Project Canterbury

Parochial Sermons

The Posthumous Works of the Late Right Reverend John Henry Hobart, D.D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New-York.

Volume Three.

New-York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1832.

Sermon XXVIII. The Reasons of Joy Contemplating the Day of the Lord.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm cxviii. 24.

This, my brethren, is the voice of triumph which, on the recent festival of Esther, was heard in the church. What a different scene, even to the eye of the world, does the day of Christ's resurrection present, from that which marked the day of his crucifixion! We, my brethren, even on that day, penetrated by faith the cloud of humiliation which enveloped our Lord and Master, and beheld his cross and passion but as the preludes to his glorious resurrection--to the triumphs of this day. But the incredulous world could only have seen in Jesus Christ a malefactor suffering the ignominious death of the cross.

What is the spectacle which the day of Christ's resurrection presents! The sepulchre to which the body of this malefactor was consigned, the entrance of which was sealed by the seal of the Roman governor, and which was guarded by the implacable enemies of Christ, is open--the body of Jesus is gone. Even the incredulous world must adopt the language of the faithful--"The Lord is risen indeed." "This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad."

[335] Yes, my brethren, this one circumstance alone, if there is faith to be given to what no man in his senses will doubt--historical testimony--this one circumstance, that the body of the crucified Jesus disappeared from that tomb which his vigilant enemies guarded with the express purpose of preventing its being stolen away--this one circumstance proves that he must have burst the bands of the grave through divine power--that God raised him from the dead.

But we have other evidence of this glorious event. It is morally impossible that the apostles should violate every dictate of common sense, and every feeling of interest, by enduring persecutions and privations without a parallel, in the service of a crucified impostor--in the testimony that their Master had risen; that they had seen him, conversed with him, handled him, and associated with him for a considerable time--when, in fact, his body was rotting in the grave. It is morally impossible that they should have submitted to persecution and death in attestation of an event which they knew had never happened; that they, who, timid and cowardly, forsook their Master and fled when he was taken and crucified, should suddenly become bold and undaunted in proclaiming what they knew to be false--that this crucified malefactor had risen from the dead. We shall discover an incredulity which sets common sense at defiance, if we can believe that these unlettered, friendless, and despised fishermen of Galilee could, by their own unassisted efforts, induce the Jew to forsake the magnificent ceremonies of his law, and the Pagan to renounce his vices, and the splendid, wanton, and sensual worship that allured him in [335/336] the temples of his gods, in order to take up the cross of an outcast Nazarenc. It would be the extreme of incredulity to believe that the stupendous truth, that the crucified Jesus was risen from the dead and exalted to universal dominion, should almost immediately find its way into the remotest regions of the known world, and become the glory and the consolation of the learned and the great, as well as of the poor and the ignorant, unless it had been enforced by the power of the Most High.

Of the day of Christ's resurrection we may then say, in the language with which the inspired psalmist eulogized it--"This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad." We rejoice,

1. Because, by his resurrection, the scandal of the cross of Christ is removed.

Certainly the humiliation in which Christ appeared was not calculated to conciliate the favour of mankind. Poverty, obscurity, suffering, are not the passports to their applause. Pride of birth, elevation of station, and a course marked by ease, by wealth, by splendour, and by deeds of glory, are the means of exciting human favour and commanding human applause. Jesus Christ had none of these, with which to win the hearts of men. Humble in his birth, poor and suffering in his life, he died the death of a malefactor. The world beheld only darkness, only scandal in the cross. But when Jesus Christ arose from the grave, he surrounded that cross with splendour and with glory. The Victim who suffered on it is not a malefactor smitten of God, but the favourite of heaven, who [336/337] has vanquished death, and is crowned with honour. We rejoice,

2. Because the resurrection of Christ authorizes our confidence in him as a Teacher sent from God.

It is indeed most contrary to human calculation, that a messenger from heaven, on the most benign errand that could bring down one of its exalted host, should appear in the character of the most humble of the tenants of the earth, and, marking his course by tears and sorrow, should descend from the cross to the tomb. But how has God confounded the wisdom of this world! The cloud of humiliation that covered the Saviour, rendered more illustrious the glory of his resurrection, and made more striking this attestation of God to the truth of his mission. "He was crucified out of weakness," saith the apostle; "he liveth by the power of God." He foretold what the language of prophecy had pointed out as the characteristic of the Messiah, that he should be crucified, and should rise again. Contrary to all human calculation, and certainly above all human power, the prediction was verified: Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. He could have been thus raised only by the power of God. Either, then, we must blasphemously put the seal of God to an imposture, or acknowledge that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is from above; that all which he proclaimed, all which he commanded, all which he promised, all which he threatened, are armed with the authority and sanctioned by the voice of the Most High. We rejoice, [337/338]

