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and Elijah never tasted death, these twice drank the bitter cup; with one cradle, each had two coffins; one birth, but two burials; and thus, that God might be glorified, suffering pains from which obscurer saints have been exempt, they in part fulfilled the noble saying of that dauntless martyr, who declared his love for Christ to be such, that if he had as many lives as he had gray hairs on his head, he would lay them all down for him. Thiese honored ones were out on bail. After a while they retraced their steps; and, now lying in dusty death, they wait the summons of the resurrection. But Jesus waits to summon, not to be summoned. The grave holds them, but heaven holds him. For heaven, as well as hell, was moved at his coming; and there, saints adoring, angels worshipping at his feet, in the very body which was stretched on the cross and laid in the sepulchre for us, he fills his Father's throne, The King of kings and Lord of lords is " He who liveth and was dead."
IV. Because he has taken precedence of his people, who are all to rise from their graves to glory.
It is better for me, if I am a poor man standing in need of royal favors, to have a friend at court than in my own humble cottage ; and it is better for us that Christ is with his Father in heaven than with his people on earth. It is expedient for you, he said, that I go away. He has gone to prepare a place for us; and while his Spirit has come down to take care of the business of his church on earth, he looks after and watches over its affairs in heaven. He had work to do which could not otherwise be done. He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. So, after three days' unbroken rest, he rose to sleep no more, and be the first-born of the dead. Apart from that, precedence was his right. It belonged to him in the very nature of things. The king precedes his train; the head rises first out of pit or grave, afterwards the body and its members ; the foundation stone is laid first, afterwards the stones of the superstructure; the elder brother breaks first from a mother's womb, afterwards the children of whom he is forerunner.
It is as the prelude of our own resurrection, that Christ's is to us the object of the greatest satisfaction and joy. In these cast-off grave clothes, in that linen shroud and napkin, there is more to draw our eyes, and fix our interest, and move our admiration, than in the jewelled robes or royal purple of the greatest monarch of earth. That empty tomb, roughly hewn in the rock, is a greater sight than Egypt's mighty pyramids, or the costliest sepulchres that have received the ashes of the proudest kings. How full of meaning is its very emptiness! What good news to us in Mary's disappointment! What joys flow to us in these women's tears! Thanks be to God, they could not find him. He is not there. No, Mary! they have not taken away your Lord ; no robber has rified that sacred tomb. See, the dew lies sparkling on the grass, nor feet have brushed it but those of one who has left the grave. He is risen ; and, as the first fruits of them that sleep, as the first ripe sheaf that was offered to the Lord, his resurrection is the pledge and promise of a coming harvest. Henceforth the grave holds but a lease of the saints. Because he rose, we shall rise also.
Sweeter to our ear than the full chorus of bright skies and greenwood, are the first notes of the warbler that pipes away the winter, and breaks in on its long,
drear silence! And more welcome to our eye than the flush of summer's gayest flowers, is the simple snowdrop that hangs its pure white bell above the dead bare ground. And why? These are the first-born of the year, the forerunners of a crowd to follow. In that group of silver bells that ring in the spring with its joys, and loves, and singing birds, my fancy's eye sees the naked earth clothed in beauty, the streams, like children let loose, dancing, and laughing, and rejoicing in their freedom, bleak winter gone, and nature's annual resurrection. And in that solitary simple note, my fancy hears the carol of larks, wild moor, hillside, and woodlands full of song, and ringing all with music. And in Christ, the first-born, I see the grave giving up its dead; from the depths of the sea, from lonely wilderness and crowded churchyard they come, like the dews of the grass, an innumerable multitude. Risen Lord ! we rejoice in thy resurrection. We hail it as the harbinger and blessed pledge of our own. The first to come forth, thou art the elder brother of a family, whose countless numbers the patriarch saw in the dust of the desert, whose holy beauty he saw shining in the bright stars of heaven.
The first-born! This spoils the grave of its horrors, changing the tomb into a capacious womb that death is daily filļing with the germs of life. The first fruits ! This explains why men called the churchyard, as once they did, God's acre. Looking at these grassy mounds in the light of that expression, the eye of faith sees it change into a field sown with the seeds of immortality. Blessed field! What flowers shall spring there! What a harvest shall be gathered there! In the neighboring fields “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap;" but here how great the difference between what is sown amid mourners' tears, and what shall be reaped amid angels' joys ; between the poor body we restore to the earth, and the noble form that shall spring from its ashes. Who saw the rolling waves stand up a rocky wall ; who saw the water of Cana flow out rich purple wine ; who saw Lazarus's festering corpse, with health glowing on its cheek, and its arms enfolding sisters ready to faint with joy, saw nothing to match the change the grave shall work on these mouldering bones. Sown in corruption, they shall rise in incorruption, mortal putting on immortality. How beautiful they shall be! Never more shall hoary time write age on a wrinkled brow. The whole terrible troop of diseases cast with sin into hell, the saints shall possess unfading beauty, and enjoy a perpetual youth ; a pure soul shall be mated with a worthy partner in a perfect body, and an angel form shall lodge an angel mind. There shall be no more death, nor sighing, nor sorrow, for there shall be no more sin.
If we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, what reconciling views of death does this open up to us? Why don't we think better of death, and oftener of death? No doubt his hand is rough, and his voice is gruff, and, rudely seizing us by the throat, as if he were an officer and we were the prisoners of justice, he has none of the courtly manners of Eleazer when he went to bring his bride home to Isaac; yet why should those things make us overlook so much the glittering crown he brings in his grisly hand, the message he brings us to come away home. We should be much happier if we familiarised our minds with this event, and trained ourselves to think of death more as glory than as death, as our return to our Father and our Father's house, as going home to be with Jesus and the saints; or, if you will have death in, as the death of all sin and sorrow, as the death of Death. To a child of God, what are its pains but the pangs of birth; its battle, but the struggle that precedes the victory; its tossings but the swell and surf that beats on the shores of eternal life ; its grave but a bed of peaceful rest, where the bodies of saints sleep out the night that shall fly away for ever before the glories of a resurrection morn. I know a churchyard where this is strikingly set forth in the rude sculpturing of a burial stone. Beneath an angel figure, that, with outstretched wings and trumpet at the mouth, blows the resurrection, there lies a naked skull. Beneath the angel, and beside this emblem of mortality, two forms stand ; one is the tenant of the grave below, the other it is impossible to mistake, it is the skeleton figure of the King of Terrors. His dart lies on the ground broken in two, and the hand that has dropped it is stretched out over the skull, and held in the grasp of the other figure. Enemies reconciled, the man bravely shakes hands with death, and his whole air and bearing show that they are become sworn friends. As if he had just heard Jesus announcing, I am the resurrection and the life, you seem to hear him saying, () death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law ; but thanks be to God who giveth me the victory through my Lord Jesus Christ.
We shall rise like Him who, in his own resurrection, and in the church he has redeemed with his own blood, and in the universe he created by his own power, has the preëminence, the unchallenged preëminence. Let him have it in our thoughts, our lives, our hearts. Who but he should have it? Holy Spirit! enable us