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Title: Memories of Bethany
Author: Macduff, John R. (John Ross), 1818-1895
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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             MEMORIES OF BETHANY.


                    By the

          REV. JOHN R. MACDUFF, D.D.


                  Author of

"MORNING AND NIGHT WATCHES," "WORDS OF JESUS,"
   "MIND OF JESUS," "FOOTSTEPS OF ST. PAUL,"
  "FAMILY PRAYERS," "MEMORIES OF GENNESARET,"
          "STORY OF BETHLEHEM," ETC.


                   NEW YORK:
           ROBERT CARTER & BROTHERS,
               No. 530 Broadway.
                     1861.



                      To
               MOURNERS IN ZION,
                   with whom
                    BETHANY
  has ever been a name consecrated to sorrow,
                     these
                   MEMORIES
                ARE INSCRIBED.



PASSAGES REFERRING TO BETHANY IN THE SACRED NARRATIVE.


I.

Earliest Notice of Bethany.

LUKE X. 38-42.--"And He entered into a certain village: and a certain
woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister
called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But
Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord,
dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her
therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her,
Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one
thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not
be taken away from her."


II.

Bethany in connexion with the Sickness, Death, and Resurrection of
Lazarus.

JOHN XI. 1.--"Now a certain _man_ was sick, _named_ Lazarus, of BETHANY,
the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was _that_ Mary which
anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose
brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying,
Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard _that_, He
said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that
the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and
her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick,
He abode two days still in the same place where He was."

       *       *       *

"And after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I
go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said His disciples, Lord, if
he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of His death: but they
thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus
unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I
was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go
unto him."

       *       *       *

"Then, when Jesus came, He found that he had _lain_ in the grave four
days already. (Now BETHANY was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen
furlongs off.) And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort
them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that
Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat _still_ in the house.
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother
had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of
God, God will give _it_ Thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall
rise again. Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in
the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the
resurrection, and the life: He that believeth in Me, though he were
dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth, and believeth in Me,
shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I
believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into
the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary
her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.
As soon as she heard _that_, she arose quickly, and came unto Him. Now
Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha
met Him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted
her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed
her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was
come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying
unto Him, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When
Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came
with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where
have ye laid him? They say unto Him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.
Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him! And some of them said,
Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that
even this man should not have died! Jesus therefore again groaning in
Himself, cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was
dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been
_dead_ four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if
thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they
took away the stone _from the place_ where the dead was laid. And Jesus
lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that Thou hast heard
Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people
which stand by I said _it_, that they may believe that Thou hast sent
Me. And when He thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus,
come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with
grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith
unto them, Loose him, and let him go."


III.

Notices of Bethany subsequent to the Raising of Lazarus.

JOHN XII. 1-8.--"Then Jesus, six days before the Passover, came to
BETHANY, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the
dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was
one of them that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of
ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and
wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of
the ointment. Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's
_son_, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three
hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared
for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what
was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My
burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but Me
ye have not always."

MATTHEW XXVI. 12-13.--"For in that she hath poured this ointment on my
body, she did _it_ for my burial. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever
this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, _there_ shall also
this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

JOHN XII. 9.--"Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there:
and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus
also, whom he had raised from the dead."

       *       *       *       *       *

JOHN XII. 12-15.--"On the next day much people that were come to the
feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches
of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed
is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus,
when He had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not,
daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt."

MATTHEW XXI. 10-12.--"And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city
was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus
the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of
God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and
overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that
sold doves."

MARK XI. 11-15.--"And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple:
and when He had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide
was come, he went out unto BETHANY, with the twelve. And on the morrow,
when they were come from Bethany, He was hungry: And seeing a fig-tree
afar off having leaves, He came, if haply he might find any thing
thereon: and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the
time of figs was not _yet_. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man
eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And His disciples heard _it_. And
they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to
cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the
tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves."

Verse 19-20.--"And when even was come, He went out of the city. And in
the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig-tree dried up from the
roots."

       *       *       *       *       *

LUKE XXIV. 50-52--"And He led them out as far as to BETHANY; and He
lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He
blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven. And
they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."

ACTS I. 9-12.--"And when He had spoken these things, while they beheld,
He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And, while
they looked stedfastly toward Heaven as He went up, behold, two men
stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why
stand ye gazing up into Heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from
you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go
into Heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the Mount called
Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a Sabbath-day's journey."

       *       *       *       *       *

ZECHARIAH XIV. 4.--"And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount
of Olives, which _is_ before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of
Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the
west, _and there shall be_ a very great valley; and half of the mountain
shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."

       *       *       *

"And it shall be in that day, _that_ living waters shall go out from
Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward
the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. And the Lord shall
be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his
name one."

       *       *       *

"And it shall come to pass, _that_ every one that is left of all the
nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year
to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of
Tabernacles."



CONTENTS.


    I. OPENING THOUGHTS                        1

   II. THE HOME SCENE                         11

  III. LESSONS                                24

   IV. THE MESSENGER                          34

    V. THE MESSAGE                            42

   VI. THE SLEEPER                            53

  VII. LIGHTS AND SHADOWS                     67

 VIII. THE MOURNER'S COMFORT                  77

   IX. THE MOURNER'S CREED                    84

    X. THE MASTER                             92

   XI. SECOND CAUSES                         100

  XII. THE WEEPING SAVIOUR                   108

 XIII. THE GRAVE-STONE                       125

  XIV. UNBELIEF                              134

   XV. THE DIVINE PLEADER                    141

  XVI. THE OMNIPOTENT SUMMONS                150

 XVII. THE BOX OF OINTMENT                   161

XVIII. PALM BRANCHES                         178

  XIX. THE FIG-TREE                          191

   XX. CLOSING HOURS                         211

  XXI. THE LAST VISIT                        221

 XXII. ANGELIC COMFORTERS                    240

XXIII. THE DISCIPLES' RETURN                 257



MEMORIES OF BETHANY



I.

OPENING THOUGHTS.


Places associated with great minds are always interesting. What a halo
of moral grandeur must ever be thrown around that spot which was
hallowed above all others by the Lord of glory as the scene of His most
cherished earthly friendship! However holy be the memories which
encircle other localities trodden by Him in the days of His
flesh,--Bethlehem, with its manger cradle, its mystic star, and
adoring cherubim--Nazareth, the nurturing home of His youthful
affections--Tiberias, whose shores so often echoed to His footfall, or
whose waters in stillness or in storm bore Him on their bosom--the
crested heights where He uttered His beatitudes--the midnight mountains
where He prayed--the garden where He suffered--the hill where He
died,--there is no one single resort in His divine pilgrimage on which
sanctified thought loves so fondly to dwell as on the home and village
of BETHANY.

Its hours of sacred converse have long ago fled. Its honoured family
have slumbered for ages in their tomb. Bethany's Lord has been for
centuries enthroned amid the glories of a brighter home. But though its
Memories are all that remain, the place is still fragrant with His
presence. The echoes of His voice--words of unearthly sweetness--still
linger around it; and have for eighteen hundred years served to cheer
and encourage many a fainting pilgrim in his upward ascent to the true
Bethany above!

There, the Redeemer of the world proclaimed a brief but impressive
Gospel. Heaven and earth seemed then to touch one another. We have the
tender tones of a _Man_ blended with the ineffable majesty of _God_.
Hopes "full of immortality" shine with their celestial rainbow-hues
amid a shower of holy tears. The cancelling from our Bibles of the 11th
chapter of St John would be like the blotting out of the brightest
planet from the spiritual firmament. Each of its magnificent utterances
has proved like a ministering-angel--a seraph-messenger bearing its
live-coal of comfort to the broken, bleeding heart from the holiest
altar which SYMPATHY (divine and human) ever upreared in a trial-world!
Many has been the weary footstep and tearful eye that has hastened in
thought to BETHANY--"gone to the grave of Lazarus, to weep there."

"The town of Mary and her sister Martha," then, furnishes us alike with
a garnered treasury of Christian solaces, and one of the very loveliest
of the Bible's domestic portraitures. If the story of Joseph and his
brethren is in the Old Testament invested with surpassing interest, here
is a Gospel home-scene in the New, of still deeper and tenderer
pathos--a picture in which the true Joseph appears as the central
figure, without any estrangements to mar its beauty. Often at other
times a drapery of woe hangs over the pathway of the Man of Sorrows.
But _Bethany_ is bathed in sunshine;--a sweet _oasis_ in his toil-worn
pilgrimage. At this quiet abode of congenial spirits he seems to have
had his main "sips at the fountain of human joy," and to have obtained a
temporary respite from unwearied labour and unmerited enmity. The "Lily
among thorns" raised His drooping head in this Eden home! Thither we can
follow Him from the courts of the Temple--the busy crowd--the lengthened
journey--the miracles of mercy--the hours of vain and ineffectual
pleading with obdurate hearts. We can picture Him as the inmate of a
peaceful family, spirit blending with spirit in sanctified communion. We
can mark the tenderness of His holy humanity. We can see how He loved,
and sympathised, and wept, and rejoiced!

As the tremendous events which signalised the close of His pilgrimage
drew on, still it is _Bethany_ with which they are mainly associated. It
was at _Bethany_ the fearful visions of His cross and passion cast their
shadow on his path! From its quiet palm-trees[1] He issued forth on His
last day's journey across Mount Olivet. It was with _Bethany_ in view
He ascended to heaven. Its soil was the last He trod--its homes were the
last on which his eye rested when the cloud received Him up into glory.
The beams of the Sun of Righteousness seemed as if they loved to linger
on this consecrated height.

We cannot doubt that many incidents regarding His oft sojournings there
are left unrecorded. We have more than once, indeed, merely the simple
announcement in the inspired narrative that He retired from Jerusalem
all night to the village where His friend Lazarus resided. We dare not
withdraw more of the veil than the Word of God permits. Let us be
grateful for what we have of the gracious unfoldings here vouchsafed of
His inner life--the comprehensive intermingling of doctrine,
consolation, comfort, and instruction in righteousness. His Bethany
sayings are for all time--they have "gone through all the earth"--His
Bethany words "to the end of the world!" Like its own alabaster box of
precious ointment, "wheresoever the Gospel is preached," there will
these be held in grateful memorial.

The traveller in Palestine is to this day shewn, in a sort of secluded
ravine on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives (about fifteen
furlongs or two miles from Jerusalem), a cluster of poor cottages,
numbering little more than twenty families, with groups of palm-trees
surrounding them, interspersed here and there with the olive, the
almond, the pomegranate, and the fig.[2]

This ruined village bears the Arab name of El-Azirezeh--the Arabic form
of the name Lazarus--and at once identifies it with a spot so sacred and
interesting in Gospel story. It is described by the most recent and
discerning of Eastern writers as "a wild mountain hamlet, screened by an
intervening ridge from the view of the top of Olivet--perched on its
open plateau of rock--the last collection of human habitations before
the desert hills that reach to Jericho. ... High in the distance are the
Peræan mountains; the foreground is the deep descent of the mountain
valley."[3]

"The fields around," says another traveller, "lie uncultivated, and
covered with rank grass and wild flowers; but it is easy to imagine the
deep and still beauty of this spot when it was the home of Lazarus and
his sisters, Martha and Mary. Defended on the north and west by the
Mount of Olives, it enjoys a delightful exposure to the southern sun.
The grounds around are obviously of great fertility, though quite
neglected; and the prospect to the south-east commands a magnificent
view of the Dead Sea and the plains of Jordan."[4]

                   "On the horizon's verge,
    The last faint tracing on the blue expanse,
    Rise Moab's summits; and above the rest
    One pinnacle, where, placed by Hand Divine,
    Israel's great leader stood, allow'd to view,
    And but to view, that long-expected land
    He may not now enjoy. Below, dim gleams
    The sea, untenanted by ought that lives,
    And Jordan's waters thread the plain unseen.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Here, hid among her trees, a village clings--
    Roof above roof uprising. White the walls,
    And whiter still by contrast; and those roofs,
    Broad sunny platforms, strew'd with ripening grain.
    Some wandering olive or unsocial fig
    Amid the broken rooks which bound the path
    Snatches scant nurture from the creviced stone."[5]

Before closing these prefatory remarks, the question cannot fail to have
occurred to the most unobservant reader, why the history of the Family
of Bethany and the Resurrection of Lazarus, in themselves so replete
with interest and instruction--the latter, moreover, forming, as it did,
so notable a crisis in the Saviour's life--should have been recorded
only by the Evangelist John. Strange that the other inspired penmen
should have left altogether unchronicled this touching episode in sacred
writ. One or other of two reasons--or both combined--we may accept as
the most satisfactory explanation regarding what, after all, must remain
a difficulty. John alone of the Gospel writers narrates the transactions
which took place in _Judea_ in connexion with the Saviour's public
ministry,--the others restricted themselves mainly to the incidents and
events of His _Galilean_ life and journeys; at all events, till they
come to the closing scene of all.[6] There is another reason equally
probable:--A wise Christian prudence, and delicate consideration for the
feelings of the living, may have prevented the other Evangelists giving
publicity to facts connected with their Lord's greatest miracle; a
premature disclosure of which might have exposed Lazarus and his sisters
to the violence of the unscrupulous persecutors of the day. They would,
moreover, (as human feelings are the same in every age,) naturally
shrink from violating the peculiar sacredness of domestic grief by
publishing circumstantially its details while the mourners and the
mourned still lingered at their Bethany home. Well did they know that
that Holy Spirit at whose dictation they wrote, would not suffer "the
Church of the future" to be deprived of so precious a record of divine
love and power. Hence the sacred task of being the Biographer of Lazarus
was consigned to their aged survivor.

When the Apostle of Patmos wrote his Gospel, as is supposed in distant
Ephesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were, in all likelihood, reposing in
their graves. Happily so, too, for ere this the Roman armies were
encamped almost within sight of their old dwelling, and the inhabitants
of Jerusalem undergoing their unparalleled sufferings.

Add to this, John, of all the Evangelists, was best qualified to do
justice to this matchless picture. Baptized himself with the spirit of
love, his inspired pencil could best portray the lights and shadows in
this lovely and loving household. Pre-eminently like his Lord, he could
best delineate the scene of all others where the tenderness of that
tender Saviour shone most conspicuous. He was the disciple who had leant
on His bosom--who had been admitted by Him to nearest and most confiding
fellowship. He would have the Church, to the latest period of time, to
enjoy the same. He interrupts, therefore, the course of his narrative
that he may lift the veil which enshrouds the private life of Jesus, and
exhibit Him in all ages in the endearing attitude and relation of a
_Human Friend_. Immanuel is transfigured on this Mount of Love before
His suffering and glory! The Bethany scene, with its tints of soft and
mellowed sunlight, forms a pleasing background to the sadder and more
awful events which crowd the Gospel's closing chapters.



II.

THE HOME SCENE.


The curtain rises on a quiet Judean village, the sanctuary of three holy
hearts. Each of the inmates have some strongly-marked traits of
individual character. These have been so often delicately and truthfully
drawn that it is the less necessary to dwell minutely upon them here.
There is abundant material in the narrative to discover to us, in the
sisters, two characters--both interesting in themselves, both beloved by
Jesus, both needful in the Church of God, but at the same time widely
different, preparing by a diverse education for heaven--requiring, as we
shall find, from Him who best knew their diversity, a separate and
peculiar treatment.

Martha, the elder (probably the eldest of the family), has been
accurately represented as the type of activity; bustling, energetic,
impulsive, well qualified to be the head of the household, and to
grapple with the stern realities and routine of actual life; quick in
apprehension, strong and vigorous in intellect, anxious to give a reason
for all she did, and requiring a reason for the conduct of others; a
useful if not a noble character, combining diligence in business with
fervency in spirit.

Mary, again, was the type of reflection; calm, meek, devotional,
contemplative, sensitive in feeling, ill suited to battle with the cares
and sorrows, the strifes and griefs of an engrossing and encumbering
world; one of those gentle flowers that pine and bend under the rough
blasts of life, easily battered down by hail and storm, but as ready to
raise its drooping leaves under heavenly influences. Her position was at
her Lord's feet, drinking in those living waters which came welling up
fresh from the great Fountain of life; asking no questions, declining
all arguments, gentle and submissive, a beautiful impersonation of the
childlike faith which "beareth all things, hopeth all things, believeth
all things." While her sister can so command her feelings as to be able
to rush forth to meet her Lord outside the village, calm and
self-possessed, to unbosom to Him all her hopes and fears, and even to
interrogate Him about death and the resurrection, Mary can only meet Him
buried in her all-absorbing grief. The crushed leaves of that flower of
paradise are bathed and saturated with dewy tears. She has not a word of
remonstrance. Jesus speaks to Martha--chides her--reasons with her; with
Mary, He knew that the heart was too full, the wound too deep, to bear
the probing of word or argument; He speaks, therefore, in the touching
pathos of her own silent grief. Her melting emotion has its response in
His own. In one word, Martha was one of those meteor spirits rushing to
and fro amid the ceaseless activities of life, softened and saddened,
but not prostrated and crushed by the sudden inroads of sorrow. Mary,
again, we think of as one of those angel forms which now and then seem
to walk the earth from the spirit-land; a quiet evening star, shedding
its mellowed radiance among deepening twilight shadows, as if her home
was in a brighter sphere, and her choice, as we know it was, "a better
part, that never could be taken from her."[7] Beautifully and delicately
has a Christian poet thus drawn her loving character:--

    "Oh, blest beyond all daughters of the East!
       What were the Orient thrones to that low seat,
     Where thy hush'd spirit drew celestial birth!
       Mary! meek listener at the Saviour's feet,
       No feverish cares to that divine retreat
     Thy woman's heart of silent worship brought,
       But a fresh childhood, heavenly truth to meet
     With love and wonder and submissive thought.
       Oh! for the holy quiet of thy breast,
     Midst the world's eager tones and footsteps flying,
     Thou whose calm soul was like a well-spring, lying
       So deep and still in its transparent rest,
     That e'en when noontide burns upon the hills,
     Some one bright solemn star all its lone mirror fills."

Of Lazarus, around whom the main interest of the narrative gathers, we
have fewer incidental touches to guide us in giving individuality to his
character. This, however, we may infer, from the poignant sorrow of the
twin hearts that were so unexpectedly broken, that he was a loved and
lamented only brother, a sacred prop around which their tenderest
affections were entwined. Included too, as he was, in the love which
the Divine Saviour bore to the household (for "Jesus loved Lazarus"), is
it presumptuous to imagine that his spirit had been cast into much the
same human mould as that of his beloved Lord, and that the friendship of
Jesus for him had been formed on the same principles on which
friendships are formed still--a similarity of disposition, some mental
and moral resemblances and idiosyncrasies? They were like-minded, so far
as a fallible nature and the nature of a stainless humanity _could_ be
assimilated. We can think of him as gentle, retiring, amiable,
forgiving, heavenly-minded; an imperfect and shadowy, it may be, but
still a faithful reflection and transcript of incarnate loveliness. May
we not venture to use regarding him his Lord's eulogy on another,
"Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!"

Nor must we forget, in this rapid sketch, what a precious unfolding we
have in this home portraiture of the humanity of the Saviour! "_The Man_
Christ Jesus" stands in softened majesty and tenderness before our view.
He who had a heart capacious enough to take in all mankind, had yet His
likings (sinless partialities) for individuals and minds which were more
than others congenial and kindred with His own. As there are some heart
sanctuaries where we can more readily rush to bury the tale of our
sorrows or unburden our perplexities, so had He. "Jesus wept!"--this
speaks of Him as the human Sympathiser. "Jesus loved Lazarus"--this
speaks of Him as the human Friend! He had an ardent affection for all
His disciples, but even among _them_ there was an inner circle of holier
attachments--a Peter, and James, and John; and out of this sacred _trio_
again there was one pre-eminently "Beloved." So, amid the hallowed
haunts of Palestine, the homes of Judea, the cities of Galilee, there
was but _one_ Bethany. It is delightful thus to think of the heart of
Jesus in all but sin as purely _human_, identical and identified with
our own. He was no hermit-spirit dwelling in mysterious solitariness
apart from His fellows, but open to the charities of life;--in all His
refined and hallowed sensibilities "made like unto His brethren."
Friendship is itself a holy thing. The bright intelligences in the upper
sanctuary know it and experience it. They "cry one to another." Theirs
is no solitary strain--no isolated existence. Unlike the planets in the
material firmament, shining distant and apart, they are rather
clustering constellations, whose gravitation-law is unity and love, this
binding them to one another, and all to God. Nay--with reverence we say
it--may not the archetype of all friendship be found shadowed forth in
what is higher still, those mystic and ineffable communings subsisting
between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a past eternity? We can thus
regard the friendship of Jesus on earth--like all ennobled, purified
affections--as an emanation from the Divine; a sacred and holy rill,
flowing direct from the Fountain of infinite love. How our adorable Lord
in the days of His flesh fondly clung even to hearts that grew faithless
when fidelity was most needed! What was it but a noble and touching
tribute to the longings and susceptibilities of His holy soul for human
friendship, when, on entering the precincts of Gethsemane, He thus
sought to mitigate the untold sorrows of that awful hour--"Tarry _ye_
here and _watch_ with _Me_!"

But to return. Such was the home around which the memories of its
inmates and our own love to linger.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus--all three partakers of the same grace,
fellow-pilgrims Zionward, and that journey sanctified and hallowed by a
sacred fellowship with the Lord of pilgrims. The Saviour's own precious
promise seems under that roof of lowly unobtrusive love to receive a
living fulfilment: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them." Though many a gorgeous palace was at
that era adorning the earth, where was the spot, what the dwelling, half
so consecrated as this? Solomon had a thousand years before, two miles
distant, in presence of assembled Israel, uttered the exclamation, "But
will God in very deed dwell with men upon earth?" He was now verily
dwelling! Nor was it under any gorgeous canopy or august temple. He had
selected Three Human Souls as the shrines He most loved. He had sought
their holy, heavenly converse as the sweetest incense and costliest
sacrifice. How or where they first saw Jesus we cannot tell. They had
probably been among the number of those pious Jews who had prayerfully
waited for the "consolation of Israel," and who had lived to see their
fondest wishes and hopes realised. The Evangelist gives no information
regarding their previous history. The narrative all at once, with an
abruptness of surpassing beauty, leaves us in no doubt that the Divine
Redeemer had been for long a well-known guest in that sunlit home, and
that, when the calls and duties of His public ministry were suspended,
many an hour was spent in the enjoyment of its peaceful seclusion.

We can fancy, and no more, these oft happy meetings, when the Pilgrim
Saviour, weary and worn, was seen descending the rocky footpath of
Olivet,--Lazarus or his sisters, from the flat roof of their dwelling,
or under the spreading fig-tree, eager to catch the first glimpse of His
approach.

When seated in the house, we may picture their converse: Themes of
sublime and heavenly import, unchronicled by the inspired penmen, which
sunk deep into those listening spirits, and nerved two of them for an
after-hour of unexpected sorrow. If there be bliss in the interchange of
communion between Christian and Christian, what must it have been to
have had the presence and fellowship of the Lord Himself! Not seeing
Him, as _we_ see Him, "behind the lattice," but seated underneath His
shadow, drinking in the living tones of His living voice. These
"children of Zion" must, indeed, have been "joyful in their King."

One of these hallowed seasons is that referred to in the 10th of St
Luke, where Martha the ministering spirit, and Mary the lowly disciple,
are first introduced to our notice. That visit is conjectured to have
occurred when Jesus was returning to the country from the Feast of
Tabernacles. The Bethany circle dreamt not then of their impending
trial. But, foreseen as it was by Him who knows the end from the
beginning, may we not well believe one reason (the main reason) for His
going thither was to soothe them in the prospect of a saddened home? So
that, when the stroke _did_ descend, they might be cheered and consoled
with the remembrances of His visit, and of the gracious words which
proceeded out of His mouth.

And is not this still the way Jesus deals with His people? He visits
them often by some precious love-tokens--some special manifestations of
His grace and presence before the hour of trial. So that, when that hour
does come, they may not be altogether prostrated or overwhelmed with it.
Like Elijah of old, they have their miraculous food provided before they
encounter the sterile desert. When they come to speak of their crushed
hearts, they have solaces to tell of too. Their language is, "I will
sing of _mercy_ and _judgment_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

We may be led to inquire why a character so lovely as that of Lazarus
was not enlisted along with the other disciples in the active service of
the Apostleship. Why should Peter and Andrew, John and James, be
summoned from their boats and nets on Gennesaret to follow Jesus, and
this other, imbued with the same spirit and honoured with the same
regard, be left alone and undisturbed in his village home?

"To every man there is a work." Some are more peculiarly called to
active duty, and better fitted for it; others for passive obedience and
suffering. Some are selected as bold standard-bearers of the cross,
others to give their testimony in the quiet seclusion of domestic life.
Some are specially gifted, as Paul, to appear in the halls of Nero or on
the heights of Mars' Hill, and, confronting face to face the world's
boasted wisdom, maintain intact the honour of their Lord. Others are
required to glorify Him on beds of sickness, or in homes of sorrow, or
in the holy consistent tenor of their everyday walk. Some are called as
Levites to temple service; others to give the uncostly cup of cold
water, or the widow's mite; others to manifest the meek, gentle,
unselfish, resigned, forgiving heart, when there is no cup or mite to
offer!

Believer! rejoice that your path is marked out for you. Your lot in
life, with all its "accidents," is your Lord's appointing. Dream not, in
your own short-sighted wisdom, that, had you occupied some other or more
prominent position--had your talents been greater, or your worldly
influence more extensive--you might have glorified your God in a way
which is at present denied to you. He can be served in the lowliest as
well as in the most exalted stations. As the tiniest leaf or smallest
star in the world of nature reflects His glory as well as the giant
mountain or blazing sun, so does He graciously own and recognise the
humblest effort of lowly love no less than the most lavish gifts which
splendid munificence and costly devotion can cast into His treasury. Let
it be your great aim and ambition to honour Him just in the position He
has seen meet to assign you. "Let every man," says the Apostle, "wherein
he is called, therein abide with God." However limited your sphere, you
may become a centre of holy influences to the little world around you.
Your heart may be an incense-altar of love and affection, kindness and
gentleness to man--your life a perpetual hymn of praise to your Father
in Heaven; glorifying Him, like Martha, by active service; like Mary, by
sitting at His feet; or, like Lazarus, by holy living and happy dying,
and leaving behind you "the Memory of the Just" which is "blessed."



III.

LESSONS.


As yet the home of Bethany is all happiness. The burial-ground has been
untraversed since, probably years before the dust of one, or perhaps
both parents had been committed to the sepulchre.[8] Death had long left
the inmates an unbroken circle. Can it be that the unwelcome intruder is
so nigh at hand?--that their now joyous dwelling is so soon to echo to
the wail of lamentation? We imagine it but lately visited by Jesus. In a
little while the arrow hath sped; the sacredness of a divine friendship
is no guarantee against the incursion of the sleepless foe of human
happiness. Bethany is a mourning household. The sisters are bowed in the
agony of their worst bereavement--the prop of their existence is laid
low--"_Lazarus is dead!_"

At the very threshold of this touching story, are we not called on to
pause, and read _the uncertainty of earth's best joys and purest
happiness_; that the brightest sunshine is often the precursor of a dark
cloud. When the gourd is all flourishing, a worm may unseen be preying
at its root! When the vessel is gliding joyously on the calm sea, the
treacherous rock may be at hand, and, in one brief hour, it has become a
shattered wreck!

It is the touching record of the inspired historian in narrating
Abraham's heaviest trial--"After _these things_, God did tempt Abraham."
After _what_ things? After a season of rich blessings, gilding a future
with bright hopes!

Would that, amidst our happy homes, and sunshine hours, and seasons of
holy and joyous intercourse between friend and friend, we would more
habitually bear in mind "This is not to last!" In one brief and
unsuspected moment Lazarus may be taken. The messenger may now be on the
wing to lay low some treasured object of earthly solicitude and love.
God would teach us--while we are glad of our gourds--not to be
"exceeding glad;" not to nestle here as if we were to "live alway," but
rather, as we are perched on our summer boughs, to be ready at His
bidding to soar away, and leave behind us what most we prize.

It tells us, too, _the utter mysteriousness of many of the divine
dispensations_.

"LAZARUS IS DEAD!" What! He, the head, and support, and stay of two
helpless females? The joy and solace of a common orphanhood,--a brother
evidently made and born for their adversities? What! Lazarus, whom Jesus
tenderly loved? How much, even to his Lord, will be buried in that early
grave! We may well expect, if there be one homestead in all Palestine
guarded by the overshadowing wings of angels to debar the entrance of
death, whose inmates may pillow their heads night after night in the
confident assurance of immunity from trial, it must surely be that loved
resort--that "Arbour in His Hill Difficulty," where the God-man
delighted oft to pause and refresh His wearied body and aching mind.
Will Omnipotence not have set its mark, as of old, on the door-posts and
lintels of that consecrated dwelling, so that the destroyer, in going
his rounds elsewhere, may pass by it unscathed? How, too, can the
infant Church spare him? The aged Simeon or Anna we dare not wish to
detain. Burdened with years and infirmities, after having got a glimpse
of their Lord and Saviour, let them depart in peace, and receive their
crowns. These decayed trees in the forest--those to whom old age on
earth is a burden--let them bow to the axe, and be transplanted to a
nobler clime. But one in the vigour of life--one so beautifully
combining natural amiability with Christian love--one who was
pre-eminently the _friend_ of Jesus, and that _word_ profoundly
suggestive of all that was lovely in a disciple's character. Death may
visit other homes in that sequestered village, and spread desolation in
other hearts, but surely the Church's Lord will not suffer one of its
pillars so prematurely to fall!

And yet it is even so! The mysterious summons has come!--the most
honoured home on earth has been rudely rifled!--the most loving of
hearts have been cruelly torn; and inscrutable is the dealing, for
"_Lazarus is dead_!"

    "He, the young and strong, who cherish'd
       Noble longings for the strife,
     By the roadside fell, and perish'd
       On the threshold march of life."

And worse, too, than all, "the Lord is absent." Why is Omniscience
tarrying elsewhere, when His presence and power are above all needed at
the house of His friend?

The disconsolate sisters, in wondering amazement, repeat over and over
again the exclamation, "If Jesus had been here, this our brother had not
died!" "Hath He forgotten to be gracious?" "Surely our way is hid from
the Lord, our judgment is passed over from our God."

Ah! the experience of His people is often still the same. What are many
of God's dispensations?--a baffling enigma--all strangeness--all mystery
to the eye of sense. _Useless_ lives prolonged, _useful_ ones taken! The
honoured minister of God struck down, the unfaithful watchman spared!
The philanthropic and benevolent have an arrest put on their manifold
deeds of kindness and generosity; the grasping, the avaricious, the
mean-souled--those who neither fear God nor do good to man, are suffered
to live on from day to day! What is it but the picture here presented
eighteen hundred years ago--_Judas_ spared to be a _traitor to his
Lord_, while--_Lazarus is dead_!

