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words to her, Woman! IVhy weepest thou ? Scarcely had she told them the cause of her grief, before Jesus puts the same question to her, Woman! Why weepest thou? And to this language, which insinuateth into her heart, and exciteth, if I may venture to speak so, from the bottom of her soul every emotion of tenderness and love, of which she is capable, he adds, Mary!
This is the magnificent, this is the affecting object, on which the eyes of all the church are this day fixed. This is the comfortable language which heaven to-day proclaims. For several weeks past you have been in tears. Your churches have been in mourning. Your eyes have beheld only sad and melancholy objects. On the one hand, you have been examining your consciences, and your minds have been overwhelmed with the sorrowful remembrance of broken resolutions, violated vows, and fruitless communions. On the other, you have seen Jesus, betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, forsaken by all; Jesus, delivered by priests to secular powers, and condemned by his judges to die ; Jesus, sweating as it were, great drops of blood, Luke xxii. 44. praying in Gethsemane : O my Father ! if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, Matt. xxvi. 39. and crying in Mount Calvary, My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me ? chap. xxvii. 46. Jesus, lying in the grave : these have been the mournful objects of
your late contemplation. At the hearing of this tragical history, conscience trembles; and the whole church, on seeing the Saviour intombed, weeps as if salvation were buried with him. But take courage, thou tremulous conscience ! Dry up thy tears, thou church of Jesus Christ ! Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, o captive daughter of Sion! Isa. ii. 2. Come my brethren, approach the tomb of your Redeemer, no more to lament his death, no more to embalm his sacred body, which hath not been suffered to see corruption, Acts. ii. 27. but to shout for joy at his resurrection. To this the prophet inviteth us in the text: The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous : the right hand of the Lord is exalted : the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly.
I have not questioned, whether the psalm in general, and the text in particular, regard the Messiah. The ancient Jews understood the psalm of him; and therefore made use • f it formerly among their prayers for his advent. We agree with the Jews, and on this article, we think they are safer guides than many christians. The whole psalm agrees with Jesus Christ, and is applicable to him as well as to David, particularly the famous words that follow the text: The stone which the builders refused, is become the head-stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing, it is marvellous in our eyes.
These words are so unanimously applied to the exaltation, and particularly to the resurrection, of Jesus Christ, in the books of the new testament, in the gospel of St. Matthew, in that of St. Mark. in that of St. Luke, in the book of Acts, in the epistle to the Romans, and in that to the Ephesians, that it seems needless, methinks, to attempt to prove a matter so fully decided.
The present solemnity demands reflections of another kind, and we will endeavor to shew
I. The truth of the event of which the text speaks ; The right hand of the Lord is er alted : the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly. II. We will justify the joyful acclamations, which
are occasioned by it ; The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous.
I. Let us examine the evidences of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Infidelity denies it, and what perhaps may be no less injurious to christianity, superstition pretends to establish it on falshood and absurdity, A certain traveller pretends, that the inhabitants of the holy land still shew travellers the stone which the builders refused, and which became the head stone of the corner. In order to guard you against infidelity, we will urge the arguments, which prove the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ : but in order to prevent superstition, we will attribute to each argument no more evidence than what actually belongs to it.
In proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have, 1. Presumption. 2. Proofs.3. Demonstrations. The circumstances of his burial afford some presumptions; the testimonies of the apostles furnish us with some arguments; and the descent of the holy Spirit on the church furnisheth us with demonstrations.
1. From the circumstances of the burial of Jesus Christ, I derive some presumptions in favor of the doctrine of the resurrection. Jesus Christ died. This is an incontestible principle. Our enemies, far from pretending to question this, charge it on christianity as a reproach.
The tomb of Jesus Christ was found empty a few days after his death. This is another incontestible principle. For if the enemies of christianity had retained his body in their possession, they would cer. tainly have produced it for the ruin of the report of his resurrection. Hence ariseth a presumption that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
If the body of Jesus Christ were not raised from the dead, it must have been stolen away. But this theft is incredible. Who committed it ? The enemies of Jesus Christ ? Would they have contributed to his glory, by countenancing a report of his resurrection ? Would his disciples ? It is probable they would not : and, it is next to certain, they could not. How could they have undertaken to remove the body? Frail and timorous creatures, people, who fled as soon as they saw him taken into custody; even Peter, the most courageous, trembled at the voice of a servant girl, and three times denied that he knew him ; people of this character, would they have dared to resist the authority of the governor? Would they have undertaken to oppose the determination of the Sanhedrim, to force a guard, and to elude, or to overcome, soldiers armed and aware of danger? If Jesus Christ were not risen again, (I speak the language of unbelievers) he had deceived his disciples with vain hopes of his resurrection. How came the disciples not to discover the imposture ? Would they have hazarded themselves, by undertaking an enterprize so perilous, in favor of a man, who had so cruelly imposed on their credulity ?
But were we to grant that they formed the design of removing the body, how could they have executed it? How could soldiers, armed, and on guard, suffer themselves to be over-reached by a few timorous people? Either, says St. Augustine, they were asleep, or awake: If they were awake, why should they suffer the body to be taken away? If asleep, horo could they know that the disciples took it away? How dare they then depose that it was stolen. All these, however, are only presumptions. ,
The testimony of the apostles furnisheth us with
arguments, and there are eight considerations, which give their evidence sufficient weight. Remark the nature, and the number, of the witnesses: The fact they avow, and the agreement of their evidence : The tribunals, before which they stood, and the time, in which they made their depositions : The place, where they, affirmed the resurrection, and their motives for doing so.
1. Consider the nature of these witnesses. Had they been men of opulence and credit in the world, we might have thought, that their reputation gave a run to the fable. Had they been learned and eloquent men we might have imagined, that the style, in which they told the tale, had soothed the souls of the people into a belief of it. But, for my part, when I consider that the apostles were the lowest of mankind, without reputation to impose on people, without authority to compel, and without riches to reward: when I consider, that they were mean, rough, unlearned men, and consequently very unequal to the task of putting a cheat upon others; I cannot conceive, that people of this character conld succeed in deceiving the whole church.
2. Consider the number of these witnesses. St. Paul enumerates them, and tells us, that Jesus Christ was seen of Cephas, 1 Cor. xv. 5, &c. This appearance is related by St. Luke, who saith, the Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon, chap. xxiv. 34. The apostle adds, then he was seen of the twelve : This is related by St. Mark, who saith, he appeared unto the eleven, chap. xvi. 14. it was the same appearance, for the apostles retained the appellation twelve, although, after Judas had been guilty of suicide, they were reduced to eleven. St. Paul adds further, after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren