his reach, whether he may not be wrong and others right after all, for who is he against so many? Then is the trial of his heroism: then is the discipline of his faith. In this hour of loneliness the prophetic vision will be his comfort and stay. He sees the form of the Almighty Conqueror, emerging from the moral confusion of his soul, from the gloom of distraction and despair. He feels that, though alone, he is not alone. He knows that his victory is secure. He, Who speaks in righteousness, will maintain the righteous cause. He, Who is mighty to save, will rescue him from the perplexity of his position. ‘I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me.’

I will take one more example. It is not now the loneliness of a great purpose which must be worked out without the sympathy of others, but the loneliness of a sinful temptation, which must be fought and conquered in the secrecy of our own heart. For the struggle with temptation, whatever form our special temptation may take, must be, in most cases and at most seasons, of this kind. The companionship of friends, the experience and advice of wise counsellors, the precepts gathered from books, may do something: but at best it will be very little. Our own temptation depends too much on our character, has too great individuality, is too much part of ourselves, to be communicated absolutely and unreservedly to others, even if it were right so to communicate it. The fight must be fought in solitude. The combat must be single-handed. Against the subtle disguises under which our foe seeks to ensnare and ruin us, against the sudden surprises by which he would strike us down unawares, against the harassing doubts which tempt us to elude the combat, whispering that expediency alone has value and that sin is no sin, against the despair of a protracted and wearisome struggle with our worst self, we must fight alone. Alone and yet not alone. We shall have the consciousness of an Almighty Presence, encouraging, sustaining, strengthening us; the vision of the Lord of Hosts, Who triumphs over all opposition, and tramples down all temptation under foot, as the purple clusters are crushed in the winepress. ‘I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me.’

In the lonely championship of right and truth against foes without, in the lonely struggle against temptation and trial within, may this consciousness, this vision, be vouchsafed to us—the vision of Him, Who is glorious in His apparel, Who travels in the greatness of His strength; the consciousness of Him, Who speaketh in righteousness, and is mighty to save.

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

Esau

Esau

Esau

And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father.  Genesis 27:34.

Trinity College Chapel, 24th Sunday after Trinity, 1861.

It is to be feared that even those who are most ready to confess that all Holy Scripture was written for our learning, do yet practically derive very little instruction from large portions of the Old Testament History. There are certain broad features indeed which we can scarcely mistake. When the flagrant sinner is struck down by divine vengeance in the midst of his crimes, or when blessings are showered on the faithful servant of God, the lesson is too plain to escape us. The history of David or of Ahab cannot be misread. But there are other parts of Holy Scripture which appear to us very perplexing and unintelligible, which we are disposed perhaps to give up in despair. We cannot understand for instance why in certain cases grave sins are dealt with so lightly, or slight offences visited with so heavy a punishment. We feel that our measure of right and wrong would have been very different; that we should have established another law of retribution. There are many reasons for this. It arises in part no doubt because we are judging of past ages by the conventional standard of good and evil in our own, and are therefore unwilling to view some of the more current and respectable sins in their true light. But it is still more due to the circumstance, that the point which decides the true character of the action frequently does not lie on the surface of the narrative, and that it requires more pains perhaps than we are disposed to give, in order to appreciate its moral significance. And yet it is just those lessons requiring the most study to master which are the most valuable, when once learnt. For they not only give us the broad features of God’s dealings with His creatures. They bring out the finer lines in the portraiture of good and evil. They develope the faint shadows of the picture. They discriminate between the real and the seeming. And thus they bring home to us our true position in the sight of God. They pluck off the mask, which we have worn to ourselves as well as to others. They penetrate the inmost depths of our spirit. And thus ‘the word of God is’ indeed ‘quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,’ a very ‘discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’

And it happens very frequently in such cases—where the lesson conveyed does not appear at once on the face of the narrative, and where consequently there is a danger of our passing it over in a careless reading—that our attention is arrested by some casual but pointed allusion to it in the writings of an Apostle or Evangelist, or in the words of our Blessed Lord Himself. And thus the light of the New Testament is shed upon the Old. The narrative assumes a new aspect. We at length recognise its importance. We are led to study it afresh, and each time we read it we are more fully impressed with the depth of the lesson it conveys.

The instances of Balaam and of Esau both illustrate the truth of what I have been saying. They are in many respects parallel. The difficulty is much the same in either case. We are at a loss to account for the extreme severity, as we are disposed to regard it, with which the offender is treated in the sacred narrative. Both alike are referred to in the New Testament. ‘The way of Balaam the son of Bosor’ is a by-word for disobedience and ungodliness. The ‘profane’ Esau, ‘who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright’, is the very picture and type of the hopelessly and irrevocably fallen.

Yet this is certainly not the estimate we should have formed by ourselves. Our first impression of Balaam is of one, who—if he fell short of the highest perfection, if his duty to God was not all in all to him—yet at all events cannot be said to have gone very far wrong. We read of his consulting God in all he does. We find him acting as God commands him to act. We marvel at his subsequent history, and we are perplexed at the language which Scripture holds regarding him. So again with Esau. We have a sort of feeling that he too, like Balaam, is somewhat hardly dealt with. We are not sure that we should have given the preference to his brother Jacob—nay, we more than suspect that we should have reversed the judgment: that, instead of depriving him of the blessing, we should even have restored him the birthright. We have a lurking regard for his rough, impetuous, simple character, for his undesigning and generous spirit. The treachery which is practised upon him, and the success which attends his brother’s plots, enlist our sympathies in his favour. It is only when we have examined the narratives more closely, giving them more thought and trying to divest ourselves of our prejudices, that we see their history in its true light. Then at length we acknowledge the justice of God’s rebuke of Balaam; and we cease to marvel at his fall, because we can now see that, when he acted aright, he acted from fear and not from love. Then at length we discover the superiority of Jacob; and we wonder no more that Esau was deprived of the blessing and rejected as a profane person: for we see that Jacob—though amidst many imperfections, despite many grievous sins—did place his reliance on God; did look to Him, as the Giver of all good things; did live for more than the passing moment. In short Jacob was spiritually minded; while Esau—with much in him to like, and something to admire—was careless and indifferent to all higher things, influenced only by passing impulses and momentary impressions, without foresight, without reflection, the type of that hopeless class of men, whose maxim is, ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die’.

To this latter narrative, the history of Esau, I will ask your attention for a few moments this morning. I know of no sadder story. I can imagine none. If the character of Esau had been less attractive, his fall would have excited less pity. If his prospects had not been so brilliant, his fate would have been less terrible. But it is the combination of these two circumstances in the narrative—the ruin of a character which we are disposed to admire, and the unspeakable value of the birthright and the blessing which he recklessly threw away—that gives the interest to the story, and rivets our attention to the lesson which it contains. The destruction of so many bright hopes, the dissipation of so many glorious visions, the hopeless and irrevocable ruin of one so simple and honest and open-hearted—what can be more touching than this? And hence it is that we seem to hear ringing sharply above the most piercing shrieks of pain, and the loudest wailings of grief, that one exceeding bitter cry, uttered in the agony of despair, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father.’

And perhaps it may be that the narrative comes home with peculiar force to ourselves, that we are conscious of some crisis in our own lives, or recall some incident in the career of others whom we have known and loved, which reminds us only too painfully of the fate of Esau, and gives point to the lesson. Is it so with any of us? May it not be so in some degree or other with most or all of us? Or is it a mere form that we bewail our manifold sins and wickednesses; that we confess the remembrance of them to be grievous unto us, the burden intolerable? Have we not each our special temptation, our besetting sin? And it may be that at one time or other this has culminated in some act, more heinous than we had supposed possible—some breach of the law of love, or of truth, or of purity, according to our special temptation—one act which has seemed to shut us out from the presence of God, and to leave us to darkness and despair. And then at length we have learnt in our bitter anguish to measure the exceeding great value of that heavenly birthright, which as sons of God we have inherited only to spurn and to set at naught, and—in remorse, if not in penitence—have striven by the importunity of our cries to arrest the blessing, ere it has passed away from us for ever.

I need scarcely dwell on the character of Esau, as it is painted in the sacred narrative. Making allowance for the rude habits of the patriarchal age, he is not essentially different in character from a very large number among ourselves. He has just the same virtues, and just the same faults. He is the father’s favourite son. He is born to great hopes. He has brilliant prospects before him. His career is in his own hands. His lot may well be envied by others. But all is thrown away upon him. He is reckless of his opportunities. He is insensible to his blessings. He loses everything by one desperate act of folly. He finds out too late the value of what he has lost. He would give anything to recover it, when recovering it is hopeless. And yet his character is far from utterly vicious. Of such a man we might say, that he is no one’s enemy but his own. If his bad passions are strong, his impulses for good are strong also. If he is reckless and undisciplined, he is simple and honest and open-hearted. He is in short not so very much worse—perhaps not at all worse—than a great number, who are admired and loved among ourselves, and whose manifest faults are forgiven for the sake of many rough virtues and generous affections.

Nor do I think that the guilt of Esau will seem so much deeper in comparison with that which we may incur, when we consider the nature of the privilege which he despised, of the blessing which he threw away. True it is that the promise which pertained to Esau—the promise given to Abraham and renewed to Isaac—was something more than the possession of lands and flocks and houses; that his birthright implied more than mere rank or wealth or earthly power. He knew that by virtue of his birthright he was destined to be the father of the chosen seed; that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed; that from his race as concerning the flesh Christ was to come, the Redeemer of the whole world. This he knew, or might have known. This inheritance he bartered for a morsel of meat. For this he is condemned and branded as a profane person.

It was no common offence then of which Esau was guilty. It was perhaps as great an offence as in his position he could have committed. Yet it is not greater than that which we shall commit, if like him we despise our birthright. For have we not an inheritance more precious still—we who are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ—a name more glorious than his, for it is a name better than of sons and of daughters? If he might have been the father of Messiah’s race, how much greater is our privilege, to whom is accorded a far more intimate, because a spiritual, relationship? ‘Whosoever shall do the will of My Father Which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother.’ Are we tempted for some worldly consideration, for some momentary advantage, for wealth or popularity or fame or ease or pleasure, to barter away this brilliant inheritance? Is not the price we give as ruinous, the exchange we get as worthless, as it was with Esau?

There are two circumstances however in the story of Esau, which it may be well to dwell on more at length: for from these we may derive the most valuable lesson. Yet at first sight they only perplex us. They seem not only to palliate the guilt, but almost to obliterate the offence. They lead us to look upon him as the victim rather than the culprit, as sinned against rather than sinning. The first of these is the circumstance that he is surprised into selling his birthright. It is a momentary, unpremeditated act; he falls into a snare laid for him; we feel disposed therefore not to judge him too harshly: we cannot regard his offence as very heinous. In the second place, though the loss of the birthright was certainly his own act, whatever excuse we may make for it, yet he was deprived of the blessing by no fault of his. By no reasonable foresight could he have prevented it. He made some efforts at least to obtain that blessing. He did not throw it away. He was robbed of it. Surely this can not be laid to his charge. Of this at least he is innocent.

In considering the first of these points, let us ask ourselves what is meant by being surprised into such and such a sinful act—what leads to it, what state of mind it supposes, how it comes about? In a certain sense indeed Esau is surprised into selling his birthright. He returns from the field hungry and faint. He asks for food. His brother will not give it him except at the price of his birthright. He yields. ‘Behold,’ he says, ‘I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?’ But is this yielding an isolated act? Does it not show a defective character? Does it not betoken a certain spiritual depravity, a low, worldly view of his position? He ‘despised his birthright,’ We are told, and therefore he is branded as ‘a profane person.’

For indeed surprise would be utterly powerless, unless the character were previously undermined. And so it is no excuse for a sinful act; it is scarcely in any degree a palliation. It is rather a revelation of secret depravity in a man, hidden successfully from his neighbours, ignored by, but not unknown to, himself. After the flagrant deed is committed, others may be at a loss to account for it. It is unexplained to them by anything in his previous career. But to himself it is clear enough. To him it is not an isolated act, but one link in a long chain of evil. He has been aware all along that he was sinking into sin. He has thrust away the troublesome thought, but he has been aware of it. He has taken no measure, it may be, of the growth of his guilt. It has ripened into grievous sin unnoticed. In no other sense can it have been a surprise to him. For all the while the seed was there, and had taken root, and the noxious plant was growing; and he knew it, and he hid it from others, and he would not confess it perhaps even to himself.

Is it an act of sensuality into which he has been betrayed? One act perhaps, which has poisoned the fountains of his spiritual life, which has bound his outward existence with heavy chains which he cannot shake off. The temptation took him unawares, we say. He was startled into sin. But is this the whole account of the matter? Is it natural, is it reasonable, that this should be so? Who shall dare to trace the secret history of that man’s soul, to lay open the hidden springs of his guilt? Who shall venture to say what forbidden thoughts he has admitted, perhaps welcomed, how recklessly he has lingered on the border line of good and evil, how longingly he has hovered about the accursed thing, before he dared to touch it?

Or again, is it a palpable breach of truth or honesty? He has committed some act of fraud or treachery, which has destroyed his good name for ever. How came this to pass? Were there no antecedents in his career which led naturally to that result? Had he not contracted a habit, for instance, of saying less or more than he meant, of expressing an enthusiasm or an interest which he did not feel, of paring down the truth to fit it into some conventional mould, of suppressing a little here or exaggerating a little there? Or if he fell, not from moral cowardice or from the desire to please, but from greed of gain, were there not here also insidious influences at work? There are many cases, where the question of right is doubtful. These he has decided in his own favour. There are others, where, if he investigated, he might find that he was defrauding his neighbour. These he will not enquire into. He will not be dishonest knowingly, but he will take no pains to find whether he is so or not. These are the beginnings of his guilt. By these a fraudulent habit is created. By degrees he goes on from bad to worse. He avails himself of his superior cunning; he defrauds his neighbour in little things where he is sure of escaping observation. By this time he has ceased to respect honesty as a thing to be prized in itself. To him it is so much capital to trade upon—and for this purpose the semblance is as good as the reality. Hitherto he has preserved his reputation before the world. But at length he is surprised, as we say, into some flagrant act of dishonesty. Society lays him under a ban. His character is irrecoverably lost.

