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MATT. XXVIII. 1—8. MARK XVI. 1-8.
WHEN the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, as it began to dawn, they came unto the sepulchre, to see it, at the rising of the sun.
And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment: and they were affrighted. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Be not affrighted, for I know that ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He not here; for he is risen, as he said: Come, see t place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and te his disciples, and Peter, that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee ; there shall ye see him, as he said unto you: lo, I have told you.
And they departed quickly, and fled from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man: for they were afraid; and did run to bring his disciples word.
How fit is it that we should sing unto the Lord a new song! and with what thankful hearts should we join, on his own day, and on every day, to congratulate the triumph of his rising from the dead, and to rejoice in this birth-day of our hopes! Now is the justice of God amply satisfied, or the prisoner had never been released. Now is the reproach of the cross ceased, and turned into proportionable glory. That reproach was rolled away at once by the descending angel, who appeared, not to awaken Christ from his sleep, or to bring him a new life, for he had himself a power, whenever he pleased, to resume that which he had voluntarily resigned, (John x. 18;) but he came to add a solemn pomp to his revival, and to strike the guards with such a terror as would effectually prevent any mad attempt on this glorious Conqueror, when he was bursting the bonds in which he had for a while been held.
O Lord, we acknowledge the truth of thy promise: thou didst not leave his soul in hell, neither didst thou suffer the flesh of thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psalm xvi. 10.) Now is Christ indeed risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept, (1 Cor. xv. 20:) may we, in conformity to his holy example, be dead to sin, and to the world; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also may walk in newness of life! (Rom. vi. 4.) Then will he that raised up Christ from the dead, ere long, quicken our mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in us. (Rom. viii. 11.)
We are now again called, as by the angel's voice, to come and see the place where the Lord lay, and to take an affectionate survey of that sepulchre, which our rising Saviour had left, and where he had laid aside the dress of death, as a token that he should return to it no more. How wonderful that he should ever have lain there! that the Lord of life should have dwelt among the dead, and from the glory of the throne of God should have sunk down to the abasement of the grave !—But he has burst its prison doors, and hath abolished death, and him who had the power of it; abolished it for himself and us. How are all its terrors now disarmed! O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory! (1 Cor. xv. 55.)
With what pleasure did the angels deliver this gracious message of their Lord as well as ours! and with what transport
did the pious women receive it! Behold the tender care of Christ over his people! Angels have it immediately in charge to send the glad tidings to his disciples; and Jesus repeats and confirms them. Go tell my brethren, I am risen from the dead. Lord, is this thy language concerning those who but a few hours before had forsaken thee! and one of them, with such dreadful imprecations, denied thee! Yet even that disciple is not excluded; nay, to him is it peculiarly addressed: go tell my brethren, and in particular tell Peter, that he, poor mourner, may especially be comforted. Compassionate Redeemer, thou hast brought up from the tomb with thee that tenderness and goodness which laid thee there!
Such is the freedom and glory of thy grace, that thou sometimes dost first manifest thyself to those who were once in the most miserable bondage to Satan. Whenever this is the case, may the peculiar obligation be remembered! May every remainder of unbelief be subdued in our souls! and may we joyfully communicate to all around us the tidings of a risen Saviour, and the merciful discoveries of his presence to us!
MATT. XXVIII. 11-15.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
LUKE XXIV. 1-9, 11.
Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them; and they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and
found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: and as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.
Surely there is nothing in the whole sacred story which does in a more affecting manner illustrate the deplorable hardness of the human heart in this degenerate state, than the portion of it which is now before us. What but the testimony of an apostle could have been sufficient to persuade us, that men who had been but a few hours before the witnesses of such an awful scene, who had beheld the angel descending, had felt the earth trembling, and had seen the sepulchre bursting open by a Divine power, and had fallen down in helpless astonishment and confusion, perhaps expecting every moment to be themselves destroyed, should that very day, yea, that very morning, suffer themselves to be hired by a sum of money to do their utmost to asperse the character of Christ, and to invalidate the evidence of his resurrection, of which they were in effect eye-witnesses?
Nay, how astonishing is it, that the chief priests themselves, the public ministers of the Lord of hosts, could act such a part as this! They hear this full evidence that he, that Jesus whom they had murdered, was risen from the dead; and they well knew and remembered that he had himself put the proof of his mission on this very fact; a fact to which the prodigies at his death, which they themselves had seen and felt, added an inexpressible weight of probability. Who would not have expected that they should have been alarmed, convinced, and humbled; that they should have turned the remaining days of the passover into a public fast, and have solicitously sought out him who was so powerfully declared to be the Son of God, to cast themselves at his feet, and entreat his pardon and grace? But instead of this, with invincible and growing malice, they set themselves to oppose him, and bribe the soldiers to
testify a lie, the most to his dishonour of any that hell could invent. And surely, had not Christ been kept out of their sight and power, they would, notwithstanding all this, have endeavoured to bring him down to the tomb again, on the very same principles on which they would have slain Lazarus after his resurrection. (John xii. 10.) So true does it appear, in this renewed and unequalled instance, that if men hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. (Luke xvi. 31.)
No question but these very men, when pressed with the evidences of Christ's resurrection, answered, as succeeding infidels have presumptuously done, that he should have appeared to them, if he expected they should believe he was risen.' But what assurance can we have that the same prejudices which overbore the testimony of the soldiers, might not also have resisted even the appearance of Christ himself? Or, rather, that the obstinacy which led them to overbear conscience in one instance, might not have done it in the other? Justly therefore did God deny what wantonness, and not reason, might lead them to demand: justly did he give them up to dishonour their own understandings, as well as their moral character, by this mean and ridiculous tale, which brought men to testify what was done while they were asleep.
The most that common sense could make of their report, had they deserved the character of honest men, would have been, that they knew nothing of the matter. And we have a thousand times more reason to admire the condescension of God, in sending his apostles to these wicked rulers with such additional proofs and messages, than to censure his providence in preventing Christ's public appearance. May he deliver us from the treachery and corruption of our own hearts! May he give us a holy tenderness and integrity of soul, that we may see truth wheresoever it is, and may follow it whithersoever it leads us; lest God should choose our delusions, and give us up in his righteous judgment to believe a lie, and to think ourselves wise in that credulous infidelity which is destroying its ten thousands amongst us!
MARK XVI. 9. LUKE XXIV. 12. JOHN XX. 1-17. THE first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the