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them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. Now when they were going, behold some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief-priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.- Matt. xxviii.
Jesus said, Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany; and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.—Luke xxiv. 49-53.
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them : and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.-Acts ii. 1-4.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SACRED NARRATIVE. Christ's crucifixion was public, at noon-day, before a great multitude. The Jews, who procured it, and the Romans, who executed it, would both take care that it was done effectually. Then, after this, we find him treated as dead, both by friends and enemies : Pilate, after a particular inquiry into that very matter, granted his body to be buried; one of his disciples embalming him with spices, another laying him in his own sepulchre; the Jews making no objection ; but fully satisfied of his death, and only careful to guard against his resurrection. Notwithstanding, he was afterwards really alive again, of which we have multiplicity of the strongest evidence. The sepulchre was newly hewn out of a rock, shut up with a very large stone rolled to the mouth of it, and guarded night and day by a band of soldiers, who were to watch till the time was over within which he had said he should rise: yet on that very day the sepulchre was found open, and the body was gone! Now by what means could this come to pass ? To his disciples it could be of no possible use to carry on a deceit, by getting his corpse into their possession : for if they had succeeded so ill with their Master at their head, what could they expect by carrying on the same scheme after they had lost him, but to come to the same end ?
Indeed, we find in fact, that far from being enterprising, they were so disheartened, even when he was first seized, that they all forsook him : and there was little likelihood that they should have more courage to attempt anything just after he was executed. Or if they had, what manner of chance was there, that when a band of sixty men, used to military discipline, were set to watch the grave, they should either find them all asleep at once, though it was death to be so, and not awake one of them; or be able to convey the body away from them, though they were awake? Evidently they must have failed, and probably have been seized in the attempt. Since then the body was not found, and could not by any human means, or indeed for any rational purpose, have been carried away, it must have been raised by the power of God, as it is related in the gospels.
Jesus, to give full and sensible demonstration of his resurrection, “ showed himself alive to his disciples, after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days.” — Acts i. 3. They could not have been mistaken : as they had almost despaired of his rising again, they were not willing to believe it on any other testimony than that of their own eyes and ears : Thomas even not without touching him, and putting his hands on the marks of his wounds : which the rest as well as he, when they were “ terrified, and supposed they had seen a spirit," and not their Lord, were invited to do. “ 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.” — Luke xxiv. 37-39. John xx. 27.
This proof of our Saviour's resurrection is sufficient. He was in no way bound to appear to the rulers and the whole people of the Jews : nor does God, in any case, give men just such evidence as they please; but such as is enough for honest minds: and if others will not believe without more, they must take the consequence. Christ appeared to the twelve apostles often ; to five hundred persons at once besides. If this number be thought too small, when was ever the tenth part of it required in any other matter? And if Christ was to appear to all the Jews, why not to all the Gentiles ? This would have made strange confusion; and had the whole nation been convinced, their notions of the Messiah's temporal kingdom would probably have thrown them at the same time into a rebellion against the Romans ; and then the gospel would have been thought a mere political artifice. Nay, had they continued quiet, and the Romans let them alone, even then we should have lost that evidence of the truth of our religion which arises from the persecutions undergone by the first teachers of it: from the very advantageous circumstances, that the Jews, our adversaries, have been the keepers of those prophecies which prove Christ to be come; and also from their wonderful dispersion and preservation : besides the proof which will arise, in God's good time, from their conversion to Christianity.
Christ is justly said by the apostle to be “declared the Son of God, with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” — Rom. i. 4. But there are two things proved by it more particularly: First, that his sufferings are accepted by the Father as a full atonement for the sins of men : Secondly, from our Saviour's resurrection appears the certainty of our own. Since Christ is risen, our resurrection is possible; and since Christ hath promised, it is certain. “ If then we believe that Jesus died, and rose again,” we must believe too, as the apostle justly argues, that « them also, which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; and they, which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”—Thess. iv. 14. 16, 17.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was very God and very man. As man he suffered death for us : but as naturally God, he loosed the bands and pains of hell, destroyed the kingdom of death, rose from death to life, and so paid the ransom for our sins, and took away all the guiltiness of the same. And when our Saviour, Jesus Christ, had thus satisfied for our sin, and so overcome death and hell, then, like a valiant conqueror, he ascended into heaven, where God, his Father, received him with a most gracious triumph, and placed him on his right hand, and made him Lord over all creatures. And this is our most high and everlasting comfort, that Jesus Christ is our Lord, and we his servants : and although we die, yet he will raise us up again, because he hath overcome and conquered death. After that our Lord Jesus Christ, by his death, passion, and resurrection, had redeemed us, and obtained for us that our sins should be forgiven, and we be made the children of God; shortly after, in the feast of Pentecost, he sent down upon his apostles the Holy Ghost, in the likeness of fiery tongues : the which Holy Ghost gave them wisdom, skill, courage, and constancy, to teach boldly this holy gospel of Christ. ARCHBISHOP CRANMER.
