« PreviousContinue »
thousand times more conformable to the wishes of a man, who knows himself, than the Messiah of the Jews, than the Messiah of the passions, with all his power, and with all his pomp?
III. It only remains to examine, my brethren, whether this Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world,' has many subjects. But, alas! to put this question is to answer it; for where shall I find the subjects of this Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world?' I seek them first among the people, to whom were committed the oracles of God,' Rom. iii. 2, and who grounded all their hopes on the coming of the king Messiah. This nation, see, pretends to be offended and frightened at the sight of a spiritual king, whose chief aim is to conquer the passions, and to tear the love of the world from the hearts of his subjects. Hark! they cry, We will not have this man to reign over us! Away with him, away with him! Crucify him, crucify him! His blood be on us and on our children! Luke xix. 14; John xix. 15, and Matt. xxvii.
I turn to the metropolis of the Christian world. I enter the vatican, the habitation of the pretended successor of this Jesus, whose 'kingdom is not of this world;' and lo! I meet with guards, drummers, ensigns, lighthorse, cavalcades, pompous equipages in peace, instruments of death in war, habits of silver and keys of gold, a throne and a triple crown, and all the grandeur of an earthly court. I meet with objects far more scandalous than any I have seen in the synagogue.
The synagogue refuses to attribute a spiritual meaning to the gross and sensible emblems of the prophets; but Rome attributes a gross and sensible meaning to the spiritual emblems of the gospel. The prophets had foretold, that the Messiah should hold a sceptre in his hand; and the synagogue rejected a Messiah, who held only a reed. But the gospel tells us, the Messiah held only a reed, and Rome will have a king who holds a sceptre. The prophets had said Christ should be crowned with glory; and the synagogue rejected a king, who was crowned only with thorns. But the gospel represents Jesus Christ crowned with thorns; and Rome will have a Jesus, crowned with glory, and places a triple crown on the head of its pontiff. The first of these errors appears to me more tolerable than the last. Judah hath justified her sister Samaria,' Ezek. xvi. 51, 52. Rome is, on this article, less pardonable than Jerusalem.
not very astonishing, if in some absent moments of a life, which in general is devoted to Jesus Christ, we should suspend the exercise of those graces. And I grant farther, that when, under the frailties which accompany a Christian life, we are conscious of a sincere desire to be perfect, of making some progress towards the attainment of it, of genuine grief when we do not advance apace in the road that our great example has marked out, when we resist sin, when we endeavour to prevent the world from stealing our hearts from God; we ought not to despair of the truth of our Christianity.
But, after all, the kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. Some of you pretend to be Christians; and yet you declare coolly and deliberately, in your whole conversation and deportment, for worldly maxims diametrically opposite to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Where then is the kingdom of our Messiah? I turn towards you, my brethren; I come in search of Christians into this church, the arches of which incessantly resound with pleas against the pretensions of the synagogue, of the passions, and of Rome. But alas! Within these walls, and among a congregation of the children of the reformation, how few disciples do we find of this Jesus, whose kingdom is not of this world!'
I freely grant, that a kingdom, which is not of this world,' engages us to so much mortification, to so much humility, and to so much patience; and that we are naturally so sensual, so vain, and so passionate, that it is
The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world.' You pretend to be Christians; and yet you would have us indulge and ap prove of your conduct, when you endeavour to distinguish yourselves from the rest of the world, not by humility, moderation, and benevolence, but by a worldly grandeur, made up of pomp and parade.
The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. You pretend to be Christians; and although your most profound application, your most eager wishes, and your utmost anxieties, are all employed in establishing your fortune, and in uniting your heart to the world, yet you would not have us blame your conduct.
The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. You pretend to be Christians, and yet you are offended, when we endeavour to convince you by our preaching, that whatever abates your ardour for spiritual blessings, how lawful soever it may be in itself, either the most natural inclination, or the most innocent amusement, or the best intended action, that all become criminal when they produce this effect.
The kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world. You affect to be Christians; and yet you think we talk very absurdly, when we affirm, that whatever contributes to loosen the heart from the world, whether it be the most profound humiliation, poverty the most extreme, or maladies the most vio lent, any thing that produces this detachment, ought to be accounted a blessing. You murmur, when we say, that the state of a man lying on a dung-hill, abandoned by all mankind, living only to suffer; but, amidst all these mortifying circumstances, praying, and praising God, and winding his heart about eternal objects; is incomparably happier than that of a worldling, living in splendour and pomp, surrounded by servile flatterers, and riding in long processional state.