And so it was with Esau. It was not that one act of selling his birthright which constituted his guilt. That was but the revelation of his true character, the summing up, as it were, of his depravity.

But fearful as is the lesson which this incident suggests, it is not half so fearful as that which we derive from his subsequent fate. He bartered away his birthright, but how was it with the blessing? It was by no act of his own that he lost this. There is nothing in the narrative which leads us to such a supposition. There was no unholy traffic here, no profane contempt here. He did not drive the blessing away. It went in spite of him. The key to this difficulty is found in the allusion in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The loss of the blessing is there represented as the inevitable consequence of the sale of his birthright. ‘Ye know that afterwards, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected.’ His fate up to a certain point was in his own hands. After that it was placed beyond his reach. So it was with Esau, and so it is always with the downward course of guilt. We may wade for a time amidst the shallows of sin, feeling our footing and heedless of danger. A single step more places us at the mercy of the waves, and we are swept away into the ocean of ruin. When we read of God’s hardening the sinner’s heart, we are perhaps startled at the phrase, yet there is no doubt that it represents a fearful moral truth. The sinner after a time ceases to be his own master. He has coiled a chain about him, which binds him hand and foot. He is dragged helplessly down. There is no more terrible passage in classical literature than that in which the Roman poet describes the guilty man trembling in his secret soul, as he sees himself falling, falling headlong, unheeded and unsuspected by those nearest to him. With a true moral insight he regards this state as the just retribution of offended heaven—the heaviest punishment which can be inflicted on the most heinous guilt. Such indeed it is. Translating it into the language of Scripture we should say, that God has hardened such a man’s heart. Surely we need not call to our aid the terrors of an unseen world—however true those terrors may be—to deter us from the path of guilt. The thought that our hearts also may be hardened, that we too may shut ourselves out from the presence of God, should be sufficient to check us in our downward career.

And even supposing this deadness should not pervade our whole spiritual being, may not the yielding to our special temptation, the indulgence in our favourite sin, stiffen and paralyse some limb or other of our moral frame? Do we not every now and then see an instance of this? We are brought in contact with some one, who, thoroughly conscientious in most things, keenly sensitive on many points of duty, is yet hardened in some one point of his moral constitution, seems dead to some moral virtue. Yet such cases are exceptional. It is the tendency of this paralysis to spread. It seizes on one limb first, but presently it extends to all. The moral frame, like the bodily, is compacted and knit together in a marvellous way. There is a wonderful sympathy between limb and limb. ‘Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.’

In what I have said, I have been speaking the language of warning, and not the language of despair. Despair is no word of the Christian’s vocabulary. So long as there is any heavenward aspiration, any loathing of sin, any yearning after better things, however slight, however feeble, there is still hope. Cherish these higher feelings. Quench not the Spirit, though it flicker faintly and lowly. From these few sparks a bright flame may be kindled, which shall cheer your heart, and throw a light upon your path, and guide you home to your heavenly rest.

Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain)

Lead by Example

Lead by Example

Lead by Example

Why is leading by example so important?  6 Attributes to Consider While Walking in Leadership

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:2-5

We hear it all the time: “Lead By Example” but do we ever take the time to conduct a self-check to ensure that we have an understanding of the breadth and depth of the application?  What makes leading by example so important to the hierarchal health of the organization?  In order to answer the questions, we’ll need to break down the approach through the lens of others.  Firstly, we need to consider the “whys” in order to understand why leading by example is important to our flock, our subordinates, our children and our followership.  Then we need to understand the application of the “whys” so that we can fill the gaps.

1.  Modeled Traits

How do our children first begin to learn?  From the time that we are babies, naturally we begin to behave in ways that we learn from our environment.  Some things are inherent and God-given.  Have you ever watched an infant stretch and yawn?  How do they know how to do that?  They just do, they didn’t have to model your behavior in order to learn how to do those things.  But what about other learned habits and traits, where do they first learn how to behave and how is their journey of personality and character development shaped?  It’s shaped through your behaviors and your habits.  When you get angry, they cry.  When you are happy and playful, they respond in kind (usually).  They learn how to treat others and how to make decisions by your example and your tutelage.  Plan accordingly and be aware of the weight of your role.  Jesus compels us to model His behavior, as this is pleasing to the Lord as evidenced through scripture:

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?” 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

As parents of young children, we’re thrust into the office of overseer, whether we’re prepared for it or not and the child will flourish and naturally follow your example.

In leadership, whether explicit or implicit, all eyes are on you, constantly measuring whether or not you’re to be trusted, and whether or not you’re worthy of a followership.  Think about how you gauge a good leader.  What attributes do they possess that you respond to and want to follow?  How do you behave if your boss or church pastor is not practicing what they preach?  How do you view that leader and how does that effect your perception of the organization?  Your decisions and behaviors have a direct impact on the lives, perceptions, and character development of your followership.

While those are the “whys”, what do they imply (in our leadership behavior)?

2.  Responsibility

Where we’re responsible for the well-being of others, we have a greater level of responsibility, not only for the “care and feeding” of those within our sphere of influence, but for continuous improvement and professional (and often personal) development of those within our care.  Having and understanding our roles as leaders, having responsibility for others causes us to place the needs of others before our own. 

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

3.  Sacrifice

Placing the needs of others before our own will ultimately lead to times of self-sacrifice.  We have to give of ourselves for the betterment of others.  In the new-baby example, we sacrifice many things as new parents, primarily our sleep as we adjust to the new “baby-schedule”.  As leaders in the military, business, or church we sacrifice our time as we pour into our subordinates, protégés, or our flock.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11

4. Integrity

The definition of integrity is: “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.”  You may have also heard the application of integrity as “doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking.”  Either definition gives you a moral and ethical framework and compass for which to gauge your decisions and your activities.  Acting with integrity is important in the eyes of your followership as it creates and nurtures trust within your relationship and can foster as a culture of trust within your organization.  Having integrity in your actions, and being trustworthy to your subordinates creates an open and healthy work environment for your people.

“My lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.” Job 27:4-6

5.  Consistency

Above all, we need to remain consistent.  Consistency provides a safe-haven within a messy and inconsistent world.  Where you’re consistent in your behaviors as a leader, your followership will benefit.  If you’ve displayed that you’re approachable, methodical, intentional, and deliberate then your followership will know where they stand with you, and can be made to feel comfortable to confide in you during times of indecision or workplace conflict.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

6.  Continuous Improvement

How do you measure up?  They say that a true scholar never stops learning. I’ll say the same of a true student of leadership, in that we never stop improving or adding tools to our leadership toolbox.  Whether you lead at home, as a parent, or you lead in your church ministry, your role at work, or just in general as the “leader” within your sphere of influence as somebody that people trust to make decisions; we never stagnate, we never stop improving ourselves as the landscape of leadership is an often fluid and dynamic environment.  The ways we lead in the military, don’t always transition to the ways we lead in our homes, or in our civilian work occupation, or in our church ministry leadership role.  Understanding situational leadership implies a well-rounded approach so in that, we need to stay relevant and up to date with the traditions of leadership so that we can continue to lead effectively in our roles.  What courses are you enrolled in for this year?  How are you improving in your role?

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,” Hebrews 5:11-12

Shalom.

Easter 1608 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1608 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1608 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Mark 16:1–7

And when the Sabbath day was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet ointments, that they might come and embalm Him.

Therefore early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre, when the sun was yet rising.

And they said one to another, Who shall roll us away this stone from the door of the sepulchre?

And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away; for it was a very great one.

So they went into the sepulchre, and saw a young man sitting at the right side, clothed in a long white robe; and they were afraid.

But he said unto them, Be not afraid: ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, Which hath been crucified; He is risen, He is not here; Behold the place where they put Him.

But go your way and tell His disciples, and Peter, that He will go before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.

The sum of this Gospel is a gospel, that is, a message of good tidings. In a message these three points fall in naturally: I. the parties to whom it is brought; II. the party by whom; III. and the message itself. These three: 1. the parties to whom,—three women, the three Maries. 2. The party by whom,—an Angel. 3. The message itself, the first news of Christ’s rising again. These three make the three parts in the text. 1. The women, 2. the Angel, 3. the message.

Seven verses I have read ye. The first four concern the women, the fifth the Angel, the two last the Angel’s message. In the women, we have to consider 1. themselves in the first; 2. their journey in the second and third; and 3. their success in the fourth.

In the Angel, 1. the manner of his appearing, 2. and of their affecting with it.

In the message, the news itself: 1. that Christ "is risen;" 2. that "He is gone before them to Galilee;" 3. that "there they shall see Him;" 4. Peter and all. 5. Then, the Ite et dicite, the commission ad evangelizandum; not to conceal these good news but publish it, these to His Disciples, they to others, and so to us; we to day, and so to the world’s end.

As the text lieth, the part that first offereth itself, is the parties to whom this message came. Which were three women. Where, finding that women were the first that had notice of Christ’s resurrection, we stay. For it may seem strange that passing by all men, yea the Apostles themselves, Christ would have His resurrection first of all made known to that sex. Reasons are rendered, of divers diversely. We may be bold to allege that the Angel doth in the text, verse 5. Vos enim quœritis,* for they sought Christ. And, Christ "is not unrighteous to forget the work and labour of their love" that seek Him. Verily there will appear more love and labour in these women, than in men, even the Apostles themselves. At this time, I know not how, men were then become women and did animos gerere muliebres,* and women were men. Sure the more manly of the twain. The Apostles, they set mured up,* all "the doors fast" about them; sought not,* went not to the sepulchre. Neither Peter that loved Him, nor John whom He loved, till these women brought them word. But these women we see were last at His Passion, and first at His Resurrection; stayed longest at that, came soonest to this, even in this respect to be respected. Sure, as it is said of the Law, Vigilantibus et non dormientibus succurrit Lex, so may it no less truly be said of the Gospel. We see it here, it cometh not to sleepers, but to them that are awake, and up and about their business, as these women were. So that there was a capacity in them to receive this prerogative.

Before I leave this part of the parties, I may not omit to observe Mary Magdalene’s place and precedence among the three. All the Fathers are careful to note it. That she standeth first of them, for it seemeth no good order. She had had seven devils in her,* as we find, verse 9. She had had the blemish to be called peccatrix,* as one famous and notorious in that kind. The other were of honest report, and never so stained, yet is she named with them. With them were much, but not only with them, but before them. With them;—and that is to shew Christ’s resurrection, as well as His death, reacheth to sinners of both sexes; and that, to sinners of note, no less than those that seem not to have greatly gone astray;—but before them too, and that is indeed to be noted; that she is the first in the list of women, and St. Peter in that of men. These two, the two chief sinners, either of their sex. Yet they, the two, whose lots came first forth in sorte sanctorum,* in partaking this news. And this to shew that chief sinners as these were, if they carry themselves as they did, shall be at no loss by their fall; shall not only be pardoned but honoured even as he was,* like these, with stolâ primâ, "the first robe" in all the wardrobe, and stand foremost of all. And it is not without a touch of the former reason, in that the sinner, after his recovery, for the most part seeketh God more fervently, whereas they that have not greatly gone astray, are but even so so; if warm, it is all. And with God it is a rule, plus valet hora fervens quam mensis tepens, ‘an hour of fervour more worth than a month of tepor.’ Now such was Mary Magdalene, here and elsewhere vouchsafed therefore this degree of exaltation,* to be "of the first three;" nay, to be the first of the three, that heard first of His rising; yea, as in the ninth verse, that first saw Him risen from the dead. This of the persons.

And now, because their endeavours were so well liked as they were for them counted worthy this so great honour, it falleth next to consider what those were, that we being like prepared may partake the like good hap. So seeking as they, we may find as they did. They were four in number. The first and third in the second, the second in the first, and the last in the third verse. All reduced, as Christ reduced them in Mary Magdalene, to dilexit multum, ‘their great love,’ of which these four be four demonstrations; or, if love be an "ensign" as it is termed Cant. 2.,* the four colours of it. 1. That they went to the sepulchre;—love to one dead. 2. That they bought precious odours;—love that is at charges. 3. That out they went early, before break of day;—love that will take pains. 4. That for all the stone, still they went on;—love that will wrestle with impediments. The first is constant as to the dead; the second bounteous, as at expense; the third diligent, as up betimes; the last resolute, be the stone never so great. According to which four, are the four denominations of love: 1. Amor, a mor-te, when it surviveth death. 2. When it buyeth dearly, it is charitas; 3. When it sheweth all diligence, it is dilectio; 4. When it goeth per saxa, when stones cannot stay it, it is zelus, which is specially seen in encountering difficulties. It shall not be amiss to touch them severally; it will serve to touch our love, whether ours be of the same assay.

The first riseth out of these words, "They went to the sepulchre;" and indeed, ex totâ substantiâ, ‘out of the whole text.’ For, for whom is all this ado, is it not for Christ? But Christ is dead, and buried three days since, and this is now the third day. What then, though He be dead, to their love He liveth still: death may take His body from their eyes, but shall never take His remembrance from their hearts. Herein is love, this is the first colour, saith a great master in that faculty,* fortis sicut mors, "love, that death cannot foil," but continueth to the dead, as if they still were alive. And when I say the dead, I mean not such as the dead hath left behind them, though that be a virtue, and Booz worthily blessed for it that shewed mercy to the living for the dead’s sake;* but I mean performing offices of love to the dead himself; to see he have a sepulchre to go to; not so to bury his friend, as he would bury his ass being dead. To see he have one, and not thither to bring him, and there to leave him, and bury him and his memory both in a grave. Such is the world’s love.* Solomon sheweth it by the lion and the dog. All after Christ living, but go to His sepulchre who will, not we. The love that goeth thither, that burieth not the memory of Him that is buried, is love indeed.

