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In the end of the Sabbath.
The meaning and memories of Sunday
Let us consider some of the religious principles which have given and preserved this holy day to us.
I. “The first day of the week” is a day of mighty memories-memories that we cannot let die.
1. The celebration of the Lord’s Day has never lost sight of that precious fact in all revelation and religion-the creation of the world and of man, and consequently all the claim of God’s law upon our conscience, and of God’s goodness on our gratitude. The main idea of the Sabbatic rest is that man should occasionally lift his eyes from the clouds of earth and gaze into the face of his Creator.
2. “The first day of the week” is full of the memories of redemption.
3. “The first day of the week” is the great memorial of the giving of the Holy Spirit of God to man. It is the memorial of the beginning of that great work in human nature by which it becomes like Christ, and is made one with God-the incarnation of the Holy Ghost.
II. “The first day of the week” is a day of happy and noble associations. It is rich in memories of the past great acts of God, but it comes down burdened with all the brightest and most beautiful thoughts of earth; great revivals of human friendships; great, stirring conflicts with evil; the great, prosperous changes and revolutions of nations-the deliverance of untold millions from the slavery of sin and the power of death; have all left their impress upon it.
III. It is a day of holy anticipations. Memory is blessed; but what would men do without hope. The “first day of the week” predicts perpetually the Sabbath of God’s love-the end of conflict, the light of heaven.
IV. It is a day of holy duties. It is the first day of the week, not the last, the day of activity, not of indolent repose. This day will lend a meaning to your other days. “Hallow God’s Sabbaths.” (H. R. Reynolds, B. A.)
The day of resurrection
Philip Henry used to call the Lord’s Day the queen of days, the pearl of the week, and observed it accordingly. His common salutation of his family or friends on the Lord’s Day in the morning, was that of the primitive Christians-“The Lord is risen, He is risen indeed; “ making it his chief business on that day to celebrate the memory of Christ’s resurrection; and he would say sometimes,” Every Lord’s Day is a true Christian’s Easter Day.”
And behold, there was a great earthquake.
The earthquake trumpet
An earthquake was a royal trumpet to proclaim this victory, the greatest that ever was obtained against an enemy. The deep murmur and hollow sound which came from beneath the earth gave notice at one blast to heaven, and hell, and to all Judea, that the Son of God about that instant (as I do verily believe) did break the gates of brass, and smite the bars of death in sunder. (Bishop Hacket.)
Six reasons for the earthquake
I. It makes us conceit that there was a great struggling, and a combat between Christ and death.
II. It betokens what noise and tumult there shall be in all the elements at the last and great resurrection.
III. It signifies that the majesty of the Lord was upon the earth to defend His people.
IV. The anger of the Lord did roar out of the earth against those Jews who thought to prevail that death should devour him, against Pilate that allowed his seal to this conspiracy, and against the soldiers that watched the sepulchre.
V. Because the consciences of these evil men were only wounded, and no other harm done by the earthquake, therefore, some say, the place round about did rather dance for joy than quake for trembling.
VI. Is allegorical, and thus in brief, that our hearts must be shaken and inwardly troubled with compunction and repentance before we believe steadfastly in the resurrection of Jesus. (Bishop Hacket.)
Keepers like dead men
The sentinels were not “as dead men” long; and when they woke, they found the tomb empty, and the tenant gone. Thoughts of the spirit-land and impressions of reverence were not in their world; the shock they had received woke no thought or question, but sheer physical terror only. As horses are frightened in the flashes of the tempest, and the wild things of the woods are suddenly tame in the blow of any tremendous flood or fire; so these strong human animals were cowed by the lightning from an angel’s face. They would have been dauntless amidst the shock of battle and the din of arms, but they were dumb before a being who was not of flesh and blood. White as the dead, they at once burst into the presence of their masters and told all. (Charles Stanford, D. D.)
And the angel answered and said unto the women.
Why should not the seekers of Jesus fear?
I. Because in seeking Him, they have an evidence that He has sought them, and found them, and touched their hearts.
II. They that seek Christ should rejoice; for in seeking they shall certainly find.
III. In finding Christ, they find everything suited to banish their fears. Christ has magnified the law. Sin taken away that troubles the conscience; death disarmed of his sting; the grave of its terrors; the dominion of Satan destroyed.
IV. Nothing shall finally separate them who have sought and found Christ (Romans 8:38-45.8.39). (H. Foster.)
An Easter thought for those who are seeking Jesus
Never had women more cause to fear than these helpless creatures, who came forth with trembling steps, but loving hearts, to the sepulchre of the crucified Christ. Most blessed then to them must have been the angel’s words, “Fear not.” They speak to us as much as to the women at the sepulchre, etc. Light streams forth upon us in this passage from three distinct sources.
I. From the persons addressed.
1. They were women, who from their sex were naturally timid, and had in themselves nothing to enable them to face a supernatural appearance, or any of the terrors of such a scene as we have here. The doctrine of inherent weakness.
2. From the emphatic word “Ye,” the most important instruction is to be derived. “Ye” are Jesus’ friends; no cause for fear have “ye.” Full of teaching to those, who, weak, frightened, sorrowful are seeking Jesus. Also to His true disciples, however weak, etc. They stand in the power of their relationship to Christ, and need desire no more.
II. From the work in which they were engaged. There was-
1. Loving personal search. They are blessed indeed who are thus seeking after Christ; like these women, they want to get to Himself.
2. Loving service.
3. Entire devotion to one rejected by the world. (P. B. Power, M. A.)
The women’s visit to the grave of Jesus
I. The gloomy approach. Characterized by visible grief, secret hope, timid faith.
II. The wonderful experience. The anticipated difficulty removed. The unexpected vision. The overpowering fear. The consoling exhortation.
III. The joyous return. Mingled emotions leading to rapid movement. The blessed meeting by the way. The salutation and commision. (E. W. Wilson.)
The women-friends of Jesus
1. Women, though weak, are capable of religious offices. No understanding so weak, but it may believe; no body so weak, but it may do something in some calling.
2. These women were early in their religious work, they began betimes.
3. As they were early and forward, so were they earnest and sedulous.
4. Upon what their devotion was carried; upon things which could not entirely be done; yet God accepted their devotion. Where the root and substance of the work is piety, God pretermits many times errors in circumstance. (John Donne.)
He is not here: for He is risen, as He said.
The open sepulchre a seal of redemption
I. The place which the angel bade the women come and see was an open, empty tomb. Earth is the place of tombs. There is no tomb in heaven; no silent grave in hell. Every grave of earth will yet be empty.
II. Momentous truths were uttered from the open, empty tomb where the Lord had lain.
1. The first voice proclaims the evil and the power of sin. Sin dug for Death all his graves. Sin has slain the Beloved of the Lord.
2. The second voice proclaims redemption from sin. The open grave of Christ is a three-fold sign of
(2) liberty; and
III. There are some holy lessons which men may learn as they linger by the Redeemer’s open, empty tomb.
1. Come and see the place where the Lord lay, and learn a lesson of penitence for sin.
2. Come and see the place where the Lord lay, and learn a lesson of love to Him. The grave of loved ones has a strange fascination.
3. Come and see the place where the Lord lay, and realize your union with Him and nearness to Him.
4. Come and be in alliance with those who honour Christ.
5. Behold He is alive for evermore. (D. Rose, M. A.)
1. Standing where the Lord lay I am impressed with the fact that mortuary honours cannot atone for wrongs to the living.
2. That floral and sculptural ornamentation are appropriate for the place of the dead. Christ was buried in a garden.
3. I am impressed with the dignity of private and unpretending obsequies. Funeral pageantry is not necessary.
4. I am impressed with the fact that you cannot keep the dead down. The seal of the Sanhedrin, soldiers, cannot keep Christ in the crypt. (Dr. Talmage.)
The great argument of the resurrection
1. The resurrection of Christ considered in relation to Himself as the promised Saviour of men.
2. The resurrection of Christ in relation to the comfort and service of His immediate friends and disciples.
3. The resurrection of Christ from the dead viewed in relation to the enemies of our Lord.
4. The resurrection of Christ considered in its relation to the religious life and experience of believers.
5. The resurrection of our Lord considered in relation to the thoughts and feelings of Christians when contemplating death. (T. Lloyd.)
The resurrection of our Lord-the fact and its consequences
I. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead we affirm to be a fact.
1. Were the apostles deceived?
2. If not deceived, did they wilfully proclaim a falsehood?
II. Note some of its consequences.
1. The resurrection furnishes the only positive proof of our immortality.
2. It also assures us of our redemption, and this gives definite hope for the future.
3. It assures us of the redemption of the body. (H. Ward.)
The risen Saviour
I. This declaration proclaims the actual resurrection of christ. A fact established by the clearest evidence.
II. This language expresses several fundamental truths.
1. The humiliation of Christ.
2. The infinite love of God.
3. The Divine faithfulness.
4. The Divine sovereignty.
5. Christ’s triumph over all His enemies and ours.
6. The certain and glorious pledge of the perfecting of salvation. (Pulpit Thermos.)
Watching for the resurrection
As the flowers wait for the spring, and the yellow corn waits for the summer, and the stars wait for the morning, and as Lazarus waited in sweet silence for the voice of Jesus to awake him out of sleep, so do the blessed dead wait for the resurrection. (G. W. M’Cree.)
The proofs of the resurrection of Christ
I. Presumptive or circumstantial evidence.
1. The precaution of the Jews.
2. The departure of Jesus from the sepulchre.
3. The change which took place in the apostles after this event.
II. The testimony of credible witnesses.
1. The sufficiency of evidence depends upon the number of the witnesses, their qualifications, and their information.
2. Their competency being established, now examine their credibility. Their testimony was honest, prominent, explicit, and constant.
III. Divine testimony. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ’s resurrection.
1. By the predictions of the prophets.
2. By the miracles of the apostles.
3. By the success of the gospel. (T. Gibson. M. A.)
The resurrection of Christ
I. Let us look at it as a fact established by reliable evidence. “He is risen.”
1. In order to a true resurrection we must first have it clearly established that at the time of His burial He was really dead. The soldiers found Jesus already dead. He was buried in a new tomb; hence no other body could have been substituted for that of our Lord. Nicodemus, Joseph of Aremathaea, and the women who assisted at His burial are witnesses of His death.