But let us be still! The Saviour, indeed, does not now lead us forth,
amid the scene of our trial, as He did the bereft sisters, to unravel
the mysteries of His providence, and to shew glory to God, redounding
from the darkest of His dispensations. To _us_ the grand sequel is
reserved for eternity. The grand development of the divine plan will not
be fully accomplished till _then_; faith must meanwhile rest satisfied
with what is baffling to sight and sense. This whole narrative is
designed to teach the lesson that there is an undeveloped future in all
God's dealings. There is an unseen "why and wherefore" which cannot be
answered here. Our befitting attitude and language _now_ is that of
simple confidingness--"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do
right?"--Listening to one of these Bethany sayings (we shall by and by
consider), whose meaning will be interpreted in a brighter world by Him
who uttered it in the days of His flesh--"Said I not unto thee, that if
thou wouldest _believe_ thou shouldest _see_ the glory of God?"

    "O thou who mournest on thy way,
     With longings for the close of day,
     He walks with thee, that Angel kind,
     And gently whispers--'Be resign'd;
     Bear up--bear on--the end shall tell,
     The dear Lord ordereth all things well.'"

Our duty, meanwhile, is that of children, simply to trust the
faithfulness of a God whose footsteps of love we often fail to trace.
All will be seen at last to have been not only _for_ the best, but
really _the best_. Dark clouds will be fringed with mercy. What we call
now "baffling dispensations," will be seen to be wondrous parts of a
great connected whole,--the wheel within wheel of that complex
machinery, by which "all things" (yes, ALL things) are now working
together for good.

"Lazarus is dead!" The choicest tree in the earthly Eden has succumbed
to the blast. The choicest cup has been dashed to the ground. Some great
lights in the moral firmament have been extinguished. But God can do
without human agency. His Church can be preserved, though no Moses be
spared to conduct Israel over Jordan, and no Lazarus to tell the story
of his Saviour's grace and love, when other disciples have forsaken Him
and fled.

We may be calling, in our blind unbelief, as we point to some ruined
fabric of earthly bliss--some tomb which has become the grave of our
fondest affections and dearest hopes--"Shall the dust praise thee, shall
_it_ declare thy truth?" _Believe! believe!_ God will not give us back
our dead as He did to the Bethany sisters; but He will not deprive us of
aught we have, or suffer one garnered treasure to be removed, except for
His own glory and our good. _Now_ it is our province to _believe_ it--in
_Heaven_ we shall _see_ it. Before the sapphire throne we shall _see_
that not one redundant thorn has been suffered to pierce our feet, or
one needless sorrow to visit our dwelling, or tear to dim our eye. Then
our acknowledgment will be, "We have _known_ and _believed_ the love
which God hath to us."

    "Oh, weep not though the beautiful decay,
       Thy heart must have its autumn--its pale skies
     Leading mayhap to winter's cold dismay.
     Yet doubt not. Beauty doth not pass away;
       His form departs not, though his body dies.
       Secure beneath the earth the snowdrop lies,
     Waiting the spring's young resurrection-day."[9]

Be it ours to have Jesus _with_ us, and Jesus _for_ us, in all our
afflictions. If we wish to insure these mighty solaces, we must not
suffer the hour of sorrow and bereavement to overtake us with a Saviour
till _then_ a stranger and unknown. St Luke tells us the secret of
Mary's faith and composure at her loved one's grave:--_She had, long
before her day of trial, learned to sit at her Redeemer's feet. It was
when in health Jesus was first resorted to and loved_.

In prosperity may our homes and hearts be gladdened with His footstep;
and when prosperity is withdrawn, and is succeeded by the dark and
cloudy day, may we know, like Martha and Mary, where to rush in our
seasons of bitter sorrow; listening from His glorified lips on the
throne to those same exalted themes of consolation which, for eighteen
hundred years, have to myriad, myriad mourners been like oil thrown on
the troubled sea. Jesus is with us! The Master is come! His presence
will extract sorrow from the bitterest cup, and make, as He did at
Bethany, a very home of bereavement and a burial scene to be "hallowed
ground!"



IV.

THE MESSENGER.


Is the absent Saviour not to be sought? Martha and Mary knew the
direction He had taken. The last time He had visited their home was at
the Feast of Dedication, during the season of winter, when the
palm-trees were bared of their leaves, and the voice of the turtle was
silent. Jesus, on that occasion, had to escape the vengeance of the Jews
in Jerusalem by a temporary retirement to the place where John first
baptized, near Enon, on the wooded banks of the Jordan. It must have
been to Him a spot and season of calm and grateful repose; a pleasing
transition from the rude hatred and heartless formalism which met Him in
the degenerate "City of Solemnities." The savour of the Baptist's name
and spirit seemed to linger around this sequestered region. John had
evidently prepared, by his faithful ministry, the way for a mightier
Preacher, for we read, as the result of the Saviour's present sojourn,
that "many believed on him there."

If we visit with hallowed emotion the places where first we learned to
love the Lord, to two at least of those who accompanied the Redeemer,
the region He now traversed must have been full of fragrant memories;
_there_ it was that Jesus had been first pointed out to them as the
"Lamb of God;" _there_ they first "beheld His glory, the glory as of the
only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth." (John i. 28.)

On His way thither, on the present occasion, He most probably passed
through Bethany, and apprised His friends of His temporary absence.
Lazarus was then in his wonted vigour--no shadow of death had yet passed
over his brow; he doubtless parted with the Lord he loved happy at the
thought of ere long meeting again.

But soon all is changed. The hand of sickness unexpectedly lays him low.
At first there is no cause for anxiety. But soon the herald-symptoms of
danger and death gather fast and thick around his pillow; "his beauty
consumes away like a moth." The terrible possibility for the first time
flashes across the minds of the sisters, of a desolate home, and of
themselves being the desolate survivors of a loved brother. The joyous
dream of restoration becomes fainter and fainter. Human remedies are
hopeless. There was _One_, and _only_ ONE, in the wide world who could
save from impending death. His word, they knew, could alone summon
lustre to that eye, and bloom to that wan and fading cheek. Fifty long
miles intervene between the great Physician and their cottage home. But
they cannot hesitate. Some kind and compassionate neighbour is soon
found ready to hasten along the Jericho road with the brief but urgent
message, "_Lord! behold he whom thou lovest is sick._" If it only reach
in time, they know that no more is needed. They even indulge the
expectation that their messenger may be anticipated by the Lord Himself
appearing. Others might doubt His omniscience, but they knew its
reality. They had the blessed conviction, that while they were seated in
burning tears by that couch of sickness, there was a sympathising Being
far away marking every heart-throb of His suffering friend. Even when
the stern human conviction of "no hope" was pressing upon them, "hoping
against hope," they must have felt confident that He would not suffer
His faithfulness now to fail. He had often proved Himself a Brother and
Friend in the hour of _joy_. _Could_ He fail--_can_ He fail to prove
Himself now a "Brother born for _adversity_?"

Although, however, thus convinced that the tale of their sorrows was
known to Jesus, _a messenger is sent_,--_the means are employed_! They
act as though He knew it _not_; as if that omniscient Saviour had been
all unconscious of these hours of prolonged and anxious agony!

What a lesson is there here for _us_! God is acquainted with our every
trouble; He knows (far better than we know ourselves) every pang we
heave, every tear we weep, every perplexing path we tread; but the knee
must be bent, the message must be taken, the prayer must ascend! It is
His own appointed method,--His own consecrated medium for obtaining
blessings. Jesus _may_ have gone, and probably _would_ have gone to
restore His friend, even though no such messenger had reached Him: We
dare not limit the grace and dealings of God: He is often (blessed be
His name for it!) "found of them that sought Him not." But He loves such
messages as this. He loves the confiding, childlike trust of His own
people, who delight in the hour of their extremity to cast their burdens
upon Him, and send the winged herald of prayer to the throne of grace on
which He sits.

Would that we valued, more than we do, this blessed link of
communication between our souls and Heaven! More especially in our
seasons of trouble, (when "vain is the help of man,") happy for us to be
able implicitly to rest in the ability and willingness of a gracious
Redeemer.

Prayer brings the soul near to Jesus, and fetches Jesus near to the
soul. He may linger, as He did now at the Jordan, ere the answer be
vouchsafed, but it is for some wise reason; and even if the answer given
be not in accordance with our pre-conceived wishes or anxious desires,
yet how comforting to have put our case and all its perplexities in His
hand, saying, "I am oppressed; undertake Thou for me! To Thee I
unburden and unbosom my sorrows. I shall be satisfied whether my cup be
filled or emptied. Do to me as seemeth good in Thy sight. He whom I love
and whom THOU lovest is sick; the Lazarus of my earthly hopes and
affections is hovering on the brink of death. That levelling blow, if
consummated, will sweep down in a moment all my hopes of earthly
happiness and joy. But it is my privilege to confide my trouble to Thee;
to know that I have surrendered myself and all that concerns me into the
hand of Him who 'considers my soul in adversity.' Yes; and should my
schemes be crossed, and my fondest hopes baffled, I will feel, even in
apparently _unanswered_ prayers, that the Judge of all the earth has
done right!"

"It is said," says Rutherford, speaking of the Saviour's delay in
responding to the request of the Syrophenician woman; "It is said He
_answered_ not a word, but it is not said He _heard_ not a word. These
two differ much. Christ often heareth when He doth not answer. His not
answering is an answer, and speaks thus: 'Pray on, go on and cry, for
the Lord holdeth His door fast bolted not to keep you out, but that you
may knock and knock.'"

"God delays to answer prayer," says Archbishop Usher, "because he would
have more of it. If the musicians come to play at our doors or our
windows, if we delight not in their music, we throw them out money
presently that they may be gone. But if the music please us, we forbear
to give them money, because we would keep them longer to enjoy their
music. So the Lord loves and delights in the sweet words of His
children, and therefore puts them off and answers them not presently."

Observe still further, in the case of these sorrowing sisters of
Bethany, while in all haste and urgency they send their messenger, they
do not ask Jesus to come--they dictate no procedure--they venture on no
positive request--all is left to Himself. What a lesson also is there
here to confide in His wisdom, to feel that His way and His will must be
the best--that our befitting attitude is to lie passive at His feet--to
wait His righteous disposal of us and ours--to make this the burden of
our petition, "Lord, what wouldst _Thou_ have me to do?" "If it be
possible let this cup pass from me, _nevertheless_, not as _I_ will, but
as _Thou wilt_."

Reader! invite to your gates this celestial messenger. Make prayer a
holy habit--a cherished privilege. Seek to be ever maintaining
intercommunion with Jesus; consecrating life's common duties with His
favour and love. Day by day ere you take your flight into the world,
night by night when you return from its soiling contacts, bathe your
drooping plumes in this refreshing fountain. Let prayer sweeten
prosperity and hallow adversity. Seek to know the unutterable
blessedness of habitual filial nearness to your Father in heaven--in
childlike confidence unbosoming to Him those heart-sorrows with which no
earthly friend can sympathise, and with which a stranger cannot
intermeddle. No trouble is too trifling to confide to His ear--no want
too trivial to bear to His mercy-seat.

    "Prayer is appointed to convey
       The blessings He designs to give;
     Long as they live should Christians pray,
       For only while they pray, they live."



V.

THE MESSAGE.


The messenger has reached--what is his message? It is a brief, but a
beautiful one. "_Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick._"

No laboured eulogium--no lengthened panegyric could have described more
significantly the character of the dying villager of Bethany. Four
mystic words invest his name with a sacred loveliness. By one stroke of
his pen the Apostle unfolds a heart-history; so that we desiderate no
more--more would almost spoil the touching simplicity--"_He whom Thou
lovest!_"

We might think at first the words are inverted. Can the messenger have
mistaken them? Is it not more likely the message of the sisters was
this:--"Go and tell Him, 'Lord, he whom _we_ love,' or else, 'he who
loveth _Thee_ is sick?'"

Nay, it is a loftier argument by which they would stir the infinite
depths of the Fountain of love! They had "known and believed the love"
which the Great Redeemer bore to their brother, and they further felt
assured that "loving him at the beginning, He would love him even to the
end." Their love to Lazarus (tender, unspeakably tender as it was one of
the loveliest types of human affection)--was at best an _earthly
love_--finite--imperfect--fitful--changing--perishable. But the love
they invoked was undying and everlasting, superior to all
vacillation--enduring as eternity.

It is ours "to take encouragement in prayer from God only;"--to plead
nothing of our own--our poor devotedness, or our unworthy services; they
are rather arguments for our condemnation;--but _His_ promises are all
"Yea, and amen." They never fail. His name is "a strong tower," running
into which the righteous are safe. That tower is garrisoned and
bulwarked by the attributes of His own everlasting nature. Among these
attributes not the least glorious is His _Love_--_that_ unfathomable
love which dwelt in His bosom from all eternity, and which is immutably
pledged never to be taken from His people!

Man's love to his God is like the changing sand--_His_ is like the solid
rock. Man's love is like the passing meteor with its fitful gleam. _His_
like the fixed stars, shining far above, clear and serene, from age to
age, in their own changeless firmament.

Do we know anything of the words of this message? Could it be written on
our hearts in life? Were we to die, could it be inscribed on our tombs,
"This is one whom _Jesus loved_?"

Happy assurance! The pure spirits who bend before the throne know no
happier. The archangels--the chieftains among principalities and powers,
can claim no higher privilege, no loftier badge of glory!

Love is the atmosphere they breathe. It is the grand moral law of
gravitation in the heavenly economy. God, the central sun of light, and
joy, and glory, keeping by this great motive principle every spiritual
planet in its orbit, "for _God is love_."

That love is not confined to heaven. It may be foretasted here. The sick
man of Bethany knew of it, and exulted in it. Though in the moment of
dissolution he had to mourn the personal absence of his Lord, yet
"believing" in that love, he "rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of
glory." His sisters, as they stood in sorrowing emotion by his dying
couch, and thought of that hallowed fraternal bond which was about so
soon to be dissolved, could triumph in the thought of an affection
nobler and better which knit him and them to the Brother of
brothers--and which, unlike any earthly tie, was indissoluble.

And what was experienced in that lowly Bethany home, may be experienced
by us.

That love in its wondrous manifestation is confined to no limits, no
age, no peculiar circumstances. Many a Lazarus, pining in want, who can
claim no heritage but poverty, no home but cottage walls, or who,
stretched on a bed of protracted sickness, is heard saying in the
morning, "Would God it were evening! and in the evening, Would God it
were morning!" if he have that love reigning in his heart, he has a
possession outweighing the wealth of worlds!

What a message, too, of consolation is here to the _sick_! How often
are those chained down year after year to some aching pillow, worn,
weary, shattered in body, depressed in spirit,--how apt are they to
indulge in the sorrowful thought, "Surely God cannot care for _me_!"
What! Jesus think of this wasted frame--these throbbing temples--these
powerless limbs--this decaying mind! I feel like a wreck on the desert
shore--beyond the reach of His glance--beneath the notice of His pitying
eye! Nay, thou poor desponding one, He _does_ cherish, He _does_
remember thee!--"Lord, _he whom Thou lovest_ is sick." Let this
motto-verse be inscribed on thy Bethany chamber. The Lord _loves_ His
sick ones, and He often chastens them with sickness, just _because_ He
loves them. If these pages be now traced by some dim eyes that have been
for long most familiar with the sickly glow of the night-lamp--the weary
vigils of pain and languor and disease--an exile from a busy world, or a
still more unwilling alien from the holy services of the sanctuary--oh!
think of Him who _loves_ thee, who loved thee _into_ this sickness, and
will love thee _through_ it, till thou standest in that unsuffering,
unsorrowing world, where sickness is unknown! Think of Lazarus in _his_
chamber, and the plea of the sisters in behalf of their prostrate
brother, "Lord, come to the sick one, _whom Thou lovest_."

Believe it, the very continuance of this sickness is a pledge of His
love. You may be often tempted to say with Gideon, "If the Lord be with
me, why has _all_ this befallen me?" Surely if my Lord loved me, He
would long ere this have hastened to my relief, rebuked this sore
disease, and raised me up from this bed of languishing? Did you ever
note, in the 6th verse of this Bethany chapter, the strangely beautiful
connexion of the word THEREFORE? The Evangelist had, in the preceding
verse, recorded the affection Jesus bore for that honoured family. "Now
Jesus _loved_ Martha and her sister and Lazarus." "When He had heard
THEREFORE that he was sick,"--what did He do? "Fled on wings of love to
the succour of His loved friend; hurried in eager haste by the shortest
route from Bethabara?" We expect to hear so, as the natural deduction
from John's premises. How we might think could love give a more truthful
exponent of its reality than hastening instantaneously to the relief of
one so dear to Him? But not so! "When He had heard THEREFORE that he was
sick, _He abode two days still in the same place where He was_!" Yes,
there is _tarrying_ love as well as _succouring_ love. He _sent_ that
sickness because He loves thee; He _continues_ it because He loves thee.
He heaps fresh fuel on the furnace-fires till the gold is refined. He
appoints, not one, but "many days where neither sun nor stars appear,
and no small tempest lies on us," that the ship may be lightened, and
faith exercised; our bark hastened by these rough blasts nearer shore,
and the Lord glorified, who rules the raging of the sea. "We expect,"
says Evans, "the blessing or relief in _our_ way; He chooses to bestow
it in _His_."

Reader! let this ever be your highest ambition, to love and to be loved
of Jesus. If we are covetous to have the regard and esteem of the great
and good on earth, what is it to share the fellowship and kindness of
Him, in comparison with whose love the purest earthly affection is but a
passing shadow!

Ah! to be without that love, is to be a little world ungladdened by its
central sun, wandering on in its devious pathway of darkness and gloom.
Earthly things may do well enough when the world is all bright and
shining--when prosperity sheds its bewitching gleam around you, and no
symptoms of the cloudy and dark day are at hand; but the hour is coming
(it may come soon, it _must_ come at some time) when your Bethany-home
will be clouded with deepening death-shadows--when, like Lazarus, you
will be laid on a dying couch, and what will avail you then? Oh,
nothing, _nothing_! if bereft of that love whose smile is heaven. If you
are left in the agony of desolation to utter importunate pleadings to an
_Unknown Saviour_, a _Stranger God_--if the dark valley be entered
uncheered by the thought of a loving Redeemer dispelling its gloom, and
waiting on the Canaan side to shew you the path of life!

Let the home of your hearts be often open, as was the home of Lazarus,
to the visits of Jesus in the day of brightness; and _then_, when the
hour of sorrow and trial unexpectedly arises, you will know where to
find your Lord--where to send your prayer-message for Him to come to
your relief.

Yes! He _will_ come! It will be in His own way, but His joyous footfall
_will_ be heard! He is not like Baal, "slumbering and sleeping, or
taking a journey" when the voice of importunate prayer ascends from the
depths of yearning hearts! If, instead of at once hastening back to
Bethany, He "abides still for two days where He was"--if He linger among
the mountain-glens of distant Gilead, instead of, as we would expect,
hastening to the cry and succour of cherished friendship, and to ward
off the dart of the inexorable foe--be assured there must be a reason
for this strange procrastination--there must be an unrevealed cause
which the future will in due time disclose and unravel. All the
recollections of the past forbid one unrighteous surmise on His tried
faithfulness. "_Now, Jesus loved Lazarus_," is a soft pillow on which to
repose;--raising the sorrowing spirit above the unkind insinuation, "My
Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me."

If He linger, it is to try and test the faith of His people. If He let
loose the storm, and suffer it to sweep with a vengeance apparently
uncontrolled, it is that these living trees may strike their roots
firmer and deeper in Himself--the Rock of eternal ages. Trust Him where
you cannot trace Him. Not one promise of His can come to nought. The
channel may have continued long dry--the streams of Lebanon may have
failed--the cloud has been laden, but no shower descends--the barren
waste is unwatered--the windows of heaven seem hopelessly closed. Nay,
nay! Though "the vision tarry," yet if you "wait for it" the gracious
assurance will be fulfilled in your experience--"The Lord is good to
them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him." The fountain of
love pent up in His heart will in due time gush forth--the apparently
unacknowledged prayer will be crowned with a gracious answer. In His own
good time sweet tones of celestial music will be wafted to your ear--"It
is the voice of the Beloved!--lo, He cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills!" If you are indeed the child of God, as Lazarus
was, remember this for your comfort in your dying hour, that whether the
prayers of sorrowing friends for your recovery be answered or no, the
Lord of love has at least _heard_ them--the messenger has not been
mocked--the prayer-message has not been spurned or forgotten! I repeat
it, He _will_ answer, but it will be _in His own way_! If the
Bethany-home be ungladdened by Lazarus restored, it will exult through
tears in the thought of Lazarus glorified. And the Marthas and Marys, as
they go often unto the grave to weep there, will read, as they weep, in
the holy memories of the departed, that which will turn tears into
joy--"_Jesus loved him._"



VI.

THE SLEEPER.


"_Our friend Lazarus sleepeth._"--The hopes and fears which alternately
rose and fell in the bosoms of the sisters, like the surges of the
ocean, are now at rest. Oft and again, we may well believe, had they
gone, like the mother of Sisera, to the lattice to watch the return of
the messenger, or, what was better, to hail their expected Lord. Gazing
on the pale face at their side, and remembering that ere now the tidings
of his illness must have reached Bethabara, they may have even expected
to witness the power of a distant _word_;--to behold the hues of
returning health displacing the ghastly symptoms of dissolution. But in
vain! The curtain has fallen! Their season of aching anxiety is at an
end. Their worst fears are realised.--"Lazarus sleepeth."

How calm, how tranquil that departure! Never did sun sink so gently in
its crimson couch--never did child, nestling in its mother's bosom,
close its eyes more sweetly!

    "His summon'd breath went forth as peacefully
     As folds the spent rose when the day is done."

Befitting close to a calm and noiseless existence! It would seem as if
the guardian angels who had been hovering round his death-pillow had
well-nigh reached the gates of glory ere the sorrowing survivors
discovered that the clay tabernacle was all that was left of a "brother
beloved!"

From the abrupt manner in which, in the course of the narrative, our
Lord makes the announcement to His disciples,[10] we are almost led to
surmise that He did so at the very moment of the spirit's dismissal--the
Redeemer speaks while the eyelids are just closing, and the emancipated
soul is winging its arrowy flight up to the spirit-land!

_Death_ a SLEEP!--How beautiful the image! Beautifully true, and _only_
true regarding the Christian. It is here where the true and the
false--Christianity and Paganism--meet together in impressive and
significant contrast. The one comes to the dark river with her pale,
sickly lamp. It refuses to burn--the damps of Lethe dim and quench it.
Philosophy tries to discourse on death as a "stern necessity"--of the
duty of passing heroically into this mysterious, oblivion-world--taking
with bold heart "the leap in the dark," and confronting, as we best can,
blended images of annihilation and terror.

The Gospel takes us to the tomb, and shews us Death vanquished, and the
Grave spoiled. Death truly is in itself an unwelcome messenger at our
door. It is the dark event in this our earth,--the deepest of the many
deep shadows of an otherwise fair creation--a cold, cheerless avalanche
lying at the heart of humanity, freezing up the gushing fountains of
joyous life. But the Gospel shines, and the cold iceberg melts. The Sun
of Righteousness effects what philosophy, with all its boasted power,
never could. Jesus is the abolisher of Death. He has taken all that is
terrible from it. It is said of some venomous insects that when they
once inflict a sting, they are deprived of any future power to hurt.
Death left his envenomed sting in the body of the great victim of
Calvary. It was thenceforward disarmed of its fearfulness! So complete,
indeed, is the Redeemer's victory over this last enemy, that He Himself
speaks of it as no longer a reality, but a shadow--a phantom-foe from
which we have nothing to dread. "Whosoever believeth in Me shall _never
die_." "If a man keep My sayings, he shall _never see death_." These are
an echo of the sweet Psalmist's beautiful words, a transcript of his
expressive figure when he pictures the Dark Valley to the believer as
the Valley of a "_shadow_." The substance is removed! When the gaunt
spirit meets him on the midnight waters, he may, like the disciples at
first, be led to "cry out for fear." But a gentle voice of love and
tenderness rebukes his dread, and calms his misgivings--"It is I! be not
afraid!" Yes, here is the wondrous secret of a calm departure--the
"sleep" of the believer in death. It is the name and presence of JESUS.
There may be many accompaniments of weakness and prostration, pain and
suffering, in that final conflict; the mind may be a wreck--memory may
have abdicated her seat--the loving salutation of friends may be
returned only with vacant looks, and the hand be unable to acknowledge
the grasp of affection--but there is strength in that presence, and
music in that name to dispel every disquieting, anxious thought. Clung
to as a sheet-anchor in life, He will never leave the soul in the hour
of dissolution to the mercy of the storm. Amid sinking nature, He is
faithful that promised--"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of
the world."--"Thou art with me," says Lady Powerscourt--"this is the
rainbow of light thrown across the valley, for there is no need of sun
or moon where covenant-love illumes."

A Christian's death-bed! It is indeed "good to be there." The man who
has not to seek a living Saviour at a dying hour, but who, long having
known His preciousness, loved His Word, valued His ordinances, sought
His presence by believing prayer, has now nothing to do but to die (to
_sleep_), and wake up in glory everlasting! "Oh! that all my brethren,"
were among Rutherford's last words, "may know what a Master I have
served, and what peace I have this day. This night shall close the
door, and put my anchor within the veil." "This must be the chariot,"
said Helen Plumtre, making use of Elijah's translation as descriptive of
the believer's death; "This must be the chariot; oh, how easy it is!"
"Almost well," said Richard Baxter, when asked on his death-bed how he
did.

Yes! there is speechless eloquence in such a scene. The figure of a
quiet slumber is no hyperbole, but a sober verity. As the gentle smile
of a foretasted heaven is seen playing on the marble lips--the rays
gilding the mountain tops after the golden sun has gone down--what more
befitting reflection than this, "_So_ giveth He His beloved SLEEP!"

    "Sweetly remembering that the parting sigh
     Appoints His saints to slumber, not to die,
     The starting tear we check--we kiss the rod,
     And not to earth resign them, but to God."

Or shall we leave the death-chamber and visit the grave? Still it is a
place of _sleep_; a bed of rest--a couch of tranquil repose--a quiet
dormitory "until the day break," and the night shadows of earth "flee
away." The dust slumbering there is precious because redeemed; the
angels of God have it in custody; they encamp round about it, waiting
the mandate to "gather the elect from the four winds of heaven--from the
one end of heaven to the other." Oh, wondrous day, when the long
dishonoured casket shall be raised a "glorified, body" to receive once
more the immortal jewel, polished and made meet for the Master's use!
See how Paul clings, in speaking of this glorious resurrection period,
to the expressive figure of his Lord before him--"Them also which SLEEP
in Jesus will God bring with Him!" _Sleep in Jesus!_ His saints fall
asleep on their death-couch in His arms of infinite love. There their
spirits repose, until the body, "sown in corruption" shall be "raised in
incorruption," and both reunited in the day of His appearing, become "a
crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand
of their God."

Weeping mourner! Jesus dries thy tears with the encouraging assurance,
"Thy dead shall live; together with My body they shall arise." Let thy
Lazarus "sleep on now and take his rest;" the time will come when My
voice shall be heard proclaiming, "Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in
dust." "The winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers
appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the
voice of the turtle is heard in the land. Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away." "Weep not! he is not dead, but sleepeth. Soon shall the
day-dawn of glory streak the horizon, and then I shall go that I may
awake him out of sleep!"

Beautifully has it been said, "Dense as the gloom is which hangs over
the mouth of the sepulchre, it is the spot, above all others, where the
Gospel, if it enters, shines and triumphs. In the busy sphere of life
and health, it encounters an active antagonist--the world confronts it,
aims to obscure its glories, to deny its claims, to drown its voice, to
dispute its progress, to drive it from the ground it occupies. But from
the mouth of the grave the world retires; it shrinks from the contest
there; it leaves a clear and open space in which the Gospel can assert
its claims and unveil its glories without opposition or fear. There the
infidel and worldling look anxiously around--but the world has left them
helpless, and fled. There the Christian looks around, and lo! the angel
of mercy is standing close by his side. The Gospel kindles a torch which
not only irradiates the valley of the shadow of death, but throws a
radiance into the world beyond, and reveals it peopled with the sainted
spirits of those who have died in Jesus."

Reader! may this calm departure be yours and mine. "Blessed are the dead
which die in the Lord. ... They REST." All life's turmoil and tossing is
over; they are anchored in the quiet haven. _Rest_--but not the rest of
annihilation--

    "Grave! the guardian of our dust;
       Grave! the treasury of the skies;
     Every atom of thy trust
       Rests in hope again to rise!"

Let us seek to have the eye of faith fixed and centred on Jesus _now_.
It is _that_ which alone can form a peaceful pillow in a dying hour, and
enable us to rise superior to all its attendant terrors. Look at that
scene in the Jehoshaphat valley! The proto-martyr Stephen has a pillow
of thorns for his dying couch, showers of stones are hurled by
infuriated murderers on his guiltless head, yet, nevertheless, he "fell
asleep." What was the secret of that calmest of sunsets amid a
blood-stained and storm-wreathed sky? The eye of faith (if not of sight)
pierced through those clouds of darkness. Far above the courts of the
material temple at whose base he lay, he beheld, in the midst of the
general assembly and Church of the First-born of Heaven, "JESUS standing
at the right hand of God." The vision of his Lord was like a celestial
lullaby stealing from the inner sanctuary. With _Jesus_, his last sight
on earth and his next in glory, he could "lay him down in peace and
sleep," saying, in the words of the sweet singer of Israel, "What time I
awake I am still with Thee."

    "It matters little at what hour o' the day
     The righteous falls asleep. Death cannot come
     To him untimely who is fit to die.
     The less of this cold world the more of heaven;
     The briefer life, the earlier immortality."--MILMAN.

"Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." This tells us that Christ forgets not the
dead. The dead often bury their dead, and remember them no more. The
name of their silent homes has passed into a proverb, "The land of
forgetfulness." But they are not forgotten by Jesus. That which sunders
and dislocates all other ties--wrenching brother from brother, sister
from sister, friend from friend--cannot sunder us from the living,
loving heart on the throne of heaven. His is a friendship and love
stronger than death, and surviving death. While the language of earth is

    "Friend after friend departs--
     Who hath not lost a friend?"

the emancipated spirit, as it wings its magnificent flight among the
ministering seraphim, can utter the challenge, "Who shall separate me
from the love of Christ?" The righteous are had with Him "in everlasting
remembrance." Their names "written among the living in Jerusalem;" yea,
"engraven on the palms of His hands."

One other thought.--Jesus had at first kindly and considerately
disguised from His disciples the stern truth of Lazarus' departure. "Our
friend sleepeth." "They thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in
sleep." They understood it as the indication of the crisis-hour in
sickness when the disease has spent itself, and is succeeded by a balmy
slumber--the presage of returning health; but now He says unto them
plainly, "Lazarus is dead." How gently He thus breaks the sad
intelligence! And it is His method of dealing still. He _prepares_ His
people for their hours of trial. He does not lay upon them more than
they are able to bear. He considers their case--He teaches by slow and
gradual discipline, leading on step by step; staying His rough wind in
the day of His east wind. As the Good Physician, He metes out drop by
drop in the bitter cup--as the Good Shepherd, His is not rough driving,
but gentle guiding from pasture to pasture. "He leadeth them out;" "He
goeth before them." He is Himself their sheltering rock in the "dark and
cloudy day." The sheep who are inured to the hardships of the mountain,
He leaves at times to wrestle with the storm; but "the _lambs_" (the
young, the faint, the weak, the weary) "He gathers in His arms and
carries in His bosom." He speaks in gentle whispers. He uses the
pleasing symbol of quiet slumber before He speaks plainly out the
mournful reality, "Lazarus is dead." Truly "He knoweth our frame--He
remembereth that we are dust." "Like as a father pitieth his children,
so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him!"

But let us resume our narrative, and follow the journey of the dead
man's "Friend." It is a mighty task He has undertaken; to storm the
strong enemy in his own citadel, and roll back the barred gates! In
mingled majesty and tenderness He hastens to the bereft and desolate
home on this mission of power and love. We left the sisters wondering at
His mysterious delay. Again and again had they imagined that at last
they heard His tardy step, or listened to His hand on the latch, or to
the loving music of His longed-for voice. But they are mistaken; it was
only the beating of the vine-tendrils on the lattice, or the footfall of
the passer by. The Lord is still absent! Their earnest and importunate
heart-breathings are expressed by the Psalmist--"O Lord our God, early
do we seek Thee: our soul thirsteth for Thee, our flesh longeth for Thee
in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see Thy power and Thy
glory, as we _have_ seen Thee." Be still, afflicted ones! He is coming.
He will, however, let the cup of anguish be first filled to the brim
that He may manifest and magnify all the more the might of His
omnipotence, and the marvels of His compassion. The thirsty land is
about to become streams of water. The sky is at its darkest, when, lo!
the rainbow of love is seen spanning the firmament, and a shower of
blessings is about to fall on the "_Home of Bethany_!"



VII.

LIGHTS AND SHADOWS.


The sounds of lamentation had now been heard for four days in the
desolate household.

In accordance with general wont, the friends and relatives of the
deceased had assembled to pay their tribute of respect to the memory of
a revered friend, and to solace the hearts of the disconsolate
survivors. They needed all the sympathy they received. It was now the
dull dead calm after the torture of the storm, the leaden sea strewn
with wrecks, enabling them to realise more fully the extent of their
loss. Amid the lulls of the tempest, while Lazarus yet lived, hope
shrunk from entertaining gloomy apprehensions. But now that the storm
has spent its fury, now that the worst has come, the future rises up
before them crowded with ten thousand images of desolation and sorrow.
The void in their household is daily more and more felt. All the past
bright memories of Bethany seem to be buried in a yawning grave.

We may picture the scene. The stronger and more resolute spirit of
Martha striving to stem the tide of overmuch sorrow. The more sensitive
heart of Mary, bowed under a grief too deep for utterance, able only to
indicate by her silent tears the unknown depths of her sadness.

Thus are they employed, when Martha, unseen to her sister, has been
beckoned away. "_The Master has come._" But desirous of ascertaining the
truth of the joyful tidings, ere intruding on the grief of Mary, the
elder of the survivors rushes forth with trembling emotion to give full
vent to her sorrow at the feet of the Great Friend of all the
friendless![11]

He has not yet entered the village. She cannot, however, wait His
arrival. Leaving home and sepulchre behind, she hastens outside the
groves of palm at its gate.

It requires no small fortitude in the season of sore bereavement to
face an altered world; and, doubtless, passing all alone now through the
little town, meeting familiar faces wearing sunny smiles which could not
be returned, must have been a painful effort to this child of sorrow.
But what will the heart not do to meet such a Comforter? What will
Martha be unprepared to encounter if the intelligence brought her be
indeed confirmed? One glance is enough. "_It is the Lord!_" In a moment
she is a suppliant at His feet. Doubt and faith and prayer mingle in the
exclamation, "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not
died!"[12]

That she had faith and assured confidence in the love and tenderness of
Jesus we cannot question. But a momentary feeling of unbelief (shall we
say, of reproach and upbraiding?) mingled with better emotions. "Why,
Lord," seemed to be the expression of her inner thoughts, "wert Thou
absent? It was unlike Thy kind heart. Thou hast often gladdened our home
in our season of joy--why this forgetfulness in the night of our bitter
agony? Death has torn from us a loved brother--the blow would have been
spared--these hearts would have been unbroken--these burning tears
unshed, if _Thou hadst_ been here!"

Such was the bold--the _unkind_ reasoning of the mourner. It was the
reasoning of a finite creature. Ah! if she could but have looked into
the workings of that infinite Heart she was ungenerously upbraiding, how
differently would she have broached her tearful suit!

_Her_ exclamation is--"Why this _unkind_ absence?"

_His_ comment on that _same_ absence to His disciples is _this_--"I was
_glad_ for your sakes that I was _not_ there!"

How often are _God_ and _man_ thus in strange antagonism, with regard to
earthly dispensations! Man, as he arraigns the rectitude of the Divine
procedure, exclaiming--"How unaccountable this dealing! How baffling
this mystery! Where is now my God?" This sickness--why prolonged? This
thorn in the flesh--why still buffeting? This family blank--why
permitted? Why the most treasured and useful life taken--the blow aimed
where it cut most severely and levelled lowest?

Hush the secret atheism! This trial, whatever it be, has this grand
motto written upon it in characters of living light;--we can read it on
anguished pillows--aching hearts--ay, on the very portals of the
tomb--"_This_ is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be
glorified thereby!"

At the very moment we are mourning what are called "_dark_
providences"--"untoward calamities"--"strokes of
misfortune"--"unmitigated evils"--Jesus has a different verdict;--"I am
_glad_ for your sakes."

The absence at Jordan--the still more unaccountable lingering for two
days in the same place after the message had been sent, instead of
hastening direct to Bethany, all was well and wisely ordered. And
although Martha's upbraidings were now received in forbearing silence,
her Saviour afterwards, in a calmer moment, read the rebuke--"Said I not
unto thee, if thou wouldst _believe_, thou shouldst see the glory of
God?"

It is indeed a comforting assurance in all trials, that God has some
holy and wise end to subserve. He never stirs a ripple on the waters,
but for His own glory, or the good of others. The delay on the present
occasion, though protracting for a time the sorrows of the bereaved, was
intended for the benefit of the Church in every age, and for the more
immediate benefit of the disciples.

_They_ were destined in a few brief weeks also to be desolate
survivors--to mourn a Brother dearer still! He who had been to them
Friend--Father--Brother, all in one, was to be, like Lazarus, laid
silent in a Jerusalem sepulchre. The Lord of Life was to be the victim
of Death! His body was to be transfixed to a malefactor's cross, and
consigned to a lonely grave! He knew the shock that awaited their faith.
He knew, as this terrible hour drew on, how needful some overpowering
visible demonstration would be of His mastery over the tomb.

_Now_ a befitting opportunity occurred in the case of their friend
Lazarus to read the needed lesson. "I was glad for your sakes, ... to
the intent ye might believe."

Would that we could feel as believers more than we do--that the dealings
of our God are for the strengthening of our faith, and the enlivening
and invigorating of our spiritual graces. Let us seek to accept more
simply in dark dealings the Saviour's explanation, "It is for _your_
sake!" He gives us a blank for our every trial, indorsing it with His
own gracious word, "This, _this_ is for the glory of God, that the Son
of God may be glorified thereby."

The words of Martha, then, surely teach as their great lesson, never to
be hasty in our surmises and conclusions regarding God's ways.

"Lord! IF Thou _hadst_ been here?" Could she question for a moment that
that loving eye of Omniscience had all the while been scanning that
sick-chamber--marking every throb in that fevered brow--and every tear
that fell unbidden from the eyes that watched his pillow?

"Lord! _if_ Thou hadst been here?" Could she question His ability, had
He so willed it, to prevent the bereavement altogether--to put an arrest
on the hand of death ere the bow was strung?

O faithless disciple, wherefore didst thou doubt? But thou art ere long
to learn what each of us will learn out in eternity, that "_all_ things
are for our sakes, that the abundant grace might, through the
thanksgiving of many, redound _to the glory of God_."

       *       *       *       *       *

But the momentary cloud has passed. Faith breaks through. The murmur of
upbraiding has died away. He who listens makes allowance for an
anguished heart. The glance of tender sympathy and gentleness which met
Martha's eye, at once hushes all remains of unbelief. Words of exulting
confidence immediately succeed. "But I know that even now whatsoever
Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee."

What is this, but that which every believer exults in to this hour, as
the sheet-anchor of hope and peace and comfort, when tossed on a
tempestuous sea--a gracious confidence in the ability and willingness of
Christ to save. The Friend of Bethany is still the Friend in Heaven. To
Him "all power has been committed;" "as a prince He has power with God,
and must prevail."

Yes, gracious antidote to the spirit in the moment of its trial; when
bowed down with anticipated bereavement; the curtains of death about to
fall over life's brightest joys. How blessed to lay hold on the
_perfect_ conviction that "the Ever-living Intercessor in glory has all
power to revoke the sentence if He sees meet"--that even _now_ (yes
_now_, in a moment) the delegated angel may be sent speeding from his
throne, to spare the tree marked to fall, and prolong the lease of
existence!

Let us rejoice in the power of this God-man Mediator, that He is as able
as He is willing, and as willing as He is able. "Him the Father heareth
always." "_Father, I will_," is His own divine _formula_ for every
needed boon for His people.

How it ought to make our sick-chambers and death-chambers consecrated to
prayer! leading us to make our every trial and sorrow a fresh reason for
going to God. Laying our burden, whatever it may be, on the mercy-seat,
it will be _considered_ by Him, who is too wise to grant what is better
to be withdrawn, and too kind to withhold what, without injury to us,
may be granted.

Let us imitate Martha's faith in our approaches to Him. Ah, in our dull
and cold devotions, how little lively apprehension have we of the
gracious _willingness_ of Christ to listen to our petitions! Standing as
the great Angel of the Covenant with the golden censer, His hand never
shortened--His ear never heavy--His uplifted arm of intercession never
faint. No variety bewildering Him--no importunity wearying Him--"waiting
to be gracious"--loving the music of the suppliant spirit.

Would that we had ever before us as the superscription of faith written
on our closet-devotions, and domestic altars, and public sanctuaries,
_whenever_ and _wherever_ the knee is bent, and the Hearer of prayer is
invoked--"I _know_ that even _now_ whatsoever _Thou_ wilt ask of God,
God will give it Thee."



VIII.

THE MOURNER'S COMFORT.


Martha's tearful utterances are now met with an exalted solace.

"_Thy brother shall rise again._" It is the first time her Lord has
spoken. She now once more hears those well-remembered tones which were
last listened to, when life was all bright, and her home all happy.

It is the self-same consolation which steals still, like celestial
music, to the smitten heart, when every chord of earthly gladness ceases
to vibrate. And it is befitting too that _Jesus_ should utter it. He
alone is qualified to do so. The words spoken to the bereaved one of
Bethany are words purchased by His own atoning work. "Thy brother--thy
sister--thy friend, shall rise again!"

This brief oracle of comfort was addressed, in the first instance,
specially to Martha. It had a primary reference, doubtless, to the vast
miracle which was on the eve of performance. But there were more hearts
to comfort and souls to cheer than one; that Almighty Saviour had at the
moment troops of other bereaved ones in view; myriads on myriads of
aching, bleeding spirits who could not, like the Bethany mourner, rush
into His visible presence for consolation and peace. He expands,
therefore, for their sakes the sublime and exalted solace which He
ministers to _her_. And in words which have carried their echoes of hope
and joy through all time, He exclaims--"I am the resurrection and the
life; he that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me shall never die!"

If Bethany had bequeathed no other "memory" than _this_, how its name
would have been embalmed in hallowed recollection! Truly these two brief
verses are as apples of gold in pictures of silver. "_Jesus, the
Resurrection and the Life._" Himself conquering death, He has conquered
it for His people--opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

The full grandeur of that Bethany utterance could not be appreciated by
her to whom it was first spoken. His death and resurrection was still,
even to His nearest disciples, a profound mystery. Little did that
trembling spirit, who was now gazing on her living Lord with tearful
eye, dream that in a few brief days the grave was to hold HIM, too, as
its captive; and that guardian angels were to proclaim words which would
now have been all enigma and strangeness, "The Lord is risen!" With us
it is different. The mighty deed has been completed. "Christ has died;
yea, rather has risen again!" The resurrection and revival of Lazarus
was a marvellous act, but it was only the rekindling of a little star
that had ceased to twinkle in the firmament. A week more--and Martha
would witness the Great Sun of all Being undergoing an eclipse; in a
mysterious moment veiled and shrouded in darkness and blood; and then
all at once coming forth like a Bridegroom from his chamber to shine the
living and luminous centre of ransomed millions!

Christians! we can turn now aside and see this great sight--death
closing the lips of the Lord of life--a borrowed grave containing the
tenantless body of the Creator of all worlds! Is death to hold that
prey? Is the grave to retain in gloomy custody that immaculate frame? Is
the living temple to lie there an inglorious ruin, like other crumbling
wrecks of mortality? The question of our eternal life or eternal death
was suspended on the reply! If death succeeds in chaining down the
illustrious Victim, our hopes of everlasting life are gone for ever. In
vain can these dreary portals be ever again unbarred for the children of
fallen humanity. He has gone there as their surety-Saviour. If his
suretyship be accepted--if He meet and fulfil all the requirements of an
outraged law, the gates of the dismal prison-house will and must be
opened. If, on the other hand, there be any flaw or deficiency in His
person or work as the Kinsman-Redeemer, then no power can snap the
chains which bind Him; the tomb will refuse to surrender what it has in
custody; the hopes of His people must perish along with Him! Golgotha
must become the grave of a world's hopes!

But the stone _has_ been rolled away. The grave-clothes are all that are
left as trophies of the conqueror. Angels are seated in the vacant tomb
to verify with their gladdening assurance His own Bethany oracle, "The
Lord has risen." "He is indeed the resurrection and the life; he that
liveth and believeth on Him shall never die!"

Yes! however many be the comforting thoughts which cluster around the
grave of Lazarus, grander still is it to gather, as Jesus Himself here
bids us, around His own tomb, and to gaze on His own resurrection scene!
It was the most eventful morning of all time. It will be the focus point
of the Church's hope and triumph through all eternity.

"The Lord is risen!" It proclaimed the atonement complete, sin pardoned,
mediation accepted, the law satisfied, God glorified! "The Lord is
risen!" It proclaimed resurrection and life for His people--life (the
forfeited _gift_ of life) now repurchased. That mighty victor rose not
for Himself, but as the representative and earnest of countless
multitudes, who exult in His death as their life--in His resurrection as
the pledge and guarantee of their everlasting safety;--"I am He that
liveth," and "because I live ye shall live also."

Anticipating His own glorious rising, He might well speak to Martha,
standing before Him as the representative of weeping, sinful, woe-worn
humanity, "He that liveth and believeth on Me shall never die." "_In
Me_, death is no longer death; it is only a parenthesis in life--a
transition to a loftier stage of being. _In Me_, the grave is the
vestibule of heaven, the robing-room of immortality!"

Reader, yours is the same strong consolation. "Believe," "Only believe"
in that risen Lord. He has purchased all, paid all, procured all! Look
into that vacant tomb; see sin cancelled, guilt blotted out, the law
magnified, justice honoured, the sinner saved!

Ay, and more than that, as you see the moral conqueror marching forth
clothed with immortal victory, you see Him not alone! He is heading and
heralding a multitude which no man can number. Himself the victorious
precursor, he is shewing to these exulting thousands "the _path_ of
life." He tells them to dread neither for themselves or others that
lonesome tomb. The curse is extracted from it; the envenomed sting is
plucked away. In passing through its lonesome chambers they may exult in
the thought that a mightier than they has sanctified it by His own
presence, and transmuted what was once a gloomy portico into a triumphal
arch, bearing the inscription, "O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave,
I will be thy destruction!"



IX.

THE MOURNER'S CREED.


How stands our faith?

These mighty thoughts and words of consolation--are they really
believed, felt, trusted in, rejoiced over?

Christian, "Believest _thou this_?"[13] Art thou really looking to this
exalted life-giving Saviour? Hast thou in some feeble measure realised
this resurrection-life as thine own? Hast thou the joyful consciousness
of participating in this vital union with a living Lord? In vain do we
listen to these sublime Bethany utterances unless we feel "_Jesus speaks
to me_," and unless we be living from day to day under their
invigorating power.

He had unfolded to Martha in a single verse a whole Gospel; He had
irradiated by a few words the darkness of the tomb; and now, turning to
the poor dejected weeper at his side, He addresses the all-important
question, "Believest thou _this_?"

Her faith had been but a moment before staggering. Some guilty
misgivings had been mingling with her anguished tears. She has now an
opportunity afforded of rising above her doubts,--the ebbings and
flowings of her fitful feelings,--and cleaving fast to the Living Rock.

It elicits an unfaltering response--"Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art
the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world."[14]

Remarkable confession! We should not so much have wondered to hear it
after the grave, hard by, had been rifled, and the silent lips of
Lazarus had been unsealed; or had she stood like the other Mary at her
Lord's own sepulchre in the garden, and after a few brief, but momentous
days and hours, seen a whole flood of light thrown on the question of
His Messiahship.

But as yet there was much to damp such a bold confession, and lead to
hesitancy in the avowal of such a creed. The poverty, the humiliations,
the unworldly obscurity of that solitary _One_ who claimed no earthly
birthright, and owned no earthly dwelling, were not all these,
particularly to a Jew, at variance with every idea formed in connexion
with the coming Shiloh?

Was Martha's then a blind unmeaning faith? Far from it. It was nurtured,
doubtless, in that quiet home of holy love, where, while Lazarus yet
lived, this mysterious Being, in an earthly form and in pilgrim garb,
came time after time discoursing to them often, as we are warranted to
believe, on the dignity of His nature, the glories of His person, the
completeness of His work. It was neither the evidence of miracle or
prophecy which had revealed to that weeping disciple that Jesus of
Nazareth was the Son of God. With the exception of Micah's statement
regarding Bethlehem-Ephratah as His birthplace, we question if any other
remarkable prediction concerning Him had yet been fulfilled; and so far
as miracles were concerned, though she may and must have doubtless known
of them by hearsay, we have no evidence that she had as yet so much as
witnessed _one_. We never read till this time of their quiet village
being the scene of any manifestations of His power. These had generally
taken place either in Jerusalem or in the cities and coasts of Galilee.
The probability, therefore, is that Martha, had never yet seen that arm
of Omnipotence bared, or witnessed those prodigies with which elsewhere
He authenticated His claims to Divinity.

_Whence then her creed?_ May we not believe she had made her noble
avowal mainly from the study of that beauteous, spotless character--from
those looks, and words, and deeds--from that lofty teaching--so unlike
every human system--so wondrously adapted to the wants and woes, the
sins, the sorrows, and aching necessities of the human heart. All this
had left on her own spirit, and on that of Lazarus and Mary, the
irresistible impression and evidence that he was indeed the Lord of
Glory--"the Hope of Israel, and the Saviour thereof."

And is it not the same evidence we exult in still? Is this not the
_reason_ of many a humble believer's creed and faith--who may be all
unlettered and unlearned in the evidences of the schools--the external
and internal bulwarks of our impregnable Christianity? Ask them why
they believe? why their faith is so firm--their love so strong?

They will tell you that that Saviour, in all the glories of His person,
in all the completeness of His work, in all the beauties of His
character, is the very Saviour they need!--that His Gospel is the very
errand of mercy suited to their souls' necessities;--that His words of
compassion, and tenderness, and hope, are in every way adapted to meet
the yearnings of their longing spirits. They need to stand by the grave
of no Lazarus to be certified as to His Messiahship. His looks and
tones--His character and doctrine,--His cures and remedies for the wants
and woes of their ruined natures, point Him out as the true Heavenly
Physician.

They can tell of the best of all evidences, and the strongest of
all--the _experimental_ evidence! They are no theorists. Religion is no
subject with them of barren speculation; it is a matter of inner and
heartfelt experience. They have tried the cure--they have found it
answer;--they have fled to the Physician--they have applied His
balm--they have been healed and live! And you might as well try to
convince the restored blind that the sunlight which has again burst on
them is a wild dream of fancy, or the restored deaf that the world's
joyous melodies which have again awoke on them are the mockeries of
their own brain, as convince the spiritually enlightened and awakened
that He who has proved to them light and life, and joy and peace--their
comfort in prosperity--their refuge in adversity--is other than the _Son
of God and Saviour of the world_!

Reader, is this your experience? Have you tasted and seen that the Lord
is gracious? Have you felt the preciousness of His gospel, the
adaptation of His work to the necessities of your ruined condition?--the
power of His grace, the prevalence of His intercession, the fulness and
glory and truthfulness of His promises? Are you exulting in Him as the
Resurrection and Life, who has raised you from the death of sin, and
will at last raise you from the power of death, and invest you with that
eternal life which His love has purchased?

Precious as is this hope and confidence at all times, specially so is
it, mourners in Zion! in your seasons of sorrow. When human refuges
fail, and human friendships wither, and human props give way, how
sustaining to have this "anchor of the soul sure and steadfast"--union
with a living Lord on earth, and the joyful hope of endless and
uninterrupted union and communion with Him in glory! Are you even now
enjoying, through your tears, this blessed persuasion, and exulting in
this blessed creed? Do you know the secret of that twofold solace, "the
power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings?"--the
"fellowship of His sufferings" telling of His sympathy with your sorrows
below;--the "power of His resurrection" assuring you of the glorious
gift of everlasting life in a world where sorrow dare not enter. Rest
not satisfied with a mere outward creed and confession that "Jesus is
the Saviour." Let yours be the nobler _formula_ of an appropriating
faith--"He is my Saviour; He loved ME, and gave Himself for ME." Let it
not be with you a salvation _possible_, but a salvation _found_; so
that, with a tried apostle, you can rise above the surges of deepening
tribulation as you glory in the conviction, "I _know_ in whom I _have_
believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have
committed unto Him."

Sad, indeed, for those who, when "deep calleth unto deep," have no such
"strong consolation" to enable them to ride out the storm; who, when
sorrow and bereavement overtake them--the lowering shadows of the dark
and cloudy day--have still to grope after an _unknown Christ_; and, amid
the hollowness of earthly and counterfeit comforts, have to seek, for
the first time, the _only_ true One.

Oh! if our hour of trial has not yet come, let us be prepared for
it--for come it will. Let us seek to have our vessels moored _now_ to
the Rock of Ages, that when the tempest arises--when the floods beat,
and the winds blow, and the wrecks of earthly joy are seen strewing the
waters--we may triumphantly utter the challenge, "Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ?"

                          "Say, ye who tempt
     The sea of life, by summer gales impell'd,
     Have ye this anchor? Sure a time will come
     For storms to try you, and strong blasts to rend
     Your painted sails, and shred your gold like chaff
     O'er the wild wave. And what a wreck is man,
     If sorrow find him unsustain'd by God!"



X.

THE MASTER.


Martha can withhold no longer from her sister the joyful tidings which
she has been the first to hear. With fleet foot she hastens back to the
house with the announcement, "The Master is come, and calleth for thee."
Mary hears, but makes no comment. Wrapt in the silence of her own
meditative grief, "when she heard that, she arose quickly and came unto
Him."

    "To her all earth could render nothing back
     Like that pale changeless brow. Calmly she stood
     As marble statue.

                       In that maiden's breast
     Sorrow and loneliness sank darkly down,
     Though the blanch'd lips breathed out no boisterous plaint
     Of common grief."

The formal sympathisers who gathered around her had observed her
departure. They are led to form their conjectures as to the cause of
this sudden break in her trance of anguish. She had up till that
moment, with the instinctive aversion which mourners only know, and
which we have formerly alluded to in the case of Martha, been shrinking
from facing the gladsome light of heaven, caring not to look abroad on
the blight of an altered world. But the few words her sister uttered,
and which the other auditors manifestly had not comprehended, all at
once rouse her from her seat of pensive sadness, and her shadow is seen
hurrying by the darkened lattice. They can form but one surmise: that,
in accordance with wont, she has betaken herself to the burial-ground to
feed her morbid grief "She goeth unto the grave to weep there." Ah!
little did they know how much nobler was her motive--how truer and
grander the solace she sought and found.

There is little that is really profitable or hallowed in visiting the
grave of loved ones. Though fond affection will, from some false feeling
of the tribute due to the memory of the departed, seek to surmount
sadder thoughts, and linger at the spot where treasured ashes repose,
yet--think and act as we may--there is nothing cheering, nothing
elevating _there_. The associations of the burial-place are all with the
humiliating triumphs of the King of Terrors. It is a view of death taken
from the _earthly_ entrance of the valley, not the _heavenly_ view of it
as that valley opens on the bright plains of immortality. The gay
flowers and emerald sod which carpet the grave are poor mockeries to the
bereft spirit, shrouding, as they do, nobler withered blossoms which the
foot of the destroyer has trampled into dust, and which no earthly
beauty can again clothe, or earthly spring reanimate. They are to be
pitied who have no higher solace, no better remedy for their grief, than
thus to water with unavailing tears the trophies of death; or to read
the harrowing record which love has traced on its slab of cold marble,
telling of the vanity of human hopes.

Such, however, was not Mary's errand in leaving the chamber of
bereavement. That drooping flower was not opening her leaves, only to be
crushed afresh with new tear-floods of sorrow. She sought _One_ who
would disengage her soiled and shattered tendrils from the chill
comforts of earth, and bathe them in the genial influences of Heaven.
The music of her Master's name alone could put gladness into her
heart--tempt her to muffle other conflicting feelings and hasten to His
feet. "_The Master is come!_" Nothing could have roused her from her
profound grief but this. While her poor earthly comforters are imagining
her prostrate at the sepulchre's mouth, giving vent to the wild delirium
of her young grief, she is away, not to the victim of death, but to the
Lord of Life, either to tell to Him the tale of her woe, or else to
listen from His lips to words of comfort no other comforter had given.
Is there not the same music in that name--the same solace and joy in
that presence still? Earthly sympathy is not to be despised; nay, when
death has entered a household, taken the dearest and the best and laid
them in the tomb, nothing is more soothing to the wounded, crushed, and
broken one, than to experience the genial sympathy of true Christian
friendship. Those, it may be, little known before (comparative
strangers), touched with the story of a neighbour's sorrow, come to
offer their tribute of condolence, and to "weep with those that weep."
Never is _true_ friendship so tested as then. Hollow attachments, which
have nothing but the world or a time of prosperity to bind them,
discover their worthlessness. "Summer friends" stand aloof--they have
little patience for the sadness of sorrow's countenance and the funereal
trappings of the death-chamber; while sympathy, based on lofty Christian
principle, loves to minister as a subordinate healer of the
broken-hearted, and to indulge in a hundred nameless ingenious offices
of kindness and love.

_But_ "thus far shalt thou go, and no farther." The purest and noblest
and most disinterested of earthly friends can only go a certain way.
Their minds and sympathies are limited. They cannot enter into the deep
recesses of the smitten heart--the yawning crevices that bereavement has
laid bare. _But_ JESUS _can_! Ah! there are capacities and sensibilities
in that Mighty Heart that can probe the deepest wound and gauge the
profoundest sorrow. While from the _best_ of earthly comforters the mind
turns away unsatisfied; while the burial-ground and the grave only
recall the deep humiliations of the body's wreck and ruin--with what
fond emotion does the spirit, like Mary, turn to Him who possesses the
majesty of Deity with all the tenderness of humanity. The Mighty Lord,
and yet the Elder Brother!

The sympathy of man is often selfish, formal, constrained, commonplace,
coming more from the surface than from the depths of the heart. It is
the finite sympathy of a finite creature. The Redeemer's sympathy is
that of the perfect Man and the infinite God--able to enter into all the
peculiarities of the case--all the tender features and shadings of
sorrow which are hidden from the keenest and kindliest _human_ eye.

Mary's procedure is a true type and picture of what the broken heart of
the Christian feels. Not undervaluing human sympathy, yet, nevertheless,
all the crowd of sympathising friends--Jewish citizens, Bethany
villagers--are nothing to her when she hears _her Lord has come_!

Happy for us if, while the world, like the condoling crowd of Jews, is
forming its own cold speculations on the amount of our grief and the
bitterness of our loss, we are found hastening to cast ourselves at our
Saviour's feet; if our afflictions prove to us like angel messengers
from the inner sanctuary--calling us from friends, home, comforts,
blessings, all we most prize on earth--telling us that ONE is nigh who
will more than compensate for the loss of all--"_The Master is come, and
calleth for thee!_"

It is the very end and design our gracious God has in all His dealings,
to lead _us_, as he led Mary, to the feet of Jesus.

Yes! thou poor weeping, disconsolate one, "The Master calleth for
_thee_." _Thee_ individually, as if thou stoodest the alone sufferer in
a vast world. He wishes to pour His oil and wine into thy wounded
heart--to give thee some overwhelming proof and pledge of the love he
bears thee in this thy sore trial. He has come to pour drops of comfort
in the bitter cup--to ease thee of thy heavy burden, and to point thee
to hopes full of immortality. Go and learn what a kind, and gentle, and
gracious Master He is! Go forth, Mary, and meet thy Lord. "Weeping may
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning!"

We may imagine her hastening along the foot-road, with the spirit of the
Psalmist's words on her tongue--"As the hart panteth after the
water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth
for God--for the living God!"



XI.

SECOND CAUSES.


With a bounding heart, Mary was in a moment at her Master's feet. She
weeps! and is able only to articulate, in broken accents, "Lord, if thou
hadst been here, my brother had not died." It is the repetition of
Martha's same expression. Often at a season of sore bereavement some one
poignant thought or reflection takes possession of the mind, and, for
the time, overmasters every other. This echo of the other mourner's
utterance leads us to conclude that it had been a familiar and
oft-quoted phrase during these days of protracted agony. This
independent quotation, indeed, on the part of each, gives a truthful
beauty to the whole inspired narrative.

The twin sisters--musing on the terrible past, gazing through their
tears on the vacant seat at their home-hearth--had been every now and
then breaking the gloomy silence of the deserted chamber by exclaiming,
"If _He_ had been here, this never would have happened! This is the
bitterest drop in our cup, that all might have been different! These hot
tears might never have dimmed our eyes; our loved Lazarus might have
been a living and loving brother still! Oh! that the Lord had delayed
for a brief week that untoward journey, or anticipated by four days his
longed-for return; or would that we had despatched our messenger earlier
for Him. It is now too late. Though He _has_ at last come, His advent
can be of little avail. The fell destroyer has been at our cottage door
before Him. He may soothe our grief, but the blow cannot be averted.
_His_ friend and _our_ brother is locked in sleep too deep to be
disturbed."

Ah! is it not the same unkind surmise which is still often heard in the
hour of bereavement and in the home of death?--a guilty, unholy brooding
over _second causes_. "If such and such had been done, my child had
still lived. If that mean, or that remedy, or that judicious caution had
been employed, this terrible overthrow of my earthly hopes would never
have occurred; that loved one would have been still walking at my side;
that chaplet of sorrows would not now have been girding my brows; the
Bethany sepulchre would have been unopened--'This my brother had not
died!'"

Hush! hush! these guilty insinuations--that dethroning of God from the
Providential Sovereignty of His own world--that hasty and inconsiderate
verdict on His divine procedure.

