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1 Con. xv. 20.
NOW IS CHRIST RISEN FROM THE DEAD.
An elegant writer on the internal evidence of the christian religion, has remarked, that Jesus Christ in establishing the doctrine of the gospel, "rejected every object which all other men pursue, and made choice of those which other men fly from and are afraid of. He refused power, riches, honours, and pleasure; and submitted to 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," (continues this writer), "to show one, who ever made his sufferings and death a necessary part of his plan, and essential to his mission. This Christ actually did: he foresaw, foretold, declared their necessity, and voluntarily endured them." Those of you, my brethren, who know any thing of the history of Jesus Christ, remember his words to his disciples :—"Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.—And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
The death of Christ was an important and necessary part of the plan of the redemption which he accomplished. Hence we find that this event dwelt much upon his mind; and that he not unfrequently conversed with his disciples on the subject. His death was likewise the grand point which his enemies had in view; and probably this constituted the whole of their plan. This purpose they at length effected. They crucified him; and when they saw him dead, buried, and his sepulchre sealed and guarded, they vainly imagined that there was an end of him and his cause. But it was not possible that Jesus could be held by the bands of death. His resurrection was as essential as his death for the accomplishment of his own purposes. Accordingly, in conformity to his predictions, he rose from the dead on the third day.
In a former discourse on the words of the text, "Now is Christ risen from the dead," I purposed to consider—
I. Some of the evidences of Christ's resurrection.
II. Some of the circumstances connected with the fact.
III. Some of the ends effected by it.
I. In the consideration of the evidences of the Redeemer's resurrection, five particulars were amplified. —First, the testimony of the Roman soldiers. Secondly, the declaration of several angels. Thirdly, the fact that Christ shewed himself alive, by infallible proofs, to a great number of persons who knew him before his death. Fourthly, the institution and continued observance of the Lord's day, in commemoration of the event; and, Fifthly, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, who descended upon the Apostles and disciples of Christ, after his resurrection, enabling them to work miracles, and to preach his gospel in all the known languages of the world. The absurd and incredible objections made against the resurrection of Christ by his enemies, were then noticed and refuted; and finally, those who deny the fact were retorted on, and charged with credulity on being necessarily obliged, in consequence of their rejection of the truth, to believe many absurdities and moral impossibilities. I proceed now, in the second place. to notice—
II. Some of the circumstances connected with the fact of the resurrection of Jesus.
1. He rose the same identical person, in respects his human nature, as he lived and died.
The proper idea of a resurrection is, that it is a reproduction to life of a body that has been dead. The soul cannot be the subject of resurrection, because it is immaterial and incorruptible. Resurrection implies reproduction. But the soul, after once existing. will never be in a state of non-existence, and therefore, it cannot be reproduced. When the soul is separated from the body, it still exists in a separate state. It may, however, be again united with the body when raised from the dead. Thus the body ol Christ was raised from the dead, and his human soul was again united to it. He was made flesh, and lived in human nature. He suffered death on the cross; and his soul being separated from his body, it was left without the least vitality, as other dead bodies are, though it was not suffered to see corruption. But his body was raised, and the same soul was again united to the same body. That his body was raised he assured his disciples by saying, "Handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." He convinced them of the identity of his body, by saying, " Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself;" and especially by addressing the unbelieving apostle Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless but believing." That he had the same human soul, appears by his discoursing with them, answering the same things which he spake to them while he was yet with them before his death. And that he was the same person, in respect to his divine nature, he gave a full testimony, by the miracle which he wrought at the sea of Tiberias; by his breathing on the Apostles the Holy Ghost; and by his ascending into heaven in their presence. "No man hath ascended into heaven, but he which came down from heaven; even the Son of Man who is in heaven."
2. A second circumstance connected with our Lord's resurrection is, that he rose again the third day after his expiring on the cross.
It.was as necessary that Christ should die as that he should live; and that he should rise again, as that he should die. That his death might be ascertained without doubt, he remained for some time subject to its power, He might have revived upon the cross, after he had given up the ghost; but in this case, as Pilate questioned if he were already dead, so it might have been doubted if he had ever died at all. The reward of his resurrection was immediately due upon his death; but lest the truth of either the one or the other should be suspected, infinite Wisdom determined that a certain space of time should intervene between these two events. This portion of time was to be three days; that is, part of three days, agreeably to common language used by the Jews, and also by the Greeks and Romans. Our blessed Lord, in the early part of his ministry, said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple," speaking of the temple of his body, "and in three days I will raise it up again." He told his disciples, on several occasions, that he should suffer and die, and rise again " the third day," and sometimes that he should be raised again "after three days." Our Lord also taught his followers that his resurrection was typified by the prophet Jonah. This prophet was three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish which the Lord had prepared to swallow him up ; and afterwards sent as a preacher of righteousness to the inhabitants of Nineveh. This was an express type of the Messiah and his work, who, after his resurrection, commanded "repentance and forgiveness of sins to be preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Hence our Lord said that, as Jonah was three davs and three nights in the whale's bellv, so should the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth;" that is, part of this