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ON OUR SAVIOUR'S RESURRECTION.
1 Cor. xv. 20.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first
fruits of them that slept.
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." If there were no difference in the destinations of “the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth,” how forlorn and wretched would our condition be! The one or the other of these reflections has occurred to every thinking man,
to the Christian who walks in the light of the blessed Gospel,—to the Pagan, who has no other guide of life than the natural dictates and discoveries of his own mind. The consideration, therefore, of the state of man, the nature of the human soul, the existence of moral evil and of personal suffering ;
the notices also of God's attributes, but especially of his wisdom and goodness, as discoverable by unassisted reason, have in all ages, produced the belief and expectation of a future state of existence. For though our present life is not altogether without its enjoyments ; still it is beset with such sorrow and toil, that the divine wisdom, in creating us, would be questioned, if its only purpose were to maintain a succession of shortlived generations, and if the only end of our being were to spend a few years of mere animal existence, and then to perish for ever.
That, after dissolution, the soul should survive the body, and be susceptible of pain or happiness as the consequence of its moral probation, was a truth deducible from the light of nature, and confirmed by the clearest reasonings; but that the body, after mingling with the dust, should ever be reunited to the spirit, was a doctrine so far from being cherished or received, that the philosophers of the heathen world rejected it as an impossibility ; and some of them thought that even their Gods were unable to work such a miracle. When St. Paul, therefore, enforced this tenet, it roused the indignation of his unconverted hearers. He seemed to them as a "setter-forth of strange gods, because he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection.”
Even the Jews, that favoured nation, to whom “ were committed the oracles of God,” had not, generally speaking, a clear notion of this great truth. It is a doctrine that, in the Old Testament is rather
taken for granted, than much dwelt upon. . It was, however, familiar to their prophets and eminent saints ; and though it became gradually obscure in the minds of the ordinary people, it was still pointed out in many passages of their Scriptures. For example :-" Thy dead men,” says the prophet Isaiah, “shall live ;-together with my dead body shall they arise.”—“Behold,” says Ezekiel when describing his vision ;-“behold a valley full of dry bones,and there was a noise, and behold a shaking—and the bones came together, bone to his bone; the sinews and the flesh came up upon them ; and the skin covered them above, and their breath came into them; and they lived, and stood up upon their feet.” The prophet Daniel, in a passage, which by the ancient Jews themselves was understood of the resurrection, declares, that “ many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” To these quotations may be added that solemn declaration of the patriarch Job :—“O that my words were now written ! O that they were printed in a book ; that they were graven with an iron pen and lead, in the rock for ever ! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin worms destroy this body, , yet in my flesh shall I see God,-whom I shall see
for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another."
But though the heathen disbelieved, and the body of the Jewish people but faintly expected, the resurrection of the body, yet the possibility of such a change must have been acknowledged by them both. If the instances in which their prophets raised some individuals from the dead were too weak an argument, must not the Jews have concluded that the translation of Enoch and Elijah into heaven was an earnest of that which all the faithful might expect ? And why should it, by the speculative heathen, be thought a thing either impossible or incredible, that God should raise the dead ? Shall it be owned that God All-powerful created the universe out of nothing; and shall it be denied that he can re-unite into their former shape and texture the scattered atoms of man's body? Shall it be acknowledged that God All-wise separated, at the creation, the confused mass of matter, and formed it into celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial; and shall it be questioned that He can again call forth the human frame to life and energy? Shall it be granted that God All-present can call every star of heaven by name, number all the hairs of our head, and mark every sparrow that falleth to the ground ; and shall it be disputed that He can recognize the kindred particles of our component dust? Let the Christian, who lives under a better dispensation than either the Heathen or the Jew, vindicate the infinite perfections of God, by adverting to that
act of love and wisdom which we this day commemorate, the raising of Christ from the dead :-let that which to the Jews was a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, be to him an occasion of gratitude, of piety, and of hope.
The resurrection of our blessed Saviour is a truth confirmed by testimonies human, angelical, and divine. Those pious women, who brought sweet spices to anoint his corpse, found him alive. He appeared to two of his disciples going to Emmaus, and “expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” He was afterwards seen by St. Peter alone; then by St. James ; at another time by seven of the Apostles together ;—at another time by all his disciples except St. Thomas ;-and afterwards to him in company with the rest, when our Saviour removed his doubts, by showing him and allowing him to handle, the prints in his hands and side. After these private manifestations, he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once. Thus he continued for forty days, “shewing himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” At a subsequent time, he was seen also by St. Stephen ;—and lastly he was seen of St. Paul, as of one born out of due time.
If it should be objected, that these are the testimonies of his disciples and friends, and, on that account, entitled to the less credit, we may add to them the testimony of persons who had no amicable