« AnteriorContinuar »
THE IDENTITY OF JESUS PRESERVED.
pants of these thrilling scenes, is revealed by the supposition of the unrecognised presence of Jesus, and this again is in its turn corroborated by all the nature which it reveals.
At first view the four accounts of the resurrection of Jesus appear to be altogether irregular, brief and fragmentary. And so perhaps they are when tried by the formal and narrow principles of human systems and tribunals. When these historians are treated as witnesses in human courts sometimes are, subjected only to such interrogatories as one and another may be disposed to put to serve some private causepartisan purpose—it must be confessed they make but a poor appearance. Oftentimes they are but dumb witnesses, and again their answers appear vague, wandering, and aimless.' But let them be questioned by a simple love of truth, mingled with a wise reverence for nature, and then they are transfigured, and truth and nature recognise in them their own inspiration. And these writings in the most important and interesting sense are wonderful for the harmony and completeness they display.
Even if we had no knowledge of the precise circumstances under which the first appearance of Jesus after his resurrection took place, that he did re-appear after his death I could not doubt, not merely because so many instances of his presenting himself to his disciples are expressly specified, but because, without any effort or design on the part of the historians, the identity of his character before and after his death is so perfectly preserved. It is impossible that any one
THE PURPOSE OF HIS RESURRECTION.
gone before !
could have fabricated a personage whose tone of sentiment and expression should be in perfect accordance with that wonderful being who had a little while before expired on the Cross. No human art could have added another chapter to that life. How characteristic in its simplicity the manner in which he made himself known to Mary! We recognise him almost as readily as she did. Again, how like Jesus those words addressed to the incredulous disciple, “ Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Once more, that thrice repeated question addressed to Peter, * Simon, son of Jonas, , lovest thou me?' how wonderfully is it in keeping with the character of Jesus, and with all that had
How delicately, and yet how power fully, was it fitted to induce Peter to search his own soul, and abate something of that self-confidence which had, on former occasions, been so fatal to him. Besides, if Jesus had not reappeared, I am wholly at a loss to conceive how his religion could have escaped being buried with him. When he expired on the Cross, there was not a single human mind that at all appreciated his purpose or cherished his spirit.
Here, in its obvious necessity to give light and impulse to his followers, do I discover the principal object of his resurrection. I am aware that the general belief is that he rose from the dead to establish the doctrine of the life beyond the grave. But it is not in this way that Christ confirms my hope of immortality. I behold in him, in all that he said and
* See John xxi. 15—19.
THE ASCENSION OF JESUS.
did, the exhibition of a spiritual and immortal nature. If he had appeared in an angel's garb, and with an angel's wings, I could not have evidence that he belonged to another and imperishable world, so strong as that which presents itself not to my eye but to my soul-my consciousness-in his moral lineaments. In his spiritual truth and greatness I behold an unearthly halo, the living light of eternity; and as I discern and feel that, I feel and know myself to be possessed of a like immortal nature. So that it is not by the bare fact of his resurrection that I am convinced of another and unending existence. His resurrection, as it is a part and a prominent part of the grand spiritual manifestation, has its office in revealing the eternal world. But the primary purpose of his rising from the dead, as he himself more than once declared, was, like a sign from Heaven, to vindicate his authority. His authority it did establish gloriously, so far at least as his immediate followers were concerned. Although they continued to cherish the Jewish hope of an outward kingdom, still his death and resurrection wrought with them to induce them to postpone that fond hope, and though they never appear to have relinquished it altogether, yet it gave way in their minds to the authority of him who had given such glorious attestations of the divinity of his mission and office.
I do not intend to dwell upon his ascension, because there is no language in any of the Four Gospels, that necessarily implies that he ascended visibly. Matthew and John do not say a word about his final
THE CLOSE OF HIS HISTORY.
287 disappearance. Mark says, “so then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” We might with as much reason infer from this language that they saw him seated on the right hand of God as that they saw him received up into heaven. When he bade them farewell, they concluded of course that he had gone to heaven, and that he was placed at the right hand of the eternal throne, and they express themselves agreeably to this impression. And so Luke says, “and it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.” That he was separated from them is clear. They would so naturally conclude that he was carried up to heaven, that we cannot determine from this language whether they mean to say that they saw him carried up, or whether it was only their inference. I can only say that I am deeply struck with the silence of these accounts as to the mode in which Jesus came and went on the various occasions on which he presented himself to his disciples. That he did appear again and again to different individuals, and to large numbers, they fearlessly declare. They are not deterred from stating the fact of his appearance at different times by any apprehension of the doubts that might be started as to the manner in which he appeared and disappeared. If they were conscious of any difficulty on this point, they still do not hesitate to say that he did appear. But I imagine they were unconscious of difficulty. When he was present, they were too much filled with awe, too tremblingly impressed, too anxious to catch every word
THE CHARACTER OF THE EVENTS RELATED.
288 that fell from his lips, to speculate about the way in which he came and went. There is to my mind a sublimity in the darkness which wraps the close of this history, analogous to what we perceive in the ways of Providence and nature.
“ If thou ask to what height man has carried it in this matter, look on our divinest symbol ; on Jesus of Nazareth, and his life, and his biography, and what followed therefrom. Higher has the human thought not yet reached. This is Christianity and Christendom; a symbol of quite perennial, infinite character ; whose significance will ever demand to be anew inquired into, and anew made manifest."
In works upon the Evidences of Christianity, the question commonly discussed concerning the Four Gospels is, 'were they written by the persons whose names they bear?" as if the settlement of this point were the strongest possible confirmation of our faith. But, I confess, all that I can learn of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, does not give me so lively a confidence in the authors of these histories as is created in me by the histories themselves. To say merely that they are honest and impartial, appears to me most inadequate praise. By studying them in the manner which I have now attempted, I find my conceptions of the honest, the true, the candid, en