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Pilate and avow his sympathy with a condemned criminal. The love must have been very true which was forced to speak by disaster and death. And to us the strongest motive for stiffening our vacillating timidity into an iron fortitude, and fortifying us strongly against the fear of what man can do to us, is to be found in gazing upon His dying love who met and conquered all evils and terrors for our sakes.
That Cross will kindle a love which will not rest concealed, but will be like the ointment of the right hand which bewrayeth itself.' I can fancy men to whom Christ is only what He was to Nicodemus at first, a Teacher sent from God,' occupying Nicodemus' position of hidden belief in His teaching without feeliug any need to avow themselves His followers; but if once into our souls there has come the constraining and the melting influence of that great and wondrous love which died for us, then, dear brethren, it is unnatural that we should be silent. If those for whom Christ has died' should hold their peace, “the stones would immediately cry out.'
That death, wondrous, mysterious, terrible, but radiant, and glorious with hope, with pardon, with holiness for us and for all the world—that death smites on the chords of our hearts, if I may so speak, and brings out music from them all. The love that died for me will force me to express my love; •Then shall the tongue of the dumb sing,' and silence will be impossible.
The sight of the Cross not only leads to courage, and kindles a love which demands expression, but it impels to joyful surrender. Joseph gave a place in his own new tomb, where he hoped that one day his bones should be laid by the side of the Master against whom he had sinned-for he had no thought of a resurrection.
Nicodemus brought a lavish, almost an extravagant, amount of costly spices, as if by honour to the dead he could atone for treason to the living. And both the one and the other teach us that if once we gain the true vision of that great and wondrous love that died on the Cross for us, then the natural language of the loving heart is
• Here, Lord ! I give myself away ;
'Tis all that I can do.' If following Him openly involves sacrifices, the sacrifices will be sweet, so long as our hearts look to His dying love. All love delights in expression, and most of all in expression by surrender of precious things, which are most precious because they give love materials which it may lay at the beloved's feet. What are position, possessions, reputation, capacities, perils, losses, self, but the sweet spices' which we are blessed enough to be able to lay upon the altar which glorifies the Giver and the gift? The contemplation of Christ's sacrifice-and that alone-will so overcome our natural selfishness as to make sacrifice for His dear sake most blessed.
I beseech you, then, look ever to Him dying on the Cross for each of us. It will kindle our courage, it will make our hearts glow with love, it will turn our silence into melody and music of praise; it will lead us to heights of consecration and joys of confession; and so it will bring us at last into the possession of that wondrous honour which He promised when He said, • He that confesseth Me before men, him will I also confess; and he that denieth Me before men, him will I also deny.'
THE GRAVE IN A GARDEN
'In the garden a new tomb.'-JOHN xix. 41 (R.V.).
This is possibly no more than a topographical note introduced merely for the sake of accuracy. But it is quite in John's manner to attach importance to these apparent trifles and to give no express statement that he is doing so. There are several other instances in the Gospel where similar details are given which appear to have had in his eyes a symbolical meaninge.g. 'And it was night.' There may have been such a thought in his mind, for all men in high excitement love and seize symbols, and I can scarcely doubt that the reason which induced Joseph to make his grave in a garden was the reason which induced John to mention so particularly its situation, and that they both discerned in that garden round the sepulchre, the expression of what was to the one a dim desire, to the other 'a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead'-that they who are laid to rest in the grave shall come forth again in new and fairer life, as 'the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to bud.'
To us at all events on Easter morning, with nature rising on every hand from her winter death, and · life re-orient out of dust,' that new sepulchre in the garden may well serve for the starting-point of the familiar but ever-precious lessons of the day.
I. A symbol of death and decay as interwoven with all nature and every joy.
We think of Eden and the first coming of death.
The grave was fittingly in the garden, because nature too is subject to the law of decay and death. The
flowers fade and men die. Meditative souls have ever gathered lessons of mortality there, and invested death with an alien softness by likening it to falling leaves and withered blooms. But the contrast is greater than the resemblance, and painless dropping of petals is not a parallel to the rending of soul and body.
The garden's careless wealth of beauty and joy continues unconcerned whatever befalls us. One generation cometh and another goeth, but the earth abideth for ever.'
The grave is in the garden because all our joys and works have sooner or later death associated with them.
The grave in the garden bids us bring the wholesome contemplation of death into all life.
It may be a harm and weakening to think of it, but should be a strength.
II. The dim hopes with which men have fought against death.
To lay the dead amid blooming nature and fair flowers has been and is natural to men. The symbolism is most natural, deep, and beautiful, expressing the possibility of life and even of advance in the life after apparent decay. There is something very pathetic in so eager a grasping after some stay for hope.
All these natural symbols are insufficient. They are not proofs, they are only pretty analogies. But they are all that men have on which to build their hopes as to a future life apart from Christ. That future was vague, a region for hopes and wishes or fears, not for certainty, a region for poetic fancies. The thoughts
of it were very faintly operative. Men asked, Shall we live again? Conscience seemed to answer, Yes! The instinct of immortality in men's souls grasped at these things as proofs of what it believed without them, but there was no clear light.
III. The clear light of certain hope which Christ's resurrection brings. The
grave of death into Eden.
Christ's resurrection as a fact bears on the belief in a future state as nothing else can.
It changes hope into certainty. It shows by actual example that death has nothing to do with the soul; that life is independent of the body; that a man after death is the same as before it. The risen Lord was the same in His relations to His disciples, the same in His love, in His memory, and in all else.
It changes shadowy hopes of continuous life into a solid certainty of resurrection life. The former is vague and powerless. It is impossible to conceive of the future with vividness unless as a bodily life. And this is the strength of the Christian conception of the future life, that corporeity is the end and goal of the redeemed man.
It changes terror and awe into joy, and opens up a future in which He is.
We shall be with Him.
Now we can go back to all these incomplete analogies and use them confidently. Our faith does not rest upon them but upon what has actually been done on this earth.
Christ is "the First fruits of them that slept. What will the harvest be!