Puslapio vaizdai
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OF THE

RESURRECTION.

JOHN xx. 26, 27.

AND, AFTER EIGHT DAYS, AGAIN HIS DISCIPLES WERE WITHIN, AND

THOMAS WITH THEM. THEN CAME JESUS, THE DOORS BEING SHUT, AND STOOD IN THE MIDST, AND SAID, PEACE BE UNTO YOU, THEN SAITH HE TO THOMAS, REACH HITHER THY FINGER, AND BEHOLD MY HANDS; AND REACH HITHER THY HAND, AND THRUST IT INTO ,MY SIDE : AND BE NOT FAITHLESS, BUT BE

LIEVING. Among all the Articles of our Christian Faith, there is none, that hath suffered more persecutions from corrupt reason and seeming impossibilities, than that of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, his triumph over death, and the rescue of his body from the affronts and dishonours of the grave. For, because the improbability of the thing is so great; and the arguments, drawn from nature and reason against it, are so strong to a man, who looks no higher, and believes not that miracles interpose in the series of human affairs : therefore, a doctrine, which is so strange a paradox, as that of the Resurrection, had need have very forcible arguments to prove it, that it may be able to overbear the dissent of the world, which else will, doubtless, cry it down, as absurd and impossible

What great prejudices and importunate objections Infidelity brings against this doctrine, I have shewn more at large elsewhere *, and that the utmost they amount to, is only to prove the

supernatural almighty power of the efficient cause, and not the impossibility of the effect.

But, against these strong prejudices and plausible argun:ents, Christian Religion opposeth that, which neither prejudice can overbear nor yet arguments confute, the plain and evident testimony of sense.

* Discourse upon Acts ii. 24.

This chapter, of which the text is part, gives us abundant attestation of the resurrection of Christ; relating his many appearances to his disciples, who, after his death, conversed corporally with him, and who saw him perform all the functions of life, as eating, drinking, &c. which St. Augustin well saith he did, non egestate, sed potestate : not that he needed such weak supports; for his body was then spiritual, incorruptible, and impassible: but to shew that he was really a man, and might do it.

On the very day of his resurrection, he appeareth to Mary Magdalen, in the morning: v. 14: and, as the circumstance of the history gives us good grounds to conjecture, presently after to Peter: that these, who had been the greatest sinners and were the most passionate mourners, might first of all receive the strongest consolations, by declaring to them bis absolute conquest over Death and the Devil, who had long possessed the one as his own, and almost dispossessed the other of Christ.

On the same day, about noon, he joins himself in company with two of his disciples, who were travelling to Emmaus, about seven miles distant from Jerusalem; and expounded unto them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself. Upon their discovering him, and his disappearing from them, they speed back the same evening to Jerusalem, earnest to declare to the other disciples what had happened unto them. They find them, and divers other believers, late and secretly assembled, for fear of the Jews : and, as they are declaring the former passages, Jesus himself came and stood in the midst of them; and shewed unto them his hands and his side ; and they were glad, when they saw the Lord : vv. 19, 20. One would think, that such a sudden surprisal as this; appearing to them unexpectedly, when they were, in all likelihood, sadly discoursing of him, and wavering between hope and doubt; might rather have affrighted and terrified, than rejoiced them. They had shut the doors, for fear of the Jews: but, whom the strong bands of death and the bars of the grave could not detain, neither could the bolts and locks of a door exclude: yet we need not here fancy any penetration of dimensions, or that Christ's body passed through the very body of the door, as some affirm, who would rather vouch impossibilities and contradictions, than be barren in inventing miracles: it was wonderful enough, to make his passage by his word and will; and an astonishing sight, to see him in the midst of them, whose entrance thither, and sudden opening and shutting of the door, they could not perceive. Whom would it not appal, to have a person, who they knew had been dead and buried, start in upon them from the confines of the grave and the regions of darkness; especially too, at such a time, when night and the fear of their own lives, both which circumstances here concurred, might make them more apt to receive terrifying impressions ? But a Revived Saviour is a reviving sight; and the confirmation, which now their faith and hope received, sweetly vanquished all the troublesome suggestions of their fear, converted their doubting into assurance, and their trembling into joy.

This is now the Fourth time, that our Saviour shewed himself alive to his disciples, on the very day of his resurrection : two of which appearances are recorded in this chapter; and the other two in Luke xxiv.

