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BY LA T CARPE TER
LUKE XXIV. 33, 34.
A D THEY ROSE UP THE SAME HOUR, A D RETUR ED TO JERUSALEM, A D POU D THE ELEVE GATHERED TOGETHER A D THEM THAT WERE WITH THEM, SAYI G, THE LORD IS RISE I DEED, A D HATH APPEARED TO SIMO .
The fact of the Resurrection of Jesus is the basis of Christianity. " If Christ be not risen," saith the Apostle Paul, " then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." There cannot be a reasonable doubt that the Apostles publicly asserted that their master rose from the dead ; and that they did actually found their religion upon that fact. If that fact really occurred, it aflForded the strongest possible proof of the Divine authority of Jesus; it presents the best ground for believing in his declarations regarding the will and purposes of God with respect to mankind ; it gives the sanction of God Himself to the words of Christ ; it sets His seal to the charter of man's immortality. — If, on the other hand, God raised not T
274 SERMO XIX. Jesus^ then his Gospel, in all its blessed proviaons for human salvation, is a mere delusion. He did not teach and act under direct authority from God. Either he, or his Apostles, or both, were impostors: and the grand foundation of the Christian's hope and joy is rested on sand. — Blessed be God for the abundant evidence that it rests on the rock of truth, — ^that it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that
believeth. In the circumstances of the case, the witnesses of the resurrection could not be deceived. " He shewed himself alive after Ms passion by many in&Uible proofe." — Let us briefly retrace the circumstances. During the week preceding that great morning, when Jesus rose from the tomb to an immortal life, the Apostles had passed through a series of impres^ons which in their turn, must have delighted, astonished, and confounded them, and at last sunk them into distress and despondency. They had seen their Lord enter into the holy city as a triumphant Sovereign, welcomed by multitudes with joyous acclamations; and then the object of the bitter envy and malice of the Priests and Rulers, who were plotting against his lifeThey had heard him, in awfiil prophecy, declaring the final destruction of their city and temple, and then his own approaching death. While engaged with him id the Paschal rites, they had listened to discourses, the import of which they might not folly comprehend, but which must have diffused a solemn feeling over their souls, and increased their veneration and love for him who uttered them. They had heard his benevolent and
THE RESURRECTIO . 276 holy supplications^ before lie went to the scene of his greatest suffering. Some of them had seen him prostrate in agony^ praying to his Father with the earnestness of anguish^ checked in its impulses by the profoundest submission to the will of God^ and at last subsiding into the most dignified and tranquil resignation. All beheld him^ in the hour of darkness, dehvered up by the treachery of a fellow-disciple into the hands of his enemies. AU of them, deserting their own fidelity, and forgetting their just-uttered protestations of unswerving attachment to him, — ^all of them,
with a weakness not difficult to be accounted for, but incapable of complete apology, — forsook him and fled; and one, with bitter oaths and curses, denied, repeatedly denied all knowledge of him. With his more faithful female disciples, one apostle watched his last sufferings. All knew that he expired on the cross. All felt their hopes finally blasted. All deemed, when their beloved and revered Lord was laid in the sepulchre, that they had only to mourn for him and for themselves. With minds full of apprehension, of gloom, of despair, they were incapable of rising above the melancholy occurrences. They had expected a conquering and ever-living Messiah ; and their master's repeated predictions, that he should be rejected and crucified, had never excited their expectations of the reality : and it does not appear that his plain declarations of the event that was to follow, though obscure intimations excited the fears of his enemies, ever occurred to his disciples, to impart one ray of hope to their confused and agitated T2
276 SERMO XIX. minds. They had no idea of his Resurrection, because the predictions of his sufferings had left no impression that these would be literally accomplished. If a longer period had been permitted to intervene between the death and the Resurrection of Christy that tranquillity which time would have gradually spread over their spirits, would probably have brought with it such recollections, as would have given birth to hopes, and by degrees to expectations, which would have folly prepared their minds for the event, but might have lessened our evidence of its reality. — In fact, however, so completely were their minds overwhelmed with
sorrow and despondency, that they were in no degree ready to receive the tidings of the astonishing event. Those circumstances which would in others have excited hope, appeared to them as idle tales. What they heard from others, served to perplex without producing conviction ; and it was not till one of their pwn number, — the fallen but penitent Peter, had seen his risen Lord, that the belief was entertained, which could not but bring with it surprise and joy. It was not until they had themselves had satisfactory opportunities of personal observation, that doubts vanished from their minds, and the wavering belief was changed into the assurance of firm conviction. We may perceive in the simple narrative of the Evangelists, what indeed we might reasonably expect to find indications of, — ^increased reverence for their Lord after he had been powerfully declared to be the Son of God by his Resurrection. Perhaps it was from the influence of this feeling, that we have no mention
THE RESURRECTIO . 2/7 made of the Resurrection itself. The circumstances preceding it are stated. These the guards and Roman soldiers knew ; but they knew nothing more, for their minds had been overwhelmed with alarm at the descent of the Heavenly messenger. The Apostles could not have indulged in the same familiarity of intercourse as before. The recollection of their own weak desertion of their Lord, and the reverence excited by this new and most illustrious proof of the Divine power and approbation, must have checked the promptings of a natural curiosity into the emotions which pervaded the breast of the rising Saviour, when, " the days of pain and sorrow past," he left the tomb, for ever freed from the dominion of death ; when the promise of the Heavenly Father had been fulfilled, and all was
certainty,— certainty that his warfare had been accomplished so as to gain His approval, — certainty that the blessed promises of mercy, and grace, and life everlasting, would now be diflFased to millions, and to millions of millions, of his brethren, and that he himself should thereby become the Author of their et^al salvation. Human language could not have described the emotions, which none could have shared with this Son of God on this birth-day of an endless life : and veneration and awe would put a stop to all needless enquiry respecting them. o mortal eye witnessed the glorious moment, when he came forth from the sepulchre, the first to share in the resurrection to immortality ; and the narrations of the Evangelists merely respect the disclosures of this great event. Imposture would have attempted more than
278 SERMO XIX. they have recorded. Truth has been satisfied with the simple statement of that which was seen and heard and known ; and these facts afforded to the Apostles^ and they afford to us, the most satisfiBudx)ry ground on which to rest our faith^ that Jesus was raised from the dead, and that he thereby became the first fruits of them that slept. I shall now proceed to detail to you the circumstances attending this most important event, as £eur as they can be gathered from the Gospels. The attentive reader cannot but remark the diversities which exist in their account of these circumstances ; and various suppositions have been made, in order to shew that all the accoimts are perfectly accordant with each other. I do not see how it is possible that all these diversities could have taken place, if all the Evangelists had precisely the same idea of the circumstances immediately following the Resurrection. And, when we consider the
great unexpectedness of the event, the perturbation of mind into which it must have thrown the disciples (hesitating between their disbelief and their hopes), and the complete assurance, which they all soon enjoyed, of the fact itself that Jesus was actually risen, it appears even too much to expect that the circumstances attending the disclosures of the fact should be folly known to any of them. And why should they? They were indeed unbelieving at first. They would not receive the testimony of the women, who affirmed that they had seen Jesus alive. Yet afterwards they had all abundant and repeated opportunity of obtaining the fullest conviction on that point :
THE RESURRECTIO . 279 and the belief which led them to undergo long-continued exertions, and suffering, and death itself, could not require the assistance of the attendant circumstances, which would not affect their conviction as to what they themselves saw and heard. — ^It does not appear to me of essential importance (as far as the weight of evidence is concerned), to shew that all the accounts of the circiunstances following the Resurrection of our Lord, accord in every particular, even under apparent disagreement ; but, m order to give a reality and vigour to our conceptions of these circumstances, it is necessary that we combiae them into some order ; aad that of course is the most probable, which accords best with the several narratives. Two separate parties of women came to the garden of Joseph, to embalm the lifeless remains of him, whom they had loved for his tender love, and revered as the Messenger of Divine Mercy. Some had purchased the aromatic substances before the Sabbath began, after his crucifixion ; and others, when the Sabbath was ended. The second party consisted of Joauna, wife of Chuza,
Herod's steward, and her companions ; and they must have come from near Herod's Palace, which lay on the northern part of the City. Of that which first arrived, some came from Bethany, and some from Jerusalem ; probably from the house on Mount Sion, where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with his disciples. There was Mary of Magdala, and " the other Mary" the sister of the Lord's Mother, and Salome, the mother of the beloved disciple, and other women vnth them, whose names are doubtless written in the Book of Life, but
