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winds have blown and beaten upon this house, but it has not fallen; for it is founded upon a rock.
In the gospel history we behold the ground floor or platform of the Christian religion. It principally consists in a narration of plain, unadorned facts, well authenticated, indeed, but recommended by no artificial polish, and deriving all their importance and effect from their own native truth and excellence, serving, nevertheless, as a solid support to the precepts, the promises, the predictions, the doctrines, the consolations of our most holy faith. Take, for instance, the event which our blessed Lord, in the passage which has now been read, foretold concerning himself, namely, that the temple of his body should be destroyed, and in three days raised up again. Now when this event actually did take place, not only was the veracity of Jesus, as a prophet, completely established, but a foundation was laid of sufficient strength to sustain the whole weight of the Christian's hope, of a resurrection to life and immortality. We shall, therefore, first consider this all-important doctrine, in the history which is the foundation of it, and then in the superstructure reared.
In purifying the temple from the abominations practised in it, Jesus had undoubtedly assumed the authority of one invested in the office of magistracy, or with the character of a prophet. That he was no magistrate all men knew, and he never pretended to it. To have acted in this capacity might have been considered as usurpation. As a prophet, then, and only as a prophet, could he appear in the character of a public reformer. But it is requisite that a prophet should produce his credentials. This suggested the demand : " What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things ?” which plainly implied, that one acting under a commission from heaven, was obliged to support his claim by a sign from heaven. But is there need to produce supernatural testimony to a right to reform known, public, flagrant abuse ? Did not their own history furnish a noted instance of a private person's assuming the sword of justice, and acting at once as judge and executioner, in the case of open and gross violation of the divine law; that of Phinehas, who was but the grandson of Aaron the priest ? He not only became liable to no censure, but obtained a deathless name, and an honourable office for his seasonable interposition. " Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgement: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.” Did not the sign, in the present instance, appear in the act? Did not the great Reformer authenticate his powers by the manner in which he exercised them, and by the effect which they produced ? Did the guilty resist ? Did they call in question his authority ? Did they drag him, in their turn, to the tribunal ? No, they feel his ascendant and shrink from his rebuke. Who, then, call for a sign ! Not the offenders; they had received sufficient evidence : not the populace, for they must have been equally overawed and confounded. The rulers of the Jews hearing of this singular transaction, some of them, perhaps, being on the spot, and eyewitnesses of what passed, jealous of their honour, and considering their prerogative as invaded; they, as men having authority, demanded a sign. From their general character, and from the inefficacy of this and other signs afterwards given, we know from what motive The present demand was made; not in the spirit of meekness, not from the love of truth, not to obtain conviction ; but in the hope of finding occasion to censure, or of putting the assumed authority of Christ to a test which it could not stand.
A sign is given them, and a most remarkable one it is. “ Jesus answered and said unto them, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Whatever construction the Jews might put on these words, what Jesus intend
ed to convey is obvious, and it was in every point justified by the corresponding event. He who is simplicity and truth itself could have no design to mislead. The action and emphasis with which he spake, clearly pointed out the object. The general attention had just been directed to a temple made with hands, a temple wickedly profaned by an abominable traffic, which was connived at by its professed conservators, and whose honour bad been so nobly vindicated by a stranger. That stranger had already attracted general notice by the singularity of his speech and deportment; every eye was fixed upon him, his every attitude and gesture were observed, and these plainly indicated that the temple to be destroyed, and raised up in three days, could not be the venerable pile in the court of which this conversation passed. When he afterwards foretold the approaching destruction of that temple, he expressed himself in terms not liable to misapprehension. 66 As he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! And Jesus answering, said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings ? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.". Now he points to an edifice infinitely morc sacred. From both the first and second houses built on mount Zion the glory had long since departed. The sensible tokens of the divine presence were withdrawn. The holy oracle was no longer consulted by Urim and Thummim. But in Him, who was the only glory of the second house, “ dwelled all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and the destruction of this temple he thus predicts as a sign not to the men of that generation only, but to all ages, even to the end of the world. From the very nature of prophecy, a vail must be drawn between the prediction and the event. “Hope that is seen is not hope,” and “ faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Christ indulges not those unbelievers with an immediate display of his miraculous power, in support of his pretensions to the character of a prophet, which they could easily have explained away, or misinterpreted; but he refers them to a sign shortly to be exhibited, which should be at once, the exact accomplishment of a well known prediction, and the greatest miracle that can possibly exist. That the misconception of the Jews was perverse and affected is evident from this, that when they had actually fulfilled the part of the prediction which depended on themselves, by destroying that sacred temple, we find them labouring under the most dreadful apprehension that Jesus would accomplish the other part, which depended on him, and they employ every precaution, which terrour could suggest, to prevent and defeat it. - The chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, Sir, 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 errour shall be worse than the first." And when the astonished watch came into the city, and made report to their employers, of "all the things that were done," did it produce conviction ? No, it only filled them with mortification, and kindled rage. “ The chief priests, when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.” To what purpose then, ask for a sign? They resist and reject the most illustrious, which, with reverence be it spoken, God himself could give, thereby approving the truth of what Jesus on another occasion said, “ If they bear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
* Destroy this temple." Let it be observed, that this is simply a prediction
or supposition, and not a precept, equivalent to, ye will destroy this temple, or though ye should destroy this temple. It is a mode of expression that frequently occurs in Scripture. Thus in the Old Testament, Joseph says to his brethren, “this do, and live,” that is, do this and ye shall live. Thus God speaks to Moses, “Get thee up into this mountain, and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people," meaning evidently, thou shalt die in the mount, and shalt be gathered unto thy people. Thus, Isaiah viii, 10. “ Take counsel together, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, and it shall not stand;" that is, though yje take counsel together, and though ye speak the word. And in the New Testament, the word of Christ to Judas, " that thou dost, do quickly," cannot be considered as a command to accomplish his plan of treachery, but merely as an intimation that he was seen through, and that under the impulse of a diabolic spirit, he was hurrying on to commit that dreadful enormity. Thus Paul exhorts, “ Be angry and sin not;" surely not as if he meant to encourage violent transports of wrath, but in the event of a man's giving way to a fit of passion, the
apostle means to guard him against excessive indulgence in it, by restricting its duration to the going down of the sun. This early notice did Jesus give, not to his disciples only, but to all who came to worship in the temple, "of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem;" that it should be effected by the hand of violence, not by decay, but by destruction, and that his own countrymen should be the perpetrators of it. This declaration was frequently repeated, and became plainer and plainer, till the fact justified every particular of the prediction.
“ This temple.” Our blessed Lord in this place and elsewhere denominates bis body a temple, as declaratory of his superiority to the lofty pile on Mount Zion, even in its greatest glory, much more in its then degraded, defiled state. " I say unto you," addressing himself to the Pharisees, " that in this place is one greater than the temple," because Deity resided continually and inseparably in hini, as the Jews believed he did in that which was built by Solomon, in answer to that petition ; “O Lord my God, hearken unto the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee to-day: that thine eyes may be opened toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there :” according as it was foretold by Moses near five centuries before : “ Then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there." Josephus informs us that not only did the answer to Solomon's prayer implý a real and sensible residence of Deity, but that it was the universal belief of the Jews and of the strangers who visited Jerusalem, that there was an ingress of God into the temple, and a habitation in it; and, in another place, that God descended and pitched his tabernacle there. The Jews themselves, however, admitted, that whatever glory these expressions might signify was now departed. To restore that glory, and to bestow it on the second temple in more abundant measure than the first ever possessed was the end of Christ's mission ; and in him was the prediction fulfilled : “ The glory of this lalter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts." He was that oracle by whose answers all light and truth were emitted; the true Schechinah who had the spirit without measure ; was anointed with the "oil of gladness above his fellows,” and thus in all respects greater than the temple. That temple, says-he, which you have defiled I have cleansed : and this temple of my body, which you are going to destroy, I will raise up again.
When this prediction was verified by the matter of fact, that fact became the foundation of one of the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel, the resurrection of the dead. Jesus early taught and frequently repeated it, that it might be clearly understood and carefully remembered. The impostor is st Vol. vii.
pains to conceal his purpose till it is ripe for execution. He fears prevention and therefore endeavours to take you by surprize. The thief gives no warning of his approach, but comes upon men while they sleep. The true prophet discloses his design, prepares, forewarns, puts the person who doubts or disbelieves upon his guard,' bids defiance to prevention. His own resurrection, and the doctrine of a general resurrection which is founded upon it, were not barely hinted at, or declared in obscure and equivocal terms. They were not the casual topic, and for once only, of private conversation with his disciples. No, this was a leading, a commanding object, presented continually to view, placed in the strongest light, announced with equal fairness and simplicity to friends and to enemies. “And Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him; and the third day he shall rise again.” He declares the same truth thus openly in the court of the temple. He repeats it in the presence and hearing of the multitude, “when the people were gathered thick together, then certain of the scribes and of the pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, 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.” The Sadducees, opponents still more virulent than the Pharisees, perfectly understood him as meaning on the basis of his own, to establish the belief of a resurrection of the body ; for they argue with him on the subject, and frame a case which they supposed would reduce the author of the doctrine to an absurdity. This afforded our Lord an opportunity of shewing that the doctrine in dispute was actually an article in their own creed, as being the disciples of Moses. Thus it runs through the whole of divine Revelation. The fathers beyond the flood lived and died in this faith. The dust of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob thus rested and rests in hope. It is indeed more clearly stated under the Gospel dispensation, and the ground of it is more fully demonstrated, that is, the dawning light of the morning gradually brightened into the perfect day.
“In three days I will raise it up." This is an explicit declaration of his own inherent Deity, for God alone has the right and the power over life and death. An angel may be the delegated instrument in executing the sentence of divine justice, by taking away life; as in the case of the firstborn of Egypt, of those who fell by the pestilence, to the number of seventy thousand, for the offence of David in numbering the people, and of the hundred, fourscore and five thousand smitten in one night, in the camp of the Assyrians. But we no where find the power of quickening the dead delegated to a created being. Man has the desperate power of destroying his own body, but there it ends, and the disembodied spirit ceases from all power to repair the awful violence which it has committed. Man cannot by a mere act of his will even lay down his life, any more than he can reanimate the breathless clay. It is the incommunicable prerogative of him who has life in himself, to dispose of it at pleasure. This prerogative Jesus Christ claims and exercises.
* For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them ; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” In the case of his own death, it was an act of sovereign, almighty power " Jesus said, It is finished : and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost,” while as yet the principle of natural life was strong within him, thus demonstrating that his assertion concerning himself was founded in truth : “I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No
man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” And on this power over his own life, he founds his right of dispensing life and death to others. “And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life : and I will raise bim up at the last day." Whether therefore it is said that “ Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father," or that he himself raised up the temple of his body, one and the same source of life, one controlling, irresistible will, and one supreme, efficient power are displayed.
" Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days ?" It has been already shewn that this was a wilful misapprehension : and it exhibits a humiliating view of the power of prejudice. Something may be made of a stupid child, if he be disposed to exert the
poor faculties which he possesses, but obstinacy sets discipline at defiance. It is possible to assist weak eyes, but what can be done for the man who wilfully shuts them, or who madly plucks them out ? To enter with commentators, into discussion respecting the period of the temple's rebuilding, is foreign to our purpose. What is it to us how long time was employed in the work, by what prince or princes it was carried on, and what was its comparative magnificence, with relation to the first temple, and to other structures of a similar kind ? But it is of high importance to know, that the prediction of Christ concerning it, already quoted, was exactly fulfilled, about forty years afterward; when Jerusalem was besieged and taken by the Emperor Titus, was pillaged and burnt, the temple completely destroyed, upwards of one million and one hundred thousand of the Jews destroyed by famine and the sword, ninety-seven thousand taken prisoners, the whole nation expatriated and dispersed; and that the state of the temple from the
year of Christ 70, down to the present 1802, and of this scattered, degraded, yet providentially supported and distinguished people, at this day, are a standing evidence of the truth and certainty of the things wherein we have been instructed. He is faithful and true who promises and who threatens. " When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations : and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth : for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall pot pass away."
“When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this upto them." Words as they are spoken, and events as they pass, frequently make a slight impression, but when recalled and fixed by some striking correspondent circumstance, they rush on the mind like a torrent, and we wonder at our own preceding carelessness and inattention. Had the disciples been men quick of apprehension, and of easy belief, the fabrication of a cunningly devised fable might have been suspected : but they were persons of a simplicity of character that sometimes bordered on stupidity;