Friday, July 1, 2011

“We saw him not with our bodily eyes"—Robert Rollock

Then I see that all these tidings that tell us of things that are not seen, have every one of them a promise joined with them that we shall see them come to pass. Believe thou that he hath suffered, and thou shalt see that he hath suffered, and believe that he is in glory, and thou shalt see him in glory. We saw him not with our bodily eyes, but we have that blessing which the Lord pronounced to Thomas, John, chapter xx. verse 29, "Blessed are they which never saw me, and yet do believe in me." Now, blessed for ever shall that soul be that never saw the Lord, and yet believes in him, and I speak to thee a sore word; if thou believest not until thou see him, thou shalt never see him; if thou believest not that he died, until thou see that he died, thou shalt never see him but to thy damnation. Hope under hope and against hope.

Brethren, many are the impediments that will stay us; so that we will say, "I will never see him. I hear much speaking of heaven, but, alas! I fear I shall never see it. I hear much spoken of life, but, alas! I fear I shall never see life."

And these are the temptations of the most godly men and women of this world. Yet, against all these temptations believe God's promises, and hope for life; for Paul says, in the Epistle to the Romans, the fifth chapter and the fifth verse, "Faith brings forth experience, and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts abundantly by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." No, let none of these temptations hinder us; that thing that holds back the infidels shall work for the best to thee that fearest the Lord, and if thou fearest the Lord, I promise thee, in the name of God, all these temptations shall further thee, and thou shalt be partaker of life.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Thirtieth Lecture.

Take heed to this. The apostle says, "We live by faith, and not by sight;" yet, however it be, that man or women believe, they are blessed; and blessed art thou, man or woman, that believest either for hearing or seeing; and suppose thou feelest him by the hands, and believest in him as Thomas did that felt him, thou art blessed. But that is an evil thing, when thou hast the word and yet suspendest thy faith until thou seest.

It was an evil thing in Peter and John that they let the word pass, and believed it not; it was an evil thing in Thomas that he believed not until he felt Christ; and I say to thee, it is a sure thing, if thou refusest to believe until thou seest, thou adventurest and hazardest thy life and salvation; and I say to thee, if thou contemnest this word, and say this, "I will not believe until I see him," I give thee thy doom, thou shalt never see him to thy comfort nor salvation. Therefore, if he say to thee, and if he promise, he will give thee heaven, believe it, and lay hold on it although thou wert dying; and if he say to thee that he will give thee life, depend and stick by his promise. Thou honourest thy God in believing and depending on his promise, for thou canst not do him greater honour than to believe his promise. And albeit thou see little appearance outwardly, and if thou believest the word, without doubt, thou shalt get a sight of him one day to thy comfort and endless consolation.

Depend and wait on patiently with Abraham, and ever stick and lay hold on the promise, and I promise to thee, in his name, believe the promise of life, and thou shalt see life; believe in him, and thou shalt see him one day. Blessed are they who believe in him, and yet see him not. Blessed are they who walk by faith, for one day they shall walk by sight. Strive to believe in his word, and look on him, and heaven and earth shall perish, ere thou wantest that sight of him one day. Yet I may not pass by the words of John; I see in him a wonderful plainness and singleness of heart. Which of us will be contented that another register our faults, that any other might read them, "this man sinned this way and that way?" Then, who will write up his own faults with his own hands, as he does? He says, he was ignorant. So, then, if there were none other argument to tell us that this book is dited by the Spirit of God, and that it is the Word of God, this singleness of writing their own faults without affection or self-love, which ever would entice us to honour ourselves, tells us sufficiently.