3. For the resurrection of Christ proved that he is, what he claimed to be, a divine person--the Son of God.

It was the character of the Messiah predicted by the prophets, that he was to be the Lord our righteousness. As "the Lord," this messenger of the covenant was to "come to his temple." And corresponding with the predictions concerning him, and with the magnificent preparations for his coming, to which all the divine dispensations pointed from the beginning of the world, were many of the circumstances of his appearance. His incarnation by the power of the Holy Ghost; the praises of the celestial legions at his birth; the new star that proclaimed his glory in the East; the voice from heaven acknowledging him to be the beloved Son of God; the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, when the divine glory encircled him; and even the hill of Calvary, which, the scene as it was of his ignominy, became, in the convulsions of nature, in the shrouding of the lights of heaven, in the opening of the tombs, in the rending of the vail of the temple, the theatre of his glory--all these prove that Jesus Christ is more than the most exalted of men: they confirm his own actions, when in his own name, and with no derivative or dependent power, he controls nature at his will, and shows that he is nature's Maker and Lord; they confirm his own declarations, when he assumes, without hesitation, an equality with God--before all things--one with the Father.

Still one thing was wanting to put the seal of God himself to the divinity of Christ--his resurrection from the dead. Committed, as he undoubtedly was, to the tomb as a malefactor, and yet [338/339] triumphantly predicting his rising again, all the evidences of his divinity afforded by the illustrious circumstances of his life, by his actions, by his declarations, would have passed for nothing, had the prediction not been fulfilled. If Jesus Christ had remained in the grave after he had predicted his triumph over it, he would have been consigned to infamy among the impostors that had deluded the world. But rising from the grave, he proves that he is the Son of God with power: he announces, in that mighty voice by which he burst the barriers of the tomb, "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, the Almighty." "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore; and have the keys of death and hell." We further, then, rejoice,

4. Because, by his resurrection, Jesus Christ was constituted the Lord and Ruler of all things, and the Judge of the world.

"For this end," saith the apostle, "Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." "God will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, of which he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he raised him from the dead." Partaker of the glory of the Father before the world was, as the Son of God, Jesus Christ also, before the world was, possessed universal dominion. In an incomprehensible manner, but for a purpose infinitely beneficent--our salvation from sin and death--the Son of God assumed the body that was prepared for him, united himself to our nature; and it was in this his human nature, it was as the [339/340] Son of man that his resurrection exalted him to be the Ruler and the Judge of the world. This exaltation was the consequence and the reward of his passion: "For the suffering of death," saith the apostle, "Jesus is crowned with glory and honour." Having paid, by his most precious blood, our ransom to divine justice, he exercises dominion over us in right of purchase. Having achieved, by the power of his grace, our deliverance from the captivity of sin and Satan, his dominion over us is confirmed also by the right of conquest. To this dominion, the reward of his sufferings, he was visibly exalted at his resurrection. Then, in his human nature, he was set as the King on the "holy hill of Zion," not merely to exercise temporary dominion over man whom he had redeemed, but to possess a kingdom endless as eternity, and extensive as the universe. For it was the decree of the Almighty Father concerning the Son, as Mediator--"Thy throne endureth for ever and ever: thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion that which shall not be destroyed." "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." For, "raised from the dead, he is set on the right hand of the Majesty on high, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, not only in this world, but in that which is to come; and all things are put under his feet." And "all power in heaven and earth" is thus given unto the Son of man, in order that he may protect and bless his church and people--that he may deliver them from their enemies--and finally coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords, to judge [340/341] the world, to gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, may exalt his faithful people to glory everlasting.

"This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad,"

5. For the event which we this day commemorate, assures us of our victory over sin, of pardon for its guilt, of deliverance from its bondage.

That man is a sinner, and that, as a sinner, he must be obnoxious to the divine displeasure, are truths for which we want no more than that testimony which experience and reason abundantly furnish; but how this divine justice is to be propitiated, and how, depraved and guilty, he is to be restored to the divine favour, are inquiries which the Almighty Lawgiver, Sovereign, and Judge, to whom man is accountable, can alone resolve; and for which, therefore, we must look to the revelation of his holy word. There we behold Jesus Christ, as the representative of guilty man, sustaining the burden of sin; we behold him in the agonies of death incurring its penalties. But what assurance does that cross on which he thus suffers for our sins, afford that the atonement there making is accepted by that righteous Judge, whose holiness, and justice, and authority inflexibly demand it? The cross gives no signs of mercy: the lightnings of vengeance blaze around it. On the cross Jesus Christ expires as owe forsaken by his God--as one forsaken by his God he is committed to the tomb. It is from that tomb the voice of mercy issues-- "The Lord has risen." "Christ was delivered for our offences, he was raised for our justification." "It is God that justifieth, who is he that [341/342] condemneth." "It is Christ who died, yea rather, who is risen again." "God, who hath quickened us together with Christ, hath forgiven us our trespasses." By this act of his power God testifies his acceptance of Christ's atonement; and now the penitent sinner can listen with full faith to the assurance of mercy--"God so loved the world, as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but should have everlasting life."

Nor is this a vain hope; for while the resurrection of Christ is a pledge of our pardon, it is also the pledge of grace, of that grace whereby, as he died and rose again for us, so we may die unto sin, and rise again unto righteousness, and thus be partakers of the glory of his resurrection. The greatest of victories is that which is achieved over the body of sin, that body of sin which inthrals all men, and from which the greatest strength of intellect, and the highest human power, cannot deliver those who are in bondage to it. This victory is achieved only through the power of Christ's resurrection, which, while it imposes on us the obligation to walk in newness of life with that Saviour through whom we are risen to new principles and new hopes, inspires us with the confidence, that he who is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, will also bless us in turning every one of us away from his iniquities, in restoring us from darkness unto light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto God. We rejoice,

6. For the resurrection of Christ assures us of victory over the world--arming us against its temptations, and supporting us under its sorrows.

[343] Christ, raised from the dead, hath become our Almighty King and Ruler, and to him we owe allegiance. That same almighty power by which Jesus overcame death, assures to all his faithful members, to all true believers, that they shall overcome the world. That same almighty power which raised him from the darkness of the grave, will raise them from the darkness of sorrow. He lives, to be their Comforter, their Guide, their Saviour. When temptation assails, and sorrow threatens to overwhelm them, let them remember that they are the disciples not only of a tempted and suffering, but of a risen and highly exalted Saviour; and that, after his resurrection, he became vested with all power in heaven and on earth, for the purpose of exerting it in succouring and comforting his faithful people, for whom, having been tempted like as they are, he is touched with the tenderest sympathy. What temptations are too strong to be overcome by those whose Leader is almighty? And what afflictions can depress those whose Friend and Comforter--once, like them, the victim of sorrow--is as full of tenderness to sympathize with them, as he is of power to relieve them? This is the consolation which results from the incomprehensible union of the divine and the human nature in the person of Christ: as man, he is sensible of our infirmities--as God, he is able to relieve them. Jesus Christ, our Friend, the Brother of our nature, is risen, almighty in power and dominion, to succour and to comfort his people. And we rejoice,

7. Lastly. Because the event which we this day celebrate, assures us of victory over death--

[344] Death, our last and terrible enemy. Brethren, is he not terrible? He extinguishes life in the darkness of the grave--he consigns the body to corruption--his domains are cheerless, and destitute of hope. But, Christian, thou hast no need to fear this enemy of thy race--he need not be terrible to thee: the resurrection of thy Saviour assures thee of victory over him. Nature, unenlightened by the faith of Jesus, shudders at the darkness of the grave, in which are extinguished that life to which we fondly cling, and all its powers, its hopes, and its joys. But why shouldst thou shudder at it, Christian? The grave, to thee, is that paradise to which thy Saviour went with his first penitent disciple, his companion in death, and which he still blesses with his presence; and where thy spirit shall abide in all the ecstacy of hope, till the day of thy full redemption.

Nature shudders at the destiny which, in the tomb, awaits the body--where the worm becomes its couch, and the earth-worm its covering. But hear, Christian, the voice which issues from the sepulchre of Jesus--"O death, I have been thy plagues; O grave, I have been thy destruction." "The bodies of those which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him; and their corruptible shall put on incorruption, and their mortal immortality."

Nature shudders at the silence which reigns through the domains of death. For aught that reason or nature can assure us, it is the silence to which never comes the voice of joy. Reason and nature may hope; but what are faint and feeble hopes to sustain the soul, doubting and shuddering at the silence, the dread silence of the tomb? Christian, he who holds the keys of death [344/345] and hell, proclaims the holy assurance--"I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." The silence of the tomb, Christian, is not the silence to which never comes the voice of joy: the strains of heaven are heard in it, and draw the enraptured soul to the bosom of endless felicity.

Exalted consummation of all the blessed effects of Christ's resurrection! when, in glorified bodies and purified souls, we shall unite in the hallelujahs of heaven before the throne of God. Let us love and serve that Redeemer who, by his resurrection from the dead, hath assured to us these exalted hopes. Let us commemorate, with penitence and faith, in the symbols of the altar, the sufferings and victories by which he effected our redemption, and there celebrate that victory over death which hath assured to us everlasting life. Let us live to him who died for us and rose again; and then, through his power, we shall pass through the grave and gate of death to a joyful resurrection, and be made partakers of bliss, both in body and soul, in his eternal and glorious kingdom.

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