THE FOURTH SERMON UPON THE RESURRECTION.
JOHN XX. I.
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the Sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the Sepulcher.
THis is the day which the Lord hath made; and thus begins the Gospel appointed for this great day of the Lord. A Gospel of which I may say it is full, even to the brims, of Divine Meditations. For here are those two Christian Pillars that uphold the Church of God, such as shall never be removed, Fides & Fidelis, the faith of the Elect, and relatively an elect Vessel that receiv'd the faith; a principal Article of our Creed, that Christ rose again the third day from the dead; and a very illustrious instance of Mary Magdalene, who was brought to believe in that Article. 1. The Faith which must be believ'd, to sanctifie our contemplations; 2. The Faithful that did believe, to bring us to a godly practice. So the Spirit of God hath led Mary Magdalene to the Sepul∣cher, to see that Christ was risen from the dead; and the self-same Spirit hath led us, to see the love and piety of Mary Magdalene. And as this devout woman hath obtained a place of memorial for her name among the blessed of the New Testament, because the example of her zeal did shine before us; So our names shall find a place among those that are recorded in the Book of Life, such honor shall they have that follow after.
My Text begins a story concerning that first witness to whom our Lord and Sa∣viour's Resurrection was revealed. Now upon so much of the Story as is recorded in this verse five things shall be handled, First the Condition of that Witness before whom our Lord did first appear, after he came out of the Grave, Mary Mag∣dalene. 2. You may note the Constancy of her love, that she remembred him after death, and came unto his Sepulcher. 3. It is to be ascribed to her Faith, that she chose the right season, the first day of the week. 4. The Expedition which she made, is a token of restless diligence, that she came early, when it was yet dark. 5. An Accident of admiration encounters her, that she seeth the stone taken away from the Sepulcher. No Witness more classical for Gods use, than Mary Magdalene a re∣pentant Sinner: No love more expressive, than to shew affection even after death; no season so fit to be watcht as the same which Christ foretold, how the third day he would rise, which fell out on the first day of the week: no fruit that doth better become Faith and Love than vigilant diligence without sloth; Repentance, Love, Faith, Diligence shall ever be thus requited, that God will shew them a sign from Heaven beyond their expectation.
The condition of the person is the first thing that we encounter, Mary Mag∣dalene,Page 578 cometh unto the Sepulcher. She came not alone, but other Associates did bear her company, such as were devout women, and loved our Lord. But our Evangelist knew a reason that she alone was worth the mentioning, instead of all besides; and upon her name only his Narration runs, that Mary Magdalen came unto the Sepulcher. The Scripture hath not forgot some of those that were her Associates, in other Gospels; St. Matthew says, Mary Magdalen went forth as it began to dawn, and the other Mary; St. Mark names three, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the Mo∣ther of James, and Salome; St. Luke speaks of an indefinite number; but every Di∣vine Writer begins with Mary Magdalen, she and Joanna, and Mary the Mother of James, and other Women that were with them. But this Woman in my Text was more fervent and passionate in the cause, she incited all the rest to go with her to the Sepulcher, wherefore she is remembred by our Evangelist in a kind of sin∣gularity above all the rest; John himself was the Disciple of Love, and was care∣ful to eternize her name in this story, which did abound in Love above all her Fellows. Some antient Writers knew not how so good a Work could be done, wherein many religious Women conspired together, without the most Blessed Mary the mother of our Lord. Rather than it should turn to her disesteem to stay behind, Sedulius, Nyssen and Nicephorus were willing, I think, to mistake, that the Woman whom St. Matthew calls the other Mary, was the Holy Virgin. The dis∣advantages which this Opinion brings with it were not thought upon, that ano∣ther name should stand before hers, to be past over with such an easie mention as the other Mary, and not the mother of our Lord, a thing which especially St. Luke useth not to forget. And what an instance of moment were this, that among all others our Lord did first appear to Mary Magdalen, after he was risen from the dead? Surely his mother had been partaker of that sweet Vision as soon as any, if she had been in place to behold him.*Bernard invents a reason to satisfie himself (though perhaps it will not satisfie all men) why the Blessed Virgin did willingly absent her∣self from coming to the Sepulcher the first day of the Week; because her Faith abounded more than all the rest. She was constantly persuaded that Christ was risen upon the third day, even as he had spoken before, and she would not go to the Sepulcher to seek the living among the dead. But if any man should cast a doubt, that the Holy Scriptures would not have concealed such a superexcellent strain of Faith in the Blessed Virgin, if she had believed the Mystery of the Resurrection, when the Disciples and all other were mistaken: besides that none of the Church did perfectly understand the Scriptures, until the Holy Ghost fell down upon them at the Feast of Pentecost; I say, if any should cast in such a doubt, I know not how it would be resolved. I have no Warrant to affirm any thing in this point, neither doth the Scripture express when Christ did appear to his mother after his Resurre∣ction, to shew he was no accepter of persons in way of carnal Affinity. He did appear to more than five hundred brethren at once, doubtless she was one of them; he did appear to the eleven, and to them that were gathered together with them. Luk. xxiv. 33. I may suppose the Blessed Virgin was there, because she was John's charge to take her with him: but certainly she was none of that Train, which came early in the morning with Mary Magdalen to the Sepulcher.
