Now there was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.
I. THERE ARE VARIOUS CAUSES WHICH ACCOUNT FOR SECRECY IN CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.
1. It is natural and proper that the beginnings of conscious discipleship should be hidden. When the seed begins to germinate, to put forth the signs and the promise of life, it remains hidden beneath the surface of the soil unseen by any eye. And when a young heart in its yearnings, or a penitent heart in its mingled regrets and hopes, turns to the Lord Jesus, as to a Divine Friend and mighty Savior, the change is unknown, unheeded by the observer. The time comes when the plant appears above the ground; and the time comes when the tokens of spiritual life in a changed character, disposition, and habits are unmistakable. But there is a time for secrecy, and there is a time for publicity.
2. There are those who keep secret their interest in Christian truth, their affection for Christ himself, through a trembling reverence for spiritual and Divine things. Doubtless many are sincere in the public shouts and songs, by which their boisterous natures boast of new-found light and liberty. But many gentle, timid, and refined spirits are equally sincere and devout in their reserve. Men and women there are like her who "kept and treasured these things in her heart." A time there is in Christian experience when feeling is too sacred to be professed.
3. Distrust of self, and an awed sense of responsibility, account for the backwardness of many sincere disciples to avow their faith and love. What if they should profess to be Christ's, and then afterwards should prove ashamed of him, or should discredit him by any want of loyalty? The very fear lest this should be so leads to reticence and silence.
4. An inferior motive has to be considered, viz. the fear of man. Some, especially among the young, fear the opposition or the ridicule or the reproach of their fellow-men. Such was the case with Joseph, who feared the Jews - dreaded lest he should, like Jesus, be persecuted, or lest he should be despised and hated. A member of a distinguished and privileged class is peculiarly sensitive to the coldness, the contempt, or the ridicule of those whose opinion makes the public opinion which has most influence over him.
II. THERE IS MISCHIEF WROUGHT BY SECRET DISCIPLESHIP. When those who love Christ, and make it their aim to serve him, conceal their attachment and their pious resolution, whether through timidity or distrust, harm follows.
1. The disciple who withholds or delays his open confession of the Savior, by so doing thwarts his own religious progress and happiness. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." The very attitude of bold and public acknowledgment of faith in the Lord Jesus is a means of spiritual confirmation and improvement. For such an attitude is the natural expression of faith, and attracts the countenance and sympathy of those who are like-minded.
2. The withholding of a confession of Christ is disobedience to Christ and to his Spirit. If we learn of him, we are bound to obey him. And be has bidden us take up our cross and follow him. He has bidden us observe the Lord's Supper in memory of his death. It is not honoring Christ to delay, without sufficient reason, such an avowal of our faith in him as his own Word justifies, and indeed requires.
3. Secrecy of discipleship is discouraging to the Church of Christ. That Church has many enemies; it has need of all its friends. It weakens the forces of the spiritual host when those who should fall into the ranks stand aloof. There is a sense in which those who are not with Christ are against him.
4. The world is confirmed in error and unbelief when there is a disinclination on the part of Christians openly to avow themselves what they really are. It is natural enough for the world to interpret such conduct as indicating a want of heartiness and thoroughness in discipleship. Men ask whether those who stand outside are not in the same position as those who go up to the door, but do not enter in.
III. THERE ARE CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY PROTECT AGAINST THE TEMPTATION TO CONCEAL CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP.
1. The greatness of the Master to whom we owe allegiance. Christ is so great that none need feel any shame in belonging to him; such a relation is the highest honor accessible to man. Christ is so great that none need feel any fear in openly avowing loyalty to him. None is so well able as the "Lord of all" to protect and deliver those who adhere to him.
2. It should be remembered by those who are in doubt whether or not to confess Christ, that a day is coming in which the real position of all men with regard to the Divine Redeemer must be made manifest. Of those who are ashamed of him before men the Lord Jesus will be ashamed in the judgment before his Father and the holy angels. - T.
