Imágenes de páginas
PDF

form, among those who have never enjoyed the light of revelation. Almost all the nations of the East hold this belief. A great proportion of the Hindoos, in consequence of this opinion, hold it to be the utmost abomination to taste animal food. The natives of Ceylon, Cochin-China, Cambodia, the vast empire of China, as populous as all Europe, the empire of Japan, containing forty millions, with all the confederated or dependent states, hold the same belief, though many of them, the Chinese especially, are not particular about eating animal food; for they are the most omnivorous, and the foulest, feeders on earth. Nay, if we can believe Clavigero, generally considered as the most trustworthy of all the historians of the Spanish conquest of America, the doctrine of the transmigration of souls was universally received throughout the Mexican empire, which, if really the case, is a strong corroboration of an opinion which I advanced in a former paper, that South America was peopled from the East of Asia.

This notion of the transmigration of souls, wild and extravagant as it is, is, nevertheless, an attempt to philosophize on the doctrine of immortality. The doctrine itself was rooted in the feelings of the human mind, but was attended with insurmountable difficulties to those who had no light from divine revelation; and this was the case with all the nations and people to the eastward of Persia and Chaldea. The result of such destitution was the doctrine of transmigration ef souls, or metempsychosis, as it was called by the Greeks, many of whom embraced it through the influence of Pythagoras, who imported it into Greece from India. The very existence of this doctrine, then, in these regions of the East, which, instead of cultivating intercourse with the rest of the world, adopted every possible means of preventing it, shews the antiquity of the doctrine of immortality, and directs our attention to the earliest corruption of it in this abortive attempt to fix a residence for the departed spirit.

A survey of the difficulties of the subject of which I have been treating, of the deep interest with which it is invested, and of the errors which have been connected with it, will not be in vain, if it excites gratitude and thankfulness to our Great Teacher, " who has brought life and immortality (or incorruption, for so the word should have been translated,) to light through the Gospel." 2 Tim. i. 10. This he has done, not merely by his doctrine, but by ocular demonstration, and that the dead shall rise again, is now as certain as that Christ himself has risen: "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." If men had had their option as to the nature of the proof which they would have required to establish the doctrine of the soul's immortality, what could they have imagined more satisfactory, than to 6ee a person, with whom they were familiarly acquainted, put to death; his body pierced through with a spear to make all sure; then laid in the grave, and guarded by a detachment of soldiers, to prevent the possibility of any trick, (for a real resurrection was never expected in the case of our Lord, either by his friends or his enemies); to see a person thus violently put to death, and his body thus carefully guarded to prevent even the shadow of a pretence for alleging that death had no power over him; and yet to see this person appearing afterwards among his familiar friends, exhibiting the most unquestionable evidences of personal identity, by manifesting all his former feelings, and showing the marks of the violence under which he had expired: was it possible, I say, to see all this in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, and not believe that he was the resurrection and the life to all who trusted in nis grace? There is no room left for argument here: we have only to ascertain the facts—and no facts which depend on human testimony are so indubitable,—and

then we must either yield assent, or be content to die without hope.

And by whom are all these facts attested 1 By the authors of the four Gospels and the epistles contiiiw! in the New Testament, who were eye-witnesses of wba: they state, and who voluntarily suffered martyrdom rather than retract a single iota of the full and unequitocal testimony which they bore to the resurrection of the Saviour. Were not such witnesses entitled to Todit? The Greeks and the Romans thought they vert; the one, the most learned and inquiring people on earth, renounced their learning as folly, and their philosophical speculations as dreams, to listen to the words of divine wisdom, powerful by its internal evidence and its native strength, but established beyond a doubt k; the demonstration of Christ's resurrection: and the Romans, before whom kings and nations had bowed in submissive homage, cast their crowns of victory at the foot of the cross, glorying in the hopes of a blessed resurrection, more than in all the trophies von from a conquered world.

DISCOURSE. By The Iate Rev. Sir Henry Moxcinn Wellwood, Bart., D.D., One of the Minister* of St. Cuthberts, EdinbtfijL

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures j and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to tie Scriptures;" &c 1 Cor. Xv. 8-—8.

I FRorosE nothing more, in discoursing on this text, than to request your attention to the leading facts, which the apostle here represents, as hsv;>is formed the substance of the doctrines which he had originally received from the Lord, and Lai delivered to the Corinthians, at the time when the Church of Christ was first planted among than.

