YOU CAN BELIEVE CHRIST AROSE1 Corinthians 15:20.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept,
The resurrection of our Lord was the most important event that ever took place in this lower world. If it can be proved, Christianity must stand in spite of all its opposers : If it cannot, our faith is vain, and we are yet in our sins. But we have such proofs of that glorious event, as cannot he overturned; and we may confidently assert, in the language of our text, " Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept." This passage may be divided into two parts: First, Christ is risen from the dead; Secondly, he is become the first-fruits of them that slept. The death of Jesus cannot be doubted, for, in the presence of vast multitudes, he bowed his head and gave up the spirit. An impious soldier pierced his side with a spear, from whence flowed blood and water. This important circumstance fully proves the reality of his death; for the wound, .reaching his heart, must have caused instant death, had he received it in perfect health.Being dead, his body was laid in the sepulcher, where it remained till the third day, but His soul went into the invisible world. Some ave imagined, that he went into the regions of the lost people in Hades, but upon serious examination,, this appears to be a mere fiction. SheolThe prophecy of David concerning this event, "You will not leave my soul in Sheol" means no more than this : You ou wilt not leave my soul in the invisible world. The invisible or unseen world to which our Savior went was Paradise, as appears from his own words to the penitent thief:."Today you shall be with me in Paradise"(Luke 23: 43). On the third day, the soul of Christ returned from the invisible world, and re-animated the same body which died on the cross. Thus, when the soul departs, the body dies; and when it returns and is again united to the body, there is a proper resurrection. The proofs of Christ's resurrection may be reduced to three: The testimony of the disciples; the out-pouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the rapid progress of Christianity afterwards.
The resurrection of Christ is fully proved by the testimony of his disciples. Testimony may always be relied upon, when, those who testify are neither deceived themselves, nor designed to deceive others. And that this was the case with; our Lord's disciples will be evident upon a fair view of the subject. They could not be deceived themselves; for they all saw him, conversed with him, ate and drank with him, handled his body, and saw him ascend into heaven. He appeared teN times before his ascension: To " Mary," Mark xvi, 9 ; to "other women," Matt. 28: 9; to "two disciples going to Emmaus," Mark 16: 12, Luke 24:, 13; to "Peter," Luke 24:34; to "all the disciples," John 20:19; to "them again," John 29:26; to "the disciples at the sea of Tiberias," John 21: 1; "to the disciples in Galilee," Mat.,28: 16, 17; to "James," 1 Cor. xv, 7; and to "the eleven," Mark 16: 14. He appeared three times after his ascension into heaven: To " Stephen,"" Acts 7: 56; to "Saul," Acts 9: 3—6; and to "John on the Isle of Patrnos," Rev. i: 12, 13. The disciples of Jesus had no design to deceive others. They could have ho temptation to such a fraud; for the whole world was against them. They had nothing to gain by such a fraud; but much to lose. Did they aim at wealth ? This was the way to poverty. Did they aim at honor ? This was the way to disgrace. Did they aim at ease ? This was the way to hardships, toils, and death. What, then, but truth, could induce them to declare the resurrection of Christ from the dead? It is also very remarkable, that his resurrection inspired them with uncommon boldness. Before it happened, they were remarkably timid and fearful; but afterwards, they neither feared men nor devils. It is not less remarkable, that they were all united in their testimony. Some of them doubted at first, and they all appear' to have been slow of belief but they had such evidence as removed every doubt. Nor could all their suffering afterward, even death in its most dreadful forms, induce one of them to doubt, much less to deny, they wonderful event.
The out-pouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost is another strong proof of Jesus' resurrection(Acts 2).. He had said to his apostles, in the days of his flesh, " If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: But if I depart, I will send him"(John 16:7).. And just before his ascension, he commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, to send the Spirit down in his miraculous influences. Accordingly, when the day of Pentecost was fully come, the promise was fulfilled; and the apostles were qualified, "by various gifts of the Holy Ghost, for an extraordinary work(Acts 2).. They were enabled to speak a variety of languages, and to work astonishing miracles in the name of Jesus. The effects of that day were soon discovered, not only in Judea, but in every part of the Roman empire; and if there had been any doubts of Jesus' resurrection before that memorable day, those doubts must have been removed by the irresistible proof which was given in the descent of the Holy Spirit.
The rapid progress of Christianity, immediately after that day, forms another powerful argument in favor of Christ's resurrection. The world was soon turned upside down. The heathen oracles were silenced, their temples were shut, their altars were thrown down; and Christianity, through the instrumentality of a few poor fishermen, triumphed every where. Surely the God of truth was with them. All the world was in arms against the apostles, and evejy mans that could be devised was used to crush them , but all in vain. God being with them, the word grew and multiplied. The resurrection is compared to a harvest. The bodies of men, like seed in the earth are laid in the grave, and as sure as the seed quickens and grows, so surely shall they be quickened and raised up. The growth of the seed is natural; but the resurrection of the dead will be supernatural. Omnipotence is necessary m both cases; and it is certain that omnipotent power can raise the dead with as much ease as it can produce a grain of corn. Let thos who doubt this recollect that, by a word God created the world out of nothing.Christ the Firstfruits. Many indeed were raised from the dead before He arose, but they died again. They were raised to mortality, be He was the first who rose to immortality. Death had no more power over Him, beig vanquished and overcome by His resurrection. How pleasing is the thought that death is a conquered enemy. As the first-fruits were a pledge of the general harves, so the resurrection of Christ is a pledge of ours. And as sure as He rose, so surely we shall arise.
"But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming"(I Cor. 15:23).. For wise reasons he suffers his saints to pass through death, and to lie in he grave. This, however painful, is a necessary part of His wise and gracious plan, and it should be submitted to with pious resignation. But we ar3 assured, by the resurrection of our Lord, that this bondage will have an end. Perhaps that event is nearer than we imagine. O, let our hearts rejoice and let Jesus have the glory! : Let us commemorate the resurrection of Christ with songs of praise and breaking the bread together on every Lord's Day. .The truths of Christianity are established, death and the grave are . conquered, and the resurrection of the dead is certain. Let us rise from a grave of sin; let us gain a vital union with Christ, and when He shall descend from heaven in the glory of the Father, may we rise from the dead and meet Him in the air.*
*This message is a reproduction of a sermon by Jonathan Edmondson, a 19th century preacher in England.
We may just notice an objection: Did not the Jews account for his removal from the sepulcher in another way? They certainly did; but the account confirms that of the disciples. They forged a bare-faced lie, and bribed the soldiers to publish it: "You say, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept"(Matt, 28: 13). Could they all be asleep at the same time? If they were, how could they tell so exactly what was done? Was. it .possible for the poor timid disciples, who fled when Jesus was apprehended, to venture through a band of soldiers, to steal the dead body of their Master? If the soldiers slept upon guard, why were they not punished with death? But we need not push this inquiry any further: The thing speaks for itself. It is also worthy of notice, that the account of Christ's resurrection was written and published in the age when, and in the country where, he rose from the dead. And when the Gospels were first published, many of those Jews, who had killed the Prince of Life, were still alive. How easily might they have contradicted the apostles, had they published falsehoods! How readily would they have done so, with their deep-rooted malice, if they could have done it with credit, to themselves! But who did contradict them? Can we produce one writer in that age, either Jewish or Pagan, who dared to call in question the plain, simple, and faithful narrative of the holy apostles? I never heard that any one attempted to disprove the fact; and if it had been done, the vain attempt would have strengthened the cause of Christianity.