Then let us proceed and say from hence, that God hath done great honour to this Sex, to make them the first Instruments that should know and declare his Resurre∣ction. Where were the Apostles at this time? Alas, they were terrified, and had ••ielded like Men to the Passions of the Flesh; they were shut up close for fear of the Jews, and durst not shew their heads; only a few Women which had followed Christ, were more adventurous than all the rest; and as if it irked them to care for their Life any longer, since the Life of the World was put to death, una salus nullam sperare salutem, they step out boldly, let come what will. Wherefore to give you St. Austins words, Munus Apostolicum viris creptum ad breve tempus eis resignat, the Apostolical Office was taken from the Disciples for a time, and it was given to them to preach that wonderful work of God, Christ risen from the dead. Audentes tu Christe juvas, you shall lose nothing to be couragious in a good cause: that great glory, to see the Son of God in a vision, now alive again, was given to them that did adven∣ture to find him. Secondly, none wept so much for his death as these tender∣hearted souls, the Daughters of Jerusalem, they were the first that mourned, and they are the first that be comforted, the greatest partakers of grief for his passion, are made the first partakers of joy for his Resurrection. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. And if there be any that repine much at their own daily Page 579 misfortunes, who say they have bu•••ttle joy in this world, let them strike their hand upon their brest, and say it is because they have taken but little grief. Jesus is our Passeover that was sacrificed for us: but you heard the Ceremony read to day, which God appointed; the Lamb must be eaten with sower herbs, or else you must not taste of the Passeover. Christian, whosoever thou be, that art taught this day, what a victory thy Saviour obtained against the Grave, and against the nethermost Hell, if thy heart be not replenished with joy upon the tidings, if it do not assure unto thee the seal of the Divine Promise, which is the earnest of thine inheritance, it is because thou hast not eaten sower herbs with the Passeover. Thou hast not yet afflicted thy voluptuous heart sufficiently as Mary Magdalen did, and the other wo∣men before they came unto the Sepulcher.
Thirdly, women are the first witnesses in daily Childbirths how we are born into this world children of wrath, and God hath revealed to their knowledge in the first place, how we shall be made alive again, and become heirs of salvation. For Resurrection is the birth of the dust, and when the Grave had given up the dead body of Christ, these women came, as it were, unto the labour, much about the time that the Monument did groan, even when an Earthquake had gone just be∣fore it. Once it was their curse to have a woe pronounced upon them, In dolore pa∣ries, In sorrow shalt thou bring forth Children, Gen. iii. 16. Now they see another man∣ner of travel, that God can quicken us to life again not miserably, but triumphant∣ly; and the earth shall give up the dead with joy and gladness. Fourthly, we may well know him to be the same Christ who was crucified, and rose again the third day, because he chose no better witnesses than these were for so great a mystery. The world, it may be, will contemn such simplicity of the Spirit, but, because it so pleased our Saviour, Mary Magdalen, and the women are most authentick witnes∣ses; and beyond all exception. Shepherds address unto his cratch where he was born. Women unto his Tomb where he was risen from the dead, that you may see how Satans method of deceiving is quite contrary to Gods method of saving. The Devil dealt all by craft to tempt our first Parents in the shape of a Serpent, and Christ deals all by simplicity, and innocency, through the testimony of Shep∣herds, through the testimony of Women. If you be hard to believe the things which were very strange at his Nativity, and at his Resurrection, examine these persons and ye shall have plain truth without tricks and turnings. A righteous cause needs not a supportance by Art and subtilty; a piercing wit may find a way to make a bad action seem good, but when the action is without controversie good already, the devices of a sharp wit will never make it seem better, for truth is least suspected when it is not varnished over with Policy. Lastly, To end this Point, among all other women Mary Magdalen the great sinner is with the first that comes unto the Sepulchre, to refresh our conscience, which is opprest with the fore burden of iniquity, that our Redeemer liveth, to gratifie repentant sinners in espe∣cial wise that fly unto his mercy. If it were fit for Mary to bury her sins in that Grave, it will be fit likewise for thee, and me. Repentance may be described to be the Resurrection of the soul from the death of sin. And this Resurrection from sin, which I may call Metaphorical, hath a fast interest, none so sure as it, in Christ as he comes forth from the darkness of the grave, and shines upon the world. All men shall be restored to life, just and unjust; for the Son of God redeemed the whole nature of man from the corruption of the Grave; and the Devil did utterly lose jus mortis the whole dominion of death, because our Saviour being an innocent was put to death, over whom he had no dominion: But the glory of our Saviours vi∣ctory was to conquer two at once, Hell and Death: So the Prophet Hosea cries out in form of an Epinicium, O death where is thy sting? O hell where is thy victory? And from his own voice he declares his glory, Rev. i. 18. I am he that liveth, and was dead, be∣hold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of Hell and of Death. Therefore this great Festival is the penitent sinners holy day, for whose sakes both the Keys are turned, for whose sakes both the Gates are opened, that the soul may pass from the judgment of Hell, and the body from the rottenness of corruption. And thus it appears, why Christ was first seen of Women in his bodily manifestation after death. It was granted to their couragious attempt, that durst come unto the Sepulcher, it was for the consolation of their Antecedent grief. It was to shew them a difference be∣tween their bringing forth a child to life, and Gods resuscitating our dead bones. It was expedient to have a testimony from such harmless Witnesses. And Mary Magdalen is supereminently named above them all, for she was a most contrite pe∣nitent Page 580 and Christ died for their sins, and rose again for their Justification.
It is my course now according to the Propositions of my Text, to remove for∣ward to the meditation of her love, which was so constant, even after death, that she came unto the Sepulcher of our Lord. A faith, though it be never so weak, never so languishing, yet it will produce some effect which is worth the noting. For in∣stance, as I cannot maintain but there was a defect in this womans faith, so ac∣cording to that little faith, no man shall deny but there was a great deal of love. As concerning faith, it is apparent that she mistook the Scriptures in two things: First, that she thought to find Christ's body in the Sepulcher, as if it were possible he could be held of death longer than the third day. The Angel gave an item to the women that their coming was a vain labour,*Why seek ye the living among the dead? Remember what he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee. He did foretel it so expres∣sively how he would rise from the Grave after three days, that all his enemies took notice of the saying, but those women were hard of belief, or else they had for∣got it. Secondly, It was Maries error, and common to all her Partners to bring Spices to anoint our Saviours body, the other Evangelists express that they came with such preparations, purposing to apply them to the Corps that it might not pu∣trifie. It seems they understood not David, Thou shalt not suffer thine holy One to see cor∣ruption. It was not thought upon, as it fell out, that the flesh of Jesus was not like ours which is rank and sinful, his was pure and undefiled, which had never deser∣ved to suffer rottenness and putrefaction: And they ignorantly come to the Sepul∣cher with Spices to embalm him,* that his body might not be polluted. But is there no way to excuse this forgetful and deceived faith? It is a good mixture of praise and dispraise which a certain Author puts together. It was an error not to be defended to think that Christ was held of death, and lay still in the Sepulcher; but because the custom to anoint dead bodies was an assured hope that the flesh should rise again to immortality, therefore setting their particular error aside touching the person of Christ, in general their respect was full of faith, and honour, and devotion toward the Resurrection of the body, which general notion of so good an Article of faith won them pardon for this particular incredulity.
