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tent witnesses. I reply, notwithstanding the contemptible weakness evident in these beginnings, yet all this was conducted by the admirable providence of God, that they who were lately dispirited with fear, were hurried away to the sepulchre, partly by love to Christ and pious zeal, partly by their own unbelief, not only to be eye-witnesses of the fact, but to hear from the angels the same as they saw with their eyes. How can we suspect the authority of those who considered what they heard from the women “ as idle tales," till they had the fact clearly before them? (h) As to the people at large, and the governor himself, it is no wonder that after the ample conviction they had, they were denied a sight of Christ, or any other proofs. The sepulchre is sealed, a watch is set, the body is not found on the third day. The soldiers, corrupted by bribes, circulate a rumour that he was stolen away by his disciples: (i) as if they had power to collect a strong force, or were furnished with arms, or were even accustomed to such a daring exploit. But if the soldiers had not courage enough to repulse them, why did, they not pursue them, that with the assistance of the people they might seize some of them? The truth is, therefore, that Pilate by, his zeal attested the resurrection of Christ; and the guards who were placed at the sepulchre, either by their silence or by their falsehood, were in reality so many heralds to publish the same fact. In the mean time, the voice of the angels loudly proclaimed, “ He is not here, but is risen.” (1) Their celestial splendour evidently shewed them to be angels and not men. After this, if there was any doubt still remaining, it was removed by Christ himself. More than once, his disciples saw, and even felt and handled him: and their unbelief has eminently contributed to the confirmation of our faith. He discoursed among them concerning the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and at length they saw him ascend to heaven. (1) Nor was this spectacle exhibited only to the chosen apostles, but “ he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.” (m) By the mission of the Holy Spirit he gave an undeniable proof, not only of his life, but also of his sovereign dominion: accord.
ing to his prediction, “ It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (n) Paul in his way to Damascus was not prostrated to the ground by the influence of a dead man, but felt that the person whom he was opposing was armed with supreme power. He appeared to Stephen for another reason; to overcome the fear of death by an assurance of life. (6) To refuse credit to testimonies so numerous and authentic, is not diffidence, but perverse and unreasonable obstinacy.
IV. The remark we have made, that in proving the resurrection, our minds should be directed to the infinite power of God, is briefly suggested in these words of Paul; “ Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (p) It would therefore be extremely unreasonable here, to consider what could possibly happen in the ordinary course of nature, when the object proposed to us is an inestimable miracle, the magnitude of which absorbs all our faculties. Yet Paul adduces an example from nature to reprove the folly of those who deny the resurrection. “ Thou fool,” says he, “that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." (9) He tells us that seed sown displays an image of the resurrection, because the corn is reproduced from putrefaction. Nor would it be a thing so difficult to believe, if we paid proper attention to the miracles which present themselves to our view in all parts of the world. But let us remember, that no man will be truly persuaded of the future resurrection, but he who is filled with admiration, and ascribes to the power of God the glory that is due to it.
Transported with this confidence, Isaiah exclaims; “ Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust.” (r) Surrounded by desperate circumstances, he has recourse to God, the Author of life, unto whom, as the Psalmist says, “ belong the issues from death.” (s) Even reduced to a state resembling a dead carcase more than a living man, yet relying on the power of God, just as if he were in perfect health, Job looks forward without any
(n) John xvi. 7. (0) Acts vii. 55. () Phil. iii. 21. (9) 1 Cor. xv. 36. (r) Isaiah xxvi. 19, (s) Psalm Ixviii. 20.
