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HOSEA, XIII. 14.
O Death, I will be thy plagues, O Grave, I will be thy destruction.
WE are, this day, to follow the body of our crucified Saviour to the grave*; to that grave, where the loving kindness of the Lord was declared; to that destruction, wherein his faithfulness was displayed; to that darkness, wherein his wondrous works were made known; to that land of forgetfulness, wherein his righteousness was proclaimed. Now it was, that his wonders were shown to the dead; now it was, that the dead did arise and praise him.
On the great and notable day, when the incarnate Son of God commended his pure and spotless soul into his Father's hands, the sun was turned into darkness, and all the powers of
* Psalm lxxxviii. 13-15.
Heaven were shaken; the earth quaked, the rocks were rent; and, preparatory to the resurrection of their inmates, the graves were opened.
Now, when we contemplate these awful events; when, in mental vision, we behold these marvellous acts, and great miracles, whose is the heart, that is not ready to exclaim, THE LORD HE IS GOD, THE LORD HE IS THE GOD?* And produced they, then, none effect, upon the men who saw these things, with the eye of flesh? of flesh? Were they all, like their forefathers in the wilderness, stubborn, and perverse, and stiff-necked? Had none of them a heart to perceive, as well as eyes to see, and ears to hear? Were there none, who turned from transgression in Jacob, and acknowledged their iniquity against the Lord? Were there none, who repented at the rebuking of Jehovah? none, who were converted unto him, from whom the children of Israel had deeply revolted? Did the marvellous things of God return unto him void, and save no soul alive? On the contrary: the apostolic record shows, that all who witnessed these fearful sights, were astonished, with great astonishment. It was not the centurion alone, who declared the sufferer to be, the righteous person, and the Son of God.
The attendant soldiers had also recognized the voice of nature, and joined in that good confession. And, while the Gentiles thus saw his righteousness, the men of Israel also feared before the Lord. All the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.* They smote their breasts, stricken with horror for having consented to the deed of darkness; they returned, to await, with mingled feelings of hope and fear, the things which were coming upon the earth.
Nor was the impression like the morning cloud, and the dew that passeth away. It was deep and lasting. To what else, are we to ascribe the triumphant preaching of St. Peter, on the day of Pentecost? To what else, that Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, strangers of Rome, Jews, and proselytes, were so eager to approach the uneducated followers of a crucified Master, when it was noised abroad, that they were speaking the wonderful things of God? To what else, that the devouring words, and cruel mockings, of the gainsayers, who, having attributed the miracles of Jesus to Beelzebub, declared his Apostles to be drunken as drunkards, that these words, and
* Luke, xxiii. 47.
mockings fell harmless on the ears of that multitude, whom they had before so craftily deceived? To what else, that, within fifty and two days, three thousand souls, having sorrowed to repentance, enlisted themselves under the banner of that Messiah, whom they had rejected; and held forth an example, which, ere many days had passed, five thousand more were prepared to follow?
Doubtless, as John was the forerunner of the first Paraclete, who hath opened to us the everlasting doors of heaven; so, the wondrous and great signs, which attested the sacrifice of the Son of God, were fit harbingers of that second Paraclete, through whose operations alone, we can hope to ascend the hill of the Lord, and stand in his holy place.
Upon two of the bystanders, we know, of a certainty, that these events, as the voice of the Almighty God, when he speaketh, had an effect as immediate, as it was powerful. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had long been disciples of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews. Though waiting for the kingdom of God, they had proved, in themselves, how difficult it was for the rich man to enter therein. Though good men, and just, yet, being high in office in the Jewish commonwealth, they had been beset with
temptations, from which the fishermen of Galilee had been exempt. Hitherto, they had thought their duty done, when they withheld their consent from the counsel and deed of them, who had doomed to death the Holy One of Israel; but now, they added to their faith manliness*, and no longer feared what flesh could do unto them. While Nicodemus went forth, to procure the mixture of myrrh and aloes, such as would have sufficed for a monarch's burial, Joseph went in boldly, and craved of Pilate the body of Jesus.t
Pilate, says St. Mark, marvelled if he were already dead. But to us, when we consider all that extremity of mental anguish, as well as of bodily suffering, which the Lord Jesus had, within four and twenty hours, endured, the marvel will be, not that he died so soon, but that he lived so long.
On the evening of the preceding day, he had journeyed, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. At Jerusalem he sat down, with a troubled spirit, to the last repast of which he was to partake, before his Passion. While conversing with his chosen apostles, he had been grieved by their deadness to things spiritual, he had been offended by
* 2 Pet. i. 5.
+ Mark, xv. 43.