"IF _Thou_ hadst been here!" Can we, _dare_ we doubt it? Is the
departure of the immortal soul to the spirit-world so trivial a matter
that the life-giving God takes no cognisance of it? No! Mourning one, in
the deep night of thy sorrow, thou must rise above "untoward
coincidences"--thou must cancel the words "accident" and "fate" from thy
vocabulary of trial. God, _thy_ God, was _there_! If there _be_
perplexing accompaniments, be assured they were of _His_ permitting; all
was planned--wisely, kindly planned. Question not the unerring rectitude
of His dealings. Though _apparently_ absent, He was _really_ present.
The apparent veiling of His countenance is only what Cowper calls "the
severer aspect of His love." Kiss the rod that smites--adore the hand
that lays low. Pillow thy head on that simple, yet grandest source of
composure--"_The Lord reigneth!_" It is not for us to venture to dictate
what the procedure of infinite love and wisdom should be. To our dim and
distorted views of things, it might have been more for the glory of God
and the Church's good, if the "beautiful bird of light" had still "sat
with its folded wings" ere it sped to nestle in the eaves of Heaven. But
if its earthly song has been early hushed; if those full of promise have
been allowed rather to fall asleep in Jesus, "Even so, Father; for it
seems good in Thy sight!" It was from no want of power or ability on
God's part that they were not recalled from the gates of death. "We will
be dumb--we will open not our mouths, because _Thou_ didst it."

Afflicted one! if the brother or friend whom you now mourn be a brother
in glory--if he be now among the white-robed multitude--his last tear
wept--for ever beyond reach of a sinning and sorrowing world--can you
upbraid your God for his early departure? Would you weep him back if
you could from his early crown?

Fond nature, as it stands in trembling agony watching the ebbing pulses
of life, would willingly arrest the pale messenger--stay the
chariot--and have the wilderness relighted with his smile.

But when all is over, and you are able to contemplate, with calm
emotion, the untold bliss into which the unfettered spirit has entered,
do you not feel as if it were cruel selfishness alone that would denude
that sainted pilgrim of his glory, and bring him once more back to
earth's cares and tribulations?

    "We sadly watch'd the close of all,
       Life balanced in a breath;
     We saw upon his features fall
       The awful shade of death.
     All dark and desolate we were;
       And murmuring nature cried--
     'Oh! surely, Lord! hadst _Thou_ been here
       Our brother had not died!'

    "But when its glance the memory cast
       On all that grace had done;
     And thought of life's long warfare pass'd,
       And endless victory won.
     Then faith prevailing, wiped the tear,
       And looking upward, cried--
     'O Lord! Thou surely _hast_ been here,
       Our brother has _not_ died!'"

We have already had occasion to note the impressive and significant
silence of the Saviour to Mary. We may just again revert to it in a
sentence here. Martha had, a few moments before, given vent to the same
impassioned utterance respecting her departed brother. Jesus had replied
to her; questioned her as to her faith; and opened up to her sublime
sources of solace and consolation. With Mary it is different. He
responds to her also--but it is only in silence and in tears!

Why this distinction? Does it not unfold to us a lovely feature in the
dealings of Jesus--how He adapts Himself to the peculiarities of
individual character. With those of a bolder temperament He can argue
and remonstrate--with those of a meek, sensitive, contemplative spirit,
He can be silent and weep!

The stout but manly heart of Peter needed at times a bold and cutting
rebuke; a similar reproof would have crushed to the dust the tender soul
of John. The character of the one is painted in his walking on the
stormy water to meet his Lord; of the other, in his reclining on the
bosom of the same Divine Master, drinking sacred draughts at the
Fountain-head of love!

So it was with Martha and Mary, "the Peter and John of Bethany;" and so
it is with His people still.

How beautifully and considerately Jesus _studies_ their case--adapting
His dealings to what He sees and knows they can bear--fitting the yoke
to the neck, and the neck to the yoke. To some He is "the Lion of the
tribe of Judah, uttering His thunders"--pleading with Martha-spirits "by
terrible things in righteousness;"--to others (the shrinking, sensitive
Marys) whispering only accents of gentleness--giving expression to no
needless word that would aggravate or embitter their sorrows.

Ah, believer! how tenderly considerate is your dear Lord! Well may you
make it your prayer, "Let me fall into the hands of God, for great are
His mercies!" He may at times, like Joseph to His brethren, _appear_ to
"speak roughly," but it is dissembled _kindness_. When a father inflicts
on his wayward child the severest and harshest discipline, none but he
can tell the bitter heart-pangs of yearning love that accompany every
stroke of the rod. So it is with your Father in Heaven; with this
difference, that the earthly parent _may_ act unwisely, arbitrarily,
indiscreetly--he may misjudge the necessities of the case--he may do
violence and wrong to the natural disposition of his offspring. Not so
with an all-wise Heavenly Parent. He will inflict no redundant or
unneeded chastisement. Man _may_ err, _has_ erred, and _is_ ever
erring--but "as for God, His way is perfect!"



XII.

THE WEEPING SAVIOUR.


The silent procession is moving on. We may suppose they have reached the
gates of the burial-ground. But a new scene and incident here arrest our
thoughts!

It is not the humiliating memorials of mortality that lie scattered
around,--the caves and grottoes and grassy heaps sacred to many a
Bethany villager. It is not even the newly sealed stone which marks the
spot where Lazarus "sleeps." Let us turn aside for a little, and see
this great sight. It is the Creator of all worlds in tears!--the God-man
Mediator dissolved in tenderest grief! Of all the memories of Bethany,
this surely is the _most_ hallowed and the most wondrous. These tears
form the most touching episode in sacred story; and if we are in sorrow,
it may either dry our own tears, or give them the warrant to flow when
we are told--_Jesus wept!_

Whence those tears? This is what we shall now inquire. There is often a
false interpretation put upon this brief and touching verse, as if it
denoted the expression of the Saviour's sorrow for the loss of a loved
friend. This, it is plain, it could not be. However mingled may have
been the hopes and fears of the weeping mourners around him, _He_ at
least knew that in a few brief moments Lazarus was to be restored. He
could not surely weep so bitterly, possessing, as He then did, the
confident assurance that death was about to give back its captive, and
light up every tear-dimmed eye with an ecstasy of joy. Whence, then, we
again ask, this strange and mysterious grief? Come and let us surround
the grave of Bethany, and as we behold the chief mourner at that grave,
let us inquire why it was that "_Jesus wept!_"


(1.) JESUS WEPT _out of Sympathy for the Bereaved_.

The hearts around Him were breaking with anguish. All unconscious
of how soon and how wondrously their sorrow was to be turned into
joy, the appalling thought was alone present to them in all its
fearfulness--"Lazarus is dead!" When _He_, the God-man Mediator, with
the refined sensibilities of His tender heart, beheld the poignancy of
that grief, the pent-up torrent of His own human sympathies could be
restrained no longer. His tears flowed too.

But it would be a contracted view of the tears of Jesus to think that
two solitary mourners in a Jewish graveyard engrossed and monopolised
that sympathy. It had a far wider sweep.

There were hearts, yes--myriads of desolate sufferers in ages then
unborn, who He knew would be brought to stand as He was then doing by
the grave of loved relatives--mourners who would have no visible
comforter or restorer to rush to, as had Martha and Mary, to dry their
tears, and give them back their dead; and when He thought of this,
"_Jesus wept!_"

What an interest it gives to that scene of weeping, to think that at
that eventful moment, the Saviour had before Him the bereaved of _all
time_--that His eye was roaming at that moment through deserted
chambers, and vacant seats, and opened graves, down to the end of the
world. The aged Jacobs and Rachels weeping for their children--the
Ezekiels mourning in the dust and ashes of disconsolate widowhood, "the
desire of their eyes taken away by a stroke"--the unsolaced Marys and
Marthas brooding over a dark future, with the prop and support of
existence swept down, the central sun and light of their being
eclipsed in mysterious darkness! Think, (as you are now perusing
these pages,) throughout the wide world, how many breaking hearts
there are--how loud the wail of suffering humanity, could we but
hear it!--those written childless and fatherless, and friendless and
homeless!--Bethany-processions pacing with slow and measured step to
deposit their earthly all in the cold custody of the tomb! Think of the
Marys and Marthas who are now "going to some grave to weep there,"
perhaps with no Saviour's smile to gladden them--or the desolate
chambers that are now resounding to the plaintive dirge, "O Absalom,
Absalom, would God I had died for thee; O Absalom, my son! my son!"
Think of all these scenes at that moment vividly suggested and pictured
to the Redeemer's eye--the long and loud _miserere_, echoing dismally
from the remotest bounds of time, and there "entering into the ear of
the God of Sabaoth," and can you wonder that--_Jesus wept!_

Blessed and amazing picture of the Lord of glory! It combines the
delineation alike of the tenderness of His humanity, and the majesty of
His Godhead. His Humanity! It is revealed in those tear drops, falling
from a human eye on a human grave. His _Godhead_! It is manifested in
His ability to take in with a giant grasp all the prospective sufferings
of His suffering people.

Weeping believer! thine anguished heart was included in those Bethany
tears! Be assured thy grief was visibly portrayed at that moment to that
omniscient Saviour. He had all thy sorrows before Him--thy anxious
moments during thy friend's tedious sickness--the trembling
suspense--the nights of weary watching--the agonising revelation of "no
hope"--the closing scene! Bethany's graveyard became to Him a
picture-gallery of the world's aching hearts; and _thine_, yes! _thine_
was _there_! and as He beheld it, "_Jesus wept!_"

    "Jesus wept! These tears are over,
     But His heart is still the same;
     Kinsman, Friend, and Elder Brother,
     Is His everlasting name.

         Saviour, who can love like Thee,
         _Gracious_ One of Bethany!

    "When the pangs of trial seize us,
     When the waves of sorrow roll,
     I will lay my head on Jesus,
     Pillow of the troubled soul.

         Surely none can feel like Thee,
         _Weeping_ One of Bethany!

    "Jesus wept! And still in glory,
     He can mark each mourner's tear;
     Loving to retrace the story
     Of the hearts he solaced here.

         Lord! when I am call'd to die,
         Let me think of Bethany!

    "Jesus wept! That tear of sorrow
     Is a legacy of love;
     Yesterday, to-day, to-morrow,
     He the same doth ever prove.

         Thou art all in all to me,
         _Living_ One of Bethany!"


(2.) JESUS WEPT _when He thought of the triumphs of Death_!

He was treading a burial ground--mouldering heaps were around
Him--silent sepulchral caves, giving forth no echo of life!

It is a solemn and impressive thing, even for _us_, to tread the
graveyard; more especially if there are there nameless treasures of
buried affection. The thought that those whose smile gladdened to us
every step in the wilderness, who formed our solace in sorrow, and our
joy in adversity--whose words, and society, and converse were
intertwined with our very being--it is solemn and saddening, as we tread
that land of oblivion, to find these words and looks and tears
unanswered--a gloomy silence hovering over the spot where the wrecks of
worth and loveliness are laid! He would have a bold, a stern heart
indeed who could pace unmoved over such hallowed ground, and forbid a
tear to flow over the gushing memories of the past!

What, then, must it have been at that moment in Bethany with _Jesus_,
when he saw one of those purchased by his own blood (dearest to him)
chased by the unsparing destroyer to that gloomy prison-house?

If we have supposed that the tears of Martha and Mary were suggestive
of manifold other broken and sorrowing hearts in other ages, we may well
believe that graveyard was suggestive of triumphs still in reserve for
the tomb, numberless trophies which in every age were to be reaped in by
the King of Terrors until the reaper's arm was paralyzed, and death
swallowed up in victory. The few silent sepulchres around must have
significantly called to the mind of the Divine spectator how sin had
blasted and scathed His noblest workmanship; converting the fairest
province of His creation into one vast _Necropolis_,--one dismal "city
of the dead!" The body of man, "so fearfully and wonderfully made," and
on which he had originally placed His own impress of "very good,"
_ruined_, and resolved into a mass of humiliating dust! If the Architect
mourns over the destruction of some favourite edifice which the storm
has swept down, or the fire has wrapt in conflagration and reduced to
ashes--if the Sculptor mourns to see his breathing marble with one rude
stroke hurled to the ground, and its fragments scattered at his
feet--what must have been the sensations of the mighty Architect of the
human frame, at whose completion the morning stars and the sons of God
chanted a loud anthem--what must have been His sensations as He thought
of them, now a devastated wreck, mouldering in dissolution and decay,
the King of Terrors sitting in regal state, holding his high holiday
over a vassal world!

In Bethany He beheld only a few of these broken and prostrate columns,
but they were powerfully suggestive of millions on millions which were
yet in coming ages to undergo the same doom of mortality.

If even our less sensitive hearts may be wrung with emotion at the
tidings of some mournful catastrophe that occupies, after all, but some
passing hour in the world's history, but which has carried death and
lamentation into many households--the sudden pestilence that has swept
down its thousands--the gallant vessel that was a moment before
spreading proudly its white wings to the gale, the joyous hearts on
board dreaming of hearth and home, and the "many ports that would exult
in the gleam of her mast"--the next! hurrying down to the depths of an
ocean grave, with no survivor to tell the tale!--or the terrible
records of War--the ranks of bold and brave laid low in the carnage of
battle--youth and strength and beauty and rank and friendship blent in
one red burial!--if these and such like mournful tales of death, and the
power of death, affect at the moment even the most callous amongst us,
causing the lip to grow pale, and demanding the tribute of more than a
tear, oh! what must it have been to the omniscient eye and exquisitely
sensitive spirit of Jesus, as, taking in all time at a glance, He beheld
the Pale Horse with its ghastly rider trampling under foot the vast
human family; converting the globe in which they dwelt into a mournful
valley of vision, filled with the wrecks and skeletons of breathing men
and animated frames!

The triumphs of death are, in ordinary circumstances, to us scarcely
perceptible. He moves with noiseless tread. The footprint is made on the
sands of time; but like the tides of the ocean, the world's
oblivion-power washes it away. The name of yonder churchyard is "the
_land of forgetfulness_!" Not so with the Lord of Life, the great
Antagonist of this usurper! The future, a ghastly future, rose in
appalling vividness before Him.--Death (vulture-like) flapping his wings
over the multitudes he claimed as his own,--vessels freighted with
immortality lying wrecked and stranded on the shores of Time!

Yes! we can only understand the full import of these tears of Jesus, as
we imagine to ourselves His Godlike eye penetrating at that moment every
churchyard and every grave: the mausoleums of the great--the grassy sods
of the poor; the marble cenotaph of the noble and illustrious slumbering
under fretted aisle and cathedral canopy--the myriads whose requiem is
chanted by the bleak winds of the desert or the chimes of the ocean! The
child carried away in the twinkling of an eye--the blossom just opening,
and then frost-blighted; the aged sire, cut down like a shock of corn in
its season, falling withered and seared like the leaves of autumn; the
young exulting in the prime of manhood; the pious and benevolent, the
great and good, succumbing indiscriminately to the same inexorable
decree; the erring and thoughtless, reckless of all warning, hurried
away in the midst of scorned mercy--Oh! as He beheld this ghastly
funeral procession moving before Him, the whole world going to the same
long home, and He Himself alone left the survivor, can we wonder that
_Jesus wept_?


(3.) Once more, JESUS WEPT _when He thought of the impenitence and
obduracy of the human heart_.

This may not be at first sight patent as a cause of the tears of Jesus,
but we may well believe it entered largely as an element into this
strange flood of sorrow.

He was about to perform a great (His greatest) miracle; but while He
knew that, in consequence of this manifestation of His mighty power,
many of those who now stood around Lazarus' tomb would _believe_, He
knew also that others would only "despise, and wonder, and perish;" that
while some, as we shall afterwards find, acknowledged Him as the
Messiah, others went straightway into Jerusalem to concert with the
Pharisees in plotting His murder. When He observed the impenitence of
these obdurate hearts at His side, He could not subdue His tenderest
emotion. We read that, when He saw the sisters weeping, _and the Jews
that were with them weeping_, Jesus wept. These Jews could weep for a
fellow-mortal, but they could not weep for _themselves_, and therefore
_for them, Jesus wept_!

One soul was precious to Him. He who alone can estimate alike the worth
and the loss of the soul, might have wept, even had there been but one
then present found to resist His claims and forfeit His salvation. But
these tears extended far beyond that lonely spot in a Jewish village,
and the few impenitent hearts that were then flocking around. These
obdurate Jews were types of the world's impenitency. There was at that
moment summoned before Him a mournful picture of the hardened hearts in
every age--those who would read His gospel, and hear of His miracles,
and listen to the story of His love all unmoved--who would die as they
had lived, uncheered by His grace and unmeet for His presence.

Ah! surely no cause could more tenderly elicit a Redeemer's tears than
_this_--the thought of His Redemption scorned, His blood trampled on,
His work set at nought.

If we have thought of Him shedding tears over the ruin of the _body_,
what must have been the depth and intensity of those tears over the
sadder, more fearful ruin of the soul? Immortal powers, that ought to
have been ennobled and consecrated to His service, alienated, degraded,
destroyed!--immortal beings spurning from them the day of grace and the
hopes of heaven! Bitter as may have been the wail of mourning and
sorrowing hearts that may then have reached His ear from future ages,
more agonising and dismal far must have been the wailing cry which,
beyond the limits of time, came floating up from a dark and dreary
eternity; those who might have believed and lived, but who blasphemed or
trifled, neglected and procrastinated, and finally perished!

If we think of it, it is not the loss of health, or the loss of wealth,
or the loss of friends, which forms the heaviest of trials, the deepest
ground of soul sadness. _We_ put on the sable attire as emblems of
mourning; but if we saw it as a weeping Jesus sees it, there is more
real cause for sackcloth and ashes in the heart at enmity with God, and
despising His salvation, trampling under foot His Son, and enacting
over again the sad tragedy of Calvary.

Reader! are you at this moment guilty of living on in a state of
presumptuous impenitence--salvation unsought--Jesus a stranger--His name
unhonoured--His Bible unread--His promises unappropriated--His wrath
undreaded--defeating all His marvellous appliances of love, and
remonstrance, and forbearance--meeting a prodigal expenditure of
patience and long-suffering with cold and chilling indifference and
neglect--casting away from you the hoarded riches of eternity which He
has been holding out for your acceptance? In that sacred Bethany ground,
as ye mark these falling tear-drops which dim His eye, there may have
been a tear for _you_! Eighteen hundred years have since elapsed, but He
to whom "a thousand years are as one day," marked even _then_ your
present ungrateful apostacy or guilty alienation--there was a tear then
which stole down that cheek on account of unrequited love?

Is that tear to flow in vain? Are you to mock His tender sympathy still
with cold formalism, or persisted-in impenitency? Are you to think of
Bethany and its tear-drops and still go on in sin?

Ah, never was sermon preached to an erring or impenitent sinner half so
eloquent as _this_. Paul was not given to weeping, and it makes his
fervid love of souls all the more striking when we find him confessing
that he had wept like a child over those who were "enemies to the cross
of Christ." We have often felt Paul's burning tears over hardened
sinners to be touching and impressive. But what are they, after all, in
comparison with those of Paul's Lord?

He, the Great Sun of the World--the Sun of Righteousness, was to set in
a few brief days behind the walls of ungrateful Jerusalem in darkness
and blood--His last rays seem now lingering over the crest of
Olivet--His tears seem to tell that He has clung till He can cling no
more to the fond hope that an impenitent nation and guilty city will yet
turn at His reproof, believe and live.

And still does He linger among _us_. Though the night cometh, the beams
of mercy are still tardily lingering, as if loth to leave the
backsliding to their wanderings, or the impenitent to their own
midnight of despair.

O Reader! leave not _this_ subject--leave not the graveyard of Bethany
till you think of Jesus as then weeping for _thee_. Yes! for _thee_--thy
pitiable condition--thy perverse ingratitude--thy slighting of His
warnings--thy grieving of His spirit--thy unkindness to _Him_--thine
obstinate disregard of thine own everlasting interests. Let it be the
most wondrous and heart-searching of all the memories of Bethany, that
for thy soul--that traitor, truant, worthless soul--which like a stray
planet He might have suffered to drift away from Himself into the
blackness of eternal darkness--helpless, hopeless, ruined, lost!--Yes!
that for _thee_, JESUS WEPT!

    "And doth the Saviour weep
       Over His people's sin,
     Because we will not let Him keep
       The souls He died to win?
     Ye hearts that love the Lord,
       If at this sight ye burn,
     See that in thought, in deed, in word,
       Ye hate what made Him mourn."



XIII.

THE GRAVE STONE.


They have now reached the grave. It was a rocky sepulchre. A flat stone
(possibly with some Hebrew inscription) lay upon the mouth of it.

In wondering amazement the sorrowing group follow the footsteps of the
Saviour. "Behold how He loved him," whisper the Jews to one another as
they witness His fast falling tears. Can His repairing thus to the tomb
be anything more than to pay a mournful tribute to an honoured
friendship, and behold the silent home of the loved dead? Nay; He is
about, as the Lord of Life, to wrench away the swaddling-bands of
corruption, to vindicate His name and prerogative as the "Abolisher of
death"--to have the first-fruits of that vast triumph which, ages before
the birth of time, He had anticipated with longing earnestness--"I will
ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death.
O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction."

Does He proceed forthwith to speak the word, and to accomplish the giant
deed? He breaks silence. But we listen, in the first instance, not to
the omnipotent summons, but to an address to the bystanders--"_Jesus
said, Take ye away the stone!_"[15]

What need of this parenthesis in His mighty work? Why this summoning in
any feeble human agency when His own independent fiat could have
effected the whole? Would it not have been a more startling
manifestation of Omnipotence, by a mandate similar to that which chained
the tempests of Tiberias, or the demoniac of Gadara, to have hurled the
incumbent stone into fragments? Might not He who has "the keys of the
grave and of death" have Himself unlocked the portals preparatory to the
vaster prodigy that was to follow?

Nay, there was a mighty lesson to be read in thus delegating human hands
to remove the intervening barrier. The Church of the living God may, in
every age, gather from it instruction!

What, then, does the Saviour here figuratively, but significantly, teach
His people? Is it not the important truth that, though dependent on Him
for all they are, and all they have, they are not thereby released and
exempted from the use of _means_? He alone can bring back Lazarus from
his death-sleep. Martha and Mary may weep an ocean of tears, but they
cannot weep him back. They may linger for days and nights in that lonely
graveyard, making it resound with their bitter dirges, but their
impassioned entreaties will be mocked with impressive silence. Too well
do they know _that_ spirit is fled beyond their recall--the spark of
life extinguished beyond any earthly rekindling!

But though the word of Omnipotence can alone bring back the dead, human
hands and human efforts can roll away the interjacent stone, and prepare
for the performance of the miracle; and after the miracle _is_
performed, human hands may again be called in to tear off the cerements
of the tomb, to ungird the bandages from the restored captive, to
"loose him and let him go!"

This simple incident in the Bethany narrative admits of manifold
practical applications. Let us look to it with reference to the mightier
moral miracle of the Resurrection of the soul "dead in trespasses and
sins." Jesus, and Jesus alone, can awake that soul from the deep slumber
of its spiritual death, and invest it with the glories of a new
resurrection-life. In vain can it awake of itself; no human skill can
put animation into the moral skeleton. No power of human eloquence, no
"excellency of man's wisdom," can open these rayless eyes, and pour
life, and light, and hope into the dull caverns of the spiritual
sepulchre. "Prophesy to the dry bones!"--We may prophesy for ever--we
may wake the valley of vision by ceaseless invocations, but the dead
will hear not. No bone of the spiritual skeleton will stir, for it is
"not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."

But though it be a Divine work from first to last which effects the
spiritual regeneration of man, are we from this presumptuously to
disregard the use of means? Are prayer, and preaching, and human
effort, and strenuous earnestness in the work of our high calling, are
these all to be superseded, and pronounced unavailing and unnecessary?

Nay, though man cannot wake to life his dormant spiritual
energies--though these lie slumbering in the deep sleep of the sheeted
dead, and nothing but Lazarus' Lord can break the moral trance--yet _he
can use the appointed means_. He dare not be guilty of the monstrous
inconsistency and crime of willingly allowing impediments to stand in
the way of his spiritual revival which his own efforts may remove! He
cannot expect his Lord to sound over his soul the gladdening accents of
peace, and reconciliation, and joy, if some known sin be still lying,
like the superincumbent grave-stone, which it is in his power to roll
away, and at his peril if he suffer to remain!

Christ is alone the "abolisher of death," and the "giver of life;" but
notwithstanding this, "Roll ye away the stone!"--neglect not the means
He has appointed and prescribed. If ye neglect prayer, and despise
ordinances, and trifle with temptation, or venture on forbidden ground,
ye are only making the intervening obstacle firmer and faster, and
wilfully denuding yourselves of the gift of life. Naaman must plunge
seven times in Jordan, else he cannot be made clean. To cleanse
_himself_ of his leprosy he cannot, but to wash in Jordan _he can_. The
Israelite must gaze on the brazen serpent; he cannot of himself heal one
fevered wound, but to gaze on the appointed symbol of cure he can. In
vain can the engines of war effect a breach on the walls of Jericho; but
the hosts of Joshua can sound the appointed trumpet, and raise the
prescribed shout, and the battlements in a moment are in the dust.
Martha and Mary in vain can make their voices be heard in the "dull,
cold ear of death," but at their Lord's bidding they can hurl back the
outer portals where their dead is laid. They cannot unbind one fetter,
but they can open with human hand the prison-door to admit the Divine
Liberator.

Let it not be supposed that in this we detract in any wise from the
omnipotence of the Saviour's grace. God forbid! All is of grace, from
first to last--free, sovereign grace. Man has no more merit in salvation
than the beggar has merit in reaching forth his hand for alms, or in
stooping down to drink of the wayside fountain. But neither must we
ignore the great truth which God strives throughout His Word to impress
upon us, that He works by _means_, and that for the neglect of these
means we are ourselves responsible. Paul had the assurance given him by
an angel from heaven, when tossed in the storm in Adria, that not one
life in his vessel was to be lost; that though the ship was to be
wrecked, all her crew were to come safe to land. But was there on this
account any effort on his part relaxed to secure their safety? No! he
toiled and laboured at the pumps and rigging and anchors as
unremittingly as before; and when some of the sailors made the cowardly
attempt, by lowering a small boat, to effect their own escape, the voice
of the apostle was heard proclaiming, amid the storm, that unless they
abode in the ship none could be saved!

The true philosophy of the Gospel system is this, to feel as if much
depended on ourselves; but at the same time entertaining the loftier
conviction that _all_ depends upon God. Jesus, when He invites to the
strait gate, does not inculcate remaining outside, in a state of
passive and listless inaction, until the portals be seen to
move by the Divine hand. His exhortation and command rather is,
"Strive"--"knock"--_agonise_ to "enter in!" We are not to ascend to
heaven, seated, like Elijah, in a chariot of fire, without toil or
effort, but rather to "_fight_ the good fight of faith." The saying of
the great Apostle is a vivid portraiture of what the Christian's
feelings ought to be regarding personal holiness--"I laboured, ... yet
not I, but the grace of God which was with me."

As the Lord of Bethany gives the summons, "Roll ye away the stone," His
words seem paraphrased in this other Scripture, "Work out your own
salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you
both to will and to do of his good pleasure." You may feel assured that
He will not impose upon you one needless burden; He will not exact more
than He knows your strength will bear; He will ask no Peter to come to
Him on the water, unless He impart at the same time strength and support
on the unstable wave; He will not demand of you the endurance of
providences, and trials, and temptations you are unable to cope with;
He will not ask you to draw water if the well is too deep, or withdraw
the stone if too heavy. But neither, at the same time, will He admit as
an impossibility that which, as a free and responsible agent, it is in
your power to avert. He will not regard as your misfortune what is your
crime. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me."

Oh! let life be, more than it ever has been, one constant effort to roll
away the stone from the moral sepulchre--carefully to remove every
barrier between our souls and Jesus--looking forward to that glorious
day when the voice of the Restorer shall be heard uttering the
omnipotent "_Come forth!_" and to His angel assessors the mandate shall
be given regarding the thronging myriads of risen dead, "_Loose them and
let them go!_"



XIV.

UNBELIEF.


Man--short-sighted man--often raises impossibilities when God does not.
It is hard for rebellious unbelief to lie submissive and still. In
moments when the spirit might well be overawed into silence, it gives
utterance to its querulous questionings and surmisings rather than
remain obedient at the feet of Christ, reposing on the sublime aphorism,
"All things are possible to him that believeth." In the mind of Martha,
where faith had been so recently triumphant, doubt and unbelief have
begun again to insinuate themselves. This "Peter of her sex" had
ventured out boldly on the water to meet her Lord. She had owned Him as
the giver of life, and triumphed in Him as her Saviour! But now she is
beginning to sink. A natural difficulty presents itself to her mind
about the removal of the incumbent grave-stone. She avers how needless
its displacement would be, as by this time corruption must have begun
its fatal work. Four brief days only had elapsed since the eye of
Lazarus had beamed with fraternal affection. Now these lips must be
"saying to corruption, Thou art my father; to the worm, Thou art my
mother and my sister." Death, she felt, must now be stamping his
impressive mockery on that cherished earthly friendship, and, attired in
his most terrible insignia, putting the last fatal extinguisher on the
glimmerings of her faith and hope. "What need is there, Lord," she seems
to say, "for this redundant labour? My brother is far beyond the reach
even of a voice like Thine. Why excite vain expectations in my breast
which never can be realised? That grave has closed upon him for the 'for
ever' of time. Nothing now can revoke the sentence, or reanimate the
silent dust, save the trump of God on the final day."[16]

Thus blindly did Martha reason. She can see no other object her Redeemer
can have for the removal of the stone, save to gaze once more on a form
and countenance He loved. Both for His sake, and the strangers
assembled, she recoils from the thought of disclosing so humiliating a
sight.

Alas! how little are fitful frames and feelings to be trusted. Only a
few brief moments before, she had made a noble protestation of her faith
in the presence of her Lord. His own majestic utterances had soothed her
griefs, dried her tears, and elicited the confession that He was truly
the Son of God. But the sight of the tomb and its mournful
accompaniments obliterate for a moment the recollection of better
thoughts and a nobler avowal. She forgets that "things which are
impossible with men are possible with God." She is guilty of "limiting
the Holy One of Israel."

How often is it so with us! How easy is it for us, like Martha, to be
bold in our creed when there is nothing to cross our wishes, or dim and
darken our faith. But when the hour of trial comes, how often does
_sense_ threaten to displace and supplant the nobler antagonist
principle! How often do we lose sight of the Saviour at the very moment
when we most need to have Him continually in view! How often are our
convictions of the efficacy of prayer most dulled and deadened just
when the dark waves are cresting over our heads, and voices of unbelief
are uttering the upbraiding in our ears, "Where is now thy God?" But
will Jesus leave His people to their own guilty unbelieving doubts? Will
Martha, by her unworthy insinuations, put an arrest on her Lord's arm;
or will He, in righteous retribution for her faithlessness, leave the
stone sealed, and the dead unraised?

Nay! He loves His people too well to let their stupid unbelief and
hardness of heart interfere with His own gracious purposes! How tenderly
He rebukes the spirit of this doubter. "Why," as if He said, "Why
distrust me? Why stultify thyself with these unbelieving surmises. Hast
thou already forgotten my own gracious assurances, and thine own
unqualified acceptance of them. My hand is never shortened that it
cannot save; my ear is never heavy that it cannot hear. I can call the
things which are not, and make them as though they were. Said I not unto
thee, in that earnest conversation which I had a little ago outside the
village, in which Gospel faith was the great theme, if thou wouldst
believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?"

