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shook, and became as dead men :" and all the heads of the Jewish nation, when they saw how ineffectual their precautions had been, were mad with disappointment. The Disciples too were overwhelmed with grief: they had been taught to expect the resurrection of their Lord; yet they seemed to have really less expectation of it than his very enemies; so wholly were they absorbed in grief, and given up to despondency. At last, however, their sorrow was turned into joy; and they were constrained to believe, when they found it no longer possible to doubt.
We will endeavour to shew,
I. The reason of their unbelief
Our text informs us, that " they knew not the Scripture
[Our Lord had often told them, that "he must be killed, and on the third day rise again." He had spoken of it figuratively; he had declared it plainly; he had laid the whole stress of his religion upon ita: and his very enemies considered that on this point depended either the proof of his Messiahship, or a decisive evidence of his imposture. But his Disciples never understood him: one of them had even presumed "to rebuke him," as though to talk of his death and resurrection was the result of needless fear or gloomy superstition. Thus, for want of considering what the Holy Scriptures, and their Lord, had spoken on this subject, they could not conceive that such an event as his resurrection should ever take place.]
To the same source must be traced the unbelief that generally prevails
[The Scriptures speak plainly respecting our undone state by nature, and our recovery through Christ alone But when we declare these things to men, they are ready to reply, "Doth he not speak parables h?"--"They know not the Scripture;" they do not understand it; they do not regard it; they form their own opinions without any reference to it; and therefore they neither will, nor can, receive its decisions - -]
But as their unbelief was at last vanquished, we proceed to inquire into,
b John ii. 19, 21.
c Matt. xx. 19. d Matt. xii. 39, 40.
f Mark ix. 9, 10, 31, 32.
h Ezek. xx. 49.
II. The means by which it was overcome
The Apostles diligently investigated the subject proposed to them
[They were informed by Mary Magdalen, that the body of our Lord was removed from the sepulchre. Without loss of time they set out, as expeditiously as possible, to investigate the point. John being the younger man, and not, like Peter, oppressed with a load of guilt, arrived first at the place, and looked into the sepulchre: but Peter, being the more intrepid character, as soon as he arrived, went directly, and without hesitation, into the sepulchre, and saw the careful manner in which the linen and the napkin were folded up and laid in separate places, evidently showing that the body had not been taken away, nor had escaped but with the utmost calmness and composure. John, emboldened by his example, used the same means of ascertaining the fact; and, on discovering it, "believed" that Christ was indeed risen ; whilst Peter, though "wondering at the things that had come to pass," still retained some doubts respecting them. Still, however, the measure of conviction which was wrought in both their minds, was produced by the same means: but it was strongest on him, whose mind was most under the influence of love.]
In a similar way must all unbelief be vanquished
[We must search and examine for ourselves: we must also vie with each other, as it were, in the pursuit of truth, animating and encouraging one another both by testimony and example- -To such diligent and candid exertions is the faith of the Beræans ascribed: and wherever they are used, with prayer to God for the illumination of his Spirit, they will sooner or later assuredly succeed - -
From the circumstance of their not yielding an easy assent to what was told them, we shall be led to notice,
III. The grounds which are hereby afforded for our faith
The Apostles were very slow to believe the fact of Christ's resurrection
[They would not believe the woman that had seen vision: nor even when Mary had had a personal interview with him, would they believe1; nor even when two of their own body had conversed with himm. They would scarcely
i Acts xvii. 11, 12.
1 Mark xvi. 9-11.
k Luke xxiv. 4-11.
believe the evidence of their own senses". Nor, when all the others had been overpowered with the weight of evidence, would Thomas yield assent, till, by feeling the very wounds which had been made in the hands and side of Christ, he had a testimony which he could no longer doubt.]
But all this tends exceedingly to confirm our faith
[Had the Disciples yielded an easy assent, their report had been the less worthy of credit: but when they were so incredulous, as to bring on themselves a severe rebuke from Christ for "their unbelief and hardness of heart'," their testimony may be relied upon; because they asserted nothing which they had not ascertained to be true by evidence the most solid and incontrovertible. In this view their word may be implicitly received: but when, in addition to all this, their testimony was confirmed by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost, and by miracles without number, and, lastly, by their willingness at all times to seal it with their blood, there can be no room to entertain a doubt respecting it; nor can any testimony whatever be worthy of the smallest credit, if theirs be not considered as beyond the reach of doubt.]
Assuming then the doctrine of Christ's resurrection as proved, let us CONTEMPLATE,
1. The benefits dependent on it—
[Every part of our salvation depends on this, even more than on his death itself ---- O learn to see this, as the Apostles, when fully instructed, saw it! and rejoice in seeing every thing secured to you both for time and eternity:
2. The duties arising from it—
[Your great duty is, to be conformed to his resurrection; dying to sin, as he died for it, and living to God, even as he does - All the affections of your soul must follow him; and the renovation of your life correspond in all things with the pattern which his resurrection exhibits to your view Remember however to look to him for strength; for "without him you can do nothing," but "through his strength you can do all things"
n Luke xxiv. 36-41. • John xx. 24-27.
P Mark xvi. 14.
a Rom. viii. 34. "rather;" and Rom. iv. 25. and v. 10.
Col. iii. 3, 4.
s Col. iii. 1, 2.
INSPIRATION AND AUTHORITY OF THE APOSTLES.
John xx. 21-23. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
IT is not easy to conceive what disappointment our Lord's Disciples must have felt, when they found that he was dead upon the cross, and committed to the silent tomb. 66 They had expected that he was the person who should redeem Israel:" and the wonderful works which he had done, had appeared to justify that expectation: but, behold, his enemies had prevailed against him, and the hopes which they had entertained were altogether frustrated. But our blessed Lord left them not long in this disconsolate condition. He soon gave them evidences that he was risen from the dead. To some he appeared on the morning of his resurrection: and "in the evening of that day" he came to them all, whilst they were assembled, with closed doors, for fear of the Jews; and both spake peace to their troubled minds, and renewed to them the commission which he had given them to preach his Gospel to the world; enduing them, at the same time, with a more abundant measure of qualifications for their ministry than he had hitherto conferred; and assuring them, that all which they either said, or did, on earth, under the influence of his good Spirit, should be confirmed and ratified in heaven.
Interested as we are in the office which was here assigned them, it will be well for us to ascertain, with some precision,
I. The measure of inspiration given them—
The commission which the Apostles now received
a Luke xxiv. 19-21.
from Christ resembled that which Christ himself had received from the Father
[Christ was furnished by the Father for the office that was assigned him. "The Spirit of the Lord God was upon him," yea, and “ was given to him without measure." "The Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and made him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord"." At the time of his baptism, the Holy Spirit was sent down in a visible manner, both to attest his mission, and to qualify him for it. And this was the way chosen by God for manifesting to the world the commission given to the Apostles, and for imparting to them, at the same time, the qualifications necessary for the discharge of their high office.]
On them the Lord Jesus poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit, to fit and qualify them for their work
[His "breathing on them" was merely an emblematic sign, to shew them that he was empowered to communicate the Holy Spirit to whomsoever he would. He had before told them, that "he would send unto them the Holy Spirit from the Father:" and he now imparted to them that heavenly gift; and assured them, that, within the space of a few days, they should be baptized with the Holy Ghosts," and receive him in that abundant measure which would be necessary for the perfect execution of the various duties to which they would be called.
But there was, doubtless, an infinite disparity between our Lord and his Disciples, both as to the measure of inspiration with which they were endued, and as to the perfection of holiness which they possessed. The knowledge of our blessed Saviour was co-extensive with the knowledge of his heavenly Father; and in him was not the smallest possible imperfection: but they were still weak and sinful, and liable to err, except when under the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit. In acting, we know, in the instance of St. Peter, how fallible they were and in recording what they had been commissioned to declare, they were left to themselves, to use their own language, and to report what they knew: they were indeed assisted by the Holy Spirit, who "brought all things to their remembrance;" and by the Spirit they were instructed in things which they could not otherwise have known: and by the same Spirit they