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden.I. THE PLACE WHERE HE WAS CRUCIFIED. He has conferred honour upon every place where He has been. The place where He was born. There belonged no distinction to Bethlehem Ephratah before, she was little among the thousands of Judah; too little to be represented in the Sanhedrim. But the fact that He was born there has conferred upon Bethlehem undying fame.
1. It was in this place that was manifested the greatest love towards God, on one side, and the greatest love towards men, the enemies of God, on the other side. We do not say that it was here that He loved God and men most; but it was here that He manifested His love most. His love towards the Father was always like the sun, but it was here that it reached the meridian. His love towards mankind was like the sea, but it was here that it attained its spring-tide. The wave will never lift itself higher than it did at Calvary.
2. It was in this place that Jesus suffered most from those to whom He manifested His love most.
3. It was in this place that the holiness of Christ shone brightest of all places, and yet it was in this place that He was treated most like a sinner. I do not say that it was here that He was most holy. The "Holy and Righteous" was He in all places. "That holy thing" He was when coming into the world. But it was here that His holiness shone brightest.
4. It was in this place, of all others, that He was most completely given over to the hands of His enemies, and yet it was in this place that He realized the completest victory over them. There was some intervening shelter throughout the journey that prevented His enemies attacking Him.
5. It was in this place that He was treated as the most unworthy — and yet it was here that He won the highest title to worthiness that He possesses.
II. IN THE PLACE WHERE HE WAS CRUCIFIED THERE WAS A GARDEN. We invite you to visit the garden with us.
1. It belonged to an honourable councillor. Jerusalem was surrounded by gardens as well as by hills. The night before, we have Jesus in a garden in another direction from this.
2. It was a garden in sight of Calvary. The last thing that was impressed on the retina of His eyes was a garden. He saw many sad sights while He was here, but He closes His eyes upon our earth in view of a garden. Almost would we say, "Blessed art thou, O garden amongst gardens; thou hast been privileged to shed thy fragrance so as to counteract the offensive odours of the place of skulls, and to fan with thy sweet perfumes the Saviour of the world in the agonies of His death." Was it not something like a picture of what He would ultimately make the moral world to be? Since I have come to this place a garden there must be now; I will convert the world into a garden. The thorns and briars must yield to the fir and the myrtle
3. A garden with a grave in it! We scarcely expect to find a grave in a garden. But a grave is appropriate in every place in our world. There are some of you who are permitted to pursue their life journey amidst roses; I count no path too smooth for you; tread upon flowers, let perfumes be diffused with every step you take; but will you be pleased to remember one thing? There is a grave at the end of the walk. But when we consider it, a garden and a grave seem, after all, to be quite in harmony with each other. What is the garden in the time of winter but a burial-place. Where is there more life buried than there is in the garden? But yet she does not refuse to be comforted, because they are not. That great Sun will come like an archangel, with his trumpet, and with a loud call will say, "Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust," and then there will be a resurrection in power and in glory. In consequence of the garden and the grave in the text, every grave has been in a garden ever since. Before that, it was in some waste howling wilderness that the grave was, with no verdure around it, nor anything betokening life near to it. The burial of the dead is henceforward a sowing. The cemetery is a garden, and beyond the grave there awaits for us the "everlasting spring." The Great Sun of Righteousness will come to shed His beams above the burial-places of the earth so that they shall be turned into gardens.
III. THE NEW GRAVE IN THE GARDEN. It is worth our while to look at this grave. There was never one like it. There have been angels in this grave. Yes, here, the life lay sleeping on the knees of Death.
1. There was great regard paid to this grave: the eye of the Eternal Purpose was upon it. The honourable owner intended it for himself. Neither he nor the workmen who prepared it had any intention but to have it ready as speedily as it was possible. But every detail was under the control of the Eternal Purpose, It was necessary to have it ready against the Passover. The substance of the Passover was to spend the Passover in it.
