« VorigeDoorgaan »
time, who am not meet to be called an apostle, because I per
1 secuted the church of God.'
What is necessary to remark concerning the separate clauses of the text is in a little compass. St Paul says that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures. The scriptures here meant were the prophecies of the Old Testament, which describe the future history of Christ. One of these, amongst many which are more indirect, speaks the circumstance of Christ dying for our sins so plainly, that St Paul probably had it now in his thoughts ; ' He was wounded for our transgression, he was bruised for our iniquity ; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with bis stripes we are healed.' This you read in the fiftythird chapter of Isaiah, written seven hundred years before Christ appeared.
Our apostle proceeds; and that he was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures.' The circumstance of his burial is particularly noticed in the same prophecy; which gave occasion probably to St Paul's mention of it in this place.
• He made,' saith Isaiah, his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.' The more important fact of his resurrection, is both set forth by necessary implication in Isaiah's prophecy, for he says of Christ, when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,' and was also understood by the apostles to be represented by those words of the sixteenth Psalm, in which David, speaking as they interpreted it, in the person of the Messiah, says, “Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption.'
The apostle then, in order to establish the reality of Christ's resurrection, enumerates several of his appearances after it. And in comparing this account with the other accounts of Christ's appearance given in the gospels, we are carefully to remember that none of them undertook or intended to describe all the occasions or all the instances in which Christ was seen. Christ appeared on various occasions; and one history relates what passed upon one occasion, and another what passed upon a different occasion. This produces, as might be expected, considerable variation in the accounts, yet without contradiction or inconsistency. He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.' This exactly agrees with Luke's narrative; Then the eleven were gathered together, saying the Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. After this, St Paul tells us, he was
' seen of above five hundred brethren at once.' This number is not specified in any of the gospels; nevertheless, there is noth
ing to hinder us from supposing this number might be present at some of the appearances recorded in these gospels. It is generally supposed to have been at his solemn predicted appearance upon the mountain in Galilee.
One circumstance is common to all the different accounts of the resurrection; namely, that he appeared to none but his disciples; and however the unbelieving Jews might cavil at this circumstance at the time, I think the fair and explicit mention of it, is to us at this day, a strong confirmation of the truth of the history. It manifests the candor and exactness of the historians. Had they thought themselves at liberty to carve and mould the account, so as to make it pass most plausible and current with the public; had they not conceived of themselves as relating the truth, they could as easily have stated of Christ that he was seen indiscriminately by all, as have confessed, which they have done, that his appearance was confined to his own followers. We may not at this time know the exact reasons which determined our blessed Lord to make the distinction. It is enough to know that Peter and James, and the eleven apostles, and the Galilean women, and the five hundrer brethren, were abundantly sufficient to testify a fact in which they could not be mistaken.
Having observed thus much upon the terms in which St Paul delivers his testimony to the resurrection of Christ, it remains in the next place to consider the authority and weight of the testimony itself. Here then, we see a man of learning and education; amongst the first of his countrymen in activity, eloquence, and ability; hardly equalled by any other, as appears, not by any commendations bestowed upon him by those of his own persuasion, but from his writings, which are now in our hands; we have this man, after being distinguished in the early part of his life by his fierce and eager persecution of the christian name, now spending his whole time in travelling from country to country, from city to city throughout the most civilized and populous region of the world, to announce, wherever he came, this important intelligence; that Jesus Christ, a man sent by God into the world for the instruction and salvation of mankind, after having been executed by the Jews as a malefactor, was publicly raised from the dead ; that he himself had seen him after his resurrection; that many others whom he names, to whom he appeals, and with whom he conversed and associated, had done the same; that in consequence of this stupendous event, they were each one to look for his own resurrection at the last day; that they were to conduct and prepare themselves accordingly. See this man in the prosecution of his purpose, enduring every hardship, encountering every danger, sacrificing his pleasures, his ease, his safety, in order to bring men to the knowledge of this fact, and, by virtue of that knowledge, to the practice of holiness. Now this is the question; hath ever any falsehood been supported by testimony like this?
Falsehoods, we confess, have found their way into conversation, into tradition, into books. But is an example to be produced of a man voluntarily undertaking a life of pain, of toil, of ignominy, of incessant fatigue, of continual peril, of want, of hardship; submitting to the loss of home, of country, of friends, to stripes and stoning, to imprisonment and death, for the sake of carrying about a story of what was false, and of what, if false, he must have known to be so ?
What then shall we say to these things? If it be true that Christ is risen, then undoubtedly it is true that we shall live again in a new state.
Christ, we are told, 'hath abolished death. Yet men still die. What, then, is the change whereof we boast? Death is so different a thing, according as it is regarded as the destruction of our existence, or only as a transition to some other stage of it, that, when revelation affords us solid ground for viewing it in this latter aspect, death is said by that revelation to be abolished, to be done away, to reign, to exist no more.
Still farther; if it be not only by the intervention of Christ that the knowledge of this is discovered to mankind, but by his power and agency that the thing itself is effected ; if it be his mighty working, which is to change our vile bodies, which is to produce the great renovation that we look for; then is it more literally and strictly true, that by death he hath destroyed him that hath the power of death.
• Men,' saith the epistle to the Hebrews, through the fear of were all their lifetime subject to bondage;' and well they might! It held them in constant terror ; it was a fixed load upon the spirits ; it damped the satisfaction, it exasperated the miseries of life. From that bondage we are delivered. New hopes are inspired, new prospects are unfolded; the virtuous enjoyments of life we possess here, an exceeding and eternal weight of glory we expect hereafter. Are we prosperous and fortunate? Instead of beholding the period of human prosperity with perpetual dread, we have it in our power to make it the commencement of a new series of never failing pleasures, of purer and better joys.
and better joys. Does the hand of adversity lie heavy upon us? We see before us a reward in heaven
for patience, for submission, for trials, for sufferings; and, what is still more important, what is infinitely so, when that hour which is coming shall come, when we find the enjoyments of life slipping from under us, when we feel ourselves loosening from the world, and infirmity and decay gathering fast around us, we have then an anchor of hope, a rock of confidence, a place of refuge; we are then able to commit our souls to the custody of a faithful Creator, knowing, as St Paul speaks, in
a whom we have believed; being persuaded that he is able to keep that which we commit unto him against that day.
We shall rise again; but unto what? they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation. How tremendous is the alternative! What an event, what a prospect is this to look forward to ! If all this be true, if the hour of judgment will certainly come to pass, what manner of men, as the apostle asks, ought we to be, what manner of lives ought we to lead, seeing, as he expresses it, we have such a cloud of witnesses, such a hope, such a notice and revelation of the things which will befall us! Is it possible that these things can ever be out of our thoughts? Is it possible that being there they can allow us to sin? He is gone up on high ; he hath led captivity captive; he is in glory. Hear what the angels said to the astonished apostles; In like manner as ye see him ascend up into heaven, ye shall see him come down again from heaven. Even so, come, Lord Jesus !' but oh! mayest thou find us in some degree prepared, not indeed to await the severity of thy justice, but to be made objects of thy mercy; prepared by penitence and humility, by prayer, by a desire and study to learn thy will ; by what is still more, the return and conversion of our hearts to thee, manifested by a quick and constant fear of offending; by a love of thy laws, thy name, thy scriptures, thy religion; by sincere, though interrupted, it is to be feared, and imperfect, yet by sincere endeavours to obey thy universal will!
Acts XIII, 29, 30, 31.
And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down
from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre; but God raised him from the dead; and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are witnesses unto this people.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was on this wise. He had frequently, during the course of his ministry, foretold his own resurrection on the third day from his death, sometimes in parables, sometimes in plain terms. In parables, as when, pointing to his body, he said to the Jews, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again ;' and upon another occasion, , * No sign shall be given you but the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'
At other times etold the same thing in direct terms; • While they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, the son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And at various other times he declared thus to his disciples.
The Jews who had come to the knowledge of this declaration, did not, I suppose, give any credit to it, but thought that it might put it into the heads of his disciples to attempt the stealing of his body out of the grave, in order to give color to the report that he was risen as he had foretold. With this story the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said whilst 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. Pilate, upon this application, which probably he judged a very unnecessary caution, ordered them to close up and seal the door of the sepulchre, and place a guard to watch it.
With respect to the apostles and disciples themselves, they hardly seem to have known what to make of it. They scarcely believed or understood our Lord when he had talked of rising