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1 CORINTHIANS XV. 20.
Now is Christ risen from the dead.
We learn from this chapter, that some of the Corinthians had denied the doctrine of a resurrection : probably explaining away the apostolical language on that subject as figurative, and as only meaning conversion, or that change which took place in the world by the introduction of Christianity. In confuting this dangerous error, the apostle called their attention to the resurrection of Christ, as an undeniable fact: and he shewed that the denial of a resurrection was equivalent to saying that Christ was not risen, and thus tended to subvert the foundation of Christianity, and to destroy the hopes and comforts of believers. “ If “ there be no resurrection of the dead, then is not “ Christ risen: and, if Christ be not risen, then is
our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain : yea, and we are found false witnesses of God.
And, if Christ be not raised, ye are yet in your “ sins: then they also which are fallen asleep in “ Christ are perished. If in this life only we have “ hope in Christ, we are of all men most misera“ ble.” All the joys and supports of Christians are inseparably connected with future and eternal felicity; without the hope of which they would
Preached on Easter Sunday, 1796.
; 2 Tim. ii. 17, 18.
have nothing to counterbalance their peculiar trials and conflicts.
If Christ were not risen, believers were yet in their sins, and even the martyrs had finally perished. But were not the primitive Christians converted from idols to serve the living and true God? Did they not“ repent, and do works meet for re“pentance ?" Were they not exemplary in the practice of all good works ? And did they not meet death for the sake of a good conscience towards God? How then could they be "yet in their sins?" -Because none of these things could atone for their transgressions; and, if Christ were not risen, no effectual atonement had been made: they must therefore have still continued under condemnation, and exposed to the curse of the law which they had broken. A most conclusive proof that the death of Christ was a vicarious satisfaction for sin; and that none can be saved, who are not interested in that atonement !
It is deemed uncandid to charge men's doctrine with the consequences resulting from them : yet I apprehend we should all consider ourselves bound to warn people against the consequences of taking a poisonous mixture, even if he who administered it was not at all aware of its nature : and the apostle has here set us the example of doing the same, in opposing those erroneous doctrines by which immortal souls are fatally deceived.
He then adds the words of the text, “ Now is “ Christ risen from the dead,” and proceeds to treat very copiously on the doctrine of the resurrection. But I shall confine myself to the subject before us, and attempt,
I. To prove that Christ is risen from the dead :
II. To shew the inferences which may be drawn from that event;
III. To apply the subject to ourselves.
Though true Christians have “ a witness in “ themselves,” which in general satisfies their minds as to the certainty of the things which they have believed ; yet, in peculiar seasons of temptation, an acquaintance with the evidences of Christianity would tend greatly to their establishment. And, in these times of infidelity and scepticism, all, who would “ contend earnestly for the “ faith once delivered to the saints,” should be able “ to give a reason of their hope” to every inquirer or objector: both to defend themselves from the charge of enthusiasm and credulity; to obviate the doubts of those with whom they converse; and to preserve young persons, perhaps their own children, from the fatal contagion. It is therefore greatly to be lamented that pious persons are in general so little furnished with this sort of knowledge, of which they might make such important use.
It is commonly said that the new Testament is built upon
the foundation of the Old, and must stand or fall along with it: and there is a truth in this sentiment, though somewhat diverse, in its nature and consequences, from that which is generally supposed. Our Lord and his apostles have so frequently quoted the Old Testament, and almost every part of it, as“ the scripture,” “ the word of “ God,” “ the oracles of God,” and “ the language “ of the Holy Ghost,” that their credit rust be
connected with the divine inspiration of the books thus repeatedly attested by them.-We are able to prove that the canon of the Old Testament in those days differed very little, if at all, from that which we have at present, yet our Lord referring to different parts of it says, “ Thus it is written, and -6 thus it must be," “ the scripture cannot be “ broken,” “the scriptures must needs be ful“ filled.” And the apostles say, “ All scripture is
given by inspiration of God :" " Holy men of “God spake as they were moved by the Holy “ Ghost." This single consideration completely establishes the whole of the Old Testament as a divine revelation, with all those who duly reverence the words of Christ and his apostles. In all other respects the New Testament stands on its own basis, and is proved to be the word of God by distinct evidence: it affords unspeakably more support to the Old Testament than it receives from it; and the resurrection of Christ alone is sufficient to authenticate the whole sacred volume.
The restoration of a dead body to life is no more difficult to omnipotence, than the production of life at first. The divine operation is in both respects alike incomprehensible: but, as we continually observe life to be communicated in a certain way, we call that the law of nature; though we understand not our own meaning, and cannot explain how causes produce their effects. But dead bodies do not return to life in the ordinary course of human affairs : we therefore suppose some law of nature to the contrary, the violation of which in any particular instance, we should call a miracle ; that is a divine interposition and operation to
produce an effect, above or contrary to the general energy of second causes. Some persons indeed pretend that this is impossible: but “ why should “ it be thought incredible with you, that God “ should raise the dead?” The power exerted is no greater than that by which thousands of infants receive new life every day: and will man presume to say, that God cannot, or shall not, exert his power in any way which they have never before observed ?-If a sufficient reason can be assigned for his extraordinary interposition, and the fact be indisputably proved; it becomes as credible as other well attested events ; many of which do not coincide with our expectations or ideas of probability.
Universal history, observation, and experience prove that “ the world lieth in wickedness.” Idolatry, superstition, impiety, and every kind of vice and misery, have in all ages, covered and desolated the earth. But it hath pleased God, of his infinite mercy, to reveal himself to sinful men ; to make known a way in which they might be reconciled to him and recovered to holiness; and thus to introduce a religion suited to rectify the disorders of the world, and to unite the honour of his name with the eternal happiness of unnumbered millions. Miracles, and the resurrection of the Redeemer especially, formed a suitable demonstration that this religion came from God; and they served to arrest the attention of mankind: for alas! sinners for the most part are too much occupied about the affairs of this life, to notice those things which relate to God and their eternal state. These are reasons assigned for a divine interpo