2. It was a borrowed grave that Jesus had. This is the only One who was in our world who had no grave. Sin has conferred on us a charter to a grave. In going to the grave He can only say, "With a great sum obtained I this freedom;" while the sinner can say, "But I was free born." We sinners are "free among the dead." Through our sin we have received the freedom of the city in the Necropolis.
3. He gave the grave back, and paid for the use of it. It was Jesus' habit to return everything that He had borrowed better than He had found it. I believe that the upper room which He borrowed to eat the Passover in with His disciples was a better room after that supper, and that the boat which He borrowed for a pulpit was a better boat after that service. And, indeed, He gave back his grave to Joseph a better grave, though second-hand, than when it was new.
4. Oh, wonderful grave! It was in this grave that the bottom of the grave was knocked out. This grave became a womb to give birth to the Heir of the resurrection of the dead. It is off this grave that we gather the flowers with which to adorn our mourning garment after our dead. This is a grave which reconciles us to our own graves.(1) There is another grave in sight of Calvary — a grave in which to bury sin. Neither Justice nor Law would have consented to its being buried anywhere else. Oh that we had this burial now!(2) That grave is "in the place." I know not what distance there is from here to the graves in which these bodies of ours shall rest; perhaps there is a much shorter distance than many think. But however near these graves are, the grave for burying sin is nearer; it is "in the place." May our sins be buried so as never to be seen any more!
(David Roberts.)I. THE DARKEST ACT IN THE TRAGEDY OF LIFE.
1. The Crucifixion does not stand alone. It is but the culmination of all that good has suffered at the hands of evil. Christ was the Man of Sorrows, but He was also the Head of the great brotherhood of sorrow. There has never been an age in which the men whom God sent into the world to serve and save it, have not been pierced with its shafts and crowned with thorns.
2. It is a dark tragedy which is played out here, and the bud of it is inevitably a death. Sin has entered into the world and death by sin. There could be in such a world as this no other fate for the Son of Man but a crucifixion.
3. But there is something deeper than mere human suffering in our Lord's passion. It was emphatically the hour of the prince of darkness — his last. His victory broke his power for ever.
4. The nature of sin was never fully known till then when it slew the Lord. Then the Father gave full expression of His mind about transgression, and gave to all intelligent beings the measure to His abhorrence of it.
II. BUT IN THE PLACE WHERE HE WAS CRUCIFIED THERE WAS A GARDEN. It is a startling contrast.
1. Very dear to Him during His lonely life-course were the flowers that bloomed round His feet. None of the beauty of the world He had made was hidden from Him as He passed along its pathways.
2. It is a question of deep and curious interest how far the modern intense delight in the beauty of nature was shared by the ancients, and how far it is the gift of the advent of the Lord of nature to His world. I believe that that advent has placed the whole sphere of nature in a new and closer relation to man. Here and there are exquisite passages in the classics, which reveal a delicate and cultured observation. And yet it is hardly for its own sake that nature is delighted in. The Hindoos probably come nearest to the moderns, but always there is a strong tinge of melancholy dashing the delight of the heathen heart. The Christian observation of nature is set in a new and higher key. Through Christ, Christian peoples have a delight in their world, which before Christ was hardly known to the elect spirits of our race. The Jews had much of the Christian enjoyment of natural beauty, and for the same reason: they knew the mind and heart of their King. David's psalms complete the chord struck in Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Deuteronomy 11:12.
3. Men will come to see one day that it is the Father's counsel which they are searching out when they fathom the depths of creation; it is the benignity of a Father's smile that they are taking in when they bask in the sunlight, when they watch the shadows play in the upper air upon the snow peaks, or catch at even the last rosy kiss of the daylight, as it falls down the mountain slopes on a weary world. It was right that the flowers should bloom their bravest around Calvary.