But, naturally, rather than thou hadst thy parents or thy kinsfolk ashamed, thou wouldst rather have God's glory and justice smothered and defaced. But see if Moses spared to register the faults of Levi, of whom he was descended; see if he spared Aaron; see if he spared himself. No, he tells his own fault, he tells his own infidelity. And, again, see if David spares himself; sets he not down his own adultery and murder? John registrates his own ignorance. Let God be glorified, and all creatures ashamed, for to that end were we created; for except he had respected his own glory, we should never have been made. Should we not then seek his glory, although it were with our own shame? John learns us here another good lesson, how often soever we fail through ignorance. Alas! we fail often through ignorance and misbelief, and ignorance brings on infidelity. And, therefore, whensoever we fail through ignorance, lay not the blame of thy blindness upon the Scripture. In pain of thy life, say not, "I am ignorant, because the Scripture is obscure and dark," as the Pope and his shavelings blasphemously allege; but I affirm, that it is so perfect, that all things appertaining to thy salvation are contained therein. And I say, in despite of the Pope, thou who sayest it is obscure, one day thou shalt not be challenged so much for thine ignorance, as for thy blasphemy against God, when thou wilt stand up and say, "The Scripture of God is not perfect, but obscure and wanting." I tell you, one day these blasphemers, for all their out-crying, shall have their mouths sewed up, and they shall make an offer to speak, and to say, "The Scripture of God was not perfect," but the conscience of them shall so strike them with fear and terror, that they shall not be able to answer one word. Woe to them that impair the authority of the Scripture! We may pingle with them a while here, but we remit them to that great day that the Judge appear, and then they shall receive their reward for their blasphemy. But to leave them, what are these Scriptures that preach Christ's resurrection from the dead? In what part is his resurrection foretold? In the xiii. of the Acts, verse 34, Paul, preaching of Christ, he confirms it by the Old Scriptures. The first Scripture is out of the lv. of Isaiah, verse 3,1 where he says, "He will make an everlasting covenant with you, of the sure mercies of David;" then he concludes, "Therefore, it behoved the Lord to rise from death." Mark the consequent; no, there is not such a thing as that ever mercy had continued, if Christ had not risen. The apostle says, in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the first chapter, and the twentieth verse, "In him are all the promises of God yea and amen." No, thou or I should never have had faith, nor any spiritual grace, if Christ had not risen; so, so oft as ever thou feelest a spunk or motion of that spiritual life within thee, thou mayest say, "I am sure that Jesus is risen from the death;" for this is sure, all grace and life flow from the life of Jesus. So, if he had not risen, thou shouldst have had no life. He hath another Scripture out of the sixteenth Psalm, at the tenth verse, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave, neither wilt suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." Then he concludes, "therefore he is risen." How follows this? It follows well enough, for if he had not risen, his body behoved to rot, and to be corrupted, as ours rot. And Peter, in the second chapter of the Acts, and verse thirty-first, uses the same testimony. Likewise in the liii. chapter of Isaiah, and the eighth verse, where he prophesies of Christ, he says, "And who is able to count his generation?"-for all his death, he is that everlasting essence; meaning, that albeit he died, he shall rise to life without end.

There is another Scripture, "Then they should have believed without sight." But, alas! who is careful to get this knowledge of this resurrection? And if we had a care to seek Christ, we would turn over these Old Scriptures to see the prophecies of Christ to come, and then we would come to the New Testament to see these things accomplished, and so would meditate in the Scriptures night and day to confirm our faith, and to get our hearts set and stablished on the Lord; for it is a matter of great difficulty to get the heart stablished with grace, and if thine heart be not established and filled with that word, thou wilt never see Christ, nor get any grace in him. So, to end this, I beseech you, as ever ye would see Christ, be diligent to seek the Scriptures, that ye may settle your hearts here upon him and believe in him, that hereafter ye may see him to your comfort and consolation at his second coming, when he shall appear in the clouds with the millions of angels. To him be glory for ever. Amen.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Thirty-Second Lecture.

