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put to death in the flesh; the Lord of life dying, the Lord of glory clothed with shame. But it quickly appeared what kind of person it was that died; by this, he was put to death indeed in the fesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
Quickened.] He was indeed too great a morsel for the grave to digest. For all its vast craving mouth, and devouring appetite, crying, Sheol, Give, give; yet was it forced to give him up again, as the fish which swallowed up the Prophet Jonah, when the Lord spake, was obliged to vomit him out, who in that was the figure of Christ". The chains of that prison are strong; but he was too strong a prisoner to be held by them; as our apostle hath it in his sermon", that it was not possible that he should be kept by them. They thought all was sure when they had rolled to the stone, and sealed it; that then the grave had indeed shut her mouth upon him; it appeared a done business to them, and looked as if it were very complete in his enemies eyes, and very desperate to his friends, his poor disciples and followers. Were they not near the point of giving over, when they said, This is the third day, &c. And we thought this had been he that should have delivered Israel. And yet he was then with them, who was indeed the deliverer and salvation of Israel. That rolling of the stone to the grave, was, as if they had rolled it towards the east in the night, to stop the rising of the sun the next morning; much further above all their watches and power was this Sun of Righteousness in his rising again. That body that was entombed, was united to the spring of life, the divine Spirit of the Godhead that quickened it.
Reflexion 1. Thus the church, which is likewise his body, when it seems undone, when it is brought to the lowest posture and state, yet by virtue of that mystical union with Jesus Christ, (as his natural body, by personal union with his Deity), shall be preserved from destruction, and shall be delivered
m Jonah i. 17. j. 10. # Acts ii. 24, Luke xxiv. 21.
and raised in due time: yea, as he was nearest his exaltation in the lowest step of his humiliation, so is it with his church: when things are brought to the most hopeless appearance, then shell light arise out of darkness : Cum duplicantur lateres venit Moses.
Therefore, as we ought to seek a more humble sense of Sion's distress, so we should also be solicitous not to let go this hope, that her mighty Lord will, in the end, be glorious in her deliverance, and that all her sufferings and low estate shall be as a dark ground to set off the lustre of her restoration, when the Lord shall visit her with salvation. As in the rising of Jesus Christ, his almighty power and deity was more manifested than if he had not died; and therefore we may say confidently, with the Psalmist to his Lord!, Ü'hou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up from the depths of the earth : thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side. Yea, the church comes more beautiful out of the deepest distress; let it be overwhelmed with waves, yet it sinks not, but rises up as only washed. And in this confidence we ought to rejoice, even in the midst of our sorrows; and, though we live not to see them, yet, even in beholding afar off, to be gladded with the great things the Lord will do for his church in the latter times. He will certainly make bare his holy arm in the eyes of the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God'; his king that he hath set on his holy hill, shall grow in his conquests and glory; and all that rise against him shall he break with a rod of iron". He was humbled once, but his glory shall be for ever; as many were astonished at him, his visage being marred more than any man, they shall be as much astonished at his beauty and glory. So shall he sprinkle many nations; the king's shall shut their mouths at P Psal, lxxi. 20, 21, 4 Isa. lii. 10.
him'. According as here, we find that remarkable evidence of his divine power in rising from the dead, put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.
2. Thus may a believing soul at the lowest, when, to its own sense, it is given 'over unto death, and swallowed
of it, as it were in the belly of hell, yet look up to this divine power; he whose soul was not left there, will not leave thine there. Yea, when thou art most sunk in thy sad apprehensions, and far off to thy thinking, then is he nearest to raise and comfort thee; as sometimes it grows darkest immediately before day. Rest on his power and goodness, which never failed any that did so: It is he (as David says) that lifts up the soul from the gates of death.
3. Would any of you be cured of that common disease, the fear of death, look this way, and you shall find more than you seek; you shall be taught, not only not to fear, but to love it. Consider, 1. his death: he died. By that, thou that receivest him as thy life, mayest be sure of this, that thou art by that his death, freed from the second death", and that is the great point. Let that have the name which was given to the other, the most terrible of all terrible things, and as the second death is removed, this death that thou art to pass through, is, I may say, beautified and sweetened; the ugly visage of it becomes amiable, when ye look on it in Christ, and in his death, that puts such a pleasing comeliness upon it, that whereas others fly from it with affrightment, the believer cannot choose but embrace it. He longs to lie down in that bed of rest, since his Lord lay in it, and hath warmed that cold bed, and purified it with his fragrant body. 2. But especially look forward to his return thence, quickened by the Spirit; this being to those that s Isa. lii. 14, 15.
t Isa. ix. 13. u Descendit huc vita nostra, et tulit mortem nostram, et occidit, eam de abundantia vitæ suæ, &c. Aug.
are in him the certain pledge, yea, the effectual cause, of that blessed resurrection that is in their hopes. There is that union betwixt them, that they shall rise by the communication and virtue of his rising; not simply by his power, so the wicked to their grief shall be raised, but they by his life, as theirs. Therefore is it so often reiterated", where he speaks of himself as the living and life-giving bread to believers, he adds again and again, I will raise them up at the last day. This comfort we have even for the house of clay we lay down; and for our more considerable part, our immortal souls, this his death and rising hath provided for them, at their dislodging, an entrance into that glory where he is. Now, if these things were lively apprehended and laid hold on, Christ made ours, and the first resurrection manifest in us, were we quickened by his spirit to newness of life, certainly there would not be a more welcome and refreshing thought, nor a sweeter discourse to us, than that of death; and no matter for the kind of it. Were it a violent death; so was his. Were it what we account most judgment-likę amongst diseases, the plague; was not his death very painful ? and was it not an accursed death ? and by that curse 'endured by him in his, is not the curse taken away to the believer? Oh how welcome shall that day be, that day of deliverance! To be out of this woful prison: I regard not at what door I go out, being at once freed from so many deaths, and let in to enjoy him who is my life.
b Verse 39, 40. 44.
Ver. 19. By which also he went and preached unto the spirits
in prison : 20. Which sometime were disobedient, when once the long
suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were
saved by water. 21. The like figure whereunto, even baptism, doth also now
save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
There is nothing that so much concerns a christian to know as the excellency of Jesus Christ, his person and works; so that it is always pertinent to insist much on that subject. The apostle having spoken of this Spirit or divine nature, and the of it, raising him from the dead, takes occasion to speak of another work of that Spirit, to wit, the emission and publishing of his divine doctrine; and that, not as a new thing following his death and rising, but as the same in substance with that which was by the same spirit promulgated long before, even to the first inhabitants of the world. Quickened by the Spirit, that is in our days, says the apostle; but then, long before that, by the same spirit, he went and preached to the spirits in prison.
This place is somewhat obscure in itself, but as it usually happens, made more so by the various fancies and contests of interpreters, aiming or pretending to clear it. These I like never to make a noise of. They that dream of the descent of Christ's soul into hell, think this place sounds somewhat that way; but, being examined, it proves no way suitable, nor can, by the strongest wresting, be drawn to fit their purpose: for, 1. That it was to preach he went thither, they are not willing to avow; though the end they assign is as groundless and imaginary as this is.
2. They would have his business to be with the spirits of the faithful deceased before his coming, but here we see it is with the disobedient.