From this night-assembly Thomas is absent: the wisdom of Divine Providence so ordering it, that the occasion of his diffidence should produce a stronger argument for the establisha ing of our faith. He hears their story, condemns their credulity; imputes all, either to some airy ghost or spectre, or else to the melancholy illusions of their own fancies; and resolves not to be imposed upon, either by their reports, or any fitting shows and unsubstantial apparitions : Except, saith he, I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. A most obstinate and unreasonable resolution! as if nothing were fit to be credited by us, but what we ourselves are witnesses of; and truth must make no more converts, than it hath testifiers. Well! this passeth with him a whole week; and because, in the interim, our Saviour had not appeared either to him or them, 00 doubt but his incredulity was mightily strengthened, and he pleased himself with the conceit of being the only wise and rational man of the whole company. But, after eight days, saith the text, that is, on that day sennight, being the Lord's Day, (for, after eight days, must not be here taken for eight days fully completed, but current: as it is said, Mark viii. 31. that, after three days, Christ should rise again; that is, on the third day : and, so, Luke ii. 21. When eight days were fulfilled, that the child should be circumcised; that is, he was to be circumcised on the eighth day; so, here, on the eighth day, after his first appearances) when they were again met in the like assembly, and Thomas now with them, Jesus came, and stood in

the midst, and said, Peace be unto you ; and, then applying himself particularly to Thomas, offers to give him all the satisfaction that himself had required, to confirm the truth of his Resurrection: Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands ; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side.

Wherein we may observe,

First. That though our bodies shall be raised entire and perfect, yet Christ's body, after his resurrection, retained those wounds and that solution of parts, which were caused by the nails and spear, and shall retain them for ever in heaven; now no longer dolorous in an impassible body, but as the monuments and trophies of his victory over sin and death.

For the body of Christ was, immediately after his resurrection, endowed with the same qualities that it shall for ever enjoy in heaven; except it be that radiant lustre and glory, in which it there shines, and which for a time he laid aside that he might the more familiarly converse with his disciples. Think, then, what an inestimable privilege it will be, when we shall hereafter approach in our glorified bodies unto the glorious body of our Blessed Saviour; and, as Thomas was invited to do, shall put our fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust our hand into his side, and sound the depth of those fountains, whence flowed forth his precious blood and our salvation with it.

Observe,

Secondly. The infinite kindness and condescension of our Saviour, in offering a conviction to his unbelieving disciple upon his own terms, though very bold and unreasonable ones they

were.

tion;

Whether he did actually touch and search those sacred wounds, or satisfied his curiosity with the sight of his Redeemer, is not expressly recorded. Perhaps, shame and modesty checked any farther trial: which, where the object was so plain and evident, would have tended rather to his reproach than convic

and would have as much argued his unbelief, as confirmed his faith. And this seems intimated in that mild reproof, which our Saviour gives him, v. 29. Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed : blessed are they, who have not seen, and yet have believed.

Observe, likewise,

Thirdly. How wisely and graciously our Saviour accommodates his condescensions to the infirmities of his servants.

In the morning of the resurrection, when he first appeared to Mary Magdalen, he commands her, who, in all probability, was prostrating herself to embrace his feet, not to touch him, v. 17. Touch me not ; for I am not yet ascended to my Father. Her faith was sufficiently assured; and therefore a touch had been but a needless officiousness : not to be allowed by a person, who was shortly to ascend into heaven; and, whilst now on earth, yet no longer in the state of mortals, nor to be conversed with according to the laws and usances of human respects. Yet, the very same evening, when he appeared to those, who were less assured, yea affrighted, supposing they had seen a spirit, he bids them handle him, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have : Luke xxiv. 37, 38, 39. And, here, being to deal with one more curious and sceptical than the rest, he bids him make a critical scrutiny; and, to give him full satisfaction, submits, for the cure of his infidelity, to offer those wounds to be pierced again, which the infidelity of the Jews had made.

Observe,

Fourthly. A most irrefragable proof, both of the Humanity and Divinity of our Blessed Saviour.

The former, in that he yields himself to the trial and judgment of the most infallible of all our senses: the latter, in that, though he were bodily absent; yet, by his Immense Spirit, he heard the discourses and understood the scruples of his dissatisfied disciple; and offers him the very same conditions, verbatim, that he himself had propounded.

Observe,

Fifthly. That, though the matter of Christian Religion be sublime and mysterious above the comprehension of reason; yet its evidence is so plain, and the motives of credibility so convincing, as to be resolved into the very testimony of sense.

This is it, which I intend principally to insist on : 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.

The Resurrection of Christ from the dead, is the fundamental of all fundamentals in Christianity. Upon the truth and evidence of this depend the truth and evidence of all our religion: for, if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain, saith the Apostle, and ye are yet in your sins : 1 Cor. xv. 17.

First. Our faith would be vain, because terminated on a deceiver, who promised this; both as the complement of all his other miracles, and the seal of the truth and divinity of his

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