2. The testimony of those who saw our Lord alive after His resurrection.
II. But passing from the fact itself, let us consider its relation to the Saviour’s former utterances, “He is risen, as He said” (John 2:18-43.2.21; Matthew 12:40; Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:22). Christ perilled His whole Deity and Messiahship on His resurrection. There is a three-fold attestation in this wondrous event.
1. It proved Him to be a prophet, a miracle-worker, and it threw back its authenticating light on everything said and done by Him during His earthly ministry. Thus we learn to view the resurrection of our Lord as the foundation of our faith. Take this chapter out of the gospel and all others are worthless.
1. Hope through life-“God hath begotten us unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
2. An influence of comfort in bereavement and death coming from this theme. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
A living hope awakened by the resurrection of Christ
Mark the expression a “lively” or living hope. The expectation of perfected salvation which the believer cherishes is not contented with indifference or inactivity. It is a living, not a dying or dead thing, and it animates him to most earnest efforts after the attainment of the object to which it looks. A ship’s crew have been forced to leave a sinking vessel and commit themselves in an open and frail boat to the mercy of She ocean. They do not know that they shall be picked up, but they have an intense desire to be delivered and a vague hope that they shall be. Day passes after day. Their scanty stock of provisions is almost exhausted, the water is entirely spent, and hope in them is all but dead, so that every energy within them is paralyzed. But lo! far away on the dim horizon a sail appears, and in a moment the hope that seemed ready to expire is quickened into activity, First they raise a faint but thankful cheer; then they uplift any sort of a flag they can extemporize as a signal of distress; then they take to the oars and summon up the remnant of their strength, if by any means they may near the vessel’s course, and attract the attention of those who man her. What a difference one short hour has made in those worn and haggard men! A little while ago they were ready to perish, but now they are all activity, for the sight of that far-off sail has begotten them to a “living hope.” So Christ’s resurrection brings living hope to the sinner’s heart. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Come see the place where the Lord lay
I. And be assured that He is risen from the dead.
II. And behold the completion of human redemption.
III. And view it with penitential grief.
IV. Ye who love Him, learn to view without fear your own final resting-place, and rejoice in the assurance that His resurrection is the pledge and type of your own. Adore Him for the love which led him to sleep in the sepulchre that you might rise and partake of His glory for ever. (J. Johnson, M. A.)
The empty sepulchre
“Come and see the place where the Lord lay.”
1. It is a garden.
2. It is a garden with a grave in it. The world has no unmingled cup of sweet to offer. Because that tomb is empty and Christ is risen there need be no blight without a blessing, no sorrow without a joy, etc.
3. It is a new tomb where never man was laid.
4. You can see by its size, its position, its adornments, that it belongs to a family possessed of wealth-it is a grave of the rich. Fulfilment of prophecy- Isaiah 53:9.
5. The heavy stone, which brawny arms had rolled against its entrance, making it fast, and setting a seal on it, is rolled away. The finger of God touches the mighty incubus and it moves.
6. And find the sepulchre empty. Christ is risen!
(1) The seal of truth is put upon all He said and did. God would have never raised a pretender.
(2) The offering of Jesus for the sins of men is hereby accepted.
(3) He has Divine life in Himself, and the same Spirit that raised up Jesus from death and the dark can raise up dead souls. This is the true power of His resurrection. Are we risen with Christ?
(4) A pledge of His power and purpose to raise again from the dominion of the grave the bodies of the race He hath redeemed. Comfort for the bereaved.
(5) Then He hath also ascended up into glory, He hath taken possession of His inheritance, and is the forerunner of the saints. “Opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” Think of departed loved ones emerged from the ruins of the tomb, etc.
(6) Then He lives to-day to be our Friend and Guide and Helper. How much we need Him, etc. Christian, gird up your loins afresh! Yours is a living faith in a living Saviour. Sinner! He is risen. What then? Then He is that man whom God hath ordained to judge the world. (J. J. Wray.)
A new tomb where never man was yet laid
Why? For this reason: The fact of Christ’s resurrection is at the basis of Christianity. Our whole religion must stand or fall with the coming to life again of the Man Jesus. “If Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” God hath therefore hedged it round with special tokens, evidences which may well hush the doubter and strike the sceptic dumb. In the Old Testament we read that contact with the sacred dust of the Prophet Elisha did once raise a man to life; and a Jewish superstition invested the bones of their holier heroes with a similar power. Had this been an old and much-used grave, the enemies of Jesus would have been quick to suggest that as the cause of the resurrection. So Providence provides a new tomb, where never man was laid. Again, old tombs and ancient sepulchres often had secret passages, subterranean avenues, and connections with each other and the outer world. How ready would the unbelievers have been to suggest that by such secret means the body had been carried off by His disciples and interred elsewhere I Hence it is a new tomb, cut in the face of the solid rock, one only means of entrance and of exit, watched and tended by the Roman guard. (J. J. Wray.)
The place where the Lord lay is
I. A place of instruction.
1. The fact of His resurrection.
2. What is the significance of the fact? It means that the atonement is complete.
II. A place of life. Christ’s life assures us of life for the body and soul of man.
III. A place of comfort-“Fear not ye.”
IV. A place of hope. (D. Merson, B. D.)
Jesus has lighted up the grave
It is said that the Romans had a practice of lighting up their tombs. In Essex a tomb was once opened, when a lamp was found in the corner, and a chair near it indicating the rank of the tomb-tenant; and it is recorded that fifteen hundred years after the death of Tullia, Cicero’s daughter, her tomb, which was accidentally opened, was found illuminated with a lamp. It was but a glimmering light, the rays of which were confined to the catacomb walls. But the light Christ sheds upon the grave falls upon the vista of eternity. You can now stoop, look in, and see immortality beyond. (Blacket’s “Young Men’s Class. ”)
Death and resurrection of Christ
Lend me your imaginations for a minute, while I endeavour to picture a scene. Christ had paid the price-the full price: that price was presented before the Father’s judgment-seat. He looked at it, and was content. But as it was a solemn matter, it was not hurried over. Three days were taken, that the ransom-price might be counted out; and its value fully estimated. The angels looked, and admired. The “spirits of the just “came and examined it, and wondered, and were delighted. The very devils in hell could only express their satisfaction by biting their iron bonds, and sullenly keeping silence, because they had not a word to speak against the sacrifice of Christ. The three days passed away, and the atonement was fully accepted. Then the angel came from heaven-swift as the lightning flash-he descended from the spheres of the blessed, into this lower earth, and he came into the prison-house, in which the Saviour’s body slept; for, mark, His body had been kept in the prison till God ratified His atonement and accepted it-He was lying there a hostage for His people. The angel came, and spake to the keeper of the prison, one called Grim Death, and said to him, “Let that captive go free.” Death was sitting on his throne of skulls, with a huge iron key at his girdle of iron: and he laughed, and said, “Aha! thousands and thousands of the race of Adam have passed the portals of this prison-house; but none of them have ever been delivered. That key has been once turned in its wards by destiny; and no mortal power can ever turn it back again, and draw the bolts from their resting.places.” Then the angel showed to him Heaven’s own warrant, and Death turned pale. The angel grasped the key-unlocked the prison door, and stepped in. There slept the Royal Captive-the Divine hostage. And the angel cried, “Arise, Thou Sleeper! Put off Thy garments of death. Shake Thyself from the dust, and put on Thy beautiful garments.” The Master arose. He unwound the napkin, and laid it by itself. He took off His graveclothes and laid them by themselves, to show He was in no hurry, that all was done legally, and therefore orderly. He did not dash His prison.walls aside to come out; but came out by legal process, just as He had entered in. He seemed to express Himself as Paul did, “No, verily, let them come themselves, and fetch Me out.” So was the Master set at liberty-by heaven’s own officer, who came from heaven to give Him just liberty-God’s proof that He had done all that was necessary. Thou Lamb of God! I see Thee rising from Thy tomb in splendour ineffable, dazzling the eyes of the guards and making them flee away in terror. And when I see Thee risen from the dead, I see myself accepted, and all Thy dying redeemed people fully delivered. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
And they departed quickly from the sepulchre.
Joy in the morning
Just as a man who has travelled in the dark, looks back at break of day from some lofty eminence on the way that he has gone, and admires the beauty and magnificence of objects that he passed, aware only of their existence and not their claims, or even deeming them objects of fear and not of delight, so the disciples, when enlightened from above, recalled the scenes and events of their Master’s life, and rejoiced in much which at the time they had not understood. Thus was it especially with the death and departure of Christ. They were to His followers like the fabled statue of Memnon, which sent forth sounds, mournful in the night, but melodious at the rising of the sun - when God’s morning light arose, how sweet the notes those facts, once only sad, emitted. (A. J. Morris.)
Sorrow ministering to joy
It is said that gardeners sometimes, when they would bring a rose to richer flowering, deprive it for a season of light and moisture. Silent and dark it stands, dropping one fading leaf after another, and seeming to go down patienty to death. But when every leaf is dropped, and the plant stands stripped to the uttermost, a new life is even then working in the buds, from which shall spring a tender foliage and a brighter wealth of flowers. So often, in celestial gardening, every leaf of earthly joy must drop, before a new and Divine bloom visits the soul. (Mrs. H. B. Stowe.)
Joy the shadow of sorrow
In this world full often our-joys are only the tender shadows which our sorrows cast. (H. W. Beecher.)
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail.
How the risen Christ is seen
It is not supposed that the impartial Christ, or the Christianity of His gospel, literally prefers one sex to the other. But He respects the nature of each, and does not abrogate the laws of that nature. To that one, therefore, that has the clearer spiritual eyesight, Christ will disclose the first radiancy of His glory. In that sex that loves most, and therefore, suffers most, and is perhaps capable of sinning most, He finds the faith-faculty most ready to recognize Him, and on that, therefore-as if in a kind of compensation for the first sin, and the tender sensitiveness to all injury-He bestows the blessing of the earliest benediction of His resurrection voice. The general distinction thus drawn between the sexes reappears, in its measure, between individuals of each of the two; and there is thus a similar advance of clearness in the other succeeding manifestations. The circle gradually enlarges from the solitary Mary to a great company of men as they are gradually prepared to see and believe.