The journey to the sepulchre is iter amoris; had it been but to lament, as Mary Magdalene to Lazarus:—but then here is a farther matter, they went to anoint Him. That is set for another sign,* that they spared for no cost, but bought precious odours wherewith to embalm Him.

1. To go to anoint Christ, is kindly; it is to make Him Christ, that is, "Anointed." That term referreth principally to His Father’s anointing, I grant; but what, if we also anoint Him, will He take it in evil part? Clearly not, neither quick,* nor dead. Not quick, Luke 7. Mark 14. Not dead; this place is pregnant,* it is the end of their journey to do this. He is well content to be their, and our Anointed, not His Father’s only; yea, it is a way to make Him Christum nostrum, ‘our Christ,’ if we break our boxes, and bestow our odours upon Him.

2. To anoint Him, and not with some odd cast ointment, lying by them, kept a little too long, to throw away upon Him; but to buy, to be at cost, to do it emptis odoribus, ‘with bought odours.’

3. This to do to Him alive, that would they with all their hearts; but if that cannot be, to do it to Him dead, rather than not at all. To do it to whatsoever is left us of Christ, to that to do it.

4. To embalm Christ, Christ dead, yea though others had done it before,* for so is the case. Joseph and Nicodemus had bestowed myrrh and aloes to that end already. What then? though they had done it, it is not enough, nay, it is nothing. Nay, if all the world should have done it, unless they might come with their odours and do it too, all were nothing. In hoc est charitas, ‘herein is love,’ and this a sign of it. A sign of it every where else, and to Christ a sign it was. Indeed, such a sign there was, but it is beaten down now. We can love Christ absque hoc, and shew it some other way well enough. It sheweth our love is not charitas, no dear love; but vilitas, love that loves to be at as little charges with Christ as may be, faint love. You shall know it thus: Ad hoc signum se contrahit, ‘at this sign it shrinks,’ at every word of it. 1. "They bought,"—that is charge; we like it not,* we had rather hear potuit vendi. 2. "Odours." What need odours? An unnecessary charge. We like no odour but odor lucri. 3. To Christ. Nay, seeing it is unnecessary, we trust Christ will not require it. 4. Not alive, but especially, not dead. There was much ado while He lived to get allowance for it; there was one of His own Apostles, a good charitable man,* pater pauperum, held it to be plain perditio. Yet, to anoint the living, that many do, they can anoint us again; but to the dead, it is quite cast away. But then, if it had been told us, He is embalmed already, why then, take away their odours, that at no hand would have been endured. This sheweth our love is not charitas. But so long as this is a Gospel, it shall sound every Easter-day in our ear, That the buying of odours, the embalming of whatsoever is left us of Christ, is and will be still a sign of our loving and seeking Him, as we should; though not heretofore, yet now; now especially, when that objection ceaseth, He is embalmed enough already. He was indeed then, but most of the myrrh and aloes is now gone. That there is good occasion left, if any be disposed in hoc signo signari, ‘with this sign to seal his love to Christ anew again.’

From this of their expense, charitas, we pass to the third, of their diligence, dilectio, set down in the second verse in these words "very early," &c. And but mark how diligent the Holy Ghost is in describing their diligence. "The very first day of the week," the very first part of that first day, "in the morning;" the very first hour of that first part, "very early, before the sun was up," they were up. Why good Lord, what need all this haste? Christ is fast enough under His stone. He will not run away ye may be sure; ye need never break your sleep, and yet come to the sepulchre time enough. No, if they do it not as soon as it may be done, it is nothing worth. Herein is love, dilectio, whose proper sign is diligentia, in not slipping the first opportunity of shewing it. They did it not at their leisure, they could not rest, they were not well, till they were about it. Which very speed of theirs doubleth all the former. For cito we know is esteemed as much as bis. To do it at once is to do it more than once, is to do it twice over.

Yet this we must take with us, Διαγενομένου σαββάτου. Where falleth a very strange thing, that as we have commended them for their quickness, so must we now also for their slowness, out of the very first words of all. "When the Sabbath was past," then, and not till then, they did it. This diligence of theirs, as great haste as it made, stayed yet till the Sabbath were past, and by this means hath two contrary commendations: 1. One, for the speed; 2. another for the stay of it. Though they fain would have been embalming Him as soon as might be, yet not with breach of the Sabbath. Their diligence leapt over none of God’s commandments for haste. No, not this commandment, which of all other the world is boldest with; and if they have haste, somewhat else may, but sure the Sabbath shall never stay them. The Sabbath they stayed, for then God stayed them. But that was no sooner over, but their diligence appeared straight. No other thing could stay them. Not their own sabbath, sleep—but "before day-light" they were well onward on their way.

The last is in the third verse, in these words, "As they went, they said," &c. There was a stone, a very great one, to be rolled away ere they could come at Him. They were so rapt with love, in a kind of ecstacy, they never thought of the stone; they were well on their way before they remembered it. And then, when it came to their minds, they went not back though, but on still, the stone non obstante. And herein is love, the very fervor of it, zeal; that word hath fire in it. Not only diligence as lightness to carry it upward, but zeal as fire to burn a hole and eat itself a way, through whatsoever shall oppose to it. No stone so heavy as to stay them, or turn them back.* And this is St. John’s sign: foras pellit timorem, "love, if it be perfect, casts out fear;" et erubescit nomen difficultatis, ‘shames to confess any thing too hard for it.’ Ours is not so; we must have, not great stones, God wot, but every scruple removed out of our way, or we will not stir. But as, if you see one qui laborem fingit in prœcepto, ‘that makes a great deal more labour in a precept’ than needs, that is afraid where no fear is;* of leo in viâ, "a lion" or I wot not what perilous beast "in the way," and no such matter; it is a certain sign his love is small, his affection cold to the business in hand; so, on the other side, when we see, as in these here, such zeal to that they went about, as first they forgot there was any stone at all, and when they bethought them of it, they brake not off, but went on though; ye may be bold to say of them, dilexerunt multum, ‘their love was great’ that per saxa, ‘through stones’ and all, yet goeth forward; that neither cost nor pains nor peril can divert. Tell them the party is dead they go to; it skills not, their love is not dead; that will go on. Tell them He is embalmed already, they may save their cost; it is not enough for them except they do it too, they will do it nevertheless for all that. Tell them they may take time then, and do it; nay, unless it be done the first day, hour, and minute, it contents them not. Tell them there is a stone, more than they remember, and more than they can remove; no matter, they will try their strength and lift at it, though they take the foil. Of these thus qualified we may truly say, They that are at all this cost, labour, pains, to anoint Him dead, shew plainly, if it lay in them to raise Him again, they would not fail but do it; consequently would be glad to hear He were risen, and so are fit hearers of this Gospel; hearers well disposed, and every way meet to receive this Messenger, and this message. Now to the success.

We see what they sought, we long to see what they found. Such love and such labour would not be lost. This we may be sure of, there is none shall anoint Him alive or dead, without some recompense or consideration; which is set down of two sorts. 1. "They found the stone rolled away," as great as it was. That which troubled them most, how it might be removed, that found they removed ere they came. They need never take pains with it, the Angel had done it to their hands. 2. They found not indeed Whom they sought, Christ; but His Angel they found, and heard such a gospel of Him, so good news, as pleased them better than if they had found His body to embalm it. That news which of all other they most longed to hear, that He they came to anoint needed no such office to be done to Him, as being alive again. This was the success.

And from this success of theirs our lesson is. 1. That as there is no virtue, no good work, but hath some impediment, as it were some great stone to be lifted at,—Quis revolvet? so that it is ofttimes the lot of them that seek to do good, to find many imaginary stones removed to their hands; God so providing, ut quod admovit Satanas, amoveat Angelus, ‘what Satan lays in the way, a good Angel takes out of the way;’ that it may in the like case be a good answer to Quis revolvet? to say, Angelus Domini, "the Angel of the Lord," he shall do it, done it shall be: so did these here, and as they did, others shall find it.

2. Again, it is the hope that all may have that set themselves to do Christ any service, to find His Angel at least, though not Himself; to hear some good news of Him, though not see Him at the first. Certain it is with ungentes ungentur, ‘none shall seek ever to anoint Him but they shall be anointed by Him again,’ one way or other; and find, though not always what they seek, yet some supply that shall be worth the while. And this we may reckon of, it shall never fail us.

To follow this farther. Leave we these good women, and come first to the Angel, the messenger, and after to his message. An Angel was the messenger, for none other messenger was meet for this message.* For if His birth were tidings of so great joy as none but an Angel was meet to report it, His resurrection is as much. As much? nay, much more. As much; for His resurrection is itself a birth too. To it doth the Apostle apply the verse in the Psalm,* "This day have I begotten Thee." Even this day when He was born anew, tanquam ex utero sepulchri, ‘from the womb of the grave.’ As much then, yea much more. For the news of His birth might well have been brought by a mortal, it was but His entry into a mortal life; but this here not properly but by an Angel,* for that in the Resurrection we shall be "like the Angels," and shall die no more; and therefore an immortal messenger was meetest for it.

We first begin with what they saw,—the vision. They saw an Angel in the sepulchre. An Angel in a sepulchre is a very strange sight. A sepulchre is but an homely place—neither savoury, nor sightly, for an Angel to come in. The place of dead men’s bones, of stench, of worms, and of rottenness;—What doth an Angel there? Indeed, no Angel ever came there till this morning. Not till Christ had been there; but, since His body was there, a great change hath ensued. He hath left there odorem vitœ, and changed the grave into a place of rest. That not only this Angel here now, but after this,* two more, yea divers Angels upon divers occasions, this day did visit and frequent this place. Which very finding of the Angels thus, in the place of dead bodies, may be and is to us a pledge, that there is a possibility and hope, that the dead bodies may come also into the place of Angels. Why not the bodies in the grave to be in Heaven one day, as well as the Angels of Heaven to be in the grave this day?

This for the vision. The next for the manner of his appearing, in what form he shewed himself. A matter worth our stay a little as a good introduction to us, in him as in a mirror to see what shall be the state of us and our bodies in the Resurrection, inasmuch as it is expressly promised we shall then be ἰσάγγελοι,* "like and equal to the Angels themselves."

2. They saw "a young man," one in the vigour and strength of his years, and such shall be our estate then; all age, sickness, infirmity removed clean away. Therefore it was also that the Resurrection fell in the spring, the freshest time of the year; and in the morning, the freshest time of the day,* when saith Esay "the dew is on the herbs." Therefore, that it was in a garden, (so it was in Joseph of Arimathea’s garden) that look, as that garden was at that time of the year, the spring, so shall our estate then be in the very flower and prime of it.

They saw him "sitting," which is we know the site of rest and quietness, of them that are at ease. To shew us a second quality of our estate then; that in it all labour shall cease, all motions rest, all troubles come utterly to an end for ever, and the state of it a quiet, a restful state.

They saw him sit "on the right side." And that side is the side of pre-eminence and honour, to shew that those also shall accompany us rising again. That we may fall on the left side,* but we shall rise on the right; be "sown in dishonour," but shall "rise again in honour," that honour which His Saints and Angels have and shall have for ever.

Lastly, they saw him "clothed all in white." And white is the colour of gladness, as we find Eccles. 9:8. All to shew still,* that it shall be a state, as of strength, rest, and honour, so of joy likewise. And that, robe-wise; not short or scant, but as his stole, all over, down to the ground.

Neither serves it alone to shew us, what then we shall be, but withal what now we ought to be this day, the day of His rising.* In that we see, that as the heavens at the time of His Passion were in black, by the great eclipse shewing us it was then a time of mourning; so this day the Angels were all in white, to teach us thereby with what affection, with how great joy and gladness, we are to celebrate and solemnize this feast of our Saviour’s rising.

Their affection here was otherwise, and that is somewhat strange. In the apparition there was nothing fearful as ye see, yet it is said, "they were afraid." Even now they feared nothing, and now they fall to be afraid at this so comfortable a sight. Had they been guilty to themselves of any evil they came to do, well might they then have feared, God first, as the malefactor doth the judge, and then His Angel, as the executioner of His wrath. But their coming was for good. But I find it is not the sinner’s case only, but even of the best of our nature.* Look the Scripture; Abraham and Jacob in the Old,* Zachary and the Blessed Virgin in the New,* all strucken with fear still, at the sight of good Angels; yea even then,* when they came for their good.

It fareth with the Angels of light, as it doth with the light itself. Sore eyes and weak cannot endure it, no more can sinners them. No more can the strongest sight neither bear the light, if the object be too excellent, if it be not tempered to a certain proportion; otherwise, even to the best that is, is the light offensive. And that is their case. Afraid they are, not for any evil they were about, but for that our very nature is now so decayed, ut lucem ad quam nata est sustinere nequeat, as the Angels’ brightness, for whose society we were created, yet as now we are, bear it we cannot, but need to be comforted at the sight of a comfortable Angel. It is not the messenger angelical, but the message evangelical that must do it.

Which leadeth us along from the vision that feared them, to the message itself that relieved them; which is the third part. The stone lay not more heavy on the grave, than did that fear on their hearts, pressing them down hard. And no less needful was it, the Angel should roll it away, this spiritual great stone from their hearts, than he did that other material from the sepulchre itself. With that he begins.

1. "Fear not." A meet text for him, that maketh a sermon at a sepulchre. For the fear of that place maketh us out of quiet all our life long.* It lieth at our heart like a stone, and no way there is to make us willing to go thither, but by putting us out of fear; by putting us in hope, that the great stones shall be rolled away again from our sepulchres, and we from thence rise to a better life. It is a right beginning for an Easter-day’s sermon, nolite timere.

2. And a good reason he yields, why not. For it is not every body’s case, this nolite timere vos, "fear not you." Why not? For "you seek Jesus of Nazareth Which hath been crucified." "Nazareth" might keep you back, the meanness of His birth, and "crucified" more, the reproach of His death. Inasmuch as these cannot let you, but ye seek Him; are ashamed neither of His poor birth, nor of His shameful death, but seek Him; and seek Him, not as some did when He was alive, when good was to be done by Him, but even now, dead, when nothing is to be gotten; and not to rob or rifle Him, but to embalm Him, an office of love and kindness, (this touched before) "fear not you," nor let any fear that so seek Him.

