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DISCOURSE 7.] FROM THE EXISTENCE OF CHRISTIANITY. 97
are prepared to say that the very fact of the existence of Christianity is a convincing evidence of the resurrection of its Author,—an evidence which, when fully considered, every sound mind must admit as irresistible. Let us devote a few moments to this branch of the argument.
We commence by the simple proposition, that there is such a thing as the Christian religion now existing and professed by multitudes in our own day. Since, then, this belief is established in the world, let us ask how it came there? In this stage of our enquiry, no infidel will venture to deny, that the religion professed by mankind eighteen centuries ago, with the solitary exception of the Jewish system, was entirely idolatrous, and totally distinct from the Christian faith. Neither can it be disputed, that the worship of the heathen was at that time so incorporated into the laws of every land and so defended by those laws, that an attempt to destroy it was sure to be visited by death. Now, then, we ask, how it came to pass, that Christianity opposed itself successfully to this idolatrous worship, if the resurrection of Christ had not been true? Jesus himself was the reputed son of a carpenter, poor, humble, and altogether destitute of any human influence or authority. He lived in the midst of hatred and persecution, and at last died as a malefactor upon a cross,—a death the most degrading and base to which it was possible to subject the meanest and the worst amongst mankind. By whatever arts the infidel may suppose him to have gathered a few disciples around him, when living, his death must have destroyed the illusion if he had not risen again. In this, at least, they could not be deceived, for a crucified impostor can deceive no man. His followers were like himself, poor, low, unlearned, and simple men. How could eleven such individuals persuade the Jews, the Greeks, and the Ro
mans, that the story of his resurrection was true, if they had not been enabled to work miracles to prove it? And even supposing, for the sake of argument, that these miracles also were deceptions, why should these poor ftshermen attempt to carry on so senseless an imposture, when all they could gain by it was scourging and imprisonment, persecution and death?
Manifestly, then, the sacred history of Scripture is corroborated and established, by the very fact that Christianity prevailed and prospered, and continues to prosper and prevail. And the resurrection of Christ is shown to be the essential point from which alone we can date the triumph of his religion. Without this, his Apostles could neither have possessed motives to act, nor instruments of action, and every hope of his Gospel must have been buried in his tomb.
3. Having, now endeavored to set before you, my brethren, first, the type and the prophecy which announced beforehand the resurrection of Christ, and secondly, the proofs of the fact itself, we have next to consider the time. 'The third day,' saith our creed, ' he rose from the dead.' Now in relation to this particular period, we shall find two types and one most distinct prophecy. The first type shows the period, and is related at large in the history of the Prophet Jonah, who was devoured by a fish, and on the third day was cast forth on dry land. This our Saviour expressly appropriated to himself; 'For,' said he, 'as the Prophet Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall also the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.'
The second type is found in the twenty third chapter of Leviticus; and the language relating to it reads thus: 1 When ye be come into the land which I give unto you,' saith the Lord by the mouth of Moses, ' and shall reap the harvest thereof, then shall ye bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest unto the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath, the priest shall wave it. And he shall offer, that day when ye wave the sheaf, an he lamb without blemish, of the first year, for a burnt offering unto the Lord.' In order to apply this properly, it must be remembered that all the fruits of the land of Canaan, according to the Levitical law, were profane; and the feast of the first fruits was the mode appointed to consecrate them, which was done by the lifting up of one sheaf to the Lord in the name of all the rest, at the same time offering a lamb as an atonement. It was to this St. Paul alluded, when he said, 'If the first fruits be holy, the lump also is holy;' and elsewhere he carries on the same image by saying, 'Now is Christ risen and become the first fruits of them which slept.' As, therefore, the lifting up of the w-ave-sheaf on the day after the Sabbath, in connexion with the lamb slain as an atonement, was accepted by the Lord for the rest of the harvest, so the lifting up of Christ on the same day, in connexion with his blessed sacrifice for sinners, is accepted as 'the propitiation for the whole world;' and thus we have another type, in which the very day of the resurrection is presignified, and the whole of which shadows forth, most interestingly, the doctrine of the text; for Christ, like the lamb, was delivered for our offences, and, like the wavesheaf of the first fruits, ' He was raised for our justification.'
From these types we proceed to the prophecy relating to the precise time, which was delivered by our Lord himself; for on sundry occasions he told his disciples, that he should be 'delivered to the Gentiles, and mocked, and crucified, and should rise again the third day.' And not only
did his disciples hear this prophecy, but the Pharisees also; for we find them coming to Pilate along with the chief priests, after Christ was crucified, and saying, ' Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again.' Thus manifestly was the whole truth and success of the mission of our Lord cast, as it were, upon the fact of his resurrection, and thus plainly had he announced it both to friends and foes.
Most punctually, however, were these types and prophecies fulfilled. For the day before the Sabbath, which was Friday, our Lord expiated the sins of 'the whole world,' by his cross and passion, and was laid ' in the heart of the earth,' in the ' sepulchre hewn out of the solid rock.' This was counted for the first day. The second, which was the Sabbath, he rested from his mighty work of our redemption, as he had before rested afler the creation. And on the third day, which was the first of the week, 'very early in the morning,' he burst the bands of death, and appeared, the conqueror of our last enemy, clothed with all power in heaven and in earth, the Lord of life and glory.
But here it may, perhaps, be proper to advert to two difficult ties which have been started in relation to this subject. The first of these is a cavil upon the length of time, fork is objected, that from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning is not 'three days and three nights,' as it ought to be in order to justify the prediction. Now this trifling argument is founded upon ignorance of the phraseology of the Jews. The nights are not to be understood at all as distinct portions of time, but this was a current mode of speech, signifying neither more nor less than three days: and counting the first day and the third inclusively, according to the well known rule, that in legal construction there is no fraction of a day, three days were actually fulfilled. That this was our Lord's understanding of the expression is perfectly manifest, because, in speaking of this event, he uses both forms of speech indifferently, sometimes saying 'three days and three nights,' sometimes 'after three days,' and generally saying that 'on the third day' he should rise again. The same diversity of speech occurs, where the chief priests apply to Pilate for a guard upon the sepulchre. 'We remember,' say they, ' that this deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day.' Here, ' after three days' and ' until the third day,' are evidently designed to signify the same period; so -that we have ample proof in Scripture to show that the prediction was accurately fulfilled, when the proper meaning of the phrase is recollected.
The second difficulty is much more serious in its aspect, because it is advanced for the purpose of impugning the Divinity of Christ, by those who advocate the Socinian heresy. For since it is said, in very many passages of Scripture, that ' God the Father raised Christ Jesus from , the dead,' they endeavor to prove, that he could not have been Divine, since otherwise, as they say, he might have raised himself. Now this cavil is chiefly worthy of notice, as showing the weakness of those grounds on which the Socinian doctrine is supported. That the Divine nature of Christ raised the human nature from the tomb is the faith of the Church. This Divine nature, the second person of the Trinity, the Eternal son of the Father, is Goo, and, as such, is One With The Father. By virtue of the relation existing between the Father and the Son, all that the Son doeth, the Father doeth, and 'whatsoever the Father doeth,' as Christ himself saith, 'the Son doeth likewise.' Thus God the Father created the