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"I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen," Revelation i, 18. This account of our Lord Jesus Christ is given by himself, who is the purest, the most interesting and extraordinary character that ever appeared in our world — in comparison of whom the age of Methuselah, the meekness of Moses, strength of Sampson, patience of Job, wisdom of Solomon, love of John, and eloquence of Apollos, all dwindle into insignificance. The narrative of his life is a history of wonders. He was conceived by the overshadowing of the power of the Highest; his birth was announced by a mission of angels; the star of heaven directed the wise men of the east to Bethlehem, an obscure village, to worship in a manger the infant Redeemer of the world; by his juvenile intelligence, he confounded the elders and doctors of the law ; by a series of miracles the most merciful, and yet the most magnificent, he reversed and restored at will the laws of nature ; and by his sufferings in the closing scene of his earthly pilgrimage, to which he voluntarily surrendered himself, he shook the globe, and darkened the world. To crown the whole, it appeared suitable, that he should demonstrate the divinity of his character and mission, by rising from the dead. The
SER. XVI.] THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 159 resurrection of Christ is a matter of fact in his history, with which the whole system of Christianity must stand or fall; and, which, considering its importance, is too much neglected by the heralds of the cross ; but which, we are happy to believe, and, therefore, cheerfully state, admits of proofs the most certain, and arguments the most incon-
trovertible ; consequently, all the indulgence we ask is an impartial hearing, while we call up some of the main features of the subject. A resurrection is a restoration from a state of death to a state of life — a return from the grave of the same body that went into it; hence, to be certain of Christ's resurrection, we must first be certain of his death. And did he die? Ask the Jews that prosecuted him, the governor who passed sentence upon him, and the soldiers that executed him, the crowd of spectators who witnessed his dying agony, heard him say, "It is finished," and saw his head recline upon his shoulder ! Ask all nature, the rending vail, the darkened sun, the shivering rocks, the opening tombs, the rising saints, and the trembling earth ! Ask the soldiers that were sent to hasten the death of the sufferers, and broke the bones of the first and of the second that were crucified with him, but when they came to Jesus broke not his bones, because he was dead already ; " but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water," for the washing of the nations, clearly indicating that life was extinct ! Ask Joseph who begged the body for interment, wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his own new tomb ! Ask the mournful procession of weeping disciples that followed and saw him laid in the sepulchre! They all proclaim him dead, and no one doubts the fact. We notice next the means used to prevent his resurrection. Immediately after the interment, a delegation of Christ's enemies waited on the governor, "Saying, Sir,
160 THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. fsER. XVI. we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and
say unto the people, He is risen from the dead : so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch : go your way, make it as sure as ye can." Whereupon, a military detachment from among the regular troops stationed at Jerusalem, under the newly founded empire of Rome, was ordered to the sepulchre, whose employers showed them the deposit which they were called out to defend ; rolled a huge stone, used as a lid or shutter, to the mouth of the sepulchre ; affixed the governor's seal, to show that all was done by public authority ; gave the necessary orders, and retired. Let it be here remarked, that all these precautions to prevent the resurrection of Christ, are only additional evidences that the fact really transpired, rendering it more obvious than it otherwise could have been. What a solemn crisis was this in the history of the Christian Church. The Shepherd of Israel was smitten, and all his flock scattered ; the enemies of the cross seemed to have a momentary triumph ; Zion was prostrated, and bleeding at a thousand veins ; the Savior was about to demonstrate that he was the Son of God, or be detected as an impostor ; the truth or falsity of revealed religion was then to be fully and fairly tested. All was anxiety on either side. The wheels of time seemed to linger, but the hardy soldiers were firm at their posts, by night and day. The approach of day on the third morn was announced by the faint glimmer which the morning star shed upon the soldier's spear. The interest of the occasion was increasing. Presently, the eastern horizon was slightly streaked with the dawn of day. The soldiers took courage, and perhaps said, "The victory is ours." Already, in their imagination, they had returned to their
SER. XVI.] THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 161 employers to be greeted with welcome, and applauded with shouts of triumph, and rewarded with the wages of iniquity. But suddenly they were roused from this reverie by an awful earthquake that convulsed the tombs, and by the appear-
ance of two celestial beings dispatched from heaven, who, equally regardless of the soldiers' arms, and the governor's seal, rolled back the stone. Jesus exerted the power of his divinity, and, like a mighty conqueror, spoiled the powers of death, hell, and the grave. The effect was as might have been expected: "the keepers shook and became as dead men." When they saw the angels, it produced a paroxysm ; but when they saw the Son of God start into life, there was a suspension of the pulsation of their hearts. Having recovered a little, they returned to the city, and as was very natural for them to do, under the extraordinary circumstances, related the facts of the case as they transpired; for this, with them, was a very awful moment, and no time to trifle. The next thing which claims our notice, is, the means employed to prevent the belief of the resurrection of Christ after it had taken place. A council was hastily called, in which it was agreed to get the soldiers to call in the first report they made on the subject, and put forth another; namely, that while they were sleeping, his disciples came by night and stole him away. But in doing this, the council found great difficulty. The events witnessed by the soldiers had badly prepared their minds for such deceit and falsehood. The proposition was made without success, renewed with the promise of large sums of money, urged by many persuasions ; and, finally, by a promise of personal indemnification, they were reluctantly induced to comply'— turned round, contradicted their own first statement, and said, ""While we slept, his disciples came by night and stole him away." This fabrication was badly contrived, and badly executed ; for it carries its own refu14*
162 THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. [SER. XVI. tation on the face of it! The disciples seemed thus far not to have entered into the scheme of the resurrection;
and, consequently, could have no design to induce the belief of it. And if they had, how could they hope to succeed? Few in number, inoffensive, unarmed, unaccustomed to war, scattered, and heart-broken, would they attempt an attack on these invincible regulars ? Or if they relied on felony, could they hope to find all the guards asleep on an occasion like this? And if they should, could they remove the stone, enter the sepulchre, and convey off the sacred body, without waking one of this vigilant watch? And beside all this, if they were asleep, as they said, how did they know the correctness of their own statements? Has a man any consciousness when all his senses are locked up in slumber? ot any more than when he is in his grave. How then could they know, if he was removed while they slept, whether the- disciples stole him, or he actually rose from the dead? And is this the best evidence for infidelity? Yes; the self-contradictory statements of these sycophantic, bribed, perjured soldiers ! How strange then that contemptible infidelity should lift its deformed head, and that presumptuous deism should stalk out into the open light of Gospel day, with all the effrontery of Satan ! May the God of Israel enable us this day, with a few pebbles of truth hurled from the Gospel sling, to stretch the monster in the dust ! Very different, indeed, are the evidences on the other side of the question. Let us now examine the witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. Who are they? The disciples in general, but the apostles more especially. Are they competent witnesses? They are, first, in number, viz., the apostles, and more than five hundred that saw him at once. Second, in moral character also, they are competent. They were plain, simple, honest-hearted men, whose testimony would be received in any court throughout the
SER. XVI.] THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 163 civilized world, and whose conduct proved the purity
of their motives; for to say, that they were base men of wicked intentions, would be to involve us in such consequences as would shock common sense. Did they desire applause? Their Master had forewarned them, that they "should be hated of all men for his sake," persecuted, brought before rulers, and that the time should come when men would think they did God service if they killed them. Did they seek wealth? Why then did they leave their occupations, and go without purse or scrip to preach the Gospel to the poor? Did they desire ease? Why then did they lead a life of unparalleled toils and sufferings, trudging on foot from town to town, in perils by land and sea ; and, finally, die martyrs to the cause they advocated ? ow to suppose that these were bad men, actuated by corrupt principles, would be to suppose that they voluntarily gave up their pecuniary interests, friends, ease, safety, and life itself, for what? To assert what they knew to be a base lie; and that too to promote the honor of one they knew to be an impostor, who had cruelly deceived and disappointed themselves ! If any man can believe this, let him believe it. Perhaps it may be further objected to these witnesses, that though their conduct proved them sincere and honest, yet they were ignorant and deluded men; they thought Christ rose from the dead, but were mistaken. But this is getting from bad to worse. It is virtually saying, that a dozen men, ignorant, illiterate, without experience, friends, wealth, or influence, undertook to establish a new religion in the world; and though they had to contend with the prejudices of the Jews, the ignorance and superstition of pagans, the influence of wealth and learning, the power of civil rulers, and the terrors of military force, yet did absolutely succeed in the establishment of a religion, that has out-lived all the storms and revolutions of eighteen
