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that precise species of suffering which the law inflicted on disobedience: “ In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die.” “ The wages of sin is death.” The pain of death terminated when he cried, “It is finished !” but the humiliation still remained until his resurrection.
Justice is now satisfied, the law is magnified and made honourable. The majesty of heaven and earth appear in the person of the Saviour, with an inviting benignity dressed in smiles, proclaiming peace from the cross “ to them that are nigh, and to them that are far off.”
II. On this day the character of Christ was illustriously vindicated, and his pretensions fully asserted and sustained.
During his life he laboured under the accusation of deceiving the people : his miraculous works were imputed to diabolical agency, and death [was] inflicted on him under the character of a blasphemer, because he affirmed himself to be the Son of God: He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”* “ Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I do these things.”+
The grand proof of Christ's Messiahship is his resurrection. To witness his resurrection was the principal * Rom. i. 4.
† John viii. 28.
office of the apostles: “ Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until that same day that he was taken up, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”* It was the evidence to which he had himself appealed: “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”of It was such an attestation of divine approbation as was never conferred before or since.
III. This day afforded to Christ a signal triumph over his enemies. During his abode in the grave, his enemies exulted, the world rejoiced, his disciples were rejected and dispersed. The desponding language of his disciples, on their way to Emmaus: “ We thought it had been he that should have redeemed Israel; and, besides all this, it is the third day since these things were done.” The hopes of the church were sunk to the lowest point of depression: it seemed as if the name of Jesus and his cause were for ever entombed in his grave. But how gloriously was the scene reversed by his resurrection! The person of the Saviour was for ever removed beyond the reach of farther assault, and his cause was more than ever triumphant : “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” Greater miracles were wrought by the apostles, in his name, than any
* Acts i. 21, 22. † John ii. 19. Acts iv. 33.
which he wrought himself. From thence we must date the extensive and successful propagation of the gospel. The Spirit descended, and the eleven apostles were sent forth into all the world. He then began to assume the sceptre of universal dominion, to sit upon the throne of David, to rule and to establish it for ever and ever. “ All power was given unto him in heaven and in earth.”
IV. On this day, our Lord gained an everlasting victory over the last enemy, and triumphed over death in that nature which had always been subject to its dominion before. Death had reigned, not only from Adam to Moses, but through all subsequent generations, subjecting the whole race, and trampling them with indignity in the dust. Millions and millions had descended into his dreary prison, of which none had ever been able to break the bars, and escape from the confinement. The king of terrors maintained an undisputed dominion, a despotic sway, over all the past generations of mankind. Some were indulged with a larger respite than others. Some descended into his mansions with more funereal pomp and pageantry; but when arrived there, they all met with the same reception : the same darkness enveloped them; and they equally said, “ to corruption, Thou art my sister; to the worm, Thou art my mother.” But on this day a new order of things commenced. Death, for the first time, encountered an enemy more powerful than himself; and though he seemed
to prevail for a moment, he was for ever foiled in the conflict. He received into his territory, in the guise of a captive, him whom he found a conqueror. (Christ] exhibited the first specimen of immortal man: not that shadow of immortality, consisting in being remembered and celebrated for ages by creatures who are hastening to the tomb; but an immortality, consisting in a form which is imperishable,—a glorious being, over which death hath no more power, which will subsist in undecaying youth and splendour when the heavens are no more. This is the pattern and example to which the children of the resurrection will be conformed.
V. On this day we are called to rejoice in that sure and certain prospect which the resurrection of Christ affords to all true believers, of ascending with him to heaven, and of there partaking with him of his glory. As he was the substituted representative of true believers, what was accomplished in him at his resurrection will, ere long, be accomplished in them: the victory over death which he acquired he will impart to them; the glory which he has received he will give to them; the eternal rest, into which he has entered at his ascension, he hath prepared for them:“ Every man in his own order : Christ the first-fruits; then they that are Christ's at his coming.” In nothing that our Saviour suffered or obtained, is he to be considered in the light of a private character. Nothing was suffered on his own account, or VOL. V.
effected merely with a view to his own benefit. “ As he bore our sins in his own body on the tree,” and “ died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God,” the rewards which he merited, the dignity to which he was exalted, are not confined to his own person, but accrue to every part of his mystical body.
Rey. ii. 1.-These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in
his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden
candlesticks. As Jesus Christ is the “ true light” of the world, so a principal means, by which he dispenses his illumination, is by the appointment of a stated ministry, and the formation of christian churches. By concentrating and uniting their efforts; by collecting their information, their zeal and piety into a [point]; they dispel much of the darkness of the present state. This state is frequently, in scripture, compared to night : “ The night is far spent; the day is at hand.”* During the prevalence of this darkness, previous to the rising of the “ Sun of righteousness," he has placed his ministers as stars in the firmament, and appointed his churches to be as lamps or candlesticks.
By the representation of the text, we are strongly reminded of the sole end and design for which
* Rom. xiii. 12.