But open your eyes to your real interests, and learn the extravagance of your pretensions. One, of two things, must be done to satisfy us. Either Jesus Christ must put us in possession of the felicities of the present world, while he enables us to hope for those of the world to come; and then our fondness for the first would cool our affection for the last, and
an immoderate love of this life would produce a disrelish for the next: or, Jesus Christ must confine his gifts, and our hopes to the present world, and promise us nothing in the world to come, and then our destiny would be deplorable indeed.
Had we hope only in this life, whither should we flee in those moments, in which our minds, glutted and palled with worldly objects, most clearly discover all the vanity, the emptiness, and the nothingness of them? Had we hope only in this life whither could we flee when the world shall disappear; when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, when the elements shall melt with fervent heat, when the earth, and all its works, shall be burnt up?' 2 Pet. iii. 10.
Had we hope only in this life whither could we flee when the springs of death, which we carry in our bosoms, shall issue forth and overwhelm the powers of life? What would become of us a few days hence, when, compelled to acknowledge the nullity of the present world, we shall exclaim, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity?
Ah! I am hastening to the immortal world, 1 stretch my hands towards the immortal
world, I feel, I grasp the immortal world; I
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.
PSALM CXviii. 15, 16,
The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalled: the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly.
uates into her heart, and excites, if I may venture to speak so, from the bottom of her soul, every emotion of tenderness and love of which she is capable, he adds 'Mary!'
'WOMAN, why weepest thou?' John xx. 13. 15, was the language of two angels and of Jesus Christ to Mary. The Lord had been crucified. The infant church was in mourning. The enemies of Christianity were triumphing. The faith of the disciples was tottering. Mary had set out before dawn of day, to give vent to her grief, to bathe the tomb of her master with tears, and to render funeral honours to him. In these sad circumstances, the heavens opened, two angels clothed in white garments descended, and placed themselves on the tomb that enclosed the dear depositum of the love of God to the church. At the fixed moment, they rolled away the stone, and Jesus Christ arose from the grave loaded with the spoils of death. Hither Mary comes to see the dead body, the poor remains of him 'who should have redeemed Israel,' Luke xxiv. 21, and, finding the tomb empty, abandons her whole soul to grief, and bursts into floods of tears. The heavenly messengers directly address these comfortable words to her, Woman, why weepest thou? Scarcely had she told them the cause of her grief, before Jesus puts the same question to her, Woman, why weepest thou? And to this language, which insin-have been the mournful objects of your late
This is the magnificent, this is the affecting object, on which the eyes of all the church are this day fixed. This is the comfortable language, which heaven to-day proclaims. For several weeks past, you have been in tears. Your churches have been in mourning. Your eyes have beheld only sad and melancholy objects. On the one hand, you have been examining your consciences, and your minds have been overwhelmed with the sorrowful remembrance of broken resolutions, violated vows, and fruitless communions. On the other, you have seen Jesus, betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, forsaken by all; Jesus, delivered by priests to secular powers, and condemned by his judges to die; Jesus, sweating, as it were, great drops of blood,' Luke. xxii. 34, praying in Gethsemane, 'O my Father! if it be pos sible, let this cup pass from me,' Matt. xxvi. 39, and crying on Mount Calvary, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" chap xxvii. 46; Jesus, lying in the grave:
contemplation. At the hearing of this tragical history, conscience trembles; and the whole church, on seeing the Saviour entombed, weeps as if salvation were buried with him. But take courage thou tremulous conscience! Dry up thy tears, thou church of Jesus Christ! Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Sion! Isa. lii. 2. Come, my brethren! approach the tomb of your Redeemer, no more to lament his death, no more to embalm his sacred body, which has not been suffered to sce corruption,' Acts ii. 27, but to shout for joy at his resurrection. To this the prophet invites us in the text; The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly. The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly.'
In proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have, 1. Presumptions. 2. Proofs. 3. Demonstrations. The circumstances of his burial afford some presumptions; the testimonies of the apostles furnish us with some arguments; and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the church furnishes us with demonstrations.
Peter Belon. Observ. lib. ii. cap. 83. Belon was countryman of our author, a physician of Le Mans,
who travelled from 1546 to 15-19. His travels were published 1555.