I. "Christ died for our sins."

Assuming this fact, on the authority of the Revelation of God, I shall satisfy myself with general hints, rather than detailed illustrations of the place which it holds in the faith of a Christian; and shall endeavour to turn your thoughts to its general and practical influence on his state of mind through life, rather than to the solution of any real or sapposed difficulties, which the perverted ingenuity of man may attach to it.

How a sacrifice for sin was required to brio; down the mercy of God to a fallen world, ho* Christ could die, or how the sufferings and death of the Holy One of God could be either appointei or received for the redemption of the creatures d hi3 power, are questions suggested by querulous unbelief and presumption, not by the devout solicitude of humble and sincere believers.

The assertion of the text, "that Christ dial for our sins," as far as it relates to the counsels of God, must of necessity contain a great deal, w beyond the reach of our understandings. Ffc when it is regarded as a fact which involves tie eternal interests of human beings, and is addrev^ to their consciences under the pressure of £»* it sheds a glorious light on the path of hunuo life, and awakens the most ardent affectioni ^ those who rely on it.

As a fact addressed to a sincere and tremHc; penitent, who is hambled by his recollection of aggravated transgressions which he can never recal,—as a fact, on the certainty of which he can entirely depend, it comes home to his heart, as the tender mercy of God for the remission of sins which are past, through His forbearance; or is "like the day-spring from on high," visiting him who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death, to give him the knowledge of salvation, and to guide his feet into the way of peace.

"My heart is deeply wounded," will he say within himself, " by the consciousness of guilt which I cannot forget, and by the awful presence of that Holy and Omnipotent Being, who knows my sitting down and my rising up, and is acquainted with all my ways, whose wrath I know to be revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. My repentance, were it ever so deep, will not fulfil the duties which I have not done; nor will it cancel deliberate guilt, where pure and perpetual fidelity is due. My recollections press heavily on my conscience, but I should have no reliance on the mercy of heaven, and no sound reason to rely on it, if I did not believe 'that Christ died for our sins,' because God set him forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, that whosoever believeth on him might receive the remission of sins. When I am assured of this fact, I am certain of another, that my sins, aggravated as they are, are -not too heinous to be forgiven, and that they are not beyond the reach or the influence of the great atoning sacrifice which was offered for sins on the cross of Christ. I know that I have nothing personal to plead,—but I also know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded, that he is able to keep and secure whatsoever I commit to him. His blood cleanseth from all sin, and he is able also to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them."

It is in such language as this, that the assertion of the text, " that Christ died for our sins," is recognised by well-informed and genuine believers, as the foundation both of their principles of duty, and of all their hopes of salvation.

There are those, no doubt, who with better and worse intentions affect to represent the doctrine which rests the remission of sins on the fact, "that Christ died for our sins" by the will of God, as if it were calculated to relax the obligations of morals and religion, and to separate the mercy held ->ut to sinners by the death of the Lord, from the L ndispensable obligations of those to whom much is forgiven.

But every attempt to misrepresent or pervert the grace of God to our fallen world must be completely defeated, when we seriously examine, and fairly estimate the views and feelings of a genuine penitent, who finds his consolations at t he cross of Christ.

There he receives the precious assurance of pardon from the throne of God, and of "good raope through grace." But he receives it there,

inseparably conjoined with the passion and the agonies of the holy One of God, suffering, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God, when God lays on him the iniquities of us all. And where then can he learn, with such irresistible conviction, that sin is at perpetual enmity with God and men —with God, as the avenger of his own law, and with men whose guilt and impenitence are the cause of all their miseries? Where can he receive a more powerful admonition that there is no peace to the wicked, and no salvation for the human race but by His obedience unto death, "who died for our sins?" Or, finally, where can he be taught, with the same authority, that the pardon which a sinner can only obtain by the blood of atonement, is in no case to be separated from the promise of the Father, "to put his spirit within them" for whom Christ died; and that purity of life, and the fidelity of " a conscience purged from dead works to serve the living God," are both the result and the pledge of the faith by which he has peace with God, and of the grace wherein he stands?

Is it possible to imagine any other circumstances which have the same commanding power over those who feel their influence—which bring home to their consciences the indispensable obligations of a holy, and circumspect, and conscientious life, with the same irresistible authority—which are as effectual as these to persuade them of the inseparable relation between purity of mind and the communion of God, between their abhorrence of the sins for which Christ died, and every hope or consolation which they can derive from him?

There are, no doubt, hypocrites in every age who presumptuously assume a reliance on the sacrifice of Christ, while they secretly reject his authority; and there are also many individual sinners, who look with desire to the cross of Christ for tho remission of sins, from uncertain and unsettled convictions, both of duty and of salvation, which often return, but are successively abandoned.

But Christianity is not to be tried except by its genuine efficacy, among those who believe to the saving of their souls.

They embrace the salvation of the Gospel for time and for eternity. They estimate the consolations derived from it by the sanctifying power of the cross of Christ, and "by him the world is crucified unto them, and they unto the world." In proportion to the earnestness and affection with which they rely on the sacrifice of Christ for the remission of sins, their progress in purity of mind and in all Christian fidelity, becomes every hour more and more the object of their lives. By the sanctification of the spirit and the belief of the truth, they go from strength to strength, and they are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation.

The sacrifice of Christ, "who died for our sins," is not therefore to be regarded as a subject of mere speculative belief or inquiry. It is a great practical truth, which affects the most essential interests of personal and vital religion. "If any man be in Christ he is a new creature." His mind is purified by obeying the Gospel, and "he walks not after the flesh, but after the spirit."

II. The text affirms, that after our Lord's crucifixion "He was buried, and that he rose again from the dead on the third day."

Though he was arraigned, and insulted, and condemned to death by the high and the low, and though he was followed to the cross by the execrations of the deluded multitude, he was, notwithstanding, honoured in his burial, as no crucified man had ever before been honoured in Judea. Two men, of the highest distinction among their countrymen, with the consent of the governor, received his body from the cross, and with the most significant ceremonies and symbols known among the Jews, laid it in a sepulchre hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid; a striking memorial of the affection and reverence with which they had regarded him, which neither the ignominy of the cross, nor the hopeless aspect of his crucified body had been sufficient to destroy.

But it is more important to remark, that when it is specially related that our Lord " was buried," this fact is presented to us on the record of the Gospel, to certify the reality of his death, and to make all men know that he who bare our sins in his own body on the cross, submitted to be charged with the penalty of sin in the grave itself, when he was laid in the tomb among the multitude of sinners, for whom he had offered himself a ransom to God. "O death," he said, for that day "I will be thy plague. O grave, I will be thy destruction;" and from that time "was death swallowed up in victory."

And we have now to recollect, that though our Lord Jesus Christ "died for our sins," according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, it was not possible that death could hold him, and that "he rose again from the dead on the third dav," as he himself had distinctly foretold to his disciples. "He is not here," said the angel of the Lord, to the women who came sorrowing to the sepulchre, "He is not here; for He is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay: and go and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead."

Our Lord's resurrection, as a Verified fact in the history of the Gospel, is the corner-stone of our most holy faith. "If Christ has not risen, then there is no resurrection of the dead. Then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" without redemption.

Glory to God, we know, on the most incontestable evidence, of which no inconsiderable part is detailed in the text before us, and will be afterwards adverted to, that "the Lord is risen indeed, and hath become the first-fruits of them that sleep." He was crucified in the weakness of his humanity, but "his resurrection from the dead declared him to be the Son of God with power." And the evidence of this fact is a demonstration to every age and generation of men, that Christ crucified

is the power of God unto salvation to every on; who belie veth; and that "neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, not things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able tn separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

This is the precious testimony which God bth given of his Son, whom he sanctified and sent into the world, "to seek and to save that which was lost." The Lord is risen indeed, and "then. also who sleep in Jesus shall God bring with him.' when he shall come at last, "to be glorified in b saints," and to receive them to himself. The dta-i in Christ shall rise together, to meet the Lord at his coming, at the sound of the arcbanyel, and the trump of God. Every one of them shall stand in his place before him. They shall ali be there. Not one of them shall then be wanting. Not one of them all shall be without his share in the triumphs of that great day.

The hoary head which went down to the piv in peace, and rested from the labours of along and eventful life, shall rise from the grave with the vigour of the sons of the morning, to triumph sci to share in the glories of the first resurrectio:. The men who died before their time, in the strwtf: of their years, servants of the Most High God, &'-■ benefactors of the world—men who were follomi to their graves by the regrets and the reverence rf the multitudes who survived them—shall then rise to meet the welcome of the Prince of Life, and to join the glad Hosannas of the highest heaves. Many shall be there who lived and died in the fear of God, unnoticed and unknown in the' humble sphere, and who were scarcely remembered when they died, except perhaps by the uneihafcted affection of the wife or of the child of tk« youth. Every one of them shall be there; l-' then many that are first shall be last, and the U shall be first.

The mourners in Zion shall be there. They who lived under the pressure of many sorro«^affiicted, but not forsaken—cast down, but not destroyed—they who always bore about in the h*) the dying of the Lord Jesus, and often suiW more than is common to men—the mouroersd every age and of every tribe, shall rise from t* grave to meet the multitudes "who have comeo;i of great tribulation, and who have washed thtf robes and made them white in the blood oft* Lamb." And the youth and the child shall n.< together, among the sufferers who wept over th&' untimely graves, perfect as the first-born of & sons of light; welcomed by that gracious LtfJ who said of them in the days of his flesh, "SC° little children to come to me, and forbid them »< for of such is the kingdom of God."

All shall be there together to mfet the Lord ~ his coming— " redeemed unto God by his bw out of every kindred, and nation, and people,«* language "-^-all blessed and everlasting Jb^ of the glory hereafter to be revealed.

O! it is a precious and powerful recollection, tW he who died for our sins, rose again from the dead for our justification; that our faith and hope are therefore secure, and do not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. We can therefore believe, with confidence, that "blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," and that the time is fast approaching when there shall be no more death, and when grace shall reign through the righteousness of God unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. I now observe,

III. That the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ, were events clearly foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament, of which they were the unquestionable and visible accomplishment. He " died, and was buried, and rose •gain the third day, according to the Scriptures."

This is a point on which our Lord insists in his conversation with the two disciples on the way to F.minaus. The Apostle Paul aUo, in his address to King Agrippa, brings forward precisely the same facts on the same authority. "Having obtained help of God," he said, "I continue unto this day; witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come, that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people and to the Gentiles."

It is unnecessary to specify particular prophecies. I shall sum up all in an abridged view of the distinct prophecy of Isaiah, with regard to all these points. "Surely," said the prophet, "he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; smitten of God, and afflicted; wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, for the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all; taken from prison and from judgment; cut off out of the land of the living. For the transgression of the people was he stricken, and he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. It pleased the Lord to bruise him, and to put him to grief, though he had done no violence, neither was there deceit in bis mouth; yet when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand."

This identity of the prophetic representations with the events, for which they were intended to prepare the way, presents to us a glorious view of the wisdom and of the uniformity which predominate in the revelations, as well as in all the works of God. There is one grand and uniform plan carried on, from the fall of man to the resurrection of Christ, in which there are many subordinate agents and events, removed from each other by ages and generations, and with no apparent influence or cooperation to connect them together; detached prophecies and revelations, far asunder, with no visible relation to unite them, till, when the fulness of time arrives, all are seen to centre in one result. The subordinate parts of this plan have each a place and a form, suited to the circumstances immediately connected with them, while all of

them are subservient at last to its ultimate issue. The most remote events are employed to accomplish the designs of God, according to the Scriptures; and the Scriptures of the prophets bear witness, in the minutest points, to the spirit and the power of the Gospel preached to us by Christ and his apostles. "O the height and the depth both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, his ways are past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? For of him, and to him, and by him, are all things: and to him be glory for ever. Amen."

On this point I have only to add, that when our Lord was buried, according to the Scriptures, this event (like every other fact in his history) was intended to hold a place in the faith and consolation of those who should believe on him to the end of the world.

It is one of the most humbling recollections of human life, that the bodies of those whom we have most loved and honoured from youth to age, and by whose hands the blessings of Providence have been longest and most affectionately dispensed to us, are consigned at last to the dust of the grave, as their common depository, shut out for ever from all that is visible in the living world. It is a painful and an aggravated recollection.

But the Gospel tells us that the grave itself is not beyond the reach of Christian consolation. It is " the place where the Lord lay," the place which he hath sanctified and blessed by his own presence, for them who are his; a place for them, where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest. But it is never to be forgotten, that though " the small and the great are there," the Lord himself " made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death," to the end, that no variety of characters, mingled in the tomb, might lessen our reverence or disturb our faith in " the rest which remains for the people of God." The least and humblest of them all enters into peace, and rests in his grave till the resurrection of the just; and shall hear at length the sound of the archangel's voice, and the trump of God, when the dead in Christ shall rise together, redeemed from the dust of the grave, to give glory to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever. Before I leave the subject, I have still to direct your thoughts,

IV. To the several appearances, of our Lord, after his resurrection, which are detailed in the text by the apostle. "He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."

All these different instances in which our Lord was seen by his disciples after his resurrection, excepting the three last, are detailed in the Gospels; and, in all of them, it is to be remarked, that He attended to every circumstance calculated to remove every doubt, which either their prejudice, or their want of presence of mind could suggest to them, of the reality of his resurrection. At one time when they were terrified, and supposed that they had seen not their Master but a spirit, "he said unto them, why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have. And he shewed them his hands and feet." On another occasion, he said to Thomas, who had been more incredulous than the rest, and had declared, "unless I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his Bide, I will not believe;" that even this satisfaction might. be given to him, he said to him, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless but believing;" and then, "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." On other occasions, he eat and drank in the presence of his disciples, and particularly at the sea of Tiberias conversed with them familiarly on different subjects, intimately connected with their mission into the World. Circumstances which demonstrate to the satisfaction of every reasonable man, that while he remained on earth nothing was neglected, which was necessary to furnish them with the most incontrovertible proofs which they were afterwards to give to the world of the reality of his resurrection from the dead, which declared him to be the Son of God with power..

His appearance to five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part were alive when Paul first wrote to the Corinthians, though it is not recorded, is evidently referred to by both the evangelists Matthew and Mark, who mention, that after his resurrection, the disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain, where Jesus had appointed them. There can scarcely be a doubt, that this is to be referred to the appearance specified in the text, when he was seen of above five hundred individuals at one time; a striking proof that most interesting assembly of disciples was, of the reverence and affection with which he was regarded ny the multitudes of Judea and Galilee, which neither the reproach of the cross, nor the malignity of his murderers, had been able to extinguish.

The fact, as given by the Apostle Paul, guided ny the Spirit of God, is most important in the evidence of the Gospel. It is a public appeal to a great multitude of men, who being still alive when this epistle was written, were competent and accessible witnesses still, and who had the evidence of their own senses that the Lord was risen indeed. No such appeal could ever have been made, in the face of so many living witnesses, except on the supposition that the facts were incontrovertible, and could not be denied.

We have no particulars of our Lord's appearance

to the Apostle James, though it must have been well known at the time among the believers, and given to the writer of this epistle in the most authentic form.

To all this is added his supernatural appearand after his ascension, to the writer of this epistle, when on his way to Damascus he was called to be an apostle by a voice from heaven, by a voice uttered by the Son of God himself, arresting his progress in his infatuated persecution of the Christians, by those awful words, " Saul, Saul, vh persecutest thou me? I am Jesus whom thon persecutest." We have there the testimony of the persecutor himself, to whom this most miraculon* revelation was given. "Last of all," be sirs - he was seen of me also, as of one bora out of due time."

And after all these authentic testimonies to facts on which so much of the authority of the Gospel of our salvation rests, what more could we imagine to have been done to complete the 6V monstration for every age of the world, that the Lord Jesus "died for our sins, and rose apiti according to the Scriptures?" "If it became him, of whom are all things, and bv whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glorr. to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings," we are not less assured, on evidence of most incontrovertible certaintv, th»! God hath made him, who bare their sins in his own body on the cross, both Lord and Chrk; and that he is the Lord both of the dead andofthliving. Him hath God raised up, and given him glory, that our faith and hope might be in Goi A glorious completion of all that the prophets have spoken, or the Scriptures have told ns! Christ proclaimed from the highest heaven, the wisdom of God, and the power of God unto salvation, to every one who believeth.

This is "he that liveth and was dead, and hehold he is alive for evermore, Amen, and hath the keys of hell and of death!"

O how blessed to be able to bring home to ourselves this glorious consummation of the dispensation of grace 1 Christ proclaimed from heaven the power of God for salvation to the ends of the earth!

He has the keys of the kingdom of God; an-1 to every individual whom he acknowledges as bir. he says, by the Holy Ghost, " I go to prepare ■■ place for thee, and thou shalt be mine in that daj when I make up my jewels." We are yet, in our most advanced state in this world, in our frail an'i mouldering tabernacle of clay, most fallible ar,« imperfect beings; and struggles, and temptations and death, and the grave, are still before us. Bur if we believe in the grace which shall be brougb to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ, we are certain, that we shall go from strength to strength, and that at last, when, according to his promi*. we shall reach the new heavens and the new earth. wherein righteousness and blessedness for e«?r dwell, we shall be like himself, for we shall there see him as he is. • •

« AnteriorContinuar »