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“I am the Resurrection.”
ALL the titles of our Lord are names of power. They express His nature, perfection, or prerogatives; what they declare, He is. They are shadows of a divine substance. He who is Very Life raised Himself from the dead: “I am the Resurrection.” So He had declared before: “I give My life for the sheep. . . . No man taketh it from Me. . . . . I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”191191 St. John x. 15, 18. After His week of passion, He lay down to rest, having taken both sin and death in their own snare. Sin crucified Him, and death received Him into the grave. By His death He destroyed sin; by His rising again He abolished death; breaking up the snares 343in which He had given Himself to be entangled. His resurrection reveals the mystery of His Godhead and of His Incarnation. From the hour of the Annunciation, Godhead and manhood were in Him eternally united. When He gave up the ghost upon the cross, His human soul and His human body were parted asunder, as in the common death of man; but both soul and body were still united with His Godhead. His human soul went down into the abode of departed spirits. All who, from righteous Abel until that day, had waited for the revelation of the Redeemer—patriarchs, who had the promise of His coming, and prophets who foretold it—then at last beheld Him. Abraham, who afar off saw His day, and was glad, then saw His very presence. All His saints of old, with the penitent absolved upon the cross, beheld the divine seed of the woman, and entered with Him into the paradise of God. Meanwhile His sacred body, lying in the grave, pure and incorruptible, united still with His Godhead, waited the appointed hour. On the first day of the week His glorious soul returned to His pure flesh, and His manhood, whole and perfect, through the power of His Godhead, arose of His own will. He woke up as from rest in sleep; He came back the very same, and yet the same no more. The dishonour of His holy passion had passed away, 344 but its tokens still were there. Though His sacred flesh was no more torn and stained by thorns and scourges, yet the signs of His cross were there. The five hallowed Wounds are still imprinted on His glorious and immortal manhood. They are “the wells of salvation” to His elect, the fountains of light and love to the world of the redeemed.
And as in body, so in soul. He was no more the Man of sorrows, no more sorrowing unto death, no more in anguish, no more in agony of spirit, but calm, blissful, majestic. Death had no more dominion over Him; yet He was full of sympathy, learned by dying. All the depths of His human experience were in Him still. His past life of humiliation; the sorrows which, as God, He could never taste; the knowledge of our inheritance of pain, learned at Nain and Bethany, in the upper chamber and in Gethsemane; all this still lived in His divine consciousness. “He learned obedience by the things which He suffered;” and the ineffable mystery of His three and thirty years of sorrow rose with Him from the grave.
Wherefore this divine name, as it reveals the power of His own resurrection, so it is the pledge of ours. As He raised up Himself, so He will raise us likewise. He is our resurrection: “Because I live, ye shall live also.” “In Him is life, and the life is the light of men.” “As the Father hath life 345in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” “As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; so the Son quickeneth whom He will.”192192 St. John i. 4: v. 26, 20, 21. For like as the seed contains the harvest, and the power of a multiplying life ever rising from itself; and as the sun draws up after it the lights of the morning and the splendours of the day, so, because He is risen, we shall rise. As His Godhead and manhood are united in one divine person, so we and the Lord of the resurrection are united in one mystical body. A living head must needs have living members; and a Head that is risen must raise His members in due season: at that day when “He shall come to be glorified in His saints” in the fulness of His kingdom. Our union with Him, therefore, is no figure or metaphor, but is truth and spirit, reality and life. He is our resurrection.
This divine Name, then, is a pledge to us of many joys; but chiefly of three divine gifts.
1. The first is a perfect newness of body and soul. This is a thought of wonder almost beyond conception or belief. Death and the forerunners of death have so fast a hold upon the body; sin and the soils of sin pierce so deep into the soul, that the thought to be one day deathless and sinless seems to be a dream. Who has ever felt in 346 THE RESURRECTION. [SERM.
himself the working of sickness, or watched over it in others—who has ever seen it withering, wasting, crippling, deforming, dissolving the fairest and the strongest—baffling all skill of man, and all power of healing,—and not felt as if the body were a spoil given up for ever to the grave? People believe, indeed, that we shall rise again, not disembodied, but clothed in a bodily form; but do they realise that they shall rise again with their own bodies, in their very flesh, healed and immortal? Do they, as they hang over the clouded and darkened form of those whom they have loved, say, “I believe the resurrection of the body, of this very frame, made new in the kingdom of God?” And yet this is pledged to us. This very body shall be deathless and glorious as the body of His glory when He arose from the dead.
And so, too, of the soul. It shall be still more glorious than the body, even as the spirit is above the flesh. The more we know of ourselves, the more incredible, if I may so speak, for very blessedness, this promise seems. To be without sin, what else is heaven? And can it ever be that we, who brought sin with our life-blood into the world,—who have fallen and soiled ourselves through and through with wilful evil,—that we shall be one day clear as the light, and white as the driven snow? Yet this is His pledge to us. To believe it is even 347harder than to believe the mysteries of the Incarnation. For these are objects of the intellect, a faculty comparatively pure; but here it is the heart which must believe of itself that it shall be one day sinless. Our consciousness seems to rise up and say, “It is impossible.” What must we feel, as penitents remembering sins unnumbered and coldly repented; or as tempted and fearfully inclined towards our own destruction; or burdened and conscious of the inward taint and susceptibility of all spiritual disorder,—what must we feel at the thought that one day in all our conscience there shall not be a blot, in all our affections there shall not be a blemish, in all our will there shall neither be a shadow of variance with the will of our Lord, nor a moment’s relaxation of our love and worship?
To be ourselves the subject of this miracle of love and power; to be personally and inwardly restored to a sinless perfection, and raised to the glory of an endless life, as if death and sin had never entered, or we had never fallen,—is among those things which we almost “believe not for joy.” This is the first divine gift pledged to us by the resurrection of our Lord.
2. Another gift also pledged to us is the perfect restoration of all His brethren in His kingdom. “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may 348 behold My glory.”193193 St. John xvii. 24. “I go to prepare a place for you. . . . . I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”194194 St. John xiv. 2, 3. From His eternal throne “He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.” “He shall see His seed,”195195 Isaiah liii. 11, 10. and they “shall serve Him,”196196 Ps. xxii. 30. “and His name shall be in their foreheads.”197197 Rev. xxii. 4. He and all His servants from the beginning of the world shall be there united; all His patriarchs and prophets, all His martyrs and apostles, all His saints and penitents, all the companies and orders of life, all the hosts and armies of heaven, each one perfect as Himself, shall be gathered in His presence. We shall be “with Him.” We shall behold Him as He is; He will behold us as we are: He in the perfect sameness of His person; we in ours. What, then, means this unbelieving Christian world, when it asks, Shall we then recognise each other? Will not they all know Him as He them, and all know each other as He knows each? Will He know Daniel and Isaiah, and shall they not know each other? Or shall the Apostles, who knew Moses and Elias upon Tabor, know them no more, when all are transfigured on Mount Sion? And they who knew Him after He 349rose from the dead, and knew each other as they sat in amazement before Him in the morning at the sea of Tiberias, shall they not know each other in the light of His heavenly kingdom? O dull hearts, and slow to believe what He has Himself spoken: “God is not the God of the dead,”—of nameless, obscured, obliterated spirits, of impersonal natures, beings robbed of their identity, spoiled of their consciousness—of blinded eyes, or marred aspects. The law of perfect recognition is inseparable from the law of perfect identity. Our individual consciousness must be eternal. We should not be what we are to ourselves, if we were not so to others. They would lose their identity, if they were not the same to us. The whole of God’s kingdom, from His own incommunicable glory to the least among His elect, is founded upon the truth and identity of personal being. The whole mystery of our probation, and of the atonement, of our sanctification and reward, all alike rests upon the perpetuity of individual character. And the kingdom of God in glory is the perfection of His kingdom in grace, in which every several soul here tried, chastened, and purified, shall be there blessed, crowned, and sainted—the same in person, changed only to perfection.
And more than this. The perfect restitution which shall be in the kingdom of the resurrection 350 will bring back, not only perfect mutual recognition, but the restoration of all pure and consecrated bonds. Shall we be told that in the kingdom of God Jacob will no more be the son of Isaac, nor Isaac the son of Abraham? that Ruth shall not be to Naomi in bliss what she was in widowhood? Shall James and John be brothers no more, nor Martha and Mary sisters? or shall not St. Joseph be the espoused husband of the ever-virgin Mother, and the Lord her Divine Son? These bonds and relations are imperishable as the persons whom they unite. They stamp eternity and bliss upon the name of brother and friend, daughter and sister, husband and wife, son and mother. All bonds of God’s first creation shall be transcribed into the new. They are of His creation; therefore are they pure and steadfast, and shall be blissful and eternal. Surely, if this divine law were not written in nature, it is in grace. The mystery of the Incarnation has revealed to us a Mother and a Son, whose bond of ineffable love is eternal. This alone would be enough to shew that all bonds of love, all orders and relations of God’s institution, shall be likewise glorified. For in the new heaven and new earth the course of nature shall not pass away, but ascend upward into a supernatural perfection. As in the holy city there shall be neither sun nor moon, but the uncreated light, so shall all nature purified 351abide in God, and be filled with brightness; “for the glory of God” shall lighten it, “and the Lamb is the light thereof.”198198 Rev. xxi. 23.
3. And lastly, this title pledges to us an immortal kingdom. In the beginning God made man, and placed him in the garden, to dress it and to live of its fruits. Eden was to be his own, until translated to the Paradise of God. When he sinned he lost his inheritance and died: earth and heaven turned against him. The heaven lowered with perpetual changes, the earth gave scanty and reluctant fruits; storms and scourges, toil and thorns were his portion. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” was his earthly chastisement: and with sin death spread on every side. All his fairest joys became transient; the most perfect could only endure for a time, and then pass away; eternity had departed with God from the soul of man. What are our sorrows and griefs, toils and weariness, but this, that all our life and state has become transient and changeful? What are poverty, hunger, sickness, early deaths, the breaking up of the most lasting homes, the cutting off of houses and lineage, the failure of hopes, the bitter lamentations of baffled labours, the sickening disappointment even of success,—what are all these but the penalty which fell upon the world 352 when man sinned, wasting away his earthly happiness with a perpetual blight? Though he had all his heart’s desire, it could not endure for ever; though it endured for ever, it could not satisfy his soul. But the resurrection has restored to us a changeless and eternal home. It has given back to us our inheritance in the Paradise of God, where there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, of which the first creation, even in its perfection, was only an imperfect shadow. In that true paradise there shall be no seasons nor vicissitudes, no sweat of the face nor hard toil for bread. An everlasting noontide shall be there; an endless spring in the newness of unfading joy, a perpetual autumn in the ripeness of its gifts. There shall be “the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits;”199199 Rev. xxii. 2. all joy and all delight for every capacity of man; reward for every toil, and health for every wound, after the manifold trial of every soul, in the Israel of God.
O home of the weary and over-laboured, of the toiling and careworn, of the struggling and heavy-laden, blessed be thou! In thee shall be no more blasts and conflicts of the world, no more pining and want, no more straining and galling of hands and sinews, of heart and intellect. “There shall be no more curse.”200200 Rev. xxii. 3. But all shall be full, 353and all shall be at rest for ever. When all things here shall pass from us and we from them, this yet awaits us. “There remaineth . . . a rest for the people of God.” When the happiness of this life burns down, who can rekindle it? The joy of to-day sinks with the sun, and is remembered with sadness to-morrow. The happiness of this world is in the past; at best it lingers in the present, and, even while we are speaking, is gone for ever. All things are fleeting and transient; to see them, we must look behind us. Old friends, old homes, old haunts, old faces, bright days, and sweet memories, all are gone. Such is the best the old creation has for man. But the kingdom of the resurrection is before us, all new, all enduring, all divine; its bliss has no future, no clouds upon the horizon, no fading, no instability. All that we are, by the power of God, we shall be, without cloying, or change, or weariness, for ever.
It has been asked, “Do they keep Easter in heaven?” Not, it may be, by revolution of seasons, or by successions of a changeful calendar; but surely in a perpetual solemnity, in one ceaseless and pure act of heavenly joy, they keep all feasts in one. The feast of the Incarnation, the feast of the Resurrection, the feast of the Ascension, the feast of the Holy Ghost, the feast of the ever-blessed Three in the Beatific Vision,—these 354 they keep always, in the fulness of adoration, and it may be more than this. If there be “joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth;” if the angels of God’s little ones do always behold the face of their Father; if there be perpetual sympathy and perpetual intercession between the Church in warfare and the Church in rest; if at the altar they adore with us before the eternal throne, and in the light of God’s countenance behold all that He wills for their beatitude,—we may surely believe that the festivals of the Church on earth are no less noted than its repentance; that as they look down upon our sorrows, they keep harmony with our praise; that the fellowship of heavenly hosts, which is ever about the altar, shares with us in the celebration of our Easter sacrifice. Be this as it may, it is but a little time, and we shall all keep Easter in heaven: yet a little while,—and what matters a little while of sorrow or care, toil or weariness, hardness and solitude, repentance and striving, temptation and patience? After the fret and fever of a few short years will come the river of the water of life, “the times of refreshing,” and the rest of God. Let us remember that He who is the Resurrection is always with us; and if we be in Him, all things are ours; all shall be restored to us, all made new, all sinless and deathless, all our own again for ever.355
O eternal Life, O everlasting Peace, O Beauty uncreated, O changeless Love, Thou didst say, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Thou hast fallen into the earth and died; Thou art “the first-fruits of them that slept;” and from Thee, the divine seed of the new creation, shall spring up the harvest of God upon the everlasting hills. Quicken us by Thyself, that Thou mayest now be our Life; and that at Thy coming we may rise in Thee.356
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