4. But still the contrast stands out sharply, and we will gather some of its suggestions.(1) Consider the impassive serenity of nature through all the struggle and anguish of life. There are times when this serenity becomes dreadful. It seems terrible that flowers should bloom when the Lord who made and rules the universe was dying the death of a slave; yet the flowers never lifted their heads more gaily in the sun than on that day. And it is ever thus. A mother who has watched night long the death struggles of her darling who in the morning has gone home, looks bitter reproach at the sun rising so calmly on her agony. The east flushes into rosy splendour, the birds carol their gayest strains, the air is musical with the hum of life, while her heart is breaking, and the night has settled over her inner world. We may blow thousands of earth's best and bravest into fragments in the storm of battle; Nature buries them calmly, and next year she reaps her richest harvests from their graves.(2) Let us thank God that it is so. The garden blooms on, the cross has vanished, while the tradition of it has become the most sacred and blessed possession of mankind. Pain and storm, strife and anguish, birth and death are for time: order, beauty, life are for eternity. The sun shines gaily on the morrow of our anguish, and we writhe under it; but the sun shines on, and we come to delight in it and to bless the constancy which brings it forth morning by morning to prophesy to us of the world where sunlight is eternal. And nature is right. She will not bewail our calamities as though they were irreparable. There is infinite solace in Christ for the most burdened sufferers. "Our light affliction," &c. Why should nature weep and moan, and stay her benign and beautiful process when she knows that the stroke which we think is crushing us is a benediction.(3) Consider of how much that garden around the cross was symbolic in relation to man and to the Lord. "He was delivered into the hands of men." Alas! that this should mean to wounds and death. The first crime was one with the last — fratricide. His brethren they were who were raging around Him; but around and above, all was calm, nay, triumphant. The harps of heaven were swept to a more exulting strain. The great ones of the past put on their glorious forms, and pressed through the veil to meet Him. The very dead beneath the cross stirred as His footsteps pressed them, and bursting from their tombs prepared to join the train which He would lead up on high. There was joy, an awful joy, throughout the universe when that Cross was uplifted — "I, if I be lifted up," &c. Should the flowers then droop? No. "In the place... there was a garden;" and it spread forth all its brightness as the Lord made it His pathway to His throne. And it blooms still, and will bloom on till the death day of creation and paradise is restored.
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
And in the garden a new sepulchre.
I. EVERYWHERE DEATH LURKS BENEATH THE BEAUTIFUL. In other words, every garden has its sepulchre.
1. The garden is the most express type of beauty. Children love flowers, as do all who retain the childlike heart. Flowers are the traditions of Paradise, and speak to us of a more perfect world and a higher blessedness. Man's career commenced and is to close in a garden. It is natural, then, for man to love the garden.
2. But in every garden there is a sepulchre. "The brightest flower soonest fades."(1) The whole world seems a huge tomb adorned outwardly with manifold forms of beauty. The rocks die slowly, crumbling through the ages to give life to herb and tree. Tree and herb feed animals, and animals man, and man is the prey of corruption.(2) Death, moreover, has a refined taste. Loveliness has a fatal attraction. What is more lovely than light? And yet when it is fairest and fullest, it slays men with a stroke. What is more glorious in beauty than the sea? Yet its bed is lined with bleached bones. The beautiful birds are infested with murderous parasites. And have we not known one in every circle whose very loveliness of body and mind, like the gorgeous colouring of the fallen leaf, was the symbol of swift decay?
II. EVERY-THING, EVEN DEATH ITSELF, HAS BEEN MADE BEAUTIFUL BY CHRIST. Every sepulchre is in a garden — not in an untended desert. The grave still stands; but it stands in the open sunlight, and is adorned with flowers. The sting, the ugliness, the terror of death is sin; and this Christ has taken away. Christ has invested it with beauty in that He has taught us that it means —
1. Sacrifice. "The dying of the Lord Jesus" has brought to light the vacarious element of death. The power and beauty of His death sprang from the fact that it was His submission to His Father's will. So, in a lesser degree, with death everywhere. We see mountains tending to decay, herbs and grasses consumed by beasts, &c., and till we know the meaning of Christ's death, the sight brings grief and fear. But looking from the cross we can trace this vicarious law through every province of creation and see beauty. The rocks decay, but it is that herbs may live; herbs are consumed — a sacrifice to the higher life of sheep and oxen. These also die that man may live. Earthly homes are broken up that the mansions of the Father's houses may be occupied. Civilization has its myriad victims that subsequentages may rise to purer life. The kingdoms of the world decay that the kingdom of Christ may come. All things tend to a better time. No suffering is superfluous. Eternal wisdom marshals the progress; infinite love appoints to each its place.
2. Glorification. Christ died to live. He could not be "holden" by the power of the grave. He rose into a higher region. Apply this to the general phenomena of death, and mark the beauty with which it invests them. The rocks crumble away into soil; but that is taken up into the higher vegetable kingdom, &c. In every case the soul of these several kingdoms passes through death into higher spheres. Mark, then, the perfect sympathy between the creation and the Christ whose it is and whom it serves. As His spirit returned to glorify His earthly frame, in the end the whole framework of creation will be restored and glorified; and those who are in Christ partake of the power of His death and Resurrection. Conclusion: We need not mourn that death is every. where. We need not weep by the sepulchre as those who have no hope; it stands in a garden. To die is no more to venture on a lonely path; Christ has trod it before us, and will tread it with us. If the sepulchre still speaks of corruption, the garden speaks of the resurrection. Nor when those whom we love are summoned to depart should we indulge in hopeless sorrow. They have gone into the garden. Their flesh rests in hope; their spirits are in Paradise.
(S. Cox, D. D.)I. SIN OBTRUDES ITSELF INTO THE FAIREST SCENES. You see around a cross a multitude come together to perform the foulest act ever perpetrated. The object of their hatred has never wronged them; but, on the contrary, has even blessed them. His character presented an assemblage of graces such as the world had never witnessed. And now He hangs on a cross in a garden I What a place for the perpetration of such a crime! A garden! where nature seems best fitted to exert a soothing influence on the angry passions! Surely nature cannot have her sanctuary violated by such an outrage. Thus the text contains a most emphatic refutation of the fancy that by giving them access to natural beauty you may restrain the wickedness, if not transform the character, of men. True, there is nothing in what is beautiful, whether in nature or art, unfavourable to religion — but very much by which religions feeling may be induced and fostered. And, certainly, they are not the worst Christians who have the most extensive and loving acquaintance with nature's works. But nevertheless the influence which these things exert depends entirely on the state of mind with which they are surveyed. They may foster and strengthen feelings which already exist; they have no power to produce feelings which are not there. They have no power to change the heart, so as to make bad men good. One of the loveliest scenes in the world is the site of Pompeii, but it would seem that God has preserved her ruins that she might testify to the nineteenth century that she resembled Sodom in the depth of her wickedness before she resembled her in the terribleness of her overthrow. Man fell in Eden — angels sinned in heaven. "In the place where He was crucified there was a garden."
II. SORROW MINGLES WITH ALL EARTHLY ENJOYMENT. "In the garden a sepulchre." How emblematical of human life — in which every joy is marred by some sorrow, and the presence or the memory or the prospect of death casts its shadow over all. There is some fitness in the choice. A garden is the scene of beautiful life, where everything is fitted to minister pleasure. And to erect in such a scene the receptacle of death, might, without destroying the pleasure which the place afforded, serve as a useful monitor to remind men of the sorrows which lie so near and mingle with our joys, and of the termination which death brings to all earthly pursuits. It is a good thing, as moderating our present expectations and leading us to seek after a better inheritance, to be reminded that there is no such thing here as pleasure without drawback or alloy. Most people have a sepulchre in their garden; for have not they suffered loss here and disappointment there? But others whom they see — what sepulchre have they? Their life is all garden. It has neither desert bounding it nor sepulchre within its walls. But depend upon it you see not all. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness." Could you look beneath the surface, you would see even in that lot which seems so enviable, not a little which might excite your pity or surprise. Of Naaman the Syrian, it is said, that "he was captain of the host," &c.; but he was a leper. Of Haman we read how he told his wife and friends of his good fortune, and then add yet — "yet all this availeth me nothing so long as I see Mordecai," &c. And so there is some "but" or "yet" to the most favoured condition, no rose without its thorn, in every garden a sepulchre.
III. THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST CONVERTS DEATH INTO LIFE, AND SORROW INTO JOY. It was meet that the sepulchre should be placed in a garden —
1. Seeing it was to contain the body of our Lord. His presence there gave to the grave a significance which it had never possessed before. And it is meet also in the case of all who are His. I like the change from the crowded unattractive churchyard to the garden-like cemetery. I like, too, to see flowers growing around, or strewn upon the grave of the loved ones. The tomb in which Christ lies, in the person of His members, is a seed-plot of immortality, from which radiant and glorious forms shall spring; "for that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die."
2. Because of the change which the Saviour's death is to produce in the aspect of the world. Reduced by sin to a desert, physically and morally, it shall yet be covered with garden-like beauty and fertility because Christ has died. It is a sufficient pledge of its renovation that it has contained His sepulchre. Men are said to take possession of a country when they have buried their dead in it. So the Saviour will never regard with indifference the world which contains His tomb. He will return living and glorious to the place where once He lay dead and dishonoured, and the same scene which witnessed the commencement shall witness the completion of His triumph over sin and hell — over death and the grave.
3. As symbolical of how the presence of Jesus tends to change our sorrow into joy. Christ in the sepulchre transforms the receptacle of death into the source of higher life. And therefore have no sepulchre without a Saviour in it — no trouble in which you do not seek to have the presence of your Lord. A life all pleasure would neither be so desirable nor so profitable as a life whose sorrows are sanctified by fellowship with Christ. Nor should you seek, as is sometimes done, to have the sepulchre of your own fashioning, saying, "If I had only such-and-such trials, I could bear them well: I should not complain if I were only like so-and-so." No man ever yet had to choose his own trials. He who gives the garden gives the sepulchre with it; and determines at once its position and its form. All that you need is to have Christ in it.
(W. Landells, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. EACH MAN HAS A GARDEN. It may not be that where the outward sense is regaled with fruits and flowers and odorous airs, but a sacred enclosure of the heart. As on bleak hill-sides of splintered rock, green things and flowers here and there spring up, so there is something still bright where poverty and care exist. Very beautiful are some of these gardens, with dear friendships, the engaging interests of home, noble plans for self-culture and benevolence, generous trusts, and holy endearments, and the music and sunshine of dreams. All have their garden; BUT, guard and prize it as they may, it shall be the scene of tragedy; IT CONTAINS A SEPULCHRE.
1. The generous and aspiring youth seems to stand on the border of a land that will never lose its morning freshness; but this radiant landscape contains a tomb; the grave of glorious hopes that withered in the hot glare of an unsympathizing world.
2. In practical life there is no garden without a grave, and not merely in the case of the man who has fallen from prosperity to penury. There are tombs in the gardens of the rich, the gifted, and the great. Baffled purposes, alienated friendships, exhausted energy, the corpse of many a brave endeavour, the lost inspiration of eager manhood when the path to victorious light seemed garlanded with light — all this, and more, speaks of death.
3. But sadder still is the tomb in the garden of the affections. If anything on earth is sacred, it is home; yet the sepulchre is here; and it will not be empty long. There is a vacant place by the hearthstone. That home may be pleasant still, and the casual visitor may not think that it contains a place of burial. Yet, though the spot is sealed, it is not forgotten. The great world goes on as before. But bereaved hearts know it is there. In the garden is the sepulchre.