280 SERMO XIX. are not handed down to ns in the records of man. They knew of the stone which had been rolled to the month of the sepulchre : but not of the other measures for security, which had been taken by the rulers of the Jews. Setting out at different periods of the early dawn, they may have met at the entrance about sunrise : and^ on approaching the sepulchre^ they see the entrance open. The heart of Mary Magdalene was struck with amazement and apprehension. She presumed that the Lord had been taken away; and she probably feared that the body had been taken by the Jews, to expose it to some fresh indignity. Without waitiog to examine the fact, she ran from the spot, in fearful perplexity, to tell Peter and the beloved Apostle, who were obviously residing together. The other women soon hear, from a Heaven-sent Messenger, the joyful tidings, that he whom they were seeking had been raised from the dead : and when, as the Angel invited, they had seen the place where the Lord lay, they went away quickly, as he bid them, to tell his disciples imd Peter. They fled from the Sepulchre, trembling and amazed, affrighted, yet joyful : and, while Salome probably went to the residence of Peter and John, the others, and among them Mary the sister of the Lord's Mother, went on towards Bethany, to carry thither the
glorious news. But, probably on the Moimt of Olives, before they reached the village where Lazarus^ Mary, and Martha abode, they had still more to tell. As they were going, to bear the Angel's message to the disciples there, they saw the Lord himself, and threw themselves before him, in prostrate reverence.
THE RESURRECTIO . 281 But Mary of Magdala first saw the Lord after his resurrection. Matthew distinctly relates this fact: it was at the Sepulchre. Of this, the Apostle John has given us a delightful record, marked by that graphic simplicity, which characterizes his Gospel. It must be a fettered imagination, which cannot picture the scene which he has outlined; and sluggish, if not debased, must be the heart, which has no participation in the ecstacy of the grateful woman, which filled her heart beyond utterance — but by one word, when Mary ! from the Saviour, in the well-known accents of friendship, changed sorrow into joy. Mary had returned to the Sepulchre with Peter and John. They had satisfied themselves that the body was not there, and returned to their places of abode. They had manifested little courage, when it might have been of some avail ; and it is not probable that they would think any hazard called for, now that all their hopes were over. But such were not the feelings of the grateful Mary. She had been restored by her Lord from the most distressing calamity to which human nature is subject; and she had afterwards attended upon his ministry, and learnt from him the words of eternal life.* In his life she had ministered to him of her substance; and even now, though hopeless, she could not leave the tomb of her * It may be desirable to remind the reader that there is not the slightest reason for the common error of identifying Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala — a city in Galilee) with the " woman who had
been a sinner." The fact that, until Jesus knew her, Mary had been a demoniac, ought of itself to have been sufficient to prevent such a mistake. Ed.
282 SERMO XIX. benefactor. She stood by the Sepulchre weeping. But the sorrow of this excellent woman was not to last long. As if she could not satisfy herself that the body was actually taken away, she stooped down to look herself into the Sepulchre ; and saw two Heavenly messengers, who enquired of her why she wept. She told them the immediate cause of her grief, — " They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.** She appears immediately to have turned back, perplexed probably, but her mind still full of the subject which had first excited her distress. Then it was that, seeking only the dead, she saw her honoured Lord now a partaker of Immortal Life. I will not attempt to describe my impressions of an event, so full of every thing that could excite the most lively emotions in any heart of common sensibility. With that kind consideration of the feelings of others, which our Lord always manifested, he desired Mary for the present to restrain the dictates of her joy, her respect and affection; and to hasten to his disciples, now his brethren, joint heirs with him of the blessings of everlasting life ; and to conununicate to them the joyous tidings. " Go to my brethren, and say to them, ^ I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.' " Mary hastened on this joyful errand, to the desponding Apostles. She told them that she had seen the Lord, and that he had said these things unto her. Yet this heart-cheering message raised no hope or joy in their dejected minds. Though the other women con-
firmed the fact of his Resurrection, their words seemed