But I said before concerning this little faith, no man must deny but she shewed a great deal of love. As Thomas noted into what danger our Saviour imbarked him∣self, when he told his Disciples Lazarus is dead, and we will go unto him; Let us also go and die with him, says Thomas. So there was Souldiers abroad to watch the Se∣pulcher, Spies in every corner from the High Priests to mark who did confess, and honour our Saviour, to go to his Tomb was in effect to say, let us go and die with him, we care not for our lives. True love esteems it sweet to suffer for his sake, to whose memory their affection is constantly devoted. And why did she address unto the Sepulcher? A stone was rouled upon the mouth of the Grave, and it was sea∣led with Pilates Seal, she could see nothing; but she drew near to that which she loved to see, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, says St. Chrysostome. It did her good to walk in that Garden where the body of the Son of God was laid, such a Garden which inclosed him who was the Flower of Jessai, saies the Prophet. This was a Paradise to overmatch that Garden, which was once in Eden, by how much the second Adam risen here from death to life, was better than the first Adam, who fell there from life to death. This was such a place as could not chuse but strike her with reverence: as Moses stood before the bush which burnt with fire, and the bush was not consumed; so Mary came to stand before the Sepulcher, where that divine body lay, the first fruits of them that ever rose from the dead, the Spear had en∣tred his heart, the whips and thorns had torn his flesh, yet by his own power he lived again, the bush was not consumed. Think with thy self, if thou wert now kneeling by that Cave of the earth, where thy Saviours body lay, what abundance of tears it would make thee shed for thy sins? What a desire of heaven it would beget in thy soul? What a contempt of this loathsom earth? I do ever rise up from those relations which I read, or which Pilgrims make of those places with a mortified heart. Certainly Helen the Mother of Constantine, St. Hierom, and Paula made an admirable use to enflame their zeal, by frequenting this very place which Mary did. And my knowledge and Religion are in a dream, or else Devotion without su∣perstition is the most heavenly thing in the world. We come into the Capitol, sayes Tully, only to please our eyes with looking upon that Bench in the Senate; where the renowned Orator Crassus was wont to sit. So Mary Magdalen came with a resol∣ved opinion, that it would give her great consolation to come near that place where Joseph had interred her Saviour.
Page 581St. John's History is brief, and hath made him omit this clause of the Story, re∣membred in St. Luke, That they came with Spices which they had prepared; with sweet spices that they might anoint him, says St. Mark. Why Joseph and Nicodemus had bought an hundred pound weight of Myrrh, and Aloes, and wrapped them with the body of Jesus, was not that enough? Pardon them if they over-do their part, Amor non credit satis esse factum nisi ipse faciat, says one; cordial love thinks all is not done that should be, unless it self be at the doing. This chargeable spicing and anoint∣ing the dead was in use among the Gentiles, for so they interred their deceased friends, who are men of renown and Nobility. So the Greek Poet reckons this Ce∣remony in the Funerals of Patroclus,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so Virgils Misenus,*Cor∣pusque lavant frigentis & ungunt. Donatus the Grammarian gave no other reason but this, Ut cadavera mortuorum citiù• flammam conciperent; To make the Carkasses consume to ashes the faster when they were put upon a pile of wood to be burnt. Although others gather out of the Heathen, that they esteemed it Piety to wash away all filthi∣ness from the C•rpses of the deceased; and the Officers that took the care of such things were called Pollinctores quia pollutos ungerent. But, among divine Writers, all do embrace this as a strong conjecture, and indeed not to be denied, that the Ser∣vants of God embalmed, and anointed the dead both in the Old and New Testament in honour of the Resurrection. So Joseph commanded the Physicians to embalm his Fa∣ther: So certain devout Widows washed the body of Tabitha, and laid her forth in an upper Chamber, Acts ix. 37. Let me not omit how Christ himself did approve of that Ceremony while he was living: A woman broke a box of Oyntment of Spikenard very precious upon his head; and when some had indignation at it, he forbad his Disciples to trouble her, saying, She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the bu∣rying, Mar. xiv. 8. That woman spent her cost upon him, when he was alive to give her thanks. Mary came to pour her Spices upon his Grave when she thought he was dead; true Love is munificent to them who are dear unto it when they live, but more abundantly when they are deceased.
