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the Holy Ghost must do it. If you have mastered this art, you are a Christian; but if you are imperfect in it, thank God that you belong to the number of those who love to hear of it, and do not revile it, as the Turks, Jews and Papists do, who imagine themselves so upright that they are perfectly justified in the sight of God, and need not this Easter narrative in their struggle with sin, death and the devil. Among them faith perishes entirely. May we learn utterly to disregard our own holiness, and to keep before our eyes only this Easter scene, Christ arisen from the dead, the Conqueror over death, sin and hell. If we thus look to Christ alone, and not to ourselves, just as our eyes do not look upon themselves while we are going forward, it will be well for us. May our Lord Jesus Christ grant us this in mercy. Amen.
ON THE 28. CHAPTER OF ST. MATTHEW.
we have already learned, my beloved, how
Sand why the resurrection of Christ occurred, and what benefits we derive from it. Our Gospel exhibits to us this still further.
Above all we notice the important fact that the holy angels are the first messengers who bring the happy tidings that Christ has arisen and that the sepulchre is empty, reminding the women that Christ had foretold all this unto them, though they could then neither believe it nor understand it. Such a message is to us a plain assurance that the angels, who are pure and holy spirits, do neither despise nor shun us poor sinners, but rather desire to be our friends, since Christ died and arose again in our behalf.
If God had desired that we should neither hear of this resurrection nor enjoy it, He would not have sent from heaven the blessed angels, His messengers, to announce to us this great event. But now He sets apart and sends His angels to be unto us the first heralds of the resurrection of His Son; and in this we find an assurance that Christ, as we have seen, arose for us, and also that it is the pleasure of God that we should have full faith in this angelic message and be comforted thereby. This fact, the sending of the angels, is thus of great importance; from it we must conclude: The resurrection of
Christ, as well as His passion, took place in our behalf, for our especial benefit.
Besides, we learn the full meaning of the resurrection of Christ from the language of the angels. They come with a twofold message, directed, first, to the women, that they should not fear, but rejoice that Christ had arisen, and then also containing the command not to conceal this, but to go in haste to the disciples with the announcement of the great event. In either import this message is full of cheer. The first words of the angel were: "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here : for He is risen as He said.” Or, in other words: What strange and foolish people ye are to be astonished and afraid. Christ lives and is arisen from the dead, therefore ye ought to rejoice and not be troubled. We can interpret the language of the message in no other way; when one is told not to fear, he is encouraged and exhorted to be glad, hoping for the best, while he who fears can only anticipate some evil which he seeks to avoid. He who stands in dread of the hangman, of death, of sin, and of the wrath of God, can have no joy, no hope, but only lamentation and sorrow, care and sore distress. This shall no longer be your condition, the angel says, since Christ is risen: be ye comforted with this resurrection and strengthened against the devil, sin, death, and hell. If these enemies could still injure us, we of course would have to fear them. Therefore, the importance of this first command: be ye not afraid, which comes not only to those women, but to all baptized and believing Christians, who know and believe that Christ is risen indeed.
The other portion of this message is seemingly of less import, while really it has the same meaning as the former. When the angel urges the women to go quickly to announce the resurrection of Christ to His disciples, we have in this but another exhortation that they should rejoice and receive blessings from this event. Who, indeed, are these disciples ? Poor sinners, who deserted their Lord in the time of His greatest misery, especially Peter, who even denied Him. Just then they were congregated together in secret, for fear of the Jews; they had not the least expectation of Christ's resurrection, or that He would shortly establish His kingdom; and even now, when the women come and tell that they had seen the Lord, when Simon Peter and those who had gone to Emmaus come and tell their story, none of the disciples would credit their report, regarding it as a fable. Yes, they are even weak and slow to believe when the Lord Himself appears in their midst, showing them His hands and feet, which He suffers them to feel and to touch.
The great anxiety- of the angel to announce the resurrection of Christ to the disciples, who were nearly drowned in unbelief and tormented with an accusing conscience, is a certain indication that the Lord is arisen for the consolation of those who are weak in faith, or perhaps unbelieving, that they, in the end, might seek and find Him their help and defence.
If we, therefore, discover that we are afflicted with similar weaknesses, with sin and unbelief, we should not despair, nor suppose that Christ will not
accept us, but should remember how, in behalf of such poor, weak and miserable sinners, the angels came from heaven and quickly dispatched the women to tell them that Christ was arisen, that thereby they might be comforted and rejoice. For, as we have already heard, the resurrection of Christ brings consolation, joy and a good conscience, since it banishes sin, death and the wrath of God from our sight.
Thus do the angels of heaven preach concerning the resurrection, that they might console, with this message, the poor, frightened consciences. Surely, we ought to be fully satisfied with such tidings. But in addition to this Christ Himself appears to the women and speaks to them as the angels did, greets them in the most friendly manner, and tells them not to fear. He thus instructs us all to improve aright the occasion of His resurrection, to expel all fear, and to rejoice with our whole heart, knowing that we have now no dead and buried Christ, who is to be honored at His tomb, as the women here proposed to do when they came to anoint His lifeless body, which would have been of no avail to Him nor of any consolation or benefit to themselves, but that we have a living Christ in whom we rejoice, and whose victory becomes our own through faith.
What now is there in all the world that could frighten a Christian who has Jesus for his Lord ? Sin cannot do it, for we know that Christ has paid its debt; por can it be death, since Christ has conquered him. Hell is rent asunder, and the devil is a prisoner and in chains. It matters not if the world, as she is wont to do, persecutes the Chris