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what they had seen, would have been to deny all experience, and to give up the acknowledged principles of human nature. And was not this a great point to establish before the world ? Would it not go far towards breaking down that wall of prejudice which obstructed their 'view of the spotless and divine character of Jesus? Would it not put them in a condition to be " drawn unto him ' by any new proof that might be given of the divinity of his mission, and the truth of his word ?
Such proof is at hand. At the expiration of three days after the crucifixion, a new manifestation of himself is made, testimony in his behalf is given of the most convincing nature. The solid tomb which it was thought would be a safe prison for his body, suddenly throws open its massive door ; the heavy rock which lay before it is rolled away, and he who was crucified, dead, and buried,” comes forth alive! The promise which he had made to this effect is fulfilled. His prophetic word is verified. He proves that death is not annihilation. He brings immortality to the light of the senses.
Now, could such an event as this be rumored to have taken place, - I say rumored, - without drawing general attention to the person principally connected with it; to what that person had done and professed prior to his death ; and to the remarkable circumstances that attended his death? Could such an event be believed to have taken place without producing the most important changes of feeling and opinion in regard to Jesus; or without inspiring all honest and sober men thus believing, with an earnest and intrepid zeal for him, and with a determination to live and die in the defence of his righteous cause? It would not have been in the power of any man, believe
ing this fact, to be indifferent to him to whom it appertained. This fact was believed. All who witnessed the death of Jesus were prepared by the evidence which that furnished to believe in his resurrection. They did believe in it. When it was told in the city that he was risen, and that he had been seen by certain men and women, there was not a man who had been a witness of his death who could say in his heart that he did not believe it. Many, I know, pretended not to believe it. Many hoped it was not true. Many, perhaps, doubted. And some went so far as to put in circulation a miserable falsehood to explain the mysterious circumstances which had confessedly taken place. But, generally, the story was believed. By the resurrection, multitudes were led to reflect on what had previously happened, and their thoughts were turned unto Christ. They became anxious to hear all that might be known about him. They inquired diligently of all who had heard his word. They came together to talk about him. And when one of the Apostles, a short time afterwards, preached to them of Jesus and the resurrection, three thousand in one day gave in their adhesion to the new faith, and were baptized. And the word of God thenceforth grew mightily and prevailed. Citizens at home embraced it openly. Strangers from distant places acknowledged the prince of life, and carried with them, as they returned, the glad tidings of his kingdom. Masters in Israel heard of the gracious words that had proceeded out of his mouth, and gave God glory. Sages and philosophers wondered for a season, then bowed to the gentle, but all-subduing faith. Wicked kings, before whom it was preached, trembled, and were" almost
persuaded ;” and finally it prevailed even over them, and was installed
the throne of the earth. In what has now been advanced, I apprehend Christians generally will concur. And who can say that these considerations, involving fundamental facts, in which we agree, are unimportant as it respects our interest in Christ and our salvation by him? - They go to the vital question of the origin and truth of the Christian religion,
a question which must be settled in our mind before that religion can be expected to exert much influence on our character.
But this view of the subject covers only a small part of it. It has other aspects not less striking. Before I proceed to present them, however, I wish briefly to define the object of the mission of Christ, because until that is clearly ascertained it is impossible to determine what bearing his death may
it. What then was the great object of the mission of Christ? There is no difficulty in framing an answer which all believers will accept.
Christ was sent to breathe new life into the soul of man, to fill him with new hopes, to raise him from his degraded and wretched condition to a state of virtue and spiritual activity and joy. He was sent to reconcile the world unto God.
He was sent and suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. To bring us to God, then, to unite man with his Maker, to elevate his immortal nature into unison with all that is right, and true, and good, with infinite rectitude, truth, and goodness, - this was the object of his mission. And no Christian will hesitate to admit, (such was the character of Jesus,) that in proportion, as man grows into his likeness, transfers to his
own soul the distinctive features of his, in that proportion this object is accomplished. Christ was one with the Father. Man, in order to become one with the Father, must become such in character as Christ was. This needs no proof.
II. Let me now endeavor to show, in the second place, how the death of Christ contributes directly, and powerfully, to the accomplishment of this object.
1. And I remark, first; that it was necessary that men who had debased their nature, disowned or forgotten all religious truth, revolted from their supreme ruler, before they could be expected to return to God in obedience and worship, should be made acquainted with his disposition towards them; that they should be convinced of his willingness to receive them, of his regard for their welfare, of the clemency of his nature, and of his desire to make them happy. An assurance to this effect, given in such a manner as to leave no room for doubt, would be more certain than anything else to touch their hearts, to fill them with regrets, to awaken love, and to beget and foster the resolution to return to him.
From what we know of the principles of human conduct, was not this, evidently, the first thing to be done in the process of redemption? For, is it not natural to be well affected towards those who show good will to us ? Do not kindness and love awaken kindness and love in return ?
And especially if our superiors manifest a warm regard for us, sympathise with us, devise means to benefit us, are helpers of our joy, is it not natural for us, however unworthy we may be of their notice, — and in a greater degree the more unworthy we are, - to be grateful to them, to respect them, to wish to be of service to them and to please them ?
Now, in the redemption of fallen man, the Creator proceeded in conformity to this princi; le. The death of Christ was the most striking proof that could be given of his infinite compassion for the children of men.
I want no stronger evidence that God is still the friend of man. I need no better assurance of his love towards my race: For what is this which he has done? He has so loved the world that he has given his only begotten son to die for it! It is of no consequence under this point of view, how the death of his son is of use to the world. It is enough that he gave him up to die for the benefit of man; enough, that is, to show how deeply, how infinitely, God loved man. This Jesus stood in such relation to God and was so dear to him, that the scriptures call him his “only begotten,” his “ best belored son.” Of all his creatures on earth and in heaven, not one was so precious in his sight, so near to his bosom, or so much like himself, as he. He was, in fact, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person! But God saw that by making his life a life of sorrow, by clothing him in the form of a servant, and by permitting him to be " brought as a lamb to the slaughter," man would be benefited, the dormant energies of his soul awakened, his divine reason that had been rolled and trampled in the dust, placed again upon its throne, and the harmony of the world restored; and he consented. With all this in view, He gave him to us. With the eye of a father towards an only son He observed his reception amongst men,
- saw the scorn which was poured upon him, and yet endured it, - heard the raving multitude cry out for his crucifixion, and yet made no in