4. And it is well that it should be so; well that we learn our frailty, our ignorance, our sin, and be disciplined for our eternal home. For with man's sinful nature and tendencies, how fearful might be his career in transgression, and how reckless his presumption upon the forbearance of God, did he never suffer from the evil within and without him!
II. THE GRAVE IN THE GARDEN IS NOT A PLACE OF EVERLASTING STILLNESS AND DECAY. The stone shall be rolled away. If you have died unto sin, anti are buried with Christ in His death, you shall rejoice in the final resurrection of all that can contribute to the bliss of the soul in the eternal kingdom. There shall be no death there. There none shall bear the cross of secret trial. But how dark is your prospect if you do not believe upon His name, nor love His appearing! The sepulchre in the garden of your life is then the symbol of the death which awakens to no celestial fruition.
(H. N. Powers.)
(S. Cox, D. D.)John 20:15): —
I. THE SEED.
1. All seed does not germinate, and seeds, in themselves, are worthless unless they are fecundated. Cut open a seed-bearing flower, and in its axis you will find a seed-pod, from which grows an elongated stem called the pistil. On the end of this pistil is a little tongue, or stigma. This, of all the parts of the flower or plant, alone has no skin. About the pistil are the stamens, on the top of which are the anthers, or pollen-bearing organs of the flower. This pollen must fall upon the stigma which thus receives the fecundating principle, and transmits it to the seeds; and so they are quickened into life. In many trees this pollen is produced not on themselves, but on other trees belonging to the same species, and it is carried to the stigma of the blossoms to be fecundated by the wind or the bees.
2. The same principle, the Gardener tells us, prevails among His plants; there must be an extra-human quality imparted to every one of His seeds before they are planted or they cannot bloom immortally. That quality was produced by that which was planted in the dust of the earth in Joseph's garden and became "the first fruits from the dead." The reason why he Son of God was incarnated, died, was buried and rose again was that He might produce this Divine — pollen (may I term it?), so that His seeds might receive that fecundating principle which quickens to an immortal life. It is scattered like the natural pollen — broadcast on the breezes, so that all who will may receive it and live again; or it is carried about by the busyness of Christian workers.
3. But you cannot be planted, with a hope of the glorious resurrection, unless you have received this fecundating principle from Christ; otherwise you must there remain, sterile and dried, unable to rise in a new life. This is one of the fixed laws of nature. Why should we not expect the same in grace? "He that believeth in Me, though he were dead yet shall he live." But believing is only receiving this Divine quality from Christ, as the stigma of the seed-pod receives the pollen, to quicken and give it life.
II. THE SOWING. For in the Lord's garden what we call burying is only planting; for the Apostle says, "If we be planted in the likeness of His death," &c.
III. THE BLOOMING.
1. Are we to be different? Hear the Apostle, "It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is," &c. Our God doeth great things which we cannot comprehend. Who can understand the change wrought under ground which gives us a plant for our seed.(1) Here we are, dried and shriveled. Sin has stripped us, yet is there great latent power for beauty, &c.(2) Here there is no sweetness about us. Such is the wonderful alchemy of nature that the seed that rots sends up a flower rich in fragrance. More wonderful is the alchemy of grace, &c.(3) Here there is no beauty about us, we are frost-marked. The Lord will not do half-work. He will not repair, but recreate, &c. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," &c. Who can guess by looking at the shriveled seed what the flower will be?