Now, to go forward to the third part of this narration of Cleopas concerning Christ. Before he comes to it, he makes a rehearsal of these same things which had happened that same day in the morning: "For, on the third day in the morning, there went out some women," (he himself was not so ready; it had been better for himself to have said, "I went out to the grave, and I saw and I heard this,") "and they have made us" (the disciples of Christ) " all astonied: for they told us, that they found not the body of Christ. But they told us that they found angels, and that the Lord was risen and alive; but for all this we believed not. Then some of us, who were men, namely, Peter and John, who went out and they found this, that the Lord was out of the grave." But, mark his last words, "But none of them saw the Lord." Alas! these two disciples apparently had come out of Hierusalem ere Mary Magdalene and some other women, who went out that same day, had returned and showed that they had seen the Lord. They went away over soon to Emmaus. But look what he concluded. They saw him not, therefore he was not risen. This is it that they would conclude: because they could not see him with their bodily eyes, therefore, they looked never to see him, as if we should have measured the Redeemer and the redemption by gross and carnal senses. Look if he concluded well? He should have concluded the contrary; "We could not see him with our eyes and senses, and, therefore, we believe he is the Redeemer." That is the conclusion that he should have gathered; for faith is the demonstration of things which are not seen, as the apostle speaks, Heb. xi. 1. This is a false conclusion, "We cannot see him with our bodily eyes, therefore, we cannot hope to see him." But, by the contrary, "We cannot see him with our bodily eyes, therefore, we believe and hope to see him." Then we see this in Cleopas and his fellow; suppose they were with Christ, and should have had an eye to have seen, yet they are mere carnal; for, leaning only to the senses of the body, they are more natural than spiritual, and so they conclude, they should never see the Lord. For suppose they spake not this with their mouths, yet they thought it in their hearts, and they were standing betwixt hope and despair. No, if thou be but a natural man, thou shalt believe nothing but that which thou conceivest and feelest with thy senses, but for heavenly things thou canst not believe them; heaven and hell will be but fables to thee, and all will be but folly unto thee. There are enough of these men in this town; and, therefore, as ever thou wouldst see heaven, as thou wouldst live hereafter, and as thou wouldst reign in glory, seek to have spiritual senses which may pass far beyond nature, a spiritual eye to see things heavenly, and a spiritual hand to feel things heavenly, or else thou shalt die and perish, and thou shalt never have life hereafter. Then, in time, seek to be spiritual, and to seek heaven and heavenly things. A bodily eye will never perceive these things.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Thirty-Eighth Lecture.

But thou wilt say, "I cannot see him, how then can I adore him? The apostles saw his glorious presence with their eyes, therefore they ought to have worshipped him; but as for us, who live in these days, after his ascension to heaven, we see him not, and, therefore, how can we worship him?" But I answer thee, It is true, thou seest him not now with the eyes of thy body, but thou seest him with the eyes of thy soul, thou seest him with the eyes of faith, thou seest him in the word and sacraments, first crucified, and then glorified. And if thou wilt not worship him when thou seest him here present in the word and sacraments, thou wouldest not have worshipped him, if thou hadst seen him with the eyes of thy body face to face. Those profane bodies, who will not worship him now when they see him present in the mirror of the gospel, they will never get leave to worship him in the kingdom of heaven. Thinkest thou not that the Lord is seen present in his word? What means Paul, then, when he says, "That an unlearned man coming into the meetings of the faithful, where many are prophesying, finding himself rebuked and judged of all, and the secrets of his heart made manifest, that he will fall down on his face and worship God, and say plainly, that God is among them indeed?" 1 Corinth. chap. xiv. ver. 24 and 25. What sees the unlearned man among them, that makes him to fall down and give such a confession? No question, but the glorious light of the gospel shines into his soul, and Christ offers himself present to be seen by the eye of faith. The faithful, this day, by experience, find in their meetings this same presence of the Lord. And, therefore, it becomes us, in all our meetings, ever to worship the Lord, and to sit, with fear and reverence, to hear the word, and to prepare our hearts to receive the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord promises, and offers with the preaching of the word to all his chosen.
—Robert Rollock, Of the Resurrection of Christ. The Fifty-Third Lecture.