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This is the point of view in which St. Peter presents himself to us just before our Lord's crucifixion.
Turn now to the fourth chapter of the Acts, and see what his language then was after Jesus had actually been put to death.
He and John having healed the lame man whom they found sitting at the gate of the temple, were apprehended, and thrown into prison, and the next day were called upon to answer for their conduct before the high priest, and the other chief rulers of the Jews. And upon being questioned by what power and by what name they had performed this miraculous cure, Peter answered them in these resolute terms. "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we be this day examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole, be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."* And when, soon after this, Peter and John were straitly threatened, and commanded not to speak at all, or teach in the name of Jesus, they answered and said unto them, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you rather than unto God, Judge ye; for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."+
What now is this that we hear? Is this the man who, but a short time before, had shamefully renounced his divine Master, and declared, with the utmost vehemence and passion, that he was utterly unknown to him? And does this same man now, after the crucifixion of his Lord, and when he himself was a prisoner, and had reason to expect a similar fate, does this man boldly tell those in whose power he was, that by the name of Acts, iv. 18. 20.
Acts, iv. 8. 12.
this very Jesus he had healed the lame man? Does he dare to reprove them with having crucified the Lord of life ?Does he dare to tell them that God had raised him from the dead; that there was no other name under heaven by which they could be saved; and that, in de fiance of all their indictions and all their menaces, he must and would still continue to speak what he had seen and heard?
In what manner shall we account for this sudden and astonishing alteration in the language of St. Peter ? There is, I will venture to assert, no other possible way of accounting for it, but from that very circumstance which St. Peter himself mentions in his speech to the high priest, namely, "that he whom they had crucified was, by the almighty power of God, raised from the dead."* It was this change in the condition of his divine Master, which produced a correspondent change in the character and conduct of St. Peter. It was this miracle of our Lord's resurrection, which could alone have produced the almost epually astonishing mira. cle of St. Peter's complete tranformation. Had Jesus never risen from the dead, as he had repeatedly prom. ised to do, he would have been a deceiver and an impostor; and that St. Peter, knowing this, should openly and boldly profess himself his disciple when dead, after having most peremptorily denied him and disclaimed all knowledge of him when living and should expose himself to the most dreadful dangers in asserting a fact which he knew to be false, and for the sake of a man who had most cruelly decived and disappointed him, is a supposition a supposition utterly repugnant to every principle of human nature, and every dictate of common sense, and an absurdity too gross for/ the most determined infidel to maintain.
We have here then one more proof, in addition to all the rest, of the resurrection of Christ, intelligible to the lowest, and convincing to the most improved understanding. And that this was the great decisive fact which operated so surprising a revolution in the mind of St. Peter, is still further confirmed by the stress
Acts. iv. 10.
which he himself laid upon it, in his answer to the high priest, and by the constant appeal which he and all the other apostles made to this argument, in preference to every other; for we are told that" with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all."* And St. Paul goes so far as to make the belief of this single article the main ground and basis of our salvation. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." The reason of this is, because the belief of the resurrection of Christ unavoidably leads to the belief of the whole Christian religion, to the truth of which God set his seal, by raising the author of it from the dead: and the belief of the Christian revelation, if genuine and sincere, will, with the blessing of God on our own strenuous exertions, produce all those Christian graces and virtues, which, through the merits of our Redeemer, will render our final calling and election sure.
The resurrection of Christ being thus established on the firmest ground, the conclusions to be drawn from it are many and important; but I shall at present confine myself to two of them; which seem more particularly to deserve our notice.
The first is, that this great event of the resurrection affords a clear and decisive proof that Jesus was what he pretended to be, THE SON OF GOD; that the religion he taught came from God; that consequently every doctrine he delivered ought to be believed, every command he gave to be obeyed, and that every thing he prommised or threatened will certainly come to pass. For had not his pretensions been well founded, and his religion true, it is impossible that the God of truth could have given them the sanction of his authority, by raising him from the dead. But by doing this, he gave the strongest possible attestation to the reality of
his divine mission.
The next inference from the fact is, that the resur• Acts iv, 33. † Rom. x. 9.
rection of Christ is an earnest, a pledge, and a proof of our own. He had promised his disciples, " that where he was, there should they be also:" And the scriptures in numberless places assure us, that we shall rise.. again from the grave, and become immortal. Now these promises receive the strongest confirmation from his resurrection, which shows, in the most striking and sensible manner, that our bodies are capable of being raised to life again, and that God will actually re-animate them, as he did that of Jesus. In this our Saviour acted conformably to the spirit and genius of his religion, and to his constant method of teaching, which was, to instruct mankind by facts rather than by words. It was his intention (and thanks be to God that it was) that our faith should stand, not in the wisdom or eloquence of man, but in the demonstration of the spirit, and of power. He went about therefore, not only preaching the word, but doing good, doing good miraculously, making the principles and the evidences of his religion palpable to the senses of mankind. When John sent to know whether he was the expected Messiah or no, Jesus, instead of entering into a long and laboured proof of his divinity, took the more compendious and convincing way of proving his point, by performing in that instant many miraculous cures, and then referring the Baptist to what his messengers had seen and heard.* In the very same manner, in the present instance, the assurance he gave us of our resurrection was not speculative and argumentative, but practical and visible. A thousand objections might have been formed by the fashionable philosophers of that age against the possibility of restoring breath to a dead body, and raising it alive again from the grave.Our Lord could very easily have shown, by unanswer-, able arguments, the futility and absurdity of any such objections. But the disputers of this world would have cavilled and objected without end. And therefore, to put an effectual stop to all such idle controversy, and to convince all the world that it was not a thing incredible
* Matth. xi. 4.
that God should raise the dead, he himself rose again from the grave, and became the first fruits of them that slept. He triumphed over death, he threw open the gates of everlasting life; and whoever treads in his steps as nearly as they can through life, shall follow him through death into those blessed regions where he is gone before to prepare a place for such as love and imitate him. "For if the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his spirit that dwelleth in you.'
Since then we have such expectations and such hopes, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness? The ancient heathen might say, the unbelieving libertine may still say, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die; let us enjoy, without reserve, and without measure, all the pleasures which this world affords, for to-morrow we may leave it, and we know of no other. But how absurd would it be for the Christian to say this, how mad would it be for him to act accordingly, when he knows, that though tomorrow his soul may be separated from his body, yet that they will be again united, and live forever in a future state of existence? What an amazing difference does this fact make in our circumstances, and how inexcusable shall we be, if it does not produce a suitable difference in our conduct! Even the possibility of such an event must have a powerful influence over our mind and manners; what then must be the case when it amounts, as it does with every sincere believer in the Gospel, to absolute certainty? With what cheerfulness shall we acquiesce under poverty and misfortune, when we reflect, that if we bear them patiently, and hold fast our integrity, these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, shall work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! With what indifference shall we contemplate the charms of wealth and power, with what horror shall we turn away from the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season, when we know that the one
*Rom. viii. 11.