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SERMON XII.

CERTAINTY OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.

LUKE, xxiv. 34.

The Lord is risen indeed.

THIS truth, which was received by those who first heard it with wonder at least equal to their joy, has been repeated to us so often, from our earliest childhood, that we hear it without its exciting in us any strong sensation whatever. It rests, as it were, quietly in our minds, neither disputed nor doubted, nor yet truly believed. It is like a fact of common history; a part of our knowledge when we are reminded of it, but one which we rarely have occasion to draw forth from the storehouse of our memory. We are not aware of its importance, of how much is wrapped up in it, to perish if this corner-stone of our faith could by any means be moved. We have not noticed the pecu

liar manner in which it is spoken of by the apostles; and how different it is from all the other miracles recorded in Scripture. For they might stand or fall with no consequence to our eternal hopes, so long as this single one remains sure; but if this one could fail us, all the rest would profit us nothing. If Christ be not risen, our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins; and they who have died in the faith of Christians, have ventured their souls upon nothing, and have died to rise again no

more.

The importance of the resurrection of Christ is a thing which we must each learn for ourselves; it will not be felt by our being assured by others that it is important. But few persons of any education reach the age of manhood without having an opportunity to learn it, whether they choose to avail themselves of it, or to neglect it. I mean that there is a time, even before we commence the active business of life, when we are led to hold question with ourselves, and to ask what we are living for, and to what are we tending. It need not be either sickness, or any great calamity, which will lead us to this state; the same effect may be produced by happiness of an unusual kind, as well as by suffering. Nay, it need not be produced by either, nor by any remarkable outward circumstances; it may be merely the natural effect of our own minds, feeling their powers, and keenly

alive to the wonderful aspect which life wears, even when regarded in its common course of events. But be the exciting cause what it may, the effect is almost sure to occur: we commune with our own hearts, and think of life and death, and ask ourselves what will be our condition when sixty years are over; whether, indeed, we shall then have died for ever, or whether we shall but have fallen asleep in Christ, to be awakened by him when the number of his redeemed is full.

It is then that the words of my text assume a very different character to our ears; then it seems no slight, no ordinary blessing to be assured that the Lord is risen indeed. That vague belief in our immortality, with the expression of which we are so familiar, will do well enough for our careless and prosperous hours, when nothing assails it; but it is too weak for a season of real trial. It has been truly observed, that those ancient writers who have written most eloquently and beautifully of their hope of an eternal life, appear to have found little real comfort from it, when the evils of this world pressed them hardly. And this seems to me no other than what might have been expected; for the natural arguments in favour of an eternal existence may be met by other reasons on the contrary side; and in a matter of such moment, when we practically feel its importance, a mere preponderance of

probability on one side more than on the other, is far from sufficient to satisfy us. What we see outweighs so hesitating a decision of our reason; if we have ever witnessed death, or still more, if we have witnessed that distressing decay of body and mind together, which often accompanies old age, we shall find, that abstract language about our immortal and imperishable minds will ill stand its ground against positive experience. We see that the mind does suffer from the decay of the body; it appears before us returned to the same helpless and powerless state from which it first started in infancy; so that it may seem to have run its full course, to have done its appointed work, and to be ready now to become extinct for ever. But the word of Jesus, confirmed by his deeds, sets our anxiety to rest. He was dead and is alive, and he has promised that they who live and believe in him, shall be with him where he is, that they may see and partake his glory.

Therefore it may be useful to furnish ourselves beforehand with the certain proofs of Christ's resurrection; not, perhaps, so much for our satisfaction at this present time, as for our use when the season of trial shall actually be come upon us. For in this respect religious knowledge is often useful, even when it seems for the time to be most thrown away. There have been instances,

VOL. III.

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as is well known, of persons who had received in their youth instruction, to which they then paid no regard, but which, in later life, when they had been taught to value such knowledge, was ready at hand to serve them, merely because, though inactive hitherto, as far as practice was concerned, it had yet retained its hold on the memory. So it may be with regard to the proof of our Lord's resurrection. It may, at present, be but a barren knowledge; and yet, as it is a thing easily remembered, it may possibly come seasonably to your aid, at a critical time hereafter, when the rebellious will is trying to persuade the understanding to sanction its departure from the obedience of Christ.

It should not be forgotten that our Lord had, in his lifetime, declared that his rising again from the dead was to be the great sign of his being sent from God. He told the Jews, when they asked for a sign, that no sign should be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonah: he told them at another time, when they asked him the same question, "What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?" "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." He said the same thing to his disciples, in more express terms, both before his last journey to Jerusalem, and on the last evening before his betrayal. This appealing to his resurrection beforehand, is

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