Now, that they may not fear, He imparts them His message full of comfort. And it containeth four comforts of hope, answerable to the four former proofs of their love: "1. He is risen;" 2. But "gone before you;" 3. "Ye shall see Him;" 4. "All His Disciples," "Peter" and all; "Go tell them so."

In that you thus testify your love in seeking Him, I dare say ye had rather He ye thus come to embalm, that He were alive again; and no more joyful tidings could come to you than that He were so. Ye could I dare say with all your hearts be content to lose all your charge you have been at, in buying your odours, on condition it were so. Therefore I certify you that He is alive,* He is risen. No more than Gaza gates could hold Samson,* or the whale Jonas, no more could this stone keep Him in the sepulchre, but risen He is.

First, of this ye were sure, here He was: ye were at His laying in, ye saw the stone sealed, and the watch set, so that here He was. But here He is not now; come see the place, trust your own eyes, non est hîc.

But what of that, this is but a lame consequence for all that; He is not here, therefore He is risen. For may it not be, He hath been taken away? Not with any likelihood; though such a thing will be given out,* that the Disciples stole Him away while the watch was asleep. But your reason will give you; 1. small probability there is, they could be asleep, all the ground shaking and tottering under them by means of the earthquake.* 2. And secondly, if they did sleep for all that, yet then could they not tell sleeping, how, or by whom, He was taken away. 3. And thirdly, that His Disciples should do it; they you know of all other were utterly unlike to do any such thing; so fearful as miserably they forsook Him yet alive, and have ever since shut themselves up since He was dead. 4. And fourthly, if they durst have done such a thing, they would have taken Him away, linen, clothes, and all, as fearful men will make all the haste they can possibly, and not stood stripping Him and wrapping up the clothes, and laying them every parcel, one by one in order, as men use to do that have time enough and take deliberation, as being in no haste, or fear at all. To you therefore, as we say, ad hominem, this consequence is good; not taken away, and not here, therefore risen He is.

But, to put all out of doubt, you shall trust your own eyes; videbitis, ‘you shall see’ it is so; you shall see Him. Indeed, non hîc would not serve their turns; He knew there question would be, Where is He? Gone He is; not quite gone, but only gone before, which is the second comfort; for if He be but gone before, we have hope to follow after; I prœ, sequar; so is the nature of relatives. But that we may follow then, whither is He gone? Whither He told ye Himself, a little before His Passion, chap. 14:28. "into Galilee."

1. No meeter place for Jesus of Nazareth to go, than to "Galilee:"* there He is best known, there in Nazareth He was brought up,* there in Cana He did His first miracle, shewed His first glory—meet therefore to see His last; there in Capernaum, and the coasts about, preached most, bestowed most of His labour.

2. "Galilee;" it was called "Galilee of the Gentiles,"* for it was in the confines of them; to shew, His resurrection, tanquam in meditullio, ‘as in a middle indifferent place,’ reacheth to both;* concerneth and benefiteth both alike. As Jonas after his resurrection went to Nineveh, so Christ after His to Galilee of the Gentiles.

3. "Galilee;" that from Galilee, the place from whence they said, No good thing could ever come, He might bring one of the best things, and of most comfort that ever was; the sight and comfort of His Resurrection.

4. "Galilee" last, for Galilee signifieth a revolution or turning about to the first point, whither they must go that shall see Him, or have any part or fellowship in this feast of His Resurrection. Thither is He gone before, and thither if ye follow, there ye shall see Him.

This is the third comfort, and it is one indeed. For sight is the sense of certainty, and all that they can desire, and there they did see Him. Not these here only, or the twelve only,* or the one hundred and twenty names, in Acts 1. only, but even five hundred of them at once,* saith the Apostle; a whole "cloud of witnesses,*" to put it clean out of question. And of purpose doth the Angel point to that apparition, which was the most famous and public of all the ten.

This was good news for those here, and they were worthy of it, seeking Him as they did. But what shall become of the rest, namely of His Disciples that lost Him alive, and seek Him not dead? They shall never see Him more? Yes (which is evangelicum, ‘good tidings’ indeed, the chief comfort of all) they too that left Him so shamefully but three days ago, them He casts not off, but will be glad to see them in Galilee. Well, whatsoever become of other, Peter that so foully forsook, and forsware Him both, he shall never see Him more? Yes, Peter too, and Peter by name. And indeed, it is more than needful He should name him, he had greatest cause of doubt; the greatest stone upon him to be rolled away of any, that had so often with oaths and execrations so utterly renounced Him.* This is a good message for him, and Mary Magdalene as fit a messenger as can be to carry it, one great sinner to another. That not only Christ is risen, but content that His forsakers, deniers, forswearers, Peter and all, should repair to Him the day of His Resurrection; that all the deadly wounds of His Passion have not killed His compassion over sinners; that though they have made wrack of their duty, yet He hath not lost His mercy, not left it in the grave, but is as ready to receive them as ever. His Resurrection hath made no change in Him. Dying and rising, He is to sinners still one and the same, still like Himself, a kind, loving, and merciful Saviour. This is the last; Peter and all may see Him.

And with this He dismisseth them, with ite et dicite, with a commission and precept, by virtue whereof He maketh these women Apostolos Apostolorum, ‘Apostles to the Apostles themselves,’—for this article of the Resurrection did they first learn of these women, and they were the first of all that preached this Gospel—giving them in charge, that seeing this day is a day of glad tidings, they would not conceal it, but impart it to others, even to so many as then were, or would ever after be Christ’s disciples.

They came to embalm Christ’s body natural; that needs it not, it is past embalming now. But another Body He hath, a mystical body, a company of those that had believed in Him, though weakly; that they would go and anoint them, for they need it. They sit drying away, what with fear, what with remorse of their unkind dealing with Him; they need to have some oil, some balm to supple them. That they do with this Gospel, with these four; of which four ingredients is made the balm of this day.

Thus we see, these that were at cost to anoint Christ were fully recompensed for the costs they had been at; themselves anointed with oil and odours of a higher nature, and far more precious than those they brought with them,* Oleum lœtitiœ, saith the Psalm,* Odor vitœ, saith the Apostle. And that so plenteously, as there is enough for themselves, enough too for others, for His Disciples, for Peter and all.

But what is this to us? Sure, as we learned by way of duty how to seek Christ after their example, so seeking Him in that manner, by way of reward we hope to have our part in this good news no less than they.

1. "Christ is risen."* That concerneth us alike. "The head" is got above the water,* "the root" hath received life and sap, "the first fruits" are lift up and consecrate;* we no less than they, as His members, His branches, His field, recover to this hope.

2. And for His going before, that which the Angel said here once, is ever true. He is not gone quite away, He is but gone before us; He is but the antecedent, we as the consequent to be inferred after. Yea, though He be gone to Galilœa superior, ‘the Galilee that is above,’ Heaven, the place of the celestial spheres and revolutions, even thither is He gone, not as a party absolute, of or for Himself, but as "a Harbinger,"* saith the Apostle, with relation to others that are coming after, for whom He goeth before to take up a place. So the Apostle there, so the Angel here. So He Himself, Vado;* not Vado alone, but Vado parare locum vobis, "I go to prepare a place wherein to receive you," when the number of you and your brethren shall be full.

3. To us likewise pertaineth the third videbitis, that is, the Gospel indeed. "He is risen." Rising of itself is no Gospel, but He is risen and we shall see Him; that is it. That the time will come also, that we shall see Him in the Galilee celestial that is above;* yea, that all shall see Him, even "they that pierced Him." But they that came to embalm Him,* with joy and lifting up their heads they shall see Him; with that sight shall they see Him, That shall evermore make them blessed.

4. Lastly, which is worth all the rest, That we shall not need to be dismayed with our unworthiness, in that willing He is Peter should have word of this, and Mary Magdalene should carry it. That such as they were, sinners, and chief sinners, should have these tidings told them, this Gospel preached them; that He is as ready to receive them to grace as any of the rest, and will be as glad to see them as any others in Galilee.

But then are we to remember the condition, that here we get us into Galilee, or else it will not be. And Galilee is ‘a revolution, or turning’ ad principia ‘to the first point,’ as doth the Zodiac at this time of the year. The time of His resurrection is pascha, ‘a passing over;’ the place Galilee, ‘a turning about.’ It remaineth then that we pass over as the time, and turn as the place, putteth us in mind. Re-uniting ourselves to His Body and Blood in this time of His rising, of the dissolving and renting whereof our sins were the cause. The time of His suffering, keeping the feast of Christ our new Passover offered for us; leaving whatsoever formerly hath been amiss in Christ’s grave as the weeds of our dead estate, and rising to newness of life, that so we may have our parts "in the first resurrection;"* which they are happy and blessed that shall have, for by it they are sure of the second. Of which blessing and happiness, He vouchsafe to make us all partakers, That this day rose for us, Jesus Christ the Righteous!

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

Easter 1607 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1607 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

EASTER 1607 — Biship Lancelot Andrewes

1 Corinthians 15:20

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and was made the first fruits of them that sleep.

The same Apostle that out of Christ’s resurrection taught the Romans matter of duty, the same here out of the same resurrection teacheth the Corinthians matter of hope. There, similiter et vos,* by way of pattern to conform ourselves to Him "in newness of life;" and here, similiter et vos, in another sense by way of promise; that so doing, He shall hereafter conform us to Himself,* "change our vile bodies," and make them like "His glorious body." That former is our first resurrection from sin, this latter our second resurrection from the grave; this, the reward of that. In that, the work what to do; in this, our reward, what to hope for. These two, labour and hope, the Church joineth in one Anthem to day, her first Anthem. They sort well, and being sung together make a good harmony. But that without this, labour without hope, is no good music.

To rise, and to reclaim ourselves from a sinful course of life we have long lived in, is labour sure, and great labour. Now labour of itself is a harsh unpleasant thing, unless it be seasoned with hope.* Debet qui arat in spe arare, saith the Apostle above at the ninth chapter, in the matter of the Clergy’s maintenance,* "He that plows must plow in hope;" his plough will not go deep else, his furrows will be but shallow. Men may frame to themselves what speculations they please, but the Apostle’s saying will prove true: sever hope from labour, and you must look for labour and labourers accordingly, slight and shallow God knoweth. Labour then leads us to hope.

The Apostle saw this, and therefore is careful, whom he thus presseth to newness of life and the labour therefore, to raise for them, and to set before them, matter of hope. Hope here in this life he could set them none. They were, as he was himself,* at quotidie morior every hour,* in danger to be drawn to the block. It must therefore be from another, or at least as the text is, by a hope of being restored to life again. It was their case at Corinth, here in this chapter, plainly: If we must die to-morrow, if there be all that shall become of us,* then "let us eat and drink" while we may. If we be not sure of another life, let us make sure of this. But when in the sequel of the chapter, he had shewed there was restoring, and that so sure he was of it that he falls to insult over them in these terms, they gird up their loins again, and fall to their labours afresh,* as knowing their labour should not be "in vain in the Lord." This hope leads us to our restoring.

Our restoring is but a promise—shall be restored: that necessarily refers to a party that is to make it good. Who is that? Christ.* "Christ is our hope." Why, "hope is joined to the living,"* saith the Wise Man. Christ is dead; buried last Friday. If He be our hope, and He be dead, our hope is dead too; and if our hope be dead, our labour will not live long, nay both are buried with Christ in His grave. It was their case this day that went to Emmaus: say they, supposing Christ to be dead,* nos autem sperabamus, "we were once in good hope" by Him, that is, while He lived; as much to say as ‘Now He is in His grave, our hope is gone, we are even going to Emmaus.’ But then after, as soon as they saw He was alive again, their hope revived, and with their hope their labour; and presently back again to Jerusalem to the Lord’s work, and bade Emmaus farewell. So He leads us to labour; labour, to hope; hope, to our restoring; our restoring to Christ’s, Who, as He hath restored Himself, will restore us also to life. And this keeps us from going to Emmaus. It is used proverbially. Emmaus signifieth ‘a people forlorn:’ all that are at sperabamus, have lost their hopes, are said to go thither; and thither we should all go, even to Emmaus, but for the hope that breathes from this verse, without which it were a cold occupation to be a Christian.

This then is the hope of this text, spes viva, spes beata, worth all hopes else whatsoever. All hopes else are but spes spirantium, ‘hopes while we breath;’ this is spes expirantium, ‘the hope when we can fetch our breath no longer.’ The carnal man—all he can say is, dum spiro spero, ‘his hope is as long as his breath.’ The Christian aspireth higher, goeth farther by virtue of this verse and saith, dum expiro spero; ‘his hope fails him not when his breath fails him.’* Even then, saith Job, reposita est mihi spes in sinu meo; this hope, and only this, is laid up in our bosom, that though our life be taken from us, yet in Christ we to do it, and it to us shall be restored again.

Our case is not as theirs then was: no persecution, nor we at quotidie morior, and therefore not so sensible of this doctrine. But yet to them that are daily falling toward death, rising to life is a good text; peradventure not when we are well and in good health, but the hour is coming, when we shall leave catching at all other hopes, and must hold only by this; in horâ mortis, when all hope save the hope of this verse shall forsake us. Sure it is, under these very words are we laid into our graves, and these the last words that are said over us, as the very last hold we have; and we therefore to regard them with Job, and lay them up in our bosom.

There is in this text, I. a text, and an II. exposition. I. The text, we may well call the Angels’ text, for from them it came first. II. The exposition is St. Paul’s. These words,* "Christ is risen," were first uttered by an Angel this day in the sepulchre;* all the Evangelists so testify.

This text is a good text,* but reacheth not to us, unless it be helped with the Apostle’s exposition, and then it will. The exposition is it that giveth us our hope, and the ground of our hope. "Christ is risen," saith the Angel. "Christ the first fruits," saith the Apostle. And mark well that word "first fruits," for in that word is our hope. For if He be as the "first fruits" in His rising, His rising must reach to all that are of the heap whereof He is the "first fruits." This is our hope.

But our hope must have "a reason," saith St. Peter, and we be ready with it.* The hope that hath a ground, saith St. Paul, that is,* spes quæ non confundit. Having then shewed us this hope,* he sheweth us the ground of it. This: that in very equity we are to be allowed to be restored to life, the same way we lost it. But we lost it by man, or to speak in particular, by Adam we came by our attainder. Meet therefore, that by man, and to speak in particular, that by Christ, we come to our restoring. This is the ground or substance of our hope.

And thus he hath set before us this day life and death, in themselves and their causes, two things that of all other do most concern us. Our last point shall be to apply it to the means, this day offered unto us toward the restoring us to life.

The doctrine of the Resurrection is one of the foundations, so called by the Apostle. It behoveth him therefore, as a skilful workman,* to see it surely laid. That is surely laid that is laid on the rock,* and "the rock is Christ." Therefore he laid it on Christ by saying first, "Christ is risen."

Of all that be Christians, Christ is the hope; but not Christ every way considered, but as risen. Even in Christ un-risen there is no hope. Well doth the Apostle begin here; and when he would open to us "a gate of hope,"* carry us to Christ’s sepulchre empty; to shew us, and to hear the Angel say, "He is risen." Thence after to deduce; if He were able to do thus much for Himself, He hath promised us as much, and will do as much for us. We shall be restored to life.

Thus had he proceeded in the four verses before, destructive.* 1. Miserable is that man, that either laboureth or suffereth in vain.* 2. Christian men seem to do so, and do so, if there be no other life but this. 3. There is no other life but this, if there be no resurrection.* 4. There is no resurrection, "if Christ be not risen;" for ours dependeth on His. And now he turneth all about again. "But now," saith he, 1. "Christ is risen." 2. If He be, we shall. 3. If we shall,* we have, as St. Paul calleth it, a "blessed hope," and so a life yet behind. 4. If such hope we have, we of all men "labour not in vain." So there are four things: 1. Christ’s rising; 2. our restoring; 3. our hope; and 4. our labour. All the doubt is of the two first, the two other will follow of themselves. If a restoring, we have good hope; if good hope, our labour is not lost. The two first are in the first; the other, in the last words. The first are, "Christ is risen;" the last, we shall be restored to life. Our endeavour is to bring these two together, but first to lay the cornerstone.

"Christ is risen," is the Angel’s text, a part of the "great mystery of godliness,"* which, as the Apostle saith, was "seen of Angels," by them "delivered," and "believed on by the world." Quod credibile primum fecit illis videntium certitudo, post morientium fortitudo, jam credibile mihi facit credentium multitudo. ‘It became credible at first by the certainty of them that saw it, then by the constancy of them that died for confession of it, and to us now the huge multitude of them that have and do believe it, maketh it credible.’ For if it be not credible, how is it credible that the world could believe it? the world, I say, being neither enjoined by authority, nor forced by fear, nor inveigled by allurements; but brought about by persons, by means less credible than the thing itself. Gamaliel said,* "If it be of God, it will prevail." And though we cannot argue, all that hath prevailed is of God, yet thus we can: that which hath been mightily impugned, and weakly pursued, and yet prevailed, that was of God certainly. That which all the powers of the earth fought but could not prevail against, was from Heaven certainly. Certainly, "Christ is risen;" for many have risen, and lift up themselves against it, but all are fallen. But the Apostle saith, it is a "foundation," that he will not lay it again; no more will we, but go forward and raise upon it, and so let us do.

"Christ is risen:" suppose He be, what then? Though Christ’s rising did no way concern us or we that, yet 1. first, In that a man, one of our own flesh and blood hath gotten such a victory, even for humanity’s sake; 2. Then, in that One that is innocent hath quit Himself so well for innoceney’s sake; 3. thirdly, In that He hath foiled a common enemy, for amity’s sake; 4. lastly, In that He hath wiped away the ignominy of His fall with the glory of His rising again, for virtue and valour’s sake; for all these we have cause to rejoice with Him, all are matter of gratulation.

But the Apostle is about a farther matter; that text, the Angel’s text, he saw would not serve our turn, farther than I have said. Well may we congratulate Him, if that be all, but otherwise it pertains to us, "Christ is risen." The Apostle therefore enters farther, telling us that Christ did thus rise, not as Christ only, but as "Christ the first fruits." "Christ is risen," and in rising become the "first fruits;" risen, and so risen; that is, to speak after the manner of men, that there is in Christ a double capacity. 1. One as a body natural, considered by Himself, without any relative respect unto us, or to any; in which regard well may we be glad, as one stranger is for another, but otherwise His rising concerns us not at all. 2. Then that He hath a second, as a body politic, or chief part of a company or corporation, that have to Him, and He to them, a mutual and reciprocal reference, in which respect His resurrection may concern us no less than Himself; it is that He giveth us the first item of in the word primitiæ, that Christ in His rising cometh not to be considered as a totum integrale, or body natural alone, as Christ only; but that which maketh for us, He hath besides another capacity, that He is a part of a corporation or body, of which body we are the members. This being won, look what He hath suffered or done, it pertaineth to us, and we have our part in it.

You shall find, and ever when you find such words make much of them, Christ called a "Head,"—a head is a part; Christ called a "Root,"*—a root is a part; and here Christ called "first fruits,"* which we all know is but a part of the fruits, but a handful of a heap or a sheaf, and referreth to the rest of the fruits, as a part to the whole. So that there is in the Apostle’s conceit one mass or heap of all mankind, of which Christ is the "first fruits," we the remainder. So as by the law of the body all His concern us no less than they do Him, whatsoever He did, He did to our behoof. Die He, or rise, we have our part in His death and in His resurrection, and all: why? because He is but the "first fruits."

And if He were but Primus, and not Primitiæ dormientium, there were hope. For primus is an ordinal number, and draweth after a second, a third, and God knoweth how many. But if in that word there be any scruple, as sometime it is, ante quem non est rather than post quem est alius, if no more come by one; all the world knows the first fruits is but a part of the fruits, there are fruits beside them, no man knoweth how many.

But that which is more, the "first fruits" is not every part, but such a part as representeth the whole, and hath an operative force over the whole. For the better understanding whereof, we are to have recourse to the Law, to the very institution or first beginning of them.* Ever the legal ceremony is a good key to the evangelical mystery. Thereby we shall see why St. Paul made choice of the word "first fruits," to express himself by; that he useth verbum vigilans, ‘a word that is awake,’* as St. Augustine saith, or as Solomon, "a word upon his own wheel." The head or the root would have served, for if the head be above the water, there is hope for the whole body, and if the root hath life, the branches shall not long be without; yet he refuseth these and other that offered themselves, and chooseth rather the term of "first fruits." And why so?

This very day, Easter-day, the day of Christ’s rising, according to the Law, is the day or feast of the "first fruits;" the very feast carrieth him to the word, nothing could be more fit or seasonable for the time. The day of the Passion is the day of the Passover, and "Christ is our Passover;"* the day of the Resurrection is the day of the first fruits, and Christ is our "first fruits."

And this term thus chosen, you shall see there is a very apt and proper resemblance between the Resurrection and it. The rite and manner of the first fruits, thus it was. Under the Law, they might not eat of the fruits of the earth so long as they were profane. Profane they were, until they were sacred, and on this wise were they sacred. All the sheaves in a field,* for example’s sake, were unholy. One sheaf is taken out of all the rest, which sheaf we call the first fruits. That in the name of the rest is lift up aloft and shaken to and fro before the Lord,* and so consecrated.* That done, not only the sheaf so lifted up was holy, though that alone was lift up, but all the sheaves in the field were holy, no less than it.* The rule is, "If the first fruits be holy, all the lump is so too."

And thus, for all the world, fareth it in the Resurrection. "We were all dead,"* saith the Apostle, dead sheaves all. One, and that is Christ, this day, the day of first fruits, was in manner of a sheaf taken out of the number of the dead, and in the name of the rest lift up from the grave, and in His rising He shook,* for there was a great earthquake, by virtue whereof the first fruits being restored to life, all the rest of the dead are in Him entitled to the same hope, in that He was not so lift up for Himself alone, but for us and in our names; and so the substance of this feast fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection.

Now upon this lifting up, there ensueth a very great alteration, if you please to mark it. It was even now, "Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits"—it should be of the dead too, for from thence He rose; it is not so, but "the first fruits"—"of them that sleep;" that you may see the consecration hath wrought a change. A change and a great change certainly, to change νεκροὶ into κεκοιμημένοι, a burial place into a cemetery, that is a great dortor; graves into beds, death into sleep, dead men into men laid down to take their rest,* a rest of hope, of hope to rise again. "If they sleep, they shall do well."

And that which lieth open in the word, dormientium, the very same is enfolded in the word "first fruits:" either word affordeth comfort. For first fruits imply fruits, and so we, as the fruits of the earth, falling as do the grains or kernels into the ground, and there lying, to all men’s seeming putrified and past hope, yet on a sudden, against the great feast of first fruits, shooting forth of the ground again. The other of dormientium the Apostle letteth go, and fastens on this of fruits, and followeth it hard through the rest of the chapter;* shewing, that the rising again of the fruits sown would be no less incredible than the Resurrection, but that we see it so every year.

These two words of 1. sleeping and 2. sowing would be laid up well. That which is sown riseth up in the spring, that which sleepeth in the morning. So conceive of the change wrought in our nature; that feast of first fruits, by "Christ our first fruits." Neither perish, neither that which is sown, though it rot, nor they that sleep, though they lie as dead for the time. Both that shall spring, and these wake well again. Therefore as men sow not grudgingly, nor lie down at night unwillingly, no more must we, seeing by virtue of this feast we are now dormientes, not mortui; now not as stones, but as fruits of the earth, whereof one hath an annual, the other a diurnal resurrection. This for the first fruits, and the change by them wrought.

There is a good analogy or correspondence between these, it cannot be denied. To this question, Can one man’s resurrection work upon all the rest? it is a good answer, Why not as well as one sheaf upon the whole harvest? This simile serves well to shew it, to shew but not prove. Symbolical Divinity is good, but might we see it in the rational too? We may see it in the cause no less; in the substance, and let the ceremony go. This I called the ground of our hope.

Why, saith the Apostle, should this of the first fruits seem strange to you, that by one Man’s resurrection we should rise all, seeing by one man’s death we die all? "By one man,"* saith he, "sin entered into the world, and by sin death;" to which sin we were no parties, and yet we all die, because we are of the same nature whereof he the first person; death came so certainly, and it is good reason life should do so likewise. To this question, Can the resurrection of one, a thousand six hundred years ago, be the cause of our rising? it is a good answer, Why not, as well as the death of one, five thousand six hundred years ago, be the cause of our dying? The ground and reason is, that there is like ground and reason of both. The wisest way it is, if wisdom can contrive it, that a person be cured by mithridate made of the very flesh of the viper bruised, whence the poison came, that so that which brought the mischief might minister also the remedy; the most powerful way it is, if power can effect it, to make strength appear in weakness; and that he that overcame should by the nature which he overcame, be "swallowed up in victory." The best way it is, if goodness will admit of it, that as next to Sathan man to man oweth his destruction, so next to God man to man might be debtor of his recovery. So agreeable it is to the power, wisdom, and goodness of God this, the three attributes of the blessed and glorious Trinity.

And let justice weigh it in her balance, no just exception can be taken to it, no not by justice itself; that as death came, so should life too, the same way at least. More favour for life, if it may be, but in very rigour the same at the least. According then to the very exact rule of justice, both are to be alike; if by man one, by man the other.

We dwell too long in generalities; let us draw near to the persons themselves, in whom we shall see this better. In them all answer exactly, word for word. Adam is fallen, and become the first fruits of them that die. "Christ is risen, and became the first fruits of them" that live,—for they that sleep live. Or you may, if you please, keep the same term in both, thus: Adam is risen, as we use to call rebellions risings;* he did rise against God by eritis sicut Dii; he had never fallen, if he had not thus risen; his rising was his fall.

We are now come to the two great persons, that are the two great authors of the two great matters in this world, life and death. Not either to themselves and none else, but as two heads, two roots, two first fruits, either of them in reference to his company whom they stand for. And of these two hold the two great corporations: 1. Of them that die, they are Adam’s; 2. Of them that sleep and shall rise, that is Christ’s.

To come then to the particular: no reason in the world that Adam’s transgression should draw us all down to death, only for that we were of the same lump; and that Christ’s righteousness should not be available to raise us up again to life, being of the same sheaves, whereof He the first fruits, no less than before of Adam. Look to the things, death and life; weakness is the cause of death, raising to life cometh of power.* Shall there be in weakness more strength to hurt, than in power to do us good? Look to the persons, Adam and Christ: shall Adam,* being but a "living soul," infect us more strongly than Christ, "a quickening Spirit," can heal us again?* Nay then, Adam was but "from the earth, earthy, Christ the Lord from Heaven." Shall earth do that which Heaven cannot undo? Never. It cannot be; sicut, sic, ‘as’ and ‘so,’—so run the terms.

But the Apostle, in Rom. 5. where he handleth this very point,* tells us plainly, non sicut delictum, ita et donum; "not as the fault, so the grace;" nor as the fall, so the rising, but the grace and the rising much more abundant. It seemeth to be a pari; it is not indeed, it is under value. Great odds between the persons, the things, the powers, and the means of them. Thus then meet it should be; let us see how it was.

Here again the very terms give us great light. We are, saith he, restored; restoring doth always presuppose an attainder going before, and so the term significant; for the nature of attainder is, one person maketh the fault, but it taints his blood and all his posterity. The Apostle saith that a statute there is,* "all men should die;" but when we go to search for it,* we can find none, but pulvis es, wherein only Adam is mentioned, and so none die but he. But even by that statute, death goeth over all men; even "those," saith St. Paul,* "that have not sinned after the like manner of transgression of Adam." By what law? By the law of attainders.

The restoring then likewise was to come, and did come, after the same manner as did the attainders; that by the first, this by the second Adam, so He is called verse 45. There was a statute concerning God’s commandments, qui fecerit ea,* vivet in eis; ‘he that observed the commandments should live by that his obedience,’ death should not seize on him. Christ did observe them exactly, therefore should not have been seized on by death; should not but was, and that seizure of his was death’s forfeiture. The laying of the former statute on Christ was the utter making it void; so judgment was entered, and an act made, Christ should be restored to life. And because He came not for Himself but for us, and in our name and stead did represent us, and so we virtually in Him, by His restoring we also were restored, by the rule,* si primitiæ, et tota conspersio sic; "as the first fruits go, so goeth the whole lump," as the root the branches. And thus we have gotten life again of mankind by passing this act of restitution, whereby we have hope to be restored to life.

But life is a term of latitude, and admitteth a broad difference, which it behoveth us much that we know. Two lives there be; in the holy tongue, the word which signifieth life is of the dual number, to shew us there is a duality of lives, that two there be, and that we to have an eye to both. It will help us to understand our text. For all restored to life; all to one, not all to both. The Apostle doth after, at the forty-fourth verse, expressly name them both. 1. One a natural life, or life by the "living soul;" the other, 2. a spiritual life, or life by the "quickening Spirit." Of these two, Adam at the time of his fall had the first, of a "living soul," was seized of it; and of him all mankind, Christ and we all, receive that life. But the other, the spiritual, which is the life chiefly to be accounted of, that he then had not, not actually; only a possibility he had, if he had held him in obedience,* and "walked with God," to have been translated to that other life. For clear it is, the life which Angels now live with God, and which we have hope and promise to live with Him after our restoring,* when we "shall be equal to the Angels," that life Adam at the time of his fall was not possessed of.

Now Adam by his fall fell from both, forfeited both estates. Not only that he had in reversion, by not fulfilling the conditions, but even that he had in esse too. For even on that also did death seize after et mortuus est.

Christ in His restitution, to all the sons of Adam, to all our whole nature, restoreth the former; therefore all have interest, all shall partake that life. What Adam actually had we shall actually have, we shall all be restored. To repair our nature He came, and repair it He did; all is given again really that in Adam really we lost touching nature. So that by his fall, no detriment at all that way.

The other, the second, that He restoreth too; but not promiscue, as the former, to all. Why? for Adam was never seized of it, performed not that whereunto the possibility was annexed, and so had in it but a defeasible estate. But then, by His special grace, by a second peculiar act, He hath enabled us to attain the second estate also which Adam had only a reversion of, and lost by breaking of the condition whereto it was limited. And so to this second restored so many as, to use the Apostle’s words in the next verse, "are in Him;" that is, so many as are not only of that mass or lump whereof Adam was the first fruits, for they are interested in the former only, but that are besides of the nova conspersio, whereof Christ is the primitiæ.

"They that believe in Him,"* saith St. John, them He hath enabled, "to them He hath given power to become the sons of God," to whom therefore He saith, this day rising, Vado ad Patrem vestrum;* in which respect the Apostle calleth Him Primogenitum inter multos fratres.* Or, to make the comparison even, to those that are—to speak but as Esay speaketh of them—"His children;"* "Behold, I and the children God hath given Me." The term He useth Himself to them after His resurrection,* and calleth them "children;" and they as His family take denomination of Him—Christians, of Christ.

Of these two lives, the first we need take no thought for. It shall be of all, the unjust as well as the just. The life of the "living soul," shall be to all restored. All our thought is to be for the latter, how to have our part in that supernatural life, for that is indeed to be restored to life. For the former, though it carry the name of life, yet it may well be disputed and is, Whether it be rather a death than a life, or a life than a death? A life it is, and not a life, for it hath no living thing in it. A death it is, and not a death, for it is an immortal death. But most certain it is, call it life if you will, they that shall live that life shall wish for death rather than it, and, this is the misery—not have their wish, for death shall fly from them.

Out of this double life and double restoring, there grow two resurrections in the world to come, set down by our Saviour in express terms. Though both be to life, yet, 1. that is called "condemnation to judgment;"* and 2. this only "to life."* Of these the Apostle calleth one "the better resurrection," the better beyond all comparison. To attain this then we bend all our endeavours, that seeing the other will come of itself, without taking any thought for it at all, we may make sure of this.

To compass that then, we must be "in Christ:" so it is in the next verse;* to all, but to "every one in order, Christ" first, "the first fruits, and then, they that be in Him."

Now He is in us by our flesh, and we in Him by His Spirit; and it standeth with good reason, they that be restored to life, should be restored to the Spirit. For the Spirit is the cause of all life, but specially of the spiritual life which we seek for.

His Spirit then we must possess ourselves of, and we must do that here; for it is but one and the same Spirit That raiseth our souls here from the death of sin,* and the same That shall raise our bodies there from the dust of death.

Of which Spirit there is "first fruits," to retain the words of the text, and "a fulness;" but the fulness in this life we shall never attain; our highest degree here is but to be of the number whereof he was that said,* Et nos habentes primitias Spiritus.

These first fruits we first receive in our Baptism, which is to us our "laver of regeneration,"* and of our "renewing by the Holy Spirit," where we are made and consecrate primitiæ.

But as we need be restored to life, so I doubt had we need to be restored to the Spirit too. We are at many losses of it, by this sin that "cleaveth so fast" to us. I doubt, it is with us,* as with the fields, that we need a feast of first fruits, a day of consecration every year. By something or other we grow unhallowed, and need to be consecrate anew, to re-seize us of the first fruits of the Spirit again. At least to awake it in us, as primitiæ dormientium at least. That which was given us, and by the fraud of our enemy, or our own negligence, or both,* taken from us and lost, we need to have restored; that which we have quenched,* to be lit anew; that which we have cast into a dead sleep, awaked up from it.

If such a new consecrating we need, what better time than the feast of first fruits, the sacrificing time under the Law? and in the Gospel, the day of Christ’s rising, our first fruits, by Whom we are thus consecrate? The day wherein He was Himself restored to the perfection of His spiritual life, the life of glory, is the best for us to be restored in to the first fruits of that spiritual life, the life of grace.

And if we ask, what shall be our means of this consecrating? The Apostle telleth us, we are sanctified by the "oblation of the body of Jesus." That is the best means to restore us to that life.* He hath said it, and shewed it Himself; "He that eateth Me shall live by Me." The words spoken concerning that,* are both "spirit and life," whether we seek for the spirit or seek for life. Such was the means of our death, by eating the forbidden fruit, the first fruits of death; and such is the means of our life, by eating the flesh of Christ, the first fruits of life.

And herein we shall very fully fit, not the time only and the means, but also the manner. For as by partaking the flesh and blood, the substance of the first Adam, we came to our death, so to life we cannot come, unless we do participate with the flesh and blood of the "second Adam," that is Christ. We drew death from the first, by partaking the substance; and so must we draw life from the second, by the same. This is the way; become branches of the Vine, and partakers of His nature, and so of His life and verdure both.

So the time, the means, the manner agree. What letteth then but that we, at this time, by this means, and in this manner, make ourselves of that conspersion whereof Christ is our first fruits; by these means obtaining the first fruits of His Spirit, of that quickening Spirit, Which being obtained and still kept, or in default thereof still recovered, shall here begin to initiate in us the first fruits of our restitution in this life, whereof the fulness we shall also be restored unto in the life to come;* as St. Peter calleth that time, the "time of the restoring of all things." Then shall the fulness be restored us too, when God shall be "all in all;" not some in one, and some in another, but all in all. Atque hic est vitœ finis, pervenire ad vitam cujus non est finis; ‘this is the end of the text and of our life, to come to a life whereof there is no end.’ To which, &c.

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

Easter 1606 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1606 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Easter 1606 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes

Romans 6:9–11

Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.

For, in that He died, He died once to sin; but in that He liveth, He liveth to God.

Likewise think (or account) ye also, that ye are dead to sin, but are alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Scripture is as the feast is, both of them of the Resurrection. And this we may safely say of it, it is thought by the Church so pertinent to the feast, as it hath ever been and is appointed to be the very entry of this day’s service; to be sounded forth and sung, first of all, and before all, upon this day, as if there were some special correspondence between the day and it.

Two principal points are set down to us, out of the two principal words in it: one, scientes, in the first verse, "knowing;" the other, reputate, in the last verse, "count yourselves;"—knowing and counting, knowledge and calling ourselves to account for our knowledge.

Two points very needful to be ever jointly called upon, and more than needful for our times, being that much we know, and little we count; oft we hear, and when we have heard, small reckoning we make of it. What Christ did on Easter-day we know well; what we are then to do, we give no great regard: our scientes is without a reputantes.

Now this Scripture, ex totâ substantiâ, ‘out of the whole frame of it’ teacheth us otherwise; that Christian knowledge is not a knowledge without all manner of account, but that we are accountants for it; that we are to keep an audit of what we hear, and take account of ourselves of what we have learned. Λογίζεσθε is an auditor’s term: thence the Holy Ghost hath taken it, and would have us to be auditors in both senses.

And this to be general in whatsoever we know, but specially in our knowledge touching this feast of Christ’s Resurrection, where there are special words for it in the text, where in express terms an account is called for at our hands as an essential duty of the day. The benefit we remember is so great, the feast we hold so high, as though at other times we might be forborne, yet on this day we may not.

Now the sum of our account is set down in these words,* similiter et vos; that we fashion ourselves like to Christ, dying and rising, cast ourselves in the same moulds, express Him in both as near as we can.

To account of these first, that is, to account ourselves bound so to do.

To account for these second, that is, to account with ourselves whether we do so.

First, to account ourselves bound thus to do, resolving thus within ourselves, that to hear a Sermon of the Resurrection is nothing; to keep a feast of the Resurrection is as much, except it end in similiter et vos. Nisi, saith St. Gregory, quod de more celebratur etiam quoad mores exprimatur, ‘unless we express the matter of the feast in the form of our lives;’ unless as He from the grave so we from sin, and live to godliness as He unto God.

Then to account with ourselves, whether we do thus; that is, to sit down and reflect upon the sermons we hear, and the feasts we keep; how, by knowing Christ’s death, we die to sin; how, by knowing His resurrection, we live to God; how our estate in soul is bettered; how the fruit of the words we hear, and the feasts we keep, do abound daily toward our account against the great audit. And this to be our account, every Easter-day.

Of these two points, the former is in the two first verses, what we must know; the latter is in the last, what we must account for. And they be joined with similiter, to shew us they be and must be of equal and like regard; and we as know, so account.

But because, our knowing is the ground of our account, the Apostle beginneth with knowledge. And so must we.

Knowledge, in all learning, is of two sorts: 1. rerum, or 2. causarum, ὅτι, or δίοτι, ‘that,’ or ‘in that.’ The former is in the first verse: "knowing that Christ," &c. The latter, in the second; "for, in that," &c. And because we cannot cast up a sum, except we have a particular, the Apostle giveth us a particular of either. A particular of our knowledge quoad res, which consisteth of these three: 1. that "Christ is risen from the dead." 2. That now "He dieth not." 3. That "from henceforth death hath no dominion over Him." All in the first verse. Then a particular of our knowledge quoad causas. The cause 1. of His death, sin; "He died to sin." 2. Of His life, God; "He liveth to God." And both these but once for all. All in the second verse.

Then followeth our account, in the third verse. Wherein we consider, first, 1. the charge; 2. and then the discharge. 1. The charge first, similiter et vos; that we be like to Christ. And then wherein; 1. like, in dying to sin; 2. like, in living to God. Which are the two moulds wherein we are to be cast, that we may come forth like Him. This is the charge. 2. And last of all, the means we have to help us to discharge it, in the last words, "in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Before we take view of the two particulars, it will not be amiss to make a little stay at scientes, the first word, because it is the ground of all the rest. "Knowing that Christ is risen." This the Apostle saith, the Romans did;—"knowing." Did know himself indeed, that Christ was risen, for he saw Him. But how knew the Romans, or how know we? No other way than by relation, either they or we, but yet we much better than they. I say by relation, in the nature of a verdict, of them that had seen Him, even Cephas and the twelve; which is a full jury, able to find any matter of fact, and to give up a verdict in it. And that Christ is risen, is matter of fact. But if twelve will not serve in this matter of fact, which in all other matters with us will, if a greater inquest far, if five hundred will serve,* you may have so many; for "of more than five hundred at once was He seen," many of them then living ready to give up the same verdict, and to say the same upon their oaths.

But to settle a knowledge, the number moveth not so much as the quality of the parties. If they were persons credulous, light of belief, they may well be challenged, if they took not the way to ground their knowledge aright. That is ever best known that is most doubted of; and never was matter carried with more scruple and slowness of belief, with more doubts and difficulties, than was this of Christ’s rising. Mary Magdalene saw it first, and reported it. "They believed her not."* The two that went to Emmaus, they also reported it. They believed them not. Divers women together saw Him,* and came and told them; "their words seemed to them λῆρος,* an idle, feigned, fond tale." They all saw Him, and even seeing Him, yet they "doubted." When they were put out of doubt,* and told it but to one that happened to be absent, it was St. Thomas, you know how peremptory he was; "not he,* unless he might not only see with his eyes, but feel with his fingers, and put in his hand into His side." And all this he did. St. Augustine saith well: Profecto valde dubitatum est ab illis, ne dubitaretur a nobis; ‘all this doubting was by them made, that we might be out of doubt, and know that Christ is risen.’

