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sleep: but however that be, it is certain that he left the grave clothes in the sepulchre, to shew that his body was not stolen away by his disciples, who in such a case would not have taken time to have stripped it: besides, the circumstance of the grave cloathes, disposed the disciples themselves to believe, when the resurrection was related to them; but at present they had not the least suspicion that he was risen from the dead, as the angels had affirmed.
Having thus satisfied themselves that what Mary Magdalene had told them was really true, those two disciples returned to their respective habitations: but Mary continued weeping at the door of the sepulchre: she had, it seems, followed Peter and John to the garden, but did not return with them, being anxious to find the body; accordingly, stepping down into the sepulchre to examine it once more, she saw two angels sitting, the one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. They were now in the same position, as when they appeared to the other women; but had rendered themselves invisible while Peter and John were at the sepulchre, seeking our Lord.
Mary beholding these heavenly messengers dressed in the robes of light, was greatly terrified: but they, in the most endearing accent, asked her, Woman, why weepest thou? To which she answered, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I kno?) not where they laid him. On pronouncing these words, she turned herself about, and saw Jesus standing near her; but the terror she was in, and the garments in which he was now dressed, prevented her from knowing him for some time. Jesus repeated the same question used before by the angel, Woman, why weepest thou? To which Mary who now supposed him to be the gardener, answered, Sir, if his body was troublesome in the sepulchre, and thou hast removed him, tell me where he is deposited, and I will take him away. But our blessed Saviour willing to remove her anxiety, called her by her name, with his usual tone of voice. On which she immediately knew him; and falling down before him would have embraced his knees, according to that modesty and reverence with which the women of the East salut. ed the men, especially those who were their superiors in station and dignity.
Jesus refused this compliment, telling her, that he was not going immediately into heaven: he was often to shew himself to his disciples before he ascended, so that she would have frequent opportunities of shewing her regard to him: and at the same time, said to her, Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto
I my father, and your father ; and to my God, and your God. Thus did the blessed JEsus contemplate with a singular pleasure the work of redemption he had just finished. The happy relation between God and man which had been long cancelled by sin, was now renewed: the Almighty, who had disowned them on account of their rebellion was again reconciled unto them: he was become their God and Father: 'they were exalted to the honourable relation of CHRIST's brethren, and the sons of God; and their father loved them with an affection far exceeding that of the most tender-hearted parent upon earth.
The kindness of this message sent by our dear Re. deemer to his disciples, will appear above all praise, if we remember their late behaviour; they had every one of them forsaken him in his greatest extremity when he was scourged and mocked by the Roman soldiers, derided by his countrymen, and spitefully entreated by all, they hid themselves in some place of safety, and preferred their own security to the deliverance of their Master: when he fainted under the burden of the cross, not one of them was there to assist him; Simon, a Cyrenian, was compelled by the Roman soldiers to ease him of his pondrous burden. But notwithstanding they had refused to assist their Master during his sufferings for the sins of the world, he graciously, he freely forgave them; he assured them of their pardon, and even called them by the endearing name of brethren, notwithstanding their former slighting conduct.
We cannot help observing that there is something very remarkable in this part of the history: none of the apostles or male disciples were honoured with the first visions of the angels, or with the immediate news of the resurrection of the Son of God, much less with the appearance of Jesus himself. The angels in the sepulchre kept themselves invisible all the time that Peter and John were observing the linen clothes and satisfying themselves that the body of their Master was not there : perhaps the male disciples in general were treated with this mark of disrespect, both because they had, with shameful cowardice, forsaken their Master when he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, and because their faith was so weak that they had absolutely despaired of his being the Messiah, when they saw him expire on the cross: but how different was that conduct of the women! Laying aside the weakness and timidity natural to their sex, they shewed an uncommon magnanimity on this melancholy occasion; for in contradiction to the whole nation, who, with one voice required Jesus to be crucified as a deceiver, they proclaimed his innocence by tears, cries, and lamentations, when they saw him led forth to suffer on mount Calvary ; accompanied him to the cross, the most infamous of all punishments; kindly waited on him in his expiring moments, giving him all the consolation in their power, though at the same time the sight of his sufferings pierced them to the heart; and when he expired, and was carried off, they accompanied him to his grave; not despairing, though they found he had not delivered himself, but to appearance was conquered by death the universal enemy of mankind. Perhaps these pious women entertained some faint hopes that he would still revive; or, if they did not entertain expectations of that kind, they at least chcrished a strong degree
of love for their Lord, and determined to do him all possible honour.
It may be observed, a faith, so remarkably strong, a love so ardent, and a fortitude so unshaken, could not fail of receiving distinguishing tokens of the divine approbation; and they were accordingly honoured with the news of Christ's resurrection before the male disciples had their eyes cheered with the first sight of their beloved Lord, after he arose from the chambers of the grave ;'so that they preached the joyful tidings of his resurrection to the apostles themselves. But there seems to have been other reasons why our great Redeemer shewed himself first to the women: the thoughts of the apostles were constantly fixed on a temporal kingdom, and they had wrested all his words into an agreement with that favourite notion ; and whatever they could not construe as consonant to that opinion, they seemed either to have disbelieved or disregarded.
Notwithstanding Jesus had foretold his own suffering no less than seven different times, the apostles were astonished above measure when they saw him expire on the cross. Immortality and terrestrial dominion were, according to their notion, the characteristics of the Messiah ; for which reason, when they found that instead of establishing himself in the possession of the universal empire, he had neither delivered himself from an handful of enemies, nor even from death, they gave over all hopes of his being the Messiah: and as for his resurrection, they seem not to have entertained the least notion of it; so that, when the news of this great event was brought to them, they considered it as an idle tale. But not so the women; they were more submissive to their Master's instructions, and consequently were much better prepared for seeing him after his resurrection than the apostles : for though they did not expect that he would rise from the dead, yet they were not prejudiced against it.
The apostles, on the other hand, not only absolutely rejected the matter at first, as a thing incredible, but even after they were acquainted with the accounts the soldiers had given of this transaction : nay, after they had seen the blessed Jesus himself, some of them were so unreasonable as still to doubt. How much rather then would their incredulity have led them to suspect his appearing as an illusion, had he shewed himself to them! These reports led them to recollect the arguments proper for disposing them to believe; particularly the prophecies that had been so often delivered in their own hearing, concerning his resurrection. Hence the angels, when they told this event to the women, and desired them to carry the news of it to his disciples, put them in mind of the predictions Jesus himself had made, as a confirmation of it. Hence we also see the reason why Jesus, before he made himself known to the disciples at Emmaus, prepared them for a discovery, by expounding to them on the road, the several prophecies concerning the Messiah, contained in the Old Testament, which hitherto they had little attended to, or did not understand.
The company of women we have observed, returned to the city, while Peter, John, and Mary Magdalene, were at the sepulchre. On their arrival they told as many of the disciples as they could find, that they had seen at the sepulchre a vision of angels, who assured them that Jesus was risen from the dead, This new information astonished the disciples exceedingly: and as they had before sent Peter and John to examine into the truth of what Mary Magdalene had told them concerning the body's being removed out of the sepulchre, so they now judged it highly proper to send some of their number to see the angels, and learn from them the joyful tidings of that great transaction of which the women had given them an account. That this was really the case, appears from what the disciples, in their journey to Emmaus, told their great Lord and Master ; namely that when the women came and