« ElőzőTovább »
they were “slow of heart to believe ;" they often misunderstood their master ; they were of all mankind the most unfit to plan and to support imposture. When Jesus spake of destroying and of raising up again the temple of his body, the Jews wilfully perverted his meaning, and his disciples seem hardly to have marked his words. The greatest of miracles must be performed to subdue the incredulity of the one, and to rouse the attention of the other. In both we contemplate the wrath and the weakness of man ministering to the glory of God. It was meet that the mouth of malignity should be stopped, and that the truth as it is in Jesus should be taught to the world by men whose own ignorance had been instructed, whose doubts had been removed, whose faith had been established. • We still have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."
The resurrection of Christ from the dead, therefore, so clearly predicted, and so exactly accomplished, supplies the Christian world, in every age, with the firmest basis of faith, and with the purest source of hope and joy. The apostle of the Gentiles, once the most violent opposer of the fact, and of the doctrine founded upon it, thus collects the evidence: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve : after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also as of one born out of due time.” Paul's reasoning upon the subject is conclusive and satisfactory; it meets the human heart in all its desires and expectations. We resign ourselves to the stroke of death with composure. We bury our dead out of our sight, without bidding them a final farewell, because “the flesh also shall rest in hope." “ For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on corruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory."
The importance of this doctrine, in the scale of Christianity, will warrant our following up the article of our Lord's history which we have been reviewing, to its more remote effects and consequences. This will accordingly form the substance of the following Lecture.
This passover afforded occasion of working various other public miracles, which are not enumerated in the sacred record, but which attracted attention, and produced conviction in the minds of many who saw and heard him. He was now at the metropolis of the country, and at the season of universal resort to Jerusalem. Of the multitudes who flocked thither to celebrate the seast of passover, very many must have been in the habit of searching the Scriptures, and were, with Simeon, " waiting for the consolation of Israel," and with Anna the prophetess, " looking for redemption in Jerusalem.” Persous of this description must have been forcibly impressed with the personal appearance of Jesus Christ, with the singularity of his manner and address, with the gravity and dignity of his deportment, with the authority which be exercised in teaching and reproving. His zeal in the purgation of the temple, and the sigy which he proposed as the evidence of his mission, must hare been noticed and felt. When these proofs of an extraordinary character were accompanied and supported by a display of miraculous powers, the effect must have been what the Evangelist relates : “When he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast-day, many believed in his came when they saw
the miracles which he did.” Nor was this impression confined to vulgar minds, for we presently find a man high in rank and office bearing testimony to Christ's prophetic character, and to the foundation on which it rested. “ Nicodemus, a pharisee and ruler of the Jews, came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God : for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” But the sacred historian subjoins a reflection most huuniliating to human nature ; for it implies that the understanding may be enlightened, and the conscience perfectly convinced, and yet the heart remain corrupted and malignant. * Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.” But the searcher of hearts discerned under a sound belief, a dangerous, an unsubdued perversity of disposition in which he could not confide. " But Jesus did not commit himself unto them." In this Christ acted as a pattern to his disciples, and conformed himself to the doctrine which he taught them.
“ Beware of men: be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." There is an excess of caution unworthy of a noble and generous mind, which damps exertion and poisons society. But there is also an excess of confidence which puts the candid and sincere in the power of the crafty and designing. True wisdom safely conducts its possessor through the channel which divides them. “ A prudent man,” says Solomon, “ foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.”
“ The chapter concludes with an ascription to Christ of one of the incommunicable attributes of Deity, the knowledge of the thoughts of men: “He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." Of this he had given an illustrious instance in the case of Nathanael, whose character he clearly discerned before any personal intercourse had taken place : “ Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.” Here it is reduced to a general proposition of high moment. “ The Father hath committed all judgement unto the Son: and he is qualified for the discharge of this all-important office, by a perfect knowledge not only of the actions of a man's life, but of the motives from which he acted, and of the end at which he aimed. May it be engraved on the living table of our heart, that God “ hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
1 CORINTHIANS XV. 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44.
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Thou
tool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain : but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and 10 every seed his own body. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial : but the glory of the celestjal is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead: it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption : it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory : it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power : it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
AFTER ADMINISTERING THE LORD'S SUPPER.
To him who believes in the life and immortality which are brought to light by the gospel; to him who has the witness of death every day presented to his eyes, and who feels it continually in his own frame, can it ever be unseasonable or unprofitable to hear of the ground of his holy faith, of his glorious privileges, of his exalted hope ? Does the worldling ever tire in calculating his gains, and of reckoning over his hoard ? Is the eager heir ever cloyed in contemplating his fair and ample expected inheritance ? When were the praises, the reported successes, wisdom and virtue of a darling child, a burden on the listening ear of parental affection? When was the eye fatigued in surveying the beautiful and majestic fabric of nature, or turned away from it with disgust? Wherefore, then, should it be apprehended that the disciple of Jesus, who has fled for refuge to the hope set before him, whose brightest prospects open beyond the grave, who is rejoicing in the promise of his Master's coming " the second time, without sin, unto salvation;" wherefore suppose that such a person could say, “What a weariness is it !" when the preacher's theme is the complete restoration of man's fallen nature, the resurrection of the body, the perfect resemblance of all the members of Christ to the glorious head, the final and unfading triumph of redeeming love ? No, well-pleased you withdraw from the pursuit of temporal pleasure and profit, from surveying the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them, from contemplating even the more glorious wonders of the starry heavens, to expatiate over the blissful regions of Emanuel's land, to drink of “the pure river of the water of life,” to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, to feast on the promise of “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, where there is no more death, where the curse is not known, where God him. self shall wipe away all tears from all eyes.
Previous to the breaking of bread, in commemoration of our Saviour's dy. ing love to perishing sinners, we were led to meditate on the final consummation which the ordinance has directly in view. “ As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come;" an event which involves in itself the fate of angels and of meng an event which shall exhibit the grandest display of the divine power and wisdom, of justice, goodness and truth; an event which is at once the object of just terrour, and the purest source of joy. One, and that not the least interesting, consideration connected with the prospect of that “great and notable day of the Lord," is that which constitutes the subject of the apostle's reasoning in the passage which has been now read, namely, the resurrection of the dead. The
ground of belief respecting this is the truth and certainty of Christ's resurrection, on the third day after his passion, conformably to frequently repeated, well-known and minutely particular predictions respecting this illustrious event. These were the subject of the preceding Lecture. " Jesus and the resurrection,” were the great theme of Paul's preaching at learned Athens, and of his epistles to the churches, particularly to the Corinthians, in this chapter. This is the sure foundation which God hath laid in Zion, and lo, What a structure is Providence rearing upon it!
The apostle introduces an unbeliever cavilling at the doctrine of the resurrection, and triumphantly demanding, as one defying all possibility of reply, “ How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come ?" Grasping at mere phantoms of worldly hope, credulous as children in admitting " the unreal mockery” of a heated imagination, men doubt and disbelieve only when the God of truth speaks ; they are careless only where their spiritual and everlasting interests are concerned: they reject that which reason and religion concur to prove, which the constitution and frame of nature, in her unceasing reproductions, stamp with striking marks of probability, and which a revelation from heaven has rendered infallible. The objection of infidelity proceeds on the supposition that there is nothing apparent in the system of the Universe which is analagous to the resurrection of the body; that it is inconsistent with all knowledge and experience. The apostle goes on to demonstrate that this change, wonderful as it is, has its counterpart in nature, and is perfectly consistent with appearances which fall every day under every man's observation, and which are level to every human capacity. He refers the infidel to the universally known and understood progress of vegetation, which is a constant representation of death and the resurrection, of corruptibility and corruption. One of the most obvious and ordinary operations in husbandry daily presents the image of this great mystery of godliness. The seed, O man, which thou castest into the ground, is surrendered to loss, to putrefaction, to death. It disappears, it seems forever gone, its form and substance, all, all is dissolved. No, Sir, it dies but to be quickened. Indeed it could not have been quickened, unless it had died. What dropped into the earth, a single, solitary grain, springs up out of it, increased thirty, sixty, a hundred fold. Had the little seed never known corruption, where would have been that goodly tree laden with golden fruit? It fell naked into the ground, it rises thence clothed with a new, verdant, transparent covering. It every day unfolds some latent beauty, it assumes a more majestic form, it expands an unknown excellence. Its temporary destruction is its perennial establishment.