Sure, they took the right course to know it certainly; and certainly they did know it, as appeareth. For never was any thing known in this world, so confidently, constantly, certainly testified as was this, that Christ is risen. By testifying it, they got nothing in the earth. Got nothing? Nay, they lost by it their living, their life, all they had to lose. They might have saved all, and but said nothing. So certain they were, so certainly they did account of their knowing, they could not be got from it, but to their very last breath, to the very last drop of their blood, bare witness to the truth of this article; and chose rather to lay down their lives and to take their death, than to deny, nay than not to affirm His rising from death. And thus did they know, and knowing testify, and by their testimony came the Romans to their knowing, and so do we. But, as I said before, we to a much surer knowing than they. For when this was written, the whole world stopped their ears at this report, would not endure to hear them, stood out mainly against them. The Resurrection! why it was with the Grecians at Athens, χλευασμὸς, a very ‘scorn.’* The Resurrection! why it was with Festus the great Roman, μανία, ‘a sickness of the brain, a plain frenzy.’* That world that then was and long after in such opposition, is since come in; and upon better examination of the matter so strangely testified, with so many thousand lives of men, to say the least of them, sad and sober, hath taken notice of it, and both known and acknowledged the truth of it. It was well foretold by St. John, hæc est victoria quæ vincit mundum,* fides vestra. It is proved true since, that this faith of Christ’s rising hath made a conquest of the whole world. So that, after all the world hath taken knowledge of it, we come to know it. And so more full to us, than to them, is this scientes, "knowing." Now to our particulars, what we know.

Our first particular is, That Christ is risen from the dead. Properly, we are said to rise from a fall, and from death rather to revive. Yet the Apostle rather useth the term of rising than reviving, as serving better to set forth his purpose. That death is a fall we doubt not, that it came with a fall, the fall of Adam. But what manner of fall? for it hath been holden a fall, from whence is no rising. But by Christ’s rising it falls out to be a fall, that we may fall and yet get up again. For if Christ be risen from it, then is there a rising; if a rising of one, then may there be of another; if He be risen in our nature, then is our nature risen; and if our nature be, our persons may be. Especially seeing, as the Apostle in the fourth verse before hath told us, He and we are σύμφυτοι, that is, so "grafted" one into the other, that He is part of us, and we of Him;* so that as St. Bernard well observeth, Christus etsi solus resurrexit, tamen non totus, ‘that Christ, though He be risen only, yet He is not risen wholly,’ or all, till we be risen too. He is but risen in part, and that He may rise all, we must rise from death also.

This then we know first: that death is not a fall like that of Pharaoh into the sea,* that "sunk down like a lump of lead" into the bottom, and never came up more;* but a fall like that of Jonas into the sea,* who was received by a fish,* and after cast up again. It is our Saviour Christ’s own simile. A fall,* not like that of the Angels into the bottomless pit, there to stay for ever; but like to that of men into their beds, when they make account to stand up again. A fall, not as of a log or stone to the ground, which, where it falleth there it lieth still;* but as of a wheat-corn into the ground, which is quickened and springeth up again.*

The very word which the Apostle useth, ἐγερθεὶς, implieth the two latter: 1. either of a fall into a bed in our chamber, where, though we lie to see to little better than dead for a time, yet in the morning we awake and stand up notwithstanding; 2. or of a fall into a bed in our garden, where, though the seed putrify and come to nothing, yet we look to see it shoot forth anew in the spring. Which spring is, as Tertullian well calleth it, the very resurrection of the year; and Christ’s Resurrection falleth well with it;* and it is, saith he, no way consonant to reason, that man for whom all things spring and rise again, should not have his spring and rising too. But he shall have them, we doubt not, by this day’s work. He That this day did rise, and rising was seen of Mary Magdalene in the likeness of a gardener,* this Gardener will look to it, that man shall have his spring. He will, saith the Prophet, "drop upon us a dew like the dew of herbs,* and the earth shall yield forth her dead." And so, as Christ is risen from the dead, even so shall we.

Our second particular is, That as He is risen, so now He dieth not. Which is no idle addition, but hath his force and emphasis. For one thing it is to rise from the dead, and another, not to die any more. The widow’s son of Nain,* the ruler’s daughter of the synagogue,* Lazarus,—all these rose again from death,* yet they died afterward; but "Christ rising from the dead, dieth no more." These two are sensibly different, Lazarus’ resurrection, and Christ’s; and this second is sure a higher degree than the former. If we rise as they did, that we return to this same mortal life of ours again, this very mortality of ours will be to us as the prisoner’s chain he escapes away withal: by it we shall be pulled back again, though we should rise a thousand times. We must therefore so rise as Christ, that our resurrection be not reditus, but transitus; not a returning back to the same life, but a passing over to a new. Transivit de morte ad vitam, saith He.* The very feast itself puts us in mind of as much; it is Pascha, that is, the Passover,* not a coming back to the same land of Egypt, but a passing over to a better, the Land of Promise, whither "Christ our Passover" is passed before us,* and shall in His good time give us passage after Him. The Apostle expresseth it best where he saith, that Christ by His rising hath "abolished death,* and brought to light life and immortality;" not life alone, but life and immortality, which is this our second particular. Risen, and risen to die no more, because risen to life, to life immortal.

But the third is yet beyond both these, more worth the knowing, more worthy our account; "death hath no dominion over Him." Where, as we before said, one thing it was to rise again, another to die no more, so say we now; it is one thing not to die, another not to be under the dominion of death. For death, and death’s dominion are two different things. Death itself is nothing else but the very separation of the life from the body, death’s dominion a thing of far larger extent. By which word of "dominion," the Apostle would have us to conceive of death, as of some great lord having some large signory.* Even as three several times in the chapter before he saith, regnavit mors, "death reigned," as if death were some mighty monarch, having some great dominions under him. And so it is; for look how many dangers, how many diseases, sorrows, calamities, miseries there be of this mortal life; how many pains, perils, snares of death; so many several provinces are there of this dominion. In all which, or some of them, while we live, we still are under the jurisdiction and arrest of death all the days of our life. And say that we escape them all, and none of them happen to us, yet live we still under fear of them, and that is death’s dominion too. For he is, as Job calleth him, Rex pavoris, "King of fear." And when we are out of this life too,* unless we pertain to Christ and His resurrection, we are not out of his dominion neither. For hell itself is secunda mors, so termed by St. John, "the second death,"* or second part of death’s dominion.*

Now, who is there that would desire to rise again to this life, yea, though it were immortal, to be still under this dominion of death here; still subject, still liable to the aches and pains, to the griefs and gripings, to the manifold miseries of this vale of the shadow of death? But then the other, the second region of death, the second part of his dominion, who can endure once to be there? There they seek and wish for death, and death flieth from them.

Verily, rising is not enough; rising, not to die again is not enough, except we may be quit of this dominion, and rid of that which we either feel or fear all our life long. Therefore doth the Apostle add, and so it was needful he should, "death hath no dominion over Him." "No dominion over Him?" No; for He, dominion over it. For lest any might surmise he might break through some wall, or get out at some window, and so steal a resurrection, or casually come to it, he tells them—No, it is not so.* Ecce claves mortis et inferni; see here, the keys both of the first and second death. Which is a plain proof He hath mastered, and got the dominion over both "death and him that hath the power of death,* that is the devil." Both are swallowed up in victory, and neither death any more sting, nor hell any more dominion.* Sed ad Dominum Deum nostrum spectant exitus mortis;* "but now unto God our Lord belong the issues of death;" the keys are at His girdle, He can let out as many as He list.

This estate is it, which he calleth coronam vitæ;* not life alone, but "the crown of life," or a life crowned with immunity of fear of any evil, ever to befal us. This is it which in the next verse he calleth "living unto God,"* the estate of the children of the resurrection, to be the sons of God, equal to the Angels, subject to no part of death’s dominion, but living in security, joy, and bliss for ever.

And now is our particular full. 1. Rising to life first; 2. and life freed from death, and so immortal; 3. and then exempt from the dominion of death, and every part of it; and so happy and blessed. Rise again? so may Lazarus, or any mortal man do; that is not it. Rise again to life immortal? so shall all do in the end, as well the unjust as the just; that is not it. But rise again to life immortal, with freedom from all misery, to live to, and with God, in all joy and glory evermore;—that is it, that is Christ’s resurrection. Et tu, saith St. Augustine, spera talem resurrectionem, et propter hoc esto Christianus, ‘live in hope of such a resurrection, and for this hope’s sake carry thyself as a Christian.’ Thus have we our particular of that we are to know touching Christ risen.

And now we know all these, yet do we not account ourselves to know them perfectly until we also know the reason of them. And the Romans were a people that loved to see the ground of that they received, and not the bare articles alone. Indeed it might trouble them why Christ should need thus to rise again, because they saw no reason why He should need die. The truth is, we cannot speak of rising well without mention of the terminus a quo, from whence He rose. By means whereof these two, 1. Christ’s dying, and 2. His rising, are so linked together, and their audits so entangled one with another, as it is very hard to sever them. And this you shall observe, the Apostle never goeth about to do it, but still as it were of purpose suffers one to draw in the other continually. It is not here alone, but all over his Epistles; ever they run together, as if he were loath to mention one without the other.

And it cannot be denied but that their joining serveth to many great good purposes. These two, 1. His death, and 2. His rising, they shew His two natures, human and Divine; 1. His human nature and weakness in dying, 2. His Divine nature and power in rising again. 2. These shew His two offices; His Priesthood and His Kingdom. 1. His Priesthood in the sacrifice of His death; 2. His Kingdom in the glory of His resurrection. 3. They set before us His two main benefits, 1. interitum mortis, and 2. principium vitæ. 1. His death, the death of death; 2. His rising, the reviving of life again; the one what He had ransomed us from, the other what He had purchased for us. 4. They serve as two moulds, wherein our lives are to be cast, that the days of our vanity may be fashioned to the likeness of the Son of God; which are our two duties, that we are to render for those two benefits, proceeding from the two offices of His two natures conjoined. In a word, they are not well to be sundered; for when they are thus joined, they are the very abridgment of the whole Gospel.

Of them both then briefly. Of His dying first: "In that He died, He died once to sin." Why died He once, and why but once? Once He died to sin, that is, sin was the cause He was to die once. As in saying "He liveth to God," we say God is the cause of His life, so in saying "He died to sin" we say sin was the cause of His death. God of His rising, sin of His fall. And look, how the Resurrection leadeth us to death, even as naturally doth death unto sin, the sting of death.

To sin then He died; not simply to sin, but with reference to us. For as death leadeth us to sin, so doth sin to sinners, that is, to ourselves; and so will the opposition be more clear and full: "He liveth unto God," "He died unto man." With reference, I say, to us. For first He died unto us; and if it be true that Puer natus est nobis,* it is as true that Vir mortuus est nobis; if being a Child He was born to us, becoming a Man He died to us. Both are true.

To us then first He died because He would save us. To sin secondly, because else He could not save us. Yes he could have saved us and never died for us, ex plenitudine potestatis, ‘by His absolute power,’ if He would have taken that way. That way He would not, but proceed by way of justice, do all by way of justice. And by justice sin must have death,—death, our death, for the sin was ours. It was we that were to die to sin. But if we had died to sin, we had perished in sin; perished here, and perished everlastingly. That His love to us could not endure, that we should so perish. Therefore, as in justice He justly might, He took upon Him our debt of sin, and said, as the Fathers apply that speech of His, Sinite abire hos, "Let these go their ways."* And so that we might not die to sin He did. We see why he died once.

Why but once? because once was enough, ad auferenda, saith St. John; ad abolenda,* saith St. Peter; ad exhaurienda, saith St. Paul; ‘to take away,* to abolish, to draw dry,’ and utterly to exhaust all the sins,* of all the sinners, of all the world. The excellency of His Person That performed it was such; the excellency of the obedience that He performed, such; the excellency both of His humility and charity wherewith He performed it, such; and of such value every of them, and all of them much more; as made that His once dying was satis superque, ‘enough, and enough again;’ which made the Prophet call it copiosam redemptionem,* "a plenteous redemption." But the Apostle, he goeth beyond all in expressing this;* in one place terming it ὑπερβάλλων,* in another ὑπερεκπερισσεύων, in another πλεονάζων,—mercy, rich,* exceeding; grace over-abounding, nay, grace superfluous, for so is πλεονάζων, and superfluous is enough and to spare; superfluous is clearly enough and more than enough. Once dying then being more than enough, no reason He should die more than once. That of His death.

Now of His life: "He liveth unto God." The rigour of the law being fully satisfied by His death, then was He no longer justly, but wrongfully detained by death. As therefore by the power He had, He laid down His life, so He took it again, and rose again from the dead. And not only rose Himself, but in one concurrent action, God, Who had by His death received full satisfaction, reached Him as it were His hand, and raised Him to life. The Apostle’s word ἐγερθεὶς, in the native force doth more properly signify, "raised by another," than risen by himself, and is so used, to shew it was done, not only by the power of the Son, but by the will, consent, and co-operation of the Father; and He the cause of it, Who for the over-abundant merit of His death, and His humbling Himself, and "becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross," not only raised Him,* but propter hoc, "even for that cause," exalted Him also, to live with Him, in joy and glory for ever. For, as when He lived to man He lived to much misery, so now He liveth to God He liveth in all felicity. This part being oppositely set down to the former; living, to exclude dying again; living to God, to exclude death’s dominion, and all things pertaining to it. For, as with "God is life and the fountain of life" against death,* even the fountain of life never failing, but ever renewing to all eternity; so with Him also is torrens deliciarum, "a main river of pleasures," even pleasures for evermore; never ebbing, but ever flowing to all contentment, against the miseries belonging to death’s dominion. And there He liveth thus: not now, as the Son of God, as He lived before all worlds, but as the Son of man, in the right of our nature; to estate us in this life in the hope of a reversion, and in the life to come in perfect and full possession of His own and His Father’s bliss and happiness; when we shall also live to God, and God be all in all, which is the highest pitch of all our hope. We see then His dying and rising, and the grounds of both, and thus have we the total of our scientes.

Now followeth our account. An account is either of what is coming to us, and that we like well, or what is going from us, and that is not so pleasing. Coming to us I call matter of benefit, going from us matter of duty; where I doubt many an expectation will be deceived, making account to hear from the Resurrection matter of benefit only to come in, where the Apostle calleth us to account for matter of duty which is to go from us.

An account there is growing to us by Christ’s rising, of matter of benefit and comfort; such an one there is, and we have touched it before. The hope of gaining a better life, which groweth from Christ’s rising, is our comfort against the fear of losing this. Thus do we comfort ourselves against our deaths:* "Now blessed be God that hath regenerated us to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." Thus do we comfort ourselves against our friends’ death:* "Comfort yourselves one another," saith the Apostle, "with these words." What words be they? Even those of our Saviour in the Gospel, Resurget frater tuus,* "Thy brother" or thy father, or thy friend, "shall rise again." And not only against death, but even against all the miseries of this life. It was Job’s comfort on the dunghill: well yet,* videbo Deum in carne meâ; "I shall see God in my flesh." And not in our miseries alone, but when we do well, and no man respecteth us for it. It is the Apostle’s conclusion of the chapter of the Resurrection: Be of good cheer yet, labor vester non erit inanis in Domino,* your "labour is not in vain in the Lord," you shall have your reward at the resurrection of the just. All these ways comfort cometh unto us by it.

But this of ours is another manner of account, of duty to go from us, and to be answered by us. And such an one there is too, and we must reckon of it. I add that this here is our first account, you see it here called for in the Epistle to the Romans; the other cometh after, in the Epistle to the Corinthians.

In very deed, this of ours is the key to the other, and we shall never find sound comfort of that, unless we do first well pass this account here. It is I say, first, because it is present, and concerneth our souls, even here in this life. The other is future, and toucheth but our bodies, and that in the life to come. It is an error certainly, which runneth in men’s heads when they hear of the Resurrection, to conceive of it as of a matter merely future, and not to take place till the latter day. Not only "Christ is risen," but if all be as it should be, "We are already risen with Him,"* saith the Apostle, in the Epistle this day, the very first words of it; and even here now, saith St. John, is there a "first resurrection,"* and happy is he that "hath his part in it." A like error it is to conceit the Resurrection as a thing merely corporal, and no ways to be incident into the spirit or soul at all. The Apostle hath already given us an item to the contrary, in the end of the fourth chapter before, where he saith:* "He rose again for our justification," and justification is a matter spiritual;* Justificatus est Spiritu, saith the Apostle, of Christ Himself. Verily, here must the spirit rise to grace, or else neither the body nor it shall there rise to glory. This then is our first account, that account of ours, which presently is to be passed, and out of hand; this is it which first we must take order for.

The sum or charge of which account is set down in these words, similiter et vos; that we be like Christ, carry His image Who is heavenly, as we have carried the image of the earthly, "be conformed to His likeness;" that what Christ hath wrought for us, the like be wrought in us; what wrought for us by His flesh, the like wrought in us by His Spirit. It is a maxim or main ground in all the Fathers, that such an account must be: the former, what Christ hath wrought for us, Deus reputat nobis, ‘God accounteth to us;’ for the latter, what Christ hath wrought in us, reputate vos, we must account to God. And that is, similiter et vos, that we fashion ourselves like Him.

Like Him in as many points as we may, but namely and expressly, in these two here set down: 1. "In dying to sin," 2. "In living unto God." In these two first; then secondly, in doing both these, ἐφάπαξ, but "once for all."

Like Him in these two: 1. In His dying. For He died not only to offer "a sacrifice" for us,* saith St. Paul, but also to leave "an example" to us, saith St. Peter.* That example are we to be like. 2. In His rising: for He arose not only that we might be "regenerated to a lively hope,"* saith St. Peter, but also that we might be "grafted into the similitude of His resurrection," saith St. Paul, a little before, in the fifth verse of this very chapter. That similitude are we to resemble. So have we the exemplary part of both these, whereunto we are to frame our similiter et vos.

"He died to sin:"—there is our pattern. Our first account must be, "count yourselves dead to sin." And that we do when there is neither action, nor affection, nor any sign of life in us toward sin, no more than in a dead body; when, as men crucified, which is not only His death, but the kind of His death too, we neither move hand, nor stir foot toward it, both are nailed down fast. In a word, to "die to sin," with St. Paul here, is to "cease from sin,"* with St. Peter.

To "cease from sin" I say, understanding by sin, not from sin altogether—that is a higher perfection than this life will bear, but as the Apostle expoundeth himself in the very next words,* Ne regnet peccatum, that is, from the "dominion of sin" to cease. For till we be free from death itself, which in this life we are not, we shall not be free from sin altogether; only we may come thus far, ne regnet, that sin "reign not," wear not a crown, sit not in a throne, hold no parliaments within us, give us no laws; in a word, as in the fourth verse before, that we serve it not.* To die to the dominion of sin,—that by the grace of God we may, and that we must account for.

"He liveth to God." There is our similitude of His resurrection: our second account must be, count yourselves "living unto God." Now how that is, he hath already told us in the fourth verse, even "to walk in newness of life." To walk is to move; moving is a vital action, and argueth life. But it must not be any life, our old will not serve; it must be a new life, we must not return back to our former course, but pass over to another new conversation. And in a word as before, to live to God with St. Paul here, is to live secundum Deum,* "according to God in the Spirit," with St. Peter. And then live we according to Him, when His will is our law, His word our rule, His Son’s life our example, His Spirit rather than our own soul the guide of our actions. Thus shall we be grafted into the similitude of His resurrection.

Now this similitude of the Resurrection calleth to my mind another similitude of the Resurrection in this life too, which I find in Scripture mentioned; it fitteth us well, it will not be amiss to remember you of it by the way, it will make us the better willing to enter into this account.

At the time that Isaac should have been offered by his father,* Isaac was not slain: very near it he was, there was fire, and there was a knife, and he was appointed ready to be a sacrifice. Of which case of his, the Apostle in the mention of his father Abraham’s faith,—"Abraham," saith he,* "by faith," λογισάμενος, "made full account," if Isaac had been slain, "God was able to raise him from the dead." And even from the dead God raised him, and his father received him, ἐν παραβολῇ, "in a certain similitude," or after a sort. Mark that well: Raising Isaac from imminent danger of present death, is with the Apostle a kind of resurrection. And if it be so, and if the Holy Ghost warrant us to call that a kind of resurrection, how can we but on this day, the day of the Resurrection, call to mind, and withal render unto God our unfeigned thanks and praise, for our late resurrection ἐν παραβολῇ, for our kind of resurrection, He not long since vouchsafed us. Our case was Isaac’s case without doubt: there was fire, and instead of a knife, there was powder enough, and we were designed all of us, and even ready, to be sacrificed, even Abraham, Isaac, and all. Certainly if Isaac’s were, ours was a kind of resurrection, and we so to acknowledge it. We were as near as he; we were not only within the dominion, but within the verge, nay even within the very gates of death. From thence hath God raised us, and given us this year this similitude of the Resurrection, that we might this day of the resurrection of His Son, present Him with this, in the text, of "rising to a new course of life."

And now to return to our fashioning ourselves like to Him, in these: As there is a death natural, and a death civil, so is there a death moral, both in philosophy and in divinity; and if a death, then consequently a resurrection too. Every great and notable change of our course of life, whereby we are not now any longer the same men that before we were, be it from worse to better, or from better to worse, is a moral death; a moral death to that we change from, and a moral resurrection to that we change to. If we change to the better, that is sin’s death; if we alter to the worse, that is sin’s resurrection. When we commit sin, we die, we are dead in sin; when we repent, we revive again; when we repent ourselves of our repenting and relapse back, then sin riseth again from the dead: and so toties quoties. And even upon these two, as two hinges, turneth our whole life. All our life is spent in one of them.

Now then that we be not all our life long thus off and on, fast or loose, in dock out nettle, and in nettle out dock, it will behove us once more yet to look back upon our similiter et vos, even upon the word ἐφάπαξ, semel, "once." That is, that we not only "die to sin," and "live to God," but die and live as He did, that is, "once for all;" which is an utter abandoning "once" of sin’s dominion, and a continual, constant, persisting in a good course "once" begun. Sin’s dominion, it languisheth sometimes in us, and falleth haply into a swoon, but it dieth not quite "once for all." Grace lifteth up the eye, and looketh up a little, and giveth some sign of life, but never perfectly receiveth. O that once we might come to this! no more deaths, no more resurrections, but one! that we might once make an end of our daily continual recidivations to which we are so subject, and once get past these pangs and qualms of godliness, this righteousness like the morning cloud, which is all we perform; that we might grow habituate in grace, radicati et fundati, "rooted and founded in it;" ἐῤῥιζωμένοι, "steady,"* and ἑδραῖοι, "never to be removed;"* that so we might enter into, and pass a good account of this our similiter et vos!

And thus are we come to the foot of our account, which is our onus, or ‘charge.’ Now we must think of our discharge, to go about it; which maketh the last words no less necessary for us to consider, than all the rest. For what? is it in us, or can we, by our own power and virtue, make up this account? We cannot, saith the Apostle;* nay we cannot, saith he, λογίσασθαι, "make account of any thing," no not so much as of a good thought toward it, as of ourselves. If any think otherwise, let him but prove his own strength a little, what he can do, he shall be so confounded in it, as he shall change his mind, saith St. Augustine, and see plainly, the Apostle had reason to shut up all with in Christo Jesu Domino nostro: otherwise our account will stick in our hands. Verily, to raise a soul from the death of sin, is harder, far harder, than to raise a dead body out of the dust of death. St. Augustine hath long since defined it, that Mary Magdalene’s resurrection in soul, from her long lying dead in sin, was a greater miracle than her brother Lazarus’ resurrection, that had lain four days in his grave. If Lazarus lay dead before us, we would never assay to raise him ourselves; we know we cannot do it. If we cannot raise Lazarus that is the easier of the twain, we shall never Mary Magdalene which is the harder by far, out of Him, or without Him, That raised them both.

But as out of Christ, or without Christ, we can do nothing toward this account; not accomplish or bring to perfection, but not do—not any great or notable sum of it, but nothing at all; as saith St. Augustine,* upon sine Me nihil potestis facere.* So, in Him and with Him enabling us to it, we can think good thoughts, speak good words, and do good works, and die to sin,* and live to God, and all. Omnia possum, saith the Apostle. And enable us He will, and can, as not only having passed the resurrection, but being the Resurrection itself; not only had the effect of it in Himself, but being the cause of it to us. So He saith Himself:* "I am the Resurrection and the Life;" the Resurrection to them that are dead in sin, to raise them from it; and the Life to them that live unto God, to preserve them in it.

Where, besides the two former, 1. the article of the Resurrection, which we are to know; 2. and the example of the Resurrection, which we are to be like; we come to the notice of a third thing, even a virtue or power flowing from Christ’s resurrection, whereby we are made able to express our similiter et vos, and to pass this our account of "dying to sin," and "living to God." It is in plain words called by the Apostle himself,* virtus resurrectionis "the virtue of Christ’s resurrection," issuing from it to us; and he prayeth that as he had a faith of the former, so he may have a feeling of this; and as of them he had a contemplative, so he may of this have an experimental knowledge. This enabling virtue proceedeth from Christ’s resurrection. For never let us think, if in the days of His flesh there "went virtue out" from even the very edge of His garment to do great cures,* as in the case of the woman with the bloody issue we read, but that from His Ownself, and from those two most principal and powerful actions of His Ownself, His 1. death and 2. resurrection, there issueth a divine power; from His death a power working on the old man or flesh to mortify it; from His resurrection a power working on the new man, the spirit, to quicken it. A power able to roll back any stone of an evil custom, lie it never so heavy on us; a power able to dry up any issue, though it have run upon us twelve years long.

And this power is nothing else but that divine quality of grace, which we receive from Him. Receive it from Him we do certainly: only let us pray, and endeavour ourselves, that we "receive it not in vain,"* the Holy Ghost by ways to flesh and blood unknown inspiring it as a breath, distilling it as a dew, deriving it as a secret influence into the soul. For if philosophy grant an invisible operation in us to the celestial bodies, much better may we yield it to His eternal Spirit, whereby such a virtue or breath may proceed from it, and be received of us.

Which breath, or spirit, is drawn in by prayer, and such other exercises of devotion on our parts; and, on God’s part, breathed in, by, and with, the word, well therefore termed by the Apostle,* "the word of grace." And I may safely say it with good warrant, from those words especially and chiefly; which, as He Himself saith of them,* are "spirit and life," even those words, which joined to the element make the blessed Sacrament.

There was good proof made of it this day. All the way did He preach to them, even till they came to Emmaus, and their hearts were hot within them, which was a good sign; but their eyes were not opened but "at the breaking of bread,"* and then they were. That is the best and surest sense we know, and therefore most to be accounted of. There we taste, and there we see;* "taste and see how gracious the Lord is."* There we are made to "drink of the Spirit,"* there our "hearts are strengthened and stablished with grace."* There is the Blood which shall "purge our consciences from dead works," whereby we may "die to sin." There the Bread of God, which shall endue our souls with much strength; yea, multiply strength in them, to live unto God; yea,* to live to Him continually; for he that "eateth His flesh and drinketh His blood,* dwelleth in Christ, and Christ in him;" not inneth, or sojourneth for a time, but dwelleth continually. And, never can we more truly, or properly say, in Christo Jesu Domino nostro, as when we come new from that holy action, for then He is in us, and we in Him, indeed. And so we to make full account of this service, as a special means to further us to make up our Easter-day’s account, and to set off a good part of our charge. In Christ, dropping upon us the anointing of His grace. In Jesus, Who will be ready as our Saviour to succour and support us with His auxilium speciale, ‘His special help.’ Without which assisting us, even grace itself is many times faint and feeble in us; and both these, because He is our Lord Who, having come to save that which was lost, will not suffer that to be lost which He hath saved. Thus using His own ordinance of Prayer, of the Word, and Sacrament, for our better enabling to discharge this day’s duty, we shall I trust yield up a good account, and celebrate a good feast of His resurrection. Which Almighty God grant, &c.

Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)


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