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cast him out as one unworthy to breathe the air, and see the light of the sun, there was no place to receive him save a tomb which one of his disciples had prepared for himself. It was the sepulchre of a rich man—but its present tenant was poor indeed. Yet why, we may say, should he have had a sepulchre of his own ? Other men may provide a solitary dwelling for their bodies, for the sleep of the grave is long. It is their last abode, of which they will keep possession for ages; for “man lieth down, and riseth not; till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep."* But our blessed Lord was like a way-faring man, who tarries only for a night in some resting-place which he finds on the road. The next morning he hastens away from it, and pursues his journey to his home.
Our Redeemer stooped low indeed when he assumed our nature, but lower still when he submitted to be laid in the grave. This is the last degree of humiliation. All the glory of man is extinguished in the tomb. If we viewed his prosperity with an eye of indifference, we now pity him; if his splendour excited our envy, the feeling dies away and hostility relents, when he, who, like a flourishing tree, spread his branches around, now lies prostrate in the dust. Who is this that occupies the sepulchre of Joseph ? Is it a prophet or a king? No; it is one greater than all prophets and kings, the Son of the living God, the Lord of heaven and earth ; but there is now nothing to distinguish him from the meanest of the human race; the tongue which charmed thousands with its eloquence is mute, and the hand which controlled the powers of the visible and invisible world is unnerved. The shades of death have enveloped him, and silence reigns in his lonely abode.
In the Apostles' Creed, it is said that “ Christ descended into hell.” With respect to the meaning of this article, there has been a great diversity of opinion. Some have supposed it to signify his burial; and, at first, when his descent into hell was mentioned, his burial was omitted: but both are now found in the creed. Others, again, have interpreted it of the state of the dead, or death itself, and of the place of souls, which is divided into two regions, the one in which the patriarchs and saints who died before his coming were detained, and the other the receptacle of the souls of the damned. Some supposed that he went to the former to carry the patriarchs and saints with him to heaven; and others, that he went to the latter place to triumph over Satan, and by preaching the Gospel, to deliver such of his captives as should believe. 'These are notions which do not receive the least countenance from Scripture, and may be dismissed without wasting time in resuting them.
It would not be incumbent upon us to take notice of the article under consideration, as the creed in which it occurs, although bearing the name of the Apostles, is a composition long posterior to their age, were it not that its language is borrowed from the Scriptures, into the meaning of every part of which it is our duty to inquire. The following words are found in the sixteenth Psalm, and are applied to our Saviour by Peter, in the second chapter of the Acts : "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”+ 'adas, which is the word used in the New Testament, is derived from a privative and ed, I see, or av, the infinitive of the second aorist. It signifies, therefore, the invisible state of the dead; and, although it may sometimes denote the grave, it admits of a more extensive sense, and comprehends the place of the soul. The same is the meaning of the Hebrew word, 5180, in the Old Testament. It is derived from Sav, to ask ; and denotes the place concerning which inquiry is made, because it is unseen and unknown. The word hell, is now used for the place of the damned; but originally it signified something obscure and concealed, and is of much the same import with boxo and isus. This, therefore, is the sense of the passage in the Psalms: “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in the invisible state ; nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption." Our Saviour is speaking of his death, by which his soul and body would be separated; the one going into the unseen state, the other being laid in the grave. The words are a prediction of his resurrection, and are applied to this event by the apostle : “ David, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption." God would bring back his soul from the invisible state, and reunite it to his body, before it was corrupted. This explanation frees the passage from the perplexity in which it has been involved by those who, supposing bing and adus to signify only the grave, understood vbs and Yuxn, which we translate soul, to mean the body; and thus, besides affixing an unusual and unnatural meaning to these words, represented the two parts of the verse as tautological. The view which we have given, preserves them distinct, and retains the common sense of the terms. The receptacle of our Saviour's soul was the invisible state, and the place of his body was grave.
• Job xiv. 12.
7. Acts ii. 27.
The humiliation of Christ manifests the greatness of his love, the riches of his grace. It was for us, men, and for our salvation, that he assumed human nature, and abased himself to the dust of death. He drew a veil over his glory, that he might remove our reproach, and raise us to heavenly honours; he groaned and died, that we might obtain immortal felicity. He has acquired a title to our everlasting gratitude, by the most astonishing sacrifices.
Let us learn humility from his example. Pride should be for ever renounced by the followers of a lowly Saviour. Every part of his conduct, during his abode upon earth, is calculated to put it to shame; and we have in vain traced his progress from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross of Calvary and the sepulchre of Joseph, if we retain our unbending attitude, and refuse to stoop to our brethren at the call of charity. The scene which we have contemplated should dispose us to condescend to the meanest, and to divest ourselves of every worldly honour, when we are called upon to do so for the glory of God. “ Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”+
CHRIST'S STATE OF EXALTATION.
The Resurrection of Christ-Preliminary Remarks Respecting it-_Statement of the Evidence
of his Resurrection.
Although, during the humiliation of our Saviour, a veil was drawn over his glory, yet some rays occasionally broke through, which manifested, to attentive spectators, his essential and official dignity. The sublime doctrines which he taught, the astonishing miracles which he performed, and the testimonies of the Divine approbation which were given to him, by voices and signs from heaven, proclaimed that he was the only begotten Son of God, and the promised Redeemer of Israel. The dark scene of his death was illustrated by prodigies, which signified that he was no ordinary sufferer; for, at a time when there could be no natural eclipse of the sun, because the moon was in
full opposition, there was darkness over all the land, from the sixth to the ninth hour; and when he expired there was a great earthquake, which splitted the rocks, and laid open the tombs, and the veil which concealed the holy of holies in the temple was torn, by invisible hands, from the top to the bottom. Even his burial was not without honour; for, although he had been put to death in the most ignominious manner, and under the imputation of the greatest crimes, his body was wrapped in fine linen and precious spices, by two persons of high rank, and was deposited in a magnificent sepulchre.
These circumstances, however, gave only a partial relief to the deep gloom which had settled upon him. His life, from the manger to the tomb, was a course of profound abasement. It was not till his resurrection that the glory which was to follow his sufferings commenced. That event, which removed the ignominy of his cross, revived the hopes of his disciples, and is the sure foundation of our faith in him, it is the design of this lecture to consider.
It is related by the four evangelists, and referred to in innumerable places by the other writers of the New Testament, as a fact, of which no doubt was entertained among Christians; insomuch that, assuming it as a first principle universally acknowledged, they reason from it in support of the doctrines of the gospel, and for the confutation of errors. In the narratives of the evangelists there are some discrepancies, which have been represented by infidels as affecting their credibility. Learned men have taken great pains to remove the apparent contradictions, and to show how the different accounts may be reconciled. I shall not enter upon this discussion at present, but shall content myself with referring you to those who have treated directly of this subject, and of whom I shall mention two, to whose writings you have easy access,– West's Observations on the History and Evidences of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the seventh preliminary Observation, and the one hundred and fiftieth section of Macknight's Harmony of the Four Gospels. Were we at present considering the Evangelists as inspired writers, it would be necessary to examine every thing in the account which they have left us that might seem to indicate that they are as fallible as other authors, and have actually erred; at present, however, we appeal to them, not in this character, but merely as persons who have related a fact of which they were competent witnesses.Now, although we should allow that they are at variance in some particulars, this would not invalidate their testimony in the opinion of any reasonable man, as they all agree in the main fact, and differ only in some matters which are not of much importance. In other cases, we deem the evidence sufficient, when we find substantial truth with circumstantial variety; that is, when a number of witnesses positively attest the same fact, but disagree in some inferior points, which do not materially affect the truth of the general statement. Minute accordance rather awakens a suspicion of previous concert, while occasional discrepancy affords a strong presumption that the witnesses are independent, and that every man speaks from personal knowledge. The testimony of the Evangelists would, I have no doubt, be received as consistent and credible by any civil court, as not one of them has denied the great fact of the resurrection, or discovered the slightest hesitation in aflirming it; and the differences among them, even although they were real, and not merely apparent, as has been satisfactorily shown, consist only in circumstances upon which the general truth of the history does not depend; as the precise time in the morning when the event took place, and the number of individuals who were present at a particular moment. It is manifest, that they did not write with a design to obviate objections ; and that each of them, without considering what had been said, or might be said by others, recorded the event in the manner which occurred to his own mind. It is by comparing all their narratives, that we come to know the whole circumstances of the case, and are able to show how one account may be reconciled with another. There are some parts of profane history, the general truth of which no person calls in question, although the testimony of those who have recorded them, is far from agreeing, in a variety of points. Let any of you read the history of Cyrus, by Herodotus and Xenophon, and you will find not only a diversity, but a contradiction, in several important particulars; yet it was never doubted that there was such a man, who conquered Babylon, and performed the other exploits which antiquity has ascribed to him. There is a case more to our present purpose, because it is recent, and is related by eye-witnesses, and others who are supposed to have received information from eye-witnesses. Ten narratives have been published, of the attempt made by the late king of France* to escape, not long after the commencement of the revolution, which, in several points, contradict each other in the most wonderful and inexplicable manner, and furnish, it has been observed, a striking proof of the inaccuracy of human observation, and the infirmity of memory. Yet, notwithstanding the discrepancy among the witnesses with regard to the details, nothing is more firmly believed, than that the attempt was made, and did not succeed. We should have no reason to call in question the fact of the resurrection, although the differences in the narratives of the Evangelists were such, that we could not reconcile them, as they relate only to subordinate circumstances.
The account of the resurrection of our Saviour in the gospel of Matthew, which I shall quote, because it is the first, is as follows: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake ; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and behold he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him ; lo, I have told you.”+ There is subjoined an account of the appearance of Christ to the women, and of his subsequent appearance in Galilee, which it is unnecessary to recite.
I shall make some preliminary observations, before I proceed to lay before you the evidence of our Saviour's resurrection. First, the event was not impossible, and, consequently, if sufficient evidence be produced, we ought to give credit to the narrative, however extraordinary it may appear. We indeed have not experienced such an event, having never seen any person raised from the dead; but as it would be a most irrational conclusion, that nothing is possible which we have not witnessed, so it cannot be denied that the cause assigned for the resurrection of Jesus was adequate. To a Theist, a man who believes the existence and almighty power of God, it will not seem incredible that he should raise the dead; there being no greater difficulty in the restoration of a body to life, than there was in originally forming it, and endowing it with a sentient and intelligent soul.
My second observation is, That if Jesus was the Messiah, his resurrection was necessary to vindicate his character from the charges with which it was loaded. The alleged crimes for which he was condemned to die, were imposture and blasphemy. The Jews, full of carnal ideas and expectations, did not believe that a man of an appearance so mean, and a condition so humble, could be the Son of God, and the great deliverer of their nation, whom their imagi
* Louis XVI.
† Matt. xxviii. 1—7.
nations had invested with the attributes of worldly grandeur: it seemed to them that his claim to these dignities was arrogant and impious. As Providence had permitted him to fall into their hands, it might have been supposed that it sanctioned their proceedings; and this conclusion would have been fully confirmed, if he had remained in the state of the dead. It would then have appeared that they had acted with laudable zeal for the honour of the Most High, who will not give his glory to another, and had been ministers of divine justice in awarding due punishment to one whom their law pronounced to be unworthy to live. It would have appeared that, instead of purposing to save mankind from ignorance and sin, Jesus had come to deceive them with false pretences, to amuse them with delusive hopes, and to lead them to final perdition, by persuading them to apostatise from the living God, and commit themselves to him as their guide. But his return to life prevented the unfavourable inferences, which either friends or enemies might have drawn from his tragical end. His resurrection, by the power of his Father, demonstrated that he acknowledged him as his Son and his servant. He had permitted his life to be taken away, because he required it as a sacrifice for the sin of his people; he restored it, to show that the demands of justice were satisfied. Hence the Scripture says, that “ he was declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead,"'* and that “the God of peace brought him again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”+ By this event, God acknowledged him to be his Son, and gave a solemn assurance that he is reconciled to guilty men.
A third observation is suggested by what has been now said, that our Saviour was raised by the power of his Father. Upon this fact depends the evidence, that he truly was what he affirmed himself to be. If God raised him from the dead, the sentence pronounced upon him by the Jews was reVersed, and he who had expired in ignominy and torment was proved to be the Lord of glory. Sometimes, indeed, the New Testament ascribes the resurrection to our Saviour himself. Thus, we find him saying, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again ;"I and when he speaks of his body under the image of a temple, he represents its restoration as his own work: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."'S In both passages, the resurrection is attributed to him, because his power was exerted in this, as it is in other external acts, in concurrence with that of his Father; for as they are one in nature, they are united in operation; " My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”'ll But it is the Father who is usually represented as the agent in this event; and this is so frequently done, that it is unnecessary to refer to particular passages. According to the order established in the plan of redemption, the resurrection was not properly the work of the Son, but of the Father. Jesus died in obedience to his will; he offered himself upon the cross, to appease his justice ; and, to speak in the figurative style which has been employed on this subject, as he had engaged, in the character of our surety, to pay the debt which we owed to God, it was fit and necessary that, from the hand of God, he should openly receive a discharge.
I observe, in the last place, that he was raised on the third day after his death. This was the time fixed by himself, and it was so well known, that his enemies were apprised of it. “ Sir,” the Jews said to Pilate, “we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.”I He died on the afternoon of Friday, and was buried before sunset, when the day ended according to the Jewish reckoning. This was the
. Rom. i. 4.
| Heb, xiii. 20.
# John X. 18. Matt. xxvii. 63.
$ Ib. ii. 19.
| Ib. v. 17.