I. This is the certification afforded by our Saviour’s resurrection to the fact of his divinity. “They came and held Him by the feet and worshipped Him.” They worshipped, and He did not check it. Was He not the one that teaches of what their worship is? The resurrection had transfigured, and as it were had divinized all his mortal signs. It had never been heard before that a man lifted himself, by his own will, out of the grave, and asserted his superiority to all the forces of destruction. Surely here must be nothing less than the Creator’s majesty. In the glorified form the “ Son of God” stood revealed not less than the “ Son of Man.” They worshipped Him. Place beside this truth another. These faithful believers were not believers in a one-sided or ultra-spiritualism-“They held Him by the feet, and worshipped Him.” Here were two signs of a living faith, the touch and the bended knees. Both were welcome to Him who knows every secret spring of the soul’s strength, and who replaces the dead formalism of the Law with the vital forms of a spiritual kingdom. Again, a supreme value is set here, for the Christian life, on the Saviour’s personal presence. To the Church for eighteen hundred years it has been spiritual, not corporeal, yet literal and real. Men of action and thought, if you do not feel anything real about this I know not how to reason with you about it. We can only tell you what we have seen or felt. Those institutions and movements in the world, however active and religious, seem to have no permanent life in them, which are without this living conscious connection with the person and presence of Christ, so as to draw their constant supplies of power from Him. They seem like streams, however full, which run from a cistern and not from the fountain in the hills. He does not say to them “All hail.” I am sure that Christ is with me and has for me all the power and love I need; He lives greatly in me and for me. As it was then, so now; they who are spiritually best prepared by affliction, earnestness, sympathy, with the spirit of His life and laws, and by love for Him, have the clearest and earliest disclosures of His Deified presence. (Bishop Huntingdon)
Meeting with Jesus
All that concerns our Lord after His resurrection is calm and happy. A French writer calls the forty days on earth, “The life of Jesus Christ in glory”; truly it was glory as full as earth could then bear. His tomb was empty, and consequently the disciples’ griefs would have been over, had they fully understood what that vacant grave meant. Then was their choicest time for living fellowship with their risen Lord, and He did not fail to grant them the privilege on many memorable occasions. Since our Lord is risen, we also may have happy communion with Him. These are days in which we may expect Him to manifest Himself to us spiritually, as He did for forty days to the disciples coporeally. Let us not be satisfied unless it is often said of us, “Jesus met them.”
I. Is the way of service Jesus meets us “As they went to tell,” etc.
1. He may come at other times, as He did to those who visited the sepulchre, to those walking out to Emmaus to others fishing, and to the eleven assembled for mutual consolation.
2. He is likeliest to come when we are doing His work, since
(a) we are then most awake, and most able to see Him;
(b) we are then in special need of Him;
(c) we are then most in accord with Him.
3. But, come when Jesus may, it will be a blessed visitation, worthy to be prefaced by a “Behold!” Oh, that he would come now!
II. When Jesus meets us he has ever a good word for us. The fittest motto for resurrection fellowship is “All hail!”
1. A word of salutation.
2. A word of benediction.
3. A word of gratulation.
4. A word of pacification.
III. When Jesus meets us it becomes us to arouse ourselves. We ought at such times to be like the disciples, who were-
1. All alive with hopeful energy. “They came.” In eager haste they drew near to Him. What life it would put into preachers and hearers if the Lord Jesus would manifestly appear unto them! Dulness flees when Jesus is seen.
2. All aglow with happy excitement. They “ held Him by the feet,” hardly knowing what they did, but enraptured with the sight of Him.
3. All ardent with reverent love. They “ worshipped Him.” What heartiness they threw into that lowly adoration!
4. All amazed at His glory. They were prostrate, and began to fear.
5. All afraid lest they should lose their bliss. They grasped Him, and held Him by the feet.
IV. From such a meeting we should go on a further errand.
1. We must not plead spiritual absorption as an excuse for inactivity, but must “go” at our Lord’s bidding.
2. We must seek the good of others, because of their relation to our Lord. He says, “Tell My brethren.”
3. We must communicate what our Lord has imparted-“Go, tell.”
4. We must encourage our brethren by the assurance that joy, similar to ours, awaits them-“There shall they see him.” Thus shall we best realize and retain the choice benefits of intercourse with the Lord. Not only for ourselves, but mainly for the benefit of others, are we to behold our Lord. Then let us go to holy work hoping to meet Jesus as we go. Let us go to more holy work when we have met Him. Let us labour to abide in Him, looking for His promised appearing, and exhorting others to do the same. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away.
The chief priests’ story
I. Let us begin with an exact understanding of the whole story at once.
II. Coolly and dispassionately it becomes us to weigh the tale, therefore, on its merits.
1. In the very outset the antecedent improbability of particulars crushes it. How came a trained watch all to sleep?
2. The immediate followers of Jesus had no motive to steal the body of their Lord.
3. They had no concerted plan to do any such thing.
4. The Jews never told this tale in any judicial audience or court, so that it could be subject to cross-examination. Stealing was a capital crime, yet none of the disciples were ever arrested.
5. There was awful risk to the soldiers if this story was true. Death was the penalty of a Roman sentinel asleep at his post.
6. The inherent impossibility of the act itself.
7. Then what could have been done with the body after the disciples had got it in possession? The resurrection of Jesus is more than a fact; it is a doctrine; and takes all the other Christian doctrines in its train. (C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
An arrant Jewish fable
For indeed this text is a mere romaney, as arrant a Jewish fable as ever was told; a conspiracy so full of rotten fictions that nothing is true in it all, but that it is a conspiracy, that it is a fiction.
I. Then we must bolt out the confederates.
II. The way of confederacy is by putting a forged tale in the soldiers’ mouths.
III. The plot is collaterally against the disciples for being breakers-up of graves and robbers of the dead.
IV. The main intended contrivance was to discredit the true doctrine of our Saviour’s resurrection.
V. Handle the improbability of all, of what contradictions the plot consists, never to be pieced together. (Bishop Hacket.)
The Roman soldiers and the Jewish rulers
Show the falsehood and improbability of the report, “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept.”
I. It is very unlikely that a guard of Roman soldiers should sleep upon duty.
II. The absurdity of this report is manifest from itself, for men cannot say what is done when they are asleep.
III. If the guard of soldiers had fallen asleep as they were watching at the sepulchre, they must have awaked if any attempt had been made to steal the body.
IV. The remaining of the burial clothes affords proof that the body was not removed by friends or other men. Whoever came upon such a design would have been in a hurry, and would have executed their design with all possible expedition, whereas here are marks of leisure and composure.
V. It is not conceivable that the stealing away, or the clandestine removal, of the body of Jesus could answer any purpose whatever; therefore it was not thought of nor attempted by any.
VI. There does not appear anywhere in this history any intimation of the disciples expecting the resurrection of Jesus; therefore they did not contrive any account of His being risen, nor had they beforehand any thought of it till they had more than sufficient evidence of that event.
VII. This saying of the guard must have been false, forasmuch as no punishment was inflicted on any for taking away the body.
VIII. It remains, therefore, that the testimony of the disciples of Jesus concerning the resurrection is true and credible. (N. Lardner.)
Some of the particulars of the negotiation between the chief priests and elders on the one hand, with the guards on the other hand, shall be the subject of our meditation.
I. Looking at the heads of the Church and the heads of the people, it might be concluded that from such a source nothing could flow that was not consistent with religion and “honour.” Wherever a lack of principle and high-toned feeling might be found, it would assuredly not be found in the reverend fathers who were the ornaments of that Church which dated back to the days of the patriarchs and prophets. The “elders,” too. These were the “princes” of the people and the heads of family associations. Their rank, their education, their hereditary civil privileges and consequent authority, their judicial relations to the people-all these circumstances were of a kind to justify the expectation that their words and their deeds would be not only wise and constitutional, but also free from all injustice, narrowness, meanness, low cunning, corruption, and heartlesshess. Where among the Jewish laity were pure principles, lofty aims, commanding virtue, strict integrity, general greatness of character to be looked for if net in these the aristocracy of the nation?
II. These distinguished men took steps, which legally were allowed, to gain one greatly-desired object of their lives, namely, the death of Christ. How much nefariousness was employed by them in arranging and completing their murderous scheme so as to bring it within constitutional limits it is not our design at present to inquire. All the help that was possible by law they secured. The governor by courtesy gave them permission to use a guard of soldiers to further their plans. The captive Lord, doubly captive for a time, rose from the dead. The military watchers told “the things” which had come to pass to the “ sacred” and “noble” men under whose brief authority they acted. Supposing these had doubted the truth of the affirmations made by the soldiers, what, in that case, was the course suggested by their doubts? It was clearly that of inquiry-patient, careful, fair inquiry. Try the temper of the man. Ask him if it be true, as some say it is, that not many days since he sat down to meat with unwashen hands? What an active volcano of sacerdotal indignation I Did you think there were beneath that dignified and quiet exterior such force and fire as this half-implied imputation against his ceremonial goodness has stirred into activity? Is it not a mystery that this saintly-mannered man should be one of those who, having “taken counsel,” advised that “large money” should be given to the soldiers to declare deliberately a thing to be true which both he and they knew to be entirely false! Yet he did all this, and did it without an apparent hesitancy or even the smallest sign of compunction or self-reproach. “Say ye, His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we slept.”
III. Then as to the agents paid to commit the sin. There was, it must be allowed, a very great conventional and accidental disparity between the parties. These soldiers were, most probably, of the “lowest order.” They were uneducated. The military life had not helped to improve in them either mind, heart, or manners. Add to these things the facts that they were nationally Gentiles and religiously pagan. Were they, however, on these accounts to be used as mere matter-tools to be handled without a thought about their consciences or their moral responsibilities? Might they be used as landlords sometimes use tenantry? or as manufacturers use their “hands?” or as some among the “upper classes “ use their dependent tradespeople and menials? Was it right to treat them as having neither part nor lot in the interests of truth and goodness? The Jews had been taught that God was “mindful” of “man.” The high priests and elders in Jerusalem knew no man had a right to “sell” the truth, whatever his condition in life, his nationality, or his degree of knowledge. It is not to be much wondered at that the soldiers “took the money and did as they were taught.” Was not the cause of condemnation unspeakably greater in the bribers than in the bribed? We are verging upon days which will be trying days to the followers of Christ. They will be intensely exciting days, and, as such, likely to throw mind and conscience off the even balance. Can it by any casuistry be shown that to use station, money, learning, or other power at command, for the purpose of inducing a man to do or to say what is contrary to his belief is an act of “righteousness,” and that it will help to exalt a nation? Let us show that we are prepared to encourage political conviction, and even to aid those around us to become fully persuaded in their own minds that we honour men not because they think as we think, but because they fairly and at some cost of time, effort, feeling, try to learn what is true, and have the disposition and the will to do what they believe to be right. Such a spirit and such a bearing on our part will help to make the nation “righteous,” will also aid in healthfully drawing class nearer to class, and will greatly assist in counteracting and in hastening the expulsion of the diabolical spirit, which in every age, under varying conditions, has made its appearance-the spirit which bargains that for so much money there shall be so much lying. (T. Lloyd.)