1. From the circumstances of the burial of Jesus Christ, I derive some presumptions in favour of the doctrine of the resurrection. Jesus Christ died. This is an incontestable principle. Our enemies, far from pretending to question this, charge it on Christianity as a reproach.
The tomb of Jesus Christ was found empty a few days after his death. This is another incontestable principle. For if the enemies of Christianity had retained his body in their possession, they would certainly have produced it for the ruin of the report of his resurrection. Hence arises a presumption that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
If the body of Jesus Christ was not rais
I have not questioned, whether the psalm in general, and the text in particular, regard the Messiah. The ancient Jews understood the psalm of him; and therefore made use of it formerly among their prayers for his ad-ed from the dead, it must have been stolen vent. We agree with the Jews, and, on this away. But this theft is incredible. Who article, we think they are safer guides than committed it? The enemies of Jesus Christ? many Christians. The whole psalm agrees Would they have contributed to his glory, with Jesus Christ, and is applicable to him by countenancing a report of his resurrecas well as to David, particularly the famous tion? Would his disciples? It is probable, words that follow the text: The stone, they would not; and, it is next to certain, which the builders refused, is become the they could not. How could they have underhead-stone of the corner. This is the Lord's taken to remove the body? Frail and timodoing, it is marvellous in our eyes.' These rous creatures, people, who fled as soon as words are so unanimously applied to the ex- they saw him taken into custody; even altation, and particularly to the resurrection, Peter, the most courageous, trembled at the of Jesus Christ, in the books of the New voice of a servant girl, and three times deTestament, in the gospel of St. Mathew, in nied that he knew him; people of this charthat of St. Mark, in that of St. Luke, in the acter, would they have dared to resist the aubook of Acts, in the epistle to the Romans, thority of the governor? Would they have and in that to the Ephesians, that it seems undertaken to oppose the determination of needless, methinks, to attempt to prove a the Sanhedrim, to force a guard, and to matter so fully decided. elude, or to overcome, soldiers armed and aware of danger? If Jesus Christ were not risen again (I speak the language of unbelievers), he had deceived his disciples with vain hopes of his resurrection. How came the disciples not to discover the imposture? Would they have hazarded themselves by undertaking an enterprise so perilous, in favour of a man who had so cruelly imposed on their credulity?
The present solemnity demands reflections of another kind, and we will endeavour to show you,
I. The truth of the event of which the text speaks; The right hand of the Lord is exalted: the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly.'
II. We will justify the joyful acclamations, which are occasioned by it, The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous.'
I. Let us examine the evidences of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Infidelity denies it, and what perhaps may be no less injurious to Christianity, superstition pretends to establish it on falsehood and absurdity. A certain traveller* pretends, that the inhabitants of the Holy Land still show travellers the stone which the builders refused,' and which became the head-stone of the corner. In order to guard you against infidelity, we will urge the arguments which prove the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: but, to prevent superstition, we will attribute to each argument no more evidence than what actually belongs to it.
But were we to grant that they formed the have executed it? How could soldiers, armdesign of removing the body, how could they ed, and on guard, suffer themselves to be overreached by a few timorous people? Either (says St. Augustine), they were asleep they suffer the body to be taken away? If or awake: if they were awake, why should asleep, how could they know that the disciples took it away? How dare they then depose that it was stolen? All these, however, are only presumptions.
with arguments, and there are eight considThe testimony of the apostles furnishes us erations which give their evidence sufficient weight. Remark the nature, and the number; of the witnesses: the facts they avow, and the agreement of their evidence: the tribunals before which they stood, and the tima
*Serm. ii. in Ps. xxxvi.
in which they made their depositions: the place where they affirmed the resurrection, and their motives for doing so.
he was seen of all the apostles; and last of all, of me also, as of one born out of due time.' So numerous were the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! from this fact we derive a second argument; for, had the witnesses been few, it might have been said, that the base design of deceiving the whole church was formed by one, and propagated by a few more; or that some one had fancied he saw Jesus Christ: but when St. Paul, when the rest of the apostles, when five hundred brethren' attest the truth of the fact, what room remains for suspicion and doubt ?
1. Consider the nature of these witnesses. Had they been men of opulence and credit in the world, we might have thought that their reputation gave a run to the fable. Had they been learned and eloquent men, we might have imagined, that the style in which they told the tale had soothed the souls of the people into a belief of it. But, for my part, when I consider that the apostles were the lowest of mankind, without reputation to impose on people, without authority to compel, and without riches to reward: when I consider, that they were mean, rough, unlearned men, and consequently very unequal to the task of putting a cheat upon others;
3. Observe the facts themselves which they avow. Had they been metaphysical reasonings, depending on a chain of principles and consequences; had they been periods of chro
acter could succeed in deceiving the whole church.
I cannot conceive, that people of this char-nology, depending on long and difficult calculations; had they been distant events, which could only have been known by the relations of others; their reasonings might have been suspected; but they are facts which are in question, facts which the witnesses declared they had seen with their own eyes, at divers places, and at several times. Had they seen Jesus Christ? Had they touched him? Had they sitten at table and eaten with him? Had they conversed with him? All these are questions of fact: it was impossible they could be deceived in them.
2. Consider the number of these witnesses. St. Paul enumerates them, and tells us, that Jesus Christ was seen of Cephas,' 1 Cor. Iv. 5, &c. This appearance is related by St. Luke, who says, 'the Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon,' chap. xxiv. 34. The apostle adds, 'then he was seen of the twelve:' this is related by St. Mark, who says, 'he appeared unto the eleven,' chap. xvi. 14; it was the same appearance, for the apostles retained the appellation twelve, although, after Judas had been guil- 4. Remark the agreement of their evidence. ty of suicide, they were reduced to eleven. They all unanimously deposed, that Jesus St. Paul adds farther, 'after that he was seen Christ rose from the dead. It is very extraof above five hundred brethren at once:' ordinary, that a gang of five hundred impos Jesus Christ promised this appearance to the tors (I speak the language of infidels), a comwomen, Go into Galilee, and tell my breth-pany, in which there must needs be people ren that they shall see me there,' Matt. of different capacities and tempers, the witty xxviii. 10. St. Luke tells us, in the first and the dull, the timid and the bold: it is chapter of Acts, that the church consisted of very strange, that such a numerous body as 'about a hundred and twenty' members; this should maintain a unity of evidence. this was the church at Jerusalem: but the This however is the case of our witnesses. greatest part of the five hundred, of whom What Christian ever contradicted himself? St. Paul speaks, were of Galilee, where Je- What Christian ever impeached his accomplisus Christ had preached his gospel, and where ces? What Christian ever discovered this these converts abode after his resurrection. pretended imposture? The apostle subjoins, ' after that he was seen of James; this appearance is not related by the evangelists, but St. Paul knew it by tradition. St. Jerome writes, that in a Hebrew gospel, attributed to St. Matthew, called The Gospel of the Nazarenes, it was said, Jesus Christ appeared to St. James; that this apostle having made a vow neither to eat nor drink till Jesus should rise from the dead, the divine Saviour took bread and broke it, took wine and poured it out and said to him, Eat and drink, for the Son of Man is risen from the dead.' St Paul yet adds farther, Then
5. Observe the tribunals before which they gave evidence, and the innumerable multitude of people by whom their testimony was examined, by Jews and heathens, by philosophers and Rabbies, and by an infinite number of people, who went annually to Jerusalem. For, my brethren, Providence so ordered
Two of our Lord's apostles were named James. The elder of the two, brother of John, was put to death by Herod, Acts xii. 2. The other, who was a first cousin to Jesus Christ, was called the less, the younger probably, and lived many years after. It is not certain which of the two St. Paul means. If be mean the first, he had the account of the appearIng of the Lord to him, probably, as Mr. Saurin says, by tradition: if the last, it is likely he had it from James himself; for him he saw at Jerusalem, Gal. 1. 19. and he was living in the year 57, when St. Paul wrote this first Epistle to the Corinthians.
f The gospel, of which Mr. Saurin, after St. Jerome, speaks, is now lost. It was probably one of
of St. Matthew, which through the avidity of the low-
parts of the true gospel were omitted. I call it inter
those circumstances that the testimony of the apostles might be unuspected. Providence continued Jerusalem forty years after the resurrection of our Lord, that all the Jews in the world might examine the evidence concerning it, and obtain authentic proof of the truth of Christianity. I repeat it again, then, the apostles maintained the resurrection of Jesus Christ before Jews, before pagans, before philosophers, before Rabbies, before courtiers, before lawyers, before people, expert in examining, and in cross-examining, witnesses, in order to lead them into selfcontradiction. Had the apostles borne their testimony in consequence of a preconcerted plot between themselves, is it not morally certain, that, as they were examined before such different and capable men, some one would have discovered the pretended fraud? 6. Consider the place, in which the apostles bore their testimony. Had they published the resurrection of the Saviour of the world in distant countries, beyond mountains and seas, it might have been supposed, that distance of place, rendering it extremely difficult for their hearers to obtain exact information, had facilitated the establishment of the error! But the apostles preached in Jerusalem, in the synagogues, in the pretorium; they unfolded and displayed the banners of their Master's cross, and set up tokens of his victory, on the very spot on which the infamous instrument of his sufferings had been set up. 7. Observe the time of this testimony. Had the apostles first published this resurrection several years after the epocha which they assigned for it, unbelief might have availed itself of the delay: but three days after the death of Jesus Christ, they said, he was risen again, and they re-echoed their testimony in a singular manner at Pentecost, when Jerusalem expected the spread of the report, and endeavoured to prevent it; while the eyes of their enemies were yet sparkling with rage and madness, and while Calvary was yet dyed with the blood they had spilt there. Do impostors take such measures? Would not they have waited till the fury of the Jews had been appeased, till judges and public officers, had been changed, and till people had been less attentive to their dispositions?
had been craftily led, during the life of Jesus Christ, into the expectation of some temporal advantages, how came it to pass, that, after they saw their hopes blasted, and themselves threatened with the most rigorous punishments, they did not redeem their lives by confessing the imposture? In general, the more wicked a traitor is, the more he trembles, alters, and confesses, at the approach of death. Having betrayed, for his own interest, the laws of his country, the interests of society, the confidence of his prince, and the credit of religion, he betrays the companions of his imposture, the accomplices of his crimes. Here, on the contrary, the apostles persist in their testimony till death, and sign the truths they have published with the last drops of their blood. These are our arguments.
We proceed now to our demonstrations, that is, to the miracles with which the apos tles sealed the truth of their testimony. Imagine these venerable men addressing their adversaries on the day of the Christian Pentecost in this language: 'You refuse to believe us on our depositions; five hundred of us, you think are enthusiasts, all infected with the same malady, who have carried our absurdity so far as to imagine that we have seen a man whom we have not seen; eaten with a man with whom we have not eaten; conversed with a man with whom we have not conversed: or, perhaps, you think us impostors, or take us for madmen, who intend to suffer ourselves to be imprisoned, and tortured, and crucified, for the sake of enjoying the pleasure of deceiving mankind by prevailing upon them to believe a fanciful resurrection: you think we are so stupid as to act a part so extravagant. But bring out your sick; present your demoniacs; fetch hither your dead; confront us with Medes, Parthians, and Elamites; let Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Egypt, Phrygia, Pamphylia, let all nations and people send us some of their inhabitants, we will restore hearing to the deaf, and sight to the blind, we will make the lame walk, we will cast out devils, and raise the dead. We,we publicans, we illiterate men, we tent-makers, we fishermen, we will discourse with all the people of the world in their own languages. We will explain prophecies, elucidate the most obscure predictions, develope the most sublime mysteries, teach you notions of God, precepts for the conduct of life, plans of morality and religion, more extensive, more sublime, and more advantageous, than those of your priests and philosophers, yea, than those of Moses himself. We will do more still. We will communicate these gifts to you, "the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, divers kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues," 1 Cor. xii. 8, &c. all these shall be communicated to you by our ministry.'
All these things the apostles professed; all these proofs they gave of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; this Jesus hath God raised up; and he hath shed forth this which yo now see and hear,' Acts ii. 32, 33. This consideration furnishes us with an answer to the greatest objection that was ever made to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and, in ge
8. Consider, lastly, the motives which induced the apostles to publish the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Survey the face of the world, examine all the impostures, that are practised in society; falsehood, imposition, treachery, perjury, abound in society. To every different trade and profession some peculiar deceptions belong. However, all mankind have one design in deceiving, they all deceive for their own interest. Their interests are infinitely diversified but it is interest, however, that always animates all deceivers. There is one interest of pride, another of pleasure, a third of profit. In the case before us, the nature of things is subverted, and all our notions of the human heart contradicted. It must be presupposed, that, whereas other men generally sacrifice the interest of their salvation to their temporal interest, the apostles, on the contrary, sacrificed their temporal interest without any inducement from the interest of salvation itself. Suppose they