This Bethany utterance has still a voice,--a voice of rebuke and of
comfort in our hours of trial. When, like aged Jacob, we are ready to
say, "All these things are against me;" when we are about to lose the
footsteps of a God of love, or _have_ perhaps lost them, there is a
voice ready to hush into silence every unbelieving doubt and surmise.
"Although thou sayest thou canst not see Him, yet judgment is before
Him, therefore trust thou in Him." God often thus hides Himself from His
people in order to try their faith, and elicit their confidence. He puts
us in perplexing paths--"allures" and "brings into the wilderness,"
only, however, that we may see more of Himself, and that He may "speak
comfortably unto us." He lets our need attain its extremity, that His
intervention may appear the more signal. He suffers apparently even His
own promises to fail, that He may test the faith of His waiting
people;--tutor them to "hope against hope," and to find, in _unanswered_
prayers and baffled expectations, only a fresh reason for clinging to
His all-powerful arm, and frequenting His mercy-seat. He dashes first
to the ground our human confidences and refuges, shewing how utterly
"vain is the help of man;" so that faith, with her own folded, dove-like
wings, may repose in quiet confidence in His faithfulness, saying, "In
the Lord put I my trust: why say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your
mountain?"

Reader! It would be well for you to hear this gentle chiding of Christ,
too, in the moment of your _spiritual_ depression;--when complaining of
your corruptions, the weakness of your graces, your low attainments in
holiness, the strength of your temptations, and your inability to resist
sin. "_Said I not unto thee_," interposes this voice of mingled reproof
and love, "My grace is sufficient for thee?" "The bruised reed I will
not break, the smoking flax I will not quench." "Look unto _Me_, and be
ye saved, all the ends of the earth." We are too apt to look to
_ourselves_, to turn our contemplation _inwards_, instead of keeping the
eye of faith centered undeviatingly on a faithful covenant-keeping God,
laying our finger on every promise of His Word, and making the challenge
regarding each, "Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he
spoken, and shall he not bring it to pass?"

Yes; there may be much to try and perplex. Sense and sight may stagger,
and stumble, and fall; we may be able to see no break in the clouds;
"deep may be calling to deep," and wave responding to wave, "yet the
Lord will command his loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night
his song shall be with me." If we only "_believe_" in spite of unbelief;
hoping on, and praying on, and trusting on; like the great Father of the
faithful, in the midst of adverse providences, "strong in faith, giving
glory to God," He will yet cause the day-spring from on high to visit
us. Even in _this_ world perplexing paths may be made plain, and
slippery places smooth, and judgments "bright as the noonday;" but if
not _here_, there _is_ at least a glorious day of disclosures at hand,
when the reign of unbelieving doubt shall terminate for ever, when the
archives of a chequered past will be ransacked of their every
mystery;--all events mirrored and made plain in the light of eternity;
and this saying of the weeping Saviour of Bethany obtain its true and
everlasting fulfilment, "SAID I NOT UNTO THEE, IF THOU WOULDST BELIEVE,
THOU SHOULDST SEE THE GLORY OF GOD?"



XV.

THE DIVINE PLEADER.


The stone is rolled away, but there is a solemn pause just when the
miracle is about to be performed.

_Jesus prays!_ The God-Man Mediator--the Lord of Life--the Abolisher of
Death--the Being of all Beings--who had the boundless treasures of
eternity in His grasp--pauses by the grave of the dead, and lifts up His
eyes to heaven in supplication! How often in the same incidents, during
our Lord's incarnation, do we find His manhood and His Godhead standing
together in stupendous contrast. At His birth, the mystic star and the
lowly manger were together; at His death, the ignominious cross and the
eclipsed sun were together. Here He weeps and prays at the very moment
when He is baring the arm of Omnipotence. The "mighty God" appears in
conjunction with "the man Christ Jesus." "His name is Immanuel, God with
us."

The body of Lazarus was now probably, by the rolling away of the stone,
exposed to view. It was a humiliating sight. Earth--the grave--could
afford no solace to the spectators. The Redeemer, by a significant act,
shews them where alone, at such an hour, comfort can be found. He points
the mourning spirit to its only true source of consolation and peace in
God Himself, teaching it to rise above the mortal to the immortal--the
corruptible to the incorruptible--from earth to heaven.

Ah! there is nothing but humiliation and sadness in every view of the
grave and corruption. Why dwell on the shattered casket, and not rather
on the jewel which is sparkling brighter than ever in a better world?
Why persist in gazing on the trophies of the last enemy, when we can
joyfully realise the emancipated soul exulting in the plenitude of
purchased bliss? Why fall with broken wing and wailing cry to the dust,
when on eagle-pinion we can soar to the celestial gate, and learn the
unkindness of wishing the sainted and crowned one back to the nether
valley?

It is _Prayer_, observe, which thus brings the eye and the heart near to
heaven. It is _Prayer_ which opens the celestial portals, and gives to
the soul a sight of the invisible.

Yes; ye who may be now weeping in unavailing sorrow over the departed,
remember, in conjunction with the _tears_, the _prayers_ of Jesus. Many
a desolate mourner derives comfort from the thought--"Jesus wept."
Forget not this other simple entry in our touching narrative, telling
where the spirit should ever rest amid the shadows of death--"_Jesus
lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard
me. And I knew that Thou hearest me always._"[17]

Let us gather for a little around this incident in the story of Bethany.
It is one of the many golden sayings of priceless value.

That utterance has at this moment lost none of its preciousness; that
voice, silent on earth, is still eloquent in heaven. The Great
Intercessor still is there, "walking in the midst of the seven golden
candlesticks;" loving to note all the wants and weaknesses, the
necessities and distresses, of every Church, and every member of His
Church. What He said of old to Peter, He says to every trembling
believer--"I _have_ prayed, and _am_ praying for _thee_, that thy faith
fail not!" "For _thee_!" We must not merge the interest which Jesus has
in each separate member of His family, in His intercession for the
Church in general. While He lets down His censer, and receives into it,
for presentation on the golden altar, the prayers of the vast aggregate;
while, as the true High Priest, He enters the holiest of all with the
names of His spiritual Israel on His breastplate--carrying the burden of
their hourly needs to the foot of the mercy-seat;--yet still, He pleads,
as if the case of _each_ stood separate and alone! He remembers _thee_,
dejected Mourner, as if there were no other heart but thine to be
healed, and no other tears but thine to be dried. His own words,
speaking of believers, not collectively but individually, are these--"I
will confess _his_ name before my Father and his angels."[18] "_Who_
touched me?" was His interrogation once on earth, as His discriminating
love was conscious of some special contact amid the press of the
multitude,--"_Somebody_ hath touched me!" If we can say, in the language
of Paul's appropriating faith, "He loved _me_, and gave Himself for
_me_," we can add, He pleads for _me_, and bears _me_! He bears this
very heart of _mine_, with all its weaknesses, and infirmities, and
sins, before His Father's throne. He has engraven each stone of His Zion
on the "palms of His hands," and "its walls are continually before Him!"

How untiring, too, in His advocacy! What has the Christian so to
complain of, as his own cold, unworthy prayers--mixed so with
unbelief--soiled with worldliness--sometimes guiltily omitted or
curtailed. Not the fervid ejaculations of those feelingly alive to their
spiritual exigencies, but listless, unctionless, the hands hanging down,
the knees feeble and trembling!

But notwithstanding all, Jesus _pleads_! Still the Great Intercessor
"waits to be gracious." He is at once Moses on the mountain, and Joshua
on the battle-plain--fighting _with_ us in the one, praying _for_ us in
the other. No Aarons or Hurs needed to sustain His sinking strength, for
it is His sublime prerogative neither to "faint nor grow weary!" There
is no loftier occupation for faith than to speed upwards to the throne
and behold that wondrous Pleader, receiving at one moment, and at
_every_ moment, the countless supplications and prayers which are coming
up before Him from every corner of His Church. The Sinner just awoke
from his moral slumber, and in the agonies of conviction, exclaiming,
"What must I do to be saved?"--The Procrastinator sending up from the
brink of despair the cry of importunate agony.--The Backslider wailing
forth his bitter lamentation over guilty departures, and foul
ingratitude, and injured love.--The Sick man feebly groaning forth, in
undertones of suffering, his petition for succour.--The Dying, on the
brink of eternity, invoking the presence and support of the alone arm
which can be of any avail to them.--The Bereaved, in the fresh gush of
their sorrow, calling upon Him who is the healer of the broken-hearted.
But _all heard_! Every tear marked--every sigh registered--every
suppliant succoured. Amalek may come threatening nothing but
discomfiture; but that pleading Voice on the heavenly Hill is "greater
far than all that can be against us!" He pleads for His elect in every
phase of their spiritual history--He pleads for their inbringing into
His fold--He pleads for their perseverance in grace--He pleads for their
deliverance at once from the accusations and the power of Satan--He
pleads for their growing sanctification;--and when the battle of life is
over, He uplifts His last pleading voice for their complete
glorification. The intercession of Jesus is the golden key which unlocks
the gates of Paradise to the departing soul. At a saint's dying moments
we are too often occupied with the lower _earthly_ scene to think of the
_heavenly_. The tears of surrounding relatives cloud too often the more
glorious revelations which faith discloses. But in the muffled stillness
of that death-chamber, when each is holding his breath as the King of
Terrors passes by--if we could listen to it, we should hear the "Prince
who has power with God" thus uttering His final prayer, and on the
rushing wings of ministering angels receiving an answer while He is yet
speaking--"Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be
with me where I am, that they may behold my glory!"

Reader! exult more and more in this all-prevailing Advocate. See that ye
approach the mercy-seat with no other trust but in His atoning work and
meritorious righteousness. There was but _One_ solitary man of the whole
human race who, of old, in the Jewish temple, was permitted to speak
face to face with Jehovah. There is but ONE solitary Being in the vast
universe of God who, in the heavenly sanctuary, can effectually plead in
behalf of His Spiritual Israel. "Seeing, then, that we have a Great High
Priest passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, ... let us come
boldly to the throne of grace." If Jesus delights in asking, God
delights in bestowing. Let us put our every want, and difficulty, and
perplexity, in His hand, feeling the precious assurance, that all which
is really good for us will be given, and all that is adverse will, in
equal mercy, be withheld. There is no limitation set to our requests.
The treasury of grace is flung wide open for every suppliant. "Verily,
verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father _in my name_
He will give it you." Surely we may cease to wonder that the Great
Apostle should have clung with such intense interest to this elevating
theme--the Saviour's _intercession_;--that in his brief, but most
comprehensive and beautiful creed,[19] he should have so exalted, as he
does, its relative importance, compared with other cognate truths. "It
is Christ that died, _yea rather_, that is risen again, who is even at
the right hand of God, _who also maketh intercession for us_." Climbing,
step by step, in the upward ascent of Christian faith and hope, he seems
only to "reach the height of his great argument" when he stands on "_the
mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense_." _There_, gazing on the
face of the great officiating Priest who fills all heaven with His
fragrance, and feeling that against _that_ intercession the gates of
hell can never prevail, he can utter the challenge to devils, and
angels, and men, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"



XVI.

THE OMNIPOTENT SUMMONS.


The moment has now come for the voice of Omnipotence to give the
mandate. The group have gathered around the sepulchral grotto--the
Redeemer stands in meek majesty in front--the teardrop still glistening
in His eye, and that eye directed heavenward! Martha and Mary are gazing
on His countenance in dumb emotion, while the eager bystanders bend over
the removed stone to see if the dead be still there. Yes! _there_ the
captive lies--in uninvaded silence--attired still in the same solemn
drapery. The Lord gives the word. "_Lazarus come forth!_" peals through
the silent vault. The dull, cold ear seems to listen. The pulseless
heart begins to beat--the rigid limbs to move--_Lazarus lives_! He rises
girt in the swaddling-bands of the tomb, once more to walk in the light
of the living.

Where Scripture is silent, it is vain for us to picture the emotions of
that moment, when the weeping sisters found the gloomy hours of
disconsolate sorrow all at once rolled away. The cry of mingled wonder
and gratitude rings through that lonely graveyard,--"This our brother
was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!"

O most wondrous power--Death vanquished in his own territory! The
sleeper has awoke a moral Samson, snapping the withs with which the King
of Terrors had bound him. The star of Bethlehem shines, and the Valley
of Achor becomes a door of hope. The all-devouring destroyer has to
relinquish his prey.

Was the joy of that moment confined to these two bosoms? Nay! The Church
of Christ in every age may well love to linger around the grave of
Lazarus. In _his_ resurrection there is to His true people a sure pledge
and earnest of their own. It was the first sheaf reaped by the mower's
sickle anticipatory of the great Harvest-home of the Final day "when all
that are in their graves" shall hear the same voice and shall "come
forth."[20]

Solemn, surely, is the thought that that same portentous miracle
performed on Lazarus is one day to be performed on _ourselves_. Wherever
we repose--whether, as _he_ did, in the quiet churchyard of our native
village, or in the midst of the city's crowded cemetery, or far away
amid the alien and stranger in some foreign shore, our dust shall be
startled by that omnipotent summons. How shall we hear it? Would it
sound in our ears like the sweet tones of the silver trumpet of Jubilee?
Would it be to gaze like Lazarus on the face of our best friend--to see
_Jesus_ bending over us in looks of tenderness--to hear the living tones
of that same voice, whose accents were last heard in the dark valley,
whispering hopes full of immortality? True, we have not to wait for a
Saviour's love and presence till then. The hour of _death_ is to the
Christian the birthday of endless life. Guardian angels are hovering
around his dying pillow ready to waft his spirit into Abraham's bosom.
"The souls of believers do _immediately_ pass into glory." But the full
plenitude of their joy and bliss is reserved for the time when the
precious but redeemed dust, which for a season is left to moulder in the
tomb, shall become instinct with life--"the corruptible put on
incorruption, and the mortal immortality." The spirits of the just enter
at _death_ on "the inheritance of the saints in light;" but at the
_Resurrection_ they shall rise as separate orbs from the darkness and
night of the grave, each to "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of
their Father." However glorious the emancipation of the soul in the
moment of dissolution, it is not until the plains and valleys of our
globe shall stand thick with the living of buried generations--each
glorified body the image of its Lord's--that the predicted anthem will
be heard waking the echoes of the universe--"O death, where is thy
sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Then, with the organs of their
resurrection-bodies ennobled, etherealised, purified from all the
grossness of earth, they shall "behold the King in his beauty." "The
King's daughter," all glorious without, "all glorious within"--"her
clothing of wrought gold"--resplendent _without_ with the robes of
righteousness--radiant _within_ with the beauties of holiness--shall be
brought "with gladness and rejoicing," and "enter into the King's
palace." This will form the full meridian of the saints' glory--the
essence and climax of their new-born bliss--the full vision and fruition
of a Saviour-God. "When He shall appear, ... we shall see Him as He is!"
The first sight which will burst on the view of the Risen ones will be
_Jesus_! _His_ hands will wreath the glorified brows, in presence of an
assembled world, with the crown of life. From _His_ lips will proceed
the gladdening welcome--"Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"

But this will not exhaust the elements of bliss in the case of the
"perfected just" on the day of their final triumph. Though the presence
of their adorable Redeemer would be enough, and more than enough, to
fill their cup with happiness, there will be others also to welcome
them, and to augment their joy. Lazarus' Lord was not _alone_ at the
sepulchre's brink, at Bethany, ready to greet him back. Two loved
sisters shared the joy of that gladsome hour. We are left to picture for
ourselves the reunion, when, with hand linked in hand, they retraversed
the road which had so recently echoed to the voice of mourning, and
entered once more their home, radiant with a sunshine they had imagined
to have passed away from it for ever!

So will it be with the believer on the morning of the Resurrection.
While his Lord will be _there_, waiting to welcome him, there will be
others ready with their presence to enhance the bliss of that gladdening
restoration. Those whose smiles were last seen in the death-chamber of
earth, now standing--not as Martha and Mary, with the tear on their
cheek and the furrow of deep sorrow on their brow, but robed and radiant
in resurrection attire, glowing with the anticipations of an everlasting
and indissoluble reunion!

Can we anticipate, in the resurrection of Lazarus, our own happy
history? Yes! _happier_ history, for it will not _then_ be to come forth
once more, like _him_, into a weeping world, to renew our work and
warfare, feeling that restoration to life is only but a brief reprieve,
and that soon again the irrevocable sentence will and must overtake us!
Not like _him_, going to a home still covered with the drapery of
sorrow,--a few transient years and the mournful funeral tragedy to be
repeated,--but to enter into the region of endless life--to pass from
the dark chambers of corruption into the peace and glories of our
Heavenly Father's joyous _Home_, and "so to be for ever with the Lord!"

Sometimes it is with dying believers as with Lazarus. Their Lord, at the
approach of death, _seems_ to be absent. He who gladdened their homes
and their hearts in life, is, for some mysterious reason, away in the
hour of dissolution; their spirits are depressed; their faith
languishes; they are ready to say, "Where is now my God?" But as He
returned to Bethany to awake His sleeping friend, so will it be with all
his true people, on that great day when the arm of death shall be for
ever broken. If _now_ united to Him by a living faith,--loved by Him as
Lazarus was, and conscious, however imperfectly, of loving Him back in
return,--we may go down to our graves, making Job's lofty creed and
exclamation our own, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall
stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms
destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God."

One remark more. We have listened to the Omnipotent fiat,--"Lazarus,
come forth!" We have seen the ear of death starting at the summons, and
the buried captive goes free! Shall we follow the family group within
the hallowed precincts of the Bethany dwelling? Shall fancy pour her
strange and mysterious queries into the ear of him who has just come
back from that land "from whose bourne no traveller returns?" He had
been, in a far truer sense than Paul in an after year, in "_Paradise_."
He must have heard unspeakable and unutterable words, "which it is not
possible for a man to utter." He had looked upon the Sapphire Throne. He
had ranged himself with the adoring ranks. He had strung his harp to the
Eternal Anthem. When, lo! an angel--a "ministering one"--whispers in his
ear to hush his song, and speed him back again for a little season to
the valley below.

Startling mandate! Can we suppose a remonstrance to so strange a
summons? What! to be uncrowned and unglorified!--Just after a few sips
of the heavenly fountain, to be hurried away back again to the valley of
Baca!--to gather up once more the soiled earthly garments and the
pilgrim staff, and from the pilgrim rest and the victor's palm to
encounter the din and dust and scars of battle! What!--just after having
wept his final tear, and fought the last and the most terrible foe, to
have his eye again dimmed with sorrow, and to have the thought before
him of breasting a second time the swellings of Jordan!

"The Lord hath need of thee," is all the reply, It is enough! He asks no
more! That glorious Redeemer had left a far brighter throne and heritage
for _him_. Lazarus, come forth! sounds in his old world-home, whence his
spirit had soared, and in his beloved Master's words, on a mightier
embassy, he can say,--"Lo, I come! I delight to do thy will, O my God."

Or do other questions involuntarily arise? What was the nature of his
happiness while "absent from the body?" What the scenery of that bright
abode? Had he mingled in the goodly fellowship of prophets? Had he
conversed with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob? Was his spirit
stationary--hovering with a brotherhood of spirits within some holy
limit--or, was he permitted to travel far and near in errands of love
and mercy? Had Bethany been revisited during that mysterious interval?
Had he been the unseen witness of the tears and groans of his anguished
sisters?

But hush, too, these vain inquiries. We dare not give rein to
imagination where Inspiration is silent. There is a designed mystery
about the circumstantials of a future state. Its scenery and locality we
know nothing of. It is revealed to us only in its _character_. We are
permitted to approach its gates, and to read the surmounting
inscription,--"Without _holiness_ no man shall see the Lord." Further we
cannot go. Be it ours, like Lazarus, to attain a meetness for heaven, by
becoming more and more like Lazarus' Redeemer! "_We shall be_ LIKE HIM,"
is the brief but comprehensive Bible description of that glorious world.
Saviour-like _here_, we shall have heaven begun on earth, and lying down
like Lazarus in the sweet sleep of death, when our Lord comes, on the
great day-dawn of immortality, we shall be satisfied when we awake in
_His likeness_!

    "He that was dead rose up and spoke--He spoke!
       Was it of that majestic world unknown?
     Those words which first the bier's dread silence broke--
       Came they with revelation in each tone?
     Were the far cities of the nations gone,
       The solemn halls of consciousness or sleep,
     For man uncurtain'd by that spirit lone,
       Back from the portal summon'd o'er the deep?
     Be hush'd, my soul! the veil of darkness lay
       Still drawn; therefore thy Lord called back the voice departed,
       To spread His truth, to comfort the weak-hearted;
     Not to reveal the mysteries of its way.
       Oh! I take that lesson home in silent faith;
       Put on submissive strength to _meet_, not _question_ DEATH."



XVII.

THE BOX OF OINTMENT.


Once more we visit in thought a peaceful and happy home-scene in the
same Bethany household. The severed links in that broken chain are again
united.

How often in a time of severe bereavement, when some "light of the
dwelling" has suddenly been extinguished, does the imagination fondly
dwell on the possibility of the wild dream of separation passing away;
of the vacant seat being refilled by its owner the "loved and lost one"
again restored. Alas! in all such cases, it is but a feverish vision,
destined to know no fulfilment. Here, however, it was indeed a happy
reality. "Lazarus is dead!" was the bitter dirge a few brief weeks ago;
but now, "Lazarus lives." His silent voice is heard again--his dull eye
is lighted again--the temporary pang of separation is only remembered
to enhance the joy of so gladsome a reunion.

It was on a Sabbath evening, the last Sabbath but one of the waning
Jewish dispensation, when Spring's loveliness was carpeting the Mount of
Olives and clothing with fresh verdure the groves around Bethany, that
our blessed Redeemer was seen approaching the haunt of former
friendship. He had for two months taken shelter from the malice of the
Sanhedrim in the little town of Ephraim and the mountainous region of
Perea, on the other side of the Jordan. But the Passover solemnity being
at hand, and his own hour having come, he had "set His face steadfastly
to go to Jerusalem." It is more than probable that for several days He
had been travelling in the company of other pilgrims coming from Galilee
on their way to the feast. He seems, however, to have left the festival
caravan at Jericho, lingering behind with his own disciples in order to
secure a private approach to the city of solemnities. They were
completing their journey on the Sabbath referred to just as the sun was
sinking behind the brow of Olivet, and, turning aside from the highway,
they spent the night in their old Bethany retreat. Befitting tranquil
scene for His closing Sabbath--a happy preparation for a season of trial
and conflict! It is well worthy of observation, how, as His saddest
hours were drawing near--the shadow of His cross projected on His
path--Bethany becomes more and more endeared to Him. Night after night,
during this memorable week, we shall find Him resorting to its cherished
seclusion. As the storm is fast gathering, the vessel seeks for shelter
in its best loved haven.[21]

Imagine the joy with which the announcement would be received by the
inmates--"Our Lord and Redeemer is once more approaching." Imagine how
the great Conqueror of death would be welcomed into the home consecrated
alike by His love and power. Now every tear dried! The weeping that
endured for the long night of bereavement all forgotten. Ah! if Jesus
were loved before in that happy home, how, we may well imagine, would
He be adored and reverenced now. What a new claim had He established on
their deepest affection and regard. Feelingly alive to all they owed
Him, the restored brother and rejoicing sisters with hearts overflowing
with gratitude could say, in the words of their Psalmist King--"Thou
hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness, to the end that
my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I
will give thanks unto thee for ever!"

But does the love and affection of that household find expression in
nothing but words? Supper is being made ready. While Martha, with her
wonted activity, is busied preparing the evening meal--doing her best to
provide for the refreshment of the travellers--the gentle spirit of Mary
(even if her name had not been given, we should have known it was she)
prompts her to a more significant proof of the depth of her gratitude.
Some fragrant ointment of spikenard--contained, as we gather from the
other Evangelists, in a box of Alabaster--had been procured by her at
great cost;[22] either obtained for this anticipated meeting with her
Lord, or it may in some way have fallen into her possession, and been
sacredly kept among her treasured gifts till some befitting occasion
occurred for its employment. Has not that occasion occurred now? On whom
can her grateful heart more joyously bestow this garnered treasure than
on her beloved Lord. With her own hands she pours it on His feet.
Stooping down, she wipes them, in further token of her devotion, with
her loosened tresses, till the whole apartment was filled with the sweet
perfume.

And what was it that constituted the value of this tribute--the beauty
and expressiveness of the action? _She gave her Lord the best thing she
had!_ She felt that to Him, in addition to what He had done for her own
soul, she owed the most valued life in the world.

    "Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
       Nor other thought her mind admits;
       But, he was dead, and there he sits,
     And He that brought him back is there.

    "Then one deep love doth supersede
       All other, when her ardent gaze
       Roves from the living brother's face
     And rests upon the Life indeed.

    "All subtle thought, all curious fears,
       Borne down by gladness so complete;
       She bows, she bathes the Saviour's feet
     With costly spikenard and with tears."[23]

What a lesson for us! Are we willing to give our Lord the best of what
we have--to consecrate time, talents, strength, life, to His service?
Not as many, to give Him the mere dregs and sweepings of existence--the
wrecks of a "worn and withered love"--but, like Mary, anxious to take
every opportunity and occasion of testifying the depth of obligation
under which we are laid to Him? Let us not say--"My sphere is lowly, my
means are limited, my best offerings would be inadequate." Such,
doubtless, were the very feelings of that humble, diffident, yet loving
one, as she crept noiselessly to where her pilgrim-Lord reclined, and
lavished on His weary limbs the costliest treasure she possessed.
Hundreds of more imposing deeds--more princely and munificent
offerings--may have been left unrecorded by the Evangelists; but
"wherever this Gospel shall be preached, in the whole world, there shall
also this that this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her."[24]

Would that love to "that same Jesus" were with all of us more paramount
than it is! "Lovest thou Me _more than these_" is His own searching test
and requirement. Is it so?--Do we love Him more than self or sin--more
than friends or home--more than any earthly object or earthly good; and
are we willing, if need be, to make a sacrifice for His glory and for
the honour of His cause? Happy for us if it be so. There will be a joy
in the very consciousness of making the effort, feeble and unworthy as
it may be, for His sake, and in acknowledgment of the great love
wherewith He hath loved us.

    "Thrice blest, whose lives are faithful prayers,
       Whose loves in higher Love endure;
       Whose souls possess themselves so pure,
     Or is there blessedness like theirs?"

Let it be our privilege and delight to give Him our pound of spikenard,
whatever that may be; and if we can give no other, let us offer the
fragrant perfume of holy hearts and holy lives. _That_ religion is
always best which reveals itself by its effects--by kindness,
gentleness, amiability, unselfishness, flowing from a principle of
grateful love to Him who, though unseen, has been to us as to the family
of Bethany--Friend, and Help, and Guide, and Portion. Mary's honour was
great to anoint her Lord, but the lowliest and humblest of His people
may do the same. We may have no aromatic offering, neither "gold, nor
frankincense, nor myrrh;" but My son, My daughter, "give Me thine
heart." "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a
contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

Nor ought we to forget our blessed Lord's reply, when Judas objected to
the waste of the ointment--"Let her alone; ... the poor ye have always
with you, _but Me ye have not always_." Let us seek to make the most of
our Lord's visits while we have Him. The visits of Jesus to Bethany were
soon to be over;--so also with us. He will not always linger on our
thresholds, if our souls refuse to receive Him, or yield Him nothing but
coldness and ingratitude in return for His love. "Me ye have not
always." Soon may sickness incapacitate for active service! Soon may
opportunities for doing good be gone, and gone for ever! Soon may death
overtake us, and the alabaster box be left behind, unused and
unemployed; the dying regret on our lips--"Oh that I had done more while
I lived for this most precious Saviour! but opportunities of testifying
my gratitude to Him are now gone beyond recall." Good deeds performed on
Gospel motives, though unknown and unvalued by the world, will not go
unrecompensed or unowned by Him who values the cup of cold water given
in His name. "God is not unmindful to forget our work of faith and our
labour of love." The Lamb's Book of Life registers every such deed of
lowly piety; and on the Great Day of account "it shall be produced to
our eternal honour, and rewarded with a reward of grace; though not of
debt."

Let us bear in mind, also, that every holy service of unostentatious
love exercises a hallowed influence on those around us. We may not be
conscious of such. But, if Christians indeed, the sphere in which we
move will, like the Bethany home, be redolent with the ointment perfume.
A holy life is a silent witness for Jesus--an incense-cloud from the
heart-altar, breathing odours and sweet spices, of which the world
cannot fail to take knowledge. Yes! were we to seek for a beautiful
allegorical representation of pure and undefiled Religion, we would find
it in this loveliest of inspired pictures. Mary--all silent and
submissive at the feet of her Lord--only permitting her love to be
disclosed by the holy perfume which, unknown to herself, revealed to
others the reality and intensity of her love. True religion is quiet,
unobtrusive, seeking the shade--its ever-befitting attitude at the feet
of Jesus, looking to Him as all in all. Yet, though retiring, it _must_
and _will_ manifest its living and influential power. The heart broken
at the cross, like Mary's broken box, begins from that hour to give
forth the hallowed perfume of faith, and love, and obedience, and every
kindred grace. Not a fitful and vacillating love and service, but _ever_
emitting the fragrance of holiness, till the little world of home
influence around us is filled with the odour of the ointment.

    "I ask Thee for the daily strength,
       To none that ask denied;
     And a mind to blend with outward life,
       While keeping by Thy side;
     Content to fill a little space
       If Thou be glorified.

    "And if some things I do not ask
       In my cup of blessings be,
     I would have my spirit fill'd the more
       With grateful love to Thee--
     More careful not to serve Thee _much_,
       But to please Thee perfectly."

Such is a brief sketch of this beautiful domestic scene, and its main
practical lessons,--a green spot on which the eye will ever love to
repose, among the "Memories of Bethany." It is unnecessary to advert to
the controverted question, as to whether the description of the
anointing, which took place in the house of Simon the leper (as recorded
in Matt. xxvi. 6-14, and Mark xiv. 3), and where the alabaster box is
spoken of, be identical with this passage, or whether they refer to two
distinct occasions. The question is of no great importance in
itself--the former view (that they are descriptions of one and the same
event) seems the more probable. It surely gives a deep intensity to the
interest of the narrative to imagine the Leper and the raised dead man,
seated at the same table together with their common Deliverer,
glorifying their Saviour-God, with bodies and spirits they felt now to
be doubly _His_! Simon, it is evident, must have been cured of his
disease, else, by the Jewish law, he dared not have been associating
with his friends at a common meal. How was he cured? How else may we
suppose was that inveterate malady subdued but by the omnipotent word of
_Him_, who had only to say,--"I will, be thou made whole!" May we not
regard him as a standing miracle of Jesus' power over the diseased body,
as Lazarus was the living trophy of His power over death and the grave.
The one could testify,--"This poor man cried, and the Lord saved him,
and delivered him out of all his troubles." The other,--"Unless the Lord
had been my help, my soul must now have dwelt in silence!"

In order to explain the circumstance of this family meeting being in the
house of _Simon_, there have not been wanting advocates for the
supposition, that the restored leper may have been none other than the
_parent_ of the household.[25] It is not for us to hazard conjectures,
where Scripture has thrown no light. Even when sanctioned by venerated
names, the most plausible hypothesis should be received with that
caution requisite in dealing with what is supported exclusively by
traditional authority. Were, however, such a view as we have indicated
correct (which is just possible, and there is nothing in the face of the
narrative to render it _improbable_), it certainly would impart a new
and fresh beauty to the picture of this Feast of gratitude. Well might
the _parent's_ heart swell within him with more than ordinary emotions!
_Himself_ plucked a victim from the most loathsome of diseases! He
would think, with tearful eye, of the dark dungeon of his
banishment--the lazar-house, where he had been gloomily excluded from
all fellowship with human sympathies and loving hearts. His own children
condemned by a severe but righteous necessity to shun his presence--or
when within sound of human footfall or human voice, compelled to make
known his presence with the doleful utterance,--"Unclean! Unclean!" He
would think of that wondrous moment in his history, when, shunned by
_man_, the GOD-MAN drew near to him, and with one glance of His love,
and one utterance of His power, He bade the foul disease for ever away!

Nor was this all that Simon (if he _were_, indeed, the father of the
family) must have felt. What must have been those emotions, too deep for
utterance, as he gazed on the son of his affections, seated once more by
his side! A short time ago, Lazarus had been laid silent in the
adjoining sepulchre--Death had laid his cold hand upon him--the pride of
his home had been swept down. But the same Almighty friend who had
caused his own leprosy to depart, had given him back his lost one. They
were rejoicing together in the presence of Him to whom they owed life
and all its blessings. Oh, well might "the voice of rejoicing and
salvation be heard in the tabernacles of these righteous!" Well might
the head of the household dictate to Mary to "bring forth their best"
and bestow it on their Deliverer--the costliest gift which the dwelling
contained--the prized and valued box of alabaster, and pour its contents
on His feet! We can imagine the burden, if not the words, of their joint
anthem of praise,--"Bless the Lord, O our souls, and forget not all his
benefits, who forgiveth all our iniquities, who healeth all our
diseases, who redeemeth our lives from destruction, and crowneth us with
loving-kindness and with tender mercy."

But be all this as it may, that same great Physician of Souls still
waits to be gracious. He healeth ALL our diseases. Young and old, rich
and poor, every type of spiritual malady has in Him and His salvation
its corresponding cure. The same Lord is rich to all that call upon Him.
The ardent Martha, the contemplative Mary, the aged Simon, Lazarus the
loving and beloved--He has proved friend, and help, and Saviour to
_all_; and in their several ways they seek to give expression to the
depth of their gratitude. Happy home! may there be many such amongst us!
Fathers, brothers, sisters, "loving one another with a pure heart
fervently," and loving Jesus more than all--and themselves in Jesus!
Seeking to have _Him_ as the ever-welcomed guest of their
dwelling--feeling that all they _have_, and all they _are_, for time or
for eternity, they owe to _Him_ who has "brought them out of the
horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set their feet upon a rock,
and established their goings, and put a new song in their mouth, even
praise unto our God!"

Yes! having the Lord, we have what is better and more enduring than the
best of earthly ties and earthly homes. This must have been impressed
with peculiar force on aged John, as in distant Ephesus he penned the
memories of this evening feast. Where were _then_ all its guests?--the
recovered leper, the risen Lazarus, the devout sisters, the ardent
disciples--all _gone_!--none but himself remained to tell the touching
story. _Nay_, _not_ all!--ONE remained amid this wreck of buried
friendship--the adorable Being who had given to that Bethany feast all
its imperishable interest was still within him and about him. The rocky
shores of Patmos, and the groves around Ephesus, echoed to the
well-remembered tones of the same voice of love. His _best Friend_ was
still left to take loneliness from his solitude. He writes as if he were
still reclining on that sacred bosom--"Truly our fellowship is with the
Father and with his Son Jesus Christ!"

Reader! take "that same Jesus" now as your Friend--receive Him as the
guest of your soul; and when other guests and other friendships are
vanished and gone, and you may be left like John, as the alone survivor
of a buried generation;--"alone! you will yet be _not_ alone!"--lifting
your furrowed brow and tearful eye to Heaven, you may exclaim, "Who
shall separate me from the love of Christ?"



XVIII.

PALM BRANCHES.


We have just been contemplating a beautiful episode in the Bethany
Memories--a gleam amid gathering clouds. _Martha_, _Mary_, and
_Lazarus_! With what happy hearts did they hail the presence of their
Lord on the evening of that Jewish Sabbath! Little did they anticipate
the events impending. Little did they dream that their Almighty
Deliverer and Friend would that day week be sleeping in His own grave!

These were indeed eventful hours on which they had now entered. The stir
through Palestine of the thousands congregating in the earthly Jerusalem
to the great Paschal Feast, was but a feeble type of the profound
interest with which myriad angel-worshippers in the Jerusalem above were
gathering to witness the offering of the True Paschal Sacrifice, "the
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."

On the morning after the supper at Bethany (probably that of our
Sabbath), the Saviour rose from His couch of needed rest to approach
Jerusalem. The reserve hitherto maintained as to His kingly power is now
to be set aside. "The hour is come in which the Son of man is to be
glorified." BETHANY is one of the few places associated with
recollections of the Redeemer's royalty. The "despised and rejected" is,
for once, the honoured and exalted. It is a glimpse of the crown before
He ascends the cross; a foreshadowing of that blessed period when He
shall be hailed by the loud acclaim of earth's nations--the Gentile
hosannah mingling with the Hebrew hallelujah in welcoming Him to the
throne of universal empire.

Multitudes of the assembled pilgrims in the city, who had heard of His
arrival, crowded out to Bethany to witness the mysterious Being, whose
deeds of mercy and miracle had now become the universal theme of
converse. His mightiest prodigy of power in the resurrection of Lazarus
had invested His name and person with surpassing interest. We need not
wonder, therefore, that "the town of Mary and her sister Martha" should
attract many worshippers from Jerusalem, to behold with their own eyes
at once the restored villager and his Divine Deliverer! In fulfilment of
Zechariah's prophecy, the meek and lowly Nazarene, seated on no
caparisoned war-horse, but on an unbroken colt, and surrounded with the
multitude, sets forth on His journey.[26] "The village and the desert
were then all alive (as they still are once every year at the Greek
Easter) with the crowd of Paschal pilgrims moving to and fro between
Bethany and Jerusalem. ... Three pathways lead, and probably always led,
from Bethany; ... one a long circuit over the northern shoulder of Mount
Olivet, down the valley which parts it from Scopus; another, a steep
footpath over the summit; the third, the natural continuation of the
road by which mounted travellers always approach the city from Jericho,
over the southern shoulder between the summit which contains the Tombs
of the Prophets, and that called the 'Mount of Offence.' There can be no
doubt that this last is the road of the entry of Christ, not only
because, as just stated, it is, and must always have been, the usual
approach for horsemen and for large caravans such as then were
concerned, but also because this is the only one of the three approaches
which meets the requirements of the narrative which follows. ... This is
the only one approach which is really grand. It is the approach by which
the army of Pompey advanced, the first European army that ever
confronted it. Probably the first impression of every one coming from
the north-west and the south may be summed up in the simple expression
used by one of the modern travellers--'I am strangely affected, but
greatly disappointed!' But no human being could be disappointed who
first saw Jerusalem from the east. The beauty consists in this, that you
then burst at once on the two great ravines which cut the city off from
the surrounding table-land.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Two vast streams of people met on that day. The one poured out from the
city, and as they came through the gardens whose clusters of palms rose
on the south-eastern corner of Olivet, they cut down the long branches,
as was their wont at the Feast of Tabernacles, and moved upwards towards
Bethany with loud shouts of welcome. From Bethany streamed forth the
crowds who had assembled there on the previous night, and who came
testifying to the great event at the sepulchre of Lazarus. The road soon
loses sight of Bethany. It is now a rough, but still broad and
well-defined mountain track, winding over rock and loose stones,--a
steep declivity below on the left; the sloping shoulder of Olivet above
on the right. Along this road the multitudes threw down the branches
which they cut as they went along, or spread out a rude matting formed
of the palm branches they had already cut as they came out. The larger
portion (those perhaps who escorted Him from Bethany) unwrapped their
loose cloaks from their shoulders, and stretched them along the rough
path, to form a momentary carpet as he approached. The two streams met
midway. Half of the vast mass, turning round, preceded; the other half
followed. Gradually the long procession swept up and over the ridge,
where first begins the 'descent of the Mount of Olives,' towards
Jerusalem. At this point the first view is caught of the south-eastern
corner of the city. The Temple and the more northern portions are hid by
the slope of Olivet on the right; what is seen is only Mount Zion,
covered with houses to its base, surmounted by the castle of Herod on
the supposed site of the palace of David, from which that portion of
Jerusalem, emphatically 'The City of David,' derived its name. It was at
this precise point, as he drew near, at the descent of the Mount of
Olives, (may it not have been from the sight thus opening upon them?)
that the shout of triumph burst forth from the multitude--'Hosannah to
the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom that cometh of our father David.
Hosannah--Peace--Glory in the highest!' There was a pause as the shout
rang through the long defile; and as the Pharisees who stood by in the
crowd complained, He pointed to the 'stones,' which, strewn beneath
their feet, would immediately 'cry out' if 'these were to hold their
peace.' Again the procession advanced. The road descends a slight
declivity, and the glimpse of the city is again withdrawn behind the
intervening ridge of Olivet. A few moments, and the path mounts again,
it climbs a rugged ascent, it reaches a ledge of smooth rock, and in an
instant the whole city bursts into view. As now the dome of the Mosque
El Aksa rises like a ghost from the earth before the traveller stands on
the ledge, so then must have risen the Temple Tower; as now the vast
enclosure of the Mussulman Sanctuary, so then must have spread the
Temple Courts; as now the gray town on its broken hills, so then the
magnificent city with its background (long since vanished away) of
gardens and suburbs on the western plateau behind. Immediately below was
the valley of the Kedron, here seen in its greatest depth, as it joins
the valley of Hinnom; and thus giving full effect to the great
peculiarity of Jerusalem, seen only on its eastern side--its situation
as of a city rising out of a deep abyss. It is hardly possible to doubt
that this rise and turn of the road (this rocky ledge) was the exact
point where the multitude paused again, and 'He, when He beheld the
city, wept over it.' ... Here the Lord stayed His onward march, and here
His eyes beheld what is still the most impressive view which the
neighbourhood of Jerusalem furnishes--and the tears rushed forth at the
sight."[27]

Without dwelling longer on this splendid ovation, we may only further
remark, that had the Redeemer's mission been on (the infidel theory) a
successful imposture, what an opportunity now to have availed Himself of
that outburst of popular fervour, and to have marched straight to take
possession of the hereditary throne of David. The populace were
evidently more than ready to second any such attempt; the Sanhedrim and
Jewish authorities must have trembled for the result. The hosannas,
borne on the breeze from the slope of Olivet, could not fail to sound
ominous of coming disaster. So incontrovertible indeed had been the
proof of Lazarus' resurrection, that only the most blinded bigotry could
refuse to own in that marvellous act the divinity of Jesus. In addition,
too, to this last crowning demonstration of omnipotence, there were
hundreds, we may well believe, in that procession, who, in different
parts of Palestine, had listened to His gracious words, and witnessed
His gracious deeds. What _other_, what _better_ Messiah could they wish
than this--combining the might of Godhead with the kindness and
tenderness of a human philanthropist and friend? Is He to accept of the
crown? Nay, by a lofty abnegation of self, and all selfish
considerations, He illustrates the announcement made by Him, a few hours
later, in Pilate's judgment-hall, as to the leading characteristic of
that empire He is to set up in the hearts of men--"My kingdom is not of
this world." He was, indeed, one day to be hailed alike King of Zion and
King of Nations, but a bitter baptism of blood and suffering had
meanwhile to be undergone. No glitter of earthly honour--no carnal
dreams of earthly glory--would divert Him from His divine and gracious
undertaking. He would save _others_--Himself He _would_ not save.

Let us pause for a moment, and ponder that significant chorus of praise
which on Olivet arose to the Lord of Glory. How interesting to think of
the vast and varied multitude gathered around the Conqueror! Many,
doubtless, assembled from curiosity, who had never seen Him before, and
had only heard of His fame in their distant homes; others, from feelings
of personal love and gratitude, were blending their voices in the shout
of welcome. Think, it may be, of Bartimeus, now gazing with his unsealed
eyes on his Divine Deliverer. Think of Mary Magdalene, her heart gushing
at the remembrance of her own sin and shame, and her adorable Redeemer's
pardoning and forgiving mercy! Nicodemus, perhaps, no longer seeking to
repair by stealth, under the shadow of night, to hold a confidential
meeting; but in the full blaze of day, and before assembled Israel,
boldly recognising in "the Teacher sent from God" the promised Messiah,
the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer of Mankind. Shall we think of Lazarus
too, fearless of his own personal safety, venturing to follow his guest
with tearful eye, the multitude gazing with wonder on this living trophy
of death? We may think of the very children, as He entered the temple,
uplifting their infant voices in the general welcome--pledges of the
myriad little ones who, in future ages, were to have an interest in "the
kingdom of God."

    "Meanwhile He paces through th' adoring crowd,
     Calm as the march of some majestic cloud
     That o'er wild scenes of ocean war
     Holds its still course in Heaven afar.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "Yet in the throng of selfish hearts untrue,
     His sad eye rests upon His faithful few;
     Children and child-like souls are there,
     Blind Bartimeus' humble prayer;
     And Lazarus, waken'd from his four days' sleep,
     Enduring life again that Passover to keep."[28]

May not Olivet be regarded on this occasion as a type of the Church
triumphant in Heaven--Jesus enthroned in the affections of a mighty
multitude which no man can number--old and young, great and small, rich
and poor--casting their palms of victory at His feet, and ascribing to
Him all the glory of their great salvation?

Let _us_ ask, have _we_ received Jesus as _our_ King?--have _our_ palm
branches been cast at His feet? Feeling that He is alike willing and
mighty to save, have we joined in the rapture of praise--"Blessed is He
that cometh in the name of the Lord to save us?" Have our hearts become
living temples thrown open for His reception? Is this the motto and
superscription on their portals--"This is the gate of the Lord, into
which THE RIGHTEOUS ONE shall enter!" Jesus refused and disowned none of
these gratulations--He spurned no voice in all that motley Jerusalem
throng. There were endless diversities and phases, doubtless, of human
character and history there. The once proud formalist, the once greedy
extortioner, the hated tax-gatherer, the rich nobleman, the child of
penury, the Roman officer, the peasant or fisherman of Galilee, the
humbled publican, the woman from the city, the reclaimed victim of
misery and guilt! All were there as types and samples of that
diversified multitude who, in every age, were to own Him as King, and
receive His gracious benediction.

We have spoken of this incident as a glimpse of glory before His
sufferings. Alas! it _was_ but a glimpse. What a picture of the
fickleness and treachery of the heart!--That excited populace who are
now shouting their hosannahs, are ere long to be raising the cry,
"Crucify Him, crucify Him!" Four days hence we shall find the palm
branches lying withered on the Bethany road, and the blazing torches of
an assassin-band nigh the very spot where He is now passing with an
applauding retinue! "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his
nostrils."

It does not belong to our narrative to record the remaining transactions
of this day in Jerusalem. The shades of evening find the Saviour once
more repairing to Bethany. The evangelist _Mark_, in the course of his
narrative, simply but touchingly says:--"And Jesus entered into
Jerusalem, and into the temple, and when He had looked round about upon
all things" (the mitred priests, the bleeding victims, the costly
buildings), "and now the eventide was come, he went out unto BETHANY
with the twelve." (Mark xi. 11.) As He returned to the sweet calm of
that quiet home, if He could not fail to think of the hours of darkness
and agony before Him, could He reap no joy or consolation in the
thought, that that very day week the redemption of His people was to be
consummated--the glory that surrounded the grave and resurrection of
Lazarus was to be eclipsed by the marvels of His own!



XIX.

THE FIG-TREE.


The hosannahs of yesterday had died away--the memorials of its triumph
were strewed on the road across Olivet--as, early on the Monday morning,
while the sun was just appearing above the Mountains of Moab, the Divine
Redeemer left His Bethany retreat, and was seen retraversing the
well-worn path to Jerusalem. Here and there, in the "olive-bordered
way," were Fig plantations. The adjoining village of Bethphage derived
its name from the Green Fig.[29] Indeed, "fig-trees may still be seen
overhanging the ordinary road from Jerusalem to Bethany, growing out of
the rocks of the solid mountain, which, by the prayer of faith, might
'be removed and cast into the (distant Mediterranean) Sea.'"[30] An
incident connected with one of these is too intimately identified with
the Redeemer's last journeys to and from the home of His friend to admit
of exclusion from our "Bethany Memories." These memories have hitherto,
for the most part, in connexion at least with our blessed Lord, been
soothing, hallowed, encouraging. Here the "still small voice" is for
once broken with sterner accents. In contrast with the bright background
of other sunny pictures, we have, standing out in bold relief, a
withered, sapless stem, impressively proclaiming, in unwonted utterances
of wrath and rebuke, that the same hand is "strong to smite," which we
have witnessed so lately in the case of Lazarus was "strong to save."

The eye of Jesus, as he traversed the rocky path with His disciples,
rested on a _Fig-tree_. (Mark xi. 12, 13.) It seems not to have been
growing alone, but formed part of a group or plantation on one of the
slopes or ravines of Olivet. Its appearance could not fail to challenge
attention. It was now only the Passover season (the month of April);
summer--the time for ripe figs--was yet distant; and as it is one of
the peculiarities of the tree that the fruit appears _before_ the
leaves, a considerable period, in the ordinary course of nature, ought
to have elapsed before the foliage was matured. Jesus Himself, it will
be remembered, on another occasion, spake of the putting forth of the
fig-tree leaves as an indication that "_summer_ was nigh." It must have
been, therefore, a strange and unusual sight which met the eye of the
travellers as they gazed, in early spring, on one of these trees with
its full complement of leaves--clad in full summer luxuriance. While the
others in the plantation, true to the order of development, were yet
bare and leafless, or else the buds of spring only flushing them with
verdure, the broad leaves of this precocious (and we may think at first
_favoured_) plant--the pioneer of surrounding vegetation--rustled in the
morning breeze, and invited the passers-by to turn aside, examine the
marvel, and pluck the fruit.

We may confidently infer that Jesus, as the Omniscient Lord of the
inanimate creation, knew well that fruit there was none under that
pretentious foliage. We dare not suppose that He went expecting to find
Figs; far less, that in a moment of disappointed hope, He ventured on a
capricious exercise of His power, uttered a hasty malediction, and
condemned the insensate boughs to barrenness and decay. The first
cursory reading of the narrative may suggest some such unworthy
impression. But we dismiss it at once, as strangely at variance with the
Saviour's character, and strangely unlike His wonted actings. We feel
assured that He literally, as well as figuratively, would not "break the
bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." He came, in all respects,
"not to destroy, but to save." Some deep inner meaning, not apparent on
the surface of the inspired story, must have led Him for the moment to
regard a tree in the light of a responsible agent, and to address it in
words of unusual severity.

What, then, is the explanation? Our Lord on this occasion revives the
old typical or picture-teaching with which the Hebrews were to that hour
so familiar. He, as the greatest of prophets, adopts the significant and
impressive method, not unfrequently employed by the Seers of Israel,
who, in uttering startling and solemn truths, did so by means of
_symbolic actions_. As Jeremiah of old dashed the potter's vessel down
the Valley of Hinnom, to indicate the judgments that were about to
befall Jerusalem; or, at another time, wore around his own neck a wooden
yoke, to intimate their approaching bondage under the King of Babylon;
or, as Isaiah "walked naked and barefoot three years for a sign and
wonder upon Egypt and Ethiopia," so did our Lord now invest a tree in
dumb nature with a prophet's warning voice, and make its stripped and
blighted boughs eloquent of a nation's doom!

On the height of their own Olivet, looking down, as it were, on
Jerusalem, that fig-tree becomes a stern messenger of woe and vengeance
to the whole house of Judah. Often before had he warned by His _words_
and _tears_; now He is to make an insignificant object in the outer
world take up His prophecy, and testify to the degenerate people at once
the cause, the suddenness, and the certainty of their destruction! Let
us join, then, the Master and His disciples, as they stand on the crest
above Bethany, and, gazing on that fruitless leaf-bearer, "hear this
parable of the fig-tree."[31]

Jesus, on approaching it (it seemed to be at a little distance from
their path), and finding abundance of leaves, but no fruit thereon,
condemns it to perpetual sterility and barrenness.

A difficulty here occurs on the threshold of the narrative. If, as we
have noted, and as St Mark tells us, "the time of figs was _not
yet_"--why this seeming impatience--why this harsh sentence for not
having what, _if found_, would have been unseasonable, untimely,
abnormal?

In this apparent difficulty lies the main truth and zest of the parable.
The doom of sterility, be it carefully noted, was uttered by Jesus, not
so much because of the _absence of fruit_, but because the tree, by its
premature display of leaves, challenged expectations which a closer
inspection did not realise. "It was punished," says an able writer, "not
for being without fruit, but for proclaiming, by the voice of those
leaves, that it had such. Not for being barren, but for being
false."[32]

Graphic picture of boastful and vaunting Israel! This conspicuous tree,
nigh one of the frequented paths of Olivet, was no inappropriate type,
surely, of that nation which stood illustrious amid the world's
kingdoms--exalted to heaven with unexampled privileges which it
abused--proudly claiming a righteousness which, when weighed in the
balances, was found utterly wanting. It mattered not that the heathen
nations were as guilty, vile, and corrupt as the chosen people.
Fig-trees were they, too--naked stems, fruitless and leafless; but then
they made no boastful pretensions. The Jews had, in the face of the
world, been glorying in a righteousness which, in reality, was only like
the foliage of that tree by which the Lord and His disciples now
stood--mocking the expectations of its owner by mere outward semblance
and an utter absence of fruit.

The very day preceding, these mournful deficiencies had brought tears to
the Saviour's eyes--stirred the depths of His yearning heart in the very
hour of His triumph. He had looked down from the height of the mountain
on the gilded splendours of the Temple Courts beneath; but, alas! He saw
that sanctimonious hypocrisy and self-righteous formalism had sheltered
themselves behind clouds of incense. Mammon, covetousness, oppression,
fraud, were rising like strange fire from these defiled altars!

He turns the tears of yesterday into an expressive and enduring parable
to-day! He approaches a luxuriant Fig-tree, boasting great things among
its fellows, and thus through _it_ He addresses a doomed city and
devoted land,--"O House of Israel," He seems to say, "I have come up for
the last time to your highest and most ancient festival. You stand forth
in the midst of the nations of the earth clothed in rich verdure. You
retain intact the splendour of your ancestral ritual. You boast of your
rigid adherence to its outward ceremonial, the punctilious observance of
your fasts and feasts. But I have found that it is but 'a name to live.'
You sinfully ignore 'the weightier matters of the law, judgment,
justice, and mercy!' You call out as you tread that gorgeous fane--'The
Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord are
we!' You forget that your hearts are the Temple I prize! Holiness, the
most acceptable incense--love to God, and love to man, the most pleasing
sacrifice. All that dead and torpid formalism--that mockery of outward
foliage--is to me nothing. 'Your new moons and Sabbaths--the calling of
assemblies--I cannot away with; it is iniquity even the solemn meeting.'
These are only as the whitewash of your sepulchres to hide the
loathsomeness within--'the rottenness and dead men's bones!' If you had
made no impious pretensions, I would not, peradventure, have dealt so
sternly with you. If like the other trees you had confessed your
nakedness, and stood with your leafless stems, waiting for summer suns,
and dews, and rains, to fructify you, and to bring your fruit to
perfection--all well; but you have sought to mock and deceive me by your
falsity, and thus precipitated the doom of the cumberer. 'Henceforth,
let no man eat fruit of thee for ever!'"

The unconscious Tree listened! One night only passed, and the morrow
found it with drooping leaf and blighted stem! On yonder mountain crest
it stood, as a sign between heaven and earth of impending judgment.
Eighteen hundred years have taken up its parable--fearfully
authenticated the averments of the August Speaker! Israel, a bared,
leafless, sapless trunk, testifies to this hour, before the nations,
that "heaven and earth may pass away, but God's words will not pass
away!"[33]

But does the parable stop here? Was there no voice but for the ear of
Judah and Jerusalem? Have _we_ no part in these solemn monitions?

Ah! be assured, as Jesus dealt with nations so will He deal with
individuals. This parable-miracle solemnly speaks to all who have only a
name to live--the foliage of outward profession--but who are destitute
of the "fruits of righteousness." It is not neglecters or despisers--the
careless--the infidel--the scorner--our Lord here addresses. He deals
with such elsewhere. It is rather vaunting hypocrites--wearing the garb
of religion--the trappings and dress of outward devotion to conceal
their inward pollution; like the ivy, screening from view by garlands of
fantastic beauty--wreaths of loveliest green--the mouldering trunk or
loathsome ruin! We may well believe none are more obnoxious to a holy
Saviour than _such_. He (Incarnate TRUTH) would rather have the naked
stem than the counterfeit blossom. He would rather have no gold than be
mocked with tinsel and base alloy! "I _would_," says He, speaking to one
of His Churches at a later time, "I would thou wert cold or hot." He
would rather a man openly avowed his enmity than that he should come in
disguise, with a traitor-heart, among the ranks of His people. Oh that
all such ungodly boasters and pretenders would bear in mind, that not
only do they inflict harm on themselves, but they do infinite damage to
the Church of God. They lower the standard of godliness. Like that
worthless Fig-tree, they help to hide out from others the glorious
sunlight. They intercept from others the refreshing dews of heaven. They
absorb in their leaves the rains as they fall. Many a tuft of tiny moss,
many a lowly plant at their feet, is pining and withering, which, _but_
for _them_, would be bathing its tints in sunshine, and filling the air
with balmy fragrance!

Solemn, then, ought to be the question with every one of us--every
Fig-tree in the Lord's plantation--How does it stand with _me_? am I
_now_ bringing forth fruit to God? for remember what we are NOW, will
fix what we _shall_ be when our Lord shall come on the Great Day of
Scrutiny! We are forming _now_ for Eternity; settling down and
consolidating in the great mould which ultimately will determine our
everlasting state; fruitless _now_, we shall be fruitless _then_. The
_principle_ in the future retribution is thus laid down--"He that is
unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be
filthy still." The demand and scrutiny of Jesus will on that day be, not
what is the number of your leaves, the height of your stem, the extent
of your branches? not whether you have grown on the wayside or in the
forest, been nurtured in solitude or in a crowd, on the mountain-height
or in the lowly valley: all will resolve itself into the _one
question_--Where is your _fruit_? What evidence is there that you have
profited by My admonitions, listened to My voice, and accepted My
salvation? Where are your proofs of love to Myself, delight in My
service, obedience to My will? Where are the sins you have crucified,
the sacrifices you have made, the new principles you have nurtured, the
amiability and love and kindness and generosity and unselfishness which
have supplanted and superseded baser affections? See that the leaves of
outward profession be not a snare to you. You may be lulling yourselves
to sleep with delusive opiates. You may be making these false coverings
an apology for resisting the "putting on of the armour of light." One
has no difficulty in persuading the tenant of a wretched hovel to
consent to have his mud-hut taken down; but the man who has the walls of
his dwelling hung with gaudy drapery, it is hard to persuade him that
his house is worthless and his foundation insecure. Think not that
privileges or creeds, or church-sect or church-membership, or the
Shibboleth of party will save you. It is to the _heart_ that God looks.
If the inner spirit be right, the outer conduct will be fruitful in
righteousness. Make it not your worthless ambition to APPEAR to be holy,
but _be_ holy! Live not a "dying life"--that blank existence which
brings neither glory to God nor good to men. Seek that _while_ you live,
the world may be the better for you, and when you die the world may miss
you. Unlike the pretentious tree in our parable-text, be it yours rather
to have the nobler character and recompense, so beautifully delineated
under a similar figure three thousand years ago--"He shall be like a
tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in
his season. His leaf, also, shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth
shall prosper."[34]

Let us further learn, from this solemn and impressive miracle, how true
Christ is to His word. We think of Him as true to His _promises_, do we
think of Him, also, as _true to His threatenings_? Judgment, indeed, is
His strange work. Amid a multitude of other prodigies already performed
by Him, this "cursing" of the fig-tree formed the alone exception to His
miracles of _mercy_.[35] All the others were proofs and illustrations of
beneficence, compassion, love. But He seems to interpose _this_ ONE, in
case we should forget, in the affluence of benignity and kindness, that
the same God, whose name and memorial is "merciful and gracious," has
solemnly added that "He can by no means clear the guilty." He would have
us to remember that there is a point beyond which even _His_ love cannot
go, when the voice of ineffable _Goodness_ must melt and merge into
tones of stern wrath and vengeance. The guilty may, for the brief
earthly hour of their impenitence, affect to despise His divine
warnings, laugh to scorn His solemn expostulations. Sentence may not be
executed speedily; amazing patience may ward off the descending blow.
They may, from the very _forbearance_ of Jesus, take impious
encouragement to defy His threats, and rush swifter to their own
destruction. But come He _will_ and _must_ to assert His claims as "He
that is HOLY, He that is TRUE." The disciples, on the present occasion,
heard the voice of their Master. They gazed on the doomed Fig-tree, but
there seemed at the moment to be no visible change on its leaves. As
they took their final glance ere passing on their way, no blight seemed
to descend, no worm to prey on its roots. The fowls of Heaven may have
appeared soaring in the sky, eager to nestle as before on its branches,
and to bathe their plumage on the dew-drops that drenched its foliage.
But was the word of Jesus in vain? Did that fig-tree take up a
responsive parable, and say, "Who made Thee a ruler and a judge over
me?"

The Lord and His apostles passed the place a few hours afterwards on
their return to Bethany.[36] But though the Passover moon was shining on
their path, the darkness, and perhaps the distance from the highway,
veiled from their view the too truthful doom to be revealed in morning
light. As the dawn of day (Tuesday) finds them once more on their road
to Jerusalem, the eyes of the disciples wander towards the spot to see
whether the words of yesterday have proved to be indeed solemn verities.
One glance is enough! _There_ it stands in impressive memorial. One
night had done the work. No desert simoom, if it had passed over it,
could have effected it more thoroughly. Its leaves were shrivelled, its
sap dried, its glory gone. Ever and anon afterwards, as the disciples
crossed the mountain, and as they gazed on this silent "preacher," they
would be reminded that Jehovah-Jesus, their loving Master, was not "a
man that He should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent."

Ah! Reader, learn from all this, that the wrathful utterances of the
Saviour are no idle threats. He _means_ what He _says_! He is "the
Faithful and True witness;" and though "mercy and truth go continually
before His face," "justice and judgment are the habitation of His
throne." You may be scorning His message--lulling yourself into a dream
of guilty indifference. You may see in His daily dealings no sign or
symbol of coming retribution; you may be echoing the old challenge of
the presumptuous scoffer--"Where is the promise of His coming?" The fig
leaves may have lost none of their verdure--the sky may be unfretted by
one vengeful cloud--nature, around you, may be hushed and still. You can
hear no footsteps of wrath; you may be even tempted at times to think
that all is a dream--that credulity has suffered itself to be duped by a
counterfeit tale of superstitious terror! Or if, in better moments, you
awake to a consciousness of the Bible averments being stern realities,
your next subterfuge is to trust to that rope of sand to which thousands
have clung, to the wreck of their eternities--an indefinite dreamy hope
in the final _mercy_ of God! that on the Great Day the threatenings of
Jesus will undergo some modification; that He will not carry out to the
very letter the full weight of His denunciations; that the arm which
love nailed to the cross of Calvary will sheathe the sword of avenging
retribution, and proclaim a universal amnesty to the thronging myriads
at His tribunal!