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee.
On the mountain
I. Is the world’s need any less now than it was then? The needs of the human soul are still unsupplied by any material satisfactions. The conscience of the world is still troubled with the old problem, “How shall man be just with God.” If the gospel be withheld from the knowledge of mankind the problem remains insoluble. The misery of man is great upon him still. “Go ye therefore,” etc. Tell men that God loves them. Such is the great commission.
1. Look at its universality.
2. Look at its intellectual character, “Go teach all nations.” The gospel is an appeal to human intelligence.
3. Consider its gentleness. The Divine condescension in act of bending down to reach men, disciple them.
II. Are the encouragements given to those who put themselves instantly in a way of obedience to this last command in any degree less than they were at first? The followers of Christ had heavenly power on their side then. Has it waned? “Go,” even if you doubt. Once before our Lord had seen the world and its kingdoms “from a high mountain.” The race shall enter into the kingdoms of the world. (A. Raleigh, D. D.)
But some doubted.
I. Philosophic doubts. All men are not philosophers, and cannot reason as Descartes did from self to all outside. We must accept some axioms without proof.
II. Rationalistic doubts. The withholding faith in spite of evidence. They mistake the use of reason in matters of faith. Men act upon three propositions in determining what is right.
1. That is right which we think to be right.
2. There is no telling what right is.
3. That there is a final arbiter.
The objections of the rationalists are based on foregone conclusions.
1. It is declared a priori that the Infinite cannot be a person.
2. That nature is uniform. These are urged against the Bible. But miracles have been wrought. Will a man stand on the wharf as the steamboat is departing and declare that steam is an absurdity?
III. Spiritual doubts. Such are pestered with fears of a different kind.
1. They believe that death is a crisis.
2. That the soul is guilty. Are we pardoned?
3. Some are troubled by the doctrine of election. (F. L. Patton, D. D.)
1. There is a sense in which Christianity is accountable for the doubts with which it is often assailed. It fosters the spirit of thoughtfulness, inquiry, of mental activity. There are bodily states-of liver and stomach-that may contribute to affect us with temporary gloom of doubt. There are states of the social atmosphere that may contribute to affect us in the same way; when the general air is charged with doubt, we can hardly help being affected by it. Some doubts are the sign of mental quickening. But we must be careful to distinguish these from those resulting from moral deterioration and decline. What used to be a beautiful certainty has paled away in the mist, not, though, under research, but through too much business care; it has come upon him like a change of weather in the night. Sometimes, again, it is a deeper understanding, or a more vivid perception of one particular link, that renders us doubtful in relation to other things. We must be careful in yielding too readily to the apparent inevitable destructiveness of a truth that has burst upon us with new and fascinating power. The contradiction may be a temporary illusion. Again, men often come to doubt what they have ceased to require so urgently as they did; wanting it less, they believe it less. (S. A. Tipple.)
Doubts and fears
I. From whence arise those doubts and fears so distressing to many? Many fruitful sources from whence they spring.
1. Sin is often the cause. Inward foes, etc.
2. Carelessness will often lead to uncertainty and doubt.
3. Disobedience, neglected duty, etc.
4. Worldliness necessarily produces them.
5. Seasons of temptation are often seasons of doubt. “Satan worries whom he cannot devour with a malicious joy.”
6. Ignorance is perhaps the most fruitful source. Ignorance of what is written was evidently the cause of doubt here. How many appear not to understand (Psalms 103:12; Romans 8:1; John 10:28, etc.). Salvation is a present certain reality (Ephesians 2:8; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 10:14). It may be ignorance as to the work of the Holy Spirit. Losing sight of Christ, many become taken up with feelings and self.
II. Their baneful influence. They by no means prove a state of high spirituality.
1. Doubts dishonour God; rob Him of the praise that is due to Him.
2. Mar our comfort.
3. Weaken our strength for service, conflict, and devotion.
4. They chill our affection.
5. They stunt our spiritual growth.
6. Unfit us to witness for Christ.
7. Influence others unfavourably.
III. Their remedy. As faith is a fruit of the ever-blessed Spirit, no assurance can be obtained but from the same Divine source.
1. Look and get away from self.
2. Study the sacred word more.
3. Live nearer the Lord.
4. Seek to have a more simple, child-like faith-faith that takes God at His word; that raises no cavilling questions; that lives above circumstances, appearances, and feelings, even upon “Thus saith the Lord.” (G. Cobb.)
I. Doubting in matters of religion. Doubt which arises from ignorance. Doubts which mark the course of inquiry. Doubts which indicate moral perversity. Doubts about our personal religion.
II. The practical influence of doubting in matters of religion. It is no apology for indifference. It ought to stimulate inquiry. It contains an element of belief-doubt, not denial. It may be an ultimate benefit.
1. Christianity is not doubtful because it has been doubted.
2. Its truths are so great that occasional doubting is not wonderful.
3. All classes of doubters should not be treated with indiscriminate harshness.
4. There are broad marks of distinction between the doubts of the saint and of the sinner. (D. Young, D. D.)
Doubt not to abandon truth
When the ship shakes, do not throw yourself into the sea. When storms of doubt assault spiritual truths, do not abandon yourself to the wild evil of the world that “cannot rest”. The ship rolls in the wind, but by the wind advances. (T. Lynch.)
We must not let go manifest truths because we cannot answer all questions about them. (J. Collier.)
1. You hesitate because you are measuring by human standards and taking your level from nature.
2. You want more proof than God is pleased to give.
3. You judge that God should do something extraordinary.
4. Your faith depends upon what is rare and accidental.
5. Perhaps an interval of carelessness has dimmed the moral eye.
6. There was some temptation to doubt.
7. To God it is no little thing to be doubted by His child.
8. I feel sure that some who have doubted are now in heaven. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
He does not doubt wisely who, though stopping short of being an accomplished unbeliever, allows doubt to get ahead of belief; who does not, in fact, make believing his object, using the power and right of doubting only to preserve him against premature and crude and false conclusions. The truth-loving man will read and search, and think, and, let me add, pray, with the view to enlarge, and build, and beautify such a home for his soul as we are reminded of by the words of Solomon. “Every wise woman buildeth her house, but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands;” and “wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.” I believe in the palace-home of wisdom, with its seven pillars. But what home for the soul will the mere habit of doubting-and especially of doubting, for doubting sake-ever build, and what would be the pillars thereof? (H. H. Dobney.)
All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.
The prerogative of the Saviour
I. The prerogative itself.
1. Its nature-“power.” This means authority and ability.
2. Its extent-“all.”
3. Its acquisition-“given.”
II. View it in reference to his personal character. When an individual obtains elevation we are anxious to know something of his qualities. We would not wish an ignorant, unfaithful, impatient, unmerciful man to possess power. Christ gave Himself for us; power in good hands.
III. His prerogative in reference to his enemies.
IV. In reference to the saints. (W. Jay.)
Christ’s power beneficent
Had Cornelius Winter obtained an income of ten thousand a year, he would not have been the better for it. But many others would; and I know-being then under his care-that when he had an addition of two hundred a-year to his small income, it was no advantage to him; he never added one article to his dress, or one dish to his table, or one ornament to his dwelling. If Howard-the apostle of compassion-had obtained all the power of the late Napoleon, oh! how many millions would have been blessed! How grievous it is to see a cold-blooded, selfish wretch rising up in life, and prospering I for you know that his power will be only a capacity to insult, to strip, to oppress, to grind the faces of the poor. But how delightful it is to see a man of tenderness and generosity rising! for you know that his increased power will be a capacity to teach the ignorant, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to cause the widow’s heart to sing for joy, and to bring down blessings upon the heads of those who are ready to perish. But what was a Winter, and what was a Howard, to the Friend of sinners! Their hearts were no better than ice or iron, compared to His. Ah! Christians, we here find that power, absolute power, is placed just where it should be placed-where it is safe, where it is beneficent, where it will be glorious. (W. Jay.)
The power and authority of Christ
I. An account of the extent of our Saviour’s power; that He is invested with all power, both in heaven and earth.
II. A declaration of the original of that unlimited power and authority. “All power,” saith He, “is given Me,” that is, from the Father.
III. The commission He thereupon grants His disciples-“Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations.”
IV. The doctrine which all nations were to be taught, and into which they were to be baptized.
V. The practice of those who were to be baptized into this faith-“teaching, them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.
VI. The promise of effectual assistance to the disciples sent forth upon this commission-“And lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (S. Clarke.)
The undelegated rule and perpetual presence of Christ in His Church
I. The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of all authority.
II. The duty of those commissioned by Christ. To teach, not to sacrifice. To baptize.
III. The special promise which is to animate Christ’s true disciples. (R. Hibbs, M. A.)
Spiritual power the great want of the Church
Oh I how we want “all power” now. We all have our theories of the condition of the Church just now. I do not know what yours may be. Mine is not very bright, but I have this one belief in my soul, that what is wanted most of all is one great revival of spiritual life-one wonderful downpour of the grace of God from heaven to flood all the churches. It seems to me we get something like the barges and the vessels down yonder at London Bridge when the tide is out. There they lie in the mud. There are gangs of men, but they cannot get at these vessels and barges. What is to be done? Now, will you great engineers tell me how much horse power, how much steam power you want? There is nothing wanted but the tide. When the tide rises every barge begins to walk like a thing of life, and every vessel can readily receive its cargo and go out to sea in due time. When the heavenly tides of spiritual blessing begin to come up nothing can withstand them. What a glorious time it was when Mr. Whitefield and Mr. “Wesley were going up and down this land like twin seraphim, burning everywhere with the Divine flame, and carrying everywhere the Divine life. Can this be done again? Can the masses of the people be raised? Can we raise those that are sunk in ignorance and degradation? Do you think it cannot be done? It must be done. It shall be done. And this is the reason why we expect it: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” He can find another student in Oxford; He can find another potboy in Gloucester; He can find some one somewhere upon whom He can pour out His Holy Spirit, and send Him forth to preach with a tongue of fire that shall wake up the churches, and startle the world. Let us cry to God that it may be so. But we must first deeply feel the necessity of it, and rejoice that this necessity is met by the text: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” (R. Hibbs, M. A.)
Power on earth
What do we mean by “power” on earth? The politician will answer you, the statesman, the preacher, the orator. It is influence, the ability to turn men to one’s own will, to check, curb, turn, and use them, change their natures, and make them subjects and servants in body, soul, and spirit. That is power; something very different from the brute-force of a Samson or a Caesar, and far higher. Still, Caesar, in the organized government of Rome, did possess very considerable power, to which the world was obedient, whether through love or fear. And another such power there was-the ancient idol-worship of Rome and Greece. By these Satan held empire over the world. Two powers they were; yet in our Lord’s time so closely connected as to be almost one and the same. The Roman Emperor was the universal ruler. The religions of Roman, Greek, and Barbarian differed in little but the names of their false gods. The Jew alone, though subject to the Roman, maintained his belief in the One God, Creator, and Almighty. Thus the Roman empire and the Roman heathenism were but as one power against all other religions. And who was coming forward, thus claiming a new power, to be alone supreme in the world? Who came to overthrow the ancient, mighty, all-but-universal idolatry-the very perfection of empire to the statesman of that day, the very perfection of religion to the lovers of a gorgeous ceremonial, and the indulgers of human pride and selfish passion? Who came to be King and God? One whose public execution was written in the Roman records. One who preached humility as the only true greatness, who substituted penitence and self-denial for the indulgence of flesh and spirit. A Jew, too, of all races the most despised by Roman and Barbarian alike … The cause of Christ to the shrewdest human calculation must have looked simply hopeless; His claim to any power whatever a silly boast. Force His followers could not, might not, use. Argument they might; and then they came at once face to face with death. Yet the disciples went forth preaching Christ crucified, and risen again as the life of the world. It was not an attractive doctrine, nor an easy morality, that they preached. There was offered no earthly gain, or pleasure, or honour. And yet old Rome left her idols to worship Jesus; her emperors became Christians; the power of the world fell; the religion of the world was changed. (W. Michell, M. A.)
Christ’s universal dominion
I. The grounds upon which Christ administers this providential government.
1. It pertains to Him as the Eternal Word, by whose immediate agency the worlds were produced.
2. As the second Adam-both Son of man and Son of God.
3. By virtue of His Father’s grant.
4. Acquired through suffering and death.
5. Necessary to His government of the Church.
II. The consequences which flow from this momentous truth,
1. It gives unity to history.
2. It explains to us the intermingling of mercy with providence.
3. It gives wealth of consolation to the Christian. (B. M. Palmer, D. D.)
The universal dominion of Christ, the foundation of the commission which His ministers receive, and His promised presence their encouragement in fulfilling it
I. The universal dominion of Christ here asserted-“All power,” etc. The word “power” in our language is ambiguous. Sometimes it signifies ability or capacity, and sometimes rightful authority. In both these senses it is true of Christ; He has both the ability to act and the authority to warrant His acting.
1. That as a Divine Person the Saviour has all power inherent in Himself.
2. In virtue of office, the power here spoken of is delegated to Christ-“All power is given,” etc.
3. This power and authority extend to universal nature.
4. This power is deposited in Christ as the Head of the Church, and to be exercised for her benefit.
5. This power is to be exercised in the destruction of all who do not submit to it.
II. The commission given by Christ to his ministers in virtue of that power with which he is invested.
1. That it is only to those who are called by God, and qualified for His service, that this commission is given.
2. This commission extends to all nations as regards the persons to be benefited by it.
3. It embraces all that the Saviour has made known in His word.
III. To consider the encouragements afforded to the ambassadors of Christ in the discharge of their duty.
1. Christ is with His Church and people always; not His essential but gracious presence.
2. A particular call to notice this truth, “I am with you always.” How highly is Jesus exalted. (R. McIndoe.)
Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations.
A plea for missions
There are many lessons in these words.
1. A lesson as to the result of death. Some thought that death had taken all “power “ from Christ. They that follow Christ as well as the Master are not robbed by death; but on the other side of it they say, “Power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
2. The reward of labour. The reward of toil is a call to a wider task, to conquer the world for Christ.
3. The cure of doubt. “But some doubted. And Jesus said, Go ye, and preach the gospel.”
I. The largeness of the Saviour’s purpose-“GO ye, and teach all nations.” What an amplitude there is in the gaze of Christ. What a reach in His merciful design. Calvary has not robbed Him of His love. With the freshness of the resurrection power upon Him, He bids men to look at mankind and conquer the world for Him. Our hearts are wofully small, and the little heart projects its littleness into everything at which it looks. From this littleness of hope and faith lift up yourself to the dream of the Saviour. His eye has never rested upon the man of whom He despaired.
II. The lowly methods which Christ adopts-“go ye, therefore.” The instrumentality is weak only in our conception of it. Christ knows what the gospel will effect. Christ is a true force, and can touch the heart. He knows the power of the cross in its very gentleness. He chose men to preach it. He knew the weakness of the twelve; He also knew the power there is in each one of us; He knew the power of sympathy to enter the soul.
III. The encouragements to obey the Saviour’s call-“All power is given unto Me.” “Lo, I am with you always.” Error says, “All power is given unto me.” Sin, death, say the same. But truth says, “All power is given unto Christ.” All things work together on behalf of the gospel.
IV. How this charge has been obeyed. (R. Glover.)
Each church contributing to the mission-plan of God
It has been a constant joy to me that from year to year this church has been one of its affluents; and as the Amazon does not disdain any side-stream which rolls its treasure into the bosom of that ocean river, so every single church, every sidestream, is not disdained that rolls its golden sands into this great movement which is the river of God that is fertilizing the whole globe. (H. W. Beecher.)
The work of the Church
I. The nature of the work which Christ has entrusted to His Church.
1. Work of spiritual enlightenment.
2. Work of ingathering into His Church. Manifold, yet one. Let us arouse ourselves to the duty of gathering all suitable persons into its fellowship.
3. Work of incitement to holiness. As holiness is characteristic of God, so it ought to be of His people. Thus the work is rapidly sketched by the Redeemer.
II. The extent of the work Christ has committed to His Church. Christ’s preaching prepared the way for the doctrine of universal brotherhood. No people, near or remote, are to be neglected. This distinguishes Christianity from all other systems of religion. It is not let them come if they will and receive the gospel, but go forth, leave all, and proclaim the gospel, etc.
III. The encouragements to the work which Christ has entrusted to His Church. There are many discouragements in the execution of this commission. “The kings of the earth have set themselves together,” etc.
1. The power of Christ. We have might as well as right on our side.
2. The presence of Christ. (A. A. Southerns.)
I. A great truth was revealed-“All power,” etc.
II. A great trust was imparted.
1. They were to make disciples of all nations.
2. They were to administer the ordinance of Christian Baptism.
3. They were to instruct their converts in the mind and will of the great Master and Saviour. “Who is sufficient for these things?”
III. A great promise. (J. R. Thompson.)
The great commission
I. the nature of the command.
1. It gives authority for missionary undertakings.
2. Obedience to it is a test of a disciple’s love.
3. Connected with the Saviour’s promise-“I am with you.”
4. It is binding until Jesus comes again.
II. What encouragement is derived from it?
1. Encouragement as to God’s purposes concerning our fallen world.
2. That human instrumentality is appointed for the furtherance of God’s purposes.
3. This explains the opposition we meet with in doing God’s work: Satan is the god of this world.
4. We may reckon on our Master’s sympathy.
5. We have a certain hope of final success. (W. Cadman, M. A.)
The great commission
A church, even of five hundred, represented by eleven unknown and inexperienced workmen, looked a very poor engine with which to convert the world, but the least thing became a mighty thing in the service of a mighty agent.
I. The first point to be considered in this great charter of missionary enterprize was that the church’s missionary work reposed upon Christ’s elevation to supreme command.
1. On the eve of His mortal shame, when His feelings seemed to lie at the lowest, He still knew that the Father had given all things into His hands; and after the resurrection, within a few days of His ascension, He claimed it as a gift given to His crowned mediatorship-all power in heaven and in earth. The sphere in which He had been thus constituted rightful Master was the whole universe; as stated by the eloquent apostle, it extended “ far above all principalities, and powers,” etc. It is on this universal range of lawful control held now by Jesus in virtue of His office, that the world-wide missionary activity of His Church depends. Christ’s rule was the basis of their mission. It was only when He was on the point of ascending to the throne above the heavens that He revoked His former restriction, which was, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not;” but now, in the room of that revoked restriction, He issued His commission to His ambassadors in the widest terms, “Go ye now and convert all the nations.” This gave the legal authorization to their missionary enterprize, justifying the missionary in setting aside the edicts of magistrates, and braving their threats of persecution.
2. What was the work to which Jesus committed His Church in this authoritative fashion? The word translated “teach” in the text would read better “disciple”; the apostles were to be the representation to other men in other lands of that same spiritual process which had passed upon themselves. The two processes which made up conversion were discriminated as baptizing and teaching. Christ first brought His disciples to that point at which they were willing to accept Him by a public profession and a symbolic sacrament, and then built up their Christian life in knowledge and service. What he had done for them He desired them to do for others. To do the work of baptizing and teaching required a combination of qualities which were very rarely blended in a single character. It was necessary to combine enthusiasm with patience, faith with labour; the former for the first, the latter for the second, stage in the Christianizing process. In the glorious warfare in which we are engaged there is room for every temperament. All are soldiers.
II. The church’s missionary success depends upon the spiritual support and presence of the Lord Jesus.
1. The results of mission labour ought to be less discouraging than they sometimes seem to be. The friends of missions are too prone to credit the disparaging representations made by their enemies. They speak of this great enterprize, more than they need do, in a tone of apology.
2. We are living near the beginning of what might be called the third great missionary era-and what might prove to be the last age of Christian propagandism.
3. The conversion of the world is the task for which the Church of this country has girt itself. Much has already been accomplished, and on the ground of natural likelihood alone-to say nothing at all of Divine promises-the conversion of the world to Christianity began to appear to the candid eye of an onlooker but a mere question of time.
4. The promised presence of Christ has not failed.
5. Let us throw ourselves with new heart and soul into this most cheering and hopeful of all enterprizes. (J. Oswald Dykes, D. D.)
The great command
The command to teach all nations implies-
1. That Christianity is a universal religion; not merely one of the religions of the world from which, with others, we, in this later day, are to select an eclectic or universal religion.
2. That it is adapted to all nations and all classes (Romans 1:6), a claim which history has abundantly justified, but which was urged by early opponents as a conclusive objection to 2:3. That not a natural development, but obedience to the principles inculcated by Jesus Christ, constitutes the secret of true civilization among all nations, and thus that Christian missions are the mother of civilization.
4. That from all nations the members of Christ’s Church triumphant are to be gathered to God by obedience to this commission. (L. Abbott.)
The great commission
I. The time of it, or the occasion and circumstances under which it was given.
II. The obligation of it, or the authority by which it is enforced.
III. The extent of it, or the sphere of its operation.
IV. The nature of it, or the message to be communicated. (A. L. R. Foote.)
The false and the true universalism
This incident-the concluding one of Christ’s earthly sojourn-is extremely valuable, among other reasons, as bringing forward what may be called the universal element in Christianity. There is a false universalism, and dangerous as false, and common, too, as dangerous. How to meet it? Not, surely, by running into an opposite extreme of exclusiveness, but by exhibiting the true universalism. For there is a valid universalism in the gospel, and what is it? Not Christ in every man-which is the latest form of error in this matter-but Christ for every man. Not Christ at the root of human nature, in some inexplicable way, waiting only to be developed, but Christ at the root of the gospel, waiting only to be received by a simple faith. (A. L. R. Foote.)
Practical missionary zeal
The heathen are perishing; they are dying by millions without Christ, and Christ’s last commandment to us is, “Go ye, teach all nations:” are you obeying it? “I cannot go,” says one, “I have a family and many ties to bind me at home,” My dear brother, then, I ask you, Are you going as far as you can? Do you travel to the utmost length of the providential tether which has fastened you where you are? Can you say “Yes”? Then, what are you doing to help others to go? As I was thinking over this discourse, I reflected how very little we were most of us doing towards sending the gospel abroad. We are, as a church, doing a fair share for our heathen at home, and I rejoice at the thought of it; but how much a year do you each give to foreign missions? I wish you would put down in your pocket-book how much you give per annum for missions, and then calculate how much per cent. It is of your income. There let it stand-“Item: Gave to the collection last April … ls.” One shilling a year towards the salvation of the world! Perhaps it will run thus-“Item: Income, £5000; annual subscription to mission, £12” How does that look? I cannot read your hearts, but I could read your pocket-books and work a sum in proportion. I suggest that you do it yourselves, while I also take a look at my own expenditure. Let us all see what more can be done for the spread of the Redeemer’s kingdom. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The slow progress of Christianity
Now one of the laws which God has arranged, and which He observes is this-the higher the form of life, the longer it is in coming to the fulness of its power, to maturity and perfection. For instance, a child continues helpless longer, and takes far more time and care to rear and train than does the offspring of any one of the lower animals. It is even so among these lower animals themselves, for “the lion has a longer infancy than the sheep, and the sagacious elephant than either.” Take, again, a more abstract illustration. For example, how rapidly does a man’s physical life grow and develop compared with his mental or moral. So, too, with society: shops grow faster than schools, and a nation, as our own has done, may progress in a most marked manner in the region of politics or commerce, and yet, like our own again, lag sadly behind in the matter of education. Besides, how much more is education than the diffusion of information or the quickening of intelligence? Is there not the difficult task of upbuilding character, and, alas! how marked often is the discrepancy between the intellectual standard and the moral tone? Thus the law runs: the higher the goal to be gained or the good to be sought, the slower is the race or the individual in its pursuit, the longer in its attainment. In the light of this law, we at once see that it is just what might be expected, that Christianity, as the highest possible form or principle of life, should be, speaking of it as a whole, the most gradual in its progress and realization, and, further, that it is according to all nature and analogy that Christianity, as the grandest and most delicate order of life, should be at once the most sensitive to the unfavourable touch of man, as well as the soonest subject to the prejudicial effects of his mistakes or defects. (J. T. Stannard.)
I. The command-to make disciples of all nations.
1. They preached the gospel.
2. They baptized the proselytes.
(1) Proselytes were baptized without delay-“that same day” (Acts 2:41; Acts 8:26; Acts 8:40).
(2) They administered baptism with water. This was symbolical of the renewing influences of the Holy Ghost.
(3) Apostolic baptism was administered “ in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”
3. The apostles taught the baptized persons to observe all things whatsoever Christ had commanded them.
II. The encouragement. “Lo, I am with you,” etc.
1. This encouragement was intended primarily and especially for the apostles.
2. It was intended also for all other ministers and teachers in every age.
(1) Ministers still need the gracious assurance of their Lord.
(2) Baptism teaches parents what things they should teach their children. (H. March.)
Significance of the form of baptism
I. This form of baptizing in the name Of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost may refer to their authority as giving rise to this institution.
II. It may refer to the whole scheme of Christian doctrine, which centres in the discoveries that are made us concerning the sacred Three.
III. It refers to the distinct dedication to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that is required as to all that are baptized, which the ancients reckoned to be signified by the triune immersion that was commonly used among them. (Edward Calamy.)
The form of baptism
I. By being baptized in the name of God, can be meant no less than entering into covenant with a person, as God; professing faith in Him as such; enlisting one’s self into His service; and vowing all obedience and submission to Him.
II. What has Scripture revealed at large concerning the Divinity of the three names into which we are baptized?
1. Concerning the Divinity of the Father there is no dispute.
2. Divine titles are given to the Son in Holy Scripture.
3. The Holy Spirit is described as the immediate author and worker of miracles. The very same things are said in different places of Scripture of all the three Divine Persons, and the very same actions are ascribed to them.
III. What interest have we in the doctrine of the Trinity?
1. Many regard this as a speculative doctrine only.
2. Our religion is founded upon it. For what is Christianity but a manifestation of the three Divine persons, as engaged in the great work of man’s redemption, begun, continued, and to be ended by them, in their several relations of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, Three Persons, One God? If there be no Son of God, where is our Redemption? If there be no Holy Spirit, where is our sanctification? Without both, where is our salvation? (Bishop Horne.)
Baptism is a religious rite, which was generally practised before our Saviour instituted it; for the Gentiles, in their solemn acts of devotion, made use of sprinkling and ablutions, and the Jews baptized all proselytes to their religion. To explain this part of our religion we must consider-
I. What that belief is which qualifies persons for baptism.
II. What is the end and design of baptism.
III. What is meant by being baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
IV. How baptism is to be performed. (J. Jortin.)
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.-
The doctrine of the Trinity practically considered
I. Let me remind you that the scriptural Trinity implies that God is one. The trinity of our faith means a distinction of persons within one common indivisible Divine nature. It implies, therefore, at its base, that the Divine nature is one and indivisible. For this reason God revealed the essential oneness of His being first; and it was only after many centuries that Jesus could disclose to His disciples the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” On polytheistic soil no such revelation could have been intelligible; it was to monotheistic Israel that it was made. The new revelation of a Trinity in God left quite unaltered the faith of the apostles that God is one. What is the chief spiritual benefit which we derive from the knowledge of the unity of God? It is the only religious basis for a moral law of perfect and unwavering righteousness. Rival gods, who care each for his own separate interests, and for no other, must neglect moral law in pursuit of their partial ends. You have no central power raised above the contention of inconsistent passions, whose only care is to make for righteousness and the common weal. Throughout the Old Testament there runs a stern denial of all secondary divinities, stern insistence upon one only true God, to whose single will all the wide fields of creation lie subject, and all the nations of men. The single will is righteous. It is the sole source of law; religion becomes the basis of virtue. Thus the Christian doctrine of the Trinity has preserved to us in undiminished power all the moral advantages which Hebrew religion drew from its revelation of the one God.
II. What religious advantage do we reap from the fresh christian discovery of a trinity within this unity of the divine nature?
1. The doctrine of the Trinity has heightened and enriched our conception of the nature of God. Such a Trinity as this leaves room in the Divine nature for the play of such moral affections as would be quite impossible to a mere single or solitary divinity. The lonely Deity whom human intellect, untaught by revelation, is able to fabricate for itself, is one utterly without passion or love till He has externalized Himself m a created world. The outcome of this is pantheism.
2. It affords a basis for those gracious relations which it has pleased God to sustain towards us in the economy of our salvation. These are facts of experience. (J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
The mystery of the most blessed Trinity
I. Is the greatest homage of faith.
1. By believing in this mystery we believe in the most incomprehensible of all mysteries, and consequently, we pay God the greatest homage. For I can have no sublimer conception of God than by professing Him absolutely incomprehensible. What else do we know respecting this adorable mystery but that we know nothing?
2. We sacrifice to God the noblest faculty of our nature, our intellect, by believing a mystery, of which we could not have the least idea, before God revealed it to us.
II. Is the most solid ground of our hope. Without faith, no salvation. The most necessary article of faith is the belief in the most blessed Trinity. No one can be saved, except he knows and believes
(1) that there are three Persons in one God; and
(2) that the second Divine Person became man for us.
III. Is the most urgent motive of charity.
1. It is the bond of brotherly love-“keeping the unity of the Spirit,” etc. (Ephesians 4:1).
2. It is the model of brotherly love (John 17:11; Psalms 132:1). Peroration: Oh, most adorable Trinity, unite us in this world, that we may be united in heaven,” etc. (Bourdalone.)
The doctrine of the Trinity considered in relation to practical religion
Let us see what simple facts are apparent in this revelation of God, and what service they may render to us in real life.
I. The father
1. He is the Creator of all things. As such He reveals His wisdom, etc.
2. He is the preserver of all things.
3. He is King of all, bending all to His will, and overruling all by His providence.
4. He is in a peculiar sense the Parent of His spiritual family.
II. The Son. God with us. This is a revelation of the humanity of God, and serves great purposes. It helps us to know and love God, and makes the redemption of man possible.
III. The Holy Ghost. God within us. His presence is proved by its fruits (Galatians 5:22-48.5.23). (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
The distinctions in the Godhead
Divine revelation makes known to us one living and true God, and prohibits all worship being paid to any being except Jehovah. But the phraseology employed obviously presents the one Jehovah under certain distinctions, involving the idea of a plurality in the Godhead. This distinction has been generally denominated the Trinity-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The doctrine has been controverted in all ages, and numerous are the theories which men have endeavoured to maintain on this deeply profound, and confessedly difficult subject.
I. It is obvious that a threefold distinction in Deity is not impossible. We have many symbols of this in nature: the sun-the light and heat thereof; man-body, soul, and spirit.
II. The Old Testament writings lead us to this conclusion (Genesis 2:22; Genesis 2:7; Numbers 6:24; Psalms 14:6; Psalms 41:7; Psalms 110:1; Psalms 136:1-19.136.3; 2 Samuel 23:3; Isaiah 6:8; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 59:19-23.59.20).
III. The writings of the New Testament exhibit this triune distinction (Matthew 3:16-40.3.17; John 14:16; John 15:26; Acts 1:4-44.1.5; Acts 5:30-44.5.35; Acts 10:38; Acts 20:27; Acts 2:28; Romans 5:5-45.5.6).
IV. The Divine works are ascribed to each of the triune persons.
4. Raising the dead.
V. That the essential titles and attributes are given to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
1. With what reverence and profound veneration we should study the nature and character of God. How awfully sublime is the theme-how utterly incompetent we must be to find it out to perfection- how essentially requisite holy fear and humility of mind in its investigation.
2. We should labour to ascertain the connection between the Divine Persons in the Godhead in the exercise of devotion and worship. We are to come to God through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. We are thus, also, to praise God, and to pray to Him. The Father is chiefly the object of worship, Christ is the way, and by the Spirit we worship Him in spirit and in truth. God our Father-God our Redeemer-God our Comforter and Guide.
3. Divine honours are to be equally given to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Let us labour to attain and enjoy love of the Father, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship and communion of the Holy Spirit. (J. Burns, LL. D.)
Threefold manifestation of Deity
Although we shall never again paint the Almighty as Giotto painted Him, as an old man with white hair in the clouds, with a young man at His side, and a dove flying from beneath His feet; and whilst we shall never again describe God as Athanasius described Him, yet the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity is fundamental, and rests on an impregnable basis. The Unity, the Humanity, and the Affinity or Immanent Deity, these are the root conceptions of all true theology, and these remain. The conception of variety in unity, the many and the one, pervades all life and nature, and is presented to us in man in a trinity of body, mind, and spirit. So Trinity in Unity is in God a diversity of manifestation or function, combined with a unity of life and purpose. We can hardly think of the Almighty in any other way. It is the normal order of thought metaphysically. Let us see. First, our conception of God is vague and indefinite: Creative Force pervading, correlating, co-ordinating all things everywhere. It is the All-Father, the First Person. But the instant we think more closely, our only definite conception proves insensibly anthropomorphic. All power, wisdom, intelligence, love, is, in some sort, human, manifested and transferred to God, but still human in nature and thought; and thus, the Ideal Man, the God under the limitations of humanity, steps forth. This would be so in the order of thought were there no figure of Jesus in history. We cannot but-we always have made God in our own image, God the Son, or the Second Person. But in prayer and worship He is apprehended as a Spirit only, in communion, in sympathy with ours; then He is God the Holy Ghost, or the Third Person. God the Vague, God the Definite, God the Immanent, that is the inexorable order of thought, and that is the eternal doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. This would be true whether we call ourselves Christians or not. But if you are a Christian, you believe in addition that the Ideal Humanity of God has once in all time been realized, and realized in Jesus. You believe that the eternally human side of God-which was before the Life Divine in Galilee, and will be for ever after it, the life-giving and the love-giving One-that all of Him which could become incarnate did become incarnate-came forth and dwelt amongst us as it has never before or since; that then and there, in the fulness of time, amongst the chosen people and in the holy land 1,900 years ago, a special use of human nature was made for a special purpose, and that we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (H. B. Haweis, M. A.)
The mystery of the Trinity
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost-three distinct Persons: in the Name, not names-one essence. The Holy Ghost is called the finger of God, Christ the hand of the Father. Now, as the finger is in the hand, and the hand on the body, so of one and the same most pure and simple essence is the Father, Son, and Spirit. But, as it was reported of Alanus, when he promised his auditory to discourse the next Sunday more clearly of the Trinity, and to make plain that mystery; while he was studying the point by the seaside, he spied a boy very busy with a little spoon, trudging often between the sea and a small hole he had digged in the ground. Alanus asked him what he meant to do. The boy answered, “I intend to bring all the sea into this pit.” Alanus replies, “Why dost thou attempt such impossibilities, and mis-spend thy time?” The boy answered, “So dost thou, Alanus: I shall as soon bring all the sea into this hole, as thou bring all the knowledge of the Trinity into thy head. All is equally possible we have begun together, we shall finish together; save that of the two my labour hath more hope and possibility of taking effect.” I conclude with, It is rashness to search, godliness to believe, safeness to preach, and eternal blessedness to know the Trinity; yet let us know to praise the Trinity in the words of the Church: “Glory be to the Father,” etc. And let all answer, “As it was … Amen.” (T. Adams.)
Doctrine of the Trinity: God a mystery to man
You have seen a steam threshing-machine at work. You know perhaps how the steam acts upon the machinery, and sets the wheels in motion; but does the little insect that settles on the engine know what you know? Could it be taught? Well, when we try to understand the great God, we are like the fly trying to understand the engine. The being of God is a mystery to us; that is, it is something which we cannot understand. Man is a mystery to a dog or a horse. We can no more hope to understand how God is what He is than a dog or a horse can understand what man is, or what speech and thought and memory are. (J. E. Vernon, M. A.)
Belief in the Trinity not against reason though beyond it
Though I cannot explain this mystery to you, I think I can show you in nature certain figures whereby we may get some idea of how true the mystery is, though it is beyond our understanding. If I were to shut the window of a room, and cut a slit in the shutter, and put into the slit a piece of glass called a prism, you would see on the wall on the other side of the room a streak of red, yellow, and blue light. If I take the piece of glass away, there is only a streak of white light. Now learned men have found out that all pure white light is made up of red, yellow, and blue light; and by that piece of glass a ray of light can always be separated into the parts which make it up. Now, the red ray is light, the yellow ray is light, the blue ray is light. But the three together make up only one ray of light. Then, again. In your own self you have an image of the Trinity. You are made up of spirit, and soul, and body. Your spirit thinks, it prays, and you say, “I think, I pray.” Your spirit is you. If anything pains your body, you say, “I am in pain,” speaking now of your body as yourself. Again, your soul is moved by some passion, fear, or love. You speak of your soul as yourself, and say, “I fear,” or “I love.” Well, here there is the spirit you, the body you, and the soul you; and yet you are not three different creatures, but you body, soul, and spirit, make up one being, called man. Take another illustration. You know the florin, or two-shilling piece, has a cross of shields on one side. In the corners of that cross are flowers or plants. In the first and fourth are roses, the badge of England. In the second is the thistle, the badge of Scotland. In the third is a little cluster of clover leaves. The clover leaf, called in Ireland the shamrock, is the badge of Ireland. I will tell you how the Irish obtained the clover leaf as their badge. Long ago, when the Irish were heathens, there came to their shores St. Patrick, to teach them the true Catholic faith. He was brought to the king, and he spoke before him of the religion of Christ. The king listened attentively. But when St. Patrick began to tell him that there was but one God, and yet in that Godhead there were Three Persons, the king stopped him, saying, “I do not understand you. You say the Father is God?” “Yes.” “And you say that the Son is God.” “Yes.” “And you say that the Holy Ghost is God?” “Yes.” “Then,” said the king, “there must be three Gods.” St. Patrick, instead of answering, stooped down and picked a little clover leaf which grew at his feet. The clover leaf, as you know, is made up of three little leaves, joined together by a slim stalk, so that the three leaves make only one leaf. St. Patrick held up only one division of the leaf, and said, “This is a leaf?” “Yes,” said the king. He showed the second division of the leaf, and said, “This is a leaf?” “Yes,” said the king. He showed the third, saying the same words, and receiving the same reply. Then he held up the whole leaf by its long stalk before the king, and asked, “What is this?” “It is a leaf,” replied the king. “So learn from a humble plant the mystery of the Trinity,” said the saint. Now all this does not make us any more able to understand the mystery of the Holy Trinity; but it at least shows us that, although it is above our reason, it is not contrary to our reason to believe that God is Three Persons and yet but One God. (J. E. Vernon, M. A.)
The mystery of the Trinity
An ancient writer informs us that when the Egyptians named their greatest God who was over all, they cried thrice, “Darkness! Darkness! Darkness!” In the name of the Father-Darkness; and of the Son-Darkness; and of the Holy Ghost-Darkness! for, however much the mind may strive to penetrate this mystery, it can never attain to its solution. Just as the eye, looking at the sun, sees the overpowering light as a dark ball, being dazzled by its excessive glory, so the eye of the mind perceives only darkness when looking into the infinite splendour of God in Three Persons. We may, indeed, see sundry likenesses here on earth which assist us in believing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; but they are helps, and helps only, not explanations. Thus, the sun may shine into a glass, and the glass reflect in clear water, and we see three suns-a sun in the heavens, a sun in the glass, and a sun in the water; and this assists us to understand how the Son of God is of the Father, and the Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, and how that each is God, and yet that there are not Three Gods but One God. But, after all, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a matter of faith, and not of reason. We must believe, though we cannot understand. (S. Baring Gould.)
Mystery no bar to conviction
“Sitting lately,” says one, “in a public room at Brighton, where an infidel was haranguing the company upon the absurdities of the Christian religion, I could not but be pleased to see how easily his reasoning pride was put to shame. He quoted those passages, ‘I and My Father are one’; ‘I in them, and Thou in Me’; and that there are Three Persons in One God. Finding his auditors not disposed to applaud his blasphemy, he turned to one gentleman, and said, with an oath, ‘ Do you believe Such nonsense?’ The gentleman replied, ‘Tell me how that candle burns.’ ‘Why,’ he answered, ‘the tallow, the cotton, and the atmospheric air, produce the light.’ ‘Then they make one light, do they not?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Will you tell me how they are one in the other, and yet but one light?’ ‘No, I cannot.’ ‘But you believe it?’ He could not say but that he did. The company instantly made the application, by smiling at his folly; upon which the conversation was changed. This may remind the young and inexperienced that if they believe only what they can explain, they may as well part with their senses; for they are surrounded by the wonderful works of God, whose ways are past finding out.”
And, lo, I am with you alway.
Christ continually present with His Church
I. That the Saviour is speaking of more than that presence, which is inseparable from the nature of his own essential and eternal godhead. In the case of our Lord the Godhead is so modified by its alliance with the Humanity-modified not in itself, for there no modification would be possible-but in its action upon the Church,-that what is brought into contact with us, is the human sympathy of the Saviour, glorified by its connection with the Deity of His person.
II. The fact that communion with the Saviour is made possible by the advent of the comforter; that the coming of the Spirit is, to all intents and purposes, a coming of the Saviour to the people who love Him. The personality that is in Him whom we address, must vibrate to the touch of the personality that is in us,-or else communion will not have taken place. This has been made possible, though Christ is absent in the body, by the advent of the Holy Ghost. No one will be disposed to question that the personality of God can reveal itself to the personality of man without the intervention of a visible form, and without the employment of articulate language. There are modes of fellowship between spirit and spirit with which we are unacquainted, yet real and efficacious. He is said to dwell in the believer. We speak not of grace but of living communication. And where the Spirit comes Christ comes; and where the Spirit and Christ come the Father comes.
III. This coming of Christ to His people, precious as it is, is suited to a state of imperfection and discipline. We look forward to something beyond that which we enjoy now. There was the coming of Christ in the flesh. That passed away. It gave way to the coming by the Spirit. That is better, more spiritual, but insufficient. We look forward to the final, exhaustive coming. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
The present Saviour
Some benefits of Christ’s perpetual presence with His people, especially when that presence is realized.
1. It is sanctifying.
3. Comforting. (J. Hamilton, D. D.)
Christ’s parting promise
I. The promise-“I am with you alway.” What did Christ mean by this.
1. Can we attach to the words a meaning similar to that conveyed when speaking of the dead. We say that they still live in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. After the lapse of years we can often recall with vividness the features of one departed.
2. Men may live in their works. Is Christ only present as other good men are? We who believe in Christ as a supernatural revelation regard this parting promise as implying infinitely more than this. It meant the indwelling of a Personal energy distinct from any memory of Him. Is it replied that this is incomprehensible; life is incomprehensible. Christ is not a power generated in nature.
II. The fulfilment of the promise. (C. M. Short.)
The presence of Christ
1. That presence is spiritual. Not the consecrated host. The believers in the upper room had nothing to appeal to their senses.
2. This presence of Christ consists in something more than there is in His word. Caesar, Plato are still with us in their words; but there is infinitely more in the presence of Christ. Behind the written word there is the living word, the invisible Saviour who manifests Himself to the heart.
3. This presence is especially promised to the Church, and is the secret of its triumph over infidelity and persecution.
4. But what makes men doubt the presence of Christ in the Church is the sight of the inward state of the Church itself.
5. But what Christ announces to the Church He announces to the individual soul.
6. Affliction may be a proof of the Lord’s presence.
7. Is there anything on earth grander than faithful love? “I am with you alway.” (E. Bersier, D. D.)
Christ present, though appearances may seem to the contrary
In gloomy winter’s day no tree moves its verdant top in our fields; no flower casts its perfume to the winds; everything appears dead in nature. Will you tell me that the sun has not risen? No, although he has disappeared behind a curtain of clouds, he makes his powerful action everywhere felt; and without the sun, which you do not see, there would remain for you only an icy shroud, and the darkness of night. The soul has its winter also, when the Sun of Righteousness no longer sheds on it more than a pale glimmer, when obedience is performed without joy. (E. Bersier, D. D.)
Desirableness of Christ’s presence
I. Christ’s presence is exceedingly desirable to the saints.
1. The presence of Christ is an evidence of His love.
2. Christ’s presence is attended with the most desirable effects; none can enjoy it without deriving the greatest advantages from it.
3. Present communion with Christ is an earnest of everlasting fruition.
II. A seemingly departing Christ may be constrained, as it were, to abide with His people.
1. By the exercise of a lively faith.
2. By fervent prayer.
3. By a suitable conduct towards him. (B. Beddome.)
Christ’s presence essential
Nothing could supply the room of Christ to His Church; not the gospels, though they record His eventful life and death; not the epistles, though they contain the full revelation of His own truth; not ministers, though they are His ambassadors; not ordinances, though they are the channels of grace, and so many meeting places between our souls and Him whom our souls love. None of these, nor all of these together, can be to the Church, in the stead of its own Divine Redeemer and Head. Without His continued presence and aid, the Church would speedily come to an end. People may talk as they please about the omnipotence of truth, and the adaptation of Christianity to man, but in a world like this, hostile to the truth, and alienated from God, no security short of that presented in the actual indwelling of Christ in His Church, His own kingdom and house, will be sufficient. To this we owe it, that there has been a Church in the world up to this hour; to this we owe it, that there shall be a Church in it to the end of time. (A. L. R. Foote.)
The ever-present Saviour
1. This is the language of One who had been through the passage of death and known the bitterness of separation.
2. It is difficult to realize this invisible presence; it is more real when realized. It is spiritual, always with us.
3. It conveys the idea’ that before the mind of the speaker all the days lay ranged in their order to the last.
4. It is an inner presence.
5. Most minds, whatever they be, do best in fellowship. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The charm of the Divine presence
Suppose a friend who combines everything which goes to make your idea of friendship-intellectual, wise, modest, fond, true, good. Suppose such a person just set to your particular taste-in harmony with every thought; his society like a continual strain of music. You lean on his judgment-you are happy in his love. What a bloom on life-what a sunlight-what a charm-what a necessity that person would become to you! But what is that compared to Christ-to a man who has once learned the secret of finding His presence a reality? who knows and loves Him as his own near, dear, loving Saviour-the Brother of his soul-much more than another self. The very fact that He is there-though He did nothing, though there were no actual intercourse, though He were not seen-has an untold spell upon you. Did you never feel what the presence of a very little child would be, though there were not another man in the world? Think of what even a silent presence can be! But it is not silent. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Christ’s perpetual presence
I. What an insight we have here into the essential nature of Christianity itself, and what a guarantee for its permanence and power. It is something more than an outward revelation of facts, more than a community of brethren: it is a life.
II. May we not see in this promise the designed preventative against or remedy for certain evils sure to infest and corrode the life of His kingdom.
III. It is of the guarantee of the permanence and power of Christianity in Christ’s constant presence that I would now speak. The higher the principle of life the longer it is in coming to maturity; but also the surer when maturity is reached. This explains the slow progress of Christianity. (J. T. Stannard.)
Christ’s presence our stimulus
There is a touching fact related in the history of a Highland chief of the noble house of McGregor, who fell wounded by two balls at the battle of Prestonpans. Seeing their chief fall, the clan wavered, and gave the enemy an advantage. The old chieftain, beholding the effects of his disaster, raised himself up on his elbow, while the blood gushed in streams from his wounds, and cried aloud, “I am not dead, my children; I am looking at you, to see you do your duty.” These words revived the sinking courage of his brave Highlanders. There was a charm in the fact that they still fought under the eye of their chief. It roused them to put forth their mightiest energies, and they did all that human strength could do to turn and stem the dreadful tide of battle. And is there not a charm to you, O believer, in the fact that you contend in the battle-field of life under the eye of your Saviour? Wherever you are, however you are oppressed by foes, however exhausted by the stern strife with evil, the eye of Christ is fixed most lovingly upon you. (D. Wise,)
Christ’s presence all-sufficient
When Christ saith, “I am with you alway,” you may add what you will: to protect you, to direct you, to comfort you, to carry on the work of grace in you, and in the end to crown you with immortality and glory. All this and more is included in this precious promise. (John Trapp.)
Presence superior to memory
He promises His presence. How different the case would be if He had only said, “The memory of My life and work shall be with you always.” What a difference there is between a mere memory and a presence. At first, indeed, when we have just lost a relation or a friend, memory, in its importunity and anguish, seems to be and to do all that a presence could do, perhaps even more. It gathers up the past and heaps it on the present; it crowds into the thoughts of a few minutes the incidents of a lifetime; it has about it a greatness and a vividness which was wanting while its object was still with us. But even a memory decays. That it should do so seems impossible at first. We protest to ourselves and to the world, that it will be as fresh as ever to the last day of our lives. But memory is only an effort of the human mind, while a presence is independent of it; and the human mind has limited powers which are easily exhausted; it cannot always continue on the strain; and so a time comes when the first freshness passes away, and then other thoughts, interests, and occupations crowd in upon us and claim their share of the little all that we have to give. And so, what seems to us to be so fresh and imperishable is already indistinct and faded. Oh!, think of any private friend, think of any of the celebrated men whose names were on the lips of every one, and who had died within the last two or three years! At first it seemed as if you might predict with confidence that the world would go on thinking and talking about them for at least a generation; but already, the sure and fatal action of time upon a living memory, however great and striking, is making itself felt; and even in our thoughts about them they are passing rapidly into that world of shadows, where shadows soon die away into the undistinguishable haze and gloom beyond them. It is otherwise with a presence; whether we see the presence or not, we know that it is here. If our friend is in the next room, busily occupied and unable to give us his time just now, still, the knowledge that he is close at hand, and can be applied to if necessary, is itself a comfort and a strength to us; we can go to him if we like. His being here places us in a very different position from that which we should occupy if he had left us; if we could only think of him as having been with us in times past, though really absent now. A presence, I say, is a fact independent of our moods of mind, a fact whether we recognize it or not; and in our Divine Saviour’s presence there is indeed a fulness of joy which means hope, work, power, eventual victory. (Canon Liddon.)
Christ’s presence secures the Church’s victory
This is a factor in the life and work of Christ’s Church with which persons do not reckon who look at her only from the outside, and judge of her strength and prospects as they would judge of any human society. They say that she will die out because this or that force, which has, no doubt, weight in the affairs of men, is for the time being telling heavily against her. If large sections of public feeling, or literature, or the public policy of some great country, or the influence of a new and enterprising philosophy, or the bias of a group of powerful minds are against her, forthwith we hear the cry, “The mission of the apostles is coming to an end; the Church of Christ will presently fail!” Do not be in too great a haste, my friends, about this. You have yet to reckon with a force invisible, and perhaps, as far as you are concerned, unsuspected, but never more real, never more operative than it is at this moment. You have forgotten the Presence of Christ. He did not retreat to heaven when His first apostles died; He promised to be with them to the end of time; He spoke not merely to the eleven men before Him, but to the vast multitude of successors who defiled before His eyes down to the utmost limits of the Christian ages: “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world!” With us by His Spirit; with us in the great sacrament of His love; with us amid weaknesses, divisions, failures, disappointments. He is with us still, and it is His Presence which alone sustains His envoys, and which gives to their work whatever it has had, or has, or has to have, of.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 28". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent