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UPPER CA ADA TRACT SOCIETY
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre 1 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away. S. MARK xvi. 3, 4. tHERE had been a public execution in the capital of Judea. Three men had suffered. Of two of them, their own account was that they had received the due reward of their deeds. 1 The third, exposed with an exquisite cruelty between companions in agony, though not in crime, was at once the victim of His own good ness, and of the malignity of an ossified faith. He died, but before He could be left quiet in His grave, one more insult was done. The religious leaders who had glutted their animosity on one whom they could neither corrupt nor silence, were by no means easy in their minds as to His Person and claims, and on the Roman governor s scornful permission to make this dead deceiver as safe in His grave as soldiers and seals could make Him, they sealed the stone and set a watch. What happened on the third day this Gospel tells us in language as unaffected as it is strange. With no thought of finding the tomb empty, and their only sorrow that there was so little left to do for one they loved so well, some women came early to the tomb with spices and ointments, to hear from an angel s voice, * He is risen, He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him. What next happened is exactly what we should have expected. Fear swallowed up joy ; surprise altogether took away the power of reflection. They went out quickly and fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed. ow, on this account of the most stupendous event in history I wish to speak to-day, and from one aspect of it. It is, of course, quite needless to argue that the Resurrection of Christ, if sufficiently substantiated, is the formal verification of His religion. If Christ is raised, then all the other supernatural elements in our faith are covered and crowned by this one ; for it is a foolish pedantry to accept the greater, and to deny the less. If Christ be not raised, then the noblest ideal we have ever known, or can know, melts into a gloomy mirage ; and though for reason the difficulties that sur round the hypothesis of Jesus mouldering in His tomb are perhaps even more serious than those which declare Him to be risen, a still dead Jesus means that our nature is a riddle, our hope a despair, and our future an abyss.
My point now is that the facts of our religion which if super natural is historical are, when rightly appreciated, so many moral forces for the soul, incorporating ideas which give courage and glad269
FIRST SU DAY AFTER EASTER ness, and containing principles which are at the root of conduct and life. Pre-eminent among them all is the event of the Resurrection, and I say faith in this event is the one and only force that adequately enables us to roll away the stones that encounter us in the struggles of life ; and that what S. Paul calls the * power of the Resurrection, is for all of us, not least for the young who have their great oppor tunities, and untold possibilities in front and unexhausted the mighty secret of a steady triumph over temptation, difficulty, and sorrow. I. And, first, the Resurrection is a power to heal conscience. o system of thought that does not admit the fact of sin, or attempt to explain its meaning, or assist us in becoming delivered from its dominion can hope to satisfy the needs of mankind. It is a very shallow philosophy that either blinks the fact of conscience, or flippantly denies its immense influence on life. Conscience has been not inaptly described as the meeting-place between God and the soul ; and in whatever language we define sin, it is the same in its essence and in its results man s missing his right aim in life, wandering from the direct path of goodness, a defiance to His Maker, a suicide to himself. Well, in all ages and countries the human heart has had two ques tions to ask about it, which we Christians are bold to say nothing but the Resurrection can completely answer. One is about pardon, and the other about righteousness. The one seeks peace with God, the other His image. And the Resurrection is the power for both. For it is a fact which does not stand alone. It looks back and it points forward. It implies the Cross, and it presumes the Ascension. He who rose from the grave, must first have died, to have been found there. Why did He die ? How did He die ? He died, as this same Gospel tells us, or as the Scriptures of those very priests who condemned him affirm, on the Cross, bearing our sins in His own Body on the tree. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." 1 For He who died between the two thieves was not only a Martyr, but a Sin-Bearer. So fully and
awfully did He, our Head and Representative, feel the weight of the guilt of the race of which He was the Head ; in such profound and holy sympathy was His sinless spirit with the woe of His guilty fellows, and that holiness of His Father which demanded expiation of it all, that in a spasm of ineffable sorrow, His heart all but broke under the tremendous burden, and He felt Himself forsaken by Him, whom in thus suffering there, He supremely manifested before the world. He died, and if He had only died, while we should have been grateful for an unparalleled sacrifice, we should have mourned over 270
OUTLI ES O VARIOUS PASSAGES its uselessness. But now is Christ risen from the dead ; and in that Resurrection by the mighty hand of God we see His sacrifice accepted, and death tasted for every man, and peace ensured, and life eternal given. God is revealed in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. For He who rose also went away. It is expedient 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. After the Resurrection came the Ascension, after the Ascension Pentecost. Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Sin on the conscience is one great stone which the Resurrection rolls away. Sin in the will is another. His grace helps us to hate that which is evil, and to resist coarse and degrading instincts, and to practise selfcontrol, and to carry the burdens of the weak, and to regard gifts and faculties as opportunities both of kindness and virtue. * Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth. To be forgiven, because in our sincere repentance we have treated and trusted God as a Father, and believed His love to us in Christ, is great freedom. So is it also to be * dead unto sin, and alive unto God through union with that incarnate Lord, who, as He bore our sins and identified Himself with our misery, is also made righteousness to us, whereby we through our regeneration, grafted into Him, are before God righteous in His righteousness ; nay, are even made partakers of His divine nature, having escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust. II. The Resurrection is also a power to ennoble duty This thing that we call life what is it ? Is it (in the figure of an American