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centuries, and now bids fair to take the world. Such monstrous absurdities carry their own refutation with them. Our witnesses, upon the whole, are both competent and credible. The witnesses examined the facts of the case well, and did not act like persons willing to be imposed on. The first who discovered the resurrection among the disciples, were Mary and a few of her female friends. The time that they left home to visit the sepulchre, and the time that the soldiers left it for the city, were so nearly the same, that neither had arrived before the other departed. The object of the women was to embalm the sacred body, according to the customs of Asia in those days; hence, their balm and spices, and their conversation about the difficulty of moving the stone. To their astonishment they found it rolled away, and Jesus gone : disappointment added to sympathy made them weep bitterly. The angel came and said tcr Mary, "Why weepest thou? I know that you seek Jesus that was crucified : he is not here : he is risen as he said;" but they understood it not. Of a resurrection, they seemed to have no correct idea. Gloom, with them, covered the whole subject. The angels are gone ; the women are dispersing ; but Mary lingers behind. Reclining on the sepulchre, she discovers some person near her; but her eyes are suffused with tears, and she knows him not. Supposing him to be the gardener, and that he might have removed the dead body, lest it should be a nuisance to him, she said, "Sir, if you have borne my Lord hence, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." The individual significantly said, "Mary." She looked round, and there stood Jesus alive. She fell at his feet in an act of worship. He said, " Go and tell my disciples I am risen from the dead." Then with joyful haste, she fled to them. Peter and another being the first she found, set off full speed, and on their
SER. XVI.] THE BESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 165
arrival found it even so; but the others believed it not. The same day two of the disciples went to Emmaus, a village seven miles and a half from Jerusalem. On their way, Jesus fell in with them, "but their eyes were holden, that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?" One answered, "Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass in these days ?" He said, " What things ?" They answered, " Concerning Jesus of azareth, a prophet mighty in deed and word before God, and all the people:" and how they had crucified him, &c. "And besides all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done. And, certain women of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre," and brought news of his being alive. Then he said, " O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken ! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" He began to explain the prophets concerning himself, which was the best preaching they had ever heard. The time passed pleasantly, and before they were aware, they had reached the place of destination. He made as though he would pass on, but they besought him to tarry with them as the day was far spent. He yielded to their importunities ; and at supper took bread, blessed, broke, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened to know him, and he vanished out of their sight. With haste they returned to the city, saying, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way?" — found the apostles gathered in a private room, and conferring on the subject, related what they had seen and heard; and while the investigation went on, which seemed to those that had not yet seen him as idle tales, they heard a voice falling with the sweetness of heavenly accents, saying, "Peace be unto
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you;" and looking up, there stood Jesus in the midst. On this occasion Thomas was absent. When he returned and heard their statements, said he, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my ringer into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." At the next meeting of the disciples privately, the door being shut, Thomas attended. Jesus came, and pronounced his blessing on them ; and addressing himself to Thomas said, by way of reproof, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands ; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side ; and be not faithless, but believing." When, by way of confession, " Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God!" for this was demonstration. From the very brief view we have taken of the conduct of the disciples, it appears obvious, that they were not careless in the examination of the evidences of Christ's resurrection. They did not act like persons who intended to be deceived. So far from it, never was unbelief more stubborn and unconquerable, than that of the disciples touching this subject. And never was any subject more critically looked into by so many persons ; for the disciples would not believe one another, and went on to examine till demonstration was fixed on every mind. or could they be mistaken by any means as to the identity of his person. If they had heard his voice merely, without seeing him, then doubts might have arisen; or if they had only seen him at a distance, it would be less certain; but when they came into his presence, entered into familiar conversation with him, and handled him, deception was impossible. Some of the apostles were his own relatives, and had been brought up with him ; and all of them accompanied him during his ministry of several years; as members of his ownfamily, they lived, journeyed, ate, slept, and labored with him, in habits of the most intimate friendship ; and how could they mistake him after all
SER. XVI.] THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 167 this? Can a man know his own mother's son with whom he lives daily? Then the disciples could know Christ. The being who appeared to the disciples, professing to be Christ from the dead, must have been one of four things, viz., a good angel, bad angel, phantasm, or what he professed to be. Let us then, for the sake of argument, suppose him to be a good angel. If so, he was not Christ; and if he was not Christ, then did not Christ rise from the dead; but this good angel came with a falsehood, saying, he was Christ ; which cannot be reconciled to the character of a good angel, or the God that sent him. Suppose him to be a bad angel, then he was not Christ ; and, of course, Christ did not rise from the dead, but Satan sent his angel to make the people believe that Christ did rise. For what purpose ? To establish the truth of the Gospel, and thereby bring his own kingdom to naught ! But if the devil had no better policy than this, it would be well for us. Again, to suppose him to be a mere ideal being, would be to suppose that there is no certainty in the evidence of our senses ; and that, consequently, we can be certain of nothing whatever. More than once, our Savior, after his resurrection, said to his disciples, "Handle me, and feel me; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me have;" which they did repeatedly. Moreover "he took a piece of a broiled fish, and an honey-comb, and did eat before them." ow, if there is any certainty in those things which are seen, heard, and felt, then there is certainty that the disciples were not mistaken in the person they took for Christ after his resurrection. Who else could have appeared and vanished at pleasure; been the subject of angelic attendance; breathed on the disciples the Holy Ghost; and in open day, amidst admiring hundreds, have ascended to heaven on a bright cloud ? To all this evidence, it is objected by infidels, that the testimony of the witnesses is contradictory ; and, therefore,
168 THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. [SER. XVI incredible. This contradiction is supposed to be in the records of the four evangelists, respecting the time that the women went to the sepulchre. We deny any such contradiction. There is, indeed, a little difference in the manner of their details; but none touching any important fact. Matthew says, "As it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary," &c. To dawn is to glimmer, and refers to the twilight. Mark says, "Very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun." ot after the sun appeared above the horizon, but very early, when he was only approaching towards it. Luke says, in general terms, " ow upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came," &c. John says, "The first day of the week cometh Mary, &c, early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away," &c. Yet dark means before it is perfectly light; for she "seeth the stone," &c. In these four records, made by different persons, and at different times and places, there is a very striking coincidence of facts, with such a difference in the manner of relating them, as is calculated to exclude all suspicion of any concerted plan or design to impose on man by the writers. They are agreed: (1.) That individuals went to the sepulchre. (2.) That they were the same individuals. (3.) Went on the same errand. (4.) The same day of the week. (5.) The same hour of the day, viz., between day-break and the appearance of the sun above the horizon. This subject admits of many forcible illustrations, which we have not now time to make. Let the people supply these ; and we pass on to notice another objection to the evidences of Christ's resurrection, viz : — Is it not possible, after all, that the whole of these accounts, by the above named authors, were forged and imposed on mankind by some shrewd person or persons ? We answer, that such a forgery and imposition were
SER. XVI.] THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 169 impossible, either 'at the time in which those things are said to have taken place, or at any subsequent period whatever. And now for the reasons. Suppose a man should publish a book, setting forth that there was in Washington City, recently, a very strange and extraordinary man, claiming to act under a divine commission, who healed the sick without medicine, restored withered and amputated limbs, gave hearing to the deaf, sight to the blind, and speech to the dumb ; that he had complete control over the winds and tempests ; assembled, by his secret call, the inhabitants of the Atlantic ocean in the river Potomac at pleasure ; and that at certain times and places, designated in this book, raised the dead in the presence of thousands of the citizens of Washington; often had public disputes in the Capitol with the principal men of this nation; that finally he was tried before the Supreme Court of the United States on an indictment for high treason ; and being condemned without any evidence against him, was, in the most public manner, executed as a malefactor ; and that all the people of Washington are witnesses of these things ; would any body believe this narrative ? Or if it were likely to meet with public confidence abroad, would no one in that place contradict it? Certainly, they would all rise up and say, this book is a scandalous imposition ; no such person was here ; no such transactions took place ; much less are we witnesses of these things; the representatives too of the people in Congress, would give it the lie in every district throughout the nation ; and the book, with its author, would have their merited disgrace. And yet all this would be quite as plausible, as the imposition now talked of in the objection. The miracles of Christ "were not done in a corner." The recorders of them give us the times when, places where, and the living thousands by whom they were known to have taken place, mostlv in and about the great city of Je-