“ So also is the resurrection of the dead." The body was emaciated by disease, it withered by reason of age, it was lost in the grave, it became a mass of corruption. But does it follow that it shall remain forever a prey to corruption? Does it follow, that it shall rise again with the selfsame qualities which it formerly possessed ? No, it is the glory of God not to raise up again
weakness, mortality, corruption, but out of weakness to raise power, to clothe corruption with incorruption, to swallow up mortality of life. But how is this done? I cannot tell. O man, “thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” Who is able to trace and to describe the common process of vegetable nature? Where is the man that presumes to explain that which is least ? Is it any wonder, then, that limited faculties are lost in the investigation of that which is greatest ? Can the clown tell how the handful of “bare grain" which he scattered along the surface of the ground, has been transformed into a multitude of stately, fair and fragrant plants? No, and neither can the philosopher. But the simplest clown is a philosopher too enlightened to doubt, or to disbelieve what uniform observation and experience have confirmed to him. He is too wise to suspend the operations of his useful and necessary art, till he has discovered the how and the wherefore of it. Can the philosopher then arrogate to himself the praise of wisdom, who refuses the information, and denies himself the consolations of Christianity, because he cannot penetrate into every mystery, resolve every difficulty, and dispel all the obscurity which it presents ? What one art or science has been carried to its highest possible perfection ? Do men therefore neglect to avail themselves of the progress which has been made in science? And shall the most profound of all sciences, but which has, of all others, been most successfully investigated, whose discoveries are far more in number, and in their nature infinitely more important than all the rest, be laughed to scorn, be despised and rejected, because it presents" some things hard to be understood,” because some of its grander discoveries are reserved to a future exhibition, because there are “times and seasons," interpositions, relations and dependencies " which the Father hath put in his own power." Again, “God," it is said, "giveth to every seed his own body."
" Thou fool,” argues St. Paul, “ that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." This implies, that the change produced by the resurrection is not arbitrary or contingent, but established by a certain law, conformably to the nature and qualities of each distinct species. What was wheat, continues to be wheat, after it has risen again. What was any other kind of grain, when cast into the earth, rises up that selfsame kind of grain, and no other. The individual substance is indeed changed, but the essential properties, the specific and distinguishing qualities remain. The same vital principle animates it in every state ; when it sprung up in the germ of the parent seed; when it became naked, dry grain; when it lay buried under the clod; when it mouldered away and died, and when it started up again in all the vigour and freshness of a new life. Doch not man, in like manner, in his body, in his mind, in his condition, undergo revolutions equally obvious, equally impressive, and yet continue always the same? He possesses life and motion long before he begins to breathe ; he lives, moves and breathes long before he begins to reflect and reason. The dawnings of his reason are not greatly superiour to the instincts of some of the brute creation. Arrived, at leagth, at fulness of stature and of understanding, his faculties, like the tide at full, are instantly on the decline. Accident destroys them, vice deranges, disease impairs, age wastes them. All the while it was one and the same being who struggled in the womb, who crawled in infancy, who totiered in childhood, who flew on the wings of the wind in youth, who stately walked in the majesty of manhood, who again stooped, bended, tottered, crept under the pressure of old