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Sense may be no judge of the bewailed absence of Christ. Do but turn back thine eye, O thou religious soul, “ and see Jesus standing by thee,” though “thou knewst not that it was Jesus." His habit was not his own. Sometimes it pleases our Saviour to appear unto bis not like himself: his holy disguises are our trials. Sometimes he will seem a stranger, sometimes an enemy; sometimes he offers himself to us in the shape of a poor man, sometimes of a distressed captive. Happy is he that can discern bis Saviour in all forms. Mary took him for a gardener. Devout Magdalene, thou art not much mistaken. As it was the trade of the first Adam to dress the garden of Eden, so was it the trade of the second to tend the garden of his church. He digs up the soil by seasonable afflictions, he sows in it the seeds of grace, he plants it with gracious motions, he waters it with his word, yea with his own blood, he weeds it by wholesome censures. O blessed Saviour, what is it that thou neglectedst to do for this selected inclosure of thy church? As in some respect thou art the true Vine, and thy Father the Husbandman, so also in some other we are the vine, and thou art the Husbandman. O be thou such to me as thou appearedst unto Magdalene: break up the fallow of my nature, implant me with grace, prune me with meet corrections, bedew me with the former and latter rain ; do what thou wilt to make me fruitful.
Still the good woman weeps, and still complains, and passionately inquires of thee, O Saviour, for thyself. How apt are we, if thou dost never so little vary from our apprehensions, to misknow thee, and to wrong ourselves by our misopinions! All this while hast thou concealed thyself from thine affectionate client; thou sawst her tears, and heardst her importunities and inquiries : at last (as it was with Joseph, that he could no longer contain himself from the notice of his brethren) thy compassion causes thee to break forth into a clear expression of thyself, by expressing her name unto herself, “ Mary.” She was used, as to the name, so to the sound, to the accent. Thou spakest to her before, but in the tone of a stranger; now of a friend, of a master. Like a good Shepherd, “thou callest thy sheep by their name, and they know thy voice.” What was thy call of her, but a clear pattern of our vocation?
As her, so thou callest us ; first, familiarly, effectually. She could not begin with thee otherways than in the compellation
of a stranger; it was thy mercy to begin with her. That correction of thy Spirit is sweet and useful, “Now after ye have known God, or rather, are known of him.” We do know thee, O God, but our active knowledge is after our passive; first we are known of thee, then we know thee that knewst us. And as our knowledge, so is our calling, so is our election; thou beginst to us in all, and most justly sayst, “ You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." When thou wouldst speak to this devout client as a stranger, thou spakest aloof, “Woman, whom seekest thou?" now, when thou wouldst be known to her, thou callest her by her name, “ Marv.” General invitations and common mercies are for us as men; but, where thou givest grace as to thine elect, thou comest close to the soul, and winst us with dear and particular intimations.
That very name did as much as say, Know him of whom thou art known and beloved, and turns her about to thy view and acknowledgment. “ She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master.” Before, her face was towards the angels; this word fetches her about, and turns her face to thee, from whom her misprision had averted it. We do not rightly apprehend thee, O Saviour, if any creature in heaven or earth can keep our eyes and our hearts from thee. The angels were bright and glorious ; thy appearance was homely, thy habit mean: yet, when she heard thy voice, she turns her back upon the angels, and salutes thee with a Rabboni, and falls down before thee, in a desire of an humble amplexation of those sacred feet, which she now rejoices to see past the use of her odours.
Where there was such familiarity in the mutual compellation, what means such strangeness in the charge, “ Touch me not, for I ain not yet ascended to my Father?” Thou wert not wont, () Saviour, to make so dainty of being touched: it is not long since these very same hands touched thee in thine anointing; the bloody-fluxed woman touched thee; the thankful penitent in Simon's house touched thee. What speak I of these? the multitude touched thee, the executioners touched thee; and, even after thy resurrection, thou didst not stick to say to thy disciples, “ Touch me, and see,” and to invite Thomas to put his fingers into thy side; neither is it long after this before thou sufferest the three Maries to -touch and hold thy feet. How then sayest thou, “Touch
me not?” Was it in a mild taxation of her mistaking ? as if thou hadst said, Thou knowst not that I have now an immortal body, but so demeanst thyself towards me, as if I were still in my wonted condition ; know now that the case is altered : howsoever indeed I have not yet ascended to my Father, yet this body of mine, which thou seest to be real and sensible, is now impassible, and qualified with immortality; and therefore worthy of a more awful veneration than heretofore. Or was it a gentle reproof of her dwelling too long in this dear hold of thee, and fixing her thoughts upon thy bodily presence; together with an implied direction of reserving the height of her affection for thy perfect glorification in heaven? Or, lastly, was it a light touch of her too much haste and eagerness in touching thee, as if she must use this speed in preventing thine ascension, or else be endangered to be disappointed of her hopes ? as if thou hadst said, Be not so passionately forward and sudden in laying hold of me, as if I were instantly ascending ; but know, that I shall stay some time with you upon earth, before my going up to my Father. O Saviour, even our well-meant zeal in seeking and enjoying thee may be faulty ; if we seek thee where we should not, on earth; how we should not, unwarrantably. There inay be a kind of carnality in spiritual actions. “If we have beretofore known thee after the flesh, henceforth know we thee so no more.” That thou livedst here in this shape, that colour, this stature, that habit, I should be glad to know; nothing that concerns thee can be unuseful. Could I say, here thou satst, here thou layst, here and thus thou wert crucified, here buried, here settest thy last foot; I should with much contentment see and recount these memorials of thy presence: but if I shall so fasten my thoughts upon these, as not to look higher to the spiritual part of thine achievements, to the power and issue of thy resurrection, I am never the better.
No sooner art thou risen, than thou speakst of ascending; as thou didst lie down to rise, so didst thou rise to ascend; that is the consummation of thy glory, and ours in thee. Thou, that forbadst her touch, enjoinedst her errand, “ Go to my brethren, and say, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
The annunciation of thy resurrection and ascension is more than a private fruition; this is for the comfort of one, that for the benefit of many. To sit still and enjoy, is more sweet for the present; but to go and tell, is more gainful in the sequel. That great angel thought himself, as he well might, highly honoured, in that he was appointed to carry the happy news unto the blessed Virgin, thy holy mother, of her conception of thee ber Saviour: how honourable must it needs be to Mary Magdalene, that she must be the messenger of thy second birth, thy resurrection, and instant ascension ? How beautiful do the feet of those deserve to be, who bring the glad tidings of peace and salvation! What matter is it, O Lord, if men despise where thou wilt honour?
To whom then dost thou send her? “Go tell my brethren.” Blessed Jesu, who are these? were they not thy followers ? yea, were they not thy forsakers ? yet still thou stylest them thy brethren. O admirable humility! O infinite mercy! How dost thou raise their titles with thyself? at first they were thy servants, then disciples; a little before thy death, they were thy friends; now, after thy resurrection, they were thy brethren. Thou, that wert exalted infinitely higher from mortal to immortal, descendest so much lower to call them brethren, who were before friends, disciples, servants. What do we stand upon the terms of our poor inequality, when the Son of God stoops so low as to call us brethren ? But, O mercy without measure! why wilt, thou, how canst thou, O Saviour, call them brethren, whom, in their last parting, thou foundst fugitives ? Did they not run from thee? did not one of them rather leave his inmost coat behind him, than not be quit of thee? did not another of them deny thee, yea abjure thee? and yet thou sayest “Go, tell my brethren.” It is not in the power of the sins of our infirmity to unbrother us: when we look at the acts themselves, they are heinous ; when at the persons, they are so much more faulty as more obliged; but when we look at the mercy of thee who hast called us, now, “ Who shall separate us ?” when we have sinned, thy dearness hath reason to aggravate our sorrows; but when we have sorrowed, our faith hath no less reason to uphold us from despairing: even yet we are brethren. Brethren in thee, O Saviour, who art ascending for us ; in thee, who hast made thy Father ours, thy God our God. He is thy Father by eternal generation, our Father by his gracious adoption; thy God by unity of essence, our God by his grace and election.
It is this propriety wherein our life and happiness consisteth : they are weak comforts that can be raised from the apprehension of thy general inercies. What were I the better, 0 Saviour, that God were thy Father, if he be not mine? O do thou give me a particular sense of my interest in thee, and thy goodness to me; bring thou thyself home to me, and let me find that I have a God and Saviour of my own.
It is fit I should mark thy order; first, my Father, then yours. Even so, Lord, he is first thine, and, in thine only right ours. It is in thee that we are adopted, it is in thee that we are elected; without thee, God is not only a stranger, but an enemy to us. Thou only canst make us free, thou only canst make us sons. Let me be found in thee, and I cannot fail of a Father in heaven.
With what joy did Mary receive this errand! with what joy did the disciples welcome it from her! Here was good news from a far country, even as far as the utmost regions of death.
Those disciples, whose flight scattered them upon their Master's apprehension, are now, at night, like a dispersed covey met together by their mutual call: their assembly is secret ; when the light was shut in, when the doors were shot up. Still were they fearful, still were the Jews. malicious. The assured tidings of their Master's resurrection and life hath filled their hearts with joy and wonder. While their thoughts and speech are taken up with so happy a subject, his miraculous and sudden presence bids their senses be witnesses of his reviving and their happiness. " When the doors were shut, where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.” O Saviour, how thou camest in thither, I wonder, I inquire not: I know not what a glorified body can do; I know there is nothing that thou canst not do. Had not thine entrance been recorded for strange and supernatural, why was thy standing in the midst noted before thy passage into the room? why were the doors said to be shut while thou camest in? why were thy disciples amazed to see thee ere they heard thee? Doubtless, they that once before took thee for a spirit, when thou didst walk upon the waters, could not but be astonished to see thee, while the doors were barred, without any noise of thine entrance, to stand in the