doubts to that day: “I know,” says he, “that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth,” there to display his power; "and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself and not another."(t) For though some persons employ great subtilty to pervert these texts, as if they ought not to be understood of the resurrection, they nevertheless confirm what they wish to destroy; since holy men, in the midst of calamities, seek consolation from no other quarter than from the similitude of the resurrection: which more fully appears from a passage in Ezekiel. (u) For when the Jews rejected the promise of their restoration, and objected, that there was no more probability of a way being opened for their return, than of the dead coming forth from their sepulchres, a vision is presented to the prophet, of a field full of dry bones, and God commands them to receive flesh and nerves. Though this figure is intended to inspire the people with a hope of restoration, he borrows the argument for it from the resurreccion; as it is to us also the principal model of all the deliverances which the faithful experience in this world. So Christ, after having declared that the voice of the gospel communicates life, in consequence of its rejection by the Jews immediately adds; “ Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” (x) After the example of Paul, therefore, let us even now triumphantly exult in the midst of our conflicts, that he who has promised us a life to come “is able to keep that which we have committed to him;" and thus let us glory that " there is laid up for us a crown of righteousness, which the righteous Judge shall give us.” (y) The consequence of this will be, that all the troubles we suffer will point us to the life "to come, “ seeing it is a righteous thing with God," and agreeable to his nature, “to recompense tribulation to them that trouble us, and to us who are” unjustly “troubled, rest, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed with his mighty angels, in flaming fire.” (2) But we must remember what immediately
as if the continuallos
follows, that “he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe,” because they believe the gospel.
V. Now though the minds of men ought to be continually occupied with the study of this subject, yet, as if they expressly intended to abolish all remembrance of the resurrection, they have called death the end of all things, and the destruction of man. For Solomon certainly speaks according to a common and received opinion, when he says, “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” (a) And again, “Who knows whether the spirit of man goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast goeth downward?” (6) This brutish stupidity has infected all ages of the world, and even forced its way into the Church; for the Sadducees had the audacity publicly to profess, that there is no resurrection, and that souls are mortal. But that none might be excused by this gross ignorance, the very instinct of nature has always set before the eyes of unbelievers an image of the resurrection. For what is the sacred and inviolable custom of interring the dead, but a pledge of another life? Nor can it be objected that this originated in error; for the rites of sepulture were always observed among the holy fathers; and it pleased God that the same custom should be retained among the Gentiles, that their torpor might be roused by the image of the resurrection thereby set before them. Though this ceremony produced no good effects upon them, yet it will be useful to us, if we wisely consider its tendency: for it is no slight refutation of unbelief, that all united in professing a thing that none of them believed. But Satan has not only stupefied men's minds, to make them bury the memory of the resurrection together with the bodies of the dead, but has endeavoured to corrupt this point of doctrine by various fictions, with an ultimate view to its total subversion. Not to mention that he began to oppose it in the days of Paul, not long after arose the Millenarians, who limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years. Their fiction is too puerile to require or deserve refutation. Nor does the Revelation, which they quote in favour of their error, afford them any support: for the term of a thousand years there
mentioned, (c) refers not to the eternal blessedness of the Church, but to the various agitations which awaited the Church in its militant state upon earth. But the whole Scripture proclaims that there will be no end of the happiness of the elect, or the punishment of the reprobate. Now all those things which are invisible to our eyes, or far above the comprehension of our minds, must either be believed on the authority of the oracles of God, or entirely rejected. Those who assign the children of God a thousand years to enjoy the inheritance of the future life, little think what dishonour they cast on Christ and his kingdom. For if they are not invested with immortality, neither is Christ himself, into the likeness of whose glory they will be transformed, received up into immortal glory. If their happiness will have any end, it follows that the kingdom of Christ, on the stability of which it rests, is temporary. Lastly, either these persons are extremely ignorant of all divine things, or they are striving with malignant perverseness to overturn all the grace of God and power of Christ; and these can never be perfectly fulfilled till sin is abolished, and death swallowed up, and eternal life completely established. But the folly of being afraid that too much cruelty is attributed to God, if the reprobate are doomed to eternal punishment, is even evident to the blind. Will the Lord do any injury by refusing the enjoyment of his kingdom to persons whose ingratitude shall have rendered them unworthy of it? But their sins are temporary. This I grant; but the majesty of God, as well as his justice, which their sins have violated, is eternal. Their iniquity, therefore, is justly remembered. Then the punishment is alleged to be excessive, being disproportioned to the crime. But this is intolerable blasphemy, when the majesty of God is so little valued, when the contempt of it is considered of no more consequence than the destruction of one soul. But let us pass by these triflers; lest, contrary to what we have before said, we should appear to consider their reveries as worthy of refutation,
VI. Beside these wild notions, the perverse curiosity of man has introduced two others. Some have supposed that the whole man dies, and that souls are raised again together with bodies:
(c) Rev. xx. 4.