preacher) but as the dipping of an insect s wing into the brimming flood of some tropical river the quick submerging into a devouring sea of one after another of the myriad barques that are ever being launched on it, each with its solitary voyager, full of hope and glad ness ; or, in the expression of one who seems unable either to believe or deny, a journey between two long nights ? Then assuredly the saddest mystery about it is that it should ever have been given us at all. For the history of the world becomes but the epitaph of an unintelligible and gratuitous disaster, and it is a just, if a sombre complaint that goes up to the Author of our being (if there is an author of it), * Why hast Thou made all men for nought ? It has been repeatedly observed that the purest and loftiest of pagan writers are almost bitter in their denunciation of the vanity of life, and those who are at the pains to study the philosophies of modern atheists observe that they are always characterised by a gloomy joylessness. 271
FIRST SU DAY AFTER EASTER But in the light of the Resurrection, life is seen to be worth living, for the stone of a purposeless and brief existence is rolled away, and with its new aims and responsibilities and functions and motives this life on earth has a new meaning and force. There is its stupen dous responsibility, for some day we shall rise to receive the things done in our body that is, their results, whether they be good or bad. There is its universal jurisdiction. For the Resurrection of the race, like its inevitable mortality, is generically bound up with the Resurrection of its Head : As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. There is its potential grace : If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above. There is its majestic consecration : * Render your bodies a living sacrifice, which is your reasonable service. ow we make ties, for death cannot dissolve them ; now we may scatter the seeds of goodness since we shall not be sowing them on the waves of a remorseless sea ; now, as we rear our children, and win our friends, and grasp our duties, and pursue our studies, the chilling taunt does not come to mock us : * You are all of you but as the shadows of the clouds on the mountain side. ow we feel it worth while to try for humbleness and purity, for great tasks and meek virtues ; for steady effort, and patient love. All shall not be in vain, all shall have its sure and happy recompense if Jesus is Lord and Christ.
III. Again, the Resurrection is a power to explain death. Death is the one great fact that casts its ghastly shadow over the world, chilling youth, saddening age, and like a black wall on the horizon overshadowing for manhood the grand activities in front. But is it the end of our journey, or only a stage in it ? Is it the final parting of hearts ? for if it be, then it will be our wisdom never to love, and so never to lose. If there is no other stage of being, what a thin, poor, meagre thing it all becomes ; what contradictions perplex us in aspirations that are doomed to be disappointed ; in efforts which we feel compelled to make, and yet are forced to throw away. But the Resurrection shows us that death is only an event in life, not the abrupt closing of it. Christ comes and says, I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and death. As if to say, * I have learnt all about it, and have tasted it for each of you, and I will help you to bear it, when your turn comes, and the bondage of its fear 1 will take away from you, and change it into the caress of a Brother s arm encircling you, if only you will trust in Me. This, I say to one who ponders his mysterious being, and recognises within him the moving springs of useful action, and strives, though timidly and sorrowfully, after wisdom and goodness, is a help of a vital and noble kind. Because 272
OUTLI ES O VARIOUS PASSAGES I live, ye shall live also/ His death was our death, and His Resur rection our resurrection. We have each of us to go down alone to the brink of the river, and to leave behind us all we have ever known and possessed and loved, and to pass into another condition of which we have no kind of experience, and most probably to abandon schemes but half completed, and lessons but scantily learned. Yet in the world to which we go, there will be leisure enough in the great spaces of eternity to mellow and develop in that light which needeth not the sun or moon to lighten it, the germs of thought and action which we sowed here ; if there is no waste in the domain of nature, there is none in the sphere of spirit, and the continuity of eternal life apparently interrupted by our physical dissolution shall be reunited, and carried on under new conditions of perfection in the glory of the world to come. IV. Once more, the Resurrection is a power to console sorrow. Some here to-day may possibly feel that this does not much concern them. Like soldiers going into battle, they need stimulating rather
than comforting ; like travellers starting on a long journey, they want not medicine, but cordial. Well, you have only to wait a little, and then, like all the rest of us, your tired hearts will thankfully fall back on the consolations of God. As a matter of fact, however, youth when fresh and sensitive, is far more liable to moods of depression than middle life, just because its vast inexperience compels disap pointment for it. It may, however, be true that the purest souls are the saddest, because they are so disturbed by the corruption which they find themselves unable to remedy ; certainly, it is the blessed emesis of sympathy that it gives the widest margin for sorrow. To all of us in turn, when we need Him, and waiting till we do, the risen Jesus says, Are the consolations of God small with thee ? Come to Me, and stand by My open tomb, and I will Myself comfort thee. Have you observed that it was a * young man whom the women beheld, sitting at the right hand in the tomb, and clothed in a white garment ? Surely that gives the attractive and invigorat ing suggestion that the life to come will be a period of perpetual youth, with physical vigour which sickness shall neither enfeeble nor interrupt, youth with a grand enthusiasm, which shall neither be chilled by irony, nor wasted by disappointment ; youth, with time enough in front for perfecting its plans, and reaching its ideals, and enjoying its friendships, and widening its knowledge ; youth, which no taint of corruption shall soil with the least stain of imperfection, and which in an ever-growing goodness shall have the image and fruition of God. There are many ways, but I shall indicate only one. Reverently observe those devout and sorrowful women who, blinded VOL. vn. S 273
FIRST SU DAY AFTER EASTER by their beautiful anguish, and expecting nothing so little as to miss Jesus and to find an angel, stumbled into the light, because it was in their hearts already, and soon discovered what at first was too good to be true. They loved, they waited, they obeyed, and in the end Jesus came to them, and they saw and believed. Let us, too, love and wait and obey, and sooner or later He will come to us. BISHOP THOROLD.
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