THE RESURRECTIO . 283 to them like idle tales^ and they believed them not. Bnt^ before the day was over, all doubt was dispelled from the breast of every one excepting Thomas. During the latter part of it, Jesus joined two disciples on the way to Emmaus ; and^ when these returned to Jerusalem to tell what they had seen and heard, they found the Apostles and others assembled/ uttering the joyful tidings, ^^ The Lord hath risen indeed and hath appeared unto Simon.'' Speedily he came to them all (Thomas alone being absent)y while they were at table recounting the scenes of the day ; and gave them full opportunity of satisfying their still doubting minds, that he was indeed risen from the dead. On the first day of the following week, he presented himself again to his Apostles, when the incredulous Thomas was with them ; and afforded to him the proofs which he had sought. Then was doubt dispelled from his mind also, and he uttered the exclamation of joyfdl belief in his risen Lord, and of thankful adoration of Him who had raised him from the dead, — "My Lord," and "My God." But these were not the only " iofallible proofs." He presented himself to the greater part of them, while near the Lake of Galilee. Soon after, he met above five hundred brethren at once on a mountain in Galilee ; before which time it appears that all doubts were not removed from the mind of some of his followers. He appears afterwards to have returned to Jerusalem, and there probably it was that he was seen by James alone ; and there he had further communication with his Apostles, eating and drinking with them, and giving
284 SERMO XIX. them instructions respecting the duties in which they were to engage^ and promising the aid of miraculous power. And^ at last, having led them out to the Mount of Olives, there, in the presence of them all, he was parted from them and carried up into Heaven. I trust I have not uselessly occupied your time, in this full detail of the circumstances succeeding the most important event in the history of mankind. To enter into the various reflections which crowd upon the mind in connexion with it, would require much more time than can now be allotted to it. I must conclude with the brief statement of some of the most important. 1st. We have great reason to be thankful that our belief in the doctrine of a future life, is authorized by a fact so simple and striking, though at the same time so complete an attestation of the Divine mission of our Saviour. If it had rested upon a long train of reasoning, however clear and convincing the proof might appear to the mind when vigorous and healthy, it would often be found to yield before the obscurations of gradual decay, or the sudden diminution of the noble powers of the mind ; and would still more readily sink before the weakness and depression produced by illness or distress. But here is an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast: because Jesus lives we shall live also. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to His abundant mercy, hath begotten us again to a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away." Well might the Apostle exclaim, in triumphant Ian-
THE RESURRECTIO . 285
guage^ "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ." 2ndly. The evidence upon which this most important fact rests, is so various and so forcible, that few who with honest hearts have attended carefully to it, have failed to be convinced that Jesus rose from the dead; in other words that the Christian religion is true. If any person should hesitate with respect to particulars, as recorded by the EvangeUsts, still the evidence is abundant. It is true that, without their narratives, we should not gain so clear a conception, nor perhaps so lively a conviction, of the event itself; but the credibility of it would be scarcely, if at all, weakened. It is completely certain, independently of the Gospels, that the first disciples asserted the fact ; and that they founded upon it the religion which they taught. For their belief in the truth of this fact, they underwent innumerable hardships and privations, for a long series of years ; and many of them attested their conviction with their blood. In a very short period of time, great nimibers were led to adopt the same conviction, and in like manner to exert themselves, and to suflFer in its behalf. And all this, for a religion which oflFered no present inducement to its followers, and whose future rewards to obedience and perseverance were rested upon this one fact. If this important event did not take place, then indeed was the preaching of the Apostles vain, and alike vain was the faith of disciples. Hundreds, nay even thousands, and millions, of persons must have acted in a manner inconsistent with any known principles of human
286 SERMO XIX. nature; which^ in my apprehension^ is a much more stupendous miracle^ than any recorded in the Scrip-
tures^ and which we cannot suppose that the Supreme Being would work^ because in that case it would have been to sanction a falsehood : ^^ But now *' indeed ^^ is Christ risen from the dead^ and become the first fruits of them that slept/' I observe, 3rdly: — That the grand object of die Resurrection of Jesus, was to assure men that there would be a day of final retribution. On this point, the Apostle Paul, in his address to the Athenians (Acts xvii. 31), is very express, "God now commands all men every where to repent (he sajrs), because He hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness, by the Man whom He hath appointed, having given unto all men an assurance (or pledge of this purpose) by having raised him from the dead." " The hour cometh," says our Saviour himself, ^^when all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man and shall come forth ; they that have done good to the resurrection of life^ and they that have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation." May it be your happiness and mine, my friends and fellow-Christians, so to prepare for this most important event, by repentance and obedience, that, at whatever time our great change cometh, the day of Judgment may be to us a day of triumph, and our end everlasting life.
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