"Nay! O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" Come to the
fig-tree "over against" Bethany, and let it be a dumb attesting witness
to the Saviour's unswerving and immutable truthfulness! Or, passing from
the sign to the thing symbolised, behold that nation which God has for
eighteen centuries set up in the world as a monument of His undeviating
adherence to His Word. See how, in their case, to the letter He has
fulfilled His threatenings. Is not this fulfillment intended as an awful
foreshadowing of eternal verities: if He has "spared not the natural
branches," thinkest thou He will spare _thee_? "If these things were
done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry?"

Mourners! You for whose comfort these pages are specially designed, is
there no lesson of consolation to be drawn from this solemn "memory?"
Jesus smote down that _fig-tree_--blasted and blighted it. Never again
did He come to seek fruit on it. Ten thousand other buds in the
Fig-forest around were opening their fragrant lips to drink in the
refreshing dews of spring; but the curse of perpetual sterility rested
on this!

He has smitten _you_ also, but it is only to _heal_! He has bared your
branches--stripped you of your verdure--broken "your staff and your
beautiful rod;" but the pruning hook has been used to promote the Vigour
of the tree; to lop off the redundant branches, and open the stems to
the gladsome sunlight. Murmur not! Remember, _but for_ these loppings of
affliction you might have effloresced into the rank luxuriant growth of
mere external profession. You might have rested satisfied with the
outward display of _Religiousness_, without the fruits of true
_Religion_. You might have lived and died unproductive _cumberers_,
deceiving others and deceiving yourselves. But He would not suffer you
to linger in this state of worthless barrenness. Oh! better far, surely,
these severest cuttings and incisions of the pruning knife, than to
listen to the stern words--"Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him
alone!" It is the most terrible of all judgments when God leaves a
sinner undisturbed in his sinfulness--abandons him to "the fruit of his
own ways, and to be filled with his own devices;" until, like a tree
impervious to moistening dews and fructifying heat, he dwarfs and
dwindles into the last hopeless stage of spiritual decay and death!

"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what
son is he whom the Father chasteneth not?"

"He purgeth it (_pruneth it_), that it may bring forth MORE FRUIT."



XX.

CLOSING HOURS.


The evenings of the two succeeding days seem to have closed around our
adorable Lord at BETHANY. We may still follow Him in imagination, in the
mellow twilight, as He and His disciples crossed the bridle-path of the
holy mountain from Jerusalem to the house and village of His friend.

Much has changed since then; but the great features of unvarying nature
retain their imperishable outlines, so that what still arrests the view
of the modern traveller, in crossing the Mount of Olives, we know must
have formed the identical landscape spread out before the eyes of the
Incarnate Redeemer. It is more than allowable, therefore, to appropriate
the words of the same trustworthy recent spectator, from whose pages we
have already quoted, as presenting a truthful and veritable picture of
what the Saviour _then_ saw.

From almost every point in the journey, there would be visible "the
long purple wall of the Moab mountains, rising out of its unfathomable
depths; these mountains would then have almost the effect of a distant
view of the sea, the hues constantly changing; this or that precipitous
rock coming out clear in the evening shade--_there_ the form of what may
possibly be Pisgah, dimly shadowed out by surrounding valleys--_here_
the point of Kerak, the capital of Moab, and future fortress of the
Crusaders--and then, at times all wrapt in deep haze, the mountains
overhanging the valley of the shadow of death, all the more striking
from their contrast with the gray or green colours of the hills through
which a glimpse was caught of them."[37]

       *       *       *       *       *

We have no recorded incidents in connexion with these two nights at
Bethany. We are left only to realise in thought the refreshment alike
for body and spirit our Lord enjoyed. Exhausted with the fatigues of
each day, and the advancing storm-cloud ready to burst on His devoted
head, we may well imagine how grateful repose would be in the old
homestead of congenial friendship.

The last evening He spent at the "Palm-clad Village" must in many ways
have been full of sorrowing thoughts. He had, in the afternoon, on His
return from Jerusalem, when seated with his disciples "over against the
Temple," gazing on its doomed magnificence, been discoursing on the
appalling desolation which awaited that loved and time-honoured
sanctuary. This had led Him to the more sublime and terrific theme of a
Day of Judgment. Not only did He foresee the grievous obduracy of His
own infatuated countrymen, but His Omniscient eye, travelling down to
the consummation of all things, wept over the fate of myriads, who, in
spite of atoning love and mercy, were to despise and perish.

He left the threshold, consecrated so oft by His Pilgrim steps, on the
Thursday of that week, not to return again till death had numbered Him
among its victims. On that same morning He had sent His disciples into
the city to make preparation for the keeping of the Passover Supper. He
Himself followed, probably towards the afternoon, and joined them in
"the Upper room," where, after celebrating for the last time the old
Jewish rite, he instituted the New Testament memorial of His own dying
love. Supper being ended, the disciples, probably, contemplated nothing
but a return, as on preceding evenings, by their old route to Bethany.
Singing their paschal hymn, they descended the Jehoshaphat ravine, by
the side of the Temple. The brook Kedron was crossed, and they are once
more on the Bethany path. They have reached Gethsemane; their Master
retires into the depths of the olive grove, as was often His wont, to
hold secret communion with His Father. But the crisis-hour has at last
arrived! The Shepherd is about to be smitten, and the sheep to be
scattered! Rude hands arrest Him on His way. In vain shall Lazarus and
his sisters wait for their expected Lord! For _Him_ that night there is
no voice of earthly comforter--no couch of needed rest;--when the
shadows of darkness have gathered around Bethany, and the pale passover
moon is lighting up its palm-trees, the Lord of glory is standing
buffetted and insulted in the hall of Annas.

The Remembrances of Bethany are here absorbed and overshadowed for a
time by the darker memories of Gethsemane and Calvary. Jesus may,
indeed, afterwards revisit the loved haunt of former friendship; but
meanwhile He is first to accomplish that glorious Decease, _but for
which_ the world could never have had on its surface one Bethany-home of
love, or been cheered by one ray of happiness or hope.

In vain do we try to picture, as we revert to the peaceful Village, the
feelings of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary on that day of ignominious
crucifixion! _where_ they were--_how_ they were employed! Can we imagine
that they could linger behind, unconcerned, in their dwelling, when
their Best Friend was in the hands of His murderers? We cannot think so.
We may rather well believe that among the tearful eyes of the weeping
women that followed the innocent Victim along the "Dolorous way," not
the least anguished were the two Bethany mourners; and that as He hung
upon the cross, and His languid eye saw here and there a faithful friend
lingering around him while disciples had fled, Lazarus would be among
the few who soothed and smoothed that awful death-pillow! Perhaps even
when death had sealed His eyes, and faithless apostles gave vent to
their feelings of hopeless despondency, "We trusted it had been He who
should have redeemed Israel," the family of Bethany would recollect how
oft He had spoken of this very hour of darkness and bereavement which
had now come; Mary would, in trembling emotion, (in connexion with the
humble token of her own gratitude and affection,) remember the words of
the Lord Jesus, how He said, "Let her alone, against the day of my
_burying_ hath she done this."

We need not pursue these thoughts. We may well believe, however, that
when the first day of the week had come--and the glad announcement
spread from disciple to disciple, "_The Lord is risen indeed_,"--on no
home in Judea would the tidings fall more welcome than on that of
Lazarus of Bethany. Martha and Mary had, a few weeks before, experienced
the happiness of a restored _Brother_. Now it was that of a restored
_Saviour_! Whether He revisited these, His former friends, the days
immediately after His resurrection, we cannot tell. It is more than
probable He would. May not some hallowed _unrecorded_ "Memories of
Bethany" be included in the closing words of John's gospel--"There are
also many OTHER things which Jesus did?" On the way to Emmaus He joined
Himself to two disciples, and "caused their hearts to burn within them
as He talked by the way." So may He not have joined Himself to the
friends with whom He had so oft held sacred intercourse during the days
of His humiliation--breathing on them His benediction, and discoursing
of those covenant blessings which He had died to purchase, and which He
was about to bestow, "set as king on His holy hill of Zion." With what a
new and glorious meaning to Martha must her Saviour's words have now
been invested, "_I am the Resurrection and the Life_--he that believeth
on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."

As the God-man, He had power over her brother's life--He had now
demonstrated that He had "power over His own;"--"power" not only to "lay
it down," but "power to take it up again." Her Lord had "spoken _once_,
yea _twice_ had she heard this, that _power_ belongeth unto God."

The Grave of Bethany was thus in her eyes inseparably connected with the
grave at Golgotha. But for the rolling away of the stone from a more
august sepulchre, her brother must still have been slumbering in the
embrace of death. "But now had Christ risen from the dead, and become
the first-fruits of them that slept."

The Almighty Reaper had risen Himself from the tomb, with the sharp
sickle in His hand. In the person of His dearest earthly friend He
presented an earnest-sheaf of the great Resurrection-reaping-time--when
the mandate was to be carried to the four winds of heaven, "Put ye in
the sickle, for the harvest is ripe;--Multitudes--multitudes in the
Valley of Decision."

Can we participate in the joy of the family of BETHANY? Have we, like
them, followed Christ to His cross and His tomb, and listened to the
angelic announcement, "He is not here, He is risen?" Have we seen in His
death the secret of our life? Have we beheld Him as the Great Precursor
emerging from Hades, and shewing to ransomed millions the purchased path
of life--the luminous highway to glory? Let our hearts be as Bethany
dwellings, to welcome in a dying risen Jesus. Let us not expel Him from
our souls by our sins--crucifying the Lord afresh, and putting Him to
an open shame. Let not God's restoring mercies be, as, alas! often they
are to us, _unsanctified_;--receiving back our Lazarus from the brink of
the tomb, but refusing, on the return of health and prosperity, to share
in bearing our Lord's cross--to "go forth with Him without the
camp--bearing His reproach." If He has delivered our souls from death,
and our eyes from tears, be it ours to follow Him through good and
through bad report. Not alone amid the hosannahs of His people, or amid
the world's bright sunshine, but, if need be, to confront suffering, and
trial, and death for His sake. Like the Bethany family, let us mourn His
absence, and long for His return. It is but for "a little while" we
"shall _not_ see Him"--"again a little while and we _shall_ see Him."
Oh, blessed day! when the words of the old prophet will start once more
into fulfilment, and a voice from Heaven will thus address a waiting
Church--"Rejoice, O daughter of Zion, behold thy King cometh!" He
cometh!--but it is now with no badges of humiliation--with no
anticipations of sorrow and woe to mar that hour of glory. "His head
shall be crowned with many crowns"--all His saints with Him to share
His triumph and enter into His joy. May we be enabled to look forward to
that blessed season when, arrayed in white robes, with golden crowns on
our heads, and palms of victory in our hands, these shall be cast at His
feet, and the feeble Hosannahs of time shall be lost and merged in the
rapturous Hallelujahs of eternity!



XXI.

THE LAST VISIT.


What saddening thoughts are associated with our final interview with a
Beloved Friend! He was in health when we last met; we little dreamt, in
parting, we were to meet no more. Every circumstance of that interview
is stored up in the most hallowed chambers of the soul. His last
words--his last _look_--his last smile--they live there in undying
memorial! Such was now the case with the disciples. They had their last
walk together with their beloved Master. Ere another sun goes down over
the western hills of Jerusalem He will have returned from His
consummated Work to the bosom of His Father!

And what is the spot which he selects as the place of Ascension?--What
the favoured height or valley that is to listen to His farewell words?
Still it is BETHANY--the loved home of cherished friendship, where, so
lately, hours of anticipated anguish had been mitigated and soothed. The
spot which, above all others, had been witness to His tears and His
Omnipotence, is selected as that _from_ which, or _near_ to which, He is
to bid adieu to his sorrowing Church on earth. Although there seem to be
no special reasons for this selection, we cannot think it was altogether
undesigned or insignificant. Our Lord was still MAN--participating in
every tender feeling of our common nature; and just as many are known in
life to express a partiality for the place of their departure, where
they would desire their last hours to be spent, or for the sepulchre or
churchyard where they would prefer their ashes to be laid;--so may we
not imagine the Saviour, reverting in these, His last hours, to the
hallowed memories of that hallowed village, wishful that He might ascend
to heaven within view, at least, of the spot He loved so well?

Whether this be the true explanation or no, we are called now to follow
Him, in thought, from His concluding visit in Jerusalem to the scene of
Ascension. We may imagine it, in all likelihood, the early dawn of day.
The grey mists of morning were still hovering over the Jehoshaphat
valley, as for the last time he descended the well-known path. He must
have crossed the brook KEDRON--that brook which had so oft before
murmured in His ear during night-seasons of deep sorrow--He must have
passed by GETHSEMANE--the thick Olives pendant with dew, the shadows of
early day still brooding over them. Their gloomy vistas must have
recalled terrible hours, when the sod underneath was moistened with
"great drops of blood." Can we dare to imagine His sensations and
feelings when passing _now_? Would they not be the same as that of every
Christian still, while passing through memories of trial, "It was good
for me to be here?" Had He dashed untasted to the ground, the cup which
in the depths of that awful solitude He had grasped six weeks before,
His work would have been undone--a world yet unsaved! But He shrunk not
from that baptism of blood and suffering. Gethsemane can now be gazed
upon as a place of triumph. His Omniscient eye, as He now skirts its
precincts, connects its awful struggles with the Redemption and joy of
ransomed myriads through all eternity. He has the first realising
earnest of the prophet's words,--Seeing of the fruit of "the travail of
His soul," He is "satisfied."

But vain is it to conjecture feelings and emotions unrecorded. It would,
doubtless, not be on Himself the Great Redeemer would, in these waning
hours of earthly communion, chiefly dwell. They would rather be occupied
in preparing the hearts of the sorrowful band around Him for His
approaching departure. He would unfold to them the glorious conquests
which, in His name, they were on earth to achieve, as His
standard-bearers and apostles, and the ineffable bliss awaiting
them in that Heaven whither He was about to ascend as their
Forerunner and Precursor. It must indeed have been to them a season
of severe and bitter trial! They had in their hearts a full and tender
impression--a gushing recollection of three years' unvarying
kindness and affection--sorrows soothed--burdens eased--ingratitude
overlooked--treachery forgiven. Many others they could only think of in
connexion with altered tones and changed affection. _He_ was _ever the
same_! But the sad day _has_ really come when they are to be parted for
_time_! No more tender counsels in difficulty,--no more gentle rebukes
in waywardness,--no more joyous surprises, as on the shores of Tiberias,
or the road to Emmaus, when, with joyful lips, they would exclaim,--"It
is the Lord!" This dream of blissful intercourse, like a meteor-flash,
was about to be quenched in darkness. Their Lord was to depart, and
long, long centuries were to elapse ere His gracious face was to be seen
again!

Whether, in this ever-memorable walk to the place of Ascension, the
Adorable Redeemer visited the village of Bethany, we cannot tell. It is
possible--it is _more_ than possible--He may have honoured the home of
Lazarus with a farewell benediction; but this we can only conjecture.
All the notice we have regarding it is: that "He led them out as far as
to Bethany;" that He there lifted up His hands and blessed them; and was
from thence taken up to Heaven.[38] Honoured hamlet! thus to be alone
mentioned in connexion with the closing scene in this mighty drama! He
selected not _Bethlehem_, where angel hosts had chanted His praise; nor
_Tabor_, where celestial beings had hovered around Him in homage; nor
_Calvary_, where riven rocks and bursting grave-stones had proclaimed
His deity; nor the _Temple-court_, in all its sumptuous glory, where for
ages His own Shekinah had blazed in mystic splendour; but He hallows
afresh the name of a lowly _Village_; He consecrates a Home of love.
BETHANY is the last spot which lingers on His view, as the cloud comes
down and receives Him out of sight.

Let us gather for a little in imagination on this sacred ground. Let us
note a few of the interesting thoughts which cluster around it, and
listen to the Saviour's farewell themes of converse there with His
beloved disciples.

(1.) He cheers their hearts with the promised baptism of the Holy
Ghost.--"John," He had said, a few hours before, at His last meeting
with them in Jerusalem, "truly baptized with water; but ye shall be
baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."[39] He, moreover,
enjoined them to linger in the Holy City, and wait this "promise of the
Father" which "they had heard of Him;" and now, once more, when on the
eve of Ascension, He speaks of the coming of the same Holy Ghost to
qualify them for their future work.[40]

This, we know, was the great topic of consolation with which He had
often before soothed their hearts at the thought of parting. _He_ was to
leave them;--but an Almighty _Paraclete_ or _Comforter_ was to take His
place, whose gracious presence would more than compensate for the
withdrawal of His own. For when, on the intimation of His coming
departure, He observed that sorrow was filling their hearts--"It is
expedient," said He, "for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the
Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto
you."[41]

Now that the anticipated hour is come, He reverts to the same omnipotent
ground of comfort;--that this Divine Enlightener, Cheerer, Sanctifier,
would fill up the gap His own withdrawal would make. They were about to
enter on a new dispensation--the dispensation of the SPIRIT--and the
approaching Pentecost was to give them a pledge and earnest of His
mighty agency in the conversion of souls.

Jesus, our adorable Lord, has ascended to "His Father and our Father--to
His God and our God!" We, like the disciples, have to mourn the denial
of His personal presence. His Church is left widowed and lonely by
reason of His departure. But have we known, in our experience, the
value of the great compensating boon here spoken of? Have we known, in
the midst of our weakness and wants, our griefs and sorrows, the power
and grace of the promised Paraclete? It is to be feared we do not
realise or value His blessed agency as we ought. To what is much of the
deadness, and dullness, and languor of our frames to be traced--the
poverty of our faith, the lukewarmness of our love, the coldness of our
Sabbath services, the little hold and influence of divine things upon
us? Is it not to the feeble realisation of the quickening, life-giving
power of this Divine Agent? "It is the Spirit that quickeneth." Church
of the living God! if you would awake from your slumber and apathy; if
you would exhibit among your members more faithfulness, more zeal, more
love, more unselfishness, more union--if you would buckle on your armour
for fresh conquests in the outlying wastes of heathenism, it will be by
a fresh baptism of the Holy Ghost! Another Pentecost will usher in the
Millennial morning. The showers of His benign influences will form the
prelude to the world's great Spiritual Harvest. "Pray ye, then, the Lord
of the Harvest," that His Spirit may "come down like rain upon the mown
grass, and as showers that water the earth," and that the promise
regarding the latter-day glory may be fulfilled--"I will pour down My
Spirit upon all flesh." Or would you have Jesus made more precious to
your _own_ soul? Would you see more of His matchless excellences,--the
glories of His person and work,--His suitableness and adaptation to all
the wants and weaknesses, the sorrows and temptations, of your tried and
tempted natures. Pray for this gracious Unfolder of the Saviour's
character. This is one of His most precious offices--as the _Revealer_
of Jesus. "He shall glorify _Me_; for He shall receive of _Mine_, and
shall shew it unto you!"[42]

(2.) Another theme of Christ's converse, when within sight of Bethany,
was _the nature of His Kingdom_--"Lord, wilt thou at this time restore
again the kingdom of Israel?" was the inquiry of the disciples. "And he
said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which
the Father hath put in His own power."[43]

The thoughts of His followers were clinging to the last to the dream of
earthly sovereignty. How difficult it is to get even the renewed and
regenerated mind to understand and realise Heavenly things, and to wean
it from what is of the earth earthy! He checks their presumption--He
tells them these are questions which they may not pry into. There is to
be no present fulfilment of these visions of millennial glory. That day
and that hour are to be wrapt in unrevealed and impenetrable secrecy.
The Church may not attempt rashly and inquisitively to lift the veil.
She is not to know the _time_ of the Saviour's appearing, that she may
live every day in the frame she would wish to be found in when the cry
shall be heard, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh." The apostolic band are,
in the first instance, to be cross-bearers, as He their Master
was,--witnesses to His sufferings, earthen vessels, defamed, persecuted,
reviled,--before they become partakers of His purchased happiness and
bliss!

Nevertheless, it was a grand and glorious mission He sketched out for
them. How worthy of HIMSELF--of his loving, forgiving, unselfish
Spirit--was the opening clause in that wondrous Missionary Charter He
then put into their hands. Even at the moment when all the memory of
Jewish ingratitude was fresh on His heart, He inserts a wondrous
provision of mercy and grace. They were to proclaim His name through the
wide world; but was JERUSALEM (the scene of His ignominy) to form an
exception? Nay, rather they were to _begin there_! The Gospel-Trumpet
was to be sounded in its streets. The assassins of Gethsemane, the
murderers of Calvary were to listen to the first offers of pardon and
reconciliation--"And He said unto them ... that repentance and remission
of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, _beginning_ at
_Jerusalem_!" Precious warrant, surely, are these words to "the chief of
sinners" to repair to this gracious Saviour. If even for "_the Jerusalem
sinner_" there is mercy, can there be ground for one human being to
despair?

But "_beginning_" at Jerusalem, the Gospel Commission did not _end_
there? It was to embrace, first, "Judea," then "Samaria," then "the
uttermost parts of the earth."[44] The ascending Redeemer's expansive
heart took in with a vast sweep the wide circle of humanity. From the
elevated ridge of Olivet, on which He now stood with the arrested group
around Him, He might tell them to gaze, in thought at least, far north
beyond the Cedar Heights of Lebanon and Hermon;--Southward to the desert
and the Isles of the Ocean;--Westward to the fair lands washed by the
Great Sea;--Eastward across the palm-trees of Bethany and the chain of
Moabite mountains on unexplored continents, where heathenism still
revelled in its rites and orgies of impurity and blood. With Palestine
as their centre and starting-point, the vast World was to be their
circumference. The Gospel was to be preached "as a witness to all
nations." The Great Mission-Angel was to "fly through the midst of
Heaven," having its everlasting truths to "preach to every nation, and
kindred, and tongue, and people."

Are _we_ faithfully fulfilling our Lord's farewell Apostolic Commission?
As members of the Church of God, component parts of the Royal
Priesthood, are we doing what lies in our power, that His name, and
doctrine, and salvation, be proclaimed to the uttermost parts of the
earth? Or is it so, that we are looking coldly, suspiciously,
indifferently on the Church's efforts in the cause of Missions,
suffering her funds to fail, and her schemes to languish, and her
devoted servants to sink in discouragement? Or rather, are we prepared
to incur the responsibility of heathen souls, through our neglect,
passing hour by hour into eternity, with a Saviour's name unheard of,
and a Saviour's love unknown? Go to the Rocky ridge above BETHANY, and
listen to the parting injunction of our Great Master. His last words,
ere the cloud received Him to glory, were _Missionary_ words, a
_Missionary_ appeal, a pleading for the Gospel being sent to heathen
shores. Ah! _our own Britain_ was then among the number! If the
Apostolic Company had in these days, like many among ourselves, refused,
on the ground of the _home-heathen_ in Judea, to send any of their band
abroad, where would _we_ have been at this hour? With our Druids'
altars, our bloody sacrifices, our cruel rites! But their best and
noblest were commissioned to speed from port to port in the
Mediterranean and the Isles of the Gentiles, with the Gospel errand on
their lips, and the blessing of God on their labours! All honour to
these leal-hearted men, who, in spite of national and hereditary
prejudices, implicitly followed the will of their Lord and Master, who
had given to them, as He has given to us, a great Missionary motto--"THE
FIELD IS THE WORLD!"

       *       *       *       *       *

And now His themes of instruction and comfort are over--He is about to
Ascend! The symbolic cloud--(invariable emblem of Deity)--comes down to
conduct Him to His throne. What a moment was that! Glory in view--the
hallelujahs of angels floating in His ear--the air thronged with
celestial hosts waiting as His retinue to bear Him upwards;--all heaven
in eager expectancy for her returning Lord. And yet--how is He employed?
Is the world, that had so disowned Him, disowned now in return? Are the
disciples, who have so oft deserted Him, now deserted in return?--their
name forgotten in the thought of the loftier spirits who are to gather
around Him in the skies? Nay, His every thought is centered on the
weeping band of earth. "He lifted up his hands and blessed them!"[45]
His last words are those of mercy--His last act is outstretching His
arms to bless! It was an act replete with meaning to the Church of God
in every age. Jesus, when He was last seen on earth, wore no terror on
His lips--but He left our world pouring a benediction on His redeemed
people.

There is something, moreover, significant in the recorded fact that
"WHILE He blessed them, He was parted from them!" The Benediction was
unfinished when the cloud bore Him away! As they gazed upwards and
upwards till that glorious form was diminishing in the blue sky above,
still His hands were extended;--the last dim vision which lingered on
their memories was the True High Priest blessing the representative
Israel of God! It would seem as if He wished to indicate that the act
begun on earth was to be carried on and perpetuated in heaven--that
though parted from them, His outstretched arms would still plead for
them on the Throne. His _voice_ could no longer be heard--but His
blessing still would continue to descend till He came again!

Wondrous close to a wondrous life! We have traversed in thought many
other memorials of Bethany. We have stood by the gate where Martha met
her Lord--the silent sepulchre which listened to the voice of
Omnipotence--the holy home where friendship was realised such as earth
never before or since beheld. But surely not less sacred or hallowed
than any of these is the scene presented on the green ridge rising to
the west of the village, overlooking its groves of palm. Before
superstition ventured to raise its cumbrous monument on the heights of
Olivet, may we not think of the scene of the Ascension, rather in
connexion with three _living_ Temples? May we not think of it as oft and
again visited by Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus? May we not well imagine
it would form a hallowed retirement for solemn meditation! Amid more
sorrowful thoughts, connected with their Lord's absence from them, would
they not there often muse in holy joy over the now fulfilled prophetic
strains of their minstrel King?--"Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast
led captivity captive: Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, _for_ the
rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among _them_."[46]

Do _we_ love also to linger in spirit on that spot, and listen to that
benediction?--"Blessed," we read, "are they that know the joyful sound."
In these words there is a beautiful allusion to the sound of the pendant
bells on the vestment of the High Priest in the Jewish temple of old.
When the assembled multitudes in the outer court heard their music
within the holiest of all, it conveyed the assurance that the High
Priest was there, actively engaged in his official duties--sprinkling
the Mercy Seat with blood, and pleading for the nation. They felt
"blessedness" in hearing and _knowing_ "that joyful sound." Beautiful
type of JESUS the Great High Priest within the veil! We seem, as we
behold Him standing on the crest of Olivet, to listen to the first note
of these gladsome chimes. He leaves His Church proclaiming nothing but
blessings. As He rises upwards, and the diminishing cloud recedes from
sight, still the music of benediction seems to float on the calm
morning air. The Golden Bells are sounding--and though the celestial
notes cease, it is only distance which renders them inaudible. They are
still pendant at His Royal Priestly robes, telling us that still He
intercedes! Oh, let us now hear His benediction! Let the comforting
thought follow us wherever we go--"_Jesus is pleading for me within the
Veil._" He left this world _blessing_--He is engaged in _blessing_
still. "HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR US."



XXII.

ANGELIC COMFORTERS.


The Lord has ascended. The disciples are left alone in wondering
amazement. The bright cloud which formed His chariot had swept
majestically upwards--till (dimming on their view) the gates of heaven
closed on Him, who, a moment before, had been breathing upon them
farewell benedictions of peace and love. Are they to be left alone?
Terrible must have been the feeling of solitude on that lone
mountain-ridge, as the voice of mingled Omnipotence and Love was hushed
for all time. "Alone, but yet _not_ alone!" While their eyes are still
directed up to the spot where they got the last glimpse of the vanishing
cloud--transfixed there in speechless Sorrow, lo! "two men stood by them
in shining vestures!" The Saviour has departed; the sunshine of His own
loving presence is gone--but He leaves them not unsolaced. The vision
of the patriarch is again realised. When, like that weary pilgrim,
dejected, disconsolate, and sad--a ladder of comfort is stretched down
from the heaven on which they gaze, and "the Angels of God are ascending
and descending on it!"

Ah! whenever the Lord removes one comfort, He is ready to supply
another. He Himself leaves His disciples--but no sooner _does_ He leave,
than Angels come and minister to them; and this is immediately followed
by a mightier than Angelic Comforter--even the fulfilled promise of the
Holy Spirit. "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you,
but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." How graciously does Jesus
thus adapt Himself to the character and trials of His people! What
compensations He gives when they are suffering tribulation! One blessing
is taken away--it is only that they may be brought more fully to value
others which remain. A beloved friend is removed by death--the household
is saddened at the stroke--its aching hearts are smitten and withered
like the grass--but new spiritual consolations are imparted, unknown
before--brighter manifestations of the Saviour's grace and mercy are
vouchsafed--the Promises of God, like the ministering angels on Mount
Olivet, are sent to hover around these stricken spirits. They are made
to sing of "mercy" in the midst of "judgment!"

Is Hagar in the desert? There is a fountain (though at first unseen) at
her side! Is Elijah trembling in the dark cave of Horeb? There is a
"still small voice" amid the long-drawn breath of the tempest, and
earthquake, and storm;--"The Lord is _there_!" Be assured He will never
leave nor forsake any that truly seek Him. To all desolate ones, who,
like the Olivet disciples, lift the steadfast eye of faith heavenwards,
bending like them in the silent attitude of resignation and faith--God
will send comfort. He will have his angels ready to wipe weeping eyes
and soothe sorrowful hearts.

We cannot grapple with this doctrine. We who are creatures of sense, who
are cognisant through a corporeal organism only of what is tangible and
material, cannot grasp what relates to the immaterial, invisible,
spiritual. We strive in vain to realise the truth of Angelic Beings
compassing our earthly path, joying with us in our joys--aiding us in
our perplexities, and mingling their accents of comfort with us in our
seasons of sorrow. But though mysteriously invisible, we believe there
are hosts of these blessed messengers thronging around, profoundly
interested in all that concerns us--"bearing us up in all our
ways"--following us, as Jacob saw them, step by step up the ladder of
salvation, till we reach our thrones and our crowns! Angelic agency is
no mere gorgeous dream of inspired poetry--no mere symbolic way of
stating the doctrine of Divine Providence, and the peculiar care which
God takes of His Church and people. The Bible gives us too many positive
statements on the subject to permit a figurative interpretation. These
bright and holy Beings are there represented as having witnessed all
along with profound interest the gradual unfolding of the plan of
salvation--from the hour when, at creation's birth, the morning stars
sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy--onwards to the
eventful night when they met over the plains of Bethlehem and chanted a
responsive anthem at the advent of the Prince of Peace! Now that
Redemption is completed--they have gathered once more on Olivet to form
a royal retinue to conduct their Lord to His crown--to summon the gates
of Heaven to "lift up their heads" that "the King of Glory may enter
in." If God, in bringing in His first-begotten into the world, said,
"Let all the angels of God worship Him;" much more, when His work is
done, and the moral Conqueror, laden with the spoils of victory, is
about to return to His throne, may we expect that "the chariots of God"
("twenty thousand, even thousands of angels") are waiting to grace His
triumph.

Nor were they merely employed on earth as His servants and attendants
during the period of His incarnation--leaving our world, when _He_ left
it, to "serve him day and night in His heavenly temple." A portion of
this glorious bodyguard we find now, at the hour of Ascension, left
behind to certify to the disciples and the Church in every age, that
Angels were still to continue their loving watchfulness and interest
over the Pilgrims in a Pilgrim world--still to be sent forth on errands
of mercy to "minister to them who are heirs of salvation!"

Is it the House of God--the gates of Zion--the Holy place of
Solemnities? The scene now before us on Mount Olivet forms a miniature
picture of what takes place Sabbath after Sabbath in every meeting of
Christian disciples. As we are assembled like the apostles in our
Sanctuary--looking upwards to Heaven, there are glorious Spirits, we may
well believe, clustering around us--hovering in silence over our
assembly--engaged, it may be, in unseen conflict with the emissaries of
evil--assisting us in our prayers--joining with us in our
praises--waiting to waft these upwards, and get them perfumed with the
incense of the Saviour's merits.

Nor is it the Sanctuary alone they overshadow with their wings of light.
The lowliest homestead of the believer is oftentimes made a MAHANAIM ("a
Host"). The dwellers in the world's thousand Bethany-homes of simple
faith and lowly love are "entertaining angels unawares." In the hour of
sickness they are there unseen to smooth our pillow. In the hour of
danger they are at hand to "shut the lions' mouths." In the hour of
bereavement they are employed bringing messages of solace from the
Intercessor within the veil, and enabling us to "glorify God in the
fires." In the hour of death they are waiting to lend their wings to the
Immortal tenant as it bursts its earthly coil. Oh, if the _return_ of
the Repentant Sinner be to them an hour of joyous jubilee;--if their
songs of triumph greet the Believer _justified_;--what must it be to
exult over the gladsome consummation--the Believer _glorified_; to be
engaged on the Great Day as Reapers at the ingathering of the sheaves
into the heavenly garner--throwing open, at the bidding of their Great
Lord, the Golden Portals that the ransomed millions may enter in!

    "Oh never, till the clouds of time
       Have vanish'd from the ken of man,
     And he from yonder heaven sublime
       Look back where mystic life began,
     Will gather'd saints in glory know
     What blessings men to angels owe.

    "This earth is but a thorny wild,
       A tangled maze where griefs abound,
     By sorrow vex'd, by sin defiled,
       Where foes and friends our walk surround;
     But does not God in mercy say,
     Angelic guardians line the way?

    "Sickness and woe perchance may have
       Ethereal hosts whom none perceive,
     Whose golden wings around us wave
       When all alone men seem to grieve;
     But while we sigh or shed the tear,
     Their sympathies may linger near.

    "When gracious beams of holy light
       From heaven's half-open'd portals play,
     And from our scene of suffering night
       Melts nigh its haunted gloom away;
     Each doubt perchance some angel sees,
     And hovers o'er our bended knees!

    "And when at length this wearied life
       Of toil and danger breathes its last,
     Or ere the flesh, with parting strife,
       Is down to clay and coldness cast;
     The struggling soul can learn the story,
     How angels waft the blest to glory."[47]

But, after all, can Angels really impart comfort? They cannot. They are
but servants and delegates of a Mightier than they. Like all ministers
and messengers, if they can dry a human tear and soothe a human sorrow,
it is by pointing, not to themselves, but to their glorious and
glorified Lord. What was their message now? Was it, "We are come to
supply the place of your Ascended Redeemer--we are henceforth to be your
appointed helpers--the objects of your faith, and hope, and confidence,
in the house of your pilgrimage?" No! The eyes of the disciples are
gazing upwards and heavenwards. The Angels tell them not in anywise to
alter the direction of their thoughts and affections. They are musing
(as in vain they still wistfully look for any relic of the
chariot-cloud) on "_Jesus only_." They are to think of "_Him only_"
still! The Celestial Visitants seem to say, "Ye men of Galilee, _we_
cannot comfort you;--_we_ would prove but poor solaces and compensations
for the Adorable Saviour who has left you. _We_ come not to take His
place--but to speak to you still regarding Him. He has left you! but it
is only for a season; and better than this, although He has left you, He
loves you as much as ever. Even in that distant glory to which He has
sped His way, His heart is unchanged and unchangeable--His name is
'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.'"

Here then was their first theme of comfort. It was the NAME of _Jesus_.
That "name of their Lord" was still to be their "strong tower!" Oh,
there is something touchingly beautiful about this angelic address. What
a simple but sublime antidote for these stricken Spirits, "THAT SAME
JESUS." "That _same_ Jesus,"--He who laid His infant head on the manger
at Bethlehem--He who walked on the Sea of Tiberias, and hushed its angry
waves--He who spoke comfort to a stricken spirit at the well of Sychar,
and at the gate of Nain--He who, in yonder palm-clad village sleeping in
quiet loveliness at their feet, soothed the pangs of deeply afflicted
hearts, and made death itself yield its prey--He who had first
shed His tears and then His blood over the city He loved--He who
so freely forgave, so meekly suffered, so willingly died! "THAT
SAME JESUS" was still on High! The Brother's form was still there! The
Kinsman-Redeemer's sympathy was still there! Though all heaven was then
doing Him homage--though He had exchanged the chilling ingratitude of
earth for the glories of an unsullied world of purity and love--yet
nothing could blot out from His heart the names of those whom He had
still left for a little season behind, to be bearers of His cross before
they became sharers of His crown!

What a comfort, amid all earth's vicissitudes and changes, this
motto-verse! _Earth may_ change. Since the Lord ascended, earth _has_
changed! There are "Written rocks"--manifold more than those of
Sinai--that bear engraven on their furrowed brows, "The world passeth
away." Ocean's old shores have transgressed their boundaries--kingdoms
have risen and fallen--thronging cities have sprung up amid desert
wastes--and proud capitals have been levelled with the dust. _Friends_
may change; our very lot and circumstances, in spite of ourselves, may
change. Our fondly planned schemes and cherished hopes may vanish into
thin air, and the _place_ that now knows us know us no more! But there
is ONE that changeth not--a Rock which stands immutable amid all the
ceaseless heavings and commotions of this mortal life--and that Rock is
Christ!

Has he ever failed us? Ask the _tried_ Christian. Ask the _aged_
Christian. That gray-haired believer may be like a solitary oak in the
forest--all his compeers cut down--tempest after tempest has sighed and
swept amid the branches--tree by tree has succumbed to the blast--there
may be nothing but wreck and ruin and devastation all around. Friend
after friend has departed; some have _altered_ towards him; kindness may
have given way to alien looks and estranged affection; others are
removed by _distance_--old familiar faces and scenes have given place to
new ones;--others have been called away to the silent grave--sleeping
quiet and still in "the narrow house appointed for all living." That
aged lonely Christian can clasp his withered hands, and exclaim, through
his tears, "_But_ THOU art the same, and _Thy_ years shall have no end."
"Heart and flesh do faint and fail, but God is the strength of my heart,
and my portion for ever."

    "My God, I thank thee, Thou dost care for me;
     I am content rejoicing to go on,
     Even when my home seems very far away;
     And over grief, and aching emptiness,
     And fading hopes a higher joy ariseth.
     In nightliest hours one lonely spot is bright,
     High over head, through folds and folds of space;
     It is the earnest star of all my heavens,
     And tremulous in the deep-well of my being,
     Its image answers. * * * * I WILL THINK OF JESUS."[48]

But, in addition to the name and nature of Jesus--the Angels added a
promise of comfort regarding Him. "He shall _so come_ in like manner as
ye have seen Him go into heaven."[49] _Jesus shall come again!_

When a beloved brother or friend whom we love is taken from us by death,
how cheered we are by the thought of rejoining him in a brighter and
better world. Even in earthly separations, how cheering the prospect of
those severed by oceans and continents meeting once more in the
flesh--the associations of youth renewed and perpetuated--and the
long-severed links of friendship welded and cemented again! What must
be, to the bereft and lonely Christian, the thought of being restored,
and that _for ever_, to his long-absent Saviour? _Jesus shall come
again_!--it is the Church's "blessed hope"--the day when her weeds and
robes of ashen sorrow shall be laid for ever aside, and she shall "enter
into the joy of her Lord?" It is His return, too, in a glorified
manhood. That _same Jesus shall SO come_! Yes! "_so_ come," in the very
body with which He bade the sorrowing eleven that sad, farewell! He left
them with His hands extended, and with blessings on His lips. He will
return in the same attitude to greet His expectant Church, with the
words, "Come, _ye blessed_ of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared
for you from the foundation of the world."

And if it be a comforting thought, "Jesus _still_ the _same_, now seated
on the Mediatorial throne,"--equally comforting surely is the prospect
that it will be in all the unchanging and undying sympathies of His
exalted humanity, that He will come again as Judge. "God hath appointed
a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by _that_ MAN
whom he hath ordained." He shall come, not arrayed in the stern
magnificence of Godhead! As we behold Him, we need not crouch in terror
at His approach. _Humanity_ will soften the awe which Deity would
inspire. We can rejoice with Job not only that our Kinsman Redeemer
"_liveth_," but that, _as_ our Kinsman Redeemer, "He shall stand at the
latter day upon the earth!"

_Would_ that we more constantly lived under the realising power of this
elevating thought--"Soon my Lord will come!" "Of the times and the
seasons ye need not that I write unto you." It is not for us to
dogmatize on the unrevealed period of the "glorious appearing." The
millennial trumpet may in all probability sound over our slumbering
dust--the millennial sun shine on the turf which may for centuries have
covered our graves!--But _who_, on the other hand, dare venture to
question the _possibility_ of the nearer alternative?--that the Judge
may be "standing before the door"--the shadow of the Advent Throne even
now projected on an unthinking and unbelieving world! "He that _shall_
come _will_ come, and will not tarry!"--Although it be true that
eighteen hundred years have elapsed since that utterance was made, and
still no gleam of the coming morning streaks the horizon--although the
calculations and longing expectations of the Church have hitherto only
issued in successive disappointments, yet the hour _is_ nearing! As
grain by grain drops in Time's sand-glass, it gives new significance and
truthfulness to the Divine monition--"Behold, I come quickly!"

Ah! if He _may_ come _soon_--if He MUST come at some time, how shall I
meet Him? Will it be with joy? Am I shaping my course in life--my
plans--my schemes--my wishes with what I feel would be in accordance
with His will? Am I conscious of doing nothing that would lead me to be
ashamed before Him at His coming? It would save many a perplexity--it
would soothe many a heart-ache, and dry many a tear--if we were to make
this great culminating event in the world's history, with all its
elevating motives, more our guide and regulator than we do;--living each
day, and _all_ our days, as if _possibly_ the very next hour might
disclose "the sign of the Son of Man in the midst of the Heavens!" Not
building our nests too fondly here--not too anxious to nestle in
creature comforts, but occupying faithfully the talents to be traded on
which He has committed to our stewardship; straining the eye of faith,
like the mother of Sisera, for His approaching chariot; and amid our
griefs, and separations, and sorrows, listening to the sublime inspired
antidote--"Stablish your hearts, FOR _the coming of the Lord draweth
nigh_."

Blessed--glorious--happy day! And as His _first_ coming was terminated
by His Ascension, so will there be a second Ascension at His _second_
Advent, with this important difference, however, that, as in the former,
He left His Church behind Him, orphaned and forlorn, to battle in a
world of sorrow and sin; in the other, not one unit among the rejoicing
myriads, bought with His blood, will He debar from sharing in the
splendour of His final entrance within the celestial gates. "The Lord
Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout--with the voice of the
archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise
first. Then they who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together
with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we
ever be with the Lord."

    "We must not stand to gaze too long,
       Though on unfolding heaven our gaze we bend;
     When lost behind the bright angelic throng,
       We see Christ's entering triumph slow ascend.

    "No fear but we shall soon behold,
       Faster than now it fades, that gleam revive,
     When issuing from his cloud of fiery gold,
       Our wasted frames feel the true Sun and live.

    "Then shall we see Thee as Thou art,
       For ever fix'd in no unfruitful gaze,
     But such as lifts the new created heart
       Age after age in worthier love and praise."



XXIII.

THE DISCIPLES' RETURN.


The time has come when the disciples must leave the crest of Olivet and
bend their steps once more to Jerusalem. Ah! most sorrowful
thought--most sorrowful pilgrimage! Often, often had it been trodden
before with their Lord's voice of love and power sounding in their ears.
Often had it proved an Emmaus journey, when their hearts "burned within
them as He talked to them by the way and opened unto them the
Scriptures." But He is gone!--that voice is now hushed--the well-loved
path, worn by His blessed footsteps, and consecrated by His midnight
prayers, must be trodden by them alone! Willingly, perhaps, like Peter,
on Tabor, would they have tarried on the spot where they last saw His
human form, and listened to the music of His voice, just as we still
love to revisit some haunt of hallowed friendship and associate it with
the name and words and features of the departed. But they dare not
linger. As the disciples of this great and good Master, they dare not
remain to indulge in mere sentimental grief, or in vain hopes and
expectations of a speedy return. Life is too short--their Apostolic work
too solemn and momentous, to suffer them to consume their hours in
unavailing sorrow. We may imagine them taking their last look upwards to
heaven, and then bending a tearful eye down upon Bethany--its hallowed
remembrances all the _more_ hallowed, that the vision is now about to
pass away for ever! The Angels, too, have sped away, and the eleven
pilgrims begin their solitary return back to the city and temple from
which the _true_ Glory had indeed departed!

_And how did they return?_ What were their feelings as they rose to
pursue their way? Had we not been told far otherwise, we should have
imagined them to have been those of deep dejection. We should have
pictured to ourselves a weary, weeping, troubled band; their
countenances shaded with a sorrow too profound for words;--the joyous
melodies of that morning hour, all in sad contrast with those hearts
which were bowed down with a bereavement unparalleled in its nature
since a weeping world was bedewed with tears! They were going too, as
"lambs in the midst of wolves," to the very city where, a few weeks
before, their Lord had been crucified,--the disciples of a hated Master,
"not knowing the things that might befall _them_ there." Could we
wonder, if for the moment these aching spirits should have surrendered
themselves to mingled feelings of disconsolate grief and terror. But
_how different_! Sorrow indeed they _must_ have had; but if so, it was
counterbalanced and overborne by far other emotions; for of the
_sorrow_, the Evangelist says _nothing_; the simple record of this
mournful journey is in these words, "They returned to Jerusalem WITH
GREAT JOY." Most wonderful, and yet most true! Never did mourner return
from a funeral scene--(from laying in the grave his nearest and
dearest)--with a heavier sense of an overwhelming loss than did that
widowed orphaned band. And yet, lo! they are _joyful_! A sunshine is
lighting up their faces. The "Sun of their souls" has set behind the
world's horizon. But though vanished from the eye of sense, His glory
and radiance seem still to linger on their spirits, just as the orb of
day gilds the lofty mountain-peaks long after his descent. They tread
the old footway with elastic step! As Gethsemane, and Kedron, and the
Temple-path, are in succession skirted, while "_sorrowful_, they are
alway REJOICING." Why is this? It was God Himself fulfilling in their
experience His own promise, "_As thy day is, so shall thy strength be._"
He metes out strength IN the day of trial, and FOR the day of trial.
When _we_ expect nothing but fainting and trembling, sadness and
despondency, He whispers His own promise, and makes it good, "My grace
is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness."

Who so faint as these disciples? Think of them in their by-past history,
tossed on Gennesaret, cowering with dread in their vessel! Think of them
in the Judgment-Hall of Pilate; think of them at the cross! Nothing
there but pusillanimity and cowardice. Nay, when our Lord had spoken to
them on a former occasion of this same departure, we read that "_sorrow
had filled their hearts_." They could not bear the thought of so cruel
a severance from all they held dear: But see them now--when the sad hour
has come--lonely--unbefriended--their Lord hopelessly removed from the
_eye of sense_; though but a few days before, they were traitors to
their trust--unfaithful in their allegiance--bending, like bruised
reeds, before the storm--behold them now, retraversing their way to
Jerusalem, not with sorrow, as we might expect, but _with joy_. The
Evangelist even notes the extent and measure of the emotion. It was not
a mere effort to overbear their sorrow--an outward semblance of
reconciliation to their hard fate--but it was a deep fountain of real
gladness, welling up from their riven spirits. They returned, he tells
us, with "GREAT JOY!"

Oh! the wonders of the _grace of God_. What grace _has_ done--what grace
_can_ do! We speak not of it now under its manifold other and
diversified phases,--_converting_ grace, and _restraining_ grace, and
_sanctifying_ grace, and _dying_ grace. Here we have to do only with
_sustaining_ and _supporting_ grace. But how many Christian disciples,
in their Olivets of sorrow, have been able to tell the same experience?
How often, when a believer is stricken down with sore affliction--when
the hand of death enters his family--when the treasured life of the
dwelling is taken, and he feels in the anticipation of such a blow as if
it would smite _him_, too, to the dust, and it were impossible to
survive the prostration of all that links him to life--when the
tremendous blow _comes_, lo! sustaining grace he never could have
_dreamed_ of comes along with it. He rises _above_ his trial. Underneath
him are the Everlasting arms. "The joy of the Lord is his strength!" He
treads along life's lonely way _sorrowful_, yet with a "song in the
night." Amid earth's separations and sadness, he hears the voice of
Jesus, saying, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the
world."

Oh, trust that Grace still! It is the secret of your spiritual strength.
"Not I, not I, but the grace of God that is with me!" You may have to
confront "a great fight of afflictions;" but that grace sustaining you,
you will be made "more than conquerors." "All men forsook me," said the
great Apostle, "_nevertheless_, the LORD stood with me, and strengthened
me, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." "And God is able
to make _all_ grace abound toward YOU; that ye, always having
_all-sufficiency_ in _all things_, may abound to every good work." You
have found Him faithful in the past;--trust Him in the future. Cast all
your cares, and each care, as it arises, on Him, saying, in childlike
faith, "Undertake Thou for me!" Then, then, in your very night-seasons,
"His song will be with you." The Mount of your trial--the mournful,
desolate, solitary, rugged path you tread, will be carpeted with love,
fringed with mercy, and earth's darkest future will grow bright as you
listen to a voice stealing from the upper sanctuary, "I will come again
and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."

In this scene of the disciples returning to Jerusalem, we are presented
with the last picture of the Home of BETHANY. Here the earthly vision is
sealed, and we are only left to imagine Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus,
when the joyous footfall that had cheered their dwelling could be heard
no more, living together in sacred harmony, exulting in "the blessed
hope, even the glorious appearing of the Great God their Saviour."[50]

Did they live to survive the destruction of Jerusalem? Did they live to
hear the tramp of the Roman legions resounding through their quiet
hamlet, and "the abomination of desolation," the imperial eagles
desecrating the hallowed ridges of Olivet? Did they often repair to the
meetings of the infant Church in Jerusalem, and delight to mingle with
the _under_ shepherds, when the "_Chief_ Shepherd" had gone? Or did the
venerable company of Apostles love to resort, as their Lord before them,
to the old village of palm-trees, whose every memory was fragrant with
their Master's name? All these, and similar questions, we cannot answer.
This we know and feel assured of--they are now gathered a holy and happy
family in the true Bethany above--_there_ never more to listen to the
voice of weeping, or hear the tread of the funeral crowd, or the wail of
the Mourner!

And soon, too, shall many of us (let us trust) be _there_, to meet them!
BETHANY, we have seen, had alike its tears and its joys; so will it be
with every spot and every scene in this mingled world. But where the
Family of Bethany _now_ are, the motto is--"NEVER _sorrowful_, ALWAY
_rejoicing_!" And, better than all, while they never can be severed
from one another, they never can be separated from their Lord. He is no
longer now, as formerly at their earthly home, like "a wayfaring man
that turneth aside to tarry for a night." No Olivet now to remind of
farewells. They are "_with Him_," "seeing Him as He is," and that "for
ever and ever!"

And if, meanwhile, regarding ourselves, the journey of life has for a
little still to be traversed, and the battle of life still to be fought;
blessed be God, "we go not a warfare on our own charges." The same grace
vouchsafed to the disciples is promised to _us_. _That grace_ will
enable us to rise superior to all the vicissitudes and changes of the
journey. Let us rise from our Olivet-ridge and be going; and though
traversing different footpaths to the same Home--be it ours, like the
disciples, to reach at last--a holy and happy company--the true Heavenly
Jerusalem--"WITH GREAT JOY."


THE END.



FOOTNOTES

[1] _Bethany_ signifies literally "_The house of dates_."

[2] "The _figs_ of Bethany" are mentioned specially by the Rabbins as
being subject to tithing.

[3] Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine."

[4] Anderson.

[5] Bartlett's "Walks about Jerusalem."

[6] Neander's "Life of Christ."

[7] "What Mary fell short in words she made up in tears. She said less
than Martha, but wept more; and tears of devout affection have a voice,
a loud prevailing voice--no rhetoric like that."--MATTHEW HENRY.

[8] _Note_.--See p. 173.

[9] "Within and Without."

[10] John xi. 11.

[11] John xi. 20.

[12] John xi. 21.

[13] John xi. 26.

[14] John xi. 27.

[15] John xi. 39.

[16] John xi. 39.

[17] John xi. 41.

[18] Rev. iii. 5.

[19] Rom. viii. 34.

[20] John v. 29.

[21] As the Jewish sabbath began at six o'clock on Friday evening, and
lasted till six on Saturday evening, we may infer it was after the close
of its sacred hours (at "eventide") He reached Bethany.

[22] It is supposed to have been equivalent to £10 of our money.

[23] Tennyson.

[24] An excellent Christian poet has thus amplified this thought:--

    "Thou hast thy record in the monarch's hall,
       And on the waters of the far mid sea;
     And where the mighty mountain shadows fall,
       The Alpine hamlet keeps a thought of thee.
     Where'er, beneath some Oriental tree,
       The Christian traveller rests--where'er the child
     Looks upward from the English mother's knee,
       With earnest eyes, in wond'ring reverence mild,
     There art thou known. Where'er the Book of Light
       Bears hope and healing, there, beyond all blight,
     Is borne thy memory--and all praise above.
       Oh! say what deed so lifted thy sweet name,
     Mary! to that pure, silent place of fame?--
       One lowly offering of exceeding love."

[25] This was a common opinion among the Fathers of the Church.

[26] Mark xi. 1-12.

[27] Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine," p. 188-191. A work of rare
interest, which condenses in one volume the literature of the Holy Land.

[28] "Christian Year."

[29] Bethphage, _lit._ "the house of figs."

[30] Stanley, p. 418.

[31] "If the miracles generally have a symbolical import, we have in
this case one that is _entirely_ symbolical."--NEANDER.

[32] "Trench on the Miracles," p. 444. See a full exposition of the
design and import of this miracle in this exhaustive and admirable
dissertation.

[33] "The fig-tree, rich in foliage, but destitute of fruit, represents
the Jewish people, so abundant in outward shows of piety, but destitute
of its reality. Their vital sap was squandered upon leaves. And as the
fruitless tree, failing to realise the aim of its being, was destroyed,
so the theocratic nation, for the same reason, was to be overtaken,
after long forbearance, by the judgments of God, and shut out from His
kingdom."--NEANDER.

[34] Psalm i. 3.

[35] "In that of the devils in the swine there was no punishment, but
only a permitting of the thing."--See "Stier's Words of the Lord Jesus,"
vol. iii. p. 100.

[36] Mark xi. 19.

[37] "Sinai and Palestine," p. 165.

[38] "On the wild uplands," says Mr Stanley, "which immediately
overhangs the village, He finally withdrew from the eyes of His
disciples, in a seclusion which, perhaps, could nowhere else be found so
near the stir of a mighty city, the long ridge of Olivet screening those
hills, and those hills the village beneath them, from all sight or sound
of the city behind; the view opening only on the wide waste of desert
rocks, and ever-descending valleys, into the depths of the distant
Jordan and its mysterious lake. At this point the last interview took
place. He led them out as far as to Bethany. The appropriateness of the
whole scene presents a singular contrast to the inappropriateness of
that fixed by a later fancy, 'Seeking for a sign' on the broad top of
the mountain, out of sight of Bethany, and in full sight of Jerusalem,
and thus an equal contradiction to the letter and the spirit of the
Gospel narrative."--P. 192.

The same writer, in another place (p. 450), says, "Even if the
evangelist had been less explicit in stating that He led them out 'as
far as to Bethany,' the secluded hills (that especially to which Tobler
assigns the name of Djebel Sajach) which overhang that village on the
eastern slope of Olivet, are evidently as appropriate to the whole tenor
of the narrative, as the startling, the almost offensive publicity of
the traditional spot, in the full view of the whole city of Jerusalem,
is wholly inappropriate, and (in the absence, as it now appears, of even
traditional support) wholly untenable."

[39] Acts i. 5.

[40] Acts i. 8.

[41] John xvi. 7.

[42] John xvi. 14.

[43] Acts i. 6, 7.

[44] Acts i. 8.

[45] Luke xxiv. 50.

[46] Ps. lxviii. 18.

[47] Montgomery.

[48] "Within and Without."

[49] Acts i. 11.

[50] Is it lawful to think of Bethany in connexion with the Church of
the Future? Are there no foreshadowed glories found in the pages of Holy
Writ, which include this lowly village--gilding it with the beams of a
Millennial Sun? Is it destined to remain as it now is--a wreck of
vanished loveliness? and is the crested ridge above it, which was the
scene of the great terminating event of the Incarnation, to be
associated with no other august displays of the Redeemer's power and
majesty? The following remarkable prediction occurs in the prophet
Zechariah:--"_And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of
Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives
shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west,
and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall
remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south._" Zech. xiv.
4. Were we of the number of those--(perhaps some who read these
pages)--who look with firm and joyful confidence to the Personal Reign
of the Redeemer on earth, and who in their code of interpretation
regarding unfulfilled prophecy, espouse the literal in preference to the
spiritual meaning, we might here have an inviting picture presented to
us of the BETHANY of the future. The Mount of Olives, by some great
physical, or rather supernatural agency, is represented as heaving from
its foundations, and parting in twain. The middle summit disappears. The
remaining two form the steep sides of a new Valley, which, as it is
spoken of as opening at Jerusalem (from Gethsemane), eastwards, the
Vista must necessarily terminate with BETHANY; thus connecting the two
most memorable spots associated with our Lord's humiliation. "His feet
shall stand in that day on the _Mount of Olives_."--The once lowly
Saviour again "stands" in power and great glory on the very spot over
Bethany from which He formerly ascended. A new highway from the "Village
of Palms" is made for His triumphal entrance to the Holy City, while the
air resounds with the old welcome--"Rejoice, O daughter of Zion, behold
thy King cometh!" If further we turn with the literalists to the
majestic Temple-Visions of Ezekiel, we find the front of the
newly-erected structure _facing up_ this valley; a new stream--(indeed a
mighty river)--gushes down from the temple-colonnade, flowing through
the same gorge, and discharging its purifying waters into the Dead Sea.
(Verse 8, and Ezekiel xlvii. 1-12; Joel iii. 18. The reader is referred
to these passages in full.) From the geographical position, this river
must needs, in the course assigned to it, flow nigh to the restored
palm-groves of _Bethany_--thus murmuring by scenes consecrated for
centuries by the footsteps and tears of a weeping Saviour.

But if we cannot participate in these gorgeous literal picturings, we
are abundantly warranted to take the words of the Prophet as delineating
the glorious results of the future _restoration_ of the Jews to their
own Jerusalem. We can think of the City of the Great King raised from
her desolation, "her walls salvation, and her gates praise." The
Messiah, once rejected, now owned and welcomed--"the children of Zion
joyful in their King." We can think of the valley which is to divide the
Mount of _Olives_--(the mountain bedewed with the memory of the
Saviour's _prayers_)--we can think of _that_ valley, and the stream
which flows through it, as emblematic of spiritual blessings. "Ask of
Me," says God, addressing His adorable Son, "and I will give Thee the
heathen for thine inheritance." Is not the symbolic answer here given?
The Mountain where the Saviour so "oft resorted" to "ask of His Father,"
is rent in sunder--every barrier to the progress of the truth is now
swept away--the living stream of Gospel mercy issues from Zion (or
rather, from Him who is the True Temple), that it may flow to the
remotest nations of the earth! As it enters the bituminous waters of the
Asphaltite Lake, it is represented as curing them of their bitterness
(Ezek. xlvii. 8, 9); descriptive of the power of the Gospel, whose
living streams, like the symbolic "leaves of the tree of life," are for
"the healing of the nations." Then shall the words of Isaiah be
fulfilled, "Every valley shall be exalted, and _every mountain and hill
shall be made low_, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the
rough places plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all
flesh shall see it together." (Isa. xl. 4.) In the prophecy of
Zechariah, to which we have just referred, we are told that in that same
happy millennial period, the representatives of the world's nations will
go up "year by year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep
_the feast of Tabernacles_." (Zech. xiv. 16.) Who can tell but this may
be a literal revival of the old Hebrew festival, only invested with a
new Gospel and Christian meaning. "This feast," says a gifted expositor,
"is the only unfulfilled one of the great feasts of Israel. _Passover_
was fulfilled at Christ's death, and _Pentecost_ at the outpouring of
the Spirit. But this feast represents the LORD _tabernacling with men_,
and is only fulfilled when '_The Lord my God shall come, and all the
saints with Thee_.' On the Transfiguration-Hill, Peter, almost
unwittingly, set forth this truth. He seemed to mean to say, 'Is not
this the true joy of the Feast of Tabernacles? Is not the Lord here?'" If
this be so, we can think of the palm-groves of Bethany again bared of
their branches;--these waved in triumph as a new and nobler "Hosannah"
awakes the ancient echoes of Olivet--"Blessed is He that cometh in the
name of the Lord!" As the regenerated children of Abraham build up the
waste places in and around Zion, which for ages have been "without
inhabitant," and whose names are still dear to them--think we, amid
other scenes of hallowed interest, they will not love oftentimes to take
the old "Sabbath-day's journey" to the site of "the Home of Mary and her
sister Martha." While seated nigh the reputed burial-place, with the
Gospel in their hands, reading, through their tears, the story of their
fathers' impenitency, and of their Saviour's compassion and sympathy at
the grave of His friend, will not a new and impressive truthfulness
invest one of the old Bethany utterances, "THEN said the Jews, Behold
how He loved him!"

But these, after all, are merely speculative thoughts, on which we can
build nothing. We have in these "Memories" to deal with the Bethany of
the _past_, not with the imagined Bethany of the _future_. However
pleasing, in connexion with the Honoured Village, these thoughts of a
Millennial day may be, "nevertheless WE, according to His promise,
rather look for _new_ Heavens and a _new_ Earth, wherein dwelleth
righteousness."

       *       *       *       *       *



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


Page numbers refer to the original text.
Footnote numbers refer to this transcribed version.

Title page: Added missing quotation mark.

p6: Retained spelling of "Perea" in text, and "Peræan" in quotation.

p58: Hyphen added to "death-bed" for consistency.

p119: Replaced "he" (referring to Jesus) with "He" twice.

p188: Hyphen retained in "child-like" in quoted poem.

p220: Inconsistent capitalisation of "Hosannahs" retained.

p248: Used single quotes to clarify quotation within speech.

Footnote 8 (referenced on p24): Missing full stop added.

For consistency, various ellipses have been rendered as "..."





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