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texts which I have read to you, that it was so regarded and so acknowledged by our Lord himself, and by his apostles.
What remains, therefore, but that, whilst we cherish in our remembrance and our bearts a lively sense of gratitude towards the divine person, who was the visible agent, the great and patient sufferer, in carrying on the redemption of the world, we look also to the source and origin of this, as of every blessing which we enjoy, the love and tender mercies of God the Father. “Blessed therefore be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, to the praise of his glory in Christ, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.'
I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died
for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures; and that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve; after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James ; then of all the apostles; and last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time; for I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Amongst the various testimonies that have come down to us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and which, by consequence, ensure to us the hope of our own, no one possesses greater evidence, or carries with it stronger credentials of truth and authenticity, than that which is contained in the words which I have read to you.
I shall employ the present solemn, and surely if any ever was so, this joyful occasion, first, in laying before you such remarks and explanations as the words themselves may seem to
and part of
suggest; and secondly, in addressing you concerning the author and authority from which they proceed.
St Paul, previously to his writing this letter to the Christians of Corinth, had himself been in that city preaching the gospel amongst them in person.
Those to whom he now writes, whilst he was absent upon the same business in another country, were they whom he had some time before taught face to face; and most of them persons who had been moved by that his teaching to embrace the new faith. After having finished some occasional subjects which he was led to treat of in the epistle, he proceeds, as was indeed natural, to bring to their remembrance the great topics which he had set forth amongst them when he appeared at Corinth as an apostle of Jesus Christ. «I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.' He then introduces that short but clear abstract of the fundamental part of his doctrine, which composes our present text; and he introduces it with this remarkable preface; I delivered unto you first of all.' This was the first thing I taught you ; intimating that this is the fundamental and great essential of the christian system. In correspondence with which declaration you will find that the fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and what appeared to be, and what is, a plain and undisputed inference from it, that God will fulfil his promise by raising up us also at the last day, were in reality the articles of information to mankind which the apostles carried with them wherever they went; what they first disclosed to their converts, as the groundwork of all their addresses, as the cause and business of their coming amongst them, as the sum indeed and substance of what they were bound to deliver, or their disciples to believe. In proof of this, I desire it to be particularly remarked, that when the apostles, at Peter's suggestion, chose out from the followers of Christ a new apostle in the place of Judas, the great qualification insisted upon in that choice was, that he should be one who had accompanied the other apostles at the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out amongst them, that he might be, together with them, a witness of his resurrection. This circumstance shows that what they regarded as the proper office and business of an apostle was, to testify to the world from their own knowledge, and the evidence of their own senses, that he whom they preached had died, been buried, and was raised up again from the dead. After
this transaction, the first preaching of Christianity to the public at large, to those, I mean, who had not professed themselves the followers of Christ during his lifetime, was after the descent of the Holy Ghost, upon the day of Pentecost. Upon this occasion, in the presence of a great multitude who had then resorted to Jerusalem from all quarters of the world, wbom the noise of this miracle had gathered together, St Peter, with the rest of the apostles standing about him, delivered a discourse, of which the sum and substance was briefly this; • This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.' The same thing may be observed of two discourses held at Jerusalem by St Peter a short time afterwards; one upon curing the lame man at the gate of the Temple, the other upon his miraculous deliverance from prison. Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the solemn attestation of the fact, was the theme and subject of both discourses. Follow the apostles to any new place in which their discourses are recorded, and you will find this same thing the stress and constant burthen of their preaching. When Peter was called, in so remarkable a manner, to open the knowledge of the gospel to Cornelius and his friends, the intelligence with which he gratified the eager expectation of his audience was this brief but surprising history; · Him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.' When Paul and Barnabas, a short time afterwards, had been solemoly appointed to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, and for that purpose had set out upon a progress through the Lesser Asia, the most populous and frequented country of the East, the first public address which St Paul is recorded to have delivered, was at Antioch in Pisidia, of which this was the message; We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again.'
After much journeying from place to place, for the purpose of diffusing wherever he went the christian faith, we find his travels at length brought him to Athens, at that time the metropolis, in some measure, of science and learning. We cannot help being curious to know what the apostle would say there; how he would first unfold his extraordinary message to an audience of philosophers. Accordingly his speech upon this remarkable occasion is preserved ; in which he first reminds them of the great topics of natural religion, which we at this
and then ploching, the grica
day call the unity, omniscience, omnipotence, and infinity or ubiquity of God, all which their own researches might have taught them, and then proceeds to disclose that which was the proper business of his preaching, the great revelation which he was going about the world to communicate; God now commandeth all men every where to repent, because he hath appointed him a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained ; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he raised him from the dead.'
Whenever a set speech of the apostle's at a new place is recorded, that is, whenever he first opens the great affair of Christianity to strangers, and not where he is addressing those who have been before instructed, the great argument of his discourse is the resurrection; and therefore we are authorized to conclude in those other places where his speeches are not particularly given, that to preach the gospel, to preach Jesus, to preach the word, which they are said to have done wherever they came, meant the advancing of the great fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the decisive proof which they considered it as affording of a general resurrection at the last day. It was in perfect conformity, therefore, with St Paul's practice, as well as with that of the rest of the apostles, that he reminds the Corinthians of his having declared to them this doctrine first of all. His ministry amongst them began with it, as not only the most important, but the corner stone and foundation of all the rest.
But secondly, the apostle tells the Corinthians that he bad delivered to them what he himself had received. St Paul's knowledge of the gospel came to him in a manner perfectly peculiar. I neither,' says he, in his epistle to the Galatians,
received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.'
It does not, I think, appear that St Paul, like the other apostles, knew Christ during his lifetime, or that he had ever seen him. The necessary information concerning this great transaction was imparted to him by inspiration, at the time probably that he was miraculously converted. He was assured that it was not an illusion which played upon his fancy, because he was assured of a real public external miracle, which accompanied the reception of this knowledge.
But whatever certainty a divine communication might convey to himself, he was very sensible that it was not the most direct and satisfactory proof to others of a matter of fact, which was
capable of being attested by the evidence of men's senses. He therefore does not rest the point upon the communication which he had received, but appeals to what was less questionable by others, the testimony of those who had conversed with Jesus after his resurrection, in the ordinary and natural way of human perception. His account of the matter is very full and circumstantial ; 'He was seen of Cephas,' which was the name, you remember, that Christ had given to Peter, 'then of the twelve; after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles.' These words are very memorable. A fairer, a more public, or candid appeal to the evidence of a fact was never made. Not content with saying in general terms, that he was seen of many, that he was seen of his disciples, he gives the names of two eminent brethren who saw him, men both perfectly well known by reputation, at least, and to many, it is probable, personally known in the several churches of Christians; and not only so, but inen living at the time. He names Peter, to whose history and character they could be no strangers. He mentions James, at that time presiding over the church in Jerusalem. He names the twelve, all well known, by fame, at least, and report, to every christian convert; and then he refers to above five hundred brethren who saw him at one time, of whom the greater part remain unto this present;' that is, were upon the spot, being witnesses of the fact, at the time the epistle was written. He proceeds, in the last place, with great humility to state his own personal assurance of the same fact, by telling them, that, not then, indeed, but some time afterwards, Christ was seen of him also. He alludes, no doubt, to Christ's appearing to him at his conversion, upon his road to Damascus. Accounting, as he well might, the ocular manifestation of Christ raised from the dead as one of the greatest favors that could be vouchsafed, he observes, that whilst all the other apostles were indulged with this satisfaction during Christ's abode upon earth, it was not granted to him until some considerable time afterwards.
This difference, he acknowledges, was no more than just and due; inasmuch as he had rendered himself unworthy of the name and character of an apostle, not simply by being an unbeliever in Christ's word, but by going about with a furious and mistaken zeal to persecute all who called upon his name; • last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due