170 THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. [sER. XVI. rusalem. Yet even his enemies, that "are appealed to as witnesses, deny them not, but acknowledge the facts; while his friends respond, " "We are witnesses of these things." But could not such a forgery and imposition be practiced on the world at sometime subsequent to the period in which the facts recorded in the ew Testament are said to have taken place? By no means. This is as impossible as the other. Suppose some man, five hundred years hence, should publish a history of orth America, and state therein, that about the middle of the eighteenth century, there was a flourishing republic in this country ; but the French made war upon and destroyed it ; that they erected instead thereof a cruel monarchy ; established Popery by the civil law ; and put to death all Protestants that would not swear allegiance to the new king, and proclaim the Pope infallible ; who would believe this history ? Where would be the history of the British colonies, the Declaration of Independence, history of the Revolution, Constitution of the United States, journals of Congress, bills of rights in the several states, and histories of the several Protestant Churches amongst us ? ow, this argument applies with all its force to the subject before us; for as such a history of orth America would be contradicted by each one of these documents, so would the ew Testament, if a forgery, have been contradicted by every record of the Jewish nation, every public document in the Roman empire, and every respectable author throughout the world ! But no such contradiction ever was, or ever can be brought forward. It is a matter of consolation, that we are not necessarily obliged to range the fields of antiquity to find evidence
of Christ's resurrection. We have living witnesses at hand. When he was about to leave his disconsolate children, he said, " If I go away I will send you another Com-
SER. XVI.] THE RESURRECTIO OF CHRIST. 171 forter, that shall abide with you for ever. * * * When the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, is come, he shall teach you all things. * * * He shall reprove (convince) the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." Has the sinner felt convicted for his sins ? Then he is our witness that Christ rose and ascended. Does the humble child of God feel the witness of the Spirit? He testifies the same fact. Here then is " a cloud of witnesses," by whom we may know the truth of the matter. The pious minister knows that Christ has risen from the dead, when he feels him in the pulpit ; the trembling sinner, when he feels his awful power ; the penitent, when Christ removes all his sorrows ; the faithful belfever, when Christ is formed in his heart the hope of glory ! We have dying witnesses of Christ's resurrection. And here we are quite indifferent, whether you bring forward Christians or infidels. If the latter, in most instances, perhaps nine out of ten, if not ninety-nine out of a hundred of all the votaries of infidelity, dying in their senses, renounce their sentiments, either directly or indirectly, and wish then to try the virtue of the Christian's hope. If the former, how many hundreds and thousands, fondly clinging to the cross of Jesus, smile at the king of terrors, and cheerfully launch into the boundless deep. Having the love which is, not only sweeter than life, but stronger than death, they, in preference to renouncing " the Lord that bought them," suffer the confiscation of their goods, separation from friends," cruel tortures ; and, finally, shout victory amidst devouring flames, and fly home to heaven. Lastly. If Christ rose not from the dead, the Christian
revelation is a fable; and if so, we know not whence we came, nor whither we go. Alike ignorant of our origin and end, we wander for a season amidst privations, toils, and sorrows, and dying, take a leap in the dark, amidst painful suspense, restless anxieties, and awful forebodings ! But
172 THE PRIVILEGES OF THE POOR. [sER. XVII Christ rose from the dead. Christianity is a solemn and glorious truth; and though we are sinners, Christ is a Savior — a loving, willing, powerful Savior, that has conquered all our enemies, sanctified the graves of the saints, and opened up a new and living way from earth to heaven. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above ;" so when this mortal pilgrimage shall end, "your flesh shall rest in hope." In the morning of eternity, he, who said, "I am the resurrection and the life," will cause the day of heaven to break upon your dark and silent abode. By his transforming power you shall become all glorious and divine ; and with all the redeemed from the earth, celebrate his love and power for ever. This is no fiction, no dream. Our Savior entered the territories of death, encountered the king of terrors single-handed, conquered and led him captive; and as he returned from the conflict on the third day, dragging death at his chariot wheel, proclaimed to all his disciples, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore;" and thereby virtually renewed the promise, "Because I live, ye shall live also." Amen.
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