Now carry your attention with you to the third part of the Text, that no sea∣son was so fit to be watch'd as this, which the women laid hold of, The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalen: This coming was upon the third day after Christ had been laid in the Grave; and it was upon the same day, which from thence∣forth was called the Lords day, wherein our holy Assemblies every week do meet to∣gether; these two things are fit to be examined before I leave the Treatise of this Point. From the beginning of the world was there never any thing of so great ex∣pectation, as the success of this day, whether that, which Christ had so often foretold should come to pass, that he should die, and the third day he would rise again. How busie were the women to come abroad, and try what they could learn? And I verily think the waves of the Sea rowl not about so fast in a Tempest as the thoughts of the Disciples beat within their heart, and earned within them between fear and hope, whether the day were like to prove glorious, or uncomfortable; well, God did rather go beyond his own word than come a whit behind it. He made this third day the most memorable Feast that ever the Sun shined upon. It was a third day when Joseph released his brethren out of Prison, Gen. xlii. 18. On the third day in the morning, after the people had come to Mount Sinai, the Law of God was deli∣vered, Exod. xix. 16. On the third day Esther put on her Royal Apparel, and stood before Ahasuerus, and desired him to be good to her Nation, Esther v. 1. On the third day Abraham came to the place where his faith was tried, and Isaac was restored back again alive, when the sacrificing knife had been at his throat, Gen. xxii. 4. To come near to the mark, the third day Jonas was cast safe upon the Land out of the belly of the Whale; and that was the sign which Christ gave to the Jews, able to convince all infidelity, as Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of the Whale, and then came forth alive, so Christ burst open the Monument the third day, and appeared unto many.
Reason may be busie to enquire why the Son of God prefix'd such a space of time for his Resurrection, before he would quicken his flesh, rather than any other. Certainly, there is but one modest conjecture, which is this, he would lie no longer, than some hours of a third day in the grave, lest he should keep the weak faith of his Disciples too long in suspense, yet sooner he would not open his monument, lest his enemies the Jews should pretend, he was but cast into a swoon by the sharpness of pain, and not truly dead. These following I will allow for ingenuous allusions and no more; that our Redeemers body was bereaft of life unto the third day, to Page 582 appease the offended justice of every Person in Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; to signifie that we were dead in sin by thought, word, and deed. To bring un∣to eternal life them that believed either under the Law of nature, under the Law of Moses, or under the new Covenant of grace. To restore the three parts of spiritual life unto us Faith, hope, and charity. Tria sunt omnia, says another, three days are the sum of mans life both here and for ever. A day of labour in this World, a day of rest in the Grave, a day of reward in the Resurrection. If there be any Son of Adam that would have a fourth day Dies otii in hâc vitâ; A day of ease and pleasure in this life, such a one is Lazarus quatriduanus & putet. It may be said of him as the two Sisters said of Lazarus their Brother, He hath lain four days in the ground and begins to smell. Three days are all, labour, rest, and reward, these are allusions, I said, to the Resurrection of Christ upon the third day. One thing is very observa∣ble, to match this circumstance of the New Testament, and an accident which fell out in the Old. Even this very day wherein Christ arose, and gate dominion over death, the same day, which was the third day after the eating of the Passeover, Moses brought the Children of Israel through the Red Sea unto dry Land, certainly intimating that they went through death to life, and so did Christ.
St. Peter hath a Text, 1 Epist. 1.10. which doth authorize me yet to search further, and more diligently about the time of this Resurrection. Saies he, The Prophets have enquired, and searched diligently, what manner of time the Spirit of Christ did signifie, when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow. And surely, there is a great mystery coucht in the circumstance of time, that the Evangelists have differently set down other observations, that concurred upon the Resurrecti∣on, but all of them in one phrase do agree in these words, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that this wonder was wrought upon the first day of the week;〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Ʋna Sabbati; The Jews gave such honour to their Sabbath, that every day following had the denomi∣nation from it, the first, second, and the third day after the Sabbath, and so un∣to the sixth. The Latine Church in their Liturgies hath given the same honour to Easter Day, for Easter day by principallity being called Feria, the Holy Day; The Latines from it call the days of the week primam, secundam, tertiam Feriam, and so unto the sixth. Our vulgar English calls the first day of the week Sunday, and all other days following are denominated from some of the Planets, we received such Lan∣guage in this Island from our Forefathers who were Paynims, and knew not God, but we differ from them in the intention; they did it out of Idolatry to the Sun and Moon, &c. we to signifie that God made the Host of Heaven, and all the Stars thereof. Moreover, Ʋna Sabbati litterally rendred is not the first, but one day of the Week, because one is the first ground to begin numbring; and Theophilact says the Lords day is called the one day of the Week, either because it is the only day, from whence the blessing is procured for all the rest; or besides it is a figure of the life to come, Quando una tantum dies est nequaquam nocte interpolata; when there shall be but one day for ever, and no night of darkness to interrupt it. Thus much of the words.
The matter of the Point is of a more profitable use. And hence I begin, that as God the Father upon the first day did begin to make this visible world of Creatures; so Christ rose the same day from the dead, to signifie that a new Age was then be∣gun.*Resurrectio est alterius mundi spiritualis creatio, says Justin Martyr, The Resurre∣ction is well called a creation of a new spiritual world. On the first day of the Week God said, Let there be light, and he divided between the light and the darkness. Ve∣rily on that wise on the first day of the Week God brought the light of the world out of the darkness of the Grave, and the life, says St. John, was the light of men. Now this infinite work to tread death under feet, and to bring all flesh out of cor∣ruption into the state of immortality, being more eximious than to make man in a possibility at first to die, and perish, therefore all Christian Churches have desi∣sted to meet together at holy exercises upon the Sabbath of the Jews, and the first day of the Week is the day appointed to sanctifie out selves unto the Lord, for what reason I will now unfold, and it is a case of no small perplexity.
And let me auspicate from the Text and Authority of Holy Scripture, and these places following do conspire to verifie the Truth. Acts xx. 7. Paul abode seven days at Troas, the seventh day of his abode was the first day of the Week, then (and not before it seems) upon the first day of the Week, when the Disciples came together to break Bread, that is, to partake of the Lords Supper, Paul preacht unto them. This seems to approve, that in the Apostles time it was no more in use for Page 583 their Disciples to meet upon the Sabbath, but as well to honor the Resurrection, as to separate from the Rites and Customs of the Jews, in the Spirit of God they did convene together on the first day of the Week. From Preaching and Admi∣nistring the Holy Communion, let us come to Collection of Alms. 1 Cor. xvi. 2. Ʋpon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. How can this be expounded, but that di∣stributions were made to the poor upon the first day of the Week in their most so∣lemn Assemblies? For if the meaning were, that every man should set apart a share of his own gains upon that day in his private Coffers, and not in the publick Treasury, when their Congregations were together, then Collections had been to be made from house to house, when Paul was to come, who desires it might be laid up in readiness, as it were in one stock, before. 'Tis pity we are faln from that good order, but in the most antient Church, I find that they never miss'd to carry the Poors Box about every Lords Day, witness this place of St. Cyprian;*Locu∣ples es & dives, & Dominicam celebrare te credis, quae Corbanam omnino non respicis? Thou that art rich and wealthy, dost thou imagin thou keepest the Lords Day as thou oughtest, and dost cast nothing into the Treasury? Thirdly, as the last day of the Week, when God rested from his works, was called the Sabbath of the Lord, so it is of much moment to the point, that the first day of the Week is called the Day of the Lord or the Lords Day. Rev. i. 10. I was in the Spirit on the Lords Day, as it appears, Rev. i. 13. John was walking on the Sea shore meditating upon holy things in the Isle of Patmos: Very probable that there was no solemn meet∣ing to praise God, as it ought to have been, among those Pagan Islanders, other∣wise John had not betaken himself to solitary Meditations; but see how he was recompensed, Nactus est Doctorem ipsum Deum, quando fortasse deessent quos ipse doceret,* when he was disconsolate, because he wanted Auditors to teach, God preached unto him the Mysteries of the Age to come. But to enforce the Text forenamed for an Argument; we have but two things in the New Testament called the Lords, the Sacrament is called the Supper of the Lord, 1 Cor. xi. 20. and this day of Chri∣stian Assemblies is called the Lords Day, (the Lords Prayer and the Lords House are good Phrases, but our own, not the Scriptures) but as we keep the Feast of Passeover no more, but instead thereof eat the Lords Supper; so neither do we observe the Jews Sabbath any more, but instead thereof we keep the Lords Day.
Thus far I have prest the Authorities of Sacred Scripture: The Authority of the Primitive Church, and so downward to this Age, will convince it clearly against any that is obstinate. Ignatius was St. John's Scholar,* and as if he had learnt of his Teacher, he writes thus, Let every lover of Christ celebrate the Lords Day, which is dedicated to the honor of his Resurrection, the Queen and Princess of all days. Justin Martyr commands the same day to be kept holy to the Lord every Week, in his 2. Apolog. So doth Tertullian more than once, and I cited St. Cyprian before. The Council of Laodicea speaks thus resolutely: Anathema to all those that rest upon the Sabbath;*let them keep the Lords Day, when they observe a vacancy of labor, and do as becometh Christians.* The great Council of Nice doth not command the first day of the Week to be kept holy, but supposeth in the 20. Canon, all good Christians would admit that without scruple, and then appoints other significant Ceremonies to be kept upon the Lords Day from Easter to Whitsontide. I need not reckon downward after the Nicen Council, because, in one word, I have not heard or read that it was opposed by any of the Fathers. They knew that an appointed time must be allotted for every necessary Duty; and certainly upon the abrogation of the Old Sabbath, not Man, but God did appoint a time for so necessary a thing as the religious Service of his Name. Christ made an end of all Sabbaths by his own Sabbath, lying all that day and night in the Grave; and to hold that the Sabbath, which is but a Shadow, is to continue, is to hold that Christ the Body is not yet come; yet that being laid apart, let us allow God a seventh day for sanctification, so much is divine in the fourth Com∣mandment: and what seventh day, but the same which Christ sanctified in his Re∣surrection, which is the new Creation of the World, the same which the Scriptures point at, the same which the Church hath constantly kept in all successions. Salve festa dies, toto venerabilis anno, says Lactantius; and Origen says that Manna did begin to fall down about the Tents of the Israelites the first day of the Week, and in the same day you are bound to bring your Omer to gather Spiritual Manna in your holy Assemblies, that your Soul may eat and be satisfied. When the Proconsuls of Page 584 several Provinces enquired who were Christians, to punish them; you shall find in the Acts of the Martyrs this was their Question to descry them, Dominicam servâsti? What, do you keep the Lords Day? The good man being persecuted answers, Christianus sum, intermittere non possum, I am a Christian, and cannot intermit it.
Do we differ from the Jews then in nothing but exchanging day for day? Yes, Beloved; as in sanctifying Gods name we are to go beyond them, because the Spi∣rit is given to us in more abundant measure than it was to them; so in nice Points of rest and cessation from all bodily labour and exercise, we are not tied so strictly as they were. I wonder from whom they had their Doctrine that teach the contra∣ry. I know they will not say they had it from the Fathers, I know they cannot say it justly. I appeal to the best lights of this latter Age. Out of the French Reformed Churches I cite Beza.* Thus he: The keeping of the Lords day is an Apostolical, and a divine Tradition; yet so, that we are not tied (he means by Gods Law) to observe the Judaical cessation from all kind of work, for to observe the Judaical rest were to change the day,* and not the Judaism. Imperial Laws, made by Constantine and other godly Princes, did first interdict, that no open and usual buying and selling, or other Merchandise should be used; for it is fit for the better sanctifying of the day that we should sequester worldly affairs, and be altogether vacant to God. Thus far he. Out of the German Reformed Churches I will cite Paraeus, This is his Argu∣ment; Who first approves that the Lords day is to be kept with a decent cessation from manual labours, and that it is very scandalous to pollute it with usual secular affairs, but if any will run further, to impose upon Christians the Rites and Cere∣monies of the Jewish rest in their Sabbath; thus he convinceth them. The observa∣tion of the Jewish rest was figurative and typical; and all those figures of truth were to be kept under pain of severe judgment, because the figure was the pledge and Protestation of the truth which should come to pass; now there being no such figurative dependence upon the sanctification of the Lords day, we are tied only to such rest as shall adorn and beautifie our Worship of God upon that day, I mean both our Morning and Evening Sacrifice. Beware therefore to be a Jew in opinion, but beware to be a dissolute Libertine in practice. Violate not this day, nor any the like in the whole year with Negligence, Idleness, Luxurious Pastimes, or Riot; give thy body rest,* that the soul may be more busie in the holy work; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, rest which is not imployed in the fear of God is the Mother of all wickedness. I cannot end this Point better than with those words of St. Basil.
Let me adventure with your patience upon the next Point, and I will defer the handling of the last. That which I mean only to speak of is Mary Magdalens expe∣dition, her restless diligence, her watchfulness without all sloath, She came early, when it was yet dark. Every hour seemed seven to this pious Matron, till she came to the body of Christ, the Sabbath of the Jews was but now ended, and she had much ado to refrain coming before it was done. The Stars of the night had not yet run their courses when she set forth toward the Monument, for it is probable she kept the Sabbath at her own Town, and she dwelt at Bethany two miles from Jerusalem, yet by Sun-rising, when it was yet dark, she was come to the Sepulcher, a journey of two miles, and had brought her Spices with her. She had no sleep I believe fell up∣on her eyes for thinking of her Saviour. I am sure she had no leisure to paint her face, to powder her hair, or to dress her self with finical curiosity. We had di∣vers, I confess, that came early this morning to the holy Sacrament, when it was yet dark, I praise them for it. We have others that seldom or never find the way to Church till the Afternoon, you may know by their vain Attire, trickt up in Print, what they were doing all the Morning. At last we have their company scarce with half a thought to please God, but with their whole heart to be praised of fools, and to please such wanton and adulterous eyes that gaze upon them. What a coil is here with this carion flesh? Ye are but painted Sepulchers, full of rotten bones, and not worthy to come with Mary to the Sepulcher of Christ, much less to come to the Communion of his body and bloud. O proud mortality, they that make their Looking-glass all the Text which they take out in the Morning, little think that the Grave may be the Pew in the Church wherein they shall be placed before Even∣ing. Now they walk abroad so strong with sweet smells, that they are able to per∣fume a Sepulcher with Spices; in less than four days all this delicacy may turn to stink and rottenness. Come early to the Sepulcher, that is, think of death in Page 585 your young blossoming years, how suddenly ye may be cut off, then leave to fashi∣on your selves after this French, or that Italian dressing, and spin a poor shrowding sheet which may wrap you up in the earth against the day of the Resurrection.
I hasten. Was it yet dark when Mary came, when St. Mark says punctually it was at the rising of the Sun? What an intricate case some have made of this objecti∣on, which is nothing in it self! For the Evangelist doth not mean, it was so dark that the women could not see about them, for then all they reported would be ta∣ken to be fancy, and not a known truth: But the Sun newly rising some obscurity of darkness remains in some places, especially it might be so about a Monument which was cut of a Rock in the Earth, and the Monument in a Garden where sha∣dy trees do not suddenly admit light, and the Garden perhaps lying under an Hill, and compassed about with a Wall, some dusky darkness may incloud such a place early in the Morning. They shoot wide therefore that expound the darkness figu∣ratively, that the Scriptures were not opened as yet how Christ should rise the third day, and all the World was benighted in the darkness of incredulity. There is no need to strain the Text so mightily;* and yet Chrysologus hath invented a more forced Interpretation. Thus he. As the day was shortned at our Saviours Passion, and the Sun did set in an Eclipse a long time before the natural Evening of that season, so at his Resurrection the Sun rejoyced, and was so officious to attend him that he rose certain hours before the natural season of the day. Therefore according to the na∣tural rising of the Sun it was very early when Mary Magdalen came, but if you con∣sider the extraordinary appearance of that glorious Lamp upon the Earth before the time, so the Sun was risen, and yet it was the time of darkness. This is more subtil than solid, my first interpretation was the sure resolution.
I will ask but one question more to clear a doubt, and so conclude. All the Evangelists, no doubt, do purpose to set out the diligence and watchfulness of Mary, that none have omitted to describe what an early Pilgrim she was. Had they no other end in it? Yes surely, to express the timely Resurrection of our Lord. As David sings it, Exurgam diluculo; Awake my glory, awake Lute and Harp, I my self will awake right early. But how can you then inch out the time to say resolvedly, that he lay three days in the belly of the Grave? Beloved, you must measure the days by a Synechdoche. He was buried toward Evening upon the Jews day of preparation, and so lay interred some part of the Afternoon, and all the night. Upon the Jews Sabbath he rested in the Sepulcher all day and night, upon the first day of the week he continued in the state of death some hours of the Morning, and very early he came forth an eternal Triumpher; he fulfilled the Scriptures therefore, and withal made haste to fulfil his Promise, to rise the third day. Euthymius expresseth it more ele∣gantly than I can. Quod citius quàm sit constitutum efficitur potentiae est, quod tardius imbe∣cillitatis. Christus non solùm promissum explevit, sed etiam gratiam velocitatis addidit. To be eardier than our promise is a sign of some let and infirmity:* To be beforehand with a Promise, is a sign of power and efficacy. The Promise of the Son of God was that in three days he would build up the Temple of his body again: He did so, and more than so, soon after the third day was begun. Behold the prestation of his Promise, and the acceleration of his favour joyned unto it; so we have seen both his truth in the Promise, and his love in the speediness, doing even above his Promise, To whom be honour, praise, and glory for ever. AMEN.