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the doctrine of bis sufferings, and have real fellowship with him in his death, we shall resemble him. If we say, we abide in him, we ought to walk even as he walked.'* But they who, calling
, themselves Christians, are full of the spirit of self-justification, contention and complaint, while they profess to believe in him, deny him by their works. The apostles Peter and John, deeply affected by their obligations to him, and by the exquisite pattern of meekness and tenderness which he had set before them, departed from the presence of the council, not swelling with anger, nor hanging down their heads with grief, but rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for bis sake.'t And he deserves no less from us than he did from them. It was for us, no less than for them, that he endured reproach, and was content to die as a malefactor, though he was innocent.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell ; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy
One to see corruption.
That the Gospel is a divine revelation, may be summarily proved from the character of its Author. If an infidel was so far divested of prejudice and prepossession as to read the history of Jesus Christ, recorded by the evangelists, with attention, and in order to form his judgment of it, simply and candidly, as evidence should appear; I think he must observe many particulars in his spirit and conduct, so very different from the prevailing sentiments of mankind, as to convince him, that man, in his present state, could not possibly have conceived the idea of such a character. Poets and historians have often employed their powers in delineating what appeared to them the great and excellent in human conduct. But how different are the pictures of their admired heroes, sages, and legislators, from the portrait of the Saviour, as it is drawn, with the utmost simplicity, by plain unlettered men, who, without art or affectation, only describe what they profess to have seen and heard! I fix at present upon a
single consideration, which perhaps cannot be expressed more properly or forcibly than in the words of an ingenious writer now living He is the only Founder of a religion, in the history of mankind, which is totally unconnected with all buman policy and government, and therefore totally unconducive to any worldly purpose whatever. All others, Mabomet, Numa, and even Moses himself blended their religious institutions with their civil, and by them obtained dominion over their respective people. But Christ neither aimed at, nor would accept of any such power. He rejected* every object which all other men pursue and made choice of those which others fly from and are afraid of. He refused power, riches, honours, and pleasure ; and courted poverty, ignominy, tortures, and death. Many have been the enthusiasts and impostors, who have endeavoured to impose on the world pretended revelations; and some of them, from pride, obstinacy, or principle, have gone so far as to lay down their lives rather than retract : but I defy history to show one, who ever made his own sufferings and deatht a necessary part of his original plan, and essential to his mission. This Christ actually did ; he foresaw, foretold, declared their necessity, and voluntarily endured them.'1
The death of our Lord was indeed essential to his plan ; as such, it was constantly in his view, and he often spoke of it. Probably it was the whole of his enemies' plan ; and when they saw bim dead, buried, and the sepulchre sealed, they triumphed in their success, and expected to hear of him no more. But the Scriptures which were read in their synagogues every sabbathday, foretold his resurrection from the dead. The text before us, if there were no other, is a sufficient proof of this, to those who acknowledge the authority of the New Testament, since it is expressly applied to him by the apostles Peter and Paul.
The word in the Hebrew text, rendered in our version soul, is used in different senses. According to the connexion in which it stands, it signifies breath, life, soul, or spirit, and sometimes the dead body. The corresponding Greek word, where the apostle quotes this verse, bas likewise various significations. And the original words answering to hell, signity both the invisible world, or the state of the dead, and sometimes the grave. Notwithstanding this seeming diversity, we are at no loss here for the precise sense. Scripture is the best interpreter of itself. It is evidently the apostle's design to prove that the Psalmist foresas, and foretold the resurrection of that body which was taken down
John, xviii. 36. + John, xii. 24, 32, 33. of the Christian Religion, p. 33, 34. Edit. 5.
f Jenyns' Internal Evidence o Acts, ii. 27.
dead from the cross, and laid in Joseph's tomb. With this body our Lord arose on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Though Messiah was, for our sakes, treated as a malefactor, all who were immediately concerned in his death were constrained (as we have seen) to declare his innocence. But he was worthy of a more solemn and authoritative justification. Accordingly, He was declared to be the Son of God, with power, by his resurrection from the dead !'*
The apostle expounds thine Holy One' by the word flesh.t The human nature, the body formed by the immediate power of God, and born of a virgin, was holy. It was 'A holy thing.'I Perfect and pure, and therefore naturally not mortal, though subject to death for us. In this nature the Son of God was charged with sins not his own : be became willingly responsible for many.s Whatever was necessary on the behalf of sinners, to render their forgiveness consistent with the honour of the law, justice, truth, and government of God, was exacted of him, and he performed, and paid to the utmost. He made a full atonement for siv ; and though he had power over his life, be hung hour after bour in agonies upon the cross, till he said, “ It is finished.' Then he resigned his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father. He was afterwards buried. But having finished his whole undertaking, destroyed death, and him that had the power of it, and opened the way to the kingdom of heaven, in favour of all who should believe in him, . it was not possible that he should be detained in the grave.'ll He had power likewise to resume the life he had laid down for his sheep ; and he arose the third day, to exercise all power and authority in heaven and in earth.
His resurrection, therefore, is the grand principal fact upon which the truth and importance of Christianity rests. For though Christ died, if he had not risen again, your faith and our preaching would be in vain ;' we should be 'yet in our sins.'T And though it was not necesssary that his resurrection should have been so publicly known, at the time, as his crucifixion, the evidence of it is strong and decisive. No one point of ancient history is capable of such clear accumulated proof. The apostles frequently saw him, conversed with him, eat and drank with him, and were assured that it was he, by many infallible proofs, They could not be deceived themselves, nor could they have any temptation to deceive others. They declared his resurrection to the very people who put him to death, and they confirmed it by many indisputable miracles, which they performed in his
* Rom. i. 4. † Acts, ii, 26. Luke, i. 35. Matth. XX. 28. Acts, ii. 24. 1 Cor. xv. 17.
name. They persevered in this testimony, in defiance of the malice of the Jews and the scorn of the Heathens. And by this doctrine of a crucified risen Saviour, though unsupported by the patronage of human power, yea, though opposed by it, in every place, they effected that change in the moral world, wherever they went, which the pbilosophers had not been able to produce, by all their instructions, in a single instance ; turning men, whom they found under the strongest prejudices of education and habit,
from darkness to light, and from the worship of dumb idols, to serve the living and true God.'*
But there are proofs of this point which depend not upon arguments or history, which require neither learning, genius, nor study, to comprehend ; but are equally adapted to persons of all capacities, and in all circumstances. These are the effects which this doctrine produces on the hearts of those who truly receive it upon the authority of Scripture, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to open the eyes of the mind, to take of the things of Jesus, (what the Scripture reveals of his person, offices, and glory,) and to present them, with infallible light and evidence, lo those who bumbly yield themselves to his teaching. These are made partakers of the power of his resurrection.'t It delivers them from guilt and fear, animates them with confidence towards God, weans them from the love and spirit of this evil world, inspires them with great and glorious hopes, and delivers them from the fear of death. They are risen with Christ,' by faith, and seek the things which are above,'I where they know their Lord and Saviour is seated in glory.
I do bat touch upon these particulars at present, because the subject will come under our consideration again, from a subsequent passage in the Oratorio. Yet I would not wholly omit leading your reflections to them, though what I briefly offer now, may make what I shall then offer (if my life is prolonged to proceed so far) appear under the disadvantage of a repetition of the same thoughts. Indeed, I know not how to place the proof of this capital doctrine in a light entirely new. The most satisfactory proofs are the most obvious ; and it would be folly to substitute weaker in their place for the sake of novelty. But if I should live to resume the subject, some of you who are now present may not live to hear me. So far as concerns the fact, I may hope that the most, or all of you, are believers, and that you are already persuaded in your minds that the Lord is risen indeed!'+
! I am not preaching to Jews or Mahometans, but to prosessed Christians. But permit me to ask, What influence this truth has
* 1 Thess. i. 9.
+ Phil. iii. 10.
I Col. iii, 1.
Luke, xxiv. 34.
upon your hopes, your tempers, and your conduct? The powers of darkness know that Christ is risen. They believe, they feel, they tremble. I hope none of you will be content with such a faith as may be found in the fallen angels. As surely as he is risen, he will at length return to judge the world. Behold, he cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see him !' They who are prepared to meet him, who are waiting for him, and who long for bis appearance, have reason to rejoice that he once died, and rose agaiu !
Many are the advantages which true Christians derive from a spiritual and enlightened knowledge of this doctrine. I will mention a few.
1. As MESSIAN was delivered,' that is, delivered up, as a hostage to the demands of justice, ' for our offences ;' so they know that he was raised again for our justification.'* By virtue of that union which subsists between Messiah, as the Head of his body, the church, and all his members ; that is, all in the successive ages of the world, who believe in him by a faith of divine operation ; he is their legal representative, he and they are considered as one. His sufferings, bis whole humiliation and obedience unto death, is so imputed to them, that they thereby are exempted from condemnation ; and though not from all sufferings, yet, from all that is properly penal, or strictly a punishment. What they suffer is only in a way of discipline or chastisement; and to them a token, not of wrath, but of love. On the other hand, as he by his resurrection was vindicated, justified from the reproaches of his enemies, declared to be the Son of God with power, and raised to glory ; they have fellowship with bim herein. God exalted him to glory,' and gave him a name above every name,' that their faith and hope might be in God.t They are not only pardoned, but accepted in the Beloved. And after this state of discipline is ended, they shall be treated as if they had never sinned. For if their sins are sought for in that day, they shall not be found. If any charge sliould be brought against them, it shall be overruled by this comprehensive, unanswerable plea— Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, appears in the presence of God,' acknowledges them as his own, and inakes intercession for them.'I Among men, a criminal may obtain a pardon, may escape the sentence he has deserved, and yet be left in a destitute and miserable condition. But justification is God's manner of pardoning sinners, according to the sovereignty and riches of his grace in the Son of his love. Those whom be pardons, be also justifies ; and whom he justi
* Rom. iv. 25.
|| 1 Pet. i, 21.
Rom. viii. 33, 34.