The disbelief of the apostles is the means of furnishing us with a full and satisfactory demonstration of the resurrection of our Lord. Throughout the Divine dispensations, every doctrine and every important truth is gradually revealed; and here we have a conspicuous instance of this progressive system. An angel first declares the glorious event. The empty sepulchre confirms the women's report. Christ's appearance to Mary Magdalene showed that he was alive; that to the disciples at Emmaus proved that it was at least the spirit of Christ ; that to the eleven showed the reality of his body; and the conviction given to Thomas proved it the selfsame body that had been crucified. Incredulity itself is satisfied; and the convinced apostle exclaims, “ My Lord and my God !"
Messiah finished all that was appointed for him on earth, as the second Adam ; he ascended on high, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Surrounded as we are with unnumbered difficulties, we plead against every accusation and threatening, that our Head is in heaven : we have an Advocate with the Father, a High Priest upon the throne, who, because he ever liveth to make intercession, is able to save to the uttermost. This is all our plea, nor do we desire any other. His ascension on high is a sure pledge that his servants shall follow him.
Messiah has received gifts for men, even for the rebellious. To bestow gifts upon the miserable, is bounty ; to bestow them upon rebels, is grace. The greatness of the gifts contrasted with the characters of those who receive them, displays the exceeding riches of the Redeemer's grace. He came to save, not the unhappy only, but the ungodly. He gives pardon, peace, and eternal life to his enemies, wooed and besought by the consideration of the mercies of God, and conquered by invincible grace, through the dying agonies of the Mediator, whose grand gift, the Holy Spirit, renews their souls : then the rebels relent and sue for mercy; then they obtain faith, repentance, remission, a full and free salvation, and all the gifts which Messiah has received for them.
Messiah's ultimate design in favour of rebellious men, the great final cause of his mediation, and particularly of his bestowing on them the gift of the Holy Spirit, is, that the Lord God may dwell among them. Thus the heart, anointed with the holy unction (John ii. 20), becomes a consecrated temple of the Holy Ghost. “ Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost ?” — 2 Cor. vi. 19. Again, he speaks of Christ dwelling in the heart: “ Christ in you the hope of glory." Eph. iii. 17; Col. i. 27. And in another place, “ Ye are the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them,” agreeably to his promise by the prophets.
Messiah dwells likewise among his people in their collective capacity. His whole church, comprising all the members of his mystical body, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, forms a building fitly framed together, a palace, a holy temple !” for the Lord, the great King.
Rev. John Newton.
66 Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” — Eph. ii. 18. Jesus, our Lord, having reconciled us to God by the cross, may I practically know what it is to have access unto him through Christ by the Spirit. I desire to know the great and glorious doctrine of the Trinity, not as a matter of theory or belief merely, but as a thing of experience and daily practice. Deliver me from a proud and presumptuous spirit, that would cavil at thy truth : deliver me from a too curious and prying spirit, that would attempt to comprehend that which it has not pleased thee fully to reveal. Give me grace, in all simplicity of heart, to receive what thou hast declared, and feeling my own ignorance and nothingness, to adore thee in thy incomprehensible Majesty and unsearchable glory.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, I come to thee as one that spared not thy beloved Son for us; and, I beseech thee, receive, provide for, and bless me.
Blessed Redeemer, thou art the Way, the Truth, and the Life, my Mediator and my Advocate: my hope is in thy merits and thy intercession.
Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who showest the Saviour to sinners, I look to thee to teach and guide, to purify, strengthen, and console me. Amen.
Rev. EDWARD BICKERSTETH.
Our Saviour, having repeatedly conversed with his apostles after his resurrection, and afforded them many infallible proofs of its reality, led them from Jerusalem to Bethany, and was raised up to heaven in their sight; there to continue till he shall descend at the last day to judge the quick and the dead. He was parted from his disciples while he was solemnly blessing them; and multitudes of angels attended him with shouts of praise.—Psalm lxviii. 17.—xlvii. 5, 6.
Christ's ascension was designed for him, 1. To fulfil the types and prophecies concerning it. 2. To « appear” as a Priest “ in the presence of God for us.” 3. To take upon him more openly the exercise of his kingly office. 4. To receive gifts for men, both ordinary and extraordinary.Psalm lxviii. 18. 5. To open the way to heaven for his people. -Heb. x. 19, 20. 6. To assure the saints of their ascension to heaven after their resurrection from the dead.John xiv. 1, 2. Rev. RICHARD WATSON.
Christ's sitting down at God's right hand, notes the high content and satisfaction of God the Father in him and in his work. “ The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand :” the words are brought in as the words of the Father, welcoming Christ to heaven; and, as it were, congratulating the happy accomplishment of his most difficult work. He delighted greatly to behold him here in his work on earth, and by a voice from the excellent glory he told him so, when he spake from heaven to him, saying, “ Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”— 2 Pet. i. 17. And himself tells us, “ Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life,” &c.—John x. 17; for it was a work that the heart of God had been set upon from eternity; he took infinite delight in it.
Oh! here is the mystery, that flesh and blood should ever be advanced to the highest throne of Majesty, and being there installed in that glory, we may now direct our worship to him as God-man. “ The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son : that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” And the Father will accept of no honour divided from his honour. Therefore it is added, “ He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”— John v. 22, 23. Hence the apostles, in the salutations of their epistles, beg for grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus