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benefit ever accrued from the oblation of the most costly sacrifice.
Had Christ died in like manner, the merit of his suffering would have been unavailing, and we, who now reap all the riches of that great catastrophe, should have been still in our sins. But when he died for our sins, he rose again for our justification. His object was not attained till he had secured our acquittal by triumphing over death. His resurrection was the evidence of this, and it proved that the divine wrath was appeased, that mercy and truth had met together in the invisible world, and that immortal life was re-granted to man as the fruit of the Saviour's passion. We see, therefore, that there was a complete and essential difference between the death of Jesus and that of all other victims of atonement, and that this difference consisted more especially in his rising again. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
This doctrine required the most satisfactory proof. The disciples, therefore, taught it on the authority of their own senses. “ Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain, whom God hath raised up.” When St. Peter spake these words, he and his brethren were surrounded with a vast concourse of persons, whom they boldly challenged to an enquiry into the truth. They referred to the Jewish Scriptures for a corroboration of their words. They showed from the Psalms of David, that what that great Prophet had declared of the Holy One not seeing corruption, he spake not of himself, but of the Saviour who was to come. And they then solemnly affirmed, that, “ This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.” Here were twelve men, plain and simple, but honest and sincere, speaking to a fact of which they had personal knowledge. If the testimony of two men be deemed worthy of credit, shall we not assent to that of twelve? They had no private inducement to declare a falsehood. Worldly advantage and worldly happiness were lodged in the opposite scale. Why should they go about industriously to proclaim a solemn occurrence on which their whole credit and fortune depended, and expose themselves, as they did, to insult, injury, and death, unless they were assuredly convinced of the reality of what they published, and anxious, from the purest principles of benevolence, to impart its advantages to others? Its advantages were immense. Every one who received the doctrine was made an heir of the blessings resulting from it. To persuade men, therefore, to believe in Christ, was to confer upon them the greatest possible benefit. It was to give a new spring to their lives, a new object to their hopes, a new zest and relish to their pursuits and enjoyments. We cannot wonder, therefore, that the doctrine of a
crucified and risen Saviour should awaken an extraordinary interest in the breasts of the Apostles, should be the theme on which they loved to dwell, and form the prominent feature of the religion they inculcated.
II. The Ascension, the second argument on which they insisted, showed the distinction between the revival of Christ and that of all other men, inasmuch as all others returned to corruption, and were again laid in the grave; but Christ being raised from the dead “ dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him." His body, being again quickened, was incapable of farther suffering or death; and, by the very circumstance of its incorruptibility, was fitted only for a spiritual state of existence. Accordingly, we find, that, instead of holding a regular and social intercourse with his disciples as heretofore, he now appeared to them only at intervals and under extraordinary circumstances, his arrival and departure being sudden and miraculous, furnishing no account whence he came and whither he went. The sole cause of his appearance at all was to convince them of his actual resurrection, and to prove, by the manner of his interviews, that his nature was entirely changed. He visited them when the doors were shut, made himself known by various expedients, discoursed in a loftier tone of authority than before, and, after having shown himself at intervals during forty days, and given them undeniable proof of his actual resurrection, whilst they stood by and beheld, he was taken up into heaven, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
His ascension, therefore, was a strong corroboration of his resurrection, and showed both the object of his re-appearance to his disciples, and the place to which he was finally destined to go.
gave a natural finish to his earthly course, and taught the world, in the clearest manner, the certainty of a future state. It proved also the truth of his pretensions, for such a miracle could not have been performed by any impostor. He had declared that he came down from heaven, that God was his Father, that he had a natural glory before the world was, that he and the Father are
are one; and he had expressly foretold his return into heaven, as an event soon to be accomplished. Why should he have done this, unless he was conscious of an ability which nothing could resist?-unless he felt within himself the attributes which belong to a superior being ? By announcing his intention beforehand, (for which there was no occasion,) he set exposure at defiance. No one called upon him for supernatural achievements of the kind, or attempted to draw him into predictions which he was unable to fulfil. Such engagements were voluntary, and proceeded entirely from his own free choice. He had declared his resurrection and ascension to be events growing out of his voluntary humiliation and suffering for the human race, and to be alike important to their welfare; and he accomplished both as necessary parts of the gracious cause he had espoused. His resurrection took place, because “it was not possible that he should be holden of death," and his ascension succeeded to it, because his nature was no longer suited to the sphere of this visible world. “ Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.”
III. The third argument on which the Apostles insisted, was the Descent of the Holy Ghost. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”
As the resurrection and the ascension of our Lord were confined to his particular friends, and he did not manifest himself to the world as in the days of his flesh, it was necessary, that, when the Gospel began to be preached, and they who had been witnesses of these great events were to found the truth of their teaching on the reality of them, some other evidence, besides their own words, should be given in proof of the truth of their relation. Accordingly, the Holy Ghost was sent down to communicate to them miraculous powers, and to endue them with wisdom and fortitude equal to the greatness of their work.
Now, if a person assert a matter of fact and work a miracle in attestation of it, the mere incredibility of the thing, in a natural way, is no objection