2. Shall we, then, fear to be planted in His garden, if we shall so soon rise to such life and beauty and sweetness? Conclusion: Let us walk with the Gardener while He points out to us some of His rarer plants. He points to this bed and says, "There rests a precious seed, oh, how lovely will its blooming be! On earth it was called Bleeding Heart. It grew in great tribulation." "And what lies here in this bed, Gardener?" "You would call that, in earth's botany, a Heliotrope — the flower that ever turns toward the sun. And there lies the Lily of the Valley, &c. And there the Calla, whose roots had to be submerged in water," &c. "But," we ask, "Gardener, canst Thou care for all these? Will there be no confusion or neglect? Thy flowerbeds are so many, is there no possibility that some will be overlooked?" "Oh, no," He answers; "their names are all graven on the palms of My hands, and are written also in the Book of Life." Oh blessed truth! What flowers shall spring up from these grassy mounds!
(P. E. Kipp.)
I. It is THE MOST CELEBRATED TOMB IN ALL THE AGES. Catacombs of Egypt, tomb of Napoleon, Mahal Taj of India, nothing compared with it. At the door of that mausoleum a fight took place which decides the question for all graveyards and cemeteries. Sword of lightning against sword of steel. Angel against military. That day the grave received such a shattering it can never be rebuilt. The King of Terrors retiring before the King of Grace. The Lord is risen.
II. See here POST-MORTEM HONOURS IN CONTRAST WITH ANTE-MORTEM INGNOMINIES. If they could have afforded Christ such a costly sepulchre, why could not they have given Him an earthly residence? He asked bread; they gave Him a stone. Christ, like most of the world's benefactors, was appreciated better after He was dead. Poet's Corner, in Westminster Abbey, attempts to pay for the sufferings of Grub Street. Go through that corner. There is Handel Think of the discords with which his fellow-musicians tried to destroy him. There John Dryden, who, at seventy, wrote a thousand verses at sixpence a line. There is Samuel Butler, who died in a garret. There the old blind schoolmaster, John Milton, whom Waller said, "has just issued a tedious poem on the fall of man. If the length of it be no virtue, it has none." There is poor Sheridan. If he could have only discounted that monument for a mutton-chop! Oh! do justice to the living. All the justice you do them, you must do this side of the necropolis. Gentleman's mausoleum in the suburbs of Jerusalem cannot pay for Bethlehem manger, and Calvarian cross.
III. FLORAL DECORATIONS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR THE PLACE OF THE DEAD. Put them on the brow — it will suggest coronation; in their hand, it will mean victory. Christ was buried in a garden. Flowers mean resurrection. Death is sad enough anyhow. Let conservatory and arboretum contribute to its alleviation. The harebell will ring the victory. The passion-flower will express the sympathy. The daffodil will kindle its lamp and illume the darkness. The cluster of asters will be the constellation. Your little child loved flowers when she was living. Put them in her hand now that she can go forth no more to pluck them for herself. On sunshiny days take a fresh garland and put it over the still heart. Brooklyn has no grander glory than its Greenwood; but what shall we say of those country graveyards, with the vines broken down and the slabs aslant, and the mound caved in, and the grass the pasture-ground for the sexton's cattle? Were your father and mother of so little worth that you cannot afford to take care of their ashes? Some day you will want to lie down to your last slumber. You cannot expect any respect for your bones if you have no deference for the bones of your ancestry.
IV. THE DIGNITY OF PRIVATE AND UNPRETENDING OBSEQUIES. Joseph was mourner, sexton, liveryman; had entire charge of every thing. Only four people at the burial of the King of the universe. Oh! let this be consolatory to those who through lack of means, or large acquaintance, have but little demonstration of grief at the graves of their loved ones. Not recognizing this idea, how many small properties are scattered, and widowhood and orphanage go forth into cold charity. That went for crape which ought to have gone for bread.
V. YOU CANNOT KEEP THE DEAD DOWN. Seal of Sanhedrim, regiment of soldiers, door of rock, cannot keep Christ in the crypts. Come out and come up He must. First-fruit of them that slept. Though all the granite of the mountains were piled on us we will rise.